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Tema: The Christian Philosophy of Life by Fr. Tilmann Pesch SJ

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    The Christian Philosophy of Life by Fr. Tilmann Pesch SJ





    M. C. McLaren

    ST. LOUIS, MO.


    Friburgi Brisgovia, die 27 Septembris 1905,

    +Jacobus Augustinus,
    Archiep. S. And., et Edimburgensis,

    die 3 Maii 1909.

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    Re: The Christian Philosophy of Life by Fr. Tilmann Pesch SJ


    The author of "The Christian Philosophy of Life" has
    reached the close of his earthly pilgrimage. " Finita sunt
    omnia. In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti ! Amen"
    Such were his last words. On October 18, 1899, death came
    to end his sharp, prolonged sufferings. It found him an
    exile at Valkenburg, a small town in the Netherlands, and
    his mortal remains have been laid to rest - in foreign soil,
    but we trust that his soul is at home once more in the
    land where light and peace reign eternally.

    Tilmann Pesch was born in Cologne on February 1, 1836,
    and entered the novitiate of the Society of Jesus at Munster
    on October 15, 1852. He was consecrated to the priesthood
    in January 1866, by that splendid champion of the
    liberty of the Church, Wilhelm Emmanuel von Ketteler,
    in the chapel of the episcopal palace at Munich, and made
    his solemn vows at Aix-la-Chapelle on February 2, 1871.
    For the space of many years he filled the post of lecturer
    on philosophy, first at Maria-Laach, and subsequently at
    Blijenbeck, in Holland.

    The numerous works for which we are indebted to his
    pen form no mean contribution to Catholic letters, and attest
    alike his intellectual gifts and industry, whilst through the
    medium of his spiritual writings, sermons and conferences,
    he has brought counsel and comfort to many souls. Wide
    learning, in his case, was accompanied by a childlike
    humility, and his gentle, benignant spirit knew neither fear
    nor compromise wherever principles were at stake. The
    fabric of a life so abundantly fruitful in its apostolic activities
    was reared upon the sure foundation of faith and knowledge,
    energetic action and quiet patience, born of a philosophy in
    which natural and supernatural elements coalesced to form
    one harmonious whole. By these his life's work was directed,
    and rendered consistent and faithful in the service of God
    and of the Church ; from these he drew the strength which
    braced him to the endurance of long years of suffering without
    a murmur. The closer the fetters which bodily weakness
    laid upon him, the freer his soul became, the more stripped of
    earthly desires, and the more perfectly purified by boundless
    submission to the holy will of God.

    The idea of a work on Christian philosophy had long
    been in his mind, and such spare moments as his manifold
    duties left to him were employed in the accumulation of
    material. It was his habit, when possible, to devote the
    last three days of Holy Week to this task. Increasing
    illness, and the advice of Bishop Kneipp, led him at length
    to Betzdorf, in Rhenish Prussia, to seek relief in a course
    of the waters there, and the opportunity thus afforded was
    utilised by him to reduce to order the mass of material
    at his disposal. He was permitted the joy of witnessing
    the strikingly favourable reception accorded to this, his last

    May it prove a source of comfort, edification and spiritual
    healing to many souls in days to come ! Such was the one
    heartfelt desire of its author.

    Luxemburg (Bellevue), February 2, 1900.

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    Re: The Christian Philosophy of Life by Fr. Tilmann Pesch SJ

    First Week

    PART I




    1. " Man, born of a woman, living for a short time, is filled
    with many miseries. Who cometh forth like a flower, and is
    destroyed and fleeth as a shadow, and never continueth in
    the same state."

    Man is encompassed on earth by an abundance of good
    things, destined, in part, to supply his needs, and in part to
    minister to his enjoyment ; through the medium of the
    senses he is endowed with a capacity to recognise these
    things as good, to estimate them rightly and to derive
    pleasure from them.

    But physical life carries with it in addition the liability
    to many evils ; human existence finds itself burdened with
    cares, and the continual labours necessary to the attainment
    of success. Man's near horizon is bounded by the desire to
    obtain and to enjoy.

    These onerous labours have been rightly characterised as
    a struggle for existence, wherein the individual continually
    finds himself face to face with adverse circumstances, and
    with the hostility of his fellow-men.

