Repeat of a 2011 Post: Truth and Falsity of Modernism

Modernism is true in that it tried to get to the Person of Christ beyond the reductionism of just doctrine. It is false in that it dipped into a subjectivism and lost the reality of Christ in the self as consciousness. Christ was reduced to an internal sentiment and all religion to a psychology of vital immanentism. The distinction is so delicate that Ratzinger at his best in affirming that the self becomes Christ (Revelation as Person) by the conversion and therefore reception Christ into self (faith) was accused of Modernism by Michael Schmaus.
This understanding of faith as conversion away from self in order to receive and be transformed into Christ as subject and therefore take on a relational anthropology is the Second Vatican Council (GS #24). This conversion takes place in the interchange of subjectivities (Christ and the believers), but it is not subjectivism and the non-reality of relativism. Rather, it is supreme realism. The supreme created reality – being – that reason craves is the self as going out of self experienced in the act of transcendence).Therefore, Modernism had its true side, but dangerous in its falsity. Pius X providentially stopped the proliferation of the falsity of modernism while giving the Church a chance to develop the spirituality of Opus Dei, the theology of De Lubac and Joseph Ratzinger and the phenomenological metaphysics of Karol Wojtyla. All of this has conspired with a technology of universal communication to give us the greatest possibility to restart a global culture with a “new trajectory of thinking” (BXVI “Caritas in Veritate #53) built on this relational anthropology to create the “new civilization of love.”

I Repost “A Personal Aside on St. Pius X – 2007”

Pius X arrested Modernism until it could be put on the right track in Vatican II. Modernism is the summation of all heresy since it evaporates reality into an immanentist subjectivism and reduces all religion to a “vital immanence,” “a movement of the heart… a sense.” John Paul II commented: “In our own century too the Magisterium has revisited the theme on a number of occasions, warning against the lure of rationalism. Here the pronouncements of Pope Saint Pius X are pertinent, stressing as they did that at the basis of Modernism were philosophical claims which were phenomenist, agnostic and immanentist.”

Pascendi Dominici Gregis unmasked this atheism that, from its negative side, reduced the capacity of human reason to only sensible phenomena thus marginalizing the reality of God, the soul, and the absolute; and, from the positive side, positing God, the soul and the absolute as “originating in a need for the divine…beneath consciousness… in the subconsciouosness, where also it root lies hidden and undetected.” The noxious danger of Modernism is the substitution of the ontological reality of the person by a psychological subjectivism, and therefore, relativism.

This action of St. Pius X, prescient and courageous, gave the Church time – some 50 years – to distinguish what was absolutely correct in Modernism as a working of the Spirit, from what was catastrophically destructive. The experience and suffering imposed by two world wars and the persecution of two ideological behemoths in Nazism and Marxism intervened and initiated a period of intense suffering for love by some. Such suffering intensifies intellectual acuity. Concretely, it gave time to develop theologian-philosophers such as Marie-Dominique Chenu, Yves Congar, Henri de Lubac, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Karol Wojtyla and Joseph Ratzinger as well as ascetical phenomena such as Opus Dei’s experiential incarnation of the universal call to sanctity in the world in the person of St. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer. Opus Dei was purified like silver under the Marxism of Spain the 1930s. The subjectivism which Modernism was espousing morphed into the subjectivity of the ontological “I” as believer which became the defining center of the Second Vatican Council. As Cardinal Karol Wojtyla wrote in his “Sources of Renewal:” The “enrichment of faith” that was sought in the Council was not “to answer questions like ‘What should men believe,?’ ‘What is the real meaning of this or that truth of faith?’ and so on, but rather to answer the more complex question: ‘What does it mean to be a believer, a Catholic and a member of the Church?’”

Joseph Ratzinger was suspected of Modernism by Michael Schmaus who rejected the doctrinal part of his “habilitation” thesis. He recalls: “Michael Schmaus, who had perhaps also heard annoying rumors from some in Freising concerning the modernity of my theology, saw in these theses not at all a faithful rendering of Bonaventure’s thought (however, to this day I still affirm the contrary) but a dangerous modernism that had to lead to the subjectivization of the concept of revelation.” What were “these theses?”

