Divine Mercy Sunday, April 27, 2014
Gospel of John 20:24-29 – The Incredulity of Thomas
Canonization of John XXIII and John Paul II

Christ’s wounds are the permanent sign of God’s mercy. This was quoted by the priest where I went to Mass on this blessed day that will go down in history as the Sunday of the Four Popes. The priest said it was from John Paul II but I did not find the exact phrase. Then I heard the same truth in different words when watching Pope Francis’ homily at the canonization Mass : “The wounds of Jesus are a scandal, a stumbling block for faith, yet they are also the test of faith. That is why on the body of the risen Christ the wounds never pass away: they remain, for those wounds are the enduring sign of God’s love for us. They are essential for believing in God. Not for believing that God exists, but for believing that God is love, mercy and faithfulness.”

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Living Tradition

Catechism

To a Protestant who was under the impression that we Catholics consider the Catechism as more authoritative than the Bible, I pointed out that the Catechism has the authority the Church’s Magisterium lends to it. The Bible alike is authoritative only because the Catholic Tradition and Magisterium guarantee it is a faithful and inspired report of Revelation*. The Catechism is, in a systematic and technical way, a faithful report of all the important teachings of the living Tradition. Each phrase, and almost each word in it, like any other authoritative document of the Church, has many bearings in the Tradition and the Bible, as can be checked in the numerous references.

Bible

Most Protestants, it seems, practically equate the Word of God with the Bible, as if the divine Revelation was only present to us in Scripture. But it is not so: the Word of God is a real living bodily** Person, who promised to stay with us through a living organism that he entrusted with his Revelation.

The Bible is not historically prior to Tradition, nor has doctrinal precedence on it; the Old Testament was produced by the Jewish Tradition, the New Testament by the Catholic Church Tradition. As the Bible is all about Christ, His Bride the Church inherited the Jewish Tradition and the Jewish Bible from Him. Then the Old Testament, Torah and Prophets as well as the Greek books, is hers, too.

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Beauty is in the Form

Professor Edward Feser quotes a sarcastic passage by Isaac Asimov and asks why plastic objects cannot eventually be admired as antiques.  (The metaphysics and aesthetics of plastic  Feb. 14, 2014)

Elsewhere, a commenter quoting from a David Gerrold novel compares moral integrity to that of a plastic balloon, lost when the balloon is destroyed by a pinhole. Philosopher and novelist John C. Wright answers that forgiveness is better than asking for perfect integrity. (Why the Rats Conquer Empires   Feb. 27, 2014)

I looked into the matter in Plato and Maritain.

Perception of form

Beauty, Plato said, is in the form. It is not in the philosophical prima materia, that cannot exist without an essential form. Contrary to Plato’s theory, though, separate forms of material beings do not exist either, except as concepts. For example, human form, or nature, does not exist apart from actual human beings.

Form differentiates individuals only in beings who are pure forms (God and angels). There are as many angelic natures as there are angels. But physical beings are differentiated by matter, and all individuals in a species share a common form.

By the fact it has a form actualized in matter, every physical being, particle, element, compound has some degree of intrinsic beauty. Although an unlearned observer may not perceive anything interesting and pleasing about, say, subatomic particles, an observer possessing even a small knowledge of the thing certainly does.

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Arianism and Rebellion

Posted on John C. Wright’s blog:

November 14, 2013
Arius and his followers denied that Jesus was fully God by nature (homoousios) and added a superfluous iota (homoiousios) to the theological term to make him a divinized man, thus a lesser “god” than the Father Almighty.

November 15, 2013
Affirming that Christ is not God by nature leads immediately to denying him God’s authority and power for a host of things. Another logical and immediate consequence is the loss of reverence and obedience to the Church founded by Jesus Christ, whose authority is automatically suspicious if her founder is not God. A third most important consequence is that the Eucharist and other sacraments are then deemed to be human inventions and not the only means to receive God’s grace (the Church teaches that everybody who is saved, including non-Christians, is saved through actual or desired baptism, that is, through the Church, the Body of Christ). Every heresy, false religion or schism, as every grave sin, is basically a refusal of God’s authority over one’s conscience. For Christians, it is also the denial of the Church’s authority to assess what comes from God or not, and to distribute God’s gifts as instructed. Some consequences take time to become manifest; for example, the Arians would not think, in the 4th Century, to abrogate the Eucharist, but Luther did a thousand years later.

I agree entirely with Mr. Wright that the territories plagued for three centuries with Arianism were easy prey for the barbarians.

