Page 4, 7th July 1961

7th July 1961
Page 4
Page 4, 7th July 1961 — SCHOLASTICISM AND THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY
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Locations: Moscow, London

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SCHOLASTICISM AND THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY

By G. F. POLLARD

IT may be Mated without fear of contradiction that the foremost task of our time is the creation of a satisfactory synthesis between religion and life.

It is due to the gulf which exists between the sacred and the secular that we arc faced with such problems as the falling away from religious belief and practice of so many young people of school-leaving age: as well as the apparent failure of Christianity to exert that

revolutionary influence on society which was characteristic of the first three centuries of the Christian era.

It seems probable that one of the major reasons for this failure is due to a not unimportant philosophical error.

The traditional scholastic

approach to the problem of knowledge claims that we know nothing about God save what we are told either by reason or by revelation.

If we take reason by itself divorced from the human personality as a whole, it cannot tell us what God is but only what he is not; in practice. therefore. some scholastics seem to be forced back upon a position which is a compromise between agnosticism and fideism.

But that vital. creative wisdom. which by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit can alone renew the face of the earth, cannot he learned from text-books or theological tomes. Speculative knowledge may indeed bring us to the gates of reality, but we cannot enter truth by means of thought alone.

True knowledge is eminently a practical affair involving the effort of the whole man — body, mind and spirit. It is a grave error to suppose that children, by parroting the catechism and with the aid of the pink, adolescent images of debased ecclesiastical art, can be brought to a true realisation of the dignity and sublimity of the Christian vocation.

Adventure

o'r HE Christian life must be pre sented to young people as it rightly is — an heroic adventure: a spiritual odyssey into unknown perils typified by the heroes of old who sailed away in search of the Golden Fleece, and ventured all that they might come at last to the vision of the Holy Grail. It is a vocation which calls for the utmost zeal and the highest dedication to the cause of Jesus Christ. who in His person fulfilled all the ancient myths and legends: who Himself is the Hero "par excellence"

Study, in its original sense. means "zeal"; and it is only by zeal and not by book-learning that we can evolve our spiritual consciousness and act creatively and dynamically upon our social environment. As long as our spiritual consciousness continues to evolve, our influence upon society will continue to be a revolutionary force; but as soon as we become spiritually static and stagnant, so will our revolutionary influence dwindle and disappear.

John Middleton Murray goes to the extent of saying that "Communism is the one living religion in the world today." His statement is not without a substratum of truth, for communism is essentially revolutionary and dynamic. There is indeed something peculiarly religious about a social phi

Daily Mass Guide

SUN., JULY 9. SEVENTH AFTER PENTECOST. STS, JOHN FISHER Si THOMAS MORE. 1 cl. Mass of feast. comm. Sunday. Creed. (Red) MON.. JULY 10. Seven Holy Founders & Sts. Rufina & Secunda. 3 cl. (Red) TUES., JULY 11. Feria. comm. St. Pius, (Green) 'WED., JULY 12. St. John Gualbert. 3 el. comm. Sts. Nabor Felix. (White) THURS., JULY 13. Feria.

(Green)

FRI., JULY 14. St. Bonaventure. 3 cl. (White)

SAT.. JULY 15. St. Henry. 3 el.

(White) ,

SUN., JULY 16. EIGHTH AFTER PENTECOST. 2 ci. Creed. (Green)

All set for Holland

A walking pilgrimage through Holland. August 17-27. is being organised for young people (18-25) by Pax Christi. the International Catholic Movement for peace. Full details and application forms are available from J. Geary, 66 Evering Road, London, N.16. losophy which aims at changing a society so that men's lives should be rich, free and happy. It is the logical corollary of the religious principle that we are all the children of God.

It is the communist technique of Fovernment which vitiates all their ideals: which in practice is totalitarian. illiberal, unrighteous and even un-Marxist.

However while declaring that dialectical materialism is essentially unscientific, and their interim

ethics entirely immoral; we must not lose sight of the genuine idealism which animates their beliefs. To do so would be to rula a grave risk of underestimating thl power and appeal of this world-wide movement.