    Within its proper limits, this struggle cannot be affirmed
    to be of man's choosing ; it is a necessity imposed upon him,
    finding its source in man's own nature, whilst, viewed in the
    light of human achievements, it reveals itself as a factor of
    primary importance. The triumphs to which it has spurred
    mankind represent a gain to humanity at large, and it would
    be folly to undervalue them. But, after all, they fall short
    of satisfying the heart of a man ; the most they can do is
    to bring him temporary oblivion of the self within, whilst
    the current of exterior activities bears him onward. Woe,
    indeed, to him who flings himself so recklessly into the fight
    as to suffer it to absorb the entire energy of his mind and will!

    Up to now the struggle for existence has shown itself
    incapable of diminishing in any practical way the sum of
    human misery. " Here the tinkling of the lute, there the
    mourner's wail," so we read in an old Eastern book ;
    " here a gathering of learned men, there a drunken brawl ; here
    blooming youth, there the ravages of foul disease ; truly, I
    know not whether life be nectar or poison." What men's eyes
    lighted on then, ours light on today. Once the meaning
    of life is restricted to the necessity of bearing our share in
    the struggle for earthly existence, it becomes for us all, and
    especially for the poor amongst us, a source of bitterness and
    of grievous wrong.

    No success in life, however brilliant, can bring the human
    heart that abiding satisfaction for which it cherishes so
    natural and invincible a longing ; hence the lament of the
    preacher : " What hath a man more of all his labour that
    he taketh under the sun ? " (Eccl. i. 3). Given the fullest
    measure of success, what more can it bring a man than those
    fleeting enjoyments of which Goethe spoke such bitter words :
    "I seemed to myself," he says, "like a poisoned rat, which runs
    hither and thither, devouring everything it comes across, yet
    unable to deaden for a moment the gnawing agony within."
    Here was a poet to whom surely earth had been lavish
    enough with her gifts, and who was yet found affirming in
    his old age that " his life had been like that of the tortured
    Sisyphus, nor had he known one single month of real wellbeing
    during the whole seventy-five years of his existence."

    2. How should it have been otherwise ? The earthly
    good at which men aim leaves the real man still face to face
    with hunger ; even if it were able to satisfy him, how
    passing a thing it is after all ! The current flows unceasingly
    by ; I am barely conscious of the present before it has
    become the past, and my eyes light on a thing only to behold
    it vanish.

    The glory of this world is a transitory glory. Where are
    those rich and powerful and learned ones who made the earth
    ring with their name and fame, but whose lives held nothing
    that was truly great or good ? Others have stepped into
    their places and they are forgotten. And their souls, where
    are they now ? What did all that seeming brilliance avail
    them ? " I was once supreme—what use is that to me now ?"
    asked the dying Severus. He who has no thoughts beyond
    this earth climbs the green slopes of the hill of life only to
    perish at length on the bare, deserted summit.

    No single human soul has ever yet reached happiness by
    an insatiate and reckless pursuit of earthly good. Can I then
    look to attain that which has so far been denied to all others ?

    3. The struggle for existence is inevitable, but nothing
    can justify thee in making thy whole life subservient to it.
    " In man," so wrote a noted sceptic of our day, " nature aimed,
    not merely at exalting, but at transcending herself. He
    must be something more and something better than a mere
    animal, and his innate capacity to be that something better
    is the demonstration of this necessity. The life of the senses
    finds adequate and exhaustive expression in the animal
    kingdom, hence it is not for the sake of this life that man
    exists, since no creature exists for the sake of that which is
    past, but by virtue of those new conquests to which it is the
    first to attain. This implies the obligation on man to control
    the animal self by means of those higher faculties which
    mark him off from the brute. The fierce struggle for
    existence has endured long enough. In so far as he too is
    nature's handiwork, man cannot wholly escape it, but his
    higher faculties must come into play, and the struggle be
    ennobled by the consciousness of fellowship and mutual
    obligations. The wild storminess of nature must sink to
    rest in her supreme creation, man ; in him we behold that
    "placidum caput " which Virgil's Neptune lifted above the
    waves to still them " (D. F. Strauss : Der alte und der neue
    Glaube, 9th edition, p. 163).

