What is a heresy, and what is the historical importance of such a thing?
Like most modern words, "Heresy" is used both vaguely anddiversely. It is used vaguely because the modern mind is as averse to
precision in ideas as it is enamored of precision in measurement. It is used
diversely because, according to the man who uses it, it may represent any one of
Today, with most people (of those who use the English language), the word
"Heresy" connotes bygone and forgotten quarrels, an old prejudice against
rational examination. Heresy is therefore thought to be of no contemporary
interest. Interest in it is dead, because it deals with matter no one now takes
seriously. It is understood that a man may interest himself in a heresy from
archaeological curiosity, but if he affirm that it has been of great effect on
history and still is, today, of living contemporary moment, he will be hardly
Yet the subject of heresy in general is of the highest importance to the
individual and to society, and heresy in its particular meaning (which is that
of heresy in Christian doctrine) is of special interest for anyone who would
understand Europe: the character of Europe and the story of Europe. For the
whole of that story, since the appearance of the Christian religion, has been
the story of struggle and change, mainly preceded by, often, if not always,
caused by, and certainly accompanying, diversities of religious doctrine. In
other words, "the Christian heresy" is a special subject of the very first
importance to the comprehension of European history, because, in company with
Christian orthodoxy, it is the constant accompaniment and agent of European
We must begin by a definition, although definition involves a mental effort and
Heresy is the dislocation of some complete and self-supporting scheme by the
introduction of a novel denial of some essential part therein.
We mean by "a complete and self-supporting scheme" any system of affirmation in
physics or mathematics or philosophy or what-not, the various parts of which are
coherent and sustain each other.
For instance, the old scheme of physics, often called in England "Newtonian" as
having been best defined by Newton, is a scheme of this kind. The various things
asserted therein about the behavior of matter, notably the law of gravity, are
not isolated statements any one of which could be withdrawn at will without
disarranging the rest; they are all the parts of one conception, or unity, such
that if you but modify a part the whole scheme is put out of gear.
Another example of a similar system is our plane geometry, inherited through the
Greeks and called by those who think (or hope) they have got hold of a new
geometry "Euclidean." Every proposition in our plane geometry that the internal
angles of a plane triangle equal two right angles, that the angle contained in a
semi-circle is a right angle, and so forth is not only sustained by every other
proposition in the scheme, but in its turn supports each other individual part
of the whole.
Heresy means, then, the warping of a system by "Exception": by "Picking out" one
part of the structure and implies that the scheme is marred by taking away
one part of it, denying one part of it, and either leaving the void unfilled or
filling it with some new affirmation. For instance, the nineteenth century
completed a scheme of textual criticism for establishing the date of an ancient
document. One of the principles in this scheme is this that any statement of the
marvelous is necessarily false. "When you find in any document a marvel, vouched
for by the supposed author of that document, you have a right to conclude" (say
the textual critics of the nineteenth century, all talking like one man) "that
the document was not contemporary was not of the date which it is claimed to
be." There comes along a new and original critic who says, "I don't agree. I
think that marvels happen and I also think that people tell lies." A man thus
butting in is a heretic in relation to that particular orthodox system. Once you
grant this exception a number of secure negatives become insecure.
You were certain, for instance, that the life of St. Martin of Tours, which
professed to be by a contemporary witness, was not by a contemporary witness
because of the marvels it recited. But if the new principle be admitted, it
might be contemporary after all, and therefore something to which it bore
witness, in no way marvelous but not found in any other document, may be
accepted as historical.
You read in the life of a Thaumaturge that he raised a man from the dead in the
basilica of Vienna in A.D. 500. The orthodox school of criticism would say that
the whole story being obviously false, because marvelous, it is no evidence for
the existence of a basilica in Vienna at that date. But your heretic, who
disputes the orthodox canon of criticism, says, "It seems to me that the
biographer of the Thaumaturge may have been telling lies, but that he would not
have mentioned the basilica and the date unless contemporaries knew, as well as
he did, that there was a basilica in Vienna at that date. One falsehood does not
presuppose universal falsehood in a narrator." There might even come along a
still bolder heretic who should say, "Not only is this passage perfectly good
evidence for the existence of a basilica at Vienna in A.D. 500, but I think it
possible that the man was raised from the dead." If you follow either of these
critics you are upsetting a whole scheme of tests, whereby true history was
sifted from false in the textual criticism of recent times.
