TGU on illuminating

Friday, January 22, 2010

7:30 AM. Hillaire Belloc’s The Great Heresies is a frustrating book, not least because of the incompetent editing and typesetting of this particular version (self-published, apparently) but also because he leaves me with a sense of not quite grasping his point — his viewpoint — because he has not quite expressed it.

It is a very unusual, original, viewpoint, and I should like to get a fair view of it. Perhaps as I read the other two volumes I bought, it will come more into focus. I am hoping that he will not end up as a Catholic speaking only to Catholics, for the value of that will be much less, to me. But if he is a Catholic speaking to the West – even to the English-speaking West alone – it will be perhaps an intellectual turning point for me.

I am surrounded by Protestants or by materialist thinkers on the web and among my natural friends. Yet their liberalism increasingly repels me. Stephen Schwartz, Hank Wesselman take for granted that reasonable men of goodwill see things as they do – and they have no clue to the opinion-robots they allow to shape their view of the world.

Hmm, that was an unexpected connection. Robots, prejudices – the connection between inner and social man. A connection, anyway.


Is your work clarifying a bit, perhaps? You won’t be able to sign off on Belloc’s view of things because he is too far from your own experiences inner and outer, but he may prove to be invaluable as a correction to the one-sided views that are the air your times breathe – which is why, of course, you were impelled to buy his books as soon as his name came up – in a critical piece designed to refute his views, that you didn’t even read.

You are not Catholic but can scarcely be or become an anti-Catholic. Therefore your standing-place is off to the side (from their point of view) of those who are in one or the other camp.

Then, you are not a socialist by disposition, but not an anti-socialist either. That is, you do not concede the primacy of material concerns and so cannot see the world as either the socialist or capitalist zealots do (and must).

You are not a diabolist, or a mage, nor a magician of any sort. Yet your understanding of what such maybe after, and what viewpoint they may hold, sets you apart from those who define themselves by their opposition to magic. (That is, that aspect of fundamental temperament.)

So what is the positive definition of you and your work? Is it not to bring them all into greater understanding of each other?

Not to convince! That’s impossible, and anyway undesirable. Convincing does one main thing: It moves people from column A to column B. But what good is that? If column B had the truth, that would be fine, but how can it? (And that, you see, will be Belloc’s is assumption: that he and his church stand for truth. But that will be everybody’s assumption.)

So, if not to convince — what? To illuminate. To offer new possibilities. To show how to see with sympathy.

You could never condemn Protestantism without ceasing to beat with Emerson and Thoreau, for instance. You could not turn against Catholicism without knowing the good in it that is so little expressed. You could not turn against liberals without turning on so many you love and admire – nor identify with liberals without the same thing happening, but with different men.

I do see. Thanks.

11:30. The fundamental problem is that various viewpoints don’t talk to each other or consider each other’s values and viewpoints respectfully. Always it is, “How far do they err?” which, miraculously, always turns out to mean, “How far do they diverge from my position?”

Robert Clark’s work unites Christianity with psychology in the only way they can be reconciled: through the filter of a third viewpoint that can see what each of them was seeing, but outside both frameworks and within another. That other, in turn, is not the final word – thesis, antithesis, synthesis forever, as Hegel saw.

So my gift – my goad – to contemporary society is to remind it to take everything seriously, and nothing as the final word. You can’t understand things if you dismiss whole categories of things and therefore don’t take into account what they knew and what motivated them.

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