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Sentimentalism

We hear of the stark sentimentalist, who talks as if there were no problem at all: as if physical kindness would cure everything: as if one need only pat Nero and stroke Ivan the Terrible. This mere belief in bodily humanitarianism is not sentimental; it is simply snobbish. For if comfort gives men virtue, the comfortable classes ought to be virtuous—which is absurd. Then, again, we do hear of the yet weaker and more watery type of sentimentalists: I mean the sentimentalist who says, with a sort of splutter, “Flog the brutes!” or who tells you with innocent obscenity “what he would do” with a certain man—always supposing the man’s hands were tied. – G.K. Chesterton

‘Tis interesting this beautiful thought of Gilbert.  In one in the same statement, he says violent men and passive sentimentalists come from the same tree, namely ignorance of the human person.  Man is not merely the sentiment connected with human physical contact, not to deny its power, only to mitigate the popular belief in its power.  Nor does man need to be degraded as an ignonmous idiot worth nothing more than torture.

Man is worthy of being contemplated not for his own sake but to see that he is not the root of his existence or the power by which he lives.  He is immediately and brokenly contigent.  He requires both discipline and loving sentiment to become virtuous, insodoing he moves towards being fully human.

Top Ten Books Read in 2013 – 1

Sorry for the wait. I have no excuse. (sad puppy dog face) Anyway, the best book I read last year is by an author who has On Hopealready been top of my list before and has already appeared on the list this year. Josef Pieper’s On Hope is one of those life changing mind blowing books. I was introduced to Hope as a life changing awesome thing through Pope Benedict XVI’s Spe Salvi, but unfortunately, I found that I had trouble internalizing it (looking at my life, not much changed after I had read it).

Pieper started from our natural perspective as human persons: we are pilgrims. We are not where we are in fulfillment. We live a mortal not-there-yet life. “The state of being on the way .. refers rather to the innermost structure of created nature. It is the inherent ‘not yet’ of the finite being.” Which, as an editorial note, is why ‘getting there,’ the dream job, the dream house, the dream net worth, is an ontological contradiction. It is in our nature to never get there. I that’s why we take solace in stories with ‘happily ever after.’

This state is inherently uncomfortable. “The only answer that corresponds to man’s actual existential situation is hope. The virtue of the status viatoris (state on the way); it is the proper virtue of the ‘not yet.’ In the virtue of hope more than in any other, man understands and affirms that he is creature, that he has been created by God.”

This is hope the book starts, and it only goes deeper and more theologically, philosophically, and spiritually mind lowing. It change the way I understand the virtue of hope and how I practice this virtue. His thoughts of ‘the fear of the Lord’ provide the most cogent explanation of that misunderstand gift of the Holy Spirit.

I have recommended this to spiritual directees, but will tell you, this book, to be understood well, requires some greater than average comprehension skills because of his references to foreign languages and philosophical concepts that don’t appear on a state college curriculum. That being said it’s short (92 pages) and well worth the time to mull through.

Top Ten Books Read in 2013 – 5

For the past eight years or so, the popular theological buzz has been around Bl. John Paul II Wednesday audiences collected as his pinnacle work, the Theology of the Body. Everyone seems to talk about how revolutionary his insights into the human person are in this tome. However, for the brave soul who picks it up to read, realizes how possibly foolhardy an undertaking can be because John Paul’s style and depth makes it seem like swimming through seaweed. For the armchair theologian it can find itself collecting dust on the shelf.

Christopher West has been able to communicate its basic ideas in common language, but for all the good he has done as a TOB apologist, there are presuppositions in John Paul’s writings that help form his thought which West doesn’t (in my reading of him at least) communicate.

Men, Women, and the Mystery of LoveEnter Dr. Edward Sri. He is primarily a Scripture scholar, but because of the nature of Catholic intellectual life in the US, scholars branch out due to small, solid faculties at good universities. Curriculums call them to broaden themselves. Sir takes Karol Wojtyla’s presuppositions in Love and Responsibility and communicates them to someone without philosophical and/or theological training, in his book Men, Women, and the Mystery of Love. He writes clearly and directly. He gives life examples but doesn’t water down Wojtyla’s depth. It is a great book and I would suggest it as the introduction to TOB before West’s Theology of the Body for Beginners.

I found the book also good for marriage preparation.

