10 JANUARY 1931, Page 20

The Revolt from Naturalism

The Flight from Reason. By Arnold Lunn. (Eyre and Spottiswoode. 7s. 6d.) As recent articles in the Spectator have proved, a marked feature of the contemporary criticism of religion is the con temptuous rejection of its claim to reveal a supernatural reality ; indeed, of the claim that there is any supernatural reality to reveal. On the other hand, religion itself—at least,: in its best representatives—tends to reassert as the very essence of its message the eternal and supernatural character of its Object, and of the life which it offers to men. Abandoning the nervous and somewhat undignified effort to come to terms with an evolutionary philosophy of existence, and the fulsome anxiety to prove the usefulness of faith, which marked much

of the apologetic of the immediate past, it is now inclined to withdraw from an association which has become somewhat too intimate ; and has brought the inconveniences of familiarity in its train.

This swing-over towards a twofold conception of the worlds of Nature and Grace, a fresh apprehension of the " otherness " of God, is nearly connected with that renewed respect for Thomist philosophy which is an evident feature of current theological thought. This movement has, of course, one of

its chief prophets in M. Maritain, whose writings, thanks to the excellent translations in which they are offered to us, are steadily working their way into the texture of our intellectual life. The Things that are not Caesar's—a translation of ".Primauii du Spirituel"—though some admirers of " Art and Scholasticism " and " Prayer and Intelligence " may find it disappointing, fulfils the important function of bringing

its author's philosophy into contact- with the problems of actual life. Moreover, its theme, the respective domains of

spiritual and political authority, is one of great interest to Christians outside the Roman Church. The original edition of the book appeared at the time of the Papal condemnation of the Action Francaise ; and strove to set forth the un- changing principles involved in that unfortunate episode concerning the relations between spiritual and temporal power. Of its three chapters, one looks backward, to the

age which studied and determined the relations of Church and State. The next discusses these as they appeared in a crisis which sharply divided French Catholic opinion. The last looks forward to the continued operation of these unchanging

principles in history yet to be. All is based on the essential Thomist distinction between the natural and supernatural

worlds ; and the absolute primacy of the supernatural in all that concerns the enduring life of man.

Though here and there M. Maritain's downright language may vex anti-clerical minds, it is not necessary to follow him in identifying the Supernatural Society with the Roman Church in order to profit by his beautiful book ; with its reminder that "a Christian political order in the world is not to be artificially constructed by diplomatic means ; it is the product of the spirit of faith." We have, he says, to " restore within ourselves the essential order which the modern world has shattered" ; centring all things in the eternal, before we can hope to re-order the temporal setting of our life. Hence the path to right action is ever through contemplation—a moral which will take no student of Maritain by surprise :-

"Contemplation alone discovers the value cf charity . . . with- out contemplation, every philosophical and theological doctrine, even true, becomes sectarian all Ruins of even honourable zeal mere rivalries. Because it makes man one single spirit with God, it really makes unity in man and among men."

Mr. Lunn's lively counter-attack upon the popular scientific assailants of Christian theology takes us into another intel- lectual climate. Yet here again we notice the definite repu. diation of all merely humanitarian and immanentist solutions

of the mystery of existence ; how firm a stand is made for the " other-worldly " element of faith. Mr. Lunn's real subject is the unwarranted claim of the scientific mind to pronounce on universals. He desires to foster that healthy suspicion with which " Englishmen have always viewed the expert." Especially is he concerned to point out how unsafe a guide to our understanding of the Universe the scientific expert has proved in the past ; how persistently he is influenced by a priori considerations ; how easily he takes up an attitude of hostility to all that lies beyond his own system of reference. " Organized science is gradually usurping the position which was once held by the Church. Scientists are beginning to

assume that their pronouncements on religion or political or social problems deserve a respect greater than that accorded to the view of the non-scientific." Let us then remember the depth of the mystery that surrounds us, the small area within which " organized science " operates, and the many mistakes it has made in the past. Darwinism was once held to demolish the Christian view of man's nature ; but now, according to the view of a great living biologist, for men of clear intellect Darwinism has long been dead." A mechanistic universe- left no place for miracle ; but the great physicists have shown that a mechanistic universe no longer fits the facts.. It is true that " the bankruptcy of naturalism does not demonstrate the truth of supernaturalism" ; but at least it clears the ground of many supposed impediments to faith.

All this is excellent popular apologetic. But when Mr. Lunn proceeds to discuss those elements of experience which are denied or ignored by " organized science," we feel that he sometimes overstates his case. There are other explana-

tions than that of " miracle " for the cures at Lourdes, unless he is prepared to class all mental and spiritual healing as

miraculous. And when the admirable results of the Oxford Group Movement, and the unexplained phenomena of psychical research, are strangely linked together as evidence Of the august workings of supernatural forces in human life, we do feel a bit like those tourists who have been promised a " genuine farmhouse tea " and find that margarine 'is used.