End of story is what actually took place during the Council. In response to a question by Peter Seewald in “Salt of the Earth,” then-Cardinal Ratzinger remarked: “The Council Fathers did not come together with the intention simply of adopting ready-made texts and, so to speak, rubber –stamping them but , in accord with their office, of struggling to find the word that had to be said in that hour. There was the idea that we had to take the task in hand ourselves, not in order to turn the faith upside down, but, on the contrary, to serve it properly. In this sense, [Cardinal] Frings’ introductory speech (which had points in common with that of Cardinal Lienart of Lille) actually put into words the common awareness already present among the Fathers.”

So what did you write in this speech?

“The very first one was not written by me, nor was it a speech in the strict sense. The situation was that proposals had already been worked out in Rome for the composition of the Curia, the commissions. And the expectation was that there would be an immediate vote on the basis of those proposed lists. Now, many of the Fathers didn’t want that. Then both Cardinal Lienart and Cardinal Frings rose to their feet and said that we cannot simply vote at this time, that we have to get in contact with one another in order to find out who is suitable for what, that the elections have to be postponed. That was the first drumbeat at the beginning of the Council….
“The second thing… was that, concretely, when the text on revelation was to be proposed for discussion, Cardinal Frings – and there, admittedly, I did play a part – explained that the text as it was then worded was not an adequate starting point. It was, he said, necessary to start from the ground up, to rework the document within the council itself. That really sounded the alarm. It was what really first led to the saying that we will rework the texts ourselves.

“In the third speech, which has become famous, the subject was the necessity of reforming the methods of the Holy Office and the need for a transparent procedure there. Those are the speeches that stuck in the mind of the public….

“There was a very strong desire among the Council Fathers really to venture something new and to leave behind the habitual scholastic framework, also to risk a new freedom. That went from South America to Australia….

“I cannot recall the individual sentences you cited, but it is correct that I was of the opinion that scholastic theology, in the form it had come to have, was no longer an instrument for bringing faith into the contemporary discussion. It had to get out of its armor; it also had to face the situation of the present in a new language, in a new openness. So a greater freedom also had to arise in the Church…. On the whole it was an awareness that could be noticed all across the Church, an awareness that was connected with the feeling of emergence in the postwar period – and with the hope that now, at last, a new hour of Christianity was also possible.”

Conclusion: Perhaps the purified Modernism (that is the subject-person as ontological relation), that is Vatican II, is what we find in Gaudium et spes #24, which says:

“Furthermore, the Lord Jesus, when praying to the Father ‘that they may all be one… even as we are one’ (Jn. 17, 21-22), has opened up new horizons closed to human reason by implying that there is a certain parallel between the union existing among the divine persons and the union of the sons of God in truth and love. It follows, the, that if man is the only creature on earth that God has wanted for its own sake, man can fully discover his true self only in a sincere giving of himself.”

This is the Magisterium’s Christological anthropology awaiting the new metaphysic that John Paul II and Benedict XVI have been giving it for the past 28 years as “the new evangelization.”

Etienne Gilson to Henri de Lubac [later Cardinal] (July 21, 1965) Re: MODERNISM


“For every Saint Thomas and a few others like him, who magnificently destroyed the obstacle [rationalism], there have been hundreds of low-flying ‘rationalists’ who foundered on it…. “This is what is frightening: orthodoxy in the hands of her destroyers. The tragedy of modernism was that the rotten theology promulgated by its opponents was in large part responsible for its errors. Modernism was wrong, but its repression was undertaken by men who were also wrong, whose pseudo-theology made a modernist reaction inevitable. “I see redemption only in a Thomist theology as you perceive it, in the company of Saint Augustine, Saint Bonaventure and the great theologians of the East: they are all welcome because, despite unavoidable philosophical differences, they all try to draw an intellectus from the same Faith.” April 1, 1964: “When I quote them Saint Thomas on the Faith, they accuse me of fideism. NO! Not of fideism, but ‘leaning dangerously toward fideism.’ I never respond to them. My great strength, alas! Is that I am not a priest. Had Maritain and I been monks or priests, neither of us would have been able to write the hundredth part of what we have written. We would have been, as they say, crucified. But I have nothing to teach you on that score… Nonetheless, there will have to be a new edition of Surnaturel” (H. de Lubac “At the Service of the Church” Communio Books – Ignatius (1993

 Consider the above in the light of the Ratzinger remarks posted on August 21, 2017:

Modernism: Ratzinger

Levels of Teaching:

The text (Instruction on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian) also offers different forms of binding which arise from different levels of magisterial teaching. It states – perhaps for the first time with such clarity – that there are magisterial decisions which can not be and are not intended to be the last word on the matter as such, but are a substantial anchorage in the problem and are first and foremost an expression of pastoral prudence, a sort of provisional disposition. Their core remains valid, but the individual details influenced by the circumstances at the time may need further rectification.

