The Spiritual World Matters
by George Crispin
Here are five propositions that merit serious consideration. They come from an Economist, an English Professor, a Political Scientist, a Journalist, and a Sociologist, all of them logical realists, people taking a realistic view of our world (a world in which 170 million people were killed in the last century by governments, less than half in war).
Friedrich Hayek said history would look back at the 20th century as an age of superstition, a time when man thought he knew more than he did, that in doing away with what it considered superstitions the Enlightenment created new superstitions. His examples include the notions that one can have freedom without responsibility, that political solutions exist for most problems and that a government can and will manage a society for the benefit of all.
Richard Weaver added two things to this discussion. He stated our troubles began when thinkers abandoned belief in Universals (universal laws) and he added that the essence of a society (its soul) shows up in everything it does, its art, its architecture, the food it eats, and the way people relate to one another. In attempting to understand why supposedly civilized man fought two brutal world wars he concluded we were sentimental and barbaric and had an obscene news media.
Eric Voegelin defined science as a search for truth in all the realms of being, and said we have erred in calling unscientific any discipline that does not use the empiricism that works so well for the hard sciences. Properly defined, the scientific method should be whatever works for the subject being investigated, whatever provides clarification. The proper methodology for political science, which was his field, must consider the spiritual as well as the material. History shows all societies establishing their rules and laws through religion, and understanding themselves, knowing their essence by their consideration of both the spiritual and material worlds. All have failed in the past and always the first step was abandoning their religion or adopting a false one, which essentially left their people not knowing who they were.
In his book, The Theme Is Freedom, M. Stanton Evans argues that political freedom developed in the West because in Christendom, unlike other cultures, rulers were no longer the word of God, but had to obey God like everybody else. While still powerful, they remained responsible to God and the Law. Our idea of constitutional government, that is government restrained by a fixed set of rules, evolved from this.
Robert Nisbet said the quest for community springs from some of the powerful needs of human nature Ӗ needs for a clear sense of cultural purpose, membership, status, and continuity.” These needs have been satisfied throughout history by communities like the family, church, neighborhood, and local fraternal, ethnic, and voluntary associations. For two centuries the state has attempted to displace and absorb these “intermediate associations,” and so far as it has been successful they have been destroyed and a cult of individualism developed. This individualism has ” . . .come to mean only isolation, loneliness, disconnectedness, alienation and despair . . .” and people vulnerable because they believe an all-powerful state can provide the community they are seeking.
If there is any merit to these ideas, that we are superstitious, sentimental and barbaric, think it unnecessary to consider the spiritual world, have forgotten the origin of our freedoms, and are seeking community in an omnicompetent state, all the while being incredibly skilled at building machines, some of them destructive, our problems today, our wars and our family breakdown are easy to understand. They can be seen as the consequence of adopting secular belief based on materialistic assumptions, and giving up our “intermediate institutions.” The more this is done, the less consideration will be given to the spirit of the individual and the spirit of society, and since both are necessary for a society to survive, the more likely it will be to fail.
August 5, 2005
George Crispin is a retired businessman who heads a Catholic homeschooling cooperative in Auburn, Alabama.
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