Book review with excerpts Part One H. The book caused an immediate sensation, provoking bitter rebuttals from the Church and conservatives in the West. Though Wells is uncompromising in his criticism of Catholicism, however, one should not suppose that his book is a one-dimensional tirade. However, he makes it clear that was not and still is not enough to mitigate the systemic rot at the very core of the Christian religion. Wells shows that the problems with Christianity ultimately come from the top—the blind leading the blind.
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Indeed some will contend that Wells goes too far, but this book, it must be remembered was part of the war effort. When it was written, Wells had recently retired from the position of Minister of Allied Propaganda, but that official retirement did not stop him continuing that effort. During those grim days of bombing and terror, many wealthy people fled London to the safety of country estates. But H. Wells refused to leave London. He knew that shared suffering between the economic classes was key to the war effort.
He would not leave knowing that the poor had no choice but to stay and he meant to shame his wealthy fellow-Londoners by his resolve. It was under this sort of duress that he wrote Crux Ansata. In Crux, Wells uses his pulpit of public teacher to add fuel to the fire of British morale.
He praises the independant spirit of the Englishman and denounces the "spreading octopus" of the Church and its "Shinto alliance. It has occasional long quotes by other authors, but as was necessitated by the difficulties of war time, it is a short book; terse and to the point.
There are times though when Crux Ansata dwindles into vagueness, and one gets a brief passing feeling that H. Despite this, however, Crux has its share of powerful quotes that, in part, save it from being merely a piece of wartime propoganda.
It entangled itself with archaic traditions of human sacrifice, with Mithraic blood-cleansing, with priestcraft as ancient as human society, and with elaborate doctrines about the structure of the divinity. The gory entrail-searching forefinger of the Etruscan pontifex maximus presently overshadowed the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth He is fighting against disturbing suggestions.
He must not look at women lest he think of sex. He must not look about him, for reality, that is to say the devil, waits to seduce him on every hand. You see him muttering his protective incantations, avoiding your eye. He is suppressing "sinful" thoughts" ibid, page I cut the following paragraph from The Times of October 27th, At least the Italians now realise what being bombed means and the nature of the suffering they have so callously inflicted on little Malta since June 12th, , when they showered their first bombs on what was then an almost defenceless island.
In March Rome was still unbombed. Now consider the following facts. We are at war with the Kingdom of Italy, which made a particularly cruel and stupid attack upon our allies Greece and France; which is the homeland of Fascism; and whose "Duce" Mussolini begged particularly for the privilege of assisting in the bombing of London.
There are also Italian troops fighting against our allies the Russians. A thorough bombing a la Berlin of the Italian capital seems not simply desirable, but necessary.
At present a common persuasion that Rome will be let off lightly by our bombers is leading to a great congestion of the worst elements.
Not only is Rome the source and centre of Fascism, but it has been the,seat of a Pope, who, as we shall show, has been an open ally of the Nazi- Fascist-Shinto Axis since his enthronement. He has never raised his voice against that Axis, he has never denounced the abominable aggressions, murder and cruelties they have inflicted upon mankind, and the pleas he is now making for peace and forgiveness are manifestly designed to assist the escape of these criminals, so that they may presently launch a fresh assault upon all that is decent in humanity.
The Papacy is admittedly in communication with the Japanese, and maintains in the Vatican an active Japanese observation post. No other capital has been spared the brunt of this war.
Why do we not bomb. Why do we allow these open and declared antagonists of democratic freedom to entertain their Shinto allies and organise a pseudo-Catholic destruction of democratic freedom?
Why do we—after all the surprises and treacheries of this war—allow this open preparation of an internal attack upon the rehabilitation of Europe?
The answer lies in the deliberate blindness of our Foreign Office and opens up a very serious indictment of the mischievous social disintegration inherent in contemporary Roman Catholic activities. Like all human organisations that have played a part through many generations, the career of the Catholic Church has passed through great fluctuations. It had phases of vigorous belief in itself and wise leadership; it fell into evil ways and seemed no better than a dying carcass; it revived, it split.
There is no need for us to explore the early development and variations of Christianity before it assumed its definite form under the patronage and very definite urgency of the Emperor Constantine. The recriminations of the early Fathers, their strange ideas and stranger practices need not concern us here. There were churches, but there was no single unified Church.
Catholicism as we know it as a definite and formulated belief came into existence with the formulation of the Nicene Creed. Eusebius gives a curious account of that strange assemblage at Nicaea, over which the Emperor, although he was not yet a baptised Christian, presided. It was not his first council of the Church, for he had already in presided over. He sat in the middle of the Council of Nicaea upon a golden throne, and, as he had little Greek, we must suppose he was reduced to watching the countenances and gestures of the debaters, and listening to their intonations.
The council was a stormy one. One is tempted to imagine the great emperor, deeply anxious for the solidarity of his empire, firmly resolved to end these divisions, bending towards his interpreters to ask them the meaning of the uproar. The views that prevailed at Nicaea are embodied in the Nicene Creed, a strictly Trinitarian statement, and the Emperor sustained the Trinitarian position.
But afterwards, when Athanasius bore too hardly upon the Arians, he had him banished from Alexandria; and when the Church at Alexandria would have excommunicated Arius, he obliged it to readmit him to communion.
A very important thing for us to note is the role played by this emperor in the unification and fixation of Christendom. Not only was the Council of Nicaea assembled by Constantine the Great, but all the great councils, the two at Constantinople and , Ephesus , and Chalcedon , were called together by the imperial power. And it is very manifest that in much of the history of Christianity at this time the spirit of Constantine the Great is as evident as, or more evident than, the spirit of Jesus.