            “In this regard one can refer to the statements of the Popes during the last century on religious freedom as well as the anti-Modernist decisions at the beginning of this century, especially the decisions of the Biblical Commission of that time As a warning cry against hasty and superficial adaptations they remain fully justified; a person of the stature of Johann Baptist Metz has said, for example, that the anti-Modernity decisions of the Church rendered a great service in keeping her from sinking into the liberal-bourgeois world. But the details of the determinations of their contents were later superseded once they had carried out their pastoral duty at a particular moment.”[1]

[1] J. Ratzinger, “Theology is not the Private Idea of Theologians,” The Wanderer August 2, 1990 (Reprinted from L’Osservatore Romano [English] July 2, 1990.


Radicalized Christianity as Answer to Islam

The attacks in Barcelona are part of a growing world-wide war

“Islam stands as a judgment on the nations. It also stands as a judgment on thought itself.”

If this be true, then both East and West must convert to the pristine unity of the early Christians [identity with Christ Himself], or the world will become Muslim. The Church was one during the whole first millennium and split at the beginning of second (1054). We are not at the crossroads of the radical recovery and identification with Jesus Christ, mind and heart.

Our frustration: In the Muslim, there is no appeal to reason. But there is appeal to the text of the Koran, and that text advocates violence.

Text from Fr. James Schall’s (S.J.) article in CWR August 30, 2017: (…)

“Certainly, in principle, Islam itself sees the solution to the modern project as the conversion of the world to Allah. This aim is a powerful motivation. It inspires millions to take whatever steps are needed to achieve it, including war and terror. Most of the areas that are now Muslim were once populated by Christians. Their conversion was, in one way or another, usually by force or social pressure. It should not surprise us today that the most popular baby boy’s name in London is said to be “Mohammed”. In many ways, from a betting angle based on today’s estimates, the conversion of the world to Islam is, in the long run, more likely than its conversion to Christianity. Aside from the Reconquista in Spain and some similar moves in the Balkans, there has been no real success of Christians to convert Islam. The Crusaders were ultimately defeated. As a result of this seemingly impossible project of converting Islam, several Christian thinkers have developed dubious theories that see the Qur’an and its observance to be “salvific” in Christian terms.

     “The cause of turmoil coming from Islam cannot, as many seek to do, be attributed to poverty, development, politics, nationalism, or any other motivation. The basic cause is a religious belief in the truth of the Muslim mission as set down in the Qur’an. Until that motivation is taken seriously and taken for what it is, we will not understand what is happening, and has been happening since Islam’s foundation in the world in the seventh century. Many cannot or will not believe that such abiding motivation over time is possible. They thus propose other causes that must be, so they hold, the “real” cause of Muslim aggression. But in fact, in its own terms it is a religious motivation (my emphasis). It can only be met if we begin with that truth. The question then becomes, as it should have been all along, whether this religion is true or not.

Islam presents itself, in spite of its jihadist elements or perhaps because of them, as a religion of peace. The string of bombings and truck caused deaths that we have seen in the past decade seems at first to belie this affirmation. The Qur’an itself certainly gives sufficient reason to make every effort to expand Islam, by violent jihad if opportune or necessary. But in most Islamic thought, peace can only happen after the world is converted to Allah. Until that time, the world is divided into areas of peace, that is, areas under Muslim control, and areas of war, areas in which it is not. Technically, all those not in the sphere of Islam are enemies and at war with Islam. When the suicide bomber kills any enemy, the question of any guilt over a crime against the innocent does not come up. There are no innocent people in the zone of war. So if one is killed while killing enemies, he, not the enemy, is the martyr.

       “As long as the Qur’an is carefully and authoritatively read and believed by new generations, this expansive mission will be alive in the world. It is forever in the Book. If we maintain that the Qur’an is the word of Allah, if it is blasphemous to change it, if it teaches that all individuals and societies are to be ruled by Allah, then we will never rid ourselves of its dynamism until we can show that its sources and practices are not and cannot be valid or true.

