Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Of warnings, prophecies, and prayers

"...the terrorism of tenth-rate professors..."-G.K. Chesterton
"...The thing that really is trying to tyrannize through government is Science. The thing that really does use the secular arm is Science. And the creed that really is levying tithes and capturing schools, the creed that really is enforced by fine and imprisonment, the creed that really is proclaimed not in sermons but in statutes, and spread not by pilgrims but by policemen --- that creed is the great but disputed system of thought which began with Evolution and has ended in Eugenics. Materialism is really our established Church; for the Government will really help it to persecute its heretics....I am not frightened of the word "persecution" when it is attributed to the churches; nor is it in the least as a term of reproach that I attribute it to the men of science. It is as a term of legal fact. If it means the imposition by the police of a widely disputed theory, incapable of final proof --- then our priests are not now persecuting, but our doctors are...Now here we find ourselves confronted with an amazing fact. When, in the past, opinions so arguable have been enforced by State violence, it has been at the instigation of fanatics who held them for fixed and flaming certainties. If truths could not be evaded by their enemies, neither could they be altered even by their friends. But what are the certain truths that the secular arm must now lift the sword to enforce?..."
Interesting that G.K. Chesterton talks about state-enforced "science" through his work "Eugenics and other Evils", back in 1922. Eighty-six years fast forward today and we see the realization of the dire warning with the recent passage thru 3rd reading of the UK Human Fertilization and Embryology Bill. Closer to home, HB 5043 has already passed 3rd reading in Congress, the same version which includes punitive provisions of fines and/or imprisonment of upto 6 months for conscientious objectors. Pope Paul VI, in an eerily similar prophetic warning contained in Humanae Vitae, circa 1968, stated:

"...Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone. It could well happen, therefore, that when people, either individually or in family or social life, experience the inherent difficulties of the divine law and are determined to avoid them, they may give into the hands of public authorities the power to intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife..."
By the way, G.K. Chesterton begins that treatise by stating:

"The wisest thing in the world is to cry out before you are hurt. "

Pope Paul VI on the other hand, ends Humanae Vitae by stating:

"We implore from the God of all holiness and pity an abundance of heavenly grace..."

And so I say:

Let us both cry out and pray.


Anonymous said...

Hi Willy,

Are you prescient? I just finished some readings on Idealism, Spirituality and Materialism. Your posting this piece now is probably what Jung calls synchronicity. Although there are others like me who believe that there are no accidents and that coincidences are not random. They are the results of how the individual underlying intelligence in each of us, our spirits, interact. This is what Isaac Newton once called as intelligencers.

Anyway, here's a short synopsis. Way back in the beginning, before God created the universe, nothing existed. There was only God. Matter did not exist. Then God decided to create the universe. John's Gospel talks about the Word being the only thing there was in the beginning. Genesis talks about the earth being formless and void and the Spirit of God moving over the surface of the waters. Being formless and void, the earth did not materially exist. The earth, at this point, was an idea in the Mind of God. But what of the water? There is an interpretation that proposes that "water" referred to the primordial stuff of life. Even science admits that water is the precursor of life. In other words, the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of life, meaning life was in the process of being awakened by God's Spirit.

The implication of the creation story is this: matter proceeded from idea. The precursor of matter is thought. Matter comes from Spirit. Spirit (the Word) begat matter. Idealism (God's idea begets matter) gave way to spirituality - the belief that the physical world emanates from God's Spirit and thus, to master the world, one must be spiritual. Materialism proposes that matter came first and that's all there is.

In ancient times, God was seen as living among the people. This cuts across all ancient religions, even the pagan ones. The Greek mythologies tell stories about Gods as normal inhabitants on earth. The Gods even had offsprings with humans! Genesis talks about the giants who came down and had children with humans. The very first type of spirituality was experiential. People experienced God directly. Early spirituality can be described as "consorting with spirits", including God. Life's meaning and purpose, that elusive yearning closely associated with one's relationship with God, was relatively easy to obtain. God was someone you can talk to everyday. To impose control on one's destiny and on the material world, one's spiritual life must be such that God or the gods (depending on his religion) must find favor in him.