Top Ten Books Read in 2013 – 8

Earlier this year, I had a brief stint as the DRE of the parish due to extenuating circumstances. My main work was with the confirmation candidates preparing them for reception of said sacrament. I saw in the few weeks I had an opportunity to teach them about the virtues, cardinal and theological. A noble and great task indeed, only I felt I needed to so some homework of my The Four Cardinal Virtuesown to prepare so I picked up Josef Pieper’s The Four Cardinal Virtueswhich had been sitting on the shelf unread for three years.

Pieper, as always, writes brilliantly about the subject referencing Aquinas often. He is able to see and communicate clearly the truth that, for me is obfuscated due to my post-modern upbringing. From this work, I can see how great a virtue ethic is. It is built on man’s natural abilities of reason and will to point man away from evil and toward excellence.

This book is best taken with caffeine, pen, and paper because it definitely requires thoughtful participation by the reader.

On Fear of Losing Our Voice.

There has hung over US Catholics a sense of dread and despair for the last decade or so. At least, as long as I have been conscious of the Catholic-blog-o-sphere, it has seemed to be conscious of looming trials and coming sufferings. Now, whether this be true or not I cannot say (though, for the sake of transparency, I admit that our situation does appear a drastic one). On issues of human identity and sexuality, we are hemmed in on every side. Many people in our culture argue with us. Most just ignore us, even as they admit that the cultural definition of life and sex is inadequate. Almost all disagree with us. And when it comes to one of the most interesting Papal Elections in centuries, the AP and Reuters seems more concerned with the ‘scandals’ in the Vatican than with the Pope in the Vatican. In short, in a society where dialogue is supposed to be a supreme virtue, our voice is overlooked, undermined and out-right ignored.

I do not think the important thing now, though, is to pay attention to our own sufferings. The Church in the United States of America is suffering. It is suffering from political, social and cultural attacks the likes of which our grandparents (or, for that matter, even our parents) could never have foreseen  I feel inadequate to comment on politics or society, but I can say something of our culture. Culturally, Catholicism is already being given a tragic halo, as if it were one of the long-dead pagan cultures. Living Catholics are seen as the last remnant of some out-moded lifestyle. We are thought to be walking museum pieces, quaint like the Quakers and as amusing as the Amish. Those more sympathetic to our well-being like to give us advice. They kindly tell us that the world is moving on without our old-fashioned way of looking at things. Wouldn’t it be best, they suggest, to simply abandon some of our more stringent beliefs in favor of fitting in.

I will mention only in passing that their argument is not a new one. A century ago, the Romantics were telling us the same thing, as they gave lip service to our penances and criticized our virtue. The Jacobins said the same sorts of things 100 years prior to them, exulting in the Church’s devotion but forgetting that we are founded on Faith. And the Reformers some 200 years prior to that made the same sorts of errors, thinking that devotion to Mary was a distraction from Evangelization. As GKC was fond of pointing out, the Church seems always to be dying in the eyes of the world, and it is! That is, because it is always resurrecting.

The main point of this short essay is not an observation but a rebuke. I do not wish to join the chorus of those other noble voices in our Church, warning us of impending doom. The doom is not impending. It has fallen and it continues to fall everyday. The world has ever been hostile to the Church. Therefore, on the grounds of charity and hope I rebuke any pessimism or fatalism that infects our cultural dialogue. In the name of the hope of the cross, I stand against anyone that would have us be dissuaded from carrying our own. Good heavens: we are the light of the world! When we are dimmed, it is not us that suffers but the world. When we grow slack in spirit, we still may be saved. It is those to whom we are called that suffer the violence.

Babies are dying, and we complain that our voice is not heard!? Who gives a fig for ‘our voice’ when a child is never given the opportunity to use her own? The poor are suffering, and we get upset at greedy politicians. Oh, so has Christ made us the critics of the rich!? Did he come with tirades against Herod or Pilate? What are we, Church? Are we mere activists? Is the gospel about raising awareness? No! If we protest abortion (which we absolutely must do), then we do it in the name of love. We aren’t out to overturn Roe V. Wade as much as we are out to overturn human hearts. We aren’t called to flip-off the rich, but to flip their tables, as Our Lord did in the Temple. We are a people of action, not of criticism. The world is covered in critics like leeches. What it needs is not more critics, but more Christians.

 

This Lent, consider well how you speak. These forty days are meant to be difficult for us, but only so that we may lighten the load of the world. We can expect injustice to be done against us: it is our lot. What we cannot be satisfied with, what we must not stand for, is when injustice is done against others! It is a time to pray for others that they may live, to fast that they may eat, to give alms that they may be nourished. If our faith lacks this positive generosity and charity, I feel that something dire is wrong with it. If our words lack it, then I feel it would be better for us to just shut up.

