Friday, June 20, 2014

"The world of divine power and mystery"

“THE object of religion essentially transcends human life and the human way of life. Over against the world of human experience and social behavior there stands the world of divine power and mystery, which is conceived by the primitive no less than by the advanced theist as essentially creative and the ultimate source of all power.”

~Christopher Dawson: Religion and Culture.

Monday, June 16, 2014

"No human power can stop this progress to the abyss"

“BUT THIS IS JUST THE TRUTH which the modern world has denied. It has put its trust in the “arm of flesh”; it has believed the word of man rather than the Word of God. It has reversed the whole hierarchy of spiritual values so that our civilization has been turned backwards and upside down, with its face toward darkness and nonentity and its back to the sun of truth and the source of being. For a short time—whether we reckon it in decades or centuries is of small importance—it remained precariously skating on the thin ice of rationalism and secular humanism. Now the ice has broken and we are being carried down the flood, though we may delude ourselves that the forces that have been released are our own creation and serve our will to power.

“Is it possible to reverse this process? No human power can stop this progress to the abyss. It can only come about by a profound movement of change or conversion which brings the human spirit once more into a vital relation with the spirit of God.”

~Christopher Dawson: The Judgment of the Nations.



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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Birzer: "Dawson’s Christendom and the Catholic Intellectual Life"

Dawson’s Christendom and the Catholic Intellectual Life
by Bradley J. Birzer

"As it turned out, the Christendom trilogy served as the last great work of English-Welsh historian and man of letters Christopher Dawson (1889-1970).  Sort of. The trilogy derived, originally, from lectures Dawson had delivered while teaching at Harvard University between 1958 and 1962. As desired, the Christendom trilogy would consist of The Formation of Christendom (1967); The Dividing of Christendom (1965); and The Return to Christian Unity. (1) In the broad, each volume represented one of three great periods of the Christian world: the ancient-medieval nexus; the Reformation and Counter Reformation; and the Church in the age of democracy, nationalisms, and ideologies.


"Though The Formation of Christendom is technically volume one of Christendom, it came out two years later than volume two, The Dividing of Christendom. The idea to publish the lectures as a trilogy came to Dawson in 1963.  His publisher, Frank Sheed, readily agreed.The only question was whether to publish them separately as a three-part work or immediately as a three-volume set. Sheed wanted to get them out as soon as possible, as he hoped the books would serve as the basis of discussions for the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). Not unreasonably, Sheed had believed that Dawson—along with a number of other Christian Humanists, such as Jacques Maritain and Etienne Gilson—would serve as the intellectual touchstone and fountainhead for the council and its important deliberations and reforms. After all, important figures such as Romano Guardini had been calling for reformation of the liturgy since the 1920s."

• Continue reading this article at Catholic World Report

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Why Dawson Opposed Our Bourgeois Mind

By R. Jared Staudt

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Mt 6:24).

"This Gospel passage provides us with proper framework to evaluate Christopher Dawson’s controversial essay, “Catholicism and the Bourgeois Mind.” Dawson is not an economist and is not writing an economic treatise. As an historian of culture and ideas, he is criticizing a particular mindset or spirit which has fundamentally shaped and governed the modern world. Dawson’s central thesis throughout his corpus is that religion is the very heart of culture. He recognizes that today our heart is not religion, but rather wealth. The problem is not capitalist economics, but rather the mind or soul with which it is practiced and the lack of a genuine religious framework to guide it. For Dawson, the bourgeois soul worships wealth and earthly prosperity above God, and thus practices a new secular religion."

• Continue reading, Why Dawson Opposed Our Bourgeois Mind

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

"Every culture"

"Every culture is like a plant. It must have its roots in the earth, and for sunlight it needs to be open to the spiritual. At the present moment we are busy cutting its roots and shutting out all light from above."

~Christopher Dawson

Sunday, June 1, 2014

"Bourgeois culture"

“THE devastated areas of industrial England and the cancerous growth of the suburbs are not merely offensive to the aesthetic sense, they are symptoms of a social disease and spiritual failure. The victory of the bourgeois civilization has made England rich and powerful, but at the same time it has destroyed almost everything that made life worth living. It has undermined the natural foundations of our national life, so that the whole social structure is in danger of ruin.

“Looked at from this point of view the distinctive feature of the bourgeois culture is its urbanism. It involves the divorce of man from nature and from the life of the earth. It turns the peasant into a minder of machines and the yeoman into a shopkeeper, until ultimately rural life becomes impossible and the very face of nature is changed by the destruction of the countryside and the pollution of the earth and the air and the waters”

~Christopher Dawson: from Catholicism and the Bourgeois Mind.  

Hart: Christopher Dawson and the History We Are Not Told

by Jeffrey Hart

THE FIRST impression one has upon opening a book by Christopher Dawson is of what can be called the romance of learning, a romance experienced as an independent aesthetic category apart from the substance of that learning. We experience here the aesthetic appeal of sheer erudition, the sort of excitement that pervades Montaigne’s Essays, Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy, Browne’s Religio Medici, and many passages in Paradise Lost. It is the special aesthetic appeal of Old Books, an appeal that Walter Pater and T. S. Eliot knew well how to exploit.

Dawson did not publish until he was forty, but from early youth, he was a man of books -thousands of volumes of them in various languages. You encounter in Dawson names you have never heard of, connections and comparisons you have never seen before, scholarly vistas unthought of suddenly opening before you. His erudition, however, works in the service of a large central project: recovering the continuities of Western culture and reshaping in a dramatic way our sense of the history of Western civilization.

