Falsehood in War-Time

What follows is the “Introduction” to Lord Alfred Ponsonby’s famous work, Falsehood in War-Time (1928), in which he established the rules for “building” public consent, and even enthusiasm, for war.

Given that war seems to be a constant given of our highly moralistic age, it seems worthwhile to turn to works such as these to better understand how readily our minds are hijacked.

Lord Ponsonby (1871—1946) was a British politician and writer. He opposed Britain’s involvement in the First World War and worked actively for peace.


Introduction

The object of this volume is not to cast fresh blame on authorities and individuals, nor is it to expose one nation more than another to accusations of deceit. Falsehood is a recognized and extremely useful weapon in warfare, and every country uses it quite deliberately to deceive its own people, to attract neutrals, and to mislead the enemy. The ignorant and innocent masses in each country are unaware at the time that they are being misled, and when it is all over only here and there are the falsehoods discovered and exposed. As it is all past history and the desired effect has been produced by the stories and statements, no one troubles to investigate the facts and establish the truth.

Lying, as we all know, does not take place only in war-time. Man, it has been said, is not “a veridical animal,” but his habit of lying is not nearly so extraordinary as his amazing readiness to believe. It is, indeed, because of human credulity that lies flourish. But in war-time the authoritative organization of lying is not sufficiently recognized. The deception of whole peoples is not a matter which can be lightly regarded.

A useful purpose can therefore be served in the interval of so-called peace by a warning which people can examine with dispassionate calm, that the authorities in each country do, and indeed must, resort to this practice in order, first, to justify themselves by depicting the enemy as an undiluted criminal; and secondly, to inflame popular passion sufficiently to secure recruits for the continuance of the struggle. They cannot afford to tell the truth. In some cases it must be admitted that at the moment they do not know what the truth is.

The psychological factor in war is just as important as the military factor. The morale of civilians, as well as of soldiers, must be kept up to the mark. The War Offices, Admiralties, and Air Ministries look after the military side. Departments have to be created to see to the psychological side. People must never be allowed to become despondent; so victories must be exaggerated and defeats, if not concealed, at any rate minimized, and the stimulus of indignation, horror, and hatred must be assiduously and continuously pumped into the public mind by means of “propaganda.”

As Mr. Bonar Law said in an interview to the United Press of America, referring to patriotism, “It is well to have it properly stirred by German frightfulness”; and a sort of general confirmation of atrocities is given by vague phrases which avoid responsibility for the authenticity of any particular story, as when Mr. Asquith said (House of Commons, April 27, 1915) : “We shall not forget this horrible record of calculated cruelty and crime.”

The use of the weapon of falsehood is more necessary in a country where military conscription is not the law of the land than in countries where the manhood of the nation is automatically drafted into the Army, Navy, or Air Service. The public can be worked up emotionally by sham ideals. A sort of collective hysteria spreads and rises until finally it gets the better of sober people and reputable newspapers.

With a warning before them, the common people may be more on their guard when the war cloud next appears on the horizon and less disposed to accept as truth the rumours, explanations, and pronouncements issued for their consumption. They should realize that a Government which has decided on embarking on the hazardous and terrible enterprise of war must at the outset present a one-sided case in justification of its action, and cannot afford to admit in any particular whatever the smallest degree of right or reason on the part of the people it has made up its mind to fight. Facts must be distorted, relevant circumstances concealed and a picture presented which by its crude colouring will persuade the ignorant people that their Government is blameless, their cause is righteous, and that the indisputable wickedness of the enemy has been proved beyond question. A moment’s reflection would tell any reasonable person that such obvious bias cannot possibly represent the truth. But the moment’s. reflection is not allowed; lies are circulated with great rapidity. The unthinking mass accept them and by their excitement sway the rest. The amount of rubbish and humbug that pass under the name of patriotism in war-time in all countries is sufficient to make decent people blush when they are subsequently disillusioned.

At the outset the solemn asseverations of monarchs and leading statesmen in each nation that they did not want war must be placed on a par with the declarations of men who pour paraffin about a house knowing they are continually striking matches and yet assert they do not want a conflagration. This form of self-deception, which involves the deception of others, is fundamentally dishonest.

War being established as a recognized institution to be resorted to when Governments quarrel, the people are more or less prepared. They quite willingly delude themselves in order to justify their own actions. They are anxious to find an excuse for displaying their patriotism, or they are disposed to seize the opportunity for the excitement and new life of adventure which war opens out to them. So there is a sort of national wink, everyone goes forward, and the individual, in his turn, takes up lying as a patriotic duty. In the low standard of morality which prevails in war-time, such a practice appears almost innocent. His efforts are sometimes a little crude, but he does his best to follow the example set. Agents are employed by authority and encouraged in so-called propaganda work. The type which came prominently to the front in the broadcasting of falsehood at recruiting meetings is now well known. The fate which overtook at least one of the most popular of them in this country exemplifies the depth of degradation to which public opinion sinks in a war atmosphere.

With eavesdroppers, letter-openers, decipherers, telephone tappers, spies, an intercept department, a forgery department, a criminal investigation department, a propaganda department, an intelligence department, a censorship department, a ministry of information, a Press bureau, etc., the various Governments were well equipped to “instruct” their peoples.

The British official propaganda department at Crewe House, under Lord Northcliffe, was highly successful. Their methods, more especially the raining down of millions of leaflets on to the German Army, far surpassed anything undertaken by the enemy. In “The Secrets of Crewe House” by Sir Campbell Stuart, K.B.E., the methods are described for our satisfaction and approval. The declaration that only “truthful statements” were used is repeated just too often, and does not quite tally with the description of the faked letters and bogus titles and bookcovers, of which use was made. But, of course, we know that such clever propagandists are equally clever in dealing with us after the event as in dealing with the enemy at the time. In the apparently candid description of their activities we know we are hearing only part of the story. The circulators of base metal know how to use the right amount of alloy for us as well as for the enemy.

In the many tributes to the success of our propaganda from German Generals and the German Press, there is no evidence that our statements were always strictly truthful. To quote one : General von Hutier, of the Sixth German Army, sent a message in which the following passage occurs:”The method of Northcliffe at the Front is to distribute through airmen a constantly increasing number of leaflets and pamphlets; the letters of German prisoners are falsified in the most outrageous way; tracts and pamphlets are concocted, to which the names of German poets, writers, and statesmen are forged, or which present the appearance of having been printed in Germany, and bear, for example, the title of the Reclam series, when they really come from the Northcliffe press, which is working day and night for this same purpose. His thought and aim are that these forgeries, however obvious they may appear to the man who thinks twice, may suggest a doubt, even for a moment, in the minds of those who do not think for themselves, and that their confidence in their leaders, in their own strength, and in the inexhaustible resources of Germany may be shattered.”

The Propaganda, to begin with, was founded on the shifting sand of the myth of Germany’s sole responsibility. Later it became slightly confused owing to the inability of our statesmen to declare what our aims were, and towards the end it was fortified by descriptions of the magnificent, just, and righteous peace which was going to be “established on lasting foundations.” This unfortunately proved to be the greatest falsehood of all.

In calm retrospect we can appreciate better the disastrous effects of the poison of falsehood, whether officially, semiofficially, or privately manufactured. It has been rightly said that the injection of the poison of hatred into men’s minds by means of falsehood is a greater evil in wartime than the actual loss of life. The defilement of the human soul is worse than the destruction of the human body. A fuller realization of this is essential.

Another effect of the continual appearance of false and biased statement and the absorption of the lie atmosphere is that deeds of real valour, heroism, and physical endurance and genuine cases of inevitable torture and suffering are contaminated and desecrated; the wonderful comradeship of the battlefield becomes almost polluted. Lying tongues cannot speak of deeds of sacrifice to show their beauty or value. So it is that the praise bestowed on heroism by Government and Press always jars, more especially when, as is generally the case with the latter, it is accompanied by cheap and vulgar sentimentality. That is why one instinctively wishes the real heroes to remain unrecognized, so that their record may not be smirched by cynical tongues and pens so well versed in falsehood.

When war reaches such dimensions as to involve the whole nation, and when the people at its conclusion find they have gained nothing but only observe widespread calamity around them, they are inclined to become more sceptical and desire to investigate the foundations of the arguments which inspired their patriotism, inflamed their passions, and prepared them to offer the supreme sacrifice. They are curious to know why the ostensible objects for which they fought have none of them been attained, more especially if they are the victors. They are inclined to believe, with Lord Fisher, that “The nation was fooled into the war” (“London Magazine,” January 1920). They begin to wonder whether it does not rest with them to make one saying true of which they heard so much, that it was “a war to end war.”

When the generation that has known war is still alive, it is well that they should be given chapter and verse with regard to some of the best-known cries, catchwords, and exhortations by which they were so greatly influenced. As a warning, therefore, this collection is made. It constitutes only the exposure of a few samples. To cover the whole ground would be impossible. There must have been more deliberate lying in the world from 1914 to 1918 than in any other period of the world’s history.

There are several different sorts of disguises which falsehood can take. There is the deliberate official lie, issued either to delude the people at home or to mislead the enemy abroad; of this, several instances are given. As a Frenchman has said: ” Tant que les peuples seront armés, les uns contre les autres, ils auront des hommes d’état menteurs, comme ils auront des canons et des mitrailleuses.” (“As long as the peoples are armed against each other, there will be lying statesmen, just as there will be cannons and machine guns.”)

A circular was issued by the War Office inviting reports on war incidents from officers with regard to the enemy and stating that strict accuracy was not essential so long as there was inherent probability.

There is the deliberate lie concocted by an ingenious mind which may only reach a small circle, but which, if sufficiently graphic and picturesque, may be caught up and spread broadcast ; and there is the hysterical hallucination on the part of weak-minded individuals.

There is the lie heard and not denied, although lacking in evidence, and then repeated or allowed to circulate.

There is the mistranslation, occasionally originating in a genuine mistake, but more often deliberate. Two minor instances of this may be given.

The Times (agony column), July 9, 1915:

Jack F. G. — If you are not in khaki by the 20th, 1 shall cut you dead.—ETHEL M.

The Berlin correspondent of the Cologne Gazette transmitted this :

If you are not in khaki by the 20th, hacke ich dich zu Tode (I will hack you to death).

During the blockade of Germany, it was suggested that the diseases from which children suffered had been called Die englische Krankheit, as a permanent reflection on English inhumanity. As a matter of fact, die englische Krankheit is, and always has been, the common German name for rickets.

There is the general obsession, started by rumour and magnified by repetition and elaborated by hysteria, which at last gains general acceptance.

There is the deliberate forgery which has to be very carefully manufactured but serves its purpose at the moment, even though it be eventually exposed.

There is the omission of passages from official documents of which only a few of the many instances are given; and the “correctness” of words and commas in parliamentary answers which conceal evasions of the truth.

There is deliberate exaggeration, such, for instance, as the reports of the destruction of Louvain :

“The intellectual metropolis of the Low Countries since the fifteenth century is now no more than a heap of ashes” (Press Bureau, August 29, 1914),

“Louvain has ceased to exist” (The Times, August 29th , 1914).

As a matter of fact, it was estimated that about an eighth of the town had suffered.

There is the concealment of truth, which has to be resorted to so as to prevent anything to the credit of the enemy reaching the public. A war correspondent who mentioned some chivalrous act that a German had done to an Englishman during an action received a rebuking telegram from his employer: “Don’t want to hear about any good Germans”; and Sir Philip Gibbs, in Realities of War, says: “At the close of the day the Germans acted with chivalry, which I was not allowed to tell at the time.”

There is the faked photograph (“the camera cannot lie “). These were more popular in France than here. In Vienna an enterprising firm supplied atrocity photographs with blanks for the headings so that they might be used for propaganda purposes by either side.

The cinema also played a very important part, especially in neutral countries, and helped considerably in turning opinion in America in favour of coming in on the side of the Allies. To this day in this country attempts are made by means of films to keep the wound raw.

There is the “Russian scandal,” the best instance of which during the war, curiously enough, was the rumour of the passage of Russian troops through Britain. Some trivial and imperfectly understood statement of fact becomes magnified into enormous proportions by constant repetition from one person to another.

Atrocity lies were the most popular of all, especially in this country and America; no war can be without them. Slander of the enemy is esteemed a patriotic duty. An English soldier wrote (“The Times,” September 15, 1914) : “The stories in our papers are only exceptions. There are people like them in every army.” But at the earliest possible moment stories of the maltreatment of prisoners have to be circulated deliberately in order to prevent surrenders. This is done, of course, on both sides. Whereas naturally each side tries to treat its prisoners as well as possible so as to attract others.

The repetition of a single instance of cruelty and its exaggeration can be distorted into a prevailing habit on the part of the enemy. Unconsciously each one passes it on with trimmings and yet tries to persuade himself that he is speaking the truth.

There are lies emanating from the inherent unreliability and fallibility of human testimony. No two people can relate the occurrence of a street accident so as to make the two stories tally. When bias and emotion are introduced, human testimony becomes quite valueless. In war-time such testimony is accepted as conclusive. The scrappiest and most unreliable evidence is sufficient — “the friend of the brother of a man who was killed.” or, as a German investigator of his own liars puts it, “somebody who had seen it,” or, “an extremely respectable old woman.”

There is pure romance. Letters of soldiers who whiled away the days and weeks of intolerable waiting by writing home sometimes contained thrilling descriptions of engagements and adventures which had never occurred.

There are evasions, concealments, and half-truths which are more subtly misleading and gradually become a governmental habit.

There is official secrecy which must necessarily mislead public opinion. For instance, a popular English author, who was perhaps better informed than the majority of the public, wrote a letter to an American author, which was reproduced in the Press on May 21st , 19 18, stating:

“There are no Secret Treaties of any kind in which this country is concerned. It has been publicly and clearly stated more than once by our Foreign Minister, and apart from honour it would be political suicide for any British official to make a false statement of the kind.”

Yet a series of Secret Treaties existed. It is only fair to say that the author, not the Foreign Secretary, is the liar here. Nevertheless the official pamphlet, The Truth about the Secret Treaties, compiled by Mr. McCurdy, was published with a number of un-acknowledged excisions, and both Lord Robert Cecil, in 1917 and Mr. Lloyd George in 1918 declared (the latter to a deputation from the Trade Union Congress) that our policy was not directed to the disruption of Austro-Hungary, although they both knew that under the Secret Treaty concluded with Italy in April 1918 portions of Austria-Hungary were to be handed over to Italy and she was to be cut off from the sea. Secret Treaties naturally involve constant denials of the truth.

There is sham official indignation depending on genuine popular indignation which is a form of falsehood sometimes resorted to in an unguarded moment and subsequently regretted. The first use of gas by the Germans and the submarine warfare are good instances of this.

Contempt for the enemy, if illustrated, can prove to he an unwise form of falsehood. There was a time when German soldiers were popularly represented cringing, with their arms in the air and crying “Kamerad,” until it occurred to Press and propaganda authorities that people were asking why, if this was the sort of material we were fighting against, had we not wiped them off the field in a few weeks.

There are personal accusations and false charges made in a prejudiced war atmosphere to discredit persons who refuse to adopt the orthodox attitude towards war.

There are lying recriminations between one country and another. For instance, the Germans were accused of having engineered the Armenian massacres, and they, on their side, declared the Armenians, stimulated by the Russians, had killed 150,000 Mohammedans (Germania, October 9, 1915).

Other varieties of falsehood more subtle and elusive might be found, but the above pretty well cover the ground.

A good deal depends on the quality of the lie. You must have intellectual lies for intellectual people and crude lies for popular consumption, but if your popular lies are too blatant and your more intellectual section are shocked and see through them, they may (and indeed they did) begin to be suspicious as to whether they were not being hoodwinked too. Nevertheless, the inmates of colleges are just as credulous as the inmates of the slums.

Perhaps nothing did more to impress the public mind — and this is true in all countries —- than the assistance given in propaganda by intellectuals and literary notables. They were able to clothe the tough tissue of falsehood with phrases of literary merit and passages of eloquence better than the statesmen. Sometimes by expressions of spurious impartiality, at other times by rhetorical indignation, they could by their literary skill give this or that lie the stamp of indubitable authenticity, even without the shadow of a proof, or incidentally refer to it as an accepted fact. The narrowest patriotism could be made to appear noble, the foulest accusations could be represented as an indignant outburst of humanitarianism, and the meanest and most vindictive aims falsely disguised as idealism. Everything was legitimate which could make the soldiers go on fighting.

The frantic activity of ecclesiastics in recruiting by means of war propaganda made so deep an impression on the public mind that little comment on it is needed here. The few who courageously stood out became marked men. The resultant and significant loss of spiritual influence by the Churches is, in itself, sufficient evidence of the reaction against the betrayal in time of stress of the most elementary precepts of Christianity by those specially entrusted with the moral welfare of the people.

War is fought in this fog of falsehood, a great deal of it undiscovered and accepted as truth. The fog arises from fear and is fed by panic. Any attempt to doubt or deny even the most fantastic story has to be condemned at once as unpatriotic, if not traitorous. This allows a free field for the rapid spread of lies. If they were only used to deceive the enemy in the game of war it would not be worth troubling about. But, as the purpose of most of them is to fan indignation and induce the flower of the country’s youth to be ready to make the supreme sacrifice, it becomes a serious matter. Exposure, therefore, may be useful, even when the struggle is over, in order to show up the fraud, hypocrisy, and humbug on which all war rests, and the blatant and vulgar devices which have been used for so long to prevent the poor ignorant people from realizing the true meaning of war.

