A mediaevalist trying to be a philosopher and a philosopher trying to be a mediaevalist write about theology, philosophy, scholarship, books, the middle ages, and especially the life, times, and thought of the Doctor Subtilis, the Blessed John Duns Scotus.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
More Formalist Matters
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Tolkien and the Modern Church
"‘Trends’ in the Church are…serious, especially to those accustomed to find in it a solace and a ‘pax’ in times of temporal trouble, and not just another arena of strife and change. But imagine the experience of those born (as I) between the Golden and Diamond Jubilee of Victoria. Both senses of imaginations of security have been stripped away from us. Now we find ourselves nakedly confronting the will of God, as concerns ourselves and our position in Time. ‘Back to normal’ – political and Christian predicaments – as a Catholic professor once said to me when I bemoaned the collapse of all my world that began just after I achieved 21. I know quite well that, to you as to me, the Church which once felt like a refuge, now often feels like a trap. There is nowhere else to go! (I wonder if this desperate feeling, the last state of loyalty hanging on, was not, even more often than is actually recorded in the Gospels, felt by Our Lord’s followers in His earthly life-time?) I think there is nothing to do but pray, for the Church, the Vicar of Christ, and for ourselves; and meanwhile to exercise the virtue of loyalty, which indeed only becomes a virtue when one is under pressure to desert it.
There are, of course, various elements in the present situation, which are confused, though in fact distinct…The ‘protestant’ search backwards for ‘simplicity’ and directedness-which, of course, though it contains some good or at least intelligible motives, is mistaken and indeed vain. Because ‘primitive Christianity’ is now and in spite of all ‘research’ will ever remain largely unknown; because ‘primitiveness’ is no guarantee of value, and is and was in great part a reflection of ignorance. Grave abuses were as much an element in Christian ‘liturgical’ behavior from the beginning as now. (St. Paul’s strictures on eucharistic behavior are sufficient to show this!) Still more because ‘my church’ was not intended by Our Lord to be static or remain in perpetual childhood; but to be a living organism (likened to a plant), which develops and changes in externals by the interaction of its bequeathed divine life and history – the particular circumstances of the world into which it is set. There is no resemblance between the ‘mustard seed’ and the full-grown tree. For those living in the days of its branching growth the Tree is the thing, for the history of a living thing is part of its life, and the history of a divine thing is sacred. The wise may know that it began with a seed, but it is vain to try and dig it up., for it no longer exists, and the virtue and powers that it had now reside in the Tree. Very good: but in husbandry the authorities, the keepers of the Tree, must look after it, according to such wisdom as they possess, prune it, remove cankers, get rid of parasites, and so forth (with trepidation, knowing how little their knowledge of growth is!). But they will certainly do harm, if they are obsessed with the desire of going back to the seed or even to the first youth of the plant when it was (as they imagine) pretty and unaffected by evils.
The other motive (now so confused with the primitivist one, even in the mind of any one of the reformers)” aggiornamento: bringing up to date: that has its own grave dangers, as has been apparent throughout history. With this ‘ecumenicalness’ has also become confused. I find myself in sympathy with those elements that are strictly ‘ecumenical,’ that is concerned with other groups or churches that call themselves (and often truly are) ‘Christian.’ We have prayed endlessly for Christian reunion, but it is difficult to see, if one reflects, how that could possibly begin to come about except as it has, with all its inevitable minor absurdities. An increase in ‘charity’ is an enormous gain."
Tolkien's grandson, Simon on his grandfather:
"I vividly remember going to church with him [J.R.R.] in Bournemouth. He was a devout Roman Catholic and it was soon after the Church had changed the liturgy from Latin to English. My grandfather obviously didn’t agree with this and made all the responses very loudly in Latin while the rest of the congregation answered in English. I found the whole experience quite excruciating, but my grandfather was oblivious. He simply had to do what he believed to be right. He inherited his religion from his mother, who was ostracised by her family following her conversion and then died in poverty when my grandfather was just 12. I know that he played a big part in the decision to send me to Downside, a Roman Catholic school in Somerset."
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Thomistic Meditations; Or, A Scotist Looks at Vatican II
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
A Salutary Warning
Mos partium et factionum ac deinde omnium malarum artium Romae ortus est otio atque abundantia earum rerum quae prima mortales ducunt. Nam ante Carthaginem deletam populus et senatus Romanus placide modesteque inter se rem publicam tractabant. Neque gloriae neque dominationis certamen inter cives erat; metus hostilis in bonis artibus civitatem retinebat. Sed ubi illa formido mentibus decessit, scilicet ea quae res resundae amant, lascivia atque superbia, incessere. Ita quod in adversis rebus optaverant otium postquam adepti sunt, asperius acerbiusque fuit.
Etre un philosophe
I begin by declaring to my reader that, by everything good or bad that I have done throughout my life, I am sure that I have earned merit or incurred guilt, and that hence I must consider myself a free agent. The doctrine of the Stoics, and of any other sect, on the power of Destiny is a figment of the imagination which smacks of atheism. I am not only a monotheist but a Christian whose faith is strengthened by philosophy, which has never injured anything. . . .
Man is a free agent; but he is not free if he does not believe it, for the more power he attributes to Destiny, the more he deprives himself of the power which God granted him when he gave him reason.
Reason is a particle of the Creator's divinity. If we use it to make ourselves humble and just, we cannot but please him who have it to us. God does not cease to be God except for those who consider his nonexistence possible. They cannot suffer a greater punishment.
--Casanova, History of My Life, Preface
Friday, August 14, 2009
On the Intelligibility of Matter
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Clarity at last
I often wondered what they thought about who pseudo-Denys really was. Here's the answer:
"Of course, I don’t believe that the writer of The Divine Names, Mystical Theology, etc. is a Pseudo-Dionysios 5th Century writer coming from historical textual criticism from 19th century German scholars, but rather St. Paul’s actual convert in Acts as we hymn in the liturgy. That’s a seperate matter though, but it is an important one.
I guess he must have taught Proclus then, or else close textual parallels are purely coincidental. And yet its us latins that have been corrupted by Platonism.