Tag: human soul

Emotions Rampant

Emotions Rampant posted in Eleison Comments on February 9, 2019

In another interesting article from the regular bulletin of the American TFP (Tradition, Family, Property, January 4th edition), John Horvat observes and criticises a widespread phenomenon of modern society – emotions running out of control, and dominating people’s lives. Again (cf. these “Comments,” 590 of Nov. 3, 2018), from a Catholic point of view, the international TFP may be open as an organisation to more or less severe criticism (notably for by-passing the true Church), but its American bulletin has many thoughtful yet accessible articles for today’s Catholics having to live in a godless world. How Wisdom helps People Destroy the Dictatorship of the Emojis by John Horvat is one of these articles.

An “emoji” is one of those small digital images or icons used to express an idea or emotion, especially the tiny smiley or frowny faces freely available on computers and easily inserted in a text to express any one of a variety of emotions. Horvat uses emojis as a concrete example of the frequency with which emotions figure in today’s society. He argues that emotions are not bad in themselves, but they are presently playing too large a part in daily living, with disastrous results for the whole of society. When people do not want to face the reality of a world that includes hardship and suffering, then feelings prevail over facts, says Horvat, and instead of thinking they emote, so that, for instance, raw emotions fuel the anger politics that are rocking the world. Where it hurts to have to think, in order to work out why the world’s problems are as they are, on the contrary emotions make me feel good, and so I prefer to emote. But emotions have a necessarily incomplete grasp on reality. Here is why many a good wife has valuable instincts and intuitions, but she recognises that these need to be subordinated to the normally higher reasoning of her husband (not to his tyranny). And here is why our emotive politics of today are so crazy. And why the Newchurch of Vatican II and its Conciliar priests are so effeminate.

So why is reasoning superior to emotion? Because reasoning belongs to the higher part of man, to his mind and will, whereas human emotions belong to his higher and lower parts, to his passions and will. Certainly Our Lord and Our Lady had emotions. Our Lord wept over the grave of Lazarus (Jn. XI, 35). Our Lady suffered intensely when she lost her 12-year old Boy (Lk. II, 48). But just as by her reason she submitted her motherly grief to His mystery (Lk. II, 50), so He submitted 21 years later His human agony in the Garden of Gethsemane to the will of His Father in Heaven (Mt. XXVI, 39). For whereas all animals have sense appetite or passions, responding to sense stimuli from outside them, only the rational animal, man, has also the higher faculty of will which responds to intellective information fed to it by his mind. This intellective or rational dimension of man is wholly lacking to all the non-rational or brute animals.

Now nobody in his right mind accuses any non-rational animal of committing sin. At worst it is only following its instincts. This is because right and wrong are perceived only by man’s mind and performed as such by his will. That is because only by having mind and will does man have a conscience aware of sin (Jn. I, 9), making him able to sin. That is why man’s will must follow his higher reason and control his lower emotions, neither crushing them too tightly nor letting them completely go, but harnessing them in accordance with reason, with what his natural reason (Jn I, 9) tells him is right and not wrong.

It follows that if men want to sin, they will begin by dulling or obscuring their conscience, and they may well finish by denying that they have reason at all, and by affirming that animals are just as rational as they are. Anywhere in between they will let their emotions loose so that they no longer have to think, but are free to wallow in their passions. Horvat does not go this deep, but in fact this modern unleashing of emotion is part and parcel of modern man’s total war on God. God has only to get out of His own universe so that man can take His place, and do with it what he likes. Dear God, have mercy upon us!

Kyrie eleison.

Flowers Speak

Flowers Speak posted in Eleison Comments on June 2, 2012

God is infinite Being, infinite Truth, infinite Goodness, infinitely just and infinitely merciful. So teaches his Church, and the idea is grand and beautiful, so I have no objection. But then I learn that his Church also teaches that for just one mortal sin the soul can be damned for all eternity to sufferings harsh and cruel beyond all imagination, and that is not so nice. I begin to object.