    Therefore — sursum corda ! When we own a treasure, do
    we leave it to lie unheeded on the ground ? Is earth's dust
    a fitting place for the heart of man ?

    But how can I rise to higher things ? The answer is
    simple—seek the life which is above life.
    History testifies amply to the fact that, apart from the
    principles which Christianity inculcates, there is no power
    known to man which can mitigate the fierceness of the
    struggle for existence, and enable him to direct it to ends
    commensurate with his own high destiny.

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    Re: The Christian Philosophy of Life by Fr. Tilmann Pesch SJ



    1. In proportion as man's life becomes worthier of his
    high endowments, we find the pursuit of the ideal inseparably
    linked with the struggle for existence.

    To seek for nothing beyond physical enjoyment in the
    present life, and to esteem life good only in so far as it
    procures this enjoyment, is to renounce any real claim to the
    rights and dignity of manhood.

    He for whom life holds a loftier meaning than this has
    learnt to look beyond the sensible phenomena of daily
    existence ; the truth and certainty of the convictions to
    which he has attained can never be a matter of indifference
    to him. The limits of this world of sense are soon reached,
    but with the unfolding of nobler aspirations man himself
    grows nobler, and rises to a conception of the ideal, of the
    supreme and timeless, of a source whence all realities
    derive, to which, at their highest, they approximate, whilst
    from first to last they tend towards it. This ideal sheds
    an unearthly radiance on life's meanest details, illumining
    and hallowing them. In themselves these details are so
    prosaic and trivial, so incomplete and void of power to satisfy !
    Hence that yearning after the ideal, of which every noble heart
    and mind is conscious.

    2. The human mind is irresistibly attracted towards the
    ideal, but there is a wide divergence in the views which men
    hold concerning it. The modern world is prepared to define
    it as the fullest possible measure of earthly enjoyment ; it
    bids man's every faculty do homage to the idol of material
    well-being. The intrinsic value of all human activities, it is
    claimed, must necessarily be enhanced by an ideal which
    tends to secure the welfare of society as a whole.
    Where is the origin of this theory to be sought ?
    In the first place, it is the inevitable deduction drawn by
    those who claim that the world is nothing but dust, and that
    chance is its ruler. Thanks to certain purely fortuitous readjustments
    of matter, animal life came into existence, and we
    see in man the ultimate member in the long series ; above
    and below him there is nothing. Humanity can cherish
    no truer ideal, therefore, than that of material well-being
    conceived of at its highest.

    Certain keener-sighted advocates of this theory have
    advanced a step further along the road towards a more
    spiritual conception of the universe. " No !" say these
    " man is something better than mere clay, and the world is no
    plaything of blind chance. Our wisest course is to say,
    Ignoramus. It is clear that man has physical needs, and that
    these must be met, but beyond this all is uncertain. Science
    must be content to recognise the hard-and-fast limits of the

    The consolation offered to a thinking mind which has
    reached the conviction that human nature is not purely
    animal nature, but has within itself a spiritual element
    impelling it to transcend the limits imposed by the senses,
    amounts practically to this : " Set your imagination to
    work ; weave your own ideal out of what dreams you will,
    or accept one ready-woven by your fellow-men : between
    dreams and dreams there is little to choose. All that matters
    is that your ideal should correspond to the needs of your own
    temperament, whilst leaving you free to make the most of
    what life offers."

    Nevertheless, even the most ardent eulogists of modern
    civilisation cannot point out to us one single individual who
    has found satisfaction in this land of dreams. What the
    mind desires at all costs is reality. "Virtue, thou art an
    empty name," murmured Brutus as he lay dying on the
    plains of Philippi.

    3. Our own day claims to have solved the enigma.
    Monistic (Pantheistic) doctrines are preached on every side ;
    the ideal, so we are bidden to believe, flows indeed from a
    divine source, but from one which is in no sense beyond our
    ken. The world itself is the divinity we seek, and mankind
    is the crown and mirror of that divinity.