It must be admitted that many people were conscious and willing dupes. But many more were unconscious and were sincere in their patriotic zeal. Finding now that elaborately and carefully staged deceptions were practised on them, they feel a resentment which has not only served to open their eyes but may induce them to make their children keep their eyes open when next the bugle sounds.

Let us attempt a very faint and inadequate analogy between the conduct of nations and the conduct of individuals.

Imagine two large country houses containing large families with friends and relations. When the members of the family of the one house stay in the other, the butler is instructed to open all the letters they receive and send and inform the host of their contents, to listen at the keyhole, and tap the telephone. When a great match, say a cricket match, which excites the whole district, is played between them, those who are present are given false reports of the game to them think the side they favour is winning, the other side is accused of cheating and foul play, and scandalous reports are circulated about the head of the family the hideous goings on in the other house.

All this, of course, is very mild, and there would no specially dire consequences if people were to be in such an inconceivably caddish, low, and underhand way, except that they would at once be expelled from decent society.

But between nations, where the consequences are vital, where the destiny of countries and provinces hangs in the balance, the lives and fortunes of millions are affected and civilization itself is menaced, the most upright men honestly believe that there is no depth of duplicity to which they may not legitimately stoop. They have got to do it. The thing cannot go on without the help of lies.

This is no plea that lies should not be used in time, but a demonstration of how lies must be us in war-time. If the truth were told from the start there would be no reason and no will for war.

Anyone declaring the truth: “Whether you right or wrong, whether you win or lose, in no circumstances can war help you or your country,” would himself in gaol very quickly. . In wartime, failure of a lie is negligence, the doubting of a lie a misdemeanour, the declaration of the truth a crime.

In future wars we have now to look forward to a new and far more efficient instrument of propaganda – the Government control of broadcasting. Whereas therefore, in the past we have used the word “broadcast” symbolically as meaning the efforts of the Press and individual reporters, in future we must use the word literally, since falsehood can now be circulated universally, scientifically, and authoritatively.

Many of the samples given in the assortment are international, but some are exclusively British, as these are more easily found and investigated, and, after all, we are more concerned with our own Government and Press methods and our own national honour than with the duplicity of other Governments.

Lies told in other countries are also dealt with in cases where it has been possible to collect sufficient data. Without special investigation on the spot, the career of particular lies cannot be fully set out.

When the people of one country understand how the people in another country are duped, like themselves, in wartime, they will be more disposed to sympathize with them as victims than condemn them as criminals, because they will understand that their crime only consisted in obedience to the dictates of authority and acceptance of what their Government and Press represented to them as the truth.

The period covered is roughly the four years of the war., The intensity of the lying was mitigated after 1918, although fresh crops came up in connection with other of our international relations. The mischief done by the false cry “Make Germany pay” continued after 1918 and led, more especially in France, to high expectations and consequent indignation when it was found that the people who raised this slogan knew all the time it was a fantastic impossibility. Many of the old war lies survived for several years, and some survive even to this day.

There is nothing sensational in the way of revelations contained in these pages. All the cases mentioned are well known to those who were in authority, less well known to those primarily affected, and unknown, unfortunately, to the millions who fell. Although only a small part of the vast field of falsehood is covered, it may suffice to show how the unsuspecting innocence of the masses in all countries was ruthlessly and systematically exploited.

There are some who object to war because of its immorality, there are some who shrink from the arbitrament of arms because of its increased cruelty and barbarity; there are a growing number who protest against this method, at the outset known to be unsuccessful, of attempting to settle international disputes because of its imbecility and futility. But there is not a living soul in any country who does not deeply resent having his passions roused, his indignation inflamed, his patriotism exploited, and his highest ideals desecrated by concealment, subterfuge, fraud, falsehood, trickery, and deliberate lying on the part of those in whom he is taught to repose confidence and to whom he is enjoined to pay respect.

None of the heroes prepared for suffering and sacrifice, none of the common herd ready for service and obedience, will be inclined to listen to the call of their country once they discover the polluted sources from whence that call proceeds and recognize the monstrous finger of falsehood which beckons them to the battlefield.


Putin and Power

This excerpt is from Putins Macht: Warum Europa Russland braucht (Putin’s Power: Why Europe needs Russia), by Hubert Seipel, who is a well-known German journalist.

But what sets Seipel apart is the fact that he is the only Western journalist to have direct access to President Vladimir Putin. Therefore, his book is filled with great insights into the character, personality and geopolitical thinking of the man who currently leads Russia.

We are very grateful to El Manifesto for the opportunity to present this excerpt.


Learning from Capitalism

For Vladimir Putin, the missile shield is an example of the West’s failure to appreciate the way Russia has peacefully overcome the fall of the Soviet Union. Putin is quick to adapt to the negative historical judgment on “real socialism,” but he still considers that the fall of the Soviet Union was negotiated by its leaders in an unprofessional manner; that the Soviet Union, in December 1991, ceased to exist in less than two weeks after the presidents of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus announced its end. A few days later, the flag with the hammer and sickle gave way to that of the tsarist-era double-headed eagle.

When Putin was in charge of the economy of the St. Petersburg executive, he quickly understood that capital, in the era of globalization, does not move easily except in regions where it feels comfortable and secure. Russia had a number of advantages: tax rates were very low, as were wages, and the Russian people, despite miserable living conditions, were peaceful. However, Putin also saw very clearly, during this rapid initiation to capitalism, that millionaires should pay taxes in their country and respect the actions of the state.

But it is not only the feeling of having been abused that angers Putin. The lack of respect for Russia’s vital interests is, for him particularly hurtful, especially when the country shows signs of weakness. Putin confessed to me, during hours of conversation, without taking a breath, except to drink a little vodka, how the strategic configuration of Europe has been modified, without taking into account Russia’s susceptibilities. When the Warsaw Pact collapsed with the fall of the Soviet Union, NATO took the opportunity to develop with expansive madness… Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, the Baltic States, Romania, Slovakia and finally Croatia and Albania, “when we had been promised, on the occasion of German reunification, that there would be no extension of NATO.”

From Lisbon to Vladivostok

Vladimir Putin’s political objective is to create an economic space from Vladivostok to Lisbon. At the end of November 2009, he chose the Adlon Hotel in Berlin to present his vision, to German businessmen, of a common economic zone, with the European Union. A free trade zone without customs duties, a common industrial policy and the abolition of visas were just a few of Putin’s proposals. Both sides would benefit, including Russia, of course. “Because Russia, after the breakup of the Soviet Union, has not had access to its main export markets. Problems have arisen with transit countries, which have tried to take advantage of their monopoly situation to extract unilateral advantages. This is a source of disputes.”

Putin insisted on a central point in his thinking: “It is of paramount importance that we learn to respect each other’s strategic interests through deeds and not just words.”

Two years later, Putin was still convinced of his proposals. At the end of 2013, in Sochi, he explained to me the reasons for his strategic reflections. “A rapprochement with Europe is not, in principle, bad for us. We have the natural resources and Europe has the know-how. We would both profit in the long term.”

His goal has always been an agreement with the European Union and Ukraine to modify the technical standards of Russia and countries such as Belarus and Ukraine, so that they become compatible with those of the European Union and thus competitive. Leveling the economy—and responding, at the same time, to the expansive policy of the West—is, for him, nothing more than a question of time, equal opportunities and increased investments. This is the reason why Putin insisted on joining the World Trade Organization, which decides by means of its binding international rules what is authorized and what is not. After several decades of arduous negotiations, Russia was able to overcome the obstacles and was admitted as a member in 2012. The EU’s simplistic reaction of rejecting Russian proposals before even examining them provoked his anger. “They have been repeating one thing to us for years: you must not interfere in Ukraine’s affairs. We do not intervene in your relations with China and you should not intervene in our relations with Canada.”

Putin regards the attempt to separate Ukraine economically from Russia as a political maneuver against his country; and the technocratic point of view of Brussels, for which Russia’s relations with Ukraine are of no importance, he sees it as a deliberate strategy. As a political man, he is appalled that initiatives of such importance, with enormous consequences for the neighboring country, can be taken without negotiation, but exclusively bureaucratically. “It is not difficult to realize that our relations with Ukraine are different from those between Brussels and Canada, as these really have no complexity,” Putin laconically lamented.


Making Sense Of Nonsense

In recent years, there has been a concerted attack on many of the precepts of Western civilization relating to the concept of God, truth, Christianity, morality, sex, the family, and even modern science, especially biology. The concern of this volume is to explore these and other attacks through the tools of philosophy, theology, science, and intuition. It seeks to bring clarity to the ongoing struggle of Western civilization to preserve its values and traditions.

The West is crumbling at an accelerated rate. The unfolding erasure of history, objective morality, and truth has paved the way for our current predicament. We are now standing at the precipice of the future of human civilization. The attacks on the human person are unrelenting, malicious, multifaceted, and wide-ranging in their scope and breadth, from the time prior to birth until the moment of death. If you are granted the “right” to live, then you must be prepared for unending assaults on your, mind, body, and soul. Nevertheless, the spirit of man and the greatness of God are infinitely greater than any of these assaults. It is by making sense of nonsense that humanity will be able to navigate out of the West’s current quagmire.

Even though the contributors to this volume hold varied worldviews and conceptions of God, economic policies, COVID-19 outlooks, and political perspectives, they yet share a strong belief in an individual’s right to free expression without fear of reprisal; and they believe in the important role that reason, science, logic, intuition, and lived experience play in navigating through such difficult subjects. They bring an eclectic mixtures of expertise, including philosophy, theology, engineering, economics, psychology, medicine, history, nursing, and education.

Scott D. G. Ventureyra holds a PhD in Philosophical Theology from Carleton University/Dominican University College. He is the author of two books, including the Amazon best-seller, On the Origin of Consciousness: An Exploration through the Lens of the Christian Conception of God and Creation. He has published in academic journals such as Science et Esprit, The American Journal of Biblical Theology, Studies in Religion, Dialogue: Canadian Philosophical Review, and Maritain Studies. He has also written for magazines such as Crisis Magazine, Catholic Insight, and Convivium, and newspapers such as The National Post, City Light News, The Ottawa Citizen, and The Times Colonist. He has presented his research at conferences around North America, including the “Science of Consciousness Conference” in 2020. In addition to his two recent titles, COVID-19: A Dystopian Delusion and Making Sense of Nonsense (both being published by True Freedom Press), he is currently working on a book about the Roman Catholic priest, paleontologist, and theologian, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, titled Why Teilhard Matters. To learn more, visit his website.


This excerpt is from Making Sense of Nonsense: Navigating Through The West’s Current Quagmire, the recent book edited by Scott Scott Ventureyra.

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While it is true that the Soviet Union dissolved internally from 1988 to 1991, there remains a pernicious philosophy that is infecting human minds across the globe, now more widespread and powerful than it ever was under Soviet rule, and still officially enshrined in totalitarian regimes like the Chinese Communist Party. This evil specter of communism embodies an a-theology that eats away like an acid at the edifice of Western civilization, along with every great and noble idea that it has generated or even fathomed. It is seductive since it gnaws away at the human will, intellect, and sense of morality, building concession through chaos and confusion. If we allow it, it will write out humanity’s epitaph.

What happens when George Orwell’s notion of “big brother” and Jacques Derrida’s “method” of deconstructionism as applied to social issues collide? Something that is very sinister; a collective madness that penetrates Western civilization. But what are these ideas about? And what does their collision entail? The postmodern philosopher Jacques Derrida espoused an approach to textual analysis known as deconstructionism. However, its application has been extended far beyond textual analysis. Derrida made a thought-provoking confession in his work Moscou aller-retour on deconstructionism as it relates to political activism, where he pinpoints, of all things, Marxism:

“Deconstruction never had meaning or interest, at least in my eyes, than as a radicalization, that is to say, also within the tradition of Marxism in a certain spirit of Marxism.” Similarly, Derrida’s fellow postmodern philosopher Michel Foucault uses Marxism as a tool for political activism: “I label political everything that has to do with class struggle, and social everything that derives from and is a consequence of the class struggle, expressed in human relationships and institutions.”

This reveals the true agenda behind postmodernism and deconstructionism. Furthermore, postmodernism is utterly relativist in its morality and epistemology. As philosopher John Searle has observed, it is a world that is turned upside down. It is the ones who were “suppressed” who now act as the suppressors; however, they do not achieve dominance through rational argumentation but rather through decrying oppression and marginalization. Those who claim to be powerless have ironically gained power through their “powerlessness.” These are overt attacks on the very fabric of the West’s Judeo-Christian roots, the basis for the scientific revolution, the foundations of law, and the intrinsic value and dignity of all human persons.

In George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, the character Big Brother, who heads the totalitarian state of Oceania, subjects his citizens to perpetual surveillance through the scrutiny of the authorities via telescreens. In the West we are experiencing mass surveillance through the state (local and federal governments) and social media outlets such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. It is not enough that mainstream media with its propaganda, or as others would call it “fake news,” is in the business of misinforming and indoctrinating the public.

Moreover, Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau’s Liberal government has made a commitment to regulate “hate speech” on social media, but of course, a precise definition of ‘hate speech’ is never given. Bill C-36, “An Act to Amend the Criminal Code,” is the most recent legislation to regulate speech online. This is just another excuse to censor people who hold unpopular views. The Liberals have also sought to update the language of section 13 of Bill C-36 with the following statement:

“It is a discriminatory practice to communicate or cause to be communicated hate speech by the means of the Internet or other means of telecommunication in a context in which the hate speech is likely to foment detestation or vilification of an individual or group of individuals on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination.”

The question remains: what is hate speech and who defines it? Government? No thanks. We are never provided a precise definition, but at most something ambiguous and susceptible to manipulation in countless ways. This poses a tremendous threat to our freedom of expression, freedom of speech, and freedom of conscience. It is worth noting that the term “hate” is nowhere to be found in Canadian jurisprudence. However, “hatred” is defined in case law. What the Criminal Code does prohibit is “hate propaganda,” defined as “any writing, sign or visible representation that advocates or promotes genocide…”

Undoubtedly, free speech is under assault, and Trudeau, sometimes known as postmodernism’s poster-boy, is a leading figure in this assault. An arbitrary definition of “hate speech” can lead to such absurd situations as a “transgender woman” being accused of hate speech claiming via a t-shirt to be still male. Thus, on the one hand, you have a denial of metaphysical and moral truths alternating with attempts to affirm such truths—something which is logically incoherent—and on the other hand, you have massive surveillance and censorship to ensure you do not deny these untruths. It is worse than an Orwellian nightmare; it is a relativistic morass founded on nonsense which is forcefully submerging its citizens in a sea of absurdities. In the aforementioned examples, we can see the ramifications of these two abhorrent ideas, especially when combined.

Politics, culture, science, and philosophy undergird something much deeper than appears on the surface. It will require readers to dig deeply within themselves, since the struggle is ultimately internal although appearing externally; it is a struggle for moral responsibility and human dignity. Au fond, this is a spiritual war, where human civilization is the battleground for a struggle that involves good and evil predating human existence.
We are at a critical juncture in human history; the following questions lie before us: will we be able to overcome the lesser angels of our nature? Will we be able to override the savage and tribalist vestiges of our evolutionary past that stifle genuine and authentic human progress? Will truth, science, reason, logic, love, and justice prevail? To answer those questions in the affirmative it will take individuals who have become aware of this decadence, so that we can properly navigate through this current quagmire.

If we remain deep in slumber and “woke” rather than awakened, we will be forced to face the impending death of our great civilization; we risk descending into the bottomless nether regions inhabited by the likes of Karl Marx, Margaret Sanger, Andrea Dworkin, Judith Butler, Theodor Adorno, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, and other sinister characters who commiserate with each other for eternity.


Featured image: “Lady at the Virginal with a Gentleman,” by Johannes Vermeer; painted ca. 1662-1665.

COVID-19: A Dystopian Delusion

Since March of 2020, the world has been brought to its knees by unscientific and unethical mandates. These mandates have destroyed the world economy and the lives of countless innocent individuals. The “cure” that has been offered by medical bureaucrats and politicians has been more deadly than the disease (COVID-19). The imposition of ludicrous lockdowns, mask wearing, coerced vaccination, and vaccine passports have not only proved to be ineffective, but also much more harmful than SARS-CoV-2 and all of its variants. COVID-19 has a recovery rate of close to 99% for most of the world’s population, however, despite this, institutions and power-hungry individuals have trampled upon our civil liberties and ignored our inalienable human rights. It is precisely as Thomas Paine famously stated: “The greatest tyrannies are always perpetrated in the name of the noblest causes.”

Many lives have been gratuitously lost because of the administration of deadly medical treatments, and the rejection of effective treatments that follow genuine science. In the process, informed consent has been disparaged and desecrated. For over two years, we were instructed to “trust the science,” but the “science” advocated by medical bureaucrats and greedy politicians was the reason why the world was turned upside-down. This book exposes the sinister agenda behind the machinations of governments, health organizations, globalist elites, Big Pharma, Big Tech, and the legacy media.

It is only when a critical mass awakens to these crimes against humanity that the perpetrators can and will be brought to justice.

All the authors in this volume are deeply committed Christians and are uneasy about the direction the world is heading under the COVID-19 pandemonium.

