Tag: Humanities

Vocations – Wherefrom?

Vocations – Wherefrom? posted in Eleison Comments on October 2, 2010

After following over tens of years a variety of part-time and full-time courses in the Humanities at two universities in major cities of an “advanced” Western nation, Robert (as I will call him) finds himself in substantial agreement with the criticism of modern universities that appeared in a recent “Eleison Comments” (EC 158), but he has an interesting objection that goes one, or two, steps further. Let us begin with his live experience of today’s university “system.”

A few years ago, after seemingly endless years of study, Robert did finally obtain his Doctorate in history, but only just, and in such a way as to disqualify him from ever getting a job as a university professor. The politically correct system, he says, had successfully defended itself from his “extreme right” ideas. “The integrist had been muzzled, democracy had been saved. The imbecile had thrown himself in front of the steamroller, and he had been duly crushed, as easily as Winston in George Orwell’s famous novel, “1984.”

“Given my experience,” he writes, “I would recommend no youngster to study Humanities at any University, still less my own children. Let them rather choose some manual trade or advanced technical training, the ideal being to work for oneself, in the country or at most in a small town, so as to avoid today’s enslavement to salary.” Had he his life to live over again, he says, that is what he would do, because as a Catholic intellectual he feels that his action has been limited to giving witness.

However, Robert has a serious objection to this solution of preferring some manual trade or advanced technical training. In brief, engineers may be better paid than philosophers, but the clip-clear nature of their work – on-off, zero-one – will disincline them to take any interest in the human, all too human, complications of religion or politics. Ideally, one might be a technician by day and a poet by night, but in reality it is difficult to lead a life divided between such opposites, says Robert, and a man will normally lose interest in one or the other.

He observes the same tension within the Society of St Pius X school in his part of the world. In theory the Humanities there have pride of place, but in practice boys and staff tend to go for the Sciences because of the better job openings. The youngsters coming out of the school are correspondingly less well equipped to understand in depth the problems of the Conciliar Church or the modern world, as it seems to Robert. End of his testimony.

The problem is grave. For instance, the SSPX schools are under pressure to incline towards the sciences, but future priests surely need rather a good formation in the Humanities, because souls do not function on clip-clear one-zero, on-off. Yet if vocations do not come from the SSPX’s own schools, where will they come from? How are things spiritual to be protected in a whole world giving itself over to things material? How are boys’ souls to be oriented towards the priesthood? I have observed that what is decisive in many cases is their father taking his religion seriously. Read in the Old Testament the book of Tobias (neither long nor difficult to understand) to see how God rewards fathers through their sons.

Kyrie eleison.

“University” Wasteland

“University” Wasteland posted in Eleison Comments on July 24, 2010

Several years ago when I wrote that girls should not go to university, a number of readers were shocked. But when I listen today to a young Professor who recently spent six years teaching English Literature in an English “university” (not the same thing as a true university!), it seems I should add that boys should not go either. Or they should at least think very hard before going, and their parents should think very hard before shelling out the expensive fees. Here, in order, is what the Professor observed, what he sees as its causes, and what he sees as its remedies.

In the “university” where he taught, he observed no pursuit of truth nor education for truth. “Language is a game independent of reality, producing its own artefacts. The students are made to feel that everything is relative, there are no standards, values, nor moral framework nor moral reference. The sciences are infected with an evolutionism which opposes “science” to religion. The “Humanities” are degraded by a Freudian interpretation making everything centre on s-x. Professors tell students to have a s-x life because “it is good for them.” These “universities” advertize their night life, and almost praise the sin against nature. They are utterly s-xualized.

“As for the professors, many recognize that there is a deep-down problem, but many continue to play the game. They are all Marxizing, if not Marxists. They teach as though all authority is stifling, all tradition oppressive. Evolution rules. As for the students, many more of them than one would think are yearning for something, but they are no longer looking to their “university” for truth. If they want a “Degree,” it is only to get a job, and if they seek a good “Degree,” it is only to get a better-paying job. Rarely will they discuss ideas.”

So what are the CAUSES of the university being turned into such a purely utilitarian processor of information to serve the established system? The Professor says, “ The basic cause is the loss of God, resulting from several centuries of war on the Incarnation. Then education no longer means providing a truth or morality to live by, but rather developing one’s potential to be different and better than anyone else. Into the vacuum left by Truth moves pop culture and the Frankfurt School, with their liberation from all authority. Into the vacuum left by God moves the State, which sees “universities” as a source of technocrats and engineers. Absolutes are of no interest, except one: absolute skepticism.”

As for the REMEDIES the Professor says, “These “universities” can hardly get out of the trap they have fallen into. To learn something genuinely useful a boy is better off at home, or talking to priests or going on a Retreat. Faithful Catholics must do things for themselves, and band together to re-build institutions of their own, starting maybe with summer schools. The Humanities must be restored, because they deal with the basics of human existence, what is right, good and true. The natural sciences, specific and derivative, must remain secondary. They cannot take priority of the Humanities. Let parents send their boys to these “universities” to get a job, but not to learn anything truly useful.”

“The loss of God” – all is said.

Kyrie eleison.

Wagnerian Redemption

Wagnerian Redemption posted in Eleison Comments on September 1, 2007

Teaching some Humanities to pre-seminarians, I have again chosen to introduce them to Richard Wagner, German composer of famous music-dramas, and one of the most interesting characters of modern times. Straddling most of the 19th century (1813–1883), he was certainly not the greatest man of his time, but he was surely its most comprehensive artist. For breadth and depth of his world-vision, he must rank alongside Dante and Shakespeare, but not for truth, because he held up the mirror to an age falling away from God. Here was his greatness, and his misery.

Here was his greatness, because there is no question that he had a real sense of the heights and depths of man, crying out for religion. His misery lay in the fact that he came up with a non-religious solution to that religious need. However his substitute solution has been enormously popular to this day, precisely because he seems to satisfy that religious need while leaving the real God, as modern man wishes, out of the picture. Hence the veritable cult of Wagner by “Wagnerians,” for whom his music-dramas can act as a substitute religion.

What is that solution of his? Basically, the redemption of a fallen world by love between man and woman. In each of the four great works of his maturity, “The Ring,” “Tristan and Isolde,” “The Mastersingers” and (with a slight variation) “Parsifal,” the basic plot is the same. Up against, primarily, a social structure and authority unable to adapt and therefore stranded in unreality, and up against, secondarily, a kind of underworld also resisting, there arises a hero to love and win a heroine, united with whom in redemptive love he brings about a revolution which, through their love, rescues society and restores reality.

In other words, the authority figure or figures are ineffective and, if not themselves villains, at least seconded by villains, whereas if only the boy can find his girl, he and she will make everything happy ever after. Does anyone recognize the formula of numberless Hollywood films? Of course a good wife is a tower of strength to her husband and children (see Proverbs Chapter 31), but to rest the salvation of the world upon her shoulders is asking altogether too much – how long are households patterned primarily on Hollywood apt to last? Often not long.

Of course Wagner is not the sole source of Hollywood plots, but he is the main origin of a mass of its sub-Wagnerian music, and there is no denying the huge influence of that music and of Wagner’s mythology on modern times. Boys and girls, take heed. Wagner is a great musician, but there is no substitute for the true God. People in authority are not automatically antiquated, or villains; and neither of you is the complete solution to the other’s problems. You both need Our Lord Jesus Christ and the fullness of his Catholic Truth, and his sacraments.

Kyrie eleison.