As an historian, Dawson radically revises our sense of the continuity of Western culture, but within that continuity, its vicissitudes and heroisms. For the ordinary educated consciousness, what happened in Western Europe after the collapse of the Roman order tends to be a blank page labelled “the dark ages.” The period from the fifth to the tenth centuries was indeed characterized by social chaos, roving bands of pillagers, Norse invasions, but as Dawson makes clear, there were heroic continuities, an enormous effort on the part of beleaguered communities to preserve and add to the inheritance of religion, culture, and learning and to provide the basis for a revival of civilized order.

• Continue reading Christopher Dawson and the History We Are Not Told

Olsen: Christopher Dawson's Christian View of History



Dr. Glenn Olsen: Christopher Dawson's Christian View of History

The Achievent of Christopher Dawson

Fr. David Knowles, Cambridge Professor of Medieval History, wrote these words about Christopher Dawson in an obituary at the time of the latter's death on May 25, 1970:

The death of Christopher Dawson, in his 81st year, will probably pass unheeded by many of those who are not forty years old. He had left England for America twelve years ago─and what twelve years those have been!─and for some years before he went and since his return he had been, as it were, incommunicado, partly through choice, but more on account of weak health. But to those who were young, or not so old, in the late 1920s and the 1930s he will always remain as a master, indeed as a prophet. His vast learning, his faultless scholarship, were at the service of a mind that did not fear to take the broadest view of history and religion, yet which never turned history into meta-history, and never imposed thought-patterns upon the story of the living past.

His origins and background seemed "improbable" enough to those who knew him only in middle life. The slight figure and gentle voice gave one the fear that a gust of wind might sweep him out of sight, and his frail, if striking, appearance, his weak health, and his retiring, even shy disposition kept him away from any form of display or r├ęclame, and indeed sometimes kept at a distance those whom he would probably have wished to welcome. In fact, he was the son of a soldier, Lieut. Colonel H.P. Dawson, who was also the squire of Hartlington Hall, near Skipton. He was educated at Winchester, a school which has produced more "improbable" alumni than most, and at Trinity College, Oxford. It was there that his boyhood friendship with Mr. E.I. Watkin matured into a kinship of mind. He was received into the Church in 1914, a few years before Ronald Knox, and for the rest of his life was to be, not precisely a Church historian or a theologian, but a cultural historian of the people of God, who held that religion, and not economics, was the mainspring of man's life.

Indeed, his whole corpus of writings might have been collected as an Augustinian City of God today. Just as Augustine saw the Christians Church sheltered in the Roman Empire and making its own the thought of Greece, so Dawson saw the Church of yesterday and today as the inheritor of all that was best in earlier civilizations, and as the transmitter of the legacy of Israel and Greece and Rome to the new Europe that took the place of the classical world.

His first major work, The Age of the Gods, was hailed by Dean Inge as a masterpiece of wide and impartial learning, and the next book, The Making of Europe, drew the attention of scholars and students to the epoch between Constantine and Gregory VII that is far more familiar to historians now than it was in 1930. In a sense he never surpassed those two books; the steady stream that followed, Progress and Religion, The Spirit of the Oxford Movement, Medieval Religion, Christianity and the New Age, Religion and Culture, Religion and the Rise of Western Culture, The Reality of Christian Culture, The Dividing of Christendom, and The Formation of Christendom (his last work), are all variations of the same great theme. For some twenty years his voice was heard in many places, and he adorned whatever he touched. His essay on Augustine's"City of God" in A Monument to St. Augustine (1930), and that on England in The English Way (1933) are small masterpieces that remain as valuable now as when they were written, and the same can be said of his collection of Medieval Essays (1954)....He was elected to the British Academy in 1943, and he delivered the Gifford Lectures at Edinburgh in 1947-8, but though he lived for a time at Boars Hill he never returned to a teaching post in his own university, which he would have greatly graced. In 1958 he was chosen to be the first holder of the chair Roman Catholic Studies in Harvard University, from which he retired in 1962.

He lived long enough to see a wide swing away from the intellectual pattern that he loved. Pre-eminently a historian of culture, he saw each phase of cultural history not as one valid and authentic only for its representatives, but as a reflection of one and the same human spirit in its aspirations and achievements, all of which had a legacy and lesson for their successors and for ourselves. He lived to see his life-line weakened by the eclipse of the classical tradition and the emergence of an existentialist and relativist cast of thought. The disappearance of the Latin liturgy and the Gregorian chant, and the virtual loss to Catholic worship of so many of the prayers and hymns that were the creation, not of a maligned Tridentine piety, but of centuries of Christian Europe, struck at much that he had presented as a precious legacy held on trust.

~From The Tablet (London), June 6, 1970.

“Sociologists have abandoned the attempt to create a pure science of society”

“SOCIOLOGY is the youngest of the sciences, and there are still many who question its right to be considered a science at all. It is but a century since August Comte announced the advent of the new science that was to be the keystone of the scientific edifice and the crown of man’s intellectual achievement, and though the last hundred years have seen a great increase of interest in social questions and an enormous production of sociological and semi-sociological literature, there is still little prospect of the realization of his ideal. In fact, there has been, in some respects, a distinct retrogression from the position that had been reached in the middle of the last century. Sociology no longer possesses a clearly defined programme and method; it has become a vague term which covers a variety of separate subjects. Sociologists have abandoned the attempt to create a pure science of society and have directed themselves to the study of practical social questions.”

~Christopher Dawson: Sociology as a Science (1934)

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