Scott D. G. Ventureyra holds a PhD in Philosophical Theology from Carleton University/Dominican University College. He is the author of two books, including the Amazon best-seller, On the Origin of Consciousness: An Exploration through the Lens of the Christian Conception of God and Creation. He has published in academic journals such as Science et Esprit, The American Journal of Biblical Theology, Studies in Religion, Dialogue: Canadian Philosophical Review, and Maritain Studies. He has also written for magazines such as Crisis Magazine, Catholic Insight, and Convivium, and newspapers such as The National Post, City Light News, The Ottawa Citizen, and The Times Colonist. He has presented his research at conferences around North America, including the “Science of Consciousness Conference” in 2020. In addition to his two recent titles, COVID-19: A Dystopian Delusion and Making Sense of Nonsense (both being published by True Freedom Press), he is currently working on a book about the Roman Catholic priest, paleontologist, and theologian, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, titled Why Teilhard Matters. To learn more, visit his website.


This excerpt is from the recent book, edited by Scott Ventureyra, entitled, Covid-19: A Dystopian Delusion.

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Within less than two years we have seen the ever-hastening erosion of our civil liberties. Bodily autonomy and freedom of conscience are constantly under siege. The reckless ways in which our governments, medical establishment, judicial system, media, and Big Tech are colluding and working against sovereign citizens of the world presents an unprecedented attack on the human person. The only thing that supersedes the ignorance of such people is their arrogance, as we have seen from those who genuflect at the altar of COVID, regressive ideologies (woke culture, political correctness, identity politics, socialism, communism, etc.), the follies of scientific materialism, and sheer human depravity. Silence and dismissal of what is happening right before our eyes will make us complicit in the ever-enveloping moral evil that is penetrating the hearts of men and women at exponential rates.

So, how do we make sense of the nonsense? Through our experience of the world. We must use legitimate science, not politicized science. We must be willing to follow the evidence wherever it leads. We mustn’t deny our human experience of the world since we are composite beings of mind, body, and soul. Thus, the phenomenal experience of the world (the five senses) works in unison with the intellect (the rational; capacity for logic) and through our will act to bring about the maximum good in the world. An adherence to the natural law where all humans have inherent rights granted to us, not by legislation, but by God.

Under natural law, our civil laws are based on morality, ethics, and what is intrinsically right. This is opposed to what is known as “positive law” or “man-made law” as defined by statutes and common law, which increasingly has not come to reflect the natural law, as has become more evident in the moral decadence of the West and in this false pandemic. These aspects of human existence make us fully human. This is the essence of the imago Dei (image of God). We must be vigilant and follow God, the bible promises that as you draw closer to Him, he will draw nearer to you (Jas 4:8).

By way of regressive ideologies, the eradication of truth and God in the education system, the propagandizing of socialism, the degradation of life, the human person, and the trampling of our civil liberties, we are ushering an era of global communism. If people don’t unite and speak up, politicians, media personalities, and others who are subservient to the globalist elites, will continue to live lives of luxury, while the rest of us, “we the people,” will suffer under their totalitarian rule. What is coming with the Great Reset includes: loss of property, wealth, and job opportunities, more mandates, more passports, more restrictions, social credit scoring, and the loss of basic human rights for those who are not subservient to this Globalist Agenda, also known as the New World Order.

Given the current cultural and political trajectory, we can say that historical progress is not linear but cyclical when we carefully learn from history and the persistence of reoccurring dark periods in human history, as evident in the stigmatization of certain groups. Most humans that do not ground the experience of the world in God, truth, and the natural law, surrender to their tribal proclivities towards groupthink are susceptible to repeat the mistakes of the past. The regressive “woke culture” is an example of this.

The woke phenomenon, much like the COVID madness, is one plagued with censorship and punishment for dissent. This is similar to what happened in Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, and currently in Communist China.
The atheist Richard Dawkins may have had some insight here when applying one of his sayings to the inanity of regressive ideologies and the blindness of the COVID dystopian delusion: “It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims [the COVID single narrative], that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I’d rather not consider that).” Although Dawkins had evolution deniers in mind, I think this quote fits quite nicely with the drone-like unthinking compliance and mass formation psychosis we have seen.

It is important not to ignore or underestimate the role relativism and scientific materialism have played in the destruction of core Judeo–Christian principles. These core principles are ways of combatting the malaise and various maladies we face in the West. Systemic corruption and outright evil have played in this current nightmarish psychosis of the twenty first century. This is found in all of the godless materialist philosophies which guide nihilistic ideologies, including abortion, child abuse and sacrifice, attacks on the family, on the freeness of the individual, gender ideology, and the COVID-19 medical tyranny.

Make no mistake, the world is in a diabolical trance. Will reason, arguments, evidence, and adherence to objective moral values and duties save us from this quagmire? I don’t know. Even though 2+2 still does not equal 5, it seems that that alone cannot save us. At least not until people wake up from their slumber. When falsehoods are so rampant, the truth becomes incomprehensible. Our individual and collective eyes distort reality because of our fallen nature, but God unveils the truth to us by His salvific gift and aptitude to see the truth.

No matter how desperate a situation may get, we must accept that every event that unfolds is part of God’s eternal plan: “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts’” (Isa 55:8–9). We must discern the role we play in God’s plan. The question is: will we choose to embrace it or oppose it? People’s dormancy and willful ignorance will not absolve them.

There is no neutral position in the face of injustice; silence is complicity. Au fond, as I have said before, this is a spiritual battle, and this is the best way to understand what is transpiring throughout the globe. People are making choices and choosing sides. The apostle John puts this in the simplest of terms: “We know that we belong to God, and the whole world is under the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). We either choose between the world (Satan) or God and His Kingdom—under a biblical context there is no third option. Satan may be very powerful in his ability to influence and seduce but God is infinitely more powerful. Theologian Sam Storms explains the influence of Satan:

He exerts an insidious influence on the financial world, business and industry, athletics, the stock market, the banking system, political institutions and parties, entertainment, the internet, education, the family, the home, neighborhood, civic clubs and social service organizations, and country clubs. We must reckon with a global satanic influence.

This would make sense of how much of the developments and engines of propaganda (government, Big Pharma, Big Tech, mainstream media, legal system, and even the medical establishment) before and especially under the COVID tyranny have been in lockstep with one another.

As unpalatable and superstitious as the spiritual dimension and the demonic may sound to many twenty-first century ears, it is the best way to understand the world’s situation. I have struggled with accepting this reality for quite some time and regarded it as irrational and remained agnostic to the existence of demons and the devil. But I have found that this reality in opposition to God makes the most sense of my internal struggles, the struggles of humanity, and the struggle between good and evil. Given a theological backdrop there is no other way to understand our inner darkness and the outer darkness of the world.

Where do we go from here? Do we accept Klaus Schwab and the globalists’ “Great Reset,” or do we reject it and fight for a “Great Reckoning” (bringing the heavy hand of justice to them) and “Great Take Over” (the seizing and redistribution of their wealth)? If we want the “Great Reckoning” and the “Great Take Over,” whereby the culprits who orchestrated and supported the false pandemic will be held accountable, we cannot remain complacent. Part of the macabre plan has been to displace Judeo–Christian principles. Must we also reject godless regressive ideologies for love and truth, or do we remain complacent to identity politics and cancel culture? They all have the same satanic source, and all are bent on the destruction of Judeo–Christian precepts. In order for this to happen there needs to be a large awakening. Unfortunately, many Christian brethren have been led astray by the father of lies (John 8:44).

Catholics, Reformed and Orthodox Christians, and others must be vigilant against the unholy union of Jorge Bergoglio (Pope Francis) and Klaus Schwab. One may ask what a supporter of liberation theology may have in common with a wealthy globalist like Schwab? Schwab, as chairman and founder of the World Economic Forum, and Francis, a follower of liberation theology (Christian theology that has been adulterated by Marxism), agree that private property and wealth should be redistributed. In October of 2020, Bergoglio, in his encyclical letter, Fratelli Tutti, declares the following:

Business abilities, which are a gift from God, should always be clearly directed to the development of others and to eliminating poverty, especially through the creation of diversified work opportunities. The right to private property is always accompanied by the primary and prior principle of the subordination of all private property to the universal destination of the earth’s goods, and thus the right of all to their use.

Similarly, Schwab and Malleret clearly state part of the agenda behind “The Great Reset” in their book, COVID-19: The Great Reset: “First and foremost, the post-pandemic era will usher in a period of massive wealth redistribution, from the rich to the poor and from capital to labour.” Indeed, Bergoglio has given his stamp of approval of the “Great Reset” in his 43,000-word encyclical. This falls in line with the World Economic Forum’s mantra that has been dubbed a “conspiracy theory”: “You’ll own nothing, and you’ll be happy.” In a video laying out the 2030 Agenda, created by the World Economic Forum, Schwab’s eight predictions, including loss of property ownership for 2030, are outlined.

It is important to note that it is highly improbable that Schwab and his co-author, Malleret, were able to write a complex and wide-ranging book like COVID-19: The Great Reset in only four months. This suggests that it was premeditated. Unsurprisingly, Bergoglio, being a supporter of the “Great Reset,” has also unflinchingly supported the Global Warming Green Agenda, mandated COVID-19 vaccines, vaccine passports, gender equality, massive migration, and other controversial social actions. This is a sinister merging, for the sake of gaining large support from Catholics, other Christians, and members of other religions including the youth, the poor, and disenfranchised. All for the sinister goal of exploiting and robbing the middle class for the global technocratic fascistic agenda. On December 29, 2021, Canadian globalist puppet Justin Trudeau made the following incendiary and alarming remarks about the unvaccinated population in Canada.


Featured image: “Victory of Science,” by Jordan Henderson; painted in 2022.

The Blackening Of Europe

We are so very pleased to present this excerpt from the first volume of The Blackening of Europe, by Clare Ellis, which is an extensive and thorough study of the political undertaking to erase Europeans from Europe. Dr. Ellis’s work is meticulous, and those who might object that this is all a “conspiracy theory” will be hard-pressed to counter the facts and the data that she establishes. Please also read the review of this book.

Dr. Ellis received her PhD from the University of New Brunswick and is now preparing Volumes 2 and 3 of The Blackening of Europe for publication with Arktos whose kind generosity has made this excerpt possible.


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In addition to having their major cities and capitals transformed into global cities dislocated from their nation-state, their blue and white collar jobs out-sourced, their wages and thus jobs undercut by cheaper immigrant labourers, their houses bought by transnational foreigners, their traditions and political culture undermined and altered to accommodate the plurality of immigrants’ ethnic identities and align with cosmopolitan visions of the future, their national identity scrubbed free of any notion of their ethnicity and descent, and their leaders and other European elites making and implementing ground-breaking decisions without democratic consultation, native Europeans are also not afforded special rights to protect, celebrate, and enhance their unique and collective ethnic identities and ways of life. Instead, they are compulsed into political subjection and silenced through various methods of state-enforced coercion such as multiculturalism, political correctness, and punishment of dissent.

British philosopher Roger Scruton explains that the postmodern anti-national Western elite (cosmopolitans) are ‘oikophobes’, or those who are averse to their home:

[T]he oikophobe repudiates national loyalties and defines goals and ideals against the nation, promoting transnational institutions over national governments, accepting and endorsing laws that are imposed from on high by the EU or the UN, and defining his political vision in terms of cosmopolitan values that have been purified of all reference to the particular attachments of a real historical community.

Oikophobes consider themselves as ‘defender[s] of enlightened universalism against local chauvinism’. To better explain this view, one only has to return to Kymlicka’s theory of rights. As mentioned above, Kymlicka grants privileges to minority ethnic immigrant groups in the form of polyethnic rights, and he affords national minority groups group-differentiated rights, which include self-government rights. Both of these groups have special privileges, such as the right to preserve their distinct cultures and ethnic identities, and they also have individual rights. Although pluralistic cosmopolitanism means that different ethnic groups are merely one cultural group among many with no single one being official, and although it holds that all cultures and ethnicities should be preserved and celebrated, Europeans are not included within this ‘enlightened’ cosmopolitical project.

Kymlicka does not grant positive recognition or afford special rights to the majority ethnic group of European nations, i.e. indigenous Europeans, and implies that the identity of the majority is not based on race, ethnicity, heritage or culture, but is defined only in terms of language, multiculturalism, democracy and universal liberal individual rights. In other words, the European societal cultures and ethnic identities are not to be preserved in the way that national minorities are granted special permission to do so: non-European Old-World cultural and ethnic groups are encouraged by various government programs, policies, and acts to embrace, preserve and celebrate their past, identity, history, heritage and culture. European ethnic majorities are only granted individual rights, which, it is assumed, have come to define their societal cultures and identities since 1948 with the introduction of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the onset of large-scale non-European immigration in the 1960s, and the implementation and institution of multicultural ideology from the 1970s onwards.

In fact, the ethnic identities of Europeans are stripped altogether from the national identity of their own nations, i.e. national identity now means being multicultural and cosmopolitan. They are told to reject their own historical culture, their heritage, their ethnic identity because of its racist, imperialistic, ethnocentric, and supremacist characteristics, and to fill the vacuum with new liberal and cosmopolitan behaviours, such as a hearty embrace of universal liberal values and ‘enrichment’ by distinctively non-European ethnic cultures. As such, the sense of a collective identity for European ethnic groups has been replaced by a government-instituted ideal-type model, an Enlightenment culture that is neutral to the characteristics that legally define non-European ethnic groups and national minorities, such as culture, history, and race. This neutralization has resulted in diminished European traditions, cultural practices, and heritage, the privileging and trumping of foreigner rights over indigenous European native rights by the granting of special rights and recognition to ethnic minorities, and the violation of the right to self-determination, which includes the right of European majorities to an ethnic identity and the right to preserve, enhance, and celebrate it. This means that ethnic European majorities have undergone a radical transformation in their identity over the last forty-five years, from a European-based ethno-cultural distinctiveness to an ‘enlightened’ universalism not defined by race, ethnicity, culture, or heritage.

One of the leading definitions of ethnicity within the social sciences stems from the German sociologist Max Weber (1864–1920). He argued that ethnicity is not fixed; it is not something objectively known, being as it is a social construct. It is ‘a form of “social closure” in which a group excludes others in order to obtain a status advantage over them’. Alan Simmons, Professor of Sociology at York University, Toronto, argues that modern-constructionists ‘view ethnicity, ethnic pride, and ethnic nationalism as modern inventions’ that appeared in the context of the nineteenth century. Postmodern constructionists view ethnicity as ‘not singular and fixed, but rather multiple and flexible’ such that immigrants are ‘fragmented’ people who have ‘hyphenated and hybrid forms’ of ethnic identity. Turkish-American philosopher Seyla Benhabib writes that immigrants have ‘multiple, overlapping allegiances which are sustained across communities of language, ethnicity, religion, and nationality’ and that these

developments have arisen as a result of cultural pluralization arising from migration, ethnic multiculturalism, cultural diversity of all kinds and the growing demands for the recognition of different life choices.

Taking the above definitions of ethnicity into account, Kymlicka’s liberal multiculturalism, even if it grants temporary group rights and is based on the expectation that minorities will assimilate to liberal values, can be interpreted as a form of stereotyping, in that it grants special group rights to minorities. It contradicts both the modern and postmodern social constructionist view of ethnicity by emphasising the objective existence of the ethnic identities of minorities.

It is difficult to reconcile the fact that minorities, on the one hand, claim they are transnational or cosmopolitan and thus have multiple identities, but then, on the other hand, demand multicultural ethnic immigrant rights — i.e. they have ethnic solidarity in distinction to the individual rights only of the majorities, who are viewed as world citizens. In fact, claims about the ethnic solidarity of ethnic minority groups challenge cosmopolitan ideals. Despite this, Kymlicka implies that ethnicity is a real and important characteristic of peoples who differentiate themselves from, and more importantly, self-identify themselves in contrast to one another, which is especially noticeable in the form of societal culture, and thus require special rights enabling them to preserve, enhance, and celebrate their uniqueness. However, European ethnic majorities are the only ethnic groups that Kymlicka ignores. Thus, he might be perceived as being anti-ethnic-European identity.


Vaccination As An Act Of Love?

We are very pleased to provide this excerpt from Fulvio di Blasi’s forthcoming book, Vaccination as an Act of Love? which appears through the kind courtesy of Phronesis Editore.

The advent of the so-called “anti-Covid vaccines” was marked by the largest institutional fraud in history, to the detriment of informed consent: a fraud made easier and more disturbing by the power that finance and politics wield today in the world of global communication.

This fraud triggered a time of unprecedented violence, hatred, and persecution against all those who expressed doubts, sought the truth, and never tired of defending their freedom. The schizophrenic and almost demonic paradox of this campaign of hatred and violence is that it was carried out under the banner of terms, such as “love” or “civic duty,” now devoid of any meaning other than the demagogic use (typical of totalitarian systems) of the terminology of good to carry out evil policies. Transforming good into evil and evil into good is the most the Devil could wish for; it is his greater enjoyment. For those who believe, it is easy to see the Devil’s hand in these times.

Vaccination as an Act of Love? retraces the foundations of the analysis of the moral act to rediscover what it means to do good or evil, both in the Christian tradition and in that of Western thought. The ethical choice presupposes adequate knowledge of all the relevant factors of the action.

Fulvio Di Blasi is a practicing lawyer who holds a Ph.D. in the philosophy of law. He is an expert especially in Aristotelian Thomist thought and natural law theory. He has taught at several universities, including the University of Notre Dame (USA), The John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin (Poland), the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross (Rome), and the LUMSA (Libera Università Maria Ss. Assunta, Italy). He has more than 200 publications, including articles, editorials, books chapters, edited books, and translations.