    This divine being, forsooth, has often enough found itself
    at war with its own essential godhead ; to this the records of
    our hospitals and prisons bear ample testimony. It is a hard
    task indeed to trace the pure stream of the ideal from so
    muddy a source. If there is no God above man, then
    man himself is God. Assume this, and the sluice gates of
    evil are forthwith opened, conscience is dethroned, egotism,
    however shameless, finds its justification, error takes rank with
    truth, vice with virtue, and civilisation itself becomes the veil
    of an unspeakable corruption.

    How eagerly men have sought to clothe earth's aims and
    activities with the robe of high ideal ! Science, culture, a
    lofty political standard, noble patriotism, the discipline of
    character, ardent philanthropy, all these are lauded, and
    justly lauded, in their turn, for all have their value. But,
    none the less, it is a value of which they are possessed only in
    so far as they derive from the source of all goodness and
    truth and beauty ; apart from this source they are withered
    flowers, snapped from the parent stem. Mere animal
    existence can never impart high or permanent worth to the
    delights it offers, and those who turn to it in their search after
    the ideal are no whit nearer the attaining of their end.

    4. Viewed in the light of Christianity, what a change is
    wrought ! Man is divinely led to seek the one source of the
    ideal in a being who is not merely other than the world, but
    the world's Creator, an infinite Being, and infinitely perfect.
    Here is no dream, however inspiring, but Reality itself, and
    the Christian mind is borne on the wings of thought into a
    region where apprehension of this Reality becomes possible.
    The. Supreme Reality to which all nature bears witness is the
    Personal God, the Creator of Heaven and earth.

    It is lost labour to try and extinguish in man's heart
    the conviction that a Divine and Eternal Being truly exists.
    Hold the burning torch downwards if you will, its flame still
    seeks Heaven.

    In the light of Christianity, the entire universe exhibits
    itself as a wide-open book, written by the finger of God, and
    replete with lessons of divine lore. But merely to spell out
    the syllables of this book is not enough ; he who would read
    it aright must become alive to the inward significance underlying
    all phenomena.

    Here is that fount of ideality to which all existence, and
    this human existence of ours in particular, ultimately tends.
    We are destined to felicity, but earthly life offers us, not
    felicity itself, but a road to it. The beauties surrounding us
    are like wayside flowers, given to refresh our hearts ; they
    were never meant to retard us on our journey. The sorrows
    we meet with here below are sent to free us from terrestrial
    affections, and to increase within us the love of those things
    which are eternal. All the conditions of this human life, its
    differing vocations and manifold toils, are of God's ordering,
    and every smallest detail is ennobled by the relation in which
    it stands to the eternal will of God. Patriotism, high capacity
    of whatever kind, the earnest effort which brings success, all
    alike find their true and permanent worth in this supreme

    This Fount, or rather very Ocean of Ideality, the great
    and good God, has drawn nigh to us, and revealed Himself
    in the person of Jesus Christ. Beholding Him, we see not
    only the Godhead, but the ideally perfect Man, who, like the
    sun shining through innumerable dewdrops, kindles the
    hearts of His saints and humblest followers to a hope and
    an ideal which the world is powerless to conceive. His
    presence is abidingly with us in His Church, and within that
    Church, even in the domain of art itself, Divine ideals are
    being continually wrought into the texture of our human

    All that is fleeting is but type and symbol ; here is
    substance in place of shadow, here our eyes contemplate that
    which no human tongue can utter.

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    Re: The Christian Philosophy of Life by Fr. Tilmann Pesch SJ



    Turning to the consideration of human life here on earth,
    we find that, in order to estimate it aright, man must be
    studied alike as an individual and as a social being.
    Contemplated as an individual, he is all and he is nothing.
    Behold in him a mere animal bipes, and what significance can
    be claimed for him ? He is an insect crawling over the earth's
    surface, a bundle of miseries, a being at the mercy of
    physical laws which condition life for him at every turn, and
    endowed with a gift of reason which lifts him above the level
    of the brute world only in order that his sensuous enjoyment
    of the pleasures which nature affords to every living thing
    should be as exquisite as possible.

    On the other hand, when this gift of reason becomes the
    object of an idolatrous worship, when man is acclaimed as the
    most excellent and finished product of matter which has, so to
    speak, won its way through to life, when the whole universe is
    considered as emanating from him as its source, and himself
    as a manifestation of the Godhead, then he becomes all.