St. Blaise, bishop and martyr, pray for us.

In Defense of Womanizers

For Sarah, who heard this first many years ago…
There is a conversation that I have too often to leave it hanging alone in the air without putting it down on paper. Or computer screen. Or webpage. Or whatever. It involves the question of womanizers & their honesty. It is a subject that women have often asked me about because they assume that 1) I am not a womanizer 2) as a theologian, I should be somewhat an expert on morality. Now, in actuality, I do not speak in either capacity. It is true that I am not a womanizer and that I am also a theologian. But my chastity and intelligence have nothing to do with the answer that follows. The fact of the matter is that the women in question have always accused womanizers of the same charge: of insincerity. Now, from all the womanizing characters I’ve read about in literature and among all the womanizing characters that I know in real life, I can honestly say that they are honest. That is to say, womanizers tend to be the most sincere of men. When a womanizer tells Kelly that she is the most beautiful girl in the world on Monday, he means it most honestly. On Tuesday, when he proclaims that Courtney is the love of his life, he couldn’t be more sincere in that moment. And when on Wednesday he texts Michelle to tell her she is too gorgeous for words, he means exactly what he says. Womanizers are, in a certain sense, the most sincere of men. They possess the virtue of sincerity in its pure state, free from the complications of fidelity, courage, wisdom or patience.
One of the best examples of what I mean can be seen the characters of Tolstoy, especially Vronsky in Anna Karenina and Prince Anatol in War and Peace. Though very different men in career and personality, both find themselves in entirely sincere illicit relationships. Anatol, the far more incorrigible of the two, even has a whole monologue in which he justifies his ill-intentioned elopement with Natasha out of the sincere sport of the thing. He reasons that his aesthetic passions are honest enough. He truly likes Natasha as a flirtatious toy. He can’t help thinking about how much she truly arouses him sexually and emotionally. It is precisely because she has this effect on him that he feels justified planning to elope with her one day and then abandon her at the next convenient opportunity. After all, such a simple and delicate beauty demands to be ravishingly enjoyed…and then discarded. And while Vronsky isn’t nearly as pre-meditated in his estrangement from Anna, he knows full well, going into his affair with her, that their union is a tentative one at best. Still, he feels that he can do this in all sincerity because Anna is so very enticing.
Now, I use these two literary examples to prove a point. These men were not written as the shallow mustache twirling villains used to fill soap operas. They are complex characters created by the master of the romantic epic. Tolstoy made these men as true-to-life as possible. Women be forewarned: how Anatol and Vronsky think is how womanizers actually think. Tolstoy’s psychology is impeccable. A man who wishes to take advantage of a woman truly believes in her beauty. He cares little for her feelings. He thinks little for her honor or for the promises she has made to herself and others. But he knows that she is beautiful and he is fully confident in his ability to sincerely express these feelings of attraction.
His fault lies not in a lack of honesty or sincerity. It lies in a lack of courage and commitment. It is easy for a guy to buy a beautiful girl dinner, a drink or a flower on a single evening. The real test comes when he must decide whether or not to be there for every dinner, to buy her every drink, and to buy her a whole garden full of flowers by way of the house they will share. In short, only an act of commitment, true and faithful commitment, can reveal a man’s value. He might profess to recognize a woman’s value right away. He is probably telling the truth. But when it comes time to put his money where his mouth is, to commit in the flesh to what his words have professed, that is when you discover if he is the man to reveal your beauty to you day after day for the rest of your life.

O Great God Give Us Rest!

In order to understand what follows, it would be best to watch the video at the link below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=50DStEt4uwk

