Sunday, January 04, 2009

Newman -- Intellect and Religion

One more resource on Newman's idea of the relation between intellect and devotion. Intellect as the Instrument of Religious Training. He uses the opportunity of the Feast of St Monica to discuss this.

THIS day we celebrate one of the most remarkable feasts in the calendar. We commemorate a Saint who gained the heavenly crown by prayers indeed and tears, by sleepless nights and weary wanderings,..... as a mother, seeking and gaining by her penances the conversion of her son.
From there he goes on to make the point that religion and intellect are meant to be united, integrated though not muddled into each other, and that the ideal university is one where they are indeed.

Here, then, I conceive, is the object of the Holy See and the Catholic Church in setting up Universities; it is to reunite things which were in the beginning joined together by God, and have been put asunder by man. Some persons will say that I am thinking of confining, distorting, and stunting the growth of the intellect by ecclesiastical supervision. I have no such thought. Nor have I any thought of a compromise, as if religion must give up something, and science something. I wish the intellect to range with the utmost freedom, and religion to enjoy an equal freedom; but what I am stipulating for is, that they should be found in one and the same place, and exemplified in the same persons. I want to destroy that diversity of centres, which puts everything into confusion by creating a contrariety of influences. I wish the same spots and the same individuals to be at once oracles of philosophy and shrines of devotion.

It will not satisfy me, what satisfies so many, to have two independent systems, intellectual and religious, going at once side by side, by a sort of division of labour, and only accidentally brought together. It will not satisfy me, if religion is here, and science there, and young men converse with science all day, and lodge with religion in the evening. It is not touching the evil, to which these remarks have been directed, if young men eat and drink and sleep in one place, and think in another: I want the same roof to contain both the intellectual and moral discipline. Devotion is not a sort of finish given to the sciences; nor is science a sort of feather in the cap, if I may so express myself, an ornament and set-off to devotion. I want the intellectual layman to be religious, and the devout ecclesiastic to be intellectual.

.... Let both influences act freely, and then, as a general rule, no system of mere religious guardianship which neglects the Reason, will in matter of fact succeed against the School. Youths need a masculine religion, if it is to carry captive their restless imaginations, and their wild intellects, as well as to touch their susceptible hearts.

This reminds me a bit of Benedict XVI's planned speech at La Sapienza, which was called off because of protests by students and faculty who apparently weren't able to make these distinctions.

Today the danger of the Western world -- to speak only of this context -- is that man, precisely in the consideration of the grandeur of his knowledge and power, might give up before the question of truth. And that means at the same time that reason, in the end, bows to the pressure of interests and the charm of utility, constrained to recognize it as the ultimate criterion. To put this in terms of the point of view of the structure of the university: The danger exists that philosophy, no longer feeling itself capable of its true task, might degenerate into positivism; that theology, with its message addressed to reason, might become confined to the private sphere of a group more or less sizable. If, however, reason -- solicitous of its presumed purity -- becomes deaf to the great message that comes from the Christian faith and its wisdom, it will wither like a tree whose roots no longer reach the waters that give it life. It will lose courage for the truth and thus it will not become greater but less. Applied to our European culture this means: If it wants only to construct itself on the basis of the circle of its own arguments and that which convinces it at the moment -- worried about its secularity -- it will cut itself off from the roots by which it lives; then it will not become more reasonable and more pure, but it will break apart and disintegrate.

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