Man as Necessary Agent of the Cosmos

The great biologist and public intellectual Julian Huxley insisted that human learning was of cosmic significance:

“It is thus part of man’s destiny to be the necessary agent of the cosmos in understanding more of itself, in bearing witness to its wonder, beauty, and interest, in creating new aids to and mechanisms for existence, in experiencing itself, and so introducing the cosmos to more new and more valuable experiences”

New Bottles for New Wine (1957).

Aldous Huxley on Non-Human Otherness

Aldous Huxley wrote in 1956:

“Applied science is a conjurer, whose bottomless hat yields the softest Angora rabbits and the most petrifying of Medusas…. But I am still optimist enough.. to bet that the non-human otherness at the root of man’s being will ultimately triumph over the all too human selves who frame the ideologies and engineer the collective suicides.” (“The Desert”).

Aldous was fond of phrases such as “non-human otherness” and “transcendent consciousness”. His later romantic, spiritual¬†and environmentalist ideas are expressed in his books such as The Perennial Philosophy (1945).

What Fills The Void?

Julian Huxley, the famous biologist, and his brother Aldous Huxley, the famous novelist, were both deeply interested in the relation between science and religion. Like many other thinkers of the twentieth century (such as Tawney, Vidler, Needham, T. S. Eliot), they predicted the emergence of a flood of pseudo-religions.

“As they watched the influence of traditional religion declining in the world around them, they both agreed that the void left by religion in the modern psyche would not remain empty for long; ideologies of the Left and Right, cults of nature, aesthetics, youth, or ethnic identity would rush in to fill the emptiness”:

R. S. Deese, We Are Amphibians (2015), p.90.

Julian even invented his own secular religion that he called “Religion Without Revelation”. Needless to say it never caught on.

 

Christopher Dawson on Religion and the Modern State

Christopher Dawson

For Paul’s essay on this distinguished historian’s take on the history of western civilisation and what it means for us today click on the above link (Paul’s website dpcrook.wordpress.com.)

We look at his views on the decline of faith, the evils of industrialisation and ruthless competition, war and peace and totalitarianism. Something for everybody!

Dawson Prophesies The End of Western Civilisation

According to Christopher Dawson civilisation should not exist for its own sake but “ought to be a sacred order which rests not on the will of man but on the Law of God. When a civilisation has entirely abandoned this belief, when it makes itself its own law and its own end and cuts itself off from its roots in the spiritual order, its days are numbered … That is the fate that threatens Western culture to-day”:

Religion and the Modern State (1935).

The Intolerance of Secularism: Dawson

“If religion loses its hold on social life, it eventually loses its hold on life altogether. And this is what has happened in the case of modern Europe. The new secularized civilization is not content to dominate the outer world and to leave man’s inner life to religion; it claims the whole person. Once more Christianity is faced, as it was at the beginning, with the challenge of a world which will accept no appeal from its judgment, and which recognizes no higher power than its own will”:

Christopher Dawson, Religion and the Modern State (1935).

Christopher Dawson on spiritual crisis

“the secularization of Western society brought with it not only a loss of religious unity and religious faith, but also the disappearance of those objective and moral standards which provided a spiritual basis for social and political life. Hence the growing unease of spiritual unrest and maladjustment that accompanied the progress of modern civilization”:

Christopher Dawson, Religion and the Modern State (1935).