    Yet, in truth, he is neither to be spurned nor deified. He
    pales into insignificance indeed compared with the vast
    universe confronting him ; his material necessities are so imperative
    as to be in large measure the determining elements
    in his life; the ground he treads on boasts a stability to
    which he himself is a stranger ; beings devoid of reason surround
    him on every side, and manifest their superiority over
    him in many ways ; he seems to have been flung out on to
    this little planet like a thing intrinsically worthless, fit only to
    be tossed into a corner, and yet in spite of it all this perishable
    child of earth is conscious of an inward excellence far
    exceeding that of the universe about him.

    O Nature, thou art a veritable enigma ! Here, gross
    matter—there, impalpable soul, and between them a union
    inconceivably complete.

    What then is man upon this earth ? A sigh on the wind ;
    an insect creeping up the mountain side ; a rose leaf afloat on
    the wide expanse ; a drop in a limitless sea ; a moment
    between two eternities ; an atom in the midst of countless
    stellar systems—and yet we are to account him the creator of
    a world !

    Man is a feeble thing, unable to override a single law of
    nature, or to prove himself master of events save in an
    infinitesimal degree, yet how splendidly his powers of
    reason and will assert their supremacy over against the world
    about him. He is compared in the sacred Scriptures to the
    fading flower of the field, but those same Scriptures speak of
    him as a being little lower than the angels. In him the
    material and the spiritual world meet and coalesce.

    It is not to be denied that the advance of scientific
    knowledge serves to throw into high relief the comparative insignificance
    of man ; each new step forward reveals the
    infinite distance beyond. But in proportion as man becomes
    aware of his littleness, he is bidden to lift his head and
    recognise that the spirit within him is greater than all that his
    eyes light on here below.

    2. The human intelligence is concerned not merely with
    matter, but with those unseen laws which matter obeys.
    Man lifts his eyes to the stars and measures their orbits, tracing
    and analysing the various chemical elements which go to
    build them up ; he looks down on the ant crawling at his feet,
    and sees a world of science laid bare in its life history. It was
    a true word spoken by Sophocles when he exclaimed : " This
    world teems with wonders, but its greatest wonder is man
    himself." His are the priceless gifts of mind and will ; not
    this or that, but all good is set before him as the object of his
    choice ; his will is free, and he is conscious of its freedom.
    He finds himself faced continually by the necessity of choosing
    between good and evil. Evil allures him by its aspect,
    good repels him by its austerity. But who is there who
    would dally with evil if it were shorn of its seductions,
    and who would not gladly practise good if it were wholly
    sweet in the doing ?

    O God ! it is Thou Who hast clothed man's immortal
    spirit with its earthly covering, and subjected him to the conditions
    of this mortal life to the end, that he may fulfil his
    destiny. Turn to him in Thy mercy ; strengthen him to walk
    erect and live his life nobly, since all his salvation is from

    Nowhere, save in Christianity, has man found power to
    correspond with his high destiny. What more lamentable
    sight can be beheld than that of a Christless people ? To
    contemplate it is to run the risk of despising one's fellow-men,
    and of echoing Goethe's bitter words, " I have lost faith in the
    world altogether, and have learned the lesson of unbelief.
    Human nature is so foolish and contemptible, so systematically
    irrational ; a man needs to live as long a life as mine has
    been to become aware of the supreme contempt he is justified
    in feeling for his fellow-men."

    If, on the other hand, we consider man in the light of that
    perfection to which his Creator destined him, can we ascribe
    too high an excellence to him, or what worthier object of
    study does the whole visible universe afford us ?

    If God were to create such a human being to-day as would
    satisfy the ideal of a non-Christian world, there would be
    nothing for it but to relegate him forthwith to the four walls
    of a prison or a lunatic asylum.

    To understand what man is, and the task assigned to him
    in this life, he must be considered, not only as an individual,
    but as a social being, upon whom social obligations necessarily
    devolve. Human society is no mere aggregate of units,
    swept together by a force acting at random. True, the
    individual has responsibilities towards himself in the first
    instance, but he stands in organic relation to the whole, and
    hence is compelled to take count of his fellow-men, and
    justified in claiming that they, in their turn, shall take count
    of him.