Ecumenism. In case you haven’t been on iTunes in the last week, you might be surprised to hear that the David Crowder* Band has released their final album, a Requiem Mass (co-authored by our boy Matt Maher). That album jumped to the top of the charts (not the Christian charts, THE charts) the day it came out. It has remained in the top 5 ever since. David Crowder is a southern baptist, a representative of Baylor University and a well versed theologian, outside of being an evagelical worship leader. Two decades ago (not to mention two centuries ago), a man from the Calvinist tradition who wrote a Mass “centered on the beauty of the Eucharist” would be kicked out of his denomination, much as the Eucharist itself was physically kicked to the curb by the first protesting iconoclasts. Now, just as it is most decidedly NOT my intention to speculate on whether or not Mr. Crowder is moving toward Rome, I also have no intention of opening up old wounds. The atorocities of the 30 year’s war, the scandal of Henry VIII and the happenings of the Huguenots belong to another age, when the West was all Christian and the differences between Catholics and Protestants resulted in some of the gravest sins in history. As both protestants and Pope have admited, there was guilt on both sides. However, when I read the history of that hideous period, what disturbs me the most is the sacrelige commited by fellow Christians against the Body of Christ. We burned each other, members of that Body, at the stake and poured the Sacred Host and Precious Wine out upon the pavement. The horror of our actions should silence any finger pointing, especially now that we are centuries out from the scandal.
Now, look where we are. Maybe it is the openess of our society. Maybe the providence of time has helped heal all wounds. Maybe it is the fact that we Christians have been forced to cooperate in a strange new era, no longer having the luxury to carry out our family fued across Christendom. What was Christendom, what was our family home, has become a secularist, consumeristic, materialistic, hedonistic parody of all we hold dear. Now, more than ever, Christians must turn to truth where ever it is found. David Crowder, definitely son of these times, has discovered that Truth can be found in the Eucharist. And he has not refrained from giving glory where glory is due. At the behest of Bl John Paul II, many Catholics have found ways to praise the Lord through song styles that our fathers would call too worldly or worthless. And we have not refrained from using them to give God the glory. Now, five centuries out from our great split, Catholics and Protestants are once more praising the Sacred Host together.
This fact does not represent the end of anything, except perhaps the end of the beginning, (to borrow a phrase from Churchill). Can we dare to look forward to a future where we will no longer debate about the Blessed Sacrament, but can commit ourselves to adoring it together? I certainly hope so. But I am ambitious and hope for more than that. I hope that we have come to a point where sacred silence before that Saving Victim can truly begin to heal our divisions. Singing is a great place to begin ecumenism, but the sacraments are the only place that it can end. I am barely a theologian. I am nothing close to a minister. However, I am a child of the Church, and I must say that, though I cannot pretend to know where all this is going, I am content to kneel at the altar with Mr. Crowder. Or Mr. Tony Blair. Or whatever other leaders decided to come around to the Eucharist. Our sad division began at the foot of the altar: let us hope that it’s ending may begin there as well.

Boredom and Bag End

I have been bored over the past couple of days and, like most contemporary young adults, have attempted to relieve my boredom with, among the whole host of possible distractions, videos on Youtube. That is to say, I have watched the Hobbit trailer several times over. I can’t wait for Peter Jackson to take us back to Middle Earth. However, while watching the video recently, I had one of those silly, humbling moments so necessary in life: I realized that all my complaining must fall back on my own head. As I watched Bilbo and Frodo waved to each other in the opening shot of the trailer, followed by the shots of Bilbo writing “There and Back Again” at his desk and smoking a pipe in front of Gandalf, I cried (whether out load or to myself, it makes no difference [for I can’t really tell which]) “I want to go there!” And not just to be with a wizard, but to be with a friend. I want to smell the Gaffer’s roses and eat Hobbiton cheese, not just the cross swords and see magick. I want songs around my hearth and an unexpected party, and not just elves and dwarves. Fantasy is fine, but reality is so much finer. The trail is makes the adventure, whether that trail leads through the Pearl‘s marshes or over the MistyMountains.
And then I realized what a greedy fool I was. My living room is made up just like Bag End (minus, of course, the rounded doors, windows and hallways)! The trim is bare wood with light beige walls. Our hearth is always warm this time of year, and all sorts of singing and dancing goes on. I hike almost everyday in the woods behind my house, ride to parks and shops, can see roses just outside my bedroom window while I writing tales of mine own. This summer I hiked, hunted, fell from waterfalls and fought my demons. This school year I’ve had many an unexpected party and late night adventure. This weekend I’ll join many an old friend on a wonderful retreat. So why am I bored?

“You have to be happy in those quiet moments when you remember that you are alive; not in those noisy moments when you forget.” This quote of Chesterton’s entered my mind, and then I realized just what it was I was missing. I didn’t need an adventure that would have me forget reality. I wanted an adventure that would remind me I am a living reality. We grow too used to escapades that are escapes, rather than adventures that are returns. I sat there fuming about the grass being on the other side because I didn’t want to risk having to cut my own grass. Which is another way of saying I didn’t want to risk my own ,Assk you I will: why is the contemporary person so unsatisfied with their over entertained, over indulged, first world, last place kinda life style. Why does our boredom destroy us instead of rejuvenating us? Why do the few blessed hours granted us for recreation soon lapse into desperation for entertainment?