In its voluntarist option, Islam has sought protect itself from the severe criticism that arises from reason, especially against its practical denial of the principle of contradiction. As there are many inaccuracies and contradictions in the Qur’an, Muslim thinkers early on recognized that they faced a serious problem, a problem intrinsic to their dealing with Greek philosophy. As Aquinas noted in the Summa Contra Gentiles, many profound attempts by Averroes and Avicenna in particular were made to deal with the relation between Muslim revelation and reason.

The result in general went with al-Ghazali that the basis of things was not logos but voluntas. This meant that Allah could say one thing one day and another thing the next. If Allah were limited to reason, it was thought, he would not be all powerful; he would not be the master of both good and evil. The result of this line of thinking was to place the will of Allah at the center of things, both moral and physical. Every existing thing could at any time be otherwise. The only law was Allah’s changeable will. Each thing could be its opposite, if Allah so willed. The only proper attitude to such a god was not to try to make sense of his decrees and demands but to submit to them no matter what they held. Anything less was considered blasphemous and would be punished as such.


The formal rejection of any basic element in the Qur’an, like the call for jihad, would imply that we can reject the original text as handed down from Allah. The Qur’an’s claim to its own truth demands that its text and teaching remain the same. In Muslim teaching, only Allah can change his teaching, which he has done. That is why contradictory elements are found in the Qur’an. When any change happens, the last change is what counts. The words of the Qur’an come directly from Allah; to undermine either their meaning or their connection with Allah is, in effect, to deny any truth claim that might exist in the Qur’an. This principle is why we cannot change Islam into something else that it is not. It must either be as it is or not at all.

When the Qur’an talks of peace, it does not mean the co-existence of various traditions or religions under one roof. If it has to live under such a varied system, it does so under coercion until such time as it can gain the upper hand by force, or by political or demographic means. Peace means the condition of the world when every part of the world is submissive to Islam. Until that time, Islam is, in one way or another, at war with what is not yet under its authority. We may not like to hear this view. The Muslims may not like it. The issue, however, is what does the religion advocate. A loyal believer will follow who has no means to appeal to the primacy of reason what it teaches.

This attitude to be obedient to what the Qur’an says is why we must not hesitate to acknowledge that jihadists and other promoters of the expansion of Islam are in principle pious believers, more so than those who know what the Qur’an says but do not have the courage to pursue it. It is why there is a struggle within Islam itself over its true meaning. The one thing that cannot be done without undermining the very premises of the religion itself, however, is to claim that its text can be “reformed” to eliminate what it says about world conquest.

In conclusion, to return to the theme of conversion, I would argue that, 1) even if the incoherence of voluntarism in Islam can be demonstrated, or 2) if critically the text of the Qur’an can be shown not to have come directly from the hands of Allah, the only real way to eliminate the historic aggressiveness of Islam is to convert its believers. Of course, in theory, they might be converted to anything. If Islam cannot or will not be converted to the truth, it is probably best to let it be and do what is possible to deter it.

Islam stands as a judgment on the nations. It also stands as a judgment on thought itself. Once any culture including our own abandons as the basis of its legal, political, philosophical, or religious thought the central role of the principle of non-contradiction, almost anything can follow. Islam, ironically, stands as the great teacher of mankind. It teaches it at least one of the things that happen when we keep our faith but reject the guidance of our reason.”

     Blogger: I would insert here that the basis of our culture is not reason or any principle of reason, not even the principle of non-contradiction. It is the Person of Christ as understood from the beginnings. The Father of the Church, Origin citing the Christian Tradition, was clear that the Kingdom of God was the very Person of Christ. But with the passage of the centuries and the return of Christ to take possession of the Kingdom did not take place visibly, heaven became a “place” and was relegated to beyond the stars and not in the world. His Kingdom is invisible.

    It is here that I don’t have the expertise. This would be a critical moment to research and know. Is it the 7th c. and the founding of Islam? Is this the moment that Christ disappears from history and Mohammad enters, not with faith as a personal involvement but with the rigid textual monotheism of Allah.

So, the question cannot be to refute Islam and the Koran on the basis of rationality (or slug it out in violent war that has no rational basis) but outdo it on the ground of a radical search for Christ that, until now, we have exteriorized and clericalized into religious performances.  Only our personal conversion will be a match of Islam that, indeed, stands as a judgment on the nations. It also stands as a judgment on thought itself.”