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From The Pandemic To This Book

Since the pandemic began, I have resigned myself like everyone else to everything we all had to resign ourselves to. The first lockdown, the second lockdown, curfews, masks, hand sanitizers, work and family difficulties, the rules for going to Mass and to the supermarket, the abolition of travel and holidays, the new waves, the hopes for vaccines that, perhaps, would save us; and, again, the economic crisis, the monopolization of existential and mass media news, focused every day on the bulletin of deaths and infections, on new outbreaks, on new yellow or red areas, on the latest rules to follow, on the reactions of individual states, but also on some new TV show personalities, especially virologists and epidemiologists or those presumed to be such.

I’ve become familiar with things that I almost didn’t know existed before, at least from an existential point of view, but which have forcefully entered my daily sources of interest and information. Things like drug agencies, the World Health Organization, their protocols and conflicts of interest, emergency approval procedures, journals, and university departments of medicine. I reluctantly agreed to read and discuss all these things every day in social networks. I have also lived through new experiences of which I have a positive or still uncertain balance.

My young children have had contact with their parents that few children have ever had in our busy world. My baby girl was born just before the first lockdown. Thank God, we had just managed to repair the house from serious mold problems and to return there between the end of January and February 2020. I and my wife, who is also a lawyer and scholar passionate about culture and everything else, had never imagined spending such long periods of monastic isolation, work, and intimacy.

We too, at home, have had our waves and regulatory changes. There was that of pizza and homemade desserts. There was that of sports played with children on the terrace (also to work off sweets and pizza). There was that of the camping on the terrace, where we set up a large family tent on an artificial lawn for Christmas 2020, surrounded by solar-powered Christmas lights (the holiday budget was spent in 2020, and with better results, in this way). There was that of the giant terrace nativity scene, with water pump and waterfalls and real ornamental plants, built at home with the children by carving and painting polystyrene and wooden boards for the stable. There have been attempts at homeschooling, also with the help of heroic grandparents who have come over as much as possible, despite the curfews and occasional swab tests, also to allow us to isolate ourselves from time to time in a room to get some work done. There have been such beautiful and genuine family experiences that, at times, with my wife, we even were thankful for the pandemic, roughly with that spirit with which, in the Easter Mass, since St. Augustine, we refer to original sin in terms of felix culpa.

Smart working and the development of new online work options are certainly among the positive aspects of the epidemic. Today we have learned more about how many things can be done remotely with the technologies we have available. Smart or remote working allows many people, in many ways, to better reconcile their professional life with their personal and family life. Let’s hope there is no turning back in this area, after the emergency is over.

I think back on all this, not without ardor, to say that, even in the worst moments of the pandemic, I had never thought of making a professional effort to talk about it. Even when, taking seriously some of my wife’s perplexities, I had a second thought about vaccines and government policies, and when I began to study relevant sources of information with greater professional attention and to listen to online lectures and specialized conferences on the subject, I didn’t think even for a moment of writing a book about it. Even when the witch hunt against the so-called anti-vaxxers began, when the mass media and politics started to treat me, my wife, and many of our friends and colleagues who had doubts about vaccines and about the decisions to be made about them as if we were fools and idiots to mock and publicly insult…. Even in this predicament I didn’t think about writing a book on the subject. In fact, my initial reaction was the opposite. I decided to stop reading many newspapers or watching television and instead to concentrate on other books I was writing. Unfortunately, hateful excerpts of pseudo-journalistic talk shows conducted in the name of ignorance, arrogance and insult still tormented me through the clips that inevitably populated social media. Still, not even this additional pressure incited me to the point of turning everything I had studied and found out about the pandemic into a book. Posting some occasional ironic, outraged, or staggered comments on social media was enough to distract me so I could let it out and go back to my regular work.

There was one thing that broke the camel’s back, though, and it was not about my professional life but about my life of faith. Political institutions had breached their fundamental duty to respect the truth and freedom of their citizens. They violated the right of every free person to receive correct and honest information. They had tried demagogically to bend and control people’s will, intelligence, and conduct. Physicians, after the first wave of heroism, so charged with magnanimity and exemplarity, had finally allowed themselves to be harnessed and standardized downwards by a political power that wanted them to be bureaucrats who stayed far away from patients, at least until hospitalizations. They had allowed themselves to be replaced by sloppy and generic directives from impersonal government agencies, reduced to paper pushing, thus mortifying the exercise of a profession that always begins and ends with care and attention for the patient. Scientists had also failed by letting a generic, magical, and mystical reference to a higher and nonexistent entity called “Science” take the place—in the common feeling and in the demagogy of ignorant and unscrupulous politicians and journalists—of serious and real discussion among scholars and of critical thinking. Journalism had died, replaced by the will to power of those who have the media in their hands and decide to use the media only and exclusively to convince everyone of their prejudices and to make the masses conform to the decisions of the political class. But shouldn’t journalism be the bulwark of investigation and real democracy precisely in times when politics risks having too much free rein and too much power?

Yet, despite everything, despite all these failures, it was still enough for me to turn off the TV, close the online pages of the new regime’s newspapers, and concentrate on my family, my research, and my books.

One thing, as I said, finally stopped me from simply closing the door and staying at home doing my own thing: the failure of the church. I am referring, of course, not to the true Church, that is, to the Mystical Body of Christ, which lives in the mystery of His People, and which walks in history assisted by the Spirit of Truth. The true Church is the humanity of Christ, God incarnate who becomes a sacrament, who becomes the mystery of God’s presence among us. When God becomes man, matter becomes direct contact with the supernatural: “Philip said to him, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (John 14: 9-10).

The Incarnation does not end with the ascension of Jesus into Heaven. The Incarnation remains until the end of time. It’s just that, after the Ascension, the sacramental mystery doubles. While two thousand years ago, we saw Jesus and, by touching His humanity, we really and mysteriously touched God, now we don’t see Him, but we really and mysteriously touch God by touching His sacramental humanity, which is truly present in His People. Whoever does not understand that the Church is the Body of Christ incarnate which continues to walk and act mysteriously in history with the legs and arms of His faithful has not understood anything significant about the Church. This Church, for a believer, can never fail. Men, however, are fallible and sinful. Even the righteous sins seven times a day, which is an important warning against any presumption and idolatry of personalities. Here on earth, no one is holy, and we all must always be very careful. Only the People of God as a whole are Holy, because they are the Body of Christ.

The church as a human institution is made up of men who are all fallible, starting with the Pope (except of course for those very rare times in history in which he speaks ex cathedra on matters of faith and morals). The Church as a militant People (that is, without considering those in Purgatory and Paradise) is made up of three types of faithful, all called to be saints in the same way and all cells of the Mystical Body of Christ: there are clerics (deacons, priests, and bishops), there are the religious (who make vows and who could also be clerics at the same time), and there are the lay faithful. Nobody is in the big-league team, and nobody is in little, or very little, leagues. The dignity of every believer is rooted in the call to communion with God and in letting Christ work in him to impact the history of the world. Clerics have an institutional responsibility, but if some or many clerics make a mistake, Christ will work more through other faithful, because the true, sacramental Church is never in the hands of any single person or group of mere men.

When I talk about the failure of the church in these times of pandemic, I am therefore referring to the failure of many clerics (not all, thank God), who should be talking about the saving message of the Gospel and the truths revealed by God and who instead talk about vaccines and of the green pass as if these things belonged to the depositum fidei. I speak of the failure of a church that generates ethical doubts about things that belong to the conscience and prudential reasoning of every faithful individual. I am speaking of a church that aligns and allies itself with political or economic power, mistaking its supernatural ministry for assistance to the dubious or questionable policies of the rulers of the moment. I speak of a church that remains silent in the face of demagogy and disinformation. I speak of a church indifferent to the persecution of so many righteous. I am speaking of a church that discriminates and generates conflicts among its own faithful for the benefit of the transitional policies of utilitarian rulers. I’m talking about a church that has turned its priorities and value hierarchies upside-down. Where are the atheists and anti-Catholics, who always scream at alleged medieval obscurantism, in these days when spiritual power and temporal power seem to inexplicably walk hand in hand?

When the “churchmen” praise politicians too much or rejoice too much in their attention or seek them too much or manifest too many inferiority complexes with respect to political institutions or no longer know how to distinguish the freedoms of the Church from the freedoms of politics, I become particularly worried. Clerics are no more intelligent than the lay faithful. It is often the other way around. And this is the reason why they make themselves so often ridiculous with the politicians and the powerful on duty. Many clerics have an inferiority complex because they do not feel equal to the world. Economics, politics, and science are too high for them, too unreachable, and, without realizing it, they end up kneeling facing the wrong way, no longer in the direction of the Altar. We lay people do not have these problems. We are the politicians, the scientists, and the economists. We cannot have any inferiority complex towards ourselves. And I am convinced that it is also for this reason that, in times like the present ones, in which the church of clerics is the victim of its own inferiority complexes and generates too much confusion and division among the faithful, the Mystical Body tends to inspire the laity more to the responsibility of distinguishing the boundaries of the depositum fidei, on the one hand, and of what belongs to Caesar, on the other.

The straw that broke the camel’s back, and that led me to this book, was hearing the greatest religious authority in the world say that getting vaccinated is an act of love, thus providing an assist to the political authorities who sought to proclaim that vaccination is a civic duty. At this point, the poor faithful Catholic who has doubts about the vaccine, and that he is also a good citizen, is surrounded. Is his doubt then an act of selfishness? Is it a temptation from the devil? Is it an act contrary to the common good? In addition to his own religious and political authority, he is at the same time discriminated against and persecuted by all with the complicity of the mainstream media. He has become the villain to be ridiculed as the selfish enemy of the common good, with the blessing of the Pope and the Presidents. All this is unacceptable and, in my own little way, it required me to at least put my professional skills to use in the service of the persecuted righteous.


Featured image: “Lucifer devouring Judas Iscariot, Brutus and Cassio.” Opere de Dante. Woodcut printed by Bernardino Stagnino, ca.1512.

The Plague As Myth Of The Modern World

We are very pleased to present this excerpt from Camus’ Plague: Myth for our World, by Gene Fendt, and published by St. Augustine’s Press, who continue to publish excellent and important books. And this one is no exception. It is a very fine work of analysis of the current state of the Covid pandemic by way of a classic work of fiction, Albert Camus’ The Plague.

Presently, civilization cannot allow itself to think about being better. First it has to survive. Referencing Thomas Merton’s claim that Camus’ fictional account is actually a “modern myth about the destiny of man” and indication of the blight of “ambiguous and false explanations, interpretations, conventions, justifications, legalizations, evasions which infect our struggling civilization,” Fendt makes the case that “modernity itself is a time of plague.”

Fendt asserts that perhaps “the originality of the modern plague is that most people admit of no symptoms.” This chilling likeness to the asymptomatic Covid-19 victim is but one of the images of what the plague stands for in both the novel and contemporary society. The existentialist fiction of Camus is unwrapped by Fendt’s fidelity to realism and Camus’ motivations as an artist. As Camus calls nihilistic art and culture “barbaric,” Fendt calls the barbarian a natural slave. If we are moved by the forces of powers that be without sense or knowledge of a proper end, we too have been rendered worse than ignorant.

Make sure and pick up your copy of Camus’ Plague: Myth for our World.


The proper understanding of “myth” is not that it is an archaic first attempt at scientific or historical explanation, but that it originates a worldview within which all the actions, stories, explanations (including scientific explanations) and judgements of daily life can and do take place. It is the objective framework within which the society whose myth it is understands their lives; it is what defines and delimits “objective”. The vast majority of mankind does not even think to give what Kant called a transcendental deduction for that framework within in which all their world appears; myth is that framework. One connection between religion and a work of art is just this: each creates a spacing, an “aesthetic distance” from which and within which life and its experiences can be seen as something whole, and being see as a whole, life becomes understandable, we achieve some clarity of vision; it embodies not only what Wordsworth called emotion recollected in tranquility, but emotion and actions set within a clear vision of the whole—a cosmos—within which, in turn, we may understand ourselves and our existence, and experience the engendering of emotions like those of our life.

The myth is that in which we are able to know and to feel our existence. To put things in a more directly philosophical statement myths are the embodied transcendental rational ideal of those in it (the readers, co-religionists, or audience); it is the unconditioned “totality of the conditions for any given condition,” the unconditioned ground within which thought and feeling take place and are understood. It is a mistake to consider what we might call the elements of myth as having “any suitable … employment in concreto.” Without such myths however, “no coherent employment of the understanding” is possible. A myth makes of the world a limited complete whole—an opseos kosmos; and this making so can never be a fact in the world, or even a fact about the world. Its myths are a culture’s means of formation—moral, intellectual, emotional, and whatever we might mean by spiritual. As a rule, what lies outside the myth cannot be seen to have happened, cannot be seen to be going on. The one who tells the myth—supposing there is one: Homer, Moses, Freud, Marx, Hitler, Camus, Rothko—has been formed by, as much as he is forming the story, unless you want to believe in the myth of the great man inventing his own culture.

This last has sometimes been called the myth of patriarchy, though autochthony would perhaps be the more adequate name of the general form of this myth, depending upon which of the two matriarchy is considered the alternative of, for matriarchy, too, is a myth. This sense of myth does not only apply to those stories, such as Homer’s, which we usually intend, but it covers also Nietzsche’s sense when he suggests that we still believe in the gods because we believe in grammar, for our grammar, because it has substantives and verbs, makes us still look for that mythical “subject” the self whenever there is a feeling or thought or action; or as he suggests—perfectly in line with Kant’s discussion—because we think “world” we must also think “God”. That he has myths is symptomatic of a being whose knowledge is limited.

Thus, the critique of myth depends on a different spacing, that is, a different myth granting the aesthetic distance upon the “what is the form” or “what had been formed”—the myth—of the first culture or epoch. So, we might ask of someone like Sir James Frazer—“what is that cultural myth from which you investigate the myths of ‘primitive’ cultures?’” Seeing our point, he would confess that it is the myth of empirical science, and undoubtedly chuckle, for everyone here knows that empirical science is not a myth—right? And Nietzsche’s point might not be the insane one of attempting to speak without any grammar whatsoever, but a warning about the wrong way to think about things, into which we are led by, let us call them, the facts of our grammar. In such a case we would find him aligned with Wittgenstein, who is a much less explosive, but no less insightful writer of German sentences. In every such case we are taking the myths as if they refer and have meaning in the same way that all those things that appear in them (the whole world—material and social) refer or have meaning, mistaking that through which and in which we understand to be the same sort of thing as that which we understand (or wish to understand).

Sophie Bourgault reports such a myth which Camus told about himself and his work as an author while in Stockholm to receive the Nobel Prize. He said that he intended there to be three layers to his work: “absurdity, revolt, and love.” The last was to be the center of his reflections in the coming works; thus, after his sudden death, we are left “with an unfinished trilogy”. In the preface to the second edition of his youthful (1937) book of essays, The Wrong Side and the Right Side, published the year after his visit to Stockholm (1958), Camus tells a story of his work which aligns with this layering, for he finds “more love in these awkward pages than in all those that have followed” (LCE 6). He hopes, in the near future “to construct the work I dream of… it will speak of a certain form of love” (LCE 15). These statements are the best sign that Camus is, near the time of this re-printing, taking a new, at least more clearly defined, aesthetic distance on himself and his work, framing it as a coherent life-story under the aegis of these three “stages”.

I propose taking it to be true, that is, the framework that allows us to see more truly; but it also seems quite clear that Camus has been learning from his own work, and one thing he has learned is that, seen truly, love seems to have been “the backdrop of everything.” Or perhaps the center sphere of several, growing like an onion, but written and read—and lived?—from the outside in; perhaps only having lived and written through what is already behind him does he see what the living, growing center has been all along. In the reading of Camus’ own myths it is not evident, within the absurdity of Sisyphus, or within The Rebel, that love is “the backdrop to everything.” Nor the center either. Indeed, love seems to have a different significance—if it has any, if we treat each of the previous stages as the expression of Camus’ myth at the time of its writing. But perhaps “like great works, deep feelings always mean more than they are conscious of saying” (MS 8). Perhaps, then, his late myth about his work is the true confession about his life, as well as his work. Absurdity, rebellion, love—it’s a life trajectory Augustine would recognize, as well as many other sinners. How shall we ask if such a myth is true? From what mythic standpoint could we judge?

This latterly told myth of his writing life is the confession of that world within which he wished his work to be understood, within which he understood himself now to have always been working, within which he thought his work could best work—or did, does, and will do its best work—for us. Those earlier works, taken for themselves—as their own autochthonous myths—were partial, of severely limited focus. Lucidity about his own life and experience demanded that he be living in another myth, a framework distinct from those—each of which brought its own kind of fame and trouble in its day. For the sake of understanding this novel as myth of the modern world it is worth recalling Camus’ earlier “stages”—those which led into “love.” Let us consider each of them in turn, given Camus’ own late told myth, “stories that could be true,” of characters who might instantiate them—but rightly seen only if oriented to this proper centering: love.


Gene Fendt is the Albertus Magnus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Nebraska, Kearney.


Featured image: “The Plague,” by Arnold Böcklin, painted in 1898.

Julien Freund: A Tribute To A Great Master

Julien Freund (1921-1993) is one of the greatest philosophers of the 20th century. But his ideas and work have often been poorly understood and thereby harshly and unfairly judged. To commemorate his birth centenary, Éditions Perspectives Libres PYR have just republished L’aventure du politique (The Adventure of the Political), which are a series of interviews, by Freund, of Father Charles Blanchet (1923-2004), who taught philosophy at the École des Cordeliers, in Dinan. In these interviews, Freund reflects upon his own life and career, his ideas and his work.

