Some people regarded Bishop Ernest Barnes of Birmingham as a potty heretic. Here is how he was described by a fellow cleric:
“Tall, pallid with much study, with stooping shoulders, and a voice at once challenging and melancholy, he commands attention as well by his manner as by his opinions, which are almost insolently oppugnant to the general mind. He is a good man, but clearly a fanatic, and in a more disciplined age, could not possibly have avoided the stake”: H. H. Henson, Retrospect of an Unimportant Life (Oxford, 1943) II, p.272.
Bishop Barnes talked much of “primitive health cults”,magic and superstition which were dangers not only to religion but to medicine and reason generally in society. He said: “The temper of superstition involves dislike of scientific method… The obscurity which surrounds the influence of the mind upon the body gives many opportunities to irrational belief. If the doctor fails, thinly-veiled magic may succeed: and when once the idea gains sway that the Universe is non-rational for human thought, scientific progress is doomed”. (Should Such A Faith Offend? 1927, p.233).
Don’t we see this today with cults such as the anti-vaccinationists with their dangerous nonsense being peddled in the social media to the gullible or misguided?
This is the title of an interesting piece by Terry Eagleton. He argues that humanist unbelievers substitute humanity for God. Their secular thought is really repressed religion. They often turn to ersatz mysticisms, of which there are many: “They turn to a kind of transcendence without content, of which there is no finer example than what one might call Hollywood spirituality, Those celebrities who dabble in Kabbalah or Scientology do so as a refuge from a material world crammed with too many chauffeurs and swimming pools”.
Ernest Barnes did. Here is what he wrote about a “sudden exaltation which seemed to carry with it an understanding of the innermost nature of things”. It happened when he was sitting down one afternoon on bare turf in a fern-covered moor near the sea in Oxfordshire:
“Time seemed to stop, A sense of infinite power and peace came upon me. I can best liken the combination of timelessness with amazing fullness of existence to the feeling one gets in watching the rim of a great silent fly-wheel or the unmoving surface of a deep, strongly flowing river. Nothing happened: yet existence was completely full. All was clear. I was in a world where the confusion and waste and loss inseparable from time had vanished. At the heart of the world there was power and peace and eternal life” [E. W. Barnes, Scientific Theory and Religion, 1933, pp.620-621].
Bishop Ernest Barnes of Birmingham was a cantankerous.controversial Anglican prelate who in the 1920s, 30s and 40s took an angry evangelical stand against High Church clergy, trying to ban them from office, alarmed many conservative Anglicans by his enthusiasm for Darwinian evolution, and as a distinguished mathematician argued that science and religion could only be reconciled by a wholesale reform of church doctrine and beliefs. See Paul’s preliminary essay on Barnes on his website dpcrook.wordpress. com (under Blog). Click on:
Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953) was something of a Renaissance Man, good at so many things, from writing books, journalism, poetry and children’s book to sketching, sailing and traipsing across continents on foot. He was a great hero to Catholics and hated by many Protestants and secularists (Bernard Shaw was always lampooning him, and, as ever, Hilaire thundered back). In this short essay, Paul looks at Belloc’s life and his book on the crisis of civilization. Hilaire Belloc (click on this).
In 1940 Hilaire Belloc wrote to a friend:
“Old Age is, I do assure you, the most horrible lingering (and incurable) disease ever pupped or calved. It’s funny that the books lie so horribly about it! To read the books one would think that old age was a lovely interlude between the pleasures of this life and the blaze of Beatitude…But the reality is quite other. Old Age is a tangle of Disappointment, Despair, Doubt, Dereliction, Drooping, Debt, and Damnable Deficiency and everything else that begins with a D”.
[How about Delight?}
Hope this cheers you up!