Leftism and Sturm und Drang

Posted on Bruce G. Charlton’s blog [Leftism as rebellion against reality]:

November 15, 2013
This is very perceptive and well said: rebellion against reality can never win, but will never cease.

Maritain pointed out interesting things on the subject in his essay on Luther. He said that the Reformer was in fact the precursor of the Romantic movement [Sturm und Drang] in opposing his subjectivity, his self, to God and the entire Church. His phrase “Tell them Dr Luther will have it so” is a proud refusal to accept anything from “the other” that would not fit his views. Luther is the type of the charismatic “hero” whose heroism consists in being a (preferably young and genius) rebel against all authority, and doing the contrary of real heroic deeds.

It appears that the layer added by political correctness to the inversion of values was previously taught to modern people by the Romantic movement. All this ultimately boils down to the original sin: I am god unto myself and owe nothing to anyone, particularly to God – hence the propensity to gradually negate God’s authority, then his existence. The philosophically inclined usually call that enlightenment.

Another pearl from David Warren :

http://www.davidwarrenonline.com/2013/06/18/the-idleness-of-saint-thomas/

and a development following comments :

http://www.davidwarrenonline.com/2013/06/25/quote-for-the-day/

Other quotes:

Beauty is the splendor of Truth.
Plato

Beauty is akin to the Good.
Plato. The Symposium

The light of God’s face shines in all its beauty on the countenance of Jesus Christ, “the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15) [...] Consequently, the decisive answer to every one of man’s questions [...] is given by Jesus Christ, or rather is Jesus Christ himself [...]

Jesus Christ, the “light of the nations”, shines upon the face of his Church, which he sends forth to the whole world to proclaim the Gospel to every creature. Hence the Church, as the People of God among the nations [...] offers to everyone the answer which comes from the truth about Jesus Christ and his Gospel.

John Paul II. Veritatis Splendor (Introduction)

Mark Shea (Catholic and Enjoying It) links to a nice article he wrote for National Catholic Register. I particularly appreciated the quote from Chesterton, which was illustrated perfectly in the comment boxes on NCR and on Mark’s blog entry. As usual, comments from believers are reasonable and articulate, since relics and private revelations, no matter how potent and convincing, are never articles of faith, while comments from unbelievers are often heated and sadly misinformed. The Wicked Paedia — to borrow an expression from David Warren — article invoked by a commenter is not bad, but it is too short for so large a subject and misses one important point among others: the perfect three-dimensional image as revealed by the VP8 Analyzer.

To find reliable information on the Shroud of Turin, there is no other place to go but Barrie Schwortz’s outstanding website www.shroud.com. I studied the question a good bit and translated in French a couple of articles from this website twelve years ago.  I never doubted that the Shroud is in fact the burial cloth of Jesus and that the image was formed at the precise moment of his resurrection by a superficial burn of the cloth. The fact that the back and front images portray the subject at an equal distance from the cloth suggests the body was ‘floating’. The perfect three-dimensionality exposed by the VP8 Analyzer and the X-Ray quality silhouetting the bones (of the hands most of all)  suggest the light came from the interior of the subject.

It seems that the wealth of details revealed on this extraordinary cloth were meant for us, ‘postmodern’ people. Photography revealed how perfect the negative image was at the dawn of the 20th Century; forensic medicine described the torture inflicted to Jesus with almost unbearable precision; other tests in all sorts of science demonstrated that the cloth is in all probability of the 1st Century Middle East. The carbon dating alone cannot overrule all other tests AND history: the Shroud image with the holes in the cloth was reproduced in a manuscript from the 12th Century, and other mysterious cloths that could very well be the Shroud itself crop here and there as far in the past as the 6th Century (the image of Edessa). Thus the carbon dating appears to be far from infallible. Some reasonable hypotheses were advanced by physicists (if the image was produced by radiation) or archaeologists-biologists (bioplastic dirt coating) as to why carbon dating is not valid in this case, whether or not the dating was made on an area of the cloth more contaminated or more recent than the rest.

But if ever carbon dating is proved accurate and the Shroud origin is medieval, it would just render it more mysterious still, more miraculous in fact. Like André Frossard said about naturalist explanations of the Red Sea passage bordering to fantasy, there are explanations of miracles more miraculous than miracles. It would take much more serious objections to bother anyone who knows, by direct or indirect witness, that miracles do happen.