Through the kind agreement of Éditions Perspectives Libres PYR, we are indeed very pleased to bring to our readers the first English translation of an introductory essay by Jéronimo Molina Cano, who is one of the best scholars of Julien Freund’s thought. Cano is member of the Real Academia de Ciencias Morales y Políticas and professor of political science at the University of Murcia. His expertise includes the thought of Raymond Aron, Gaston Bouthoul, Carl Schmitt, and Wilhelm Röpke. He is the author of several essays and books on Freund, including Julien Freund, lo político y la política and Conflicto, gobierno y economía. Cuatro ensayos sobre Julien Freund. He also wrote the erudite preliminary study of The Essence of the Political, published by the Centro de Estudios Políticos y Constitucionales, in 2018.


1.

Julien Freund was born on January 9, 1921, in Henridorff, a small village of barely six hundred inhabitants in the Moselle department of Lorraine, a border region between French and Germanic culture. In a culturally centralized France, Freund, who was perfectly bilingual, experienced in his youth the misunderstanding of compatriots who did not see in him the Frenchman, but only the man who spoke a Germanic language.

Julien was the eldest of six children born to Emile Freund and Marie-Anne Mathis. His father, a railroad worker, was a “red socialist” in the German tradition—a kind of social democrat who went to Mass every Sunday and ignored the anticlerical prejudices of the French socialists. Marie-Anne, his mother, a simple and pious peasant, was for a time in charge of the public baths of Sarrebourg. The young Julien did his secondary studies at the minor seminary of Montigny-lès-Metz, without ever intending to take his vows.

In 1938-1939, after his baccalaureate and preparatory classes, he enrolled in the Faculty of Philosophy in Strasbourg. The socialism that he displayed at the time was spontaneous, natural, instinctive and “utopian,” a bit like the elementary and congenital communism of the Italian Ignazio Silone, whose work he appreciated. At the same time, he assiduously read Jacques Maritain, a sort of discreet tutor who introduced him to the understanding of politics, but who nevertheless remained absent from his quotations and bibliographical references. Further, the writer and aviator, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, was one of the authors who contributed most to the formation of his literary sensibility. The premature death of his father in 1938, on New Year’s Eve, when he was barely seventeen years old, upset his plans and made him head of the family “in spite of himself.” From then on, Freund studied philosophy as a free student at the university in order to combine his studies with agricultural work.

Freund’s destiny once again changed, during the Second World War. In less than six years, he lived almost all the lives of a Frenchman of the dying Third Republic: hostage of the invader, refugee, clandestine, terrorist, prisoner, escapee, maquisard, journalist and politician. In 1940, during the day, he helped with farm work and took care of his mother’s beehives; and at night, he helped people flee occupied France. On November 11, Freund was summoned by the Gestapo in Sarrebourg. He went to the summons without much concern, but one of the political police henchmen warned him that he was on his way to Dachau (Sie werden nach Dachau kommen!).

The Kreisleiter, the NSDAP representative in Sarrebourg, asked him about his activities. Freund answered frankly that he would like to leave Lorraine. The German authorities were quite happy to get rid of him and allowed him to leave for the Auvergne, which he did the same day. Like a shipwrecked man, Freund found himself among the thousands of French people in exodus and arrived in Clermont-Ferrand on November 26, 1940. Out of a taste for adventure and admiration for his Strasbourg professor Jean Cavaillès, he joined the Liberation movement. With his group, he engaged in small-scale sabotage, even though the word is excessive to describe the actions, sometimes facetious, of young people who painted graffiti and stole the official portraits of Marshal Pétain. A search of his apartment and the discovery of the portraits, which had been amassed for destruction, led the police to believe that he was some sort of obsessed but harmless Vichy supporter.

Freund plotted while preparing for a graduate degree. In January 1942, he joined the Groupe Franc de Combat. Without realizing it, he crossed the line between diversion and real danger, between academic rebellion and terrorism. After some hesitation, he embarked on direct action. The use of explosives transformed his nocturnal adventures of a young non-conformist into political terrorism. He was arrested on June 27, 1942, the day after the foiled attack on Laval, then president of the Council of Ministers. Released in July, he was arrested again in September. In the first trial against the Combat group, Freund was sentenced to six months in prison. As the charges against him mounted, he was transferred to several prison camps.

In the summer of 1944, shortly after D-Day, he escaped from the citadel of Sisteron and joined the communist maquis (the Francs-Tireurs et Partisans de France). He was soon confronted with the abjection and moral degradation of the communists, and later recognized that his conception of the world would become that of a mature or experienced man.

The Resistance was the defining experience of Freund’s life. He describes it in a collective book of “decisive personal experiences,” Was meinem Leben Richtung gab. These years taught him that one cannot engage oneself fully in politics and claim to come out with clean hands. To believe that this is possible is only a sinister fantasy of a political intellectual or an intellectual who indulges in party politics. “My hands are stained, I admit it, but I don’t boast about it,” he confessed in 1975 to a German radio station. And again: “I do not belong to the brotherhood of Jean-Paul Sartre,” who confused the problem of political violence in a self-serving way and moralized it for his own benefit.

Once the war was over, Freund’s political action shifted from open struggle to editing newspapers, such as L’Avenir Lorrain, and to the regional offices of political parties. In less than a year, he was a delegate of the Mouvements Unis de Résistance (MUR) in the Allier, a delegate of the Mouvement de Libération National (MLN) in Moselle, and finally the departmental secretary of the Union Démocratique et Socialiste de la Résistance (UDSR), a non-Marxist socialist party, also in Moselle. But he was soon disappointed and even dismayed by the maneuvering and scheming during the establishment of his party’s electoral lists. A few months earlier, at the end of 1944, he had given up his circumstantial membership in the Communist party. But the exclusivism of the Communists of the time would stop at nothing, and Freund, who “knew too much,” was harassed and threatened with death by “ex-friends” of the PCF.

In June 1945, after an election meeting on the market square in Sarrebourg, a communist, ambushed him, shot at him from 30 meters and miraculously missed. A year later, disgusted by his experiences, he definitively stopped all political activity and decided to prepare for the competitive examination to become a philosophy teacher. He already had the main idea for his doctoral thesis: “What is politics, Was ist Politik? The book, L’essence du politique (The Essence of the Political ) [1965], the result of a long and mature reflection, allowed him to overcome his political disappointment.

Freund became a philosophy teacher at the Lycée Mangin in Sarrebourg in 1946. In the summer of 1948, he married Marie-France Kuder. He became a town councilor in Sarrebourg, while preparing for the agrégation in philosophy. In 1949, he joined the Lycée Fabert in Metz as an associate professor. In 1953, he moved to the Lycée Fustel de Coulanges in Strasbourg where he taught hypokhâgne classes to future students at the Ecole normale supérieure. Seven years later, in September 1960, he became a researcher at the Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS), in the sociology section, thanks to the sponsorship of Raymond Aron, who was his thesis director.

On June 26, 1965, at two o’clock in the afternoon, Julien Freund defended his doctoral thesis on the essence and meaning of the political. Raymond Aron solemnly opened the session: “It is extraordinary that a Resistance fighter should have written such a thesis. That is why I ask you to stand up.” Commenting on the passages at the end of the book on courage, Aron took the opportunity to praise physical and moral courage, but especially the intellectual courage of the doctoral student. Freund was speechless. With great emotion, he finally spoke: “The work that I have the honor of presenting for your approval was born of a disappointment that was overcome. The disappointment, for which I do not hold others responsible in any way, but only my capacity for illusion, found its nourishment in the experiences of the resistance, that is to say, on the one hand, in the events of the time of the Occupation and the Liberation, and on the other hand, in those that it was given to me to face in the modest sphere of political and trade union activity that I carried out for a few years.”

In the packed Edgard Quinet amphitheater, where the defense was held, the most intense moment was the debate raised by Jean Hyppolite on the central political element: “If you’re really right, I’ll just have to cultivate my own garden,” said Hyppolite, who was initially the provisional director of his thesis before giving up, alleging: “As a socialist and a Hegelian, I can’t sponsor a thesis like yours at the Sorbonne.

Freund replied without hesitation: “I think you are making another mistake, because you think that you are the one who designates the enemy, like all pacifists. ‘As long as we don’t want enemies, we won’t have any,’ you reason. But it is the enemy who designates you. And if he wants you to be his enemy, you can make the most beautiful protestations of friendship. As long as he wants you to be the enemy, you are. And he will even prevent you from cultivating your garden. Hyppolite’s answer was tragic: “I have no choice then but to commit suicide.”

A great reader of Machiavelli, Freund did not agree to be classified as a “political realist;” and this is largely due to the confusion introduced by the false semantic friends of the concepts of Political Realism or Power Politics, which originated in the Anglo-Saxon theory of international relations. In order to avoid any misunderstanding, either about himself or about the nature of his political analysis, he returned to the subject in the appendix of the 1985 edition of The Essence of the Political. The distinction he makes is quite simple: to be Machiavellian is to have a “theoretical style of thought without concessions to the moralistic comedies of power.” To be Machiavellic, on the other hand, is to adopt a practical conduct in the political game that consists in committing “generous villainies”: do as I say; don’t do as I do.

A Machiavellian, Freund was the great proponent of Carl Schmitt in France. The damnatio memoriae never affected his will. He always laughed at defamation and, to be honest, at his colleagues who preferred to read about Schmitt’s reputation rather than read the Schmittian corpus. At the same time, it is important to emphasize that Schmitt did his utmost to disseminate the work of his French counterpart in Germany. Regardless of the theoretical differences between the two thinkers, no author has developed the Schmittian friend-enemy dialectic, which is one of the presuppositions of the essence of the political, as much as Freund. This criterion, which he made his intellectual motto, appears to him as a transcendental discovery. Its reality is verifiable and within the reach of every mind, because it “has the evidence of simple ideas” and does not need demonstration because of its “immediate evidence.” It is, after all, a superior, forgotten banality.

2.

Julien Freund was a polymath, a scholar, a rigorous erudite whose repertoire of knowledge was as vast as it was varied. Metaphysics, political philosophy, sociology, polemology, political science, legal philosophy and sociology, painting, architecture! The list of his scientific and philosophical “vis,” as well as his irrepressible curiosity for the spectacle of the world, did not end there. Although he was not a film buff, and cinema is more about the imaginary than the real, his book Sociologie du conflit opens with a note on Marcel Carné’s Les enfants du paradis. In the pages of Philosophie philosophique, a treatise nourished by personal confidences, it is the unforgettable actor Louis Jouvet who suddenly appears. Moreover, no one could say that his “Alsatian” studies are minor or that they are only for lovers of the singularities of the Alsatian region and its folklore. Even if they are circumstantial, they always bear the mark of the master. But this being so, the heart of Julien Freund’s political philosophy undoubtedly lies in his theory of essence. Essence is inseparable from experience; it is the result of reflection on the constants that characterize the different human activities. The essence constitutes “a reality which lasts in time and which does not die out under the action of the circumstances.”

With the theory of essence, Freund sought to discover the criteria that fix each of the six essences discerned in the framework of social relations. On the political level, he asks the question: “Are there conditions that make politics political, so that when they are missing, the social relation is no longer political, or only secondarily political?” But of course, the notion of essence is not limited to the political domain. There is an essence of politics (the political) as there is of economy (the economic), of religion (the religious), of aesthetics (the aesthetic), of science (the scientific) and of ethics (the ethical). But then why six essences? This number is the result of a continuous reflection on ideas and experiences, which does not exclude possible correction. Nevertheless, Freund considers that these are the founding and irreducible essences of human nature. All other activities or social relations can be reduced, in one way or another, to one or other of these essences; or else to an antinomic dialectic, fruit of a conflict between two or more essences. The exact description of this dialectic relation, peaceful or polemical according to the circumstances, is the “mediation” of the essences.

The quid of each essence resides in the “prior and determining conditions” that make each activity possible. These conditions are the “presuppositions.” In the same way, the essence would only be an invention if it did not respond to “something ineffaceable” that belongs to human nature, a kind of irreducible residue. This residual data is natural, consubstantial to the man, “present in every man,” permanent and invariable. Correlatively to each datum, there exists, by necessity, a singular “finality” or “specific goal,” not interchangeable with those of the other essences, since the final cause of each of them is different according to the datum. Finally, if each human activity—historical and sociological reflection, so to speak hic et nunc, of each essence—has a privative finality, it can be reached only by specific means: “One cannot reach the end of a determined activity by just any means.”

In summary, the notion of essence is defined by four facets: data, presuppositions, purpose and means. “Thanks to the notion of data, I can answer the question of the foundation of an activity. Thanks to that of presupposition, I can determine the conditions of the exercise of this activity. And thanks to that of finality, the goal that man pursues by relying on this activity.” And, finally, the means, reveal how to reach the goal in each case.

“There is an essence of the political” is the pithy statement that opens The Essence of the Political. Once its existence is established, the notion of the state and, in general, of any other historical political form, is automatically superseded. The distinction between the political and the State appears on the very first page of Schmitt’s The Concept of the Political. The concept of the state presupposes the political concept: “Der Begriff des Staates setzt den Begriff des Politischen voraus.” There are few of Schmitt’s books which do not start off like a rocket. Similarly, a strong idea runs through The Essence of the Political: the distinction between the political and politics, which is itself a reaction against the diluting sociologism of the political in the social system: “The political is a power of society that politics translates into concrete and contingent acts of organization.” As opposed to the political as nature, politics is adventure, the “concrete way of negotiating” the political in human life according to historical situations, regimes, ideologies.

3.

Uncomfortable with the baseness of university life, instrumentalized by educational unionism and the left’s desire for hegemony, Freund took early retirement at age 58, claiming for the first time in his life a privilege of resistance. “I didn’t feel comfortable at the university anymore, and then I had something else to do than to constantly counter the whims of the so-called progressives and democrats.” In reality, university life was another of his great disappointments—along with politics, union life and even religious life. In a letter to his teacher Raymond Aron, dated April 10, 1967, he confessed: “I cannot overcome the disappointment that has lasted for more than a year; that is, since I became familiar with university life.” Apparently, as he kept telling his thesis director, he had always felt embarrassed and uncomfortable in academia “because of my plebeian temperament.” He did not flee, but retired to Villé, “his good retreat,” “su buen retiro,” as Carl Schmitt says in Spanish, alluding here to the home of the kings of Spain. In Villé, his locus amoenus (an attractive, even idyllic place), Freund found his San Casciano, as Schmitt found his Plettenberg. “It is better to make internal emigration the only possible form of resistance under the present conditions.”

In any case, always faithful to his political profession of faith, Freund, the Frenchman, Gaullist, European and regionalist, read and wrote in complete freedom, which is rarely the case for an author. He maintained contact with a few faithful and remarkable students, while drawing new students as well. But he had no real disciples, nor successors, not even in France. He gave lectures in a few foreign universities, especially in Canada and Belgium, the most important being those of Montreal and Louvain. But in France, in his homeland, his voice was silenced; it was stifled in Germany. It is said with disdain that he frequented the circles of the New Right or that he gave lectures at the Club de l’Horloge… Freund did not ignore what it means to carry such a stigma. Nor was he afraid of being seen as a “franchouillard,” or of risking being told that he wears a beret everywhere “to be noticed.” But here again, the reality was more subtle than the clichés. According to Dr. Bertrand Kugler, nephew and godson of Julien Freund, his godfather “wore his beret in all circumstances as a sign of commemoration and homage and loyalty to all his companions in the Resistance, especially those who had died for France and for freedom. For him, this apparently banal gesture was of great importance.”

He suffered from loneliness, but he never lost courage. He did indeed go to the various forums and he would go to many others… if he were invited, but in truth he was not. The circle of silence is the price to be paid by the Machiavellian. In spite of everything, he gave conferences in Greece, Spain, Italy and Argentina. At the end of June 1982, he also went to Chile, invited by the Fundación del Pacífico and the University of Chile. That same year, his lectures were collected in a volume, entitled La crisis del Estado y otros escritos (The Crisis of the State and Other Writings), which included a large number of texts from a book that had never been published in French, Capitalisme et socialisme. He also had the opportunity to visit Peru (1982) and, two years earlier, Brazil (1980), at the invitation of the University of Sao Paulo. At that time, he shared with Raymond Aron, albeit discreetly, his opinion of military regimes and did not want to remain silent in order not to be an accomplice to the lie. Military dictatorships compromise political freedoms, but do not always affect civil liberties… But in the end, the article he wrote for L’Express at Aron’s suggestion was not published.

Freund was allergic to the labels of right and left, epidermal, accidental and changing notions, incapable of specifically characterizing the political. Although he was above this “moral hemiplegia” of the intellectual world, he knew that it did not depend on him to be pigeonholed, by enemies of the right or the left, even for his alleged “intentions.” He is a fascist for some, a Marxist for others, and if the latter are less numerous, they are even more uninformed than the former. Freund was not a conservative for writing about decadence, nor was he a socialist for being invited by socialist organizations, nor was he a member of GRECE (Groupement de Recherche et d’Études pour la Civilisation Européenne) for “speaking in New Right circles.” There is perhaps something palinodic in his comments in 1981. And even if not, I think the wound was hurting him. The “hunter of sacred shadows on the eternal hills”—to use the expression used by the Colombian Gómez Dávila to qualify himself—was already tired by the 1980s, but he nevertheless kept a vigilant eye, always attentive to the “regularities of politics,” like a guardian of the facts.

