Friday, March 27, 2015

Essential difference between religion of the primitive and civilized man

“PRIMITIVE man believes no less firmly than the religious man of the higher civilizations in the existence of a spiritual world upon which the visible world and the life of man are dependent. Indeed, this spiritual world and the life of man are dependent. Indeed, this spiritual world is often more intensely realized and more constantly present to his mind than is the case with civilized man. He has not attained to the conception of an autonomous natural order, and consequently supernatural forces are liable to interpose themselves at every moment of his existence. At first sight the natural and the supernatural, the material and the spiritual, seem inextricably confused. Nevertheless, even in primitive nature-worship, the object of religious emotion and worship in never the natural phenomenon as such, but always the supernatural power which is obscurely felt to be present in and working through the natural object.

“The essential difference between the religion of the primitive and that of civilized man is that for the latter the spiritual world has become a cosmos, rendered intelligible by philosophy and ethical by the tradition of the world religions, whereas to the primitive it is a spiritual chaos in which good and evil, high and low, rational and irrational elements are confusedly mingled. Writers on primitive religion have continually gone astray through their attempts to reduce the spiritual world of the primitive to single principle, to find a single cause to from which the whole development may be explained and rendered intelligible.”

~Christopher Dawson: from Stages in Mankind’s Religious Experience.

+ + +

[Navajo medicine and healing are deeply tied with religious and spiritual beliefs. A young patient observes a medicine man (on the right) and a helper prepares a sandpainting as part of her healing ceremony.]

Thursday, March 5, 2015

"Secular standards and values"

“IN practice no doubt, universal education in England as in Germany and many other countries was the result either of a process of co-operation between Church and State or at least of some kind of modus vivendi between them. Nevertheless at best it was an unequal partnership: the fact that secular education is universal and compulsory, while religious education is partial and voluntary, inevitably favors the former and places the Church at a very great disadvantage in educational matters. This is not merely due to the disproportion in wealth and power of a religious minority as compared with the modern state. Even more important is the all-pervading influence of the secular standards and values which affects the whole educational system and makes the idea if an integrated religious culture seem antiquated and absurd to the politicians and the publicists and the technical experts who are the makers of public opinion.”

~Christopher Dawson: The Crisis of Western Education, Ch. 8. (1961)

"One of the chief defects of modern education"

“ONE OF THE CHIEF DEFECTS of modern education has been its failure to find an adequate method for the study of our own civilization. The old humanist education taught all that it knew about the civilization of ancient Greece and Rome, and taught little else. In the nineteenth century, this aristocratic and humanist ideal was gradually replaced by the democratic utilitarianism of compulsory state education, on the one hand, and by the ideal of scientific specialization, on the other.

“The result has been an intellectual anarchy imperfectly controlled by the crude methods if the examination system and of payment by results. The mind of the student is overwhelmed and dazed by the volume of new knowledge which is being accumulated by the labor of specialists, while the necessity for using education as a stepping-stone to a profitable career leaves little time to stop and think. And the same is true of the teacher, who has become a kind of civil servant tied to a routine over which he can have little control.

“Now the old humanist education, with all its limitations and faults, possessed something that modern education has lost. It possessed an intelligible form, owing to the fact that the classical culture which it studied was seen as a whole, not only in its literary manifestations but also in its social structure and its historical development. Modern education has lacked this formal unity, because it has never attempted to study modern civilization with the care and earnestness which humanist education devoted to classical culture. Consequently, the common background of humanist culture has been lost, and modern education finds its goal in competing specialisms.”

~Christopher Dawson: The Crisis of Western Education, Chap. IX. The Study of Western Culture.


Share This