The denial of a scheme wholesale is not heresy, and has not the creative power
of a heresy. It is of the essence of heresy that it leaves standing a great part
of the structure it attacks. On this account it can appeal to believers and
continues to affect their lives through deflecting them from their original
characters. Wherefore, it is said of heresies that "they survive by the truths
We must note that whether the complete scheme thus attacked be true or false is
indifferent to the value of heresy as a department of historical study. What we
are concerned with is the highly interesting truth that heresy originates a new
life of its own and vitally affects the society it attacks. The reason that men
combat heresy is not only, or principally, conservatism a devotion to routine, a
dislike of disturbance in their habits of thought it is much more a perception
that the heresy, in so far as it gains ground, will produce a way of living and
a social character at issue with, irritating, and perhaps mortal to, the way of
living and the social character produced by the old orthodox scheme.
So much for the general meaning and interest of that most pregnant word
Its particular meaning (the meaning in which it is used in this book) is the
marring by exception of that complete scheme, the Christian religion.
For instance, that religion has for one essential part (though it is only a
part) the statement that the individual soul is immortal that personal
conscience survives physical death. Now if people believe that, they look at the
world and themselves in a certain way and go on in a certain way and are people
of a certain sort. If they except, that is cut out, this one doctrine, they may
continue to hold all the others, but the scheme is changed, the type of life and
character and the rest become quite other. The man who is certain that he is
going to die for good and for all may believe that Jesus of Nazareth was Very
God of Very God, that God is Triune, that the Incarnation was accompanied by a
Virgin Birth, that bread and wine are transformed by a particular formula; he
may recite a great number of Christian prayers and admire and copy chosen
Christian exemplars, but he will be quite a different man from the man who takes
immortality for granted.
Because heresy, in this particular sense (the denial of an accepted Christian
doctrine) thus affects the individual, it affects all society, and when you are
examining a society formed by a particular religion you necessarily concern
yourself to the utmost with the warping or diminishing of that religion. That is
the historical interest of heresy. That is why anyone who wants to understand
how Europe came to be, and how its changes have been caused, cannot afford to
treat heresy as unimportant. The ecclesiastics who fought so furiously over the
details of definition in the Eastern councils had far more historical sense and
were far more in touch with reality than the French skeptics, familiar to
English readers through their disciple Gibbon.
A man who thinks, for instance, that Arianism is a mere discussion of words,
does not see that an Arian world would have been much more like a Mohammedan
world than what the European world actually became. He is much less in touch
with reality than was Athanasius when he affirmed the point of doctrine to be
all important. That local council in Paris, which tipped the scale in favor of
the Trinitarian tradition, was of as much effect as a decisive battle, and not
to understand that is to be a poor historian.
It is no answer to such a thesis to say that both the orthodox and the heretic
were suffering from illusion, that they were discussing matters which had no
real existence and were not worth the trouble of debate. The point is that the
doctrine (and its denial) were formative of the nature of men, and the nature so
formed determined the future of the society made up of those men.
There is another consideration in this connection which is too often omitted in
our time. It is this: That the skeptical attitude upon transcendental things
cannot, for masses of men, endure. It has been the despair of many that this
should be so. They deplore the despicable weakness of mankind which compels the
acceptation of some philosophy or some religion in order to carry on life at
all. But we have here a matter of positive and universal experience.
Indeed there is no denying it. It is mere fact. Human society cannot carry on
without some creed, because a code and a character are the product of a creed.