Simple: we’ve forgetton the pure joy of being. Of being what? Of BEING.

You might respond (and probably should respond), “Oh, thank you Daniel. Your metaphysics just solves all my problems. Meanwhile, you JERK, maybe you haven’t noticed, but I’ve got all sorts of things to worry about: a car, a house, a job, school, friends, lovers, haters, etc. I’ve got a life. So what if I want to escape to the land of the elves, or the wizards, or the vampire spouses, of Beyonce, Anime or the LSU tigers. Do not judge my hobbies!”

I don’t judge. I really don’t. They are all fine and good quality things, your hobbies are (except maybe the Tigers’ coaching). It is myself that I’m judging, that I’m making a public spectacle of. What need I of Rivendell when I’ve been to Kahdelea, Bag End when I live on

Stratford Drive

or the Dead Marshes when I have the home of Swamp People in my proverbial backyard? And yet I am bored with it! Why am I bored? Is there something wrong with me?

I always risk being far too intimate in these reflections, but I only do it because I sincerely believe that we all can relate. And what I would like to relate is this lesson (though I live it rather imperfectly myself): boredom is not a curse, but an invitation. Disappointment and disillusionment with our amusements must not be the final word. Rather than taking my word for it, though, here are some more of Chesterton’s, echoing from 80 years ago;

“What we have to teach the young man of the future, is how to enjoy himself. Until he can enjoy himself, he will grow more and more tired of enjoying everything else. What we have to teach him is to amuse himself. At this moment he is more and more dependent upon anything which he thinks will amuse him. And, to judge by the expression of his face, it does not amuse him very much. When we consider what he receives, it is indeed a most magnificent wonder and wealth and concentration of amusement. He can travel in a racing-car almost as quick as a cannon-ball; and still have his car fitted up with wireless from all the ends of the earth. He can get Vienna and Moscow; he can hear Cairo and Warsaw; and if he cannot see England, through which he happens to be travelling, that is after all a small matter. In a century, no doubt, his car will travel like a comet, and his wireless will hear the noises in the moon. But all this does not help him when the car stops; and he has to stand stamping about in a line, with nothing to think about. All this does not help him even when the wireless stops and he has to sit still in a silent car with nothing to talk about. If you consider what are the things poured into him, what are the things he receives, then indeed they are colossal cataracts of things, cosmic Niagaras that have never before poured into any human being are pouring into him. But if you consider what comes out of him, as a result of all this absorption, the result we have to record is rather serious. In the vast majority of cases, nothing. Not even conversation, as it used to be. He does not conduct long arguments, as young men did when I was young. The first and startling effect of all this noise is silence.”

Into that silence, let us pour our prayer, so that our silence yields not despair. Oh Great God, do your best. Oh Great God, give us rest.

Top Ten Books Read in 2011, #1

Finally, what everyone has been waiting for, the number 1 book read in 2011 is …

Leisure the Basis of CultureLeisure the Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper

There are books. There are great books that you will always remember. And then, there are books that change the way you view the world. Josef Pieper’s philosophic classic did that for me. You would have been a follower for this blog for over year to remember my postings on this book in late 2010 (there are too many to link). I finished the book in January of 2011, and it set the tone for my whole year.

Pieper’s basic concept is that we misunderstand what leisure is. We think of leisure as vacation, time away from work, time doing things we want to do. Leisure isn’t time. It isn’t a suit. It’s a way of living. It’s a way of looking at the world. Simply put leisure is the reception of truth, good, and beauty. It is philosophic contemplation.
(Deacon Kyle your losing me)
I think I just lost myself. Sorry.
To be in leisure is not be bound by work and dominated by work, enslaved by work. Work is not what defines the human person (although his work is dignified). The human person, first and foremost, is created in the image and likeness of God. He is both body and soul. Leisure is reception of the divine in ordinary circumstances. It’s celebrating at the beauty of a child running in joy at the return of her father from business trip. It’s seeing and contemplating the revelation of the divine in the mundane activities of the day.

Work, if divinized, blinds one from seeing the divine in washing dishes or sitting smoking a pipe in the nice cool air on a fall day. Divinized work has one end, productivity. Productivity without the final end in mind, i.e. celebration in the full presence of the divine in heaven, destroys a proper understanding of the human person. He/she becomes a means to an end, when God says, love as I love, without condition, without the need for response, without ulterior motives, just cuz.

