John Henry Newman.

On the scope & nature of university education online

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from the public schools is to impair the completeness
and to invalidate the trustworthiness of all that is
actually taught in them.

But I have been insisting simply on Natural Theo-
logy, and that, because I wished to carry along with
me those who were not Catholics, and, again, as being
confident that no one can really set himself to master
and to teach the doctrine of an intelligent Creator in
its fulness, without going on a great deal further than
he at present dreams. I ask, then, secondly : if this
Science, even as human reason may attain to it, has
such claims on the regard, and enters so variously into
the objects, of the Professor of Universal Knowledge,
how can any Catholic imagine that it is possible for
him to cultivate Philosophy and Science with due
attention to their ultimate end, which is Truth, sup-
posing that system of revealed facts and principles,
which constitutes the Catholic Faith, which goes so far
beyond nature, and which he knows to be most true,
be omitted from among the subjects of his teaching ?

In a word, Religious Truth is not only a portion,
but a condition of general knowledge. To blot it out
is nothing short, if I may so speak, of unravelling the
web of University Education It is, according to the
Greek proverb, to take the Spring from out of the
year ; it is to imitate the preposterous proceeding of
those tragedians who represented a drama with the
omission of its principal part.



i OTHING is more common in the world at
large than to consider the resistance, made
on the part of religious men, especially
Catholics, to the separation of Secular Education from
Religion, as a plain token that there is some real con-
trariety between human science and Revelation. It
matters not to the multitude who draw this inference,
whether the protesting parties avow their belief in this
contrariety or not; it is borne in upon the many, so to
say, as self-evident, that religious men would not thus
be jealous and alarmed about Science, did they not feel
instinctively, though they may not recognise it, that
knowledge is their born enemy, and that its progress
will be certain to destroy, if it is not arrested, all that
they hold venerable and dear. It looks to the world
like a misgiving on our part similar to that which is
imputed to our refusal to educate by means of the
Bible only ; why should you dread it, men say, if
it be not against you ? And in like manner, why
should you dread secular education, except that it is
against you ? Why impede the circulation of books
which take religious views opposite to your own ?
Why forbid your children and scholars the free
perusal of poems, or tales, or essays, or other light


literature which you fear would unsettle their minds ?
Why oblige them to know these persons and to shun
those, if you think that your friends have reason on
their side as fully as your opponents ? J^^J^Jj^bo^
and unsuspicious j want .of self-reliance ^ y^tKe^mar k of

Now, as far as this objection relates to any supposed
opposition between secular science and divine, which is
the subject on which I am at present engaged, I made
a sufficient answer to it in my foregoing Discourse.
In it I said, that, in order to have possession of truth
at all, we must have the whole truth ; that no one
science, no two sciences, no one family of sciences,
nay, not even all secular science, is the whole truth ;
that revealed truth enters to a very great extent into
the province of science, philosophy, and literature, and
that to put it on one side, in compliment to secular
science, is simply, under colour of a compliment, to do
science a great damage. <pl do not say that every
science will be equally affected by the omission ; pure
mathematics will not suffer at all ; chemistry will
suffer less than politics, politics than history, ethics, or
metaphysics ; still, that the various branches of science
are intimately connected with each other, and form
one whole, which whole is impaired, and to an extent
which it is difficult to limit, by any considerable
omission of knowledge, of whatever kind, and that
revealed knowledge is very far indeed from an in-
considerable department of knowledge, this I consider
undeniable. As the written and unwritten word of
God make up revelation as a whole, and the written,
taken by itself, is but a part of that whole, so in turn
Revelation itself may be viewed as one of the con-
stituent parts of human knowledge, considered as a



whole, and its omission is the omission of one of those
constituent parts. Revealed Religion furnishes facts to
the other sciences, which those sciences, left to them-
selves, would never reach ; and it invalidates apparent
facts, which, left to themselves, they would imagine.
Thus, in the science of history, the preservation of
our race in Noah's ark is an historical fact, which
history never would arrive at without Revelation;
and, in the sciences of physiology and moral philo-
sophy, our race's progress and perfectibility is a dream,
because Revelation contradicts it, whatever may be
plausibly argued in its behalf by scientific inquirers.
It is not then that Catholics are afraid of human
knowledge, but that they are proud of divine know-
ledge, and that they think the omission of any kind of
knowledge whatever, human or divine, to be, as far as
it goes, not knowledge, but ignorance.

