Heresies and Fads

“FROM time to time in human history, but especially in restless epochs like our own, a certain class of things appears. In the old world they were called heresies. In the modern world they are called fads. Sometimes they are for a time useful; sometimes they are wholly mischievous. But they always consist of undue concentration upon some one truth or half-truth. Thus it is true to insist upon God’s knowledge, but heretical to insist on it as Calvin did at the expense of his Love; thus it is true to desire a simple life, but heretical to desire it at the expense of good feeling and good manners. The heretic (who is also the fanatic) is not a man who loves truth too much; no man can love truth too much. The heretic is a man who loves his truth more than truth itself. He prefers the half-truth that he has found to the whole truth which humanity has found. He does not like to see his own precious little paradox merely bound up with twenty truisms into the bundle of the wisdom of the world.”

~G.K. Chesterton: Excerpt from “On Reading.”


The Dangers of Philanthropy

“The part of philanthropist is indeed a dangerous one; and the man who would do his neighbour good must first study how not to do him evil, and must begin by pulling the beam out of his own eye.”

Excerpt From

Lilith, a romance

George MacDonald

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A Waking Joy

Is it because it is not thou I see,

But only my poor, blotted fancy of thee?

Oh! never till thyself reveal thy face,

Shall I be flooded with life’s vital grace.

Oh make my mirror-heart thy shining-place,

And then my soul, awaking with the morn,

Shall be a waking joy, eternally new-born.

— George MacDonald

The Desire of Their Soul

“To what end do men gather riches, but to multiply more? Do they not like Pyrrhus, the King of Epire, add house to house and lands to lands; that they may get it all? It is storied of that prince, that having conceived a purpose to invade Italy, he sent for Cineas, a philosopher and the King’s friend: to whom he communicated his design, and desired his counsel. Cineas asked him to what purpose he invaded Italy? He said, to conquer it. And what will you do when you, have conquered it? Go into France, said the King, and conquer that. And what will you do when you have conquered France? Conquer Germany. And what then? said the philosopher. Conquer Spain. I perceive, said Cineas, you mean to conquer all the World. What will you do when you have conquered all? Why then said the King we will return, and enjoy ourselves at quiet in our own land. So you may now, said the philosopher, without all this ado. Yet could he not divert him till he was ruined by the Romans. Thus men get one hundred pound a year that they may get another; and having two covet eight, and there is no end of all their labour; because the desire of their Soul is insatiable. Like Alexander the Great they must have all: and when they have got it all, be quiet. And may they not do all this before they begin? Nay it would be well, if they could be quiet. But if after all, they shall be like the stars, that are seated on high, but have no rest, what gain they more, but labour for their trouble? It was wittily feigned that that young man sat down and cried for more worlds to conquer. So insatiable is man, that millions will not please him. They are no more than so many tennis-balls, in comparison of the Greatness and Highness of his Soul.”

Excerpt From

Centuries of Meditations

Thomas Traherne

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The Riddle of Love

There is but one thing

Which is both work and wage,

Both wound and healing,

Both journey and inn,

Both motive and method,

Both master and servant,

Both giving and receiving,

Both law and freedom,

Both antiquity and novelty,

Both tradition and revolution,

Both mystery and familiarity,

Both innocence and knowledge,

Both germ and consummation,

Both child and ancient,

Both origin and aim.

~ GK Chesterton, mid 1890’s



CS Lewis To Griffiths:

The tension you speak of (if it is a tension) between doing full & generous justice to the Natural while also paying unconditional & humble obedience to the Supernatural is to me an absolute key position. I have no use for mere either-or people (except, of course, in that last resort, when the choice, the plucking out the right eye, is upon us: as it is in some mode, every day. 79 But even then a man needn’t abuse & blackguard his right eye. It was a good creature: it is my fault, not its, that I have got myself into a state wh. necessitates jettisoning it). The reason I doubt whether it is, in principle, even a tension is that, as it seems to me, the subordination of Nature is demanded if only in the interests of Nature herself. All the beauty of nature withers when we try to make it absolute. Put first things first and we get second things thrown in: put second things first & we lose both first and second things. 80 We never get, say, even the sensual pleasure of food at its best when we are being greedy.


What indeed can we imagine Heaven to be but unimpeded obedience. I think this is one of the causes of our love of inanimate nature, that in it we see things which unswervingly carry out the will of their Creator, and are therefore wholly beautiful: and though their kind of obedience is infinitely lower than ours, yet the degree is so much more perfect that a Christian can see the reason that the Romantics had in feeling a certain holiness in the wood and water. The Pantheistic conclusions they sometimes drew are false: but their feeling was just and we can safely allow it in ourselves now that we know the real reason.


For we have often agreed, haven’t we, that one can love nothing but good–sin consisting in the love of the inferior good at the expense of the superior.


One thing we want to do is to kill the word ‘spiritual’ in the sense in which it is used by writers like Arnold and Croce. Last term I had to make the following remark to a room full of Christian undergraduates ‘A man who is eating or lying with his wife or preparing to go to sleep, in humility, thankfulness, and temperance, is, by Christian standards, in an infinitely higher state than one who is listening to Bach or reading Plato in a state of pride’-obvious to you, but I could see it was quite a new light to them.


I have been reading Lady Julian of Norwich. What do you make of her? A dangerous book, clearly, and I’m glad I didn’t read it much earlier. (Have you noticed how God so often sends us books at just the right time?) One thing in her pleased me immensely. Contemptus mundi is dangerous and may lead to Manicheeism. Love of the creature is also dangerous. How the good of each is won, and the danger rejected, in her vision of ‘all that is made’ 215 as a little thing like a hazel nut ‘so small I thought it could hardly endure’. 216 Not bad, you see: just very, very small.



Magdalen College, Oxford. May 29th. 1945 Dear Miss Sayers The reason why they don’t like either the narrative element or low comedy is that these have obvious immediate entertainment value. These prigs, starting from the true proposition that great art is more than entertainment reach the glaring non sequitur ‘entertainment has no place in great art’–like people who think music can’t be ‘classical’ if there is a catchy tune in it. It is as if, having learned that religious emotion is not the whole spiritual life and erotic pleasure not the whole of marriage, they then concluded that dryness and impotence were essentials. Pack of muddle headed manichaeans who got marks at their prep. school for reading ‘good’ books wh. they didn’t enjoy. Pah!, Yours C. S. Lewis