    Those diverse groupings within the wide area of human
    society, which emerge into view when that society is surveyed
    as a whole, reveal themselves as the natural means by which
    it has sought to attain its varying ends, such attainment only
    being possible where there is recognition of common interests,
    and of the necessity of striving for them in common. Just as
    the body, though one organic whole, is yet made up of
    various members, so we find the widest divergences exhibited
    amongst the members of any given community, whether by
    reason of their environment, or of disparity in physical and
    mental endowments.

    Community of interests and obligations holds good in
    every sphere of life, high and low alike. Let a man beware
    of saying, " I am self-sufficing, and intend to live for myself
    alone ; what have I to do with the weal or woe of those about
    me, or of society in general ? " Such an attitude is wholly at
    variance with that decree of nature, in virtue of which the
    good or evil befalling the individual of necessity reacts upon
    his neighbour and the community at large. In many
    respects the general well-being of the community tends to
    enhance that of the individual, whilst the glory or shame
    accruing to any single one of its members represents a gain
    or loss to it as a whole.

    Self-preservation is a primary duty, but a man's own
    interests, far from being neglected, are often most truly served
    when they are set aside in the interests of his neighbour. It is
    an error to assume that we are the losers by what others gain.
    The whole structure of Christianity rests upon this foundation
    of common needs and obligations, and its teachings and
    injunctions can only be rightly understood when the essential
    solidarity of the human race is recognised and taken into

    This was the thought which underlay those words of Pius
    IX., " Would that we could all unite, and thus reach the
    desired end—the bringing of healing to every human ill, and
    the triumphant vindication of truth upon this earth. The
    principles upon which modern civilisation relies are often
    erroneous. Far from giving in our adhesion to them, it
    behoves us to combat them by a counter presentment of

    Whether we contemplate the individual as a unit or as
    forming part of a great whole, the true measure of his importance
    is revealed, not in the light of that which is seen and
    temporal, but of that inner personality or self which is
    engaged in working out an eternal destiny. " As I draw near
    to the end of my life's journey," wrote the renowned von
    Moltke, looking back over his past eighty years, " I am struck
    by the thought—what a wholly different standard will be
    applied in another world to our work here ! The worth of a
    man's life will be determined, not by the measure of success
    achieved, but by the courage with which he fought, and by
    his steadfast adherence to duty even in respect of details which
    none but himself ever knew. What amazing changes will
    take place in the ranks as a result of that last roll-call ! We
    know so little after all of what is to be ascribed to ourselves
    or to others, or, again, to the over-ruling of a higher Will.
    Surely, then, we shall do well to refrain from judging too
    exclusively by outward appearances !

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    Re: The Christian Philosophy of Life by Fr. Tilmann Pesch SJ



    1. The salvation of countless souls is imperilled in these
    days by science falsely so-called, and by the misdirected
    craving for knowledge. This craving is in itself a natural
    one, and the conditions of human existence demand that it
    should be met, but, given its fullest satisfaction, the true
    significance of life may still have been missed. Thy knowledge
    must be a light to guide thee on the path of life ; what can
    it avail thee to know all if thou knowest not how to live ?

    True knowledge is a precious possession, but Plato bids
    us remember that he who seeks it must first be purified of
    passions, since none but the pure soul can apprehend that
    which is true and pure and eternal.

    Have a care that thy will is upright. What use is light
    to the eye that refuses to see ?

    It is a perilous thing to be rich in this world's wisdom, for
    thereby a man is rendered more truly lord and master than
    by actual possessions. There is but a step between knowledge
    and vainglory.

    The inordinate craving to know brings with it a fatal lack
    of concentration, and, in the end, profound disillusionment.
    In Plato's judgment, utter ignorance was a lesser evil than
    confused and ill-assorted knowledge.

    He alone is wise who desires knowledge in order that he
    may the better save his soul.

    Set bounds to thy desires, and acknowledge that the finite
    mind of man may become aware of an existing ocean of
    reality, but can never contain it. This world teems with
    mysteries, and the simplest phenomena about us are the most
    mysterious. Taken at its highest, how insignificant is the
    sum of our knowledge, how vast the region of the unknowable !

