Tag Archives: reason

Intersecting losses make a harbinger.

Five speeches that Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn gaveĀ  in the U.S. and in Britain in 1975 and 1976 make the book, Warning to the West. Today I sat on a log at the beach and got on with reading this collection that I’d started before Christmas; a while later I sat in my car overlooking the ocean and finished it.

It’s a nice little book, if you’d like a taste of Solzhenitsyn but don’t feel up to tackling one of his novels or The Gulag Archipelago. He said he prefers to write, but his speeches are powerful, and complement his writings. Taken altogether, these talks present a lot of history “from the inside,” and the perspective of someone whose analysis is based on thorough knowledge. His unique vantage point combines with true wisdom.

In different striking and blunt words to different groups, such as U.S. legislators and BBC listeners, he gives his prophetic message. While he uses details of events that were then recent history to make his points to his audience at the time, the heart of his concerns is ever pertinent and enduring.

“There is a German proverb which runs Mut verloren — alles verloren. ‘When courage is lost, all is lost.’ There is another Latin one, according to which loss of reason is the true harbinger of destruction. But what happens to a society in which both these losses — the loss of courage and the loss of reason — intersect? This is the picture which I found the West presents today.”

-Aleksandr Sozhenitsyn, 1976

Integrated into a large choreography.

Reason, in the classical and Christian sense, is a whole way of life, not the simple and narrow mastery of certain techniques of martial manipulation, and certainly not the childish certitude that such mastery proves that only material realities exist. A rational life is one that integrates knowledge into large choreography of virtue, imagination, patience, prudence, humility and restraint. Reason is not only knowledge, but knowledge perfected in wisdom.

In Christian tradition, reason was praised as a high and precious thing, principally because it belonged intrinsically to the dignity of beings created in the divine image; and, this being so, it was assumed that reason is also always morality, and that charity is required for any mind to be fully rational. Even if one does not believe any of this, however, a rational life involves at least the ability to grasp what it is one does not know, and to recognize that what one does know may not be the only kind of genuine knowledge there is.

-David Bentley Hart, from Atheist Delusions