For instance, I was never consulted before my parents decided to bring me into existence, nor was I consulted on the terms of the contract, so to speak, of my existence. Had I been consulted I might well have objected to such an extreme alternative between unimaginable bliss and unimaginable torment as the Church teaches, both without end. I might have accepted a rather more moderate “contract,” whereby in exchange for a shortened Heaven I would have faced the risk of only an abbreviated Hell, but I was not consulted. An endlessness of either seems to me to be out of all proportion to this brief life of mine on earth: 10, 20, 50 even 90 years are here today, gone tomorrow. All flesh is like grass – “In the morning man shall flourish . . . in the evening he shall fall, grow dry and wither” (Ps. LXXXIX, 6). Along this line of thought God seems so unjust that I seriously wonder if he really exists.

The problem obliges us to reflect. Let us suppose that God does exist; that he is as just as his Church says he is; that it is unjust to impose upon anybody a heavy burden without that person’s consent; that this life is brief, a mere puff of smoke compared with what eternity must be; that nobody can be in justice due for a terrible punishment if he has not been aware of committing a terrible crime. Then how can the supposed God be just? If he is just, then logically every soul reaching the age of reason must live long enough at least to know the choice for eternity that it is making, and the import of that choice. Yet how is that possible for instance in today’s world, where God is so universally neglected and unknown in the life of individuals, families and States?

The answer can only be that God comes before individuals, families and States, and that he “speaks” within every soul, prior to all human beings and independently of them all, so that even a soul whose religious education has been null and void is still aware that it is making a choice each day of its life, that it alone is making that choice for itself, and that the choice has enormous consequences. But once again, how is that possible, given the godlessness of a world all around us like ours today?

Because the “speaking” of God to souls is far deeper, more constant, more present and more appealing than the speaking of any human being or beings can ever be. He alone created our soul. He will continue to be creating it for every moment of its never ending existence. He is therefore closer to it at every single moment than even its parents who merely put together its body – out of material elements being sustained in existence by God alone. And the goodness of God is similarly behind and within and underneath every good thing that the soul will ever enjoy in this life, and the soul is deep down aware that all these good things are mere spin-offs from the infinite goodness of God. “Be quiet,” said St. Ignatius of Loyola to a tiny flower, “I know who you are speaking of.” The smile of a little child, the daily splendor of Nature at all times of day, music, every sky a masterpiece of art and so on – even loved with a deep love, these things tell the soul that there is something much more, or – Someone.

“In thee, O God, have I hoped, let me never be confounded” (Ps. XXX, 2).

Kyrie eleison.

Peril Eternal

Peril Eternal posted in Eleison Comments on September 17, 2011

“Why are we human beings here on earth?” an old friend just asked me. I said, of course, “To praise, love and serve God, and by so doing to save . . .” He broke in – “No, that’s not the answer I want,” he said. “What I mean is that before I came into existence, I was not, and I was not in any danger. Now that I exist I am seriously exposed to the danger of losing my soul. Why was I given, without my consent, this perillous existence which, once given, I could no longer refuse?”

Expressed in this way, the question is serious, because it casts a doubt on the goodness of God. Certainly it is God who gives to each of us life and thereby sets before us the choice which we cannot opt out of, between the steep and narrow path to Heaven and the broad and easy road to Hell (Mt. VII,13–14). Certainly the enemies of the salvation of our souls, the world and the flesh and the Devil, are dangerous, because the sad fact is that the majority of souls fall into Hell at the end of their lives on earth (Mt.XX,16). Then how can it be fair for me to find myself in such danger by no choice of my own?

The answer is surely that if the danger was in no way by my own fault, then indeed life might be a poisoned gift. But if often the danger is in good part by my own fault, and if the very same free-will that when used wrongly enables me to fall into Hell, also enables me when used rightly to enter upon an eternity of unimaginable bliss, then not only is life not a poisoned gift, but it is a magnificent offer of a glorious reward out of all proportion to the relatively slight effort which it will have cost me on earth to avoid the danger and make the right use of my free-will (Is. LXIV,4).

But the questioner might object that none of those three enemies of his salvation are his fault:— “The world which incites us to worldliness and concupiscence of the eyes is all around us from cradle to grave, and can only be escaped at death. The weakness of the flesh goes with original sin, and goes back to Adam and Eve. I wasn’t around then! The Devil also existed long before I was born, and is running wild in modern times!”