    The advance of science can only be compared after all to the
    growing volume of a spherical body ; every increase serves to
    develop more points of contact with the unknown beyond.
    The growth of responsibility keeps even step with the
    growth of knowledge. Many a man stands excused by the
    fact of his ignorance, provided only this be not wilful.

    Cherish no pride in thy fancied attainments. True selfknowledge
    will be thy surest protection against this folly.

    Esteem others highly ; think humbly of thyself. Be content
    to be despised and ignored.

    The one essential is that our apprehension of truth and
    reality should itself be real and true. No mere opinions based
    on sensible phenomena can suffice us : the region of true
    knowledge lies beyond, and the road that leads to it is the
    road of prayer and sedulous fostering of a love of truth within
    the heart. Learned disquisitions are apt, as often as not,
    to prove rather a hindrance than a help.

    All men desire truth, but many seek it beneath the stimulus
    of unbounded egoism ; hence the endless strife between
    hypothesis and hypothesis. He who has come to acknowledge
    the existence of a God must seek truth in utter dependence
    upon Him, and must seek it in the way He prescribes,
    and with no other purpose than that of submitting to its
    authority once it is known. Let God Himself be thy Teacher ;
    when He speaks His creatures must keep silence. Divine
    illumination awaits the soul which seeks God in simplicity,
    and where the knowledge of truth is at stake, one ray of this
    light is worth more than the whole sum of human effort.

    All our knowing here below is as a drop in an ocean of
    nescience. The truest knowledge to which we can attain is
    that of man's nothingness apart from God ; what he is, he is
    in and for God.

    2. Trust not overmuch to thine own understanding, but lend
    a willing ear to the words of those who are wiser and better
    men than thou. It is safer to receive than to give counsel.

    Dwell on the thoughts of great men, but exempt not
    thyself from the necessity of thinking thine own thoughts.

    The value of terse pointed sayings lies in their power to
    stir the mind to reflection. Cursory reading is like the swift
    travelling of the eye over a series of pictures ; no one impression
    abides ; each is continually being effaced by that
    which succeeds it.

    Suffer not thyself to be disconcerted however many they
    may be who hold a contrary opinion to thine own. " Nothing
    is more contemptible than a majority," says Goethe, "it is
    made up of a few blusterers who lead the way, of rogues who
    are ready to do and think anything, and of the bulk of the
    populace which troops behind with little or no idea of what
    it really wants." " A fig for your majority," echoes Schiller,
    " wisdom has ever dwelt with the few."

    Nourish the habit of calm deliberation amidst the rush of
    the present day, which is continually seeking to take the mind
    of man by storm. O Truth ! whither wilt thou turn for
    sanctuary ?

    Keep ward over the dispositions of thy heart, for " the
    heart has its reasons which reason cannot know." It is
    profoundly true that the whole current of a man's thought
    is modified by his emotions.

    Beware of the blind fanaticism which springs from
    unreasoned convictions ; though the truth be set forth as
    clearly and luminously as you will, it can avail nothing.
    Only he who prays leaves truth a way of access to his soul.

    Fear none of the difficulties and sacrifices which await
    thee in thy search. Truth must be fought and suffered for.

    Set a high value on knowledge. Much is belauded under
    that name to-day, and it is no light matter that thine own
    estimate concerning it should be the true one. Knowledge
    means power, whether amongst men or in the daily details
    of thy life.

    Let the truth thou knowest bear fruit in thee. Barren
    knowledge is a cloud without rain.

    The one safeguard of truth in the soul of a man is a life
    lived in accordance with truth. Let us rejoice that it is given
    to us to be sons and daughters of the Catholic Church.

  7. #7
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    Re: The Christian Philosophy of Life by Fr. Tilmann Pesch SJ

    Libros antiguos y de colección en IberLibro


    I. By the light it sheds on the principles underlying the
    phenomena which surround us, science puts us in a position
    to apprehend and interpret these latter truly. If men were
    guided by a right motive in their search after knowledge, all
    separate sciences would be revealed as constituent parts of
    one supremely harmonious whole. But many desire to
    know, not that they may know truth, but that they may
    minister to the concupiscence of the flesh, and the concupiscence
    of the eyes and the pride of life.