The Faith of John the Baptist – And Ours


Rev. Robert Sokolowski

Attention: When one hears the name John the Baptist, one thinks immediately of the courageous use of the Word and of humility. Courageous use of the Word against the Pharisees: “Brood of vipers! Who has shown you how to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruit befitting repentance, and do not think to say within yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father;’ for I say to you that God is able out of these stones to raise up children to Abraham. For even now the ax is laid at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that is not bringing forth good fruit is to be cut down and thrown into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water, for repentance. But he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to bear. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and he will thoroughly clean out his threshing floor, and will gather his wheat into the barn; but the chaff he will burn up with unquenchable fire” (Mt. 3,  7 – 12).”            This clearly sounds like belief and knowledge in the divinity of Christ as Messiah.  Yet astoundingly,  in the Gospel of John, the Baptist twice makes reference, concerning Christ, that “I did not know him” (Jn. 1, 31 and 32).  Having been presented as the thunderous protagonist of proclaiming Christ, the Baptist is recorded as not having known Him in two successive verses. And to make matters significantly worse, both Matthew in 11, 3  and Luke in 7, 19- 20 record  that the Baptist is not certain that Jesus is the Christ. It seems that there are two levels of knowing going on. Ratzinger comments precisely on this:

“Day in and day out we are confronted with the world of visible things. So strongly and insistently  does it impinge on us through billboards, the radio [please read: internet and the infinity of visual and graphic display], commerce, and every incident of daily life that we are tempted to think nothing else exists. But in fact the invisible is greater and more valuable than visible reality in its entirety. According to a splendid saying of Pascal, a single soul is worth more than the entire universe. But if we are to grasp this truth in a vivid way, we must be converted; we must as it were do an interior turnabout, overcome the spell  visible reality casts over us, and acquire a sensitive touch, ear and eye for the invisible. We must treat the invisible as more important than all the things that thrust themselves upon us with such force day after day. ‘Be converted:’ change your thinking, your outlook, so that you perceive God’s presence in the world; change your thinking so that God may become present in you and through you in the world.”

Blogger Insert: Consider Robert Sokolowski’s beginnings of “The Phenomenology of the Human Person.”

He builds from the banal evidentiary statement, “it is snowing.” That is an objective occurrence, a state of affairs in the world. But if I state that “it is snowing,” The “I” is not in the world of snowing. It is of another order. It is not the objective state of affairs of snowing, but of a spiritual horizon – the subject “I” – of informing or reporting to other like I’s. Here the spirituality of the human person first becomes disclosed as an “agent of truth” in the action of speech, the acting subject in a universe of objects. Such an observation parallels John Paul II’s “The Original Unity of Man and Woman” when Adam names the animals and experiences being alone (“the original solitude”). That state of subjective solitude moves God to declare: “It is not good for man to be alone” – and there follows the creation of the woman as another “I.”

It seems that the Baptist had lost the sharpness of the experience of being an “I” and therefore was not able to re-cognize Jesus of Nazareth [Who is the Prototype of “I”] at that moment in prison as the “I Am” of the divine Person. Christ reminds him of the actions performed by Him that could not be explained from within the causality of objects in the world.

Hence, the text chosen for today, that also impinges on our loss of sharpness in recognizing the Transcendent. And therefore, the need for conversion away from  intra-mundane self  to the level on which the Creator can be recognized.

Ratzinger explanation of the following puzzling statement of the the Baptist:

 “Are you he who is to come, or should we look for another” Luke 7, 19)? Christ responds: Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind see, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them; and blessed is he who is not scandalized in me.” Ratzinger: “This was probably the final task set the Baptist as he lay in prison: to become blessed by this unquestioning acceptance of God’s obscure will; to reach the point of asking no further for external, visible, unequivocal clarity , but, instead, of discovering God precisely in the darkness of this word and of his own life, and thus becoming profoundly blessed. In point of fact, we cannot see God as we see an apple tree or a neon sign, that is, in a purely eternal way that requires no interior commitment. We can see him only by becoming like him, by reaching the level of reality on which God exits [self-gift]; in other words, by being liberated from what is anti-divine; the quest for pleasure, enjoyment, possessions, gain, or, in a word, from ourselves. In the final analysis it is usually the self that stands between us and God (i.e. recognizing God). We can see God only if we turn around, stop looking for him as we might look for street signs and dollar bills, and begin looking away from the visible to the invisible…. The Christian of our day, too, can be shown no other way to friendship with God than the way of ceasing to look for external clarity and beginning to turn from the visible to the invisible and thus truly finding the Lord who is the real foundation and support of our existence. Only when we act in this manner does another and doubtless the greatest saying of the Baptist reveal its full significance: ‘He must increase, but I must decrease’ (Jn. 3, 30). We will know God to the extent that we are set free from ourselves… We will know God to the extent that we give him room to be present in us. A person can spend his life seeking God in vain if he does not enable God to continue in his life the presence begun” [“Dogma and Preaching” Franciscan Herald Press (1985)].