To which one can reply that the three enemies are still all too liable to be our own fault. As for the world, we have to be in it, but we do not have to be of it (Jn. XVII,14–16). It depends on us whether we love the things of this world, or prefer to them the things of Heaven. How many prayers in the Missal ask for the grace to prefer the things of Heaven! As for the flesh, the more we flee from its concupiscence within us, the more it can lose its sting, but which of us can say that he has by no personal sin of his own strengthened the concupiscence and the danger, instead of weakening it? And as for the Devil, his power to tempt is strictly controlled by Almighty God, and God’s own Scripture assures us that God offers us the grace necessary to overcome the temptations he allows (I Cor.X,13). In brief, what St Augustine says of the Devil applies also to the world and the flesh – they are like a dog chained up which can bark but not bite, unless one chooses to go too close.

So there is indeed an inescapable degree of spiritual danger in human life, but it depends on us, with God’s grace, to control that danger, and the reward is out of this world (I Cor. II,9).

Kyrie eleison.

Few Elect?

Few Elect? posted in Eleison Comments on January 22, 2011

Why is it so seemingly difficult to save one’s soul? Why – as we are told – are relatively few souls saved in comparison with the number of souls damned? Since God wishes for all souls to be saved (I Tim.II, 4), why did he not make it somewhat easier, as he surely could have done?

The swift and simple answer is that it is not that difficult to save one’s soul. Part of the agony of souls in Hell is their clear knowledge of how easily they could have avoided damnation. Damned non-Catholics might say, “I knew there was something to Catholicism, but I chose never to go into the question because I could see ahead that I would have to change my way of life.” (Winston Churchill once said that every man runs into the truth at some time in his life, but most men turn the other way.) Damned Catholics might say, “God gave me the Faith, and I knew that all I needed was to make a good confession, but I reckoned it was more convenient to put it off, and so I died in my sins . . .” Every soul in Hell knows that it is there by its own fault, by its own choice. God is not to be blamed. In fact looking back on their lives on earth, they see clearly how much he did to try to stop them from throwing themselves into Hell, but they freely chose their own fate, and God respected that choice . . . However, let us delve a little deeper.

Being infinitely good, infinitely generous and infinitely happy, God chose – he was in no way obliged – to create beings that would be capable of sharing in his happiness. Since he is pure spirit (Jn. IV, 24), such beings would have to be spiritual and not just material, such as animal, vegetable or mineral. Hence the creation of angels with no matter in them at all, and men, with a spiritual soul in a material body. But that very spirit by which angels and men are capable of sharing in divine happiness necessarily includes reason and free-will, indeed it is by the free-will freely choosing God that it deserves to share in his happiness. But how could that choice of God be truly free if there was no alternative to choose that would turn away from God? What merit does a boy have in choosing to buy a volume of Shakespeare if there is only Shakespeare for sale in the bookstore? And if the bad alternative exists, and if the free-will is real and not just a pretence, how are there not going to be angels or men who will choose what is not good?

The question may still be asked, how can God have foreseen to allow the majority of souls (Mt.VII, 13–14; XX, 16) to incur the terrible punishment of refusing his love? Answer, the more terrible Hell is, the more certain it is that to every man alive God offers grace and light and strength enough to avoid it, but, as St Thomas Aquinas explains, the majority of men prefer the present and known joys of the senses to the future and unknown joys of Paradise. Then why did God attach such strong pleasures to the senses? Partly no doubt to ensure that parents would have children to populate his Heaven, but also surely to make all the more meritorious any human being’s putting the pursuit of pleasure in this life beneath the true delights of the next life, which are ours for the wanting! We need only want them violently enough (Mt.XI, 12)!

God is no mediocre God, and to souls loving him he wishes to offer no mediocre Paradise.

Kyrie eleison.

Modern Art – I

Modern Art – I posted in Eleison Comments on April 17, 2010

Why is modern art so ugly? Does it have to be so ugly? Cannot artists of today do something nice for a change? And why, when they do something nice, is it normally second- or third-rate as art, sentimental, somehow not authentic? Such recurring questions are raised by a painter like Van Gogh, considered last week, who was on his way to modern art. The questions are easy to answer if God and the human soul are for real. They have no reasonable answer if the spiritual God and the spiritual soul are fictions of self-deceiving man.

If God is the invisible but real “Father Almighty, Creator of all things visible and invisible,” then he created the invisible human soul, most intimately united at conception to a visible body to constitute every human being that ever was or will be. His purpose in creating creatures with a spiritual reason and therefore free-will is his own extrinsic (not intrinsic) glory, which increases with every human being who uses that free-will so to love and serve God in this life as to deserve at death to be unimaginably happy, by giving to God glory without end in the next life.