Constantine was a pure autocrat. Autocracy had ousted the last traces of constitutional government in the days of Aurelian and Diocletian. To the best of his lights the Emperor was trying to reconstruct the tottering empire while there was yet time, and he worked, according to those lights, without any councillors, any public opinion, or any sense of the need of such aids and checks. The idea of stamping out all controversy and division, stamping out all independent thought, by imposing one dogmatic creed upon all believers, is an altogether autocratic idea, it is the idea of the single-handed man who feels that to get anything done at all he must be free from opposition and criticism.
The story of the Church after he had consolidated it becomes, therefore, a history of the violent struggles that were bound to follow upon his sudden and rough summons to unanimity. From him the Church acquired that disposition to be authoritative and unquestioned, to develop a centralised organisation and run parallel with the Roman Empire which still haunts its mentality.
A second great autocrat who presently emphasised the distinctly authoritarian character of Catholic Christianity was Theodosius I, Theodosius the Great He handed all the churches to the Trinitarians, forbade the unorthodox to hold meetings, and overthrew the heathen temples throughout the empire, and in he caused the great statue of Serapis at Alexandria to be destroyed. Henceforth there was to be no rivalry, no qualification to the rigid unity of the Church.
Here we need tell only in the broadest outline of the vast internal troubles the Church, its indigestions of heresy; of Arians and Paulicians, of Gnostics and Manichaeans.
The denunciation of heresy came before the creeds in the formative phase of Christianity. The Christian congregations hadinterests in common in those days; they had a sort of freemasonry of common interests; their general theology was Pauline, but they evidently discussed their fundamental doctrines and documents widely and sometimes acrimoniously. Christian teaching almost from the outset was a matter for vehement disputation. The very Gospels are rife with unsettled arguments; the Epistles are disputations, and the search for truth intensified divergence.
The violence and intolerance of the Nicene Council witnesses to the doctrinal stresses that had already accumulated in the earlier years, and to the perplexity confronting the statesmen who wished to pin these warring theologians down to some dominating statement in the face of this theological Babel.
It is impossible for an intelligent modern student of history not to sympathise with the underlying idea of the papal court, with the idea of one universal rule of righteousness keeping the peace of the earth, and not to recognise the many elements of nobility that entered into the Lateran policy.
Sooner or later mankind must come to one universal peace, unless our race is to be destroyed by the increasing power of its own destructive inventions; and that universal peace must needs take the form of a government, that is to say, a law-sustaining organisation, in the best sense of the word religious—a government ruling men through the educated co-ordination of their minds in a common conception of human history and human destiny.
The Catholic Church was the first clearly conscious attempt to provide such a government in the wor1d. We cannot too earnestly. The policy of the Church was not whole-heartedly and continuously set upon that end.
Only now and then some fine personality or some group of fine personalities dominated it in that direction. Christianity early ceased to be purely prophetic and creative.
The gory entrail-searching forefinger of the Etruscan pontifex maximus presently overshadowed the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth; the mental complexity of the Alexandrian Greek entangled them. In the jangle of these incompatibles the Church, trying desperately to get on with its unifying task, became dogmatic and resorted to arbitrary authority. Its priests and bishops were more and more men moulded to creeds and dogmas and set procedures; by the time they became popes they were usually oldish men, habituated to a politic struggle for immediate ends and no longer capable of worldwide views.
They were intolerant of doubts and questions, not because they were sure of their faith, but because they were not. The unsatisfied hunger of intelligent men for essential truth seemed to promise nothing but perpetual divergence. As the solidarity and dogmatism of the Church hardened, it sloughed off and persecuted heretical bodies and individuals with increasing energy. The credulous, naive and worthy Abbot Guibert of Nogent-sous-Coucy, in his priceless autobiography, gives us the state of affairs in the eleventh century, and reveals how varied and abundant were both the internal and external revolts against the hardening authoritarianism that Hildebrand had implemented.
Abbot Guibert himself is an incipient internal rebel with criticisms of episcopal and papal corruption that already anticipate the Lollards and Luther, and the stories he tells of devils diabolical possession and infidel death-beds, witness to the wide prevalence of scoffing in Christendom even at that early time.
Yet Abbot Guibert, albeit a potential Protestant, was as completely tied to the Catholic Church as we are all tied by gravitation to the earth. There was as yet no means of breaking away. The formulae of separation had still to be discovered. Scoffers might scoff, but they came to heel on the death-bed. Four long centuries of mental travail had to intervene before these ties were broken. But by the thirteenth century the Church had become morbidly anxious about the gnawing doubts that might presently lay the whole structure of its pretensions in ruins.
It was hunting everywhere for heretics, as timid old ladies are said to look under beds and in cupboards. Chief of the heretical stems was the Manichaean way of thinking about the conflicts of life. The Persian teacher Mani was crucified and flayed in the year His way of representing the struggle between good and evil was as a struggle between a power of light and a power of darkness inherent in the universe.
All these profound mysteries are necessarily represented by symbols and poetic expressions, and the ideas of Mani still find a response in many intellectual temperaments to-day.
One may hear Manichaean doctrines from many Christian pulpits. But the orthodox Catholic symbol was a different one. Manichaean ideas spread very widely in Europe, and particularly in Bulgaria and the south of France.
In the south of France the people who held them were called the Cathars. They arose in Eastern Europe in the ninth century among the Bulgarians and spread westward. The Bulgarians had recently become Christian and were affected by dualistic eastern thought.
Crux Ansata: An Indictment of the Roman Catholic Church
Crux ansata : an indictment of the Roman Catholic Church
Crux ansata; an indictment of the Roman Catholic Church
Crux Ansata Quotes