Three texts I liked about Benedict XVI’s resignation:

The first two are from David Warren on his blog Essays in Idleness (www.davidwarrenonline.com):
http://www.davidwarrenonline.com/2013/02/14/benedicts-wager/

http://www.davidwarrenonline.com/2013/02/28/father-ratzinger-of-the-vatican/

and the third by Bud Macfarlane, whose CatholiCity (www.catholicity.com) Message I have received since 1998 (two years after they launched their online apostolate). The newsletter is reproduced hereafter almost in its entirety (complete text at http://www.catholicity.com/message/2013-02-28.html):
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I found this marvelous insight on the Church Militant in the letter Chesterton wrote to his mother the very day of his baptism (July 1922):

I have thought about you, and all that I owe to you and my father, not only in the way of affection, but of the ideals of honour and freedom and charity and all other good things you always taught me: and I am not conscious of the smallest break or difference in those ideals but only of a new and necessary way of fighting for them. I think, as Cecil did, that the fight for the family and the free citizen and everything decent must now be waged by [the] one fighting form of Christianity.

From G. K. Chesterton’s Biography by Maisie Ward
Chapter 23 on Chesterton’s conversion and baptism

Excerpts:
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On Catholic Theology and Western Civ

Another witty piece from David Warren as an answer to a comment (http://www.davidwarrenonline.com/2013/01/14/james-m-buchanan/#comments):

Quote: “You don’t admit of any possibility of error in your theological framework.”

My dear CTC, it is time you realized that it is not my theological framework. After fifty years of shopping, I bought into the Catlick one; or more precisely, found that I already more-or-less had. And in the end you’re not arguing with me. You’re arguing with my buddy Thomas Aquinas, & all his buddies. And having tried to argue with them myself, let me tell ya…

It is a working out, over twentyish centuries of often quite heated argument & debate, of what the best minds could discern in the Christian Revelation, on the principle of non-contradiction. The result has been concisely & carefully set out in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which you might want to obtain as a kind of phone directory to what “people like me” (i.e. Catlicks) believe.

Is it infallible? No, nothing from the hand of man is infallible (& check that CCC for what we mean when we say the pope is pronouncing on doctrine “infallibly”). It isn’t “infallible,” in the sense you might use, but it is extremely good, because if anyone, Catlick or non-Catlick, can find a contradiction in the thing, we sweat it through until we’ve fixed it.

But by now that body of doctrine has been remarkably stable for a very long time. This is because our best minds have been sweating it through for all these centuries. And in fact most of it was clear enough to the candid & honest & intelligent from early on: working from what they sincerely believed, & for cause, that Christ had told them about what’s what, checked & re-checked interminably against the known facts of “reality.”

You don’t have to believe a word of it. There are many soi-disant Catholics who never bother to consult it (even before speaking publicly “as a Catholic”), & who believe what they want to believe. Some of them even serve in your Congress. “Cafeteria Catlicks,” if you will. People who don’t listen when being corrected on fact. What can I say?

But there it is, Catholic Doctrine. And since the whole of Western Civ was erected upon it, I suggest you check it out. So that you can know, at least, what it is you are rejecting as you walk off into the scientistic aether, pitching Western Civ to the dogs.

Otiosus / David Warren

Eternal Wisdom at Play

I have been listening to Father Robert J. Spitzer’s conferences on various physics theories about the universe, theories not only hinting, but demonstrating, that the universe has a beginning, thus necessarily a transcendent, metaphysical, cause. The contents of these lectures may be found in his book New Proofs of the Existence of God (2010), and on the Magis Reason and Faith Institute’s website, as well as in other interviews and lectures recorded in 2011.

The ones I preferred are the Gonzaga University lectures (April 5 and 6, 2011). They are the most detailed and the most lively and there is more matters discussed in the period of questions.
Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJBLp7cOt90
Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HmVvx51zsqg

The first part is on physical theories (see a few highlights in the notes below).

The second part is on anthropic coincidences, what is called the “fine-tuning” of the physical laws. There is a “huge improbability” (10 to the 10 to the 123 against) that all the 17 generative cosmological constants would fall randomly in the minuscule range of values necessary to allow the emergence and sustaining of life forms.

A few years ago, I read about the “Rare Earth” theory and the narrow range of values required in our solar system to sustain life. I was happy to have the additional information about cosmological constants.

Moreover, the way in which the lecturer presents the subject is very accessible for a moderately-educated public to grasp, and very agreeable for the philosophically inclined mind: William of Occam could not have dreamed a thinner razor blade to reduce the answers to the question.