Cut off

CHR1STIANITY was once itself a revolutionary force which overturned the Roman Empire. Perhaps it would he truer to say that it turned the Roman Empire the right way up, so that the energies of the new Christians were directed to the realisation of Christ in themselves and in society as a whole, rather than to the pursuit of pleasures and satisfactions, which panders only to the inferior ego.

Christianity is still potentially a revolutionary force. present in every human heart since the beginning of time: a force which of its very nature must ever seek to permeate both the individual and society, just as leaven must eventually permeate the whole mass of dough in which it is incorporated.

St. Augustine declares: "That which today is called Christian religion existed among the Andents; and has never ceased to exist from the origin of the human race until the time when Chribt himself came, and men began to call Christian the true religion which already existed beforehand."

This teaching of St. Augustine has ever been the authentic mes sage of that traditional philosophy, "ever old and ever new", which has come to be called the "perennial philosophy".

It was Scholasticism, ever more deeply concerned with the speculative rather than the practical. which deviated from the perennial tradition; and in so doing cut off the fountain of life at its source. Our impoverished method of presenting the living truths of Christianity are a direct result of it.

The estimated 60 per cent of school-leavers who fall away from the Faith may be attributed to it.

The idea that we can live our religious life in a water-tight compartment, shut away front the world's social agony, is yet another of the Dead Sea fruits which result from a system which for hundreds of years has been driving a wedge between religion and life, between time and eternity.

Gnosis

ITHOUT meditation and asceticism we cannot achieve the deeper wisdom in which every aspect and activity of our human lives are united in simplicity and made one with Truth. Certainly we cannot achieve it by logical arguments.

Truth is existential. To know the truth we must live it. The Psalmist says: "Taste and see how sweet the Lord is". We must see, feel and taste the truth. This is what St. Thomas calls "cognitio dei experimentalis" — an experimental knowledge of God.

The innovation called Scholasticism implicitly denies that there is a Christian knowledge or "gnosis" which does not derive from reason alone, but from the, practice of all the virtues of body, mind and spirit.

"If religion is not dynamic and persuasive. says the eminent philosopher, Dr. Radhakrishnan; if it does not penetrate every form of human life and influence every type of human activity, it is only a veneer and not a reality.

"We cannot escape from the troubles of the world in the comfortable assumption that the spiritual life is something different from the ordinary social life. We cannot escape from the concrete tasks of knowledge and action, in the belief that religion is primarily concerned with another order of existence, and the good it seeks is 'not of this world'."

Total man

THE present realisation of Christ

is Christianity '— this is what theologians have now to assert. St. Athanasius says that "God became man in order that man might become divine". If we teach our young people that the Christian ideal can be attained by anything other than a new birth, with all the striving and agony which this involves, then they are due for a serious shock when they come up against the facts of life.

There are arid deserts and dark nights of the soul to be endured before the end can be attained. The immature idea, held by many Christians, that God is a superior sort of merchant who hands out provisions at our request is wholly dangerous and unrealistic.

God is not that kind of God. It is this anthropomorphic idea of God — not the real God — which has been rightly rejected by deepthinking atheists and agnostics. They will not reject the real God once they come to know Him.

But if anyone thinks that the men of Moscow, or anyone else for that matter, will accept a God who is nothing more than the conclusion of a syllogism, then he is sadly mistaken.

It is no easier for us to take on the divine nature, the "full stature of Christ", than it was for Our Lord himself to put off all his divine prerogatives and become man. The Incarnation was not an easy thing. Certainly Christmas is not the humanist feast of goodwill and good cheer to which it has been debased. It is a call to action, to suffering, to transcendental fulfilment.

The shadow of the Cross lies heavily over Christmas; but it is lightened at the same time by the hope and promise of a new birth and a new creation, for the individual, for society and indeed for the whole cosmic process. This is the great end and aim of the Christian education of youth, and of all our philosophy and theology. The final end of all creation is the total man who is also the total Christ.




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