Thus I anticipated the objection in question last
week : now I am going to make it the introduction to
a further view of the relation of secular knowledge to
divine. I observe, then, that, if you drop any science
out of the circle of knowledge, you cannot keep its
place vacant for it ; that science is forgotten ; the
other sciences close up, or, in other words, they ex-
ceed their proper bounds, and intrude where they have
no ri^ht. For instance, I suppose, if ethics were sent
into banishment, its territory would soon disappear,
under a treaty of partition, as it may be called, between
law, political economy, and physiology ; what, again,
would become of the province of experimental science,
if made over to the Antiquarian Society ; or of history,
if surrendered out and out to Metaphysicians ? The
case is the same with the subject-matter of Theology ;
it would be the prey of a dozen various sciences, if


Theology were put out of possession ; and not only
so, but those sciences would be plainly exceeding their
rights and their capacities in seizing upon it. They
would be sure to teach wrongly, where they had no
mission to teach at all. The enemies of Catholicism
ought to be the last to deny this : for they have never
been blind to a like usurpation, as they have called it,
on the part of theologians ; those who accuse us of
wishing, in accordance with Scripture language, to make
the sun go round the earth, are not the men to deny
that a science which exceeds its limits falls into error.

I neither then am able nor care to deny, rather I
assert the fact, and to-day I am going on to account
for it, that any secular science, cultivated exclusively,
may become dangerous to Religion ; and I account for
it on this broad principle, that no science whatever,
however comprehensive it may be, but will fall largely
into error, if it be constituted the sole exponent of all
things in heaven and earth, and that, for the simple
reason that it is encroaching on territory not its own,
and undertaking problems which it has no instruments
to solve. And I set off thus :

One of the first acts of the human mind is to take
hold of and appropriate what meets the senses, and
herein lies a chief distinction between man's and a
brute's use of them. Brutes gaze on sights, they are
arrested by sounds; and what they see and what
they hear are sights and sounds only. The intellect
of man, on the contrary, energises as well as his eye
or ear, and perceives in sights and sounds something
beyond them. It seizes and unites what the senses
present to it; it grasps and forms what need not be
seen or heard except in detail. It discerns in lines
and colours, or in tones, what is beautiful and what:


is not. It gives them a meaning, and invests them
with an idea. It gathers up a succession of notes,
as it were, into a point of time, and calls it a melody;
it has a keen sensibility towards angles and curves,
lights and shadows, tints and contours. It distinguishes
between rule and exception, between accident and de-
sign. It assigns phenomena to a general law, qualities
to a subject, acts to a principle, and effects to a cause.
In a word, it philosophises ; for I suppose Science and
Philosophy, in their elementary idea, are nothing else
but this habit of viewing, as it may be called, the
objects which sense conveys to the mind, of throwing
them into system, and uniting and stamping them with
one form.

This method is so natural to us, as I have said, as
to be almost spontaneous ; and we are impatient when
we cannot exercise it, and in consequence we do not
always wait to have the means of exercising it aright,
but we often put up with insufficient or absurd views
or interpretations of what we meet with, rather than
have none at all. We refer the various matters which
are brought home to us, material or moral, to causes
which we happen to know of, or to such as are simply
imaginary, sooner than refer them to nothing ; and
according to the activity of our intellect do we feel a
pain and begin to fret, if we are not able to do so.
Here we have an explanation of the multitude of ofF-
hand sayings, flippant judgments, and shallow gene-
ralisations, with which the world abounds. Not from
self-will only, nor from malevolence, but from the
irritation which suspense occasions, is the mind forced
on to pronounce, without sufficient data for pronounc-
ing. Who does not form some view or other, for
instance, of any public man, or any public event, nay,