In any case, Freund was not the kind of person to make friends with the enemy, nor to cede to him the foundations of political definitions. With paradox, he knew how to disarm the mechanism of political demonization and stigmatization. He clarified not only the tactical but also the metapolitical meaning of his personal label by saying: “I am a reactionary of the left,” an “authentic revolutionary, [that is,] a conservative.” As a reactionary, Julien Freund refused to follow the herd. He knew how to say “no.” Always exposed to the elements, his spiritual strength was extraordinary; one cannot endure defamation without a large dose of intellectual courage.

Because of his character (he would probably have preferred to say his “inclination of mood”), Freund was always predisposed to be rebellious and annoying. He had little tolerance for accommodation, compromise, and even less for cheating reality. He did not want to compromise on what was essential and indispensable. His vehemence was hardly conciliatory and he perhaps lacked the skill, the astuteness, the worldly gentleness of a Raymond Aron, always affable. I am,” he said, “more turbulent in my behavior, more belligerent in my interventions, more polemical in my work.” For having cultivated the spirit of paradox, but above all for his idea of the political, which was refractory to the mystifications of the right and the left, he was marginalized and silenced. At the end of the 1980s, he confided to Chantal Delsol, who had been one of his doctoral students a few years earlier: “They don’t call me from anywhere.” His mistake, wrote Delsol, ten years after his death, was “to have been right before his time.” Sometimes overwhelmed by the triumph of the Marxist intelligentsia, Freund nonetheless continued to question the meaning of his work on the “eternal political,” which could well have been written two thousand years earlier by an informed politician or a disappointed political thinker like himself. But nothing ever distracted him from his passionate political vocation—or rather from the passion of politics—not even disappointment, that spur to intelligence: “I prefer the reading of Book VIII of Plato’s Republic to the follies of Alcibiades.”

4.

Julien Freund’s work is impressive, as the successive bibliographies of Piet Tommissen, Juan Carlos Valderrama and Alain de Benoist attest. Its reception in the academic world is, however, far from doing justice to this work that projects itself into history and transcends the politics of the moment. But time filters out the essential, and Freund’s political philosophy, like his polemology and his profound meditations on decadence, undoubtedly have a promising future, which will be counted in centuries. His lineage is that of Thucydides, Machiavelli and Carl Schmitt. The same cannot be said of many other geniuses of the past century whose political understanding and work were marked by the Cold War and outdated like it.

This being said, it is perhaps not useless to recall here, to orient the reader, that the present book, L’aventure du politique (The Adventure of the Political), an extraordinary and moving dialogue with Father Charles Blanchet, whose first edition dates from 1991, has also been the object of two recent translations and editions in Spanish and Italian (Encuentro 2019 and Il Foglio 2021). This French edition would not have been possible without the generosity of M.M. René and Jean-Noël Freund, Julien Freund’s two sons, and his godson, M. Bertrand Kugler. It would not have been possible either without the interest and the love of risk of the publisher, Mr. Pierre-Yves Rougeyron, to whom I am particularly grateful for having asked me to write an introduction to this precious dialogue. With this edition, my debt to Mr. Arnaud Imatz is even greater.

Also noteworthy is a bilingual French and German edition of the epilogue to La décadence: Europa im Niedergang? (2020), and an anthology of texts, perhaps too brief, presented by Alain de Benoist and Pierre Bérard: Le Politique ou l’art de désigner l’ennemi (2020). Two other works were also reprinted, on the occasion of the hundredth anniversary of Julien Freund’s birth, La fin de la Renaissance (2021), a book once rejected by Calmann-Lévy, and La décadence. Histoire sociologique et philosophique d’une catégorie de l’expérience humaine (2021), whose 1984 edition was not without its difficulties either. Finally, a long-awaited book was recently published, Lettres de la Vallée (2021), a political realist meditation with Rousseau’s Lettres écrites de la montagne as a counterpoint.

2021 was thus the year of Julien Freund’s return, with all honors.

On Humour And Satire

This excerpt is from Essays in Satire, by Ronald A. Knox, which was published in 1930. Monsignor Knox (888-1957) was a widely respected English Catholic theologian, writer, thinker, and radio broadcaster. Among his many contributions to knowledge and the world of ideas is his translation of the entire Bible (known as the Knox Bible). He also famously wrote crime fiction and began the Sherlockian tradition of the “Grand Game,” with the publication of, “Studies in the Literature of Sherlock Holmes,” in 1911, when he was 23 years old and still a student at Oxford, and which we have also now published.

Famously, on January 16th, 1926, he presented Broadcasting the Barricades, which we have republished, which was a “live” radio coverage of a supposed a revolution in London, with an attack on the Houses of Parliament the destruction of Big Ben, and the hanging of the Minister of Traffic as well as other mayhe, m. It set off a nation-wide panic. This broadcast became the model for Orson Wells’ no-less famous “War of the Worlds.”


Whoever shall tum up in a modern encyclopaedia the article on hummingbirds—whether from a disinterested curiosity about these brightly-coloured creatures, or from the more commonplace motive of identifying a clue in a crossword—will find a curious surprise awaiting him at the end of it. He will find that the succeeding paragraph deals with the geological formation known as a humus; or if his encyclopaedia be somewhat more exhaustive, with the quaintly-named genius of Humperdinck. What will excite his speculation is, of course, the fact that no attempt is made by his author to deal with humour.

Humour, for the encyclopaedist, is non-existent; and that means that no book has ever been written on the subject of humour; else the ingenious Caledonian who retails culture to us at the rate of five guineas a column would inevitably have boiled it down for us ere this. The great history of Humour in three volumes, dedicated by permission to the Bishop of Much Wenlock, still remains to be written. And that fact, in its turn, is doubly significant. It means, in the first place, that humour, in our sense of the word, is a relatively modem phenomenon; the idea of submitting it to exhaustive analysis did not, for example, present itself to the patient genius of John Stuart Mill. And at the same time it is an uncommonly awkward and elusive subject to tackle, or why have we no up-to-date guide to it from the hand of Mr. Arnold Bennett?

Assuredly this neglect is not due to any want of intrinsic importance. For humour, frown upon it as you will, is nothing less than a fresh window of the soul. Through that window we see, not indeed a different world, but the familiar world of our experience distorted as if by the magic of some tricksy sprite. It is a plate-glass window, which turns all our earnest, toiling fellow-mortals into figures of fun. If a man awoke to it of a sudden, it would be an enlightenment of his vision no less real than if a man who had hitherto seen life only in black and grey should be suddenly gifted with the experience of colour. More, even, than this; the sense of humour is a man’s inseparable playmate, allowing him, for better or worse, no solitude anywhere. In crowded railway-carriages, in the lonely watches of a sleepless night, even in the dentist’s chair, the sense of humour is at your side, full of elfin suggestions. Do you go to Church? He will patter up the aisle alongside of you, never more at home, never more alert, than when the spacious silences of worship and the solemn purple of prelates enjoins reverence. I could become lyrical, if I had time, over the sense of humour, what it does for men and how it undoes them, what comfort lies in its companionship, and what menace. Enough to say that if I had the writing of an encyclopaedia the humming-birds should be made to look foolish.

Humour has been treated, perhaps, twice in literature; once in the preface to Meredith’s Egoist, and once in Mr. Chesterton’s book, The Napoleon of Netting Hill. What it is still remains a mystery. Easy enough to distinguish it from its neighbours in the scale of values: with wit, for example, it has nothing to do. For wit is first and last a matter of expression. Latin, of all languages, is the best vehicle of wit, the worst of humour. You cannot think a witty thought, even, without thinking in words. But humour can be wordless; there are thoughts that lie too deep for laughter itself.

In this essay I mean to treat humour as it compares with and contrasts with satire, a more delicate distinction. But first let us make an attempt, Aristotle-wise, to pin down the thing itself with some random stab of definition. Let us say that the sphere of humour is, predominantly, Man and his activities, considered in circumstances so incongruous, so unexpectedly incongruous, as to detract from their human dignity. Thus, the prime source of humour is a madman or a drunkard; either of these wears the semblance of a man without enjoying the full use of that rational faculty which is man’s definition. A foreigner, too, is always funny: he dresses, but does not dress right; makes sounds, but not the right sounds. A man falling down on a frosty day is funny, because he has unexpectedly abandoned that upright walk which is man’s glory as a biped. All these things are funny, of course, only from a certain angle; not, for example, from the angle of ninety degrees, which is described by the man who falls down. But amusement is habitually derived from such situations; and in each case it is a human victim that is demanded for the sacrifice.

It is possible, in the mythological manner to substitute an animal victim, but only if the animal be falsely invested with the attributes of humanity. There is nothing at all funny about a horse falling down. A monkey making faces, a cat at play, amuse us only because we feign to ourselves that the brute is rational; to that fiction we are accustomed from childhood. Only Man has dignity; only man, therefore, can be funny. Whether there could have been humour even in human fortunes but for the Fall of Adam is a problem which might profitably have been discussed by St. Thomas in his Summa Theologiae, but was omitted for lack of space.

The question is raised (as the same author would say) whether humour is in its origins indecent. And at first sight it would appear yes. For the philosopher says that the ludicrous is a division of the disgraceful. And the gods in Homer laugh at the predicament of Ares and Aphrodite in the recital of the bard Demodocus. But on second thoughts it is to be reflected that the song of Demodocus is, by common consent of the critics, a late interpolation in Homer; and the first mention of laughter in the classics is rather the occasion on which the gods laughed to see the lame Hephaestus panting as he limped up and down the hall. Once more, a lame man is funny because he enjoys, like the rest of us, powers of locomotion, but employs them wrong. His gait is incongruous—not unexpectedly so, indeed, for the gods had witnessed this farce daily for centuries; but the gods were children, and the simplest farces always have the best run.

No doubt the psycho-analysts will want us to believe that all humour has its origin in indecency, and, for aught I know, that whenever we laugh we are unconsciously thinking of something obscene. But, in fact, the obscene, as its name implies, is an illegitimate effect of humour. There is nothing incongruous in the existence of sex and the other animal functions; the incongruity lies merely in the fact of mentioning them. It is not human dignity that is infringed in such cases, but a human convention of secrecy. The Stock Exchange joke, like most operations on the Stock Exchange, is essentially artificial; it does not touch the real values of things at all. In all the generalizations which follow it must be understood that the humour of indecency is being left out of account.

Yet there is truth in the philosopher’s assertion that the ludicrous is a division of the disgraceful, in this sense, that in the long run every joke makes a fool, of somebody; it must have, as I say, a human victim. This fact is obscured by the frequency with which jokes, especially modern jokes, are directed against their own authors. The man who makes faces to amuse a child is, objectively, making a fool of himself; and that whole genre of literary humour of which Happy Thoughts, The Diary of a Nobody, and the Eliza books are the best-known examples, depends entirely on the fact that the author is making a fool of himself. In all humour there is loss of dignity somewhere, virtue has gone out of somebody. For there is no inherent humour in things; wherever there is a joke it is Man, the half-angel, the half-beast, who is somehow at the bottom of it. I am insisting upon this point because, on a careless analysis, one might be disposed to imagine that the essence of satire is to be a joke directed against somebody. That definition, clearly, will be inadequate, if our present analysis of humour in general be accepted.

I have said that humour is, for the most part, a modem phenomenon. It would involve a very long argument, and some very far-reaching considerations, if we attempted to prove this thesis of humour as a fact in life. Let us be more modest, and be content for the present to say that the humorous in literature is for the most part a modem phenomenon.

Let us go back to our starting-point, and imagine one pursuing his researches about humming-birds into the Encyclopaedia Britannica of 1797. He skims through a long article on Mr. David Hume, faced by an attractive but wholly unreliable portrait of the hippopotamus. Under “Humming-bird” he will only read the words “See Trochilus.” But immediately following, he will find the greater part of a column under the title “Humour.” Most of it deals with the jargon of a psychology now obsolete, and perhaps fanciful, though not more fanciful, I think, than the psychological jargon of our own day. But at the end he will find some valuable words on humour as it is contrasted with wit. “Wit expresses something that is more designed, concerted, regular, and artificial; humour, something that is more wild, loose, extravagant, and fantastical; something which comes upon a man by fits, which he can neither command nor restrain, and which is not perfectly consistent with true politeness. Humour, it has been said, is often more diverting than wit; yet a man of wit is as much above a man of humour, as a gentleman is above a buffoon; a buffoon, however, will often divert more than a gentleman. The Duke of Buckingham, however, makes humour to be all in all,” and so on.

“Not perfectly consistent with true politeness”—oh, admirable faith of the eighteenth century, even in its decline! “The Duke of Buckingham, however—a significant exception. It seems possible that the reign of the Merry Monarch saw a false dawn of the sense of humour. If so, it was smothered for a full century afterwards by an overpowering incubus of whiggery. The French Revolution had come and gone, and yet humour was for the age of Burke “not perfectly consistent with true politeness.”

One is tempted, as I say, to maintain that the passing of the eighteenth century is an era in human history altogether, since with the nineteenth century humour, as an attitude towards life, begins. The tone of Disraeli about politics, the tone of Richard Hurrell Froude about all the external part of religion, seems to me quite inconceivable in any earlier age. But let us confine ourselves to literature, and say that humour as a force in literature is struggling towards its birth in Jane Austen, and hardly achieves its full stature till Calverley. I know that there are obvious exceptions. There is humour in Aristophanes and in Petronius; there is humour in Shakespeare, though not as much of it as one would expect; humour in Sterne, too, and in Sheridan. But if you set out to mention the great names of antiquity which are naturally connected with humorous writing, you will find that they are all the names of satirists. Aristophanes in great part, Lucian, Juvenal, Martial, Blessed Thomas More, Cervantes, Rabelais, Butler, Molière, La Fontaine, Swift—humour and satire are, before the nineteenth century, almost interchangeable terms. Humour in art had begun in the eighteenth century, but it had begun with Hogarth! Put a volume by Barrie or Milne into the hands of Edmund Burke—could he have begun to understand it?

You can corroborate the fact of this growth in humour by a complementary fact about our modem age, the decline of naïveté. If you come to think of it, the best laughs you will get out of the old classics are laughs which the author never meant to put there. Of all the ancients, none can be so amusing as Herodotus, but none, surely, had less sense of humour. It is a rare grace, like all the gratiae gratis datae, this humour of the naif. Yet it reaches its climax on the very threshold of the nineteenth century; next to Herodotus, surely, comes James Boswell. Since the dawn of nineteenth century humour, you will find unconscious humour only in bad writers, Ella Wheeler Wilcox, and the rest. Humour kills the naif, nor could any great writer of today recapture, if he would, Boswell’s splendid unselfconsciousness.

Under correction, then, I am maintaining that literature before the nineteenth century has no conscious humour apart from satire. I must now pass on to an impression which all of us have, but an impression so presumptuous that we seldom have the courage to put it into words. It is this, that humour, apart from satire, belongs to the English-speaking peoples alone. I say, the English-speaking peoples, a cumbrous and an unreal division of mankind. But, thank God, you cannot bring any preposterous ethnographical fictions in here. Not even Houston Stewart Chamberlain ever ventured to congratulate the Germans on their sense of humour; not even the Dean of St. Paul’s will dare to tell us that the sense of humour is Nordic. The facts speak for themselves. Satire still flourishes on the Continent; Anatole France was no unworthy citizen of the country of Voltaire. There is satire, too, among the Northern peoples; I believe that if I expressed my private opinion as to who was the world’s greatest satirist I should reply, Hans Andersen. Only in spots, of course; but the man who wrote the Ugly Duckling and the Darning Needle and the Story of the Emperor’s New Clothes seems to me to have a finer sense of the intrinsic ludicrousness of mankind than Swift himself.

Satire is international, as it is of all ages; but where shall humour be found, apart from satire, on the Continent of Europe? Who, unless he were a laugher at the malicious or the obscene, ever picked up the translation of a foreign book in search of a good laugh? Who ever found a good joke in a Continental illustrated paper? Cleverness of drawing abounds, but the captions beneath the drawings are infantile. I have seen a Swedish illustrated supplement, and I do not believe there was a single item in it which would have been accepted by Comic Cuts. I am told that the humorous drama of modem France forms a complete exception to this statement of the facts. I am content to believe it; there must, of course, be exceptions. I put forward the rule as a rule.

Some, no doubt, on a hasty analysis, would limit the field still further by saying that humour is purely English. And it would be easy to defend this contention by pointing to the fact that the English enjoy their joke very largely at the expense of their neighbours. Nothing belongs more decisively to the English-speaking world than the anecdote. We are for ever telling stories, and how many of those stories are about a Scot (we call it a Scotchman), an Irishman, a Jew, or an American? But this, if our definition of humour was a sound one, is in the nature of the case. A foreigner is funny, because he is like ourselves only different. A Scot or an Irishman is funny to the Englishman because he is almost exactly like himself, only slightly different. He talks English as his native tongue, only with an incorrect accent; what could possibly be funnier? A Scot is more funny than a Frenchman just as a monkey is more amusing than a dog; he is nearer the real thing.

But, in fact, all such judgments have been distorted beyond recognition by national hypocrisy. It is the English tradition that the Irish are a nation brimming over with humour, quite incapable of taking anything seriously. Irish people are in the habit of saying things which English people think funny. Irish people do not think them funny in the least. It follows, from the English point of view, that Ireland is a nation of incorrigible humorists, all quite incapable of governing themselves.