Recall that John was absolutely sure and secure in his being pointed to Christ in the desert and at the Baptism (See John 11, 19-34) and knowing Him – such that he could say later as recorded by John twice: “And I did not know him. But he who sent me to baptize with water said to me ‘He upon whom thou silt see the Spirit descending, and abiding upon him, he it is who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” (Jn. 1, 32-34). And even with that certainty, John, in prison and awaiting beheading, has doubts sufficient to send the two messengers to ask: “Are you He…? And Ratzinger’s point is that the truth of Christ as the Son of God can be held and held on to only by the conversion away from self that is humility in the act prayer that is faith. And this, over and over.

Let me offer the background to the above:

John preached “the Messiah as the judge with the winnowing fan in his hand that would separate the chaff from the grain and throw the chaff once and for all into eternal fire. He had portrayed him as one who would cast out this adulterous generation and, in need by, raise up children of Abraham from the very stones to replace the faithless people who called themselves the children of Abraham. Above all, amid the fearful ambivalence of this world where we are constantly waiting and hoping in darkness, John had expected and proclaimed a clear message: that the day would finally come when the hopeless darkness would be dispelled in which human beings wander to and fro and know not where they are going. The ambiguity would disappear, and men would no longer have to grope their way in the endless mist but would know for certain that this and no other is God’s unequivocal claim on them, that this and no other is their situation in relation to God…

             “God’s presence had begun…but what a difference from what John had imagined! No fire fell from heaven to consume sinners and bear definitive witness to the just; in fact, nothing changed at all in the present would. Jesus went about preaching and doing good in the land, but the ambiguity remained.”[1]

This “ambiguity” before our senses was the Baptist’s inability to recognize Christ and continues to be our scandal today.

Conclusion: We must master ourselves to make the gift of ourselves to the revealing Christ and in service to the others. This self-mastery gives us posssession of self and therefore the capacity to make the gift (since you cannot give what you do not have) and experience the transcendent order of the “I”.







[1] J. Ratzinger, “Dogma and Preaching,” Franciscan Herald Press (1985) 75.

On the Occasion of Thinking About C.S.Lewis’ “Abolition of Man” and Walker Percy [Helen Keller].


What I really want to get at is that when we “know” we always think that we know “something.” But when I know something, do I really know “some – thing” or do I really know [experience] myself sensing something. C.S. Lewis wrote a major piece of work entitled “The Abolition of Man” in which every step he took to explain reality had to be jettisoned because it explained reality away. The abstraction “water” was not real water but a symbol. And so he ended by saying: “I hardly know what I am asking for.”[1] Lewis wrote that the Tao (the deep meaning of the human person) cannot be reduced to an explanation of that kind…. the kind of explanation which explains things away. And this because you “cannot go on ‘explaining away’ for ever: you will find that you have explained explanation itself away. You cannot go on ‘seeing through’ things for ever. The whole point of seeing through something is to see something through it. It is good that the window would be transparent, because the street or garden beyond it is opaque. How if you saw through the garden too? It is no use trying to ‘see through’ first principles. If you see through everything, then everything is transparent. But a wholly transparent world is an invisible world. To ‘see through’ all things is same as not to see.”

I switch to Helen Keller was having the Braille symbol pressed into her right hand as her left hand was under and feeling the water from the pump in Tuscumbia, Alabama in 1887. And Ann Sullivan was trying to get her to connect the symbol with the water, to know that this cool substance is “w-a-t-e-r.” And the assumption was that it would be a nerve connection of synapse and dendrite. She got it, but she didn’t get it, and she continued to be less than an “I” experiencing herself as person. She was an self that didn’t have mastery of herself.

