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Monday, 10 December 2012

On Refusing the Ring of Power

This is the most personal and most important post I have ever written.

I have several degrees in different subjects. I finished all my doctoral coursework and examinations for that doctorate at a prestigious university. A moral dilemma where I had to chose something stopped me. I was at the dissertation stage.

The second time, I was writing a new dissertation at another university, when another moral situation caused me to make a decision to start over as I had to do so to avoid a deceit, which , bluntly, I was being encouraged to ignore.

The third time I started over with a yet a third dissertation, I had to stop because of a moral issue in the family.

The fourth time (I am persistent) at another university, with yet another topic, I had to stop in order to choose to follow a call from God, as I finally understood the plan, His Will.

Let me explain. When one is studying theology, and I was for all of these attempts, one is in an academic environment which is highly charged and highly exciting.  This can be true for philosophical studies as well.

When I began to realize that some of the great names I was studying, who are considered Catholic, actually deviated from Church teaching, perhaps in very subtle ways. I had to readjust and, of course, take the teaching of the Church and the WAY THE CHURCH THINKS over my own and others cleverness.

The game was to be part of the academic world and yet be a faithful Catholic at the major universities. The game was to stay one step ahead of the Church in scholarship in order to influence the Church. The game was to have a career as a professor and a scholar.

The problem is this. Academia, even in the best Catholic colleges and universities, really does not care about the Mind of Christ. Academicians care about themselves, and yes, the Truth, but too often the Truth is not explored for itself alone or for the real simplicity of the ages.

One gets sucked into the torrent of peer approval and the fun of debate and the excitement of presenting one's ideas to the world, and, yes, influencing the next generation.

God stopped me four times for the sake of my own soul. I cannot compromise. If I sin, I do it knowingly and  with bloody minded wilfulness. But, I would never compromise the Truth.

Once the Holy Spirit through my own reading would show me the pitfalls of this or that thinker, this or that philosopher, this or that theologian, I would not be able to use that person's faulty thinking in research, nor defend the logical conclusions of their thought.

That is simple. The Catholic Church has given me great minds to read and study. Our heritage is great. Those people are all humans and have some limitations. As long as one recognizes and admits those limitations, one can save one's soul.

However, careers are not made by people who have a habit of seeing the logical consequences of faulty thinking. Careers are made in peer groups which feed each other by keeping certain ideas and schools of thought alive and in the curriculum.

I am grateful even to those who are studying things diametrically opposed to the sublime teaching of the Truth. I am sad that, if they honestly believe some of these ideologies, they may go to hell. I may even try to debate with them to change their hearts and minds. I may pray for them. But, the revelation of their own minds is a blessing for those of us seeking Truth. We need to see the dangers and understand evil to a certain extent. I hope they will see.

However, I am no longer in the heady atmosphere where people want my opinion on great thinkers. I did not have my career in academia, although Ï was a good teacher, loved by some, not all, students.

Those who wanted to work hard and learn how to think were few and far between.

What is the point of this? There are very few honest scholars. They do not know that they have fallen into deceit, but because they are successful, they think they are right. Those who succeed too often fool themselves into thinking they are correct. It is a bit of a Calvinistic way of thinking.

One is only right if one thinks in and with the Church.  St. Paul says, For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that we may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ. 1 Corinthians 2:16

Adopting the mind of the Church requires humility.

When I was in the monastery, I took these four "failures"to Christ, Who showed me these were not failures. I had, like Galadriel, passed the test, and will go into the West, metaphorically, and remain Galadriel.

She was tested because she had rebelled and sinned. She passed the test when offered the Ring. I had rebelled and sinned through my intellect in college as a miserable Marxist brat. I have now passed the test, when offered the Ring of Power, four times. Why the four times, I do not know for sure, although I have some ideas. When we sin, we sin against ourselves, our family, our friends and God. One must make restitution  One must prove something to me, or I must figure it out myself. It took a while. Perhaps I am not as intelligent as I think I am, and someone else would have given up after the first trial.

But, each reason for failure was a different one. Each time I had to decide for a moral truth in circumstances which were not the same. In the first case, the safety of students and honour of the institution came first. In the second, academic honesty came first. In the third, my family came first over a career, and in the fourth, humility and the spirituality of simplicity came first. This last time the "no" was completely freeing. One does not have to prove to the world that one is intelligent. One does not have to prove anything. One merely has to serve God, wherever He chooses to use one. God alone judges me. I do not even judge myself.

I could not have gotten to stage four without the other experiences. I can see the pits so many Catholics who are academics or even administration at the high end fall is too easy. The desire to be the most clever is sometimes too great. But, we know who thought he was the most clever, and who failed the test.

Just as God had to ask Peter three times for love, to make up for three denials, so, too, I was asked again and again for my sins. 

Some of my friends did not make it our of the slough of academia. Some have risen above it and made a huge difference to the pursuit of Truth.  Let us hope that those who are compromising see what they are doing, before it is too late. Let us hope that those who have allowed themselves to be deceived do not deceive others, especially their students.

I prefer to remain small and retain myself.