No matter your background. No matter your reading level. No matter how much you read. If you read any book in 2012, it should be this book. End of story. End of list. Can’t wait to find out what good reads I will encounter this year.

GKC and the Largeness of the Faith

Yet another GKC read! 

This could be considered his commentary on John 6: 68; "To whom, Lord, shall we go." Specifically, he is defending to freedom of the faithful, that when they come to Christ, He enlarges their freedom rather than dismantling it. 

Nothing is more amusing to the convert, when his conversion has been complete for some time, than to hear the speculations about when or whether he will repent of the conversion; when he will be sick of it, how long he will stand it, at what stage of his external exasperation he will start up and say he can bear it no more. For all this is founded on that optical illusion about the outside and the inside which I have tried to sketch in this chapter. The outsiders, stand by and see, or think they see, the convert entering with bowed head a sort of small temple which they are convinced is fitted up inside like a prison, if not a torture-chamber. But all they really know about it is that he has passed through a door. They do not know that he has not gone into the inner darkness, but out into the broad daylight.  It is he who is, in the beautiful and beatific sense of the word, an outsider. He does not want to go into a larger room, because he does not know of any larger room to go into.  He knows of a large number of much smaller rooms, each of which is labelled as being very large; but he is quite sure he would be cramped in any of them. Each of them professes to be a complete cosmos or scheme of all things; but then so does the cosmos of the Clapham Sect or the Clapton Agapemone.  Each of them is supposed to be domed with the sky or painted inside with all the stars. But each of these cosmic systems or machines seems to him much smaller and even much simpler than the broad and balanced universe in which he lives.  One of them is labelled Agnostic; but he knows by experience that it has not really even the freedom of ignorance. It is a wheel that must always go round without a single jolt of miraculous interruption--a circle that must not be squared by any higher mathematics of mysticism; a machine that must be scoured as clean of all spirits as if it were the avowed machine of materialism. In living in a world with two orders, the supernatural and the natural, the convert feels he is living in a larger world and does not feel any temptation to crawl back into a smaller one. One of them is labelled Theosophical or Buddhistic; but he knows by experience that it is only the same sort of wearisome wheel used for spiritual things instead of material things.  Living in a world where he is free to do anything, even to go to the devil, he does not see why he should tie himself to the wheel of a mere destiny. One of them is labelled Humanitarian; but he knows that such humanitarians have really far less experience of humanity. He knows that they are thinking almost entirely of men as they are at this moment in modern cities, and have nothing like the huge human interest of what began by being preached to legionaries in Palestine and is still being preached to peasants in China.  So clear is this perception that I have sometimes put it to myself, as something between a melancholy meditation and a joke.  "Where should I go now, if I did leave the Catholic Church?"  I certainly would not go to any of those little social sects which only express one idea at a time, because that idea happens to be fashionable at the moment. The best I could hope for would be to wander away into the woods and become, not a Pantheist (for that is also a limitation and a bore) but rather a pagan, in the mood to cry out that some particular mountain peak or flowering fruit tree was sacred and a thing to be worshipped.  That at least would be beginning all over again; but it would bring me back to the same problem in the end. If it was reasonable to have a sacred tree it was not unreasonable to have a sacred crucifix; and if the god was to be found on one peak he may as reasonably be found under one spire. To find a new religion is sooner or later to have found one; and why should I have been discontented with the one I had found? Especially, as I said in the first words of this essay, when it is the one old religion which seems capable of remaining new.  I know very well that if I went upon that journey I should either despair or return; and that none of the trees would ever be a substitute for the real sacred tree. Paganism is better than pantheism, for paganism is free to imagine divinities, while pantheism is forced to pretend, in a priggish way, that all things are equally divine. But I should not imagine any divinity that was sufficiently divine. I seem to know that weary return through the woodlands; for I think in some symbolic fashion I have walked that road before. For as I have tried to confess here without excessive egotism, I think I am the sort of man who came to Christ from Pan and Dionysus and not from Luther or Laud; that the conversion I understand is that of the pagan and not the Puritan; and upon that antique conversion is founded the whole world that we know. It is a transformation far more vast and tremendous than anything that has been meant for many years past, at least in England and America, by a sectarian controversy or a doctrinal division.  On the height of that ancient empire and that international experience, humanity had a vision. It has not had another; but only quarrels about that one. Paganism was the largest thing in the world and Christianity was larger; and everything else has been comparatively small.