And then suddenly, she got it. Walker Percy quotes Helen and does the hermeneutic: “We walked down the path to the well-house, attracted by the fragrance of the honeysuckle with which it was covered. Someone was drawing water and my teacher placed my hand under the spout. As the cool stream gushed over one hand, she spelled into the other the word water, first slowly then rapidly. I stood still, my whole attention fixed upon the motion of her fingers. Suddenly I felt a misty consciousness as of something forgotten – a thrill of returning thought; and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me. I knew then that `w-a-t-e-r’ meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. That living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free! There were barriers still, it is true, but barriers that could in time be swept away.

               I left the well-house eager to learn. Everything had a name, and each name gave birth to a new thought. As we returned to the house every object which I touched seemed to quiver with life. That was because I saw everything with the strange, new sight that had come to me. On entering the door I remembered the doll I had broken. [She had earlier destroyed the doll in a fit of temper.] I felt my way to the dearth and picked up the pieces. I tried vainly to put them together. Then my eyes filled with tears; for I realized what I had done, and for the first time I felt repentance and sorrow.”

What had happened? Helen had crossed the threshold from being a rational animal to an “I” experiencing herself as creator and master: a subject. Helen had exercised her subjectivity as cause by “throwing” (Ballein) the Braille “likeness” (symbol) at the wet flowing object; w-a-t-e-r. She had experienced herself as cause, and therefore came to a consciousness of herself as “self.” She did what Adam had done in the Garden when he obeyed the Creator and worked: he tilled the garden and named the animals. And, then, suddenly, he experience himself alone, i.e. as “I” in a world of objects. And it was then that the Creator announced that it was not good for man to be alone. And so, He created the woman, and they entered into a communion of persons. This is the imaging God as Three and the full development of man now awaiting the Incarnation of the Creator to call him to make the total gift of himself, as God is the triple gift of Self.

Walker Percy: “before, Helen had behaved like a good responding organism. Afterward, she acted like a rejoicing symbol-mongering human. Before, she was little more than an animal. Afterward, she became wholly human. Within the few minutes of the breakthrough and the several hours of exploiting it Helen had concentrated the months of the naming phase that most children go through somewhere around their second birthday.”… [2]

     This, of course, has to do with state of affairs today within, and outside the Church, with the identification of faith with doctrine, or with deeds and action. Of course, it must be both because faith is the response of the human “I” with his total self to the Revelation of God Who is the Word, the divine Person of the Son. And as I have suggested above, that Helen Keller came into her own as person (“I”) by activating her whole self in naming the water, and will suggest that we will come to the fullness of faith by making the total commitment of ourselves to Christ, and in so doing fully becoming who we truly are. And it is only in that moment of experience that the “I” of Helen Keller – by reflecting back on herself and her conscious identity of self, that she becomes absolutely and starkly articulate and conceptually clear. And this because the conceptual clarity is embedded and rooted in the experiential consciousness of her “I.”

But clear as that may be, we are still mired in mental prejudices. To be continued (hopefully). Talk to me.


[1] C. S. Lewis, “the Abolition of Man” in The Essential C.S. Lewis” MacMillan (1988) 457.

[2] Walker Percy Message in the Bottle, The Noonday Press (1995) 34-35.

Up With the Acting Person and Subsidiarity: Charter Schools Are Tranformative

WSJ – August 24, 2017

“The results of the 2017 New York state tests were released Tuesday, and my (Eva Moskowitz) has been busy crunching the numbers. They demonstrate how transformative this development has been for Harlem residents. In Central Harlem, for example, the umber of students meeting rigorous, Common Core math standards has more than doubled since 2013 – from 1 690 to 3,703. Students attending charter schools account for 96% of that growth. Results for English language arts are similarly inspiring…

“Recently, the NAAC  called for a moratorium on charter schools, claiming they created a system that was ‘separate and unequal.’ Lily Garcia, president of the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers union, made a similar argument at a summer gathering of her members. American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten went so far as to say school-choice and charters were the ‘polite cousins’ to Jim Crow segregation…

“Given the incredible academic progress evident among Harlem’s charter-school students – and among log-income children of color attending charter schools across the country – these accusation are breathtakingly cynical, designed to protect a union-dominated system that has failed urban communities for decades.”

Read the whole article WSJ Thursday August 24, 2017 p. A15. I didn’t succeed in subscribing (although willing to pay). Blogger.