While listening to all these examples and comments on the minutely fine-tuned constants of the universe, I was imagining Eternal Wisdom at play (Proverbs 8:30), winking at all these beautiful minds and asking, like Fr Spitzer does: “Which choice is more reasonable at the end of the day?”

And I join Father Spitzer in his exclamation at the awesome panorama: “I am glad for the entire extravaganza. It just really is a comfort to know that God did not underestimate the intelligence or the love that we would have in viewing that universe.”
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Peace from Heavens to Men of Goodwill

It is Advent and a timely season to wish peace to all who have a place in their heart for Truth, Beauty and Goodness.

To an unbeliever who is a man of goodwill, John C. Wright offers his advice on  “How to Find God”  (http://www.scifiwright.com/2012/12/how-to-find-god/, December 4).

His essay titled “Christ and Nothing” on December 6 is also a very good read (http://www.scifiwright.com/2012/12/christ-and-nothing-2/#more-6856).

Degrees of Abstraction – Degrees of Knowledge

As Chesterton said in Philosophy for the Schoolroom, any argument should begin with the parties stating their “infallible dogmas” (=axioms, first principles, undisputable first facts), so that the discussion could proceed to the real basis of the point in dispute.

This is to say most arguments would come to a full stop there, as the disagreement is most often in the very first steps of grasping reality and reasoning about it.

Chesterton was alluding to real philosophical dispute, where the different parties speak the same language, but in the case where one or more of the parties ignore philosophy, the problem lies at a more profound level. There is another step before axioms, which is largely forgotten now that philosophy is unknown or deformed by most people. This step is the hierarchy of sciences based on the different degrees of abstraction.

__________
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Abstraction and Judgment

In a blogpost titled “The Other Side of the Picture” about the failings of Leftist and politically correct college education, John C. Wright wrote:

”This is a mental disorder inflicted by modern education. It is a narrowing of the mind in the name of broadmindedness, and the closing of the mind in the name of openmindedness.
“It is the folly of those who are taught only enough of a subject to be told the objections and questions undermining its foundations, but not enough to do the disciplined and rigorous intellectual work, yes, the hard work, of answering those objections or sitting as a judge and making a determination of their admissibility, as debating as a juror and weighing their probity and pertinence.
” [my emphasis]

I was at the same time reflecting on an idea I noticed in Dr. Bruce G. Charlton’s Thought Prison where he qualifies Leftist and PC worldview as “abstract.” I was a bit taken aback by the term, as I find nothing wrong with abstraction in itself, but then I recalled, from Maritain’s works, that abstraction is only the first of the two necessary operations of the intellect.

Knowledge – and determination of an act as good or not when speaking of the practical intellect – is achieved only when ideas formed through abstraction of universal essences are processed in the second operation of the mind, namely judgment, where they are checked against reality. To be proven true, an idea must terminate at the thing itself, actual or possible; judgment must assert what the thing is in extramental reality.

It is then no wonder that Leftists and nihilists are always accusing others of being “judgmental.”
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Meditatio Mortis from Bruce G. Charlton

Interesting post today from Dr Charlton on immortality of the soul: http://charltonteaching.blogspot.ca/2012/09/at-death-ancient-versus-modern.html

A commenter refers to another post from Dr. Charlton on radical doubt that was pivotal in his own conversion, saying: “It certainly forced me to contemplate whether there’s any good reason to believe that we moderns are right in contradiction to more than 99% of the people who ever lived.” (http://charltonteaching.blogspot.ca/2010/06/malignancy-of-radical-doubt.html)

Dr Charlton insists that belief in immortality of the soul is completely natural to all men of all eras except modern elites of the West. Note that he took 40 years to seriously explore other avenues before coming back to Christian faith and classical philosophy.

His post of September 14 on time and eternity is also very good: http://charltonteaching.blogspot.ca/2012/09/eternity-as-out-of-time.html

It put back in my mind the historian of religions Mircea Eliade’s book The Sacred and The Profane, which is a good overview of how men have always and everywhere been religious, except modern types mostly disconnected from the natural world.

PDF copy of Mircea Eliade’s book : The Sacred and the Profane

MYSTERY OF BEING
Summary of Preface to Metaphysics

The following summary of Jacques Maritain’s Preface to Metaphysics – Seven Lectures on Being, with some quotes from a couple other books, is not a scholarly work, so there will be no quotation marks or italics apart from those already in the text. Passages between brackets are my comments or paraphrases.