And how does a man love and serve God in this life? By obeying his commandments (Jn. XV, 10) which constitute a moral framework of good and evil for all human acts, a framework which men can defy but not evade. If they do defy it, they will put themselves in more or less disharmony with God, self and neighbor, because God created that framework not arbitrarily, but in perfect harmony with his own nature and the human nature bound by him to act within it.

Now art might be defined in its broadest sense as any confection of materials (e.g. paints, words, musical notes, etc.) over which man takes special trouble to communicate to other men what he has in his mind and heart. So if mind and heart belong to a soul which at any given moment must be in a state of greater or lesser harmony with that moral framework set by God for all its acts, then any artistic product proceeding from that soul is bound to reflect the objective harmony or disharmony within it. And now we are in a position to answer our original questions.

Modern arts are so ugly because all modern souls belong to a global society falling daily deeper into apostasy, such that a huge and influential number of these souls are at war with God, consciously or unconsciously. The artistic products of souls immersed in such an environment can only reflect their internal disharmony with God, self and neighbor, which is why they are ugly. Only from any genuine harmony still remaining in their souls can anything genuinely beautiful proceed. Wilfully “nice” art proceeds from a disharmonious wish to feign harmony, which is why the effect will always be in some way false or sentimental, not authentic, and second- or third-rate as art.

On the other hand if God, and the immortal soul coming from him and due to go to him, are mere fictions, then there is no reason why beauty should not be ugly and ugliness beautiful. That is the mind-set of modern artists, but from the moment that I recognize any ugly artifact of theirs to be ugly, I am implying that there is a framework, not theirs, which they are defying.

Kyrie eleison.

Van Gogh’s Popularity

Van Gogh’s Popularity posted in Eleison Comments on April 10, 2010

At the recent exhibition of the modern Dutch artist, Vincent Van Gogh, soon to close at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, there have been continual queues of people waiting for hours to get in. How is such popularity to be explained? Certainly Van Gogh is modern without being too modern, a combination that appeals to many souls anxious today to make some sense of the crazy world around them, but surely there is also in him an even more attractive combination – he is religious without being religious – religion for apostates!

He was born in Holland in 1853, the eldest son of a Protestant pastor. For nearly three quarters of his short life all he thought of was giving himself to the service of religion, because only at the age of 27 did he discover his outstanding talent and vocation as an artist. However, from then on he devoted himself with a religious intensity to the mastery of drawing and painting, so that he would be able to express in art what he had found himself unable to express in any outwardly religious form. He said, “In all of Nature, in trees for instance, I see expression and a soul.”

He made that soul almost tangible in the painting chosen by the Royal Academy for their Exhibition flyer, “Hospital at St. Remy.” Gnarled tree trunks point upwards to their dark foliage which crowds over the bright yellow hospital building below, and interlocks with the dark blue sky above. The few human figures seem insignificant amidst a whirling dynamic of Nature, all the more dramatic for the picture’s brilliant colour-scheme, typical for Van Gogh. The same dynamic is still more visible in his famous painting,”Starry Night” (not included in this Exhibition), where landscape, cypress-trees, mountains, stars and sky are all locked together in a wild, rhythmic, yellow and violet dance, seeming to make the whole cosmos whirl.

Both paintings date from Van Gogh’s intensely productive last five years, between his move to Paris in early 1886 and his death in France in the summer of 1890. One may not like modern art, one may not like Van Gogh, but nobody can deny that his paintings from this period represent a profoundly individual and human reaction to what Wordsworth called “something far more deeply interfused” in the world of Nature that surrounds us human beings. What else is “art”? Only, whereas at the beginning of the 19th century that “something interfused” had inspired the English poet to “reflect in tranquillity,” on the contrary by the end of that apostatizing century the Dutch artist, who had also left overt religion behind him, found beauty but little peace, which makes him that much more sympathetic to our own still more restless age.

Alas, Van Gogh paid a heavy price for recognizing the prime movement in Nature without identifying the Prime Mover. The movement without the motionless Mover, the fierce dynamism without the King of Peace, ended by overwhelming him, and he died of a self-inflicted gun-wound. Divine Lord, have mercy, have mercy, on millions and millions of souls who sense you and need you, but cannot – or will not – find you. You alone know just how dangerous is their religionless religion without you!

Kyrie eleison.