God's (Spirit's) influence on the physical world was palpable. For instance, science teaches us that the seed holds everything it needs for a tree to grow. The ancients did not see it this way. They saw God's Spirit in everything. They felt the presence of God all over, even in the rocks and stones and knew that we have a connection to everything in the world around us through this Spirit. Life was the result of our spirits interacting with each other and with the Great Spirit of God. They saw God's intelligence, His Spirit, in the seed and it is the interaction of this Spirit with the greater Spirit of God that creates the growth.

Over time the gods somehow stopped consorting with humans and people lost the ability to see God. But spirituality was still experiential because we could still hear His word through His chosen few. This was the great age of the prophets. The Greeks and the Romans had their oracles and Kings had prophets and high priests in their courts. The Egyptian pharaohs were priest-kings.

Science radically changed man's consciousness. The rise of science came at the time when people had lost not only the ability to see God but also the ability to hear him. The oracles were all gone and priests of the existing organized religions were not prophets anymore. Instead they taught dogma. Spirituality had ceased to be experiential and this left a void in people. The meaning and purpose of life became a lifelong search. Without a direct experiential link to God, it was not easy for people to have a purpose in life. It was the dark ages. Science stepped in and science worked. Everything science taught was measureable and predictable and repeatable and people found security in that. The problem was science was teaching that matter was everything. The philosophy of seeing is believing started to dominate. Materialism held sway and continues its influence to this day.

What GK Chesterton is lamenting is this shift in spirituality. Even now, many of us find it so hard to shake the hold of materialism's philosophy - to see is to believe. Even in the face of Christ's teaching that the kingdom of heaven is within us and that we should seek the kingdom first. Christ's teachings centered on inner transformation - exactly in the realm of thoughts, ideas and beliefs. He taught us to be meek and humble and to nurture the fruit of the Spirit. He talked about love and gave hope. He taught that the mere act of asking is enough. In the old times, God promised that He will answer our prayers even before we have finished praying. Thinking the thoughts are enough for God. Jesus admonished us to "be vigilant", i.e. to watch our thoughts and St. Paul talks about "capturing all thoughts" to bend them in service to truth. Christ teaches us that ideas (from which matter comes) are more powerful than matter, that the power of God is beyond the laws of science. CS Lewis, in Pilgrim's Regress, talks about the emptiness, the hypocrisy and the phoniness of modern spirituality dominated by the influence of science's anomalous world view. So anomalous that Jesus declared that his kingdom is not of this world.

Willy, the implication is that we can do more than cry out and pray. Thoughts are things. Ideas are powerful. Matter comes from Spirit. And Jesus taught that if we have faith we can say to the mountain move and it shall be moved. Jesus is saying that the invisible power of Spirit is beyond the laws of science. And if we are all one, all in one body, then even the mere act of thinking influences the whole world. The conscious act of selecting our thoughts (being vigilant in capturing our thoughts) influences the whole human consciousness. Obviously, the more people do this, the greater the impact and the faster will it manifest in the physical world. As Gandhi puts it " Intentions have greater and wider ranging effects than the actions that follow them."

- TE

WillyJ said...

Hi TE. You got great reading there. Yes, that's the story of creationism vs. materialism, theism vs. evolution atheism, faith vs pure rationalism. In our belief, faith and reason are complementary, as we preserve both the certitude of truths known by reason alone, and the certitude of faith by revelation. Our Faith and Reason go together, as we see God both in natural revelation and divine revelation.

The collective thought process you mention might actually be combined
prayers, in a sense. I am thinking here of prayers for common intentions in spiritual unity and community with the entire church: we the militant church, the church triumphant (saints in heaven), and the church suffering (souls in purgatory). It is actually what we call the communion of saints. Yeah, indeed that can move mountains, and even much more.

ForzaMillan said...

I just got to your blog, after reading a comment you made on Sen Tatad's blog post. And then I saw this blog post that quoted GK Chesterton. I am a fan of GK! Thanks for commenting and taking to task the AdMU profs, something that this Atenean should have done, but did not and has not.

WillyJ said...

Hi Peter,
So we're both fans of the "prince of paradox". One great guy. Your son also studies in your alma mater right? I thought I've seen you there a few times. My son is now a college freshman in Ateneo, right up from prep and HS. Thanks and do drop by more often.
All for the glory of God,
- WillyJ