    " It is only too certain," said Leibnitz, " that many who
    are unquestionably learned -men, are yet devoid of the light
    of truth." Hence we are confronted, not only by the science
    which really knows, but by a so-called science, which has far
    less claim on our respect, or may be altogether misleading.
    With what different eyes men behold thee, O Science ! By
    the one thou art hailed as an immortal goddess, by another
    as a means to daily bread.

    Rational man seeks light on past and future, and reflects
    on the mysteries of his own being and the end of life ; this
    he does for his own sake, and not to prove to himself that
    knowledge is attainable. He is justified in thinking little of
    any knowledge which fails to elucidate the meaning of life,
    and to contribute, in however small a degree, towards the
    amelioration of the conditions of human existence.

    Knowledge is a good, but not the supreme good. Men
    speak of the right of science to assert her independence, and
    they are justified in demanding that no illegitimate influences
    be suffered to impair her freedom. Yet it is idle to claim
    for her an absolute independence. There is a certain well-defined
    limit which she cannot afford to transgress; once it
    is ignored, science ceases to be science, and becomes a
    deception and a lie. This limit is truth ; science which is not
    primarily concerned with truth is a source of confusion and
    calamity. There is that above her which she must hold
    inviolable. He who seeks knowledge must beware of
    dethroning truth.

    The dogmas of the Catholic Church are as unchanging as
    the axioms of geometry ; neither the one nor the other can
    be held to constitute an obstacle in the path of civilisation.

    " Science," says a writer of our own day, " is a slave,
    bought and sold in the market place ; at whatever cost to
    her dignity, she must bow to every caprice of her all-powerful
    master. Truth, on the other hand, is a queen, with whom
    none may deal lightly. She abates nothing of her claims,
    nor suffers others to abate them ; she accepts no homage
    save that of entire submission."

    Men point to the conclusions at which modern thought
    has arrived. What are they ? Do they carry us one
    whit further than the conclusions of a hundred years ago
    or more ? " Since there are beings," says one, " there is
    necessarily a Being of beings, and in this Being of beings
    we are all immersed." " Precisely the contrary is true,"
    rejoins another. " I myself alone am ; all else is a web of
    illusion spun by the Ego." A third : " I concede the
    existence of world and soul ; each is ignorant of the other,
    but both alike tend to that which is in its essence one." A
    fourth : " Being and soul are unknown things to me ; I can
    only say that they seem to be, yet they are more than mere
    seeming." A fifth: "I am I, i.e., I postulate myself; if I
    postulate myself, I thereby postulate a non-self." A sixth :
    " Presentation there certainly is ; this implies a thing
    presented, and a thing which presents, and together these
    make three."

    2. It need occasion no surprise that such doctrines should
    find many adherents, despite their unintelligibility. The
    most preposterous absurdities have a way of sounding learned
    if only they are sufficiently obscurely expressed. Men are
    ready to do homage to the unintelligible, provided that their
    passions are accorded free play. Ask them why they admire
    this or that, and they will have no answer to give.

    True knowledge is to be attained, but only by the lover
    of truth. A thousand traitors are ambushed beside thy path,
    O Truth ! but thou treadest so lightly as to pass through
    their midst unheard.

    Seek true knowledge, but beware of overrating thy power
    to know. Do as thou wilt, thy knowledge must ever be
    fragmentary. Few realise how much a man must have learnt
    in order to know his ignorance. Even the little knowledge
    which thou hast, thou owest to God, and not to thyself.
    Sometimes natural perception, a momentary insight, is a
    surer guide to truth than any conscious chain of reasoning.
    With reflection comes in the possibility of error. Those
    very reasoning faculties of thine, and the objects with which
    they concern themselves—dost thou owe them to thyself or
    to God ?

    The Catholic Church has always looked upon true science
    as one of the most priceless natural goods to which humanity
    is heir.

    It is more than ever essential in these days that the
    assertions of a would-be science should be met by the
    counter assertions of true science. The peculiar peril of the
    conflict in our own day lies in the fact that the powers of
    darkness have set up their standard in the very field of
    natural science, and are seeking to turn this whole universe,
    with all its glory and beauty, into a weapon of offence against
    the Creator.

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