Being As Such
The object of metaphysics is the knowledge of being as such. Being is the first object attained by every man the instant he begins to think as a rational creature, but at this stage it is a more or less confused perception of the concrete being, enveloped or embodied in sensible things. The metaphysician will consider the essence, or nature, of sensible things by abstracting, or disengaging their intelligible values from particularized objects.

Essence/Existence
The first operation of the mind is thus to apprehend essences (what is universal, what is the nature of the thing), but the term of knowledge is the actual, existing being, the esse in the strict sense. Thomist philosophy does not stop short at essences. It is to existence itself that the intellect proceeds when it formulates within itself a judgment by composition and division (second operation of the mind) corresponding to what a thing is or is not outside the mind.
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Emotion over Truth

John C. Wright wrote the following in his essay Parable of the arbiters (July 13, 2012 scifiwright.com):
“The claim of the Protestant type would take us to the arbitration of the intellect. Oddly enough, Reformers are sometimes criticized (at least in Catholic circles) for their emphasis (we call it overemphasis) on the spontaneous and emotional and passionate nature of their communion with God.
I reject these criticisms as being a misunderstanding of the Protestant mind.”
[…]
“All Protestants, even those who reject Puritanism, have a strong inclination toward the ideal of pure worship, a simplicity and purity of rite.”
[…]
“It is not emotionalism. It is intellectualism.”

(Science-fiction writer, philosopher, lawyer and technical writer, John C. Wright was raised Lutheran but he was an atheist most of his life; he converted to Catholicism a few years ago.)

My comments (inspired mainly by Maritain’s essay on Luther in Three Reformers: Luther, Descartes, Rousseau and Blessed John Paul II’s Encyclical Fides et Ratio):

These criticisms are perfectly valid, but I grant you emotionalism is an important consequence of the real cause.

“Strong inclination”, “ideal”, “simplicity”, “purity”: if all those words are not moral or aesthetic emotion, I don’t know what they are. Not that they are unjustified, far from it, because love for beautiful ideals, simplicity and purity and all good things is our motivation to be and do good.

“It is not emotionalism. It is intellectualism.”
Our two superior faculties are not intellect and sensibility, they are intellect and will, the coupling of which in the liberty of TRUTH being the image of God in us. Thus the opposite of intellectualism is not emotionalism, it is voluntarism. Of course, decisions of the will are often expressed emotionally, this is why we tend to conflate the consequences and the cause.

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André Frossard asked one day to John Paul II what was the single most important saying he would leave to humanity if he was permitted to leave only one. Frossard expected the Pope would take a moment to think, but the answer came immediately: Truth will set you free.

All the Bible and all Christianity are contained in this short sentence expressing God’s plan for us: to set us free from evil so that we can welcome the Kingdom of God – that is, God himself – in our lives.

Nothing less than the one and whole Truth, who is a Person, can set us free. Nothing else than the love of truth can guide us on the way and ultimately bring us to the love of the One who said: I am the truth.

But there are obstacles:

It will happen with every sort of wicked deception of those who are heading toward destruction because they have refused to love the truth that would allow them to be saved. (2 Thess. 2:10)
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Transcendental Food

Transcendental Truth, Goodness and Beauty are the food of our main faculties, or ‘powers’, as St. Teresa de Jesus called them: intellect, will and imagination. In a previous post, I pointed out that truth is the food of the intellect. It must be added that the will feeds on goodness and imagination mainly on beauty. All three powers are naturally motivated by love to turn towards their natural food.

As transcendentals are nothing else than the being itself seen from different aspects, they are convertible. Everything is true, good or beautiful in the same measure that it is. Thus anything true is also good and beautiful in the same measure that it is true; anything good is necessarily true and beautiful; and nothing is beautiful that is not also true and good.

Beauty is a particular case though, and this reasoning applies properly only to metaphysical and moral beauty. Indeed, aesthetic beauty and imagination are linked to psycho-physical life, and neither the senses nor the sensitive faculties will exist in eternal life, while intellect and will, wherein reside our personality and likeness to God, are forever.
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First Mysteries of the Rosary and Covetousness

I use the following set of demands when praying the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary:
1. Annunciation – Humility
2. Visitation – Charity
3. Birth of the Savior – Detachment
4. Presentation at the Temple – Purity of mind and body
5. Finding in the Temple – Obedience

First things first in the twenty Mysteries proposed to our meditation: the fruits asked for in the first chaplet of the Rosary are the exact contrary to the threefold concupiscence, particularly pride, the gravest form of which is called by St. Thomas “the blackest of sins”.