CTen so far in some cases as to reach the mental
delineation of his appearance or of its scene ? yet how
few have a right to form any view. Hence the mis-
conceptions of character, hence the false impressions
and reports of words or deeds, which are the rule,
rather than the exception, in the world at large ;
hence the extravagances of undisciplined talent, and
the narrowness of conceited ignorance ; because,
though it is no easy matter to view things correctly,
yet the busy mind will ever be viewing. We cannot
do without a view, and we put up with an illusion,
when we cannot get a true one.

p Now, observe how this impatience acts in matters
of research and speculation. What happens to the
ignorant and hotheaded, will take place in the case of
every person whose education or pursuits are con-
tracted, whether they be merely professional, merely
scientific, or of whatever other peculiar complexion.
^ Men, whose life lies in the cultivation of one science,
or the exercise of one method of thought, have no
more right, though they have often more ambition, to
generalise upon the basis of their own pursuit yet be-
yond its range, than the schoolboy or the ploughman
to judge of a Prime Minister. /< But they must have
something to say on every subject ; habit, fashion, the
public require it of them : and, if so, they can only
give sentence according to their knowledge. You
might think this ought to make such a person modest
in his enunciations ; not so : too often it happens
that, in proportion as his knowledge is narrow, is,
not his distrust of it, but the deep hold it has upon
him, his absolute conviction of his own conclusions,
and his positiveness in maintaining them. He has the
obstinacy of the bigot, whom he scorns, without the


bigot's apology, that he has been taught, as he thinks,
his doctrine from heaven. Thus he becomes, what is
commonly called, a man of one idea ; which properly
means a man of one science, and of the view, partly
true, but subordinate, partly false, which is all that
can proceed out of anything so partial. Hence it is
that we have the principles of utility, of combination,
of progress, of philanthropy, or, in material sciences,
comparative anatomy, phrenology, electricity, exalted
into leading ideas, and keys, if not of all knowledge,
at least of many things more than belong to them
principles, all of them true to a certain point, yet all
degenerating into error and quackery, because they
are carried to excess, at a point where they require
interpretation and restraint from other quarters, and
because they are employed to do what is simply too
much for them, inasmuch as a little science is not deep
philosophy. J

Lord Bacon has set down the abuse, of which I
am speaking, among the impediments to the Advance-
ment of the Sciences, when he observes that " men have
used to infect their meditations, opinions, and doctrines,
with some conceits which they have most admired, or
some Sciences 'which they have most applied , and give all
things else a tincture according to them utterly untrue
and Improper. ... So have the alchemists made a
philosophy out of a few experiments of the furnace ;
and Gilbertus, our countryman, hath made a philosophy
out of the observations of a lodestone. So Cicero,
when, reciting the several opinions of the nature of the
soul, he found a musician that held the soul was but a
harmony, saith pleasantly, * hie ab arte sua non recessit,'
* he was true to his art/ But of these conceits Aris-
totle speaketh seriously and wisely when he saith, * Qui


respiciunt ad pauca, de facili pronunciant/ * they who
contemplate a few things have no difficulty in
deciding/ '

And now I have said enough to explain the incon-
venience which I conceive necessarily to result from
a refusal to recogmse ^Heological truth ln~a course
of Universal Knowledge ; jt is not only the loss of
Theology,_itis the perversion orotEeF~Bciences. -
What it unjustly forfeits, others unjustly seizer They
have their own department, and, in going out of it,
attempt to do what they really cannot do ; and that
the more mischievously, because they do teach what
in its place is true, though when out of its place, per-
verted or carried to excess, it is not true. And, as
every man has not the capacity of separating truth from
falsehood, they persuade the world of what is false by
urging upon them what is true. Nor is it open enemies
alone who encounter us here, sometimes it is friends,
sometimes persons who, if not friends, at least have no
wish to oppose Religion, and are not conscious they
are doing so ; and it will carry out my meaning more
fully if I give some illustrations of it.