The Scot, on the other hand, has an unfortunate habit of governing the English, and the English, out of revenge, have invented the theory that the Scot has no sense of humour. The Scot cannot have any sense of humour, because he is very careful about money, and drinks whisky where ordinary people drink beer. All the stories told against the Scottish nation are, I am told, invented in Aberdeen, and I partly believe it. There is (if a denationalized Ulsterman like myself may make the criticism) a pawkiness about all the stories against Scotland which betrays their Caledonian origin. The fact is that the Scottish sense of humour differs slightly from the English sense of humour, but I am afraid I have no time to indicate the difference. There is humour in the country of Stevenson and Barrie; and if the joke is often against Scotland, what better proof could there be that it is humour, and not satire?

Whatever may be said of Americans in real life, it is certain that their literature has humour. Personally I do not think that the Americans are nearly as proud as they ought to be of this fact; Mark Twain ought to be to the American what Bums is to the Scot, and rather more. The hall-mark of American humour is its pose of illiteracy. All the American humorists spend their time making jokes against themselves. Artemus Ward pretended that he was unable even to spell. Mark Twain pretended that he had received no education beyond spelling, and most of his best remarks are based on this affectation of ignorance. “What is your bête noire?” asked the revelations-of-character book, and Mark Twain replied, “What is my which?” “He spelt it Vinci, but pronounced it Vinchy; foreigners always spell better than they pronounce”—that is perhaps one of the greatest jokes of literature, but the whole point of it lies in a man pretending to be worse educated than he really is.

Mr. Leacock, as a rule, amuses by laughing at himself. America, on the other hand, has very little to show in the way of satire. Lowell was satirical, in a rather heavy vein, and Mr. Leacock is satirical occasionally, in a way that seems to me purely English. I want to allude to that later on; for the present let it be enough to note that the Americans, like the English and the Scots, do possess a literary tradition of non-satirical humour.

Thus far, we have concluded that the humorous in literature is the preserve of that period which succeeds the French Revolution, and of those peoples which speak the English language under its several denominations; unless by the word humour you understand “satire.”

It is high time, obviously, that we attempted some definition of what ‘satire is, or at least of the marks by which it can be distinguished from non-satirical humour. It is clear from the outset that the author who laughs at himself, unless the self is a deliberately assumed one, is not writing satire. Happy Thoughts and The Diary of a Nobody may be what you will; they are not satire. The Tramp Abroad is not satire; My Lady Nicotine is not satire. For in all these instances the author, with a charity worthy of the Saints—and indeed, St. Philip Neri’s life is full of this kind of charity—makes a present of himself to his reader as a laughingstock.

In satire, on the contrary, the writer always leaves it to be assumed that he himself is immune from all the follies and the foibles which he pillories. To take an obvious instance, Dickens is no satirist when he introduces you to Mr. Winkle, because there is not the smallest reason to suppose that Dickens would have handled a gun better than Mr. Winkle. But when Dickens introduces you to Mr. Bumble he is a satirist at once, for it is perfectly obvious that Dickens would have handled a porridge-ladle better than Mr. Bumble did. The humorist runs with the hare; the satirist hunts with the hounds.

There is, indeed, less contempt in satire than in irony. Irony is content to describe men exactly as they are, to accept them professedly, at their own valuation, and then to laugh up its sleeve. It falls outside the limits of humorous literature altogether; there is Irony in Plato, there is irony in the Gospels; Mr. Galsworthy is an ironist, but few people have ever laughed over Mr. Galsworthy.

Satire, on the contrary, borrows its weapons from the humorist; the satirized figure must be made to leap through the hoops of improbable adventure and farcical situation. It is all the difference between The Egoist and Don Quixote. Yet the laughter which satire provokes has malice in it always; we want to dissociate ourselves from the victim ; to let the lash that curls round him leave our withers unwrung. It is not so with humour: not so (for instance) with the work of an author who should have been mentioned earlier, Mr. P. G. Woodhouse. To read the adventures of Bertie Wooster as if they were a satire on Bertie Wooster, or even on the class to which Bertie Wooster may be supposed to belong, is to misread them in a degree hardly possible to a German critic. The reader must make himself into Bertie Wooster in order to enjoy his Jeeves, just as he must make himself into Eliza’s husband in order to enjoy his Eliza. Nobody can appreciate the crackers of humour unless he is content to put on his fool’s cap with the rest of the party.

What, then, is the relation between humour and satire? Which is the parent, and which the child? Which is the normal organ, and which the morbid growth? I said just now that satire borrows its weapons from the humorist, and that is certainly the account most of us would be prepared to give of the matter off-hand. Most things in life, we reflect, have their comic side as well as their serious side; and the good-humoured man is he who is content to see the humorous side of things even when the joke is against himself. The comic author, by persistently abstracting from the serious side of things, contrives to build up a world of his own, whose figures are all grotesques, whose adventures are the happy adventures of farce. Men fight, but only with foils; men suffer, but only suffer indignities; it is all a pleasant nursery tale, a relief to be able to turn to it when your mind is jaded with the sour facts of real life. Such, we fancy, is the true province of the Comic Muse; and satire is an abuse of the function.

The satirist is like one who should steal his little boy’s water-pistol and load it with vitriol, and so walk abroad flourishing it in men’s faces. A treacherous fellow, your satirist. He will beguile the leisure of an Athenian audience, needing some rest, Heaven knows, from the myriad problems of a relentless war with powerful neighbours, by putting on a little play called The Birds. Capital; we shall enjoy that. Two citizens of Athens, so the plot runs, take wings to themselves and set out to build a bird city, remote from the daily instance of this subnubilar world. Excellent! That is just what we wanted, a relief for tired brains! And then, the fellow has tricked us, it proves, after all! His city in the clouds is, after all, only a parody of an Athenian colony, and the ceremonies which attend its inauguration are a burlesque, in the worst possible taste, of Athenian colonial policy. We came here for a holiday, and we are being treated to a sermon instead! No wonder the Athenian audiences often refused the first prize to Aristophanes.

Skip twenty-one centuries, and find yourself in the times of the early Georges. There has been a great vogue, of late, for descriptions of travel in strange countries; and now (they are saying in the coffee-houses) the Dean of St. Patrick’s, Dublin, has written a burlesque of these travel narratives, about countries that never existed at ail—the ingenious dog! And then, as we read, it dawns upon us suddenly that Lilliput and Brobdingnag are not, after all, so distant, so imaginary; in fact, we have never really got away from the England of the Georges at all. The spirit of satire has overlooked us, like a wicked fairy, and turned the milk of human kindness sour as we churned it.

My present thesis, not dogmatically asserted but rather thrown out as if for discussion, is that this way of viewing the relations between humour and satire is a perversion of history. To think of satire as a particular direction which humour may happen to take, a particular channel into which humour may be diverted, is to neglect, surely, the broad facts as we have stated them above. Humour is of an age, satire of all ages; humour is of one particular civilization, satire of all countries. Is it not, then, more reasonable to suppose that satire is a normal function of the human genius, and humour that has no satire in it a perversion of the function, a growth away from the normal? That our sense of the ridiculous is not, in its original application, a child’s toy at all, but a weapon, deadly in its efficacy, entrusted to us for exposing the shams and hypocrisies of the world? The tyrant may arm himself in triple mail, may surround himself with bodyguards, may sow his kingdom with a hedge of spies, so that free speech is crushed and criticism muzzled. Nay, worse, he may so debauch the consciences of his subjects with false history and with sophistical argument that they come to believe him the thing he gives himself out for, a creature half-divine, a heaven-sent deliverer. One thing there is that he still fears; one anxiety still bids him turn this way and that to scan the faces of his slaves. He is afraid of laughter. The satirist stands there, like the little child in the procession when the Emperor walked through the capital in his famous new clothes; his is the tiny voice that interprets the consciousness of a thousand onlookers: “But, Mother, he has no clothes on at all!”

Satire has a wider scope, too. It is born to scourge the persistent and ever-recurrent follies of the human creature as such. And, for anybody who has the humility to realize that it is aimed at him, and not merely at his neighbours, satire has an intensely remedial effect; it purifies the spiritual system of man as nothing else that is human can possibly do. Thus, every young man who is in love should certainly read The Egoist (there would be far less unhappiness in marriage if they all did), and no schoolmaster should ever begin the scholastic year without re-reading Mr. Bradby’s Lanchester Tradition, to remind him that he is but dust.

Satire is thus an excellent discipline for the satirized: whether it is a good thing for the satirist is more open to question. Facit indignatio versum; it is seldom that the impetus to write satire comes to a man except as the result of a disappointment. Since disappointment so often springs from love, it is not to be wondered at that satirists have ever dealt unkindly with woman, from the days of Simonides of Amorgos, who compared woman with more than thirty different kinds of animals, in every case to her disadvantage. A pinched, warped fellow, as a rule, your satirist. It is misery that drives men to laughter. It is bad humour that encourages men first to be humorous. And it is, I think, when good-humoured men pick up this weapon of laughter, and, having no vendettas to work off with it, begin tossing it idly at a mark, that humour without satire takes its origin.

In a word, humour without satire is, strictly speaking, a perversion, the misuse of a sense. Laughter is a deadly explosive which was meant to be wrapped up in the cartridge of satire, and so, aimed unerringly at its appointed target, deal its salutary wound humour without satire is a flash in the pan; it may be pretty to look at, but it is, in truth, a waste of ammunition. Or, if you will, humour is satire that has run to seed; trained no longer by an artificial process, it has lost the virility of its stock. It is port from the wood, without the depth and mystery of its vintage rivals. It is a burning-glass that has lost its focus; a passenger, pulling no weight in the up-stream journey of life; meat that has had the vitamins boiled out of it; a clock without hands. The humorist, in short, is a satirist out of a job; he does not fit into the scheme of things; the world passes him by.

The pure humorist is a man without a message. He can preach no gospel, unless it be the gospel that nothing matters; and that in itself is a foolish theme, for if nothing matters, what does it matter whether it matters or not? Mr. Wodehouse is an instance in point, Mr. Leacock nearly so, though there is a story in Arcadian Adventures with the Idle Rich about the amalgamation of two religious bodies on strictly commercial lines, which comes very close to pure satire. Barry Pain is a humorist who is seldom at his best when he attempts satire; the same fate dogged Mark Twain, though I think he would have liked to be a satirist. Mr. A. A. Milne is in a similar case, and so indeed are all the modem Punch writers by the terms (you might say) of their contract. No contrast is more surprising than the contrast in atmosphere between the letterpress of Punch before 1890 and its letterpress since. The old Punches are full of very bad satire; there is hardly anything else in them; it is all on the same sort of level as John Bull in its Bottomley days—anti-aristocratic, and-foreign, and-clerical, very much like some rag of the Boulevards. Today, it is the home of superbly finished humour—humour cultivated as a fine art. But satire is absent.

Some of the greatest humorists have halted between two destinies, and as a rule have been lost to satire. Sir W. S. Gilbert, a rather unsuccessful satirist in his early days, inherited the dilemma from his master, Aristophanes. Patience is supreme satire, and there is satire in all the operas; but in their general effect they do not tell: the author has given up to mankind what was meant for a party. Mr. Chesterton is in the same difficulty; he is like Johnson’s friend who tried to be a philosopher, but cheerfulness would keep on coming in. The net effect of his works is serious, as it is meant to be, but his fairy-like imagination is for ever defeating its own object in matters of detail. But indeed, Mr. Chesterton is beyond our present scope; for he is rash enough to combine humour not merely with satire but with serious writing ; and that, it is well known, is a thing the public will not stand.

A few modem authors have succeeded, in spite of our latter-day demand for pure humour, in being satirists first and last: Samuel Butler of Erewhon, and W. H. Mallock, and Mr. Belloc, I think, in his political novels. The very poor reception given to these last by the public proves that there is more vinegar in them than oil.

Humour, if we may adopt for a moment the loathsome phraseology of journalism, has “come to stay.” It is, if our analysis be true, a byproduct and in a sense a waste-product; that does not mean that it has no significance. A pearl is a by-product, and from the fishmonger’s point of view a waste-product; but it has value so long as people want it. And there is at present a public demand for humour which implies that humour should take its place among the arts, an art for the art’s sake, not depending on any fruits of practical utility for its estimation. There is art in O. Henry, though he does not scourge our vices like Juvenal; there is art in Heath Robinson, though he does not purge our consciences like Hogarth.

What rank humour is to take as compared with serious writing is, perhaps, an unanswerable problem; our histories of nineteenth century literature have not yet been bold enough to tackle it. It is probable, I think, that humour is relatively ephemeral; by force of words humour means caprice, and the caprice of yesterday is apt to leave us cold. There is a generation not yet quite dead which says that nothing was ever so funny as the Bongaultier Ballads. The popularity of the Ingoldsby Legends is now, to say the least, precarious; and I doubt if the modem youth smacks its lips as we did over the Bab Ballads themselves. Read a book of A. A. Milne’s, and then turn to an old volume of Voces Populi, and you will realize that even in our memory humour has progressed and become rarefied.

What reputations will be left unassailable when the tide has receded, it would be rash to prophesy. For myself, I like to believe that one name will be immortal at least, that of Mr. Max Beerbohm. Incomparably equipped for satire, as his cartoons and his parodies show, he has yet preferred in most of his work to give rein to a gloriously fantastic imagination, a humorist in satirist’s clothing. One is tempted to say with the prophet: May I die the death of the righteous, and may my last end be like his!

Meanwhile, a pertinent question may be raised. What will be the effect of all this modem vogue for pure humour upon the prospects of satiric writing? We are in danger, it seems to me, of debauching our sense of the ridiculous to such an extent as to leave no room for the disciplinary effect of satire. I remember seeing Mr. Shaw’s Press Cuttings first produced in Manchester. I remember a remark, in answer to the objection that women ought not to vote because they do not fight, that a woman risks her life every time a man is born, being received (in Manchester!) with shouts of happy laughter. In that laughter I read the tragedy of Mr. Bernard Shaw. He lashes us with virulent abuse, and we find it exquisitely amusing. Other ages have stoned the prophets; ours pelts them instead with the cauliflower bouquets of the heavy comedian.

No country, I suppose, has greater need of a satirist today than the United States of America; no country has a greater output of humour, good and bad, which is wholly devoid of any satirical quality. If a great American satirist should arise, would his voice be heard among the hearty guffaws which are dismally and eternally provoked by Mutt, Jeff, Felix, and other kindred abominations? And have we, on this side of the Atlantic, any organ in which pure satire could find a natural home?

I believe the danger which I am indicating to be a perfectly real one, however fantastic it may sound—the danger, I mean, that we have lost, or are losing, the power to take ridicule seriously. That our habituation to humorous reading has inoculated our systems against the beneficent poison of satire. Unhappy the Juvenal whom Rome greets with amusement; unhappier still the Rome, that can be amused by a Juvenal

I am not sure, in reading through this essay again, that there is any truth in its suggestions. But I do not see that there can be any harm in having said what I thought, even if I am no longer certain that I think it.


Featured image: “Satire on Tulip Mania,” by Jan Brueghel, ca. 1640.

A Preface To Metaphysics. First Lecture: On Thomism

I. Living Thomism

1. Thomism is not a museum piece. No doubt, like other systems of medieval philosophy, indeed, philosophic systems of all ages, it must be studied historically. All the great philosophies whether of the Middle Ages or any other period have that in their substance which to an extent triumphs over time. But Thomism does so more completely than any other since it harmonises and exceeds them all, in a synthesis which transcends all its components. It is relevant to every epoch. It answers modern problems, both theoretical and practical. In face of contemporary aspirations and perplexities, it displays a power to fashion and emancipate the mind. We therefore look to Thomism at the present day to save,

in the speculative order, intellectual values, in the practical order, so far as they can be saved by philosophy, human values.

In short, we are concerned not with an archaeological but with a living Thomism. It is our duty to grasp the reality and the requirements of such a philosophy. This duty gives rise to a double obligation. We must defend the traditional wisdom and the continuity of the Philosophia Perennis against the prejudices of modern individualism, in so far as it values, seeks and delights in novelty for its own sake, and is interested in a system of thought only in so far as it is a creation, the creation of a novel conception of the world. But equally we must show that this wisdom is eternally young and always inventive, and involves a fundamental need, inherent in its very being, to grow and renew itself. And so doing we must combat the prejudices of those who would fix it at a particular stage of its development and fail to understand its essentially progressive nature.

II. Metaphysics Are Of Necessity Traditional And Permanent

2. We must recall the Thomist view of human teaching. We must remember that man is a social animal primarily because he is in need of teaching, and the teacher’s art, like the doctor’s, co-operates with nature, so that the Principal Agent in the art of instruction is not the teacher imparting knowledge to his pupil and producing it in his mind, but the understanding, the intellectual vitality of the pupil who receives, that is to say, assimilates the knowledge actively into his mind and so brings knowledge to birth there. But we must not forget that without the transmission of ideas elaborated by successive generations the individual mind could make little progress in the research and discovery of truth. In view of this fact the need of a tradition is evident.

Obviously to reject the continuity produced by the common labour of generations and the transmission of a doctrinal deposit—above all in the very order of understanding and knowledge—is to opt for darkness. But do not the facts give the lie to my thesis, however obvious it may seem? Revolutions of technique and in the natural sciences present us with the spectacle of progress by Substitution, and this, moreover, as a general and seemingly universal phenomenon. The railway has replaced the stage-coach, electric light the oil lamp. Einstein’s system has dethroned Newton’s, as the Copernican had dethroned the Ptolemaic astronomy. We are strongly tempted to generalise, to believe that this type of progress should be extended to every domain of intellectual activity. Was not medieval philosophy replaced by the Cartesian? Did not Kant oust Descartes, to be ousted in turn by Bergson, and will not Bergson make way for some other philosopher, Whitehead perhaps or Heidegger? And while we still wait for the advent of an antideterminist variety of materialism, a revival of hylozoism is taking shape under the dictatorship of the proletariat.