André Frossard wrote that the Virgin Mary is the Evangelic figure of intelligence. She is indeed the one example of a human creature preserved from the irrationality of sin and free to live the perfectly virtuous life God intended for us all. She is the New Eve, where the New Adam could rise.

Thus the Rosary, this eminently Evangelic prayer, leads us to contemplate the essential virtues of the Blessed Virgin and ask in all humility to be bestowed them in our turn.
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Excerpted from an article by the remarkable David Warren titled:

In Defence of Hell (February 5, 2012)

http://oldcitizen.davidwarrenonline.com/index.php?id=1381

…Many years ago, when my comfortable faith in atheism suddenly cracked, and I began realizing that the craziest claims of Christianity might be true – and that if they were, I was in big trouble – I found myself enchanted by the rhythms of the Church calendar…

…[I took] an almost sensual delight in the poetry of liturgical movements and expressions, in something telling a story, like a play. I felt a monition against neurosis, in the light of truths beginning to make sense above the level of “pure reason.”

In retrospect the Mass does its work at many levels, beginning with the most visible, for what is beautiful conducts us towards reverence, and reverence unfolds dimensionally into Love. You came for a reason, but like a winter coat, it was no longer necessary inside. You put it on again, when leaving.

My memory of those days was rekindled by a single phrase, a chapter heading, in a recent book by the Jesuit professor of government, James V. Schall. The book is rather generically entitled, The Modern Age; but the chapter, more specifically: “The Brighter Side of Hell.”

Reason cannot know its vocation, without faith; man cannot know his vocation, without God: the book makes points like these, while returning at successive angles to the extraordinary invocation in the opening of the Confessions of St Augustine: “Thou hast made us for thyself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee.”
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Two thoughtful posts from Bruce G. Charlton :

The search for meaning and purpose (everywhere except Christianity)

For many decades I was searching for the meaning and purpose of life – and it was a serious search, involving a great deal of time, travel, effort and expense.

I was searching in many, many directions and places, in almost all places – except for Christianity.
*
Because I knew all about Christianity, and I knew that the answer was not there; and therefore I resented all discussion of Christianity because it was merely wasting my precious time.

I was impatient and irritable about Christianity, because I knew all about it and I knew it was nonsense.
*
When I eventually discovered Christianity was what I had supposedly been seeking, I felt pretty silly: I was pretty silly.
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Food of the Intellect

Certain foods are natural for the body, but it takes a fair amount of training and reasoning to choose the right aliments, prepare them properly, and eat quantities suitable for our real needs.

Truth is the natural food of the intellect. We are capable of arriving at truth by correct reasoning, that is, the right use of a trained intellect previously nurtured in truth or, at least, not impeded in its appetite for truth.

In theory, feeding body or mind seems straightforward and easy, but experience tells both are often not done as they should.

French Catholic philosopher Marcel Clément wrote that, in his youth in the 1930s, he was looking forward to studying philosophy. But instead of the traditional introduction to history of Greek philosophy and systematic presentation of basic concepts, he was given the views of various philosophers and schools of thought. Seeing how those philosophers were contradicting each other, he naively remarked: “Which one is right? Which system can we hold true? They cannot be all true, or else philosophy does not exist.” He was answered that he had a dogmatic mindset and that philosophy could do perfectly well without absolute truth.

Then, on the occasion of a dissertation on Greek ethics, he became acquainted with Aristotle and knew for sure that philosophy existed. He devoted the rest of his life to write about and teach philosophy and Catholic thought, particularly the social doctrine of the Church.
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What is God?

This was THE question for Thomas Aquinas at a very early age. He devoted all his life to answer it properly and systematically. Of course, he responded also to the second question “Who is God?” but this one needs Divine Revelation to be answered.

Without Revelation, a well-formed and open human intelligence can deduce the basics of the nature of God: eternal, immaterial, immutable, almighty, pure actuality, first cause, creator, even loving. At least, one great pagan philosopher did. Aristotle wrote, for example, that God as final cause moves the world as an object of love (Met. 12.7). Beautiful, is it not?
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Intellectual atheists try to present their main premise as rational, but it is not. For example, the titles of these two best-sellers, The God Delusion and God Is Not Great, advertise clearly the lack of rational thinking in those books. Even an atheist like Terry Eagleton felt compelled to refute such a presentation of atheism. In his book Reason, Faith, and Revelation: Reflections on the God Debate, he did us the service of exposing the irrationality and naive faith in Progress of “Ditchkins,” as he humorously branded the Dawkins-Hitchens duo.