As to friends, I may take as an instance the cultiva-
tion of the Fine Arts, Painting, Sculpture, Archi-
tecture, to which I may add Music. These high
ministers of the Beautiful and the Noble are, it is
plain, special attendants and handmaids of Religion ;
but it is equally plain that they are apt to forget
their place, and, unless restrained with a firm hand,
instead of being servants, will aim at becoming
principals. Here lies the advantage, in an ecclesi-
astical point of view, of their more rudimental state,
I mean of the ancient style of architecture, of Gothic
sculpture and painting, and of what is called Gregorian


music, that these inchoate sciences have so little innate
vigour and life in them, that they are in no danger of
going out of their place, and giving the law to Religion.
But the case is very different when genius has breathed
upon their natural elements, and has developed them
into what I may call intellectual powers. When
Painting, for example, grows into the fulness of its
function as a simply imitative art, it at once ceases to
be a dependant on the Church. It has an end of its
own, and that of earth : Nature is its pattern, and the
object it pursues is the beauty of Nature, even till it
becomes an ideal beauty, but a natural beauty still. It
cannot imitate that beauty of Angels and Saints which
it has never seen. At first, indeed, by outlines and
emblems it shadowed out the Invisible, and its want of
skill became the instrument of reverence and modesty ;
but as time went on and it attained its full dimensions
as an art, it rather subjected Religion to its own
ends than ministered to the ends of Religion, and in
its long galleries and stately chambers, adorable figures
and sacred histories did but mingle amid the train of
earthly, not to say unseemly forms, which it created,
borrowing withal a colouring and a character from
that bad company. Not content with neutral ground
for its development, it was attracted by the sublimity
of divine subjects to ambitious and hazardous essays.
Without my saying a word more, you will clearly
understand, gentlemen, that under these circumstances
Religion was bound to exert itself, that the world
might not gain an advantage over it. Put out of sight
the severe teaching of Catholicism in the schools of
Painting, as men now would put it aside in their philo-
sophical studies, and in no long time you would have
had the hierarchy of the Church, the Anchorite and


Virgin-martyr, the Confessor and the Doctor, the
Angelic Hosts, the Mother of God, the Crucifix,
the Eternal Trinity, supplanted by a sort of pagan
mythology in the guise of sacred names, by a creation
indeed of high genius, of intense, and dazzling, and
soul-absorbing beauty, in which, however, there was
nothing which subserved the cause of Religion,
nothing on the other hand which did not directly
or indirectly minister to corrupt nature and the powers
of darkness.

The art of Painting, however, is peculiar : Music
and Architecture are more ideal, and their respective
archetypes, even if not supernatural, at least are ab-
stract and unearthly ; and yet what I have been
observing about Painting, holds, I suppose, analogously,
in the marvellous development which Musical Science
has undergone in the last century. Doubtless here too
the highest genius may be made subservient to Religion ;
here too, still more simply than in the case of Painting,
the Science has a field of its own, perfectly innocent,
into which Religion does not and need not enter ; on
the other hand here also, in the case of Music as of
Painting, it is certain that Religion must be alive and
on the defensive, for, if its servants sleep, a potent
enchantment will steal over it.ffi MUSIC, I suppose,
though this is not the place to enlarge upon it, has
an object of its own ; as mathematical science also, it
is the expression of ideas greater and more profound
than any in the visible world, ideas, which centre
indeed in Him whom Catholicism manifests, who is
the seat of all beauty, order, and perfection whatever,
still ideas after all which are not those on which
Revelation directly and principally fixes our gaze.
If then a great master in this mysterious science (if I