In point of fact though individuals,
especially those who have led sheltered lives, can often carry on with a minimum
of certitude or habit upon transcendental things, an organic human mass cannot
so carry on. Thus a whole religion sustains modern England, the religion of
patriotism. Destroy that in men by some heretical development, by "excepting"
the doctrine that a man's prime duty is towards the political society to which
he belongs, and England, as we know it, would gradually cease and become
Heresy, then is not a fossil subject. It is a subject of permanent and vital
interest to mankind because it is bound up with the subject of religion, without
some form of which no human society ever has endured, or ever can endure. Those
who think that the subject of heresy may be neglected because the term sounds to
them old-fashioned and because it is connected with a number of disputes long
abandoned, are making the common error of thinking in words instead of ideas. It
is the same sort of error which contrasts America as a "republic" with England
as "monarchy," whereas, of course, the Government of the United States is
essentially monarchic and the Government of England is essentially republican
and aristocratic. There is no end to the misunderstandings which arise from the
uncertain use of words. But if we keep in mind the plain fact that a state, a
human policy, or a general culture, must be inspired by some body of morals, and
that there can be no body of morals without doctrine, and if we agree to call
any consistent body of morals and doctrine a religion, then the importance of
heresy as a subject will become clear, because heresy means nothing else than
"the proposal of novelties in religion by picking out from what has been the
accepted religion some point or other, denying the same or replacing it by
another doctrine hitherto unfamiliar."
The study of successive Christian heresies, their characters and fates, has a
special interest for all of us who belong to the European or Christian culture,
and that is a reason that ought to be self-evident our culture was made by a
religion. Changes in, or deflections from, that religion necessarily affect our
civilization as a whole.
The whole story of Europe, her various realms and states and general bodies
during the last sixteen centuries has mainly turned upon the successive heresies
arising in the Christian world.
We are what we are today mainly because no one of those heresies finally overset
our ancestral religion, but we are also what we are because each of them
profoundly affected our fathers for generations, each heresy left behind its
traces, and one of them, the great Mohammedan movement, remains to this day in
dogmatic force and preponderant over a great fraction of territory which was
once wholly ours.
If one were to catalogue heresies marking the whole long story of Christendom
the list would seem almost endless. They divide and subdivide, they are on every
scale, they vary from the local to the general. Their lives extend from less
than a generation to centuries. The best way of understanding the subject is to
select a few prominent examples, and by the study of these to understand of what
vast import heresy may be.
Such a study is the easier from the fact that our fathers recognized heresy for
what it was, gave it in each case a particular name, subjected it to a
definition and therefore to limits, and made its analysis the easier by such
Unfortunately, in the modern world the habit of such a definition has been lost;
the word "heresy" having come to connote something odd and old-fashioned, is no
longer applied to cases which are clearly cases of heresy and ought to be
treated as such.
For instance, there is abroad today a denial of what theologians call "dominion"
that is the right to own property. It is widely affirmed that laws permitting
the private ownership of land and capital are immoral; that the soil of all
goods which are productive should be communal and that any system leaving their
control to individuals or families is wrong and therefore to be attacked and
That doctrine, already very strong among us and increasing in strength and the
number of its adherents, we do not call a heresy. We think of it only as a
political or economic system, and when we speak of Communism our vocabulary does
not suggest anything theological. But this is only because we have forgotten
what the word theological means. Communism is as much a heresy as Manichaeism.
It is the taking away from the moral scheme by which we have lived of a
particular part, the denial of that part and the attempt to replace it by an
innovation. The Communist retains much of the Christian scheme human equality,
the right to live, and so forth he denies a part of it only.
The same is true of the attack on the indissolubility of marriage. No one calls
the mass of modern practice and affirmation upon divorce a heresy, but a heresy
it clearly is because its determining characteristic is the denial of the
Christian doctrine of marriage and the substitution therefore of another
doctrine, to wit, that marriage is but a contract and a terminable contract.
Equally, is it a heresy, a "change by exception," to affirm that nothing can be
known upon divine things, that all is mere opinion and that therefore things
made certain by the evidence of the senses and by experiment should be our only
guides in arranging human affairs. Those who think thus may and commonly do
retain much of Christian morals, but because they deny certitude from Authority,
which doctrine is a part of Christian epistemology, they are heretical. It is
not heresy to say that reality can be reached by experiment, by sensual
perception and by deduction. It is heresy to say that reality can be attained
from no other source.
We are living today under a regime of heresy with only this to distinguish it
from the older periods of heresy, that the heretical spirit has become
generalized and appears in various forms.
It will be seen that I have, in the following pages, talked of "the modern
attack" because some name must be given to a thing before one can discuss it at
all, but the tide which threatens to overwhelm us is so diffuse that each must
give it his own name; it has no common name as yet.