I can speak only of the impression I get from the titles, but judging by what Eagleton and others said, my impression is not false.

God Is Not Great (Christopher Hitchens)

This proposition is simply a contradiction in terms: if there is a God, he is necessarily great, otherwise he would be no god at all. Maybe irony was intended, but it came out rather as mockery, which is not a good predictor of sound philosophy, especially considering the accusatory tone of the rest of the title: How Religion Poisons Everything.

The God Delusion (Richard Dawkins)

The main premise of atheists is that there is nothing to existence but matter and that those who admit the existence of God as creator of the world are delusional. However, the atheist premise is indemonstrable and self-refuting while the God-created world is perfectly rational in sound philosophy (from Aristotle onwards).
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In a post entitled Hypocrisy and moral inversion by Bruce Charlton, John C. Wright published excerpts from Dr. Charlton’s booklet Decline of the West explained. I had already perused this booklet and found it very good. Upon second reading of these excerpts and comments from another blogger I saw how well it corresponded to a quote from John Paul II provided in my answer below (edited).

Dr. Bruce G. Charlton’s blog is: http://charltonteaching.blogspot.ca/


Hedonism, Sin and Truth

I think Dr. Charlton did a good exposition of the roots of Politically Correct behavior. Lust (hedonism, self-gratification) is the most widespread and obvious one in the shallow worldview of our modern barbarians, and it usually goes hand in hand with power-seeking (pride) and greed. I would say lust is the more saintly of their reversed virtues: it does not even need to be disguised like the other two as self-righteousness and revenge of the wronged victim.
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The Meaning of Words

My first university studies were in translation. I never worked in the field because I am not perfectly bilingual, having never lived in English. I read and write often in English, but I speak it only occasionally and I still make mistakes that my readers are welcome to point out to me.

Translators have an unflattering Italian proverb: Traduttore, traditore – “Translator, traitor”. In any translation, no matter how literal, there are things lost, added, interpreted. It is the essential part of the trade to choose the words, phrases or style conveying a meaning as close as possible to the original, but even a very good translation will have a different ring, as both the language and the translator have a different voice and style. A fair translation is usually not quite as good as an original text of high quality, but in some rare cases an original of relatively lesser quality might appear in translation as the work of a genius, like Belloc said about Kipling and Chesterton :
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In a conversation about moral philosophy on another blog, someone asked: “Isn’t Christianity all about eudaimonia?” In other words, is Christianity a transcendent eudemonism like, for example, Kant said it was? Jacques Maritain responded on that in his book Moral Philosophy.


Excerpts from Jacques Maritain, Moral Philosophy
(http://maritain.nd.edu/jmc/etext/jmoral.htm)

Chapter 3 – The Discovery of Ethics – Aristotle

Aristotelian eudemonism
1. […] Eudaimonia is the state of a man in whom human nature and its essential aspirations have attained their complete fulfillment, and attained it in conformity with the true hierarchy of ends proper to that nature. […] It is necessary to find out what the ends of our nature are […] and to discover what kind of good above all others man is made for, the good which is uniquely appropriate to a rational being and through which he achieves the fulfillment of his nature.
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Catholic theology and its handmaiden, Scholastic philosophy, are complex, very consistent and organic (capable of development) systems with precise and interrelated language and concepts that cannot be comprehended if one does not grasp their exact meaning.

Scholastic philosophy is not the system of a particular school of philosophy, let alone one philosopher. We call it Thomism because the term is useful in a historical perspective, but its proper name is Philosophia perennis, that is, the love of wisdom for all times. It is the common philosophy of man, the treasure of philosophy as Maritain put it, hence it is not limited to a time, or place, or religious or social organization. If the Catholic Church is its guardian, she is not its owner; Philosophia perennis is a servant to theology but not a slave. It has a separate and autonomous existence as a science in its own right, and accordingly, philosophy and theology were always taught separately (the basics of philosophy first). The treasure of Philosophia perennis is open to all men to study and use, and many schools of classical theist philosophy may exist, as long as the concepts are not deformed. Those who deform it are adhering to, or starting, another philosophy that will never account exactly for the truth nor lead them to any wisdom, insofar as philosophy can lead to wisdom.
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“There are an infinity of angles at which one falls, only one at which one stands” (Chesterton)