may speak of matters which seem to lie out of my
own province) throws himself on his own gift, trusts
its inspirations, and absorbs himself in those thoughts
which, though they come to him in the way of nature,
belong to things above nature, it is obvious he will
neglect everything else. Rising in his strength, he
will break through the trammels of words, he will
scatter human voices, even the sweetest, to the winds ;
he will be borne upon nothing less than the fullest
flood of sounds which art has enabled him to draw
from mechanical contrivances; he will go forth as
a giant, as far as ever his instruments can reach, start-
ing from their secret depths fresh and fresh elements
of beauty and grandeur as he goes, and pouring them
together into still more marvellous and rapturous com-
binations ; and well indeed and lawfully, while he
keeps to that line which is his own ; but, should
he happen to be attracted, as he well may, by the
sublimity, so congenial to him, of the Catholic doctrine
and ritual, should he engage in sacred themes, should
he resolve to do honour to the Mass, or the Divine
Office (he cannot have a more pious, a better purpose,
and Religion will gracefully accept what he gracefully
offers ; but) is it not certain, from the circumstances
of the case, that he will rather use Religion than
minister to it, unless Religion is strong on its own
ground, and reminds him that, if he would do honour
to the highest of subjects, he must make himself its
scholar, must humbly follow the thoughts given him,
and must aim at the glory, not of his own gift, but of
the Great Giver ?

As to Architecture, it is a remark, if I recollect
aright, both of F&idlon and Berkeley, men so different,



that it carries more with it even than the names of
those celebrated men, that the Gothic style is not as
simple as ecclesiastical structures demand. I under-
stand this to be a similar judgment to that which I have
been passing on the cultivation of Painting and Music.
For myself, certainly I think that that style which,
whatever be its origin, is called Gothic, is endowed
with a profound and a commanding beauty, such as no
other style possesses with which we are acquainted,
and which probably the Church will not see surpassed
till it attain to the Celestial City. No other archi-
tecture, now used for sacred purposes, seems to have
an idea in it, whereas the Gothic style is as har-
monious and as intellectual as it is graceful. But
this feeling should not blind us, rather it should
awaken us, to the danger lest what is really a divine
gift be incautiously used as an end rather than as a
means. It is surely quite within the bounds of possi-
bility, that, as the renaissance three centuries ago
^carried away its own day, in spite of the Church, into
excesses in literature and art, so that revival of an
almost forgotten architecture, which is at present
taking place in our own countries, in France, and in
Germany, may in some way or other run away with us
into this or that error, unless we keep a watch over its
course. I am not speaking of Ireland ; but to English
Catholics at least it would be a serious evil, if it came
as the emblem and advocate of a past ceremonial or
an extinct nationalism. We are not living in an age
of wealth and loyalty, of pomp and s tat eli ness, of
time-honoured establishments, of pilgrimage and pen-
ance, of hermitages and convents in the wild, and of
fervent populations supplying the want of education by
love, and apprehending in form and symbol what they


cannot read in books. Our rules and our rubrics have
been altered now to meet the times, and hence an
obsolete discipline may be a present heresy.

I have been pointing out to you, gentlemen, how the
Fine Arts may prejudice Religion, by laying down the
law in cases where they should be subservient. The
illustration is analogous rather than strictly proper to my
subject, yet I think it is to the point. If then the most
loyal and dutiful children of the Church must deny
themselves, and do deny themselves, when they would
sanctify to a heavenly purpose sciences as sublime and
as divine as any which are cultivated by fallen man,
it is not wonderful, when we turn to sciences of a
different character, of which the object is tangible and
material, and the principles belong to the Reason, not
the Imagination, that we should find their disciples,
if disinclined to the Catholic Faith, acting the part of
opponents to it, and that, as may often happen, even
against their will and intention. Many men there are,
who, devoted to one particular subject of thought,
and making its principles the measure of all things,
become enemies to Revealed Religion before they
know it, and, only as time proceeds, are aware of
their state of mind. These, if they are writers or
lecturers, while in this state of unconscious or semi-
conscious unbelief, scatter infidel principles under the
garb and colour of Christianity; and this, simply
because they have made their own science, whatever
it is, Political Economy, or Geology, or Astronomy,
not Theology, the centre of all truth, and view every
part or the chief parts of knowledge as if developed
from it, and to be tested and determined by its prin-
ciples. Others, though conscious to themselves of
their anti- Christian opinions, have too much good feel-


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Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanOn the scope & nature of university education → online text (page 8 of 22)