In view of all this we are shocked if we are told of a knowledge which applies today the same fundamental concepts, the same principles as in the days of Sankhara, Aristotle or St. Thomas.

3. I have often answered this objection by pointing out that it is a gross blunder to confuse the art of the philosopher with the art of the tailor or milliner. I have shown also that truth cannot be subjected to
a chronological test. Nevertheless the question must be examined more thoroughly. We shall then distinguish two very different types of progress, proper, respectively to wisdom and the science of phenomena.

II. “Mystery” And “Problem”

4. Making use of terminology borrowed from a contemporary French philosopher, M. Gabriel Marcel (see, Position et Approches du mystére ontologique), though I am employing it in a completely different sense, we may say that every scientific question presents a double aspect, the one a Mystery, the other a Problem. It is a mystery and at the same time a problem, a mystery in regard to the thing, the object as it exists outside the mind, a problem in regard to our formulae.

An intelligible mystery is not a contradiction in terms. On the contrary, it is the most exact description of reality. Mystery is not the implacable adversary of understanding. This unreal opposition was introduced by Descartes and his Cartesian reason, though it is indeed inevitable in an idealist system or an idealist atmosphere. The objectivity of the understanding is itself supremely mysterious and the object of knowledge is “Mystery” reduced to a state of intelligibility in act and of intellection in act. ln the act of understanding the intellect becomes what is other than itself, precisely as such. It introduces into itself an inexhaustible (transobjective—on this term see my Les Degrés du Savoir, Ch. TIL, p. 176 sqq.) reality vitally apprehended as its object. Its object is reality itself. Like the act of faith the act of understanding does not stop at the formula but attains the object, non terminatur ad enuntrabile, sed ad rem (Sum Theol. 11-11, i, 2 ad 2). The “Mystery” is its food, the other which it assimilates.

The proper object of understanding is being. And being is a mystery, either because it is too pregnant with intelligibility, too pure for our intellect which is the case with spiritual things, or because its nature presents a more or less impenetrable barrier to understanding, a barrier due to the element of non-being in it, which is the case with becoming, potency and above all matter.

The mystery we conclude is a fullness of being with which the intellect enters into a vital union and into which it plunges without exhausting it. Could it do so it would be God, ipsum Esse subsistens and the author of being. The Supreme “mystery” is the supernatural mystery which is the object of faith and theology. It is concerned with the Godhead Itself, the interior life of God, to which our intellect cannot rise by its unaided natural powers. But philosophy and science also are concerned with mystery, another mystery, the mystery of nature and the mystery of being. A philosophy unaware of mystery would not be a philosophy.

Where then shall we discover the pure type of what I call the “problem?” In a crossword puzzle, or an anagram.

At this extreme there is no ontological content. There is an intellectual difficulty with no being behind it. There is a logical difficulty, a tangle of concepts, twisted by a mind which another mind seeks to unravel. When the tangle has been unravelled, the difficulty solved, there is nothing further, nothing more to be known. For the only thing to be discovered was how to disentangle the threads. When Oedipus has discovered the key to the riddle, he can proceed on his way leaving the Sphinx behind him. The “problem” may be described as a notional complex created by our intellect, which at first appears inextricable and which must be disentangled. I am speaking of the problem in its pure state. You will soon see that there are other cases in which the “problem” aspect reappears, but no longer isolated, in combination with the “mystery” aspect.

5. In fact every cognitive act, every form of knowledge presents these two aspects. “The mystery and the problem are combined. The mystery is present because there is always some degree of being, and its depth and thickness must be penetrated. The problem also because our nature is such that we can penetrate being only by our conceptual formulae, and the latter of their nature compose a problem to be solved.

But according to the particular kind of knowledge one or the other aspect is predominant.

The problem aspect naturally predominates where knowledge is least ontological, for example, when it is primarily concerned with mental constructions built up around a sensible datum—as in empirical knowledge, and in the sciences of phenomena; or again when its objects are entities constituted or reconstituted by the intellect, which though certainly based on reality, need not exist outside the mind but may equally well be purely ideal as in mathematics; or yet again when its object is mental constructions of the practical intellect as in craftsmanship and applied science. It is in fact, in this third category that the problem aspect is particularly evident. In mathematics and the sciences of phenomena it is well to the fore and indeed predominates. But the mystery aspect is also very pronounced, especially when a discovery is made or when a science is revolutionised or passes through a crisis. The mystery aspect, as we should expect, predominates where knowledge is most ontological, where it seeks to discover, either intuitively or by analogy, being in itself and the secrets of being; the secrets of being, of knowledge and of love, of purely spiritual realities, of the First Cause (above all of God’s interior life). The mystery aspect is predominant in the philosophy of nature and still more in metaphysics. And, most of all in theology.

Where the problem aspect prevails one solution follows another: where one ends, the other begins. There is a rectilinear progress of successive mental views or ideal perspectives, of different ways of conceptualising the object. And if one solution is incomplete, as is always the case, it is replaced by its successor. It is as when the landscape changes and scene succeeds to scene as the traveller proceeds on his way. Similarly the mind is on the move. Progress of this kind is progress by substitution.

On the other hand where the mystery aspect prevails the intellect has to penetrate more and more deeply the same object. The mind is stationary turning around a fixed point. Or rather it pierces further and further into the same depth. This is progress in the same place, progress by deepening. Thus the intellect, as its habitus grows more intense, continues, as John of Saint Thomas puts it, to assault its object, the same object, with increasing force and penetration, vehementius et profundius. Thus we can read and reread the same book, the Bible for example, and every time discover something new and more profound. Obviously under the conditions of human life, progress of this kind requires an intellectual tradition, the firm continuity of a system based on principles which do not change.

Here knowledge is not exactly constituted by the addition of parts, still less by the substitution of one part for another. It is the whole itself that grows or rather is more deeply penetrated (every spatial metaphor is inadequate) as an indivisible whole and in all its parts at once.

6. At this point we must distinguish three kinds of intellectual thirst and three corresponding means of quenching them.

In the first case, where the problem aspect predominates I thirst to know the answer to my problem. And when I have obtained the answer I am satisfied: that particular thirst is quenched. But I thirst for something else. And so interminably.

This is the water of science, useful and bitter.

In the second case where the mystery aspect predominates I thirst to know reality, being under one or other of its modes, the ontological mystery. When I know it I drink my fill. But I still thirst and continue to thirst for the same thing, the same reality which at once satisfies and increases my desire. Thus I never cease quenching my thirst from the same spring of water which is ever fresh and yet I always thirst for it.

This is the water of created wisdom.

To this wisdom the text may be applied, ““They who eat me hunger still and they who drink me still thirst” (Ecclesiasticus xxxiv. 20).

In the third case—the vision of God’s Word face to face—my thirst is again different. I thirst to see God and when l see Him my thirst will be completely quenched. I shall thirst no longer. And this is already in a measure true of the earthly commencement of bliss, the participation in time of eternal life.

This is the water of uncreated wisdom of which it is written ““Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst, but the water that 1 shall give him shall become in him a fountain of water springing up unto everlasting life” (John iv. 13-14).

The climax of spiritual disorder is to confuse the third of these thirsts with the first, by treating the things of eternal life, the vision of God, as an object of the first thirst that namely which belongs to the first case of which I was just speaking, the category of knowledge in which the problem predominates. For this is to treat beatitude, not as a mystery, our mystery par excellence, but as a problem or series of problems, like the solution of a puzzle. As a result of this confusion Leibnitz can declare that beatitude is a moving from one pleasure to another, and Lessing that he prefers endless research to the possession of truth which would be monotonous, and Kant considers the boredom which it would seem God must experience in the everlasting contemplation of Himself.

But it is also a radical disorder to confuse the second thirst with the first by treating philosophy, metaphysics, wisdom—a category of knowledge in which reverence for the mystery of being is the highest factor—as an object of the first thirst, pre-eminently a problem to answer, a puzzle to solve. Those who make this mistake attempt to make progress in wisdom by proceeding from puzzle to puzzle, replacing one problem by another, one Weltanschauung by its successor, as though in virtue of an irrefragable law. Progress by substitution is required by the sciences of phenomena, is their law, and the more perfectly they realise their type the more progress they make. But progress of this kind is not the law of wisdom. lts progress is progress by an adhesion of the mind to its object and a union with it increasingly profound, progress as it were by a growing intimacy. And it therefore requires as its indispensable prerequisite a stable body of doctrine and a continuous intellectual tradition.

7. Two considerations may now be advanced which reinforce the proof that a philosophic tradition and a stable continuity are indispensable for wisdom.

The first of these is provided by Christian thought and its force is therefore confined to Christians. It concerns the relation between philosophy and theology. Since it is founded on the words of God, indeed upon the Word of God, it is obvious that theology must be permanent. “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” The science, rooted in the faith, which develops and explains in terms of conceptual reasoning the meaning of these divine words—the science we call theology—cannot therefore be substantially changed in the course of time, cannot progress by successive substitutions. It does progress, but of all sciences built up by discursive reasoning, its progress is the most stable and, more perfectly than the progress of any other science, is a progress by entering ever more intimately.

Theology, however, makes use of philosophy. Philosophy is the means and the instrument of its development. Philosophy, therefore, must be in its own fashion also permanent. That is why the Christian, we may remark, finds the notion of a permanent philosophic wisdom easier to accept. For superior to philosophy but connected with it he possesses a typical example of a science rooted in mystery.

There is, however, a certain risk that we may confuse these two kinds of certainty and stability, those proper respectively to theology and philosophy, and ascribe to philosophy and its doctrinal continuity the stability of a higher order peculiar to theology. It is true that even the stability of theology is not absolute, for its continuity is not immutability but progress by penetration and admits therefore, of many discoveries, renewals and unexpected explanations. But even so theology is far more strictly and essentially traditional than philosophy. Its continuity is of another order and imitates more closely the immutability of uncreated Wisdom.

8. The second confirmation is the spectacle of modern man and the modern mind. It thus possesses special weight for us moderns. I have in mind what may be called the peculiar experience of the modern world, all the attempts it has made to alter the nature of wisdom. The experiment has certainly been carried out. After Descartes had denied the scientific value of theology, and Kant the scientific value of metaphysics, we have witnessed human reason gone astray and a captive to empiricism seeking wisdom more anxiously than ever before, yet failing to find it, because it has rejected the sense of mystery and has attempted to subject wisdom to the alien law of progress by substitution. It turns now towards the east, now towards the west. Will wisdom come from one quarter or the other? It does not even possess the criteria by which wisdom could be recognised and is blown about by every chance wind of desire.

It is a remarkable fact that Thomas Aquinas did not impress the form of his wisdom on the final phase of medieval culture. From this point of view Thomism was not a “cultural success” on medieval soil. It has been, so to speak, laid up in the heaven of the Church. St, Thomas thus belongs to the Church’s great gift of prophecy. He assumes the figure, if I may so put it, of a prophetic saint, a prophetic sage. He is a saint reserved for the future. His reappearance in our time, as leader of a universal movement of philosophic enquiry, the advent of a period in the development of Thomism unlike any that went before it, assumes when viewed in this light a most striking significance. In the depths of the mind we hear the summons to fashion a universal Christian wisdom at the very moment when the progress of the sciences and of reflexion enable us to give it its full scope and when the world, everywhere labouring under the same distresses and increasingly united in its culture and the problems with which it is faced, can or could be moulded into conformity with this wisdom. May we say that it still could be moulded or must we say that it could have been moulded if only the clerks, as M. Benda calls them, had but understood and willed accordingly, fashioned by this wisdom to receive from it a reasonable order?

III. Metaphysics Is Necessarily Progressive And Inventive

9. I have spoken of the obligation imposed upon us by the continuity of wisdom. I have now to speak of another also of urgent necessity. We have not only to defend the value and necessity of a philosophic tradition against the prejudices of minds revolutionary on principle. We must also take due account of the constant novelty characteristic of philosophic wisdom, and defend the necessity of renovation and growth inherent in its nature, in this case against the prejudices of minds conservative on principle and hidebound.

As we know, it was the task of St. Thomas to renovate the older scholasticism. It is a similar task which Thomists are called upon to perform to-day, a task whose novelty may well be greater than they themselves realise. In this connection many questions require examination and a complete analysis needs to be undertaken. For this there is no time. It must suffice to point out the fact.

But if you have understood what has just been explained you will understand that this work must be accomplished without detriment to the fixity of principles. Nor must it be accomplished by adding heterogeneous parts after the fashion in which those branches of knowledge progress in which the problem aspect, the puzzle, tends to become as important as the mystery aspect. For this reason I dislike the term “*Neo-scholasticism” or ““Neo-thomism.” It involves the risk of pulling us down from the higher plane of wisdom to the lower plane of the problematic sciences and thereby leading us logically to demand for Thomism also a progress by substitution in which the Neo would devour the T’homism.

This work must be accomplished by a vital assimilation and an immanent progress—as it were, by the progressive autogenesis of the same intellectual organism, constantly building up and entering into itself, by a species of transfiguration of which the growth of corporeal organisms is a very imperfect image. Think of a baby and that baby grown to an adult. Its metaphysical personality has not changed, it remains entire. Nor have any heterogeneous parts been engrafted from without. But everything in that human individual has been transfigured, has become more differentiated, stronger, better proportioned. At every decisive phase of growth the man has been more profoundly transfigured while remaining more profoundly himself and realising himself more perfectly.

10. The part played in a progress of this kind by other philosophic systems is considerable. As I have pointed out elsewhere a system with faulty foundations is a system adapted to the vision of one epoch and one epoch alone. For this very reason its less solid armour enables it to throw itself more quickly—though only to perish—upon the novel aspects of truth appearing above the contemporary horizon. All these systems which lack a sufficient foundation compose a merely potential philosophy, a philosophy in a state of flux, covering contradictory formulas and irreconcilable doctrines and upheld by whatever truth these may contain.

If there exists on earth a philosophic system securely based on true principles, and such I believe Thomism to be, it will incorporate—with more or less delay due to the intellectual laziness of Thomists—and thus progressively realise in itself this potential philosophy which will thereby become to that extent visible and capable of formulation, formed and organically articulated. Thus, in my opinion, Thomism is destined to bear with it, in its own progress, the progress of philosophy. By assimilating whatever truth is contained in these partial systems it will expand its own substance and deduce from it more and more penetrating shafts of light which will reveal the forces concealed in its truths. The novelty which it thus displays, though not seeking it for its own sake, is above all a novel approach to the same shores of being, a new distribution of the same wealth, the pregnant mystery of things. New prospects are being constantly opened up of the same intelligible world, the same incorporeal landscape which seem to transform it before our eyes and make us enter more deeply into the secrets of its beauty.

11. A particular question must be raised at this point, that of vocabulary. The fundamental concepts remain the same, they do not change. But we must reach them by new paths, so far at least as the method of treatment is concerned. The question arises whether the old names are still appropriate in all cases.

In this connection we must bear in mind that the fashion in which the ancients formed their philosophical vocabulary was admirably spontaneous, supple and living, but also imperfect and almost excessively natural. They relied with a robust confidence upon common sense and upon the language which objects utter by their sensible appearances. For their intuitive intelligence was sufficiently powerful and sufficiently fresh to transcend these media. Thus it was that when they defined living being they thought primarily of that which changes its position, moves of itself. There is, in fact, no better definition. But it requires a prolonged critical examination and elaboration. “The terminology of the ancients was apparently—I mean in respect of the objects from which the metaphorical signification was derived—more material than our own, not at all to the taste of our more refined contemporaries. In reality—that is, in respect of the meaning itself—it was more spiritual and went straight to the heart of things.

Because to-day we have become duller ourselves and more exacting, we require a vocabulary less charged with matter, less spontaneous, more remote from the senses, or rather renovated by a new contact—more penetrating and more deliberate, like our art itself— with sensible objects, by a new germination of the mental word in ourselves. In this respect philosophy ls in the same case as poetry. Like poetic images philosophic terms are blunted. The creation of a new vocabulary by depriving the understanding of the assistance provided by custom and by a social security already achieved compels it to pay exclusive attention to the vital process in which the idea is born of images and phantasms and the experience of life.

Though these questions of vocabulary are not unimportant, their importance is obviously secondary in comparison with doctrine. Nor must we forget that although these innovations of terminology are calculated to diminish certain obstacles produced in many modern minds by the influence, which is in truth below the level of philosophy, of associated ideas and by the reactions of sensibility, they will never make the voice of intelligible being audible to those who lack the ear for it or who close their ears to it. Nor will they suffice to create a vocabulary common to all philosophers. For terminology is essentially dependent upon doctrine, and a common vocabulary presupposes a common doctrine.

“All life and joy is motion. That of time and vulgar souls is linear, and so not without change of place; and good to them is known only in the coming and going. With souls of grace it is not so. They go about a centre, which planetary motion is their joy. They have also a selfrevolving motion which is their peace. Their own regularity enables them to perceive the order of the universe. Their ears with inmost delectation catch the sound of the revolving spheres. They live in fruition of the eternal novelty” (Coventry Patmore, Aphorisms and Extracts).


Featured image: “Promenade en barque aux Andelys (Boat-ride to Andelys),” by Henri Lebasque, painted in 1915.