When Chesterton wrote his book Orthodoxy (1908), he was still Protestant but like many other Catholic converts, several years before crossing the threshold (1922) he already admired how the good doctrine (ortho doxa) was profound and coherent. He called the heresies dull, and of course they are. Catholicism’s truly divine equilibrium is so fascinating and fills the mind so overwhelmingly that every heresy is pale and utterly boring in comparison.
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Recently, John C. Wright posted a quote of Bruce Charlton expressing that a return to Antiquity pagan morals and philosophy would be more likely to lessen the divide between our modern pagans and Christianity than direct Christian preaching. Dr Charlton was calling (half-seriously, of course) for pagan missionaries. Here is my take on the subject (in three different posts, slightly edited):

1. Interesting, but we have no need of pagan missionaries. We already have them anyway and they only wreak havoc: from the 18th and 19th centuries we had the Enlightenment prophets and the Progress worshippers. We still have many of those, but for half a century it has been much worse with the New Age missionaries. Absolutely nothing good can come from this church of the velvet-gloved Satan. And they are almost all impossible to convert without much fast and prayer and exorcisms.

Belloc made the following comparison between the modern pagans and the old while explaining why the “Modern Attack”, as he calls the new paganism, is so very dangerous to the Faith: “A man going uphill may be at the same level as another man going down hill; but they are facing different ways and have different destinies. Our world, passing out of the old Paganism of Greece and Rome towards the consummation of Christendom and a Catholic civilization from which we all derive, is the very negation of the same world leaving the light of its ancestral religion and sliding back into the dark.” (Hilaire Belloc, The Great Heresies, 1938)
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The following piece is the first chapter of Father Henri de Lubac’s book The Drama of Atheist Humanism.

I found this remarkable English translation at IgnatiusInsight.com. I can certify it is outstanding, as I have the book in French and studied translation. The translator — certainly a theologian — captured and rendered wonderfully the poetic style, profound insight and exact theological, philosophical and historic views of the original, which is the work of a genius.

In this text written and published during World War II, the author presents the liberation from fate and idols and the awakening to human dignity experienced by Christian converts in Antiquity, followed by the reversal of atheist humanism. This reversal is examined in the rest of the book through considerations on the atheism of Feuerbach, Marx, Nietzsche and Comte.


 A Tragic Misunderstanding

A wonderful piece of sculpture adorning the cathedral of Chartres represents Adam, head and shoulders barely roughed out, emerging from the earth from which he was made and being molded by the hands of God. The face of the first man reproduces the features of his modeler. This parable in stone translates for the eyes the mysterious words of Genesis: “God made man in his own image and likeness.”
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The following text is a reflection on several articles or books I read over the years by Catholic authors concerning the decay of Western civilization, particularly French author André Frossard, a convert from atheism. The three brands of atheism are taken from his writings but the comments on atheists’ motivations are mine. Like Frossard, I brand myself in my agnostic period as a dumb atheist. Though I never actually doubted God’s existence, I was completely indifferent to spiritual reality for many years. The last paragraphs on natural and eternal law and fundamental choices are inspired from Jacques Maritain’s works on moral philosophy. The quote from Leon Bloy is from Maritain’s testimonial to that Christian writer who had a decisive influence on his own conversion to Catholicism.


 ATHEISM

 Twenty years ago we had the historic chance to witness the bankruptcy of the first militant atheist government in the world. It crumbled to dust due to its own degradation. No war, no embargo, no pressure from the outside. It was living on philosophical errors, lies, disinformation and terror and it had already silenced or lost to the West its best thinkers and artists. Perestroika and glasnost were intended to improve communism but, when the people caught a glimpse of truths forgotten for seventy years and of the political and social freedom still enjoyed in Western democracies, the grip of the system was gone and it soon died.
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I wrote the following page a few years ago to accompany GKC’s article “Philosophy for the Schoolroom” included after. It was an answer to a friend’s comment acknowledging doubt as a normal scientific attitude. As a cradle Catholic I never really saw a divide between faith and reason but it seems it has to be explained even to a pious Catholic convert. It was probably a remnant of former agnosticism or Protestant fundamentalism, or both. The philosophical comments inspired from Maritain were written more recently and reworked until now.


 Faith and reason

There is a widely spread state of mind pretending that faith and reason exclude each other and that being skeptical on everything is a fundamental scientific attitude. But, on the contrary, doubting everything is not at all scientific thinking. Science has to question everything and especially its postulates, but a true scientific mind does not doubt everything in the first place. I learned this from the works of French Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain. Then I read recently the following article by G. K. Chesterton.
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