To Move Past Modernity, We Must Embrace Eternity | Charlie George
We have all, whether we have come to realise it or not, inherited a great tradition. Contained within this tradition is the wisdom of countless generations of our ancestors, whose answers to the most enduring questions of life have been preserved through our traditional social institutions and religion. These traditions do not form a perfect science, nor are they rational and constructed with precise logic, they are “untaught feelings” as Burke proudly claims. They have grown from our land and our people, with twists and knots, dead-ends and uncountable branches, yet they stand firm and rooted like an ancient oak rising alone from a pleasant green field. They have a sense of an eternity out of which our home has been built. It has been the responsibility of conservatives to protect this home, not just for ourselves but for our children and their children after them, so that they can call this land home as we have. We have failed.
Now we are left with institutions that were crafted in the image of eternity but no longer believe in it. There is no better example than our very own Church of England. The Church of a land once known as the “Dowry of Mary” is now a confused organisation of vague and unjustified religion. It seems still like a teenager in naïve rebellion against their family, and like the teenager, it shall soon discover that that its parents were right all along. In 2014 the number of weekly Church of England attendants fell below one million for the first time. We now have more regularly practising Muslims than Church of England attendants in our apparently Christian nation.
The Catholic Church, however, despite suffering from hundreds of years of violent oppression in a post-reformation England, for much of which it was illegal to be a practising Catholic, is doing rather well. If not thriving, it has not suffered the same expiration as the Church of England has done under modernism. The proportion of Catholics in the UK has remained roughly equal in the last thirty years, in the meantime, Anglicans have declined from 45% to under 20% of the population. Catholics now make up a plurality of young Christians in the United Kingdom.
This must be attributed to the unwavering belief in the eternal that so thoroughly permeates the Catholic faith. There is no better example than the Eucharist itself. The receiving of communion, the most important sacrament, and the spiritual sustenance of believers, long believed to be Jesus’ body and blood, is described by the Catechism:
“Eucharist, formed of two things, the one earthly and the other heavenly: so too our bodies, which partake of the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, but possess the hope of resurrection.”Catechism of the Catholic Church
The transubstantiation of earthly bread into the heavenly body of Christ establishes a communion between man and God, reaching beyond time and comprehension, and so the everlasting becomes real.
The Anglicans however desired to be a via media between the tradition of the Catholics and the revolution of the protestants. They chose a compromise between unbreakable teaching and eternal sacraments, and fashionable philosophy and unlimited interpretation. They denied transubstantiation and in doing so they crushed the sense of everlasting divinity in the Eucharist.
Nowadays they are mostly preoccupied with bickering about female ordination and same-sex marriage; they have already sacrificed the façade of eternal teaching to one of these, the next cannot be far behind. All the while, it has become clear that in the bending of its will to modern fashions, there cannot be an eternal Holy Spirit guiding it through time, and the faith of its believers dwindle.
It is not only in religion that the eternal has perished. Eternity in our own lives has been mocked and ridiculed out of existence, not by the revolutionary left, but by smugly materialist liberals. It is not the communist that has ravaged our traditions in a sudden fit of ruin but the liberal that has stood idly by as the forces of unfettered capitalism and global imagination did it for them. They relish in this destruction, the cleansing of the dark ages making way for the flourishing of the enlightenment. They arrogantly proclaim this a unique and remarkable transformation, that for the first time in its history humanity has orientated itself towards truth. Yet, if you challenge them, they then insist it is merely a part of the progression that has been ongoing since humanity’s dawn. If asked if they can imagine a future in which they are not a progressive, they invariably reply with “no”. They have defined a new eternity, an eternity of progression.
They claim that they have seen the light at the end of the dark tunnel of humanity, yet in their never-ending progression they know that the light will never be reached. That is the very nature of eternal progression, it is indistinguishable from eternal stagnation. Are you gloriously speeding through a tunnel without end, or are you sat still forever in a single spot in the tunnel? It is impossible to tell, for both are simply an endless age of darkness.
In the eternity of progression, all other eternities must be destroyed to make way for the modern man.
“Modern man enjoys a sense of superiority to those who came before. That is almost the essence of modernity itself: and underneath the pride of it all there lurks a persistent fear that the pride is empty.”Anthony Esolen, Nostalgia
An eternal homeland has been ridiculed as an ignorant and backwards myth in the truth of a peaceful, unified world. An eternal faith has been dismantled as an idiotic fairy tale only believed by the gullible masses, replaced by a perfect and perfectly true science. Eternal family has been dismissed as an oppressive and patriarchal tyranny in favour of individual autonomy.
But we only swapped one myth for another, only the myths we have lost were really real. They were built upon the collective experience of our ancestors and contained in them was the wisdom that we have inherited from them. Our modern myths were invented by fashionable egotists with a point to prove.
An eternal home that its people live and die for is much truer than our bland and homogenous global community in which no one is ever truly home. An eternal faith that calls its believers to live a life of pilgrimage to everlasting salvation is much truer than soulless materialism that dares not imagine that there is anything more than what one can touch. An eternal family in which one inherits their homeland and faith, never to relinquish them, is much truer than a disordered family where the bond between parent and child is no more than economic sustenance, never mind eternal.
This is the state of modernity, in thinking that we know all the errors of our past, we have fooled ourselves into thinking we have seen eternity.
“The human race, according to religion, fell once, and in falling gained the knowledge of good and evil. Now we have fallen a second time, and only the knowledge of evil remains to us.”G. K. Chesterton, Heretics
Our children are taught, in confused and contradictory platitudes, that you should make the most of your life, have as much fun as you can, experience as many things as you can, and make all the impact that you can. They are taught that to simply enjoy (and prolong) this single lifetime as much as possible is the best way to spend it. They come to believe that to have the greatest share of happiness in a world without meaning is the only goal. What they are not taught is that the greatest share in nothing is still smaller than the smallest share in eternity.
The famous Cathedral of Notre Dame took 182 years to build, the men who laid the first stones were long dead when the final stones were laid atop them. Men toiled for entire lives and saw not the material fruits of their labour. Instead they imbued their toil into stones that would serve the faithful for millennia after they had left this Earth. Now, the men who fit the first block of concrete on a corporate skyscraper are still alive to see it torn down, and their toil was for nothing. In the wisdom of the famous Greek proverb:
“A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”
Now Notre Dame, along with countless churches across Europe, have burned. Although celebrities are sure to make a public spectacle of mourning, we dare not speak of the undying faith of those that built these churches. We certainly dare not defend their faith against the abominable bulldozer of eternal progression with its spiritually homeless multiculturalism and aggressive utilitarianism. We dare not defend our home. This cannot be understated; what we are witness to is the spiritual death of the West and the fall of eternity.
So, we must re-embrace the eternal. Eternal communities that are enduring in their faith and families that are indestructible in their spirit must be the ideal upon which all else follows. Our civilisation must know its founding and do right by it with an everlasting will. We must be obedient to our traditions and be unapologetic in our exaltation of them. If we are to do this, we shall understand eternity once again, and we may finally find our way back home.