Perhaps that will come, but not until the conflict between that modern
anti-Christian spirit and the permanent tradition of the Faith becomes acute
through persecution and the triumph or defeat thereof. It will then perhaps be
called anti-Christ. The word is derived from the Greek verb Haireo, which first
meant "I grasp" or "I seize," and then came to mean "I take away."
1. The Word is derived from the Greek verb "Haireo", which first
meant "I grasp" or "I seize," and then came to mean "I take away."
Scheme of This Book
I propose in what follows to deal with the main attacks upon the
Catholic Church which have marked her long history. In the case of all but
the Moslem and the modern confused but ubiquitous attack, which is
still in progress, I deal with their failure and the causes of their
failure. I shall conclude by discussing the chances of the present
struggle for the survival; of the Church in that very civilization which
she created and which is now generally abandoning her.
There is, as everybody knows, an institution proclaiming itself
today the sole authoritative and divinely appointed teacher of essentialmorals and essential doctrine. This institution calls itself the CatholicChurch.
It is further an admitted historical truth, which no one denies,
that such an institution putting forth such a claim has been present among
mankind for many centuries. Many through antagonism or lack of
knowledge deny the identity of the Catholic Church today with the original
Christian society. No one, however hostile or uninstructed, will
deny its presence during at least thirteen or fourteen hundred years.
It is further historically true (though not universally admitted)
that the claim of this body to be a divinely appointed voice for the
statement of true doctrine on the matters essential to man (his nature,
his ordeal in this world, his doom or salvation, his immortality, etc.) isto be found affirmed through preceding centuries, up to a little beforethe middle of the first century.
From the day of Pentecost some time between A.D. 29 and A.D. 33)
onwards there has been a body of doctrine affirmed for instance, at the
very outset, the Resurrection. And the organism by which that body ofdoctrine has been affirmed has been from the outset a body of men bound
bya certain tradition through which they claimed to
have the authority inquestion.
Hence we must distinguish between two conceptions totally
different, which are nevertheless often confused. One is the historical
fact that the claim to Divine authority and Infallible doctrine was and isstill made; the other the credibility of that claim.
Whether the claim be true or false has nothing whatever to do with
its historical origin and continuity; it may have arisen as an illusion or
an imposture; it may have been continued in ignorance; but that does notaffect its historical existence. The claim has been made and continues tobe made, and those who make it are in unbroken continuity with those whomade it in the beginning. They form, collectively, the organism whichcalled itself and still calls itself "The Church."
Now against this authoritative organism, its claim, character and
doctrines, there have been throughout the whole period of its existencecontinued assaults. There have been denials of its claim. There have beendenials of this or that section of its doctrines. There has been theattempted replacing of these by other doctrines. Even attempteddestruction of the organism, the Church, has repeatedly taken place.
I propose to select five main attacks of this kind from the whole
of the very great the almost unlimited number of efforts, major and minor,to bring down the edifice of unity and authority.
My reason for choosing so small a number as five, and
concentrating upon each as a separate phenomenon, is not only the
necessity for a framework and for limits, but also the fact that in these
five the main forms of attack are exemplified. These five are, their in
historical order, 1. The Arian; 2. The Mohammedan; 3. The Albigensian; 4.The Protestant; 5. One to which no specific name has as yet been
attached,but we shall call for the sake of
convenience "the Modern.''
I say that each of these five main campaigns, the full success of
any one of which would have involved the destruction of the Catholic
Church, its authority and doctrine among men, presents a type.
The Arian attack proposed a change of fundamental doctrine, such
that, had the change prevailed, the whole nature of the religion would
have been transformed. It would not only have been transformed, it wouldhave failed; and with its failure would have followed the break-down ofthat civilization which the Catholic Church was to build up.
The Arian heresy (filling the fourth, and active throughout the
fifth, century), proposed to go to the very root of the Church's authorityby attacking the full Divinity of her Founder. But it did much more,because its underlying motive was a rationalizing of the mystery uponwhich the church bases herself: the Mystery of the Incarnation. Arianismwas essentially a revolt against the difficulties attaching to mysteriesas a whole though expressing itself as an attack on the chief mysteryonly. Arianism was a typical example on the largest scale of that
reactionagainst the supernatural which, when it is
fully developed, withdraws fromreligion all that by
which religion lives.
The Mohammedan attack was of a different kind. It came
geographically from just outside the area of Christendom; it appeared,almost from the outset, as a foreign enemy; yet it was not, strictlyspeaking, a new religion attacking the old, it was essentially a heresy;but from the circumstances of its birth it was a heresy alien rather thanintimate. It threatened to kill the Christian Church by invasion ratherthan to undermine it from within.
The Albigensian attack was but the chief of a great number, all of
which drew their source from the Manichean conception of a duality in theUniverse; the conception that that good and evil are ever struggling asequals, and that Omnipotent Power is neither single nor beneficent.Closely intertwined with this idea and inseparable from it was theconception that matter is evil and that all pleasure, especially of thebody, is evil. This form of attack, of which I say the Albigensian wasthe most notorious and came nearest to success, was rather an attack uponmorals than upon doctrine; it had the character of a cancer fastening
uponthe body of the Church from within, producing a
new life of its own,antagonistic to the life of the
Church and destructive of it just as amalignant
growth in the human body lives a life of its own, other than,and destructive of, the organism in which it has parasitically arisen.
The Protestant attack differed from the rest especially in this
characteristic, that its attack did not consist in the promulgation of a
new doctrine or of a new authority, that it made no concerted attempt atcreating a counter-Church, but had for its principle the denial of unity.It was an effort to promote that state of mind in which a Church in theold sense of the word that is, an infallible, united, teaching body, aPerson speaking with Divine authority should be denied; not the doctrinesit might happen to advance, but its very claim to advance them with
authority. Thus, one Protestant may affirm, as do the English
Puseyites, the truth of all the doctrines underlying the Mass the Real
Presence, the Sacrifice, the sacerdotal power of consecration,
etc. another Protestant may affirm that all such conceptions are false,
yet both these Protestants are Protestant because they communicate in thefundamental conception that the Church is not a visible, definable andunited personality, that there is no central infallible authority, andthat therefore each is free to choose his own set of doctrines.
Such affirmations of disunion, such denial of the claim to unity
as being part of the Divine order, produced indeed a common Protestanttemperament through certain historical associations; but there is no onedoctrine nor set of doctrines which can be affirmed as being the kernel
ofProtestantism. Its essential remains the rejection
of unity throughauthority.
Lastly there is that contemporary attack on the Catholic Church
which is still in progress and to which no name has been finally attached,save the vague term "modern.'' I should have preferred, perhaps, the
oldGreek word "alogos''; but that would have seemed pedantic. And yet it is apity to have to reject it, for it admirably describes by implication thequarrel between the present attackers of Catholic authority and doctrine,and the tone of mind of a believer. Antiquity began by giving the name"alogos'' to those who belittled or denied, though calling themselvesChristians, the Divinity of Christ. They were said to do so from lack of"wit,'' in the sense of "fullness of comprehension,'' "largeness ofapprehension.'' Men felt about this kind of rationalism as normal peoplefeel about a color-blind man.
One might also have chosen the term "Positivism,'' seeing that the
modern movement relies upon the distinction between things positivelyproved by experiment and things accepted upon other grounds; but the term"Positivism'' has already a special connotation and to use it would havebeen confusing.
At any rate, though we have as yet perhaps no specific name, we
all know the spirit to which I refer: "That only is true which can be
appreciated by the senses and subjected to experiment. That can most
thoroughly be believed which can most thoroughly be measured and tested byrepeated trial. What are generally called `religious affirmations' are,always "presumably", sometimes "demonstrably", illusions. The idea of Goditself and all that follows on it is man-made and a figment of theimagination.'' This is the attack which has superseded all the older
ones,which is now gaining ground so rapidly and whose
votaries feel (as did intheir hey-day all the
votaries of the earlier attacks) an increasing
confidence of success.
Such are the five great movements antagonistic to the Faith. To
concentrate our attention upon each in turn teaches us in separate
examples the character of our religion and the strange truth that men
cannot escape sympathy with it or hatred of it.
To concentrate on these five main attacks has this further value,
that between them they seem to sum up all the directions from which theassault can be delivered against the Catholic Faith.
Doubtless in the future there will be further conflict, indeed we
can be sure that it is inevitable, for it is of the nature of the Church
to provoke the anger and attack of the world. Perhaps we shall have laterto meet the heathen from the East, or perhaps, earlier or later, the
challenge of a new system altogether not a heresy but a new religion. Butthe main kinds of attack would seen to be exhausted by the list whichhistory has hitherto presented. We have had examples of heresy, workingfrom without and forming a new world in that fashion, of which Islam isthe great example. We have had examples of heresy at work attacking theroot of the Faith, the Incarnation, and specializing upon that of whichArianism was the great example. We have had the growth of the foreign
bodyfrom within, the Albigenses, and all their
Manichean kindred before andafter them. We have had
the attack on the personality, that is the unity,of
the Church which is Protestantism. And we now behold, even asProtestantism is dying, the rise and growth of yet another form ofconflict the proposal to treat all transcendental affirmation as
illusion.It would seem as though the future could
hold no more than the repetitionof these forms.
The Church might thus be regarded as a citadel presenting a
certain number of faces between the angles of its defenses, each face
attacked in turn, and after the failure of one attack its neighbor
suffering the brunt of the battle. The last assault, the modern one, is
more like an attempt to dissolve the garrison, the annihilation of its
powers of resistance by suggestion, than an armed conflict. With this lastform the list would seem exhausted. If or when that last danger is
dissipated, the next can only appear after some fashion of which we havealready had experience.
I may be asked by way of postscript to this prelude why I have not
included any mention of the schisms. The schisms are as much attacks uponthe life of the Catholic Church as are the heresies; the greatest schismof all, the Greek or Orthodox, which has produced the Greek or Orthodoxcommunion, is manifestly a disruption of our strength. Yet I think thatthe various forms of attack on the Church by way of heretical doctrine
arein a different category from the schisms. No doubt
a schism commonlyincludes a heresy, and no doubt
certain heresies have attempted to pleadthat we
should be reconciled with them, as we might be with a schism. Butthough the two evils commonly appear in company, yet each is of a
sort from the other; and as we are studying the one it is best to
eliminate the other during the process of that study.
I shall then in these pages examine in turn the five great
movements I have mentioned, and I will take them in historical order,
beginning with the Arian business which, as it was the first, was also,
perhaps, the most formidable.
The Arian Heresy
Arianism was the first of the great heresies.
There had been from the foundation of the Church at Pentecost A.D. 29 to 33 a
mass of heretical movements filling the first three centuries. They had turned,
nearly all of them, upon the nature of Christ.
The effect of our Lord's predication, and Personality, and miracles, but most of
all His resurrection, had been to move every one who had any faith at all in the
wonder presented, to a conception of divine power running through the whole
Now the central tradition of the Church here, as in every other case of disputed
doctrine, was strong and clear from the beginning. Our Lord was undoubtedly a
man. He had been born as men are born, He died as men die. He lived as a man and
had been known as a man by a group of closecompanions
and a very large number of men and women who had followed Him, and heard Him and
witnessed His actions.
But said the Church He was also God. God had come down to earth and become
Incarnate as a Man. He was not merely a man influenced by the Divinity, nor was
He a manifestation of the Divinity under the appearance of a man. He was at the
same time fully God and fully Man. On that the central tradition of the Church
never wavered. It is taken for granted from the beginning by those who have
authority to speak.
But a mystery is necessarily, because it is a mystery, incomprehensible;
therefore man, being a reasonable being, is perpetually attempting to
rationalize it. So it was with this mystery. One set would say Christ was only a
man, though a man endowed with special powers. Another set, at the opposite
extreme, would say He was a manifestation of the Divine. His human nature was a
thing of illusion. They played the changes between those two extremes
Well, the Arian heresy was, as it were, the summing up and conclusion of all
these movements on the unorthodox side that is, of all those movements which did
not accept the full mystery of two natures.
Since it is very difficult to rationalize the union of the Infinite with the
finite, since there is an apparent contradiction between the two terms, this
final form into which the confusion of heresies
settled down was a declaration that our Lord was as much of the Divine Essence
as it was possible for a creature to