Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
Perhaps turn out a sermon.

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Friday, June 13, 2014

Some Heresy for the Weekend

Actually just Chesterton talking about a forgotten proponent of neo-paganism and Thomas Carlyle in Heretics:


The weak point in the whole of Carlyle's case for aristocracy lies, indeed, in his most celebrated phrase. Carlyle said that men were mostly fools. Christianity, with a surer and more reverent realism, says that they are all fools. This doctrine is sometimes called the doctrine of original sin. It may also be described as the doctrine of the equality of men. But the essential point of it is merely this, that whatever primary and far-reaching moral dangers affect any man, affect all men. All men can be criminals, if tempted; all men can be heroes, if inspired. And this doctrine does away altogether with Carlyle's pathetic belief (or any one else's pathetic belief) in "the wise few." There are no wise few. Every aristocracy that has ever existed has behaved, in all essential points, exactly like a small mob. Every oligarchy is merely a knot of men in the street—that is to say, it is very jolly, but not infallible. And no oligarchies in the world's history have ever come off so badly in practical affairs as the very proud oligarchies—the oligarchy of Poland, the oligarchy of Venice. And the armies that have most swiftly and suddenly broken their enemies in pieces have been the religious armies—the Moslem Armies, for instance, or the Puritan Armies. And a religious army may, by its nature, be defined as an army in which every man is taught not to exalt but to abase himself. Many modern Englishmen talk of themselves as the sturdy descendants of their sturdy Puritan fathers. As a fact, they would run away from a cow. If you asked one of their Puritan fathers, if you asked Bunyan, for instance, whether he was sturdy, he would have answered, with tears, that he was as weak as water. And because of this he would have borne tortures. And this virtue of humility, while being practical enough to win battles, will always be paradoxical enough to puzzle pedants. It is at one with the virtue of charity in this respect. Every generous person will admit that the one kind of sin which charity should cover is the sin which is inexcusable. And every generous person will equally agree that the one kind of pride which is wholly damnable is the pride of the man who has something to be proud of. The pride which, proportionally speaking, does not hurt the character, is the pride in things which reflect no credit on the person at all. Thus it does a man no harm to be proud of his country, and comparatively little harm to be proud of his remote ancestors. It does him more harm to be proud of having made money, because in that he has a little more reason for pride. It does him more harm still to be proud of what is nobler than money—intellect. And it does him most harm of all to value himself for the most valuable thing on earth—goodness. The man who is proud of what is really creditable to him is the Pharisee, the man whom Christ Himself could not forbear to strike.

Given what's happening in Iraq today, Chesterton's remark about "religious armies" seems timely, but mainly there are the paradoxes that surround humility and love.  
 

3 comments:

Don Johnson said...

Chesterton has always been on my list of the three people from history I'd like to have lunch with. I wouldn't have to say a word (thankfully), and I'd leave fully satiated without eating a bite. He's so timeless, more relevant now than ever. We'll never see anyone like him again, I fear.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

It's ironic that today's power hungry slavemasters fail to see themselves as fools, seeing as how they claim to champion "equality" and all.

No doubt a braggart like Obama would demonize Chesterton were he around today pointing out what Obama actually is.

mushroom said...

Chesterton was a great mind. Lunch with him would be an education in itself.

And, yes, he would undoubtedly be unpopular with the political class today. Steyn is the modern voice in popular culture that reminds me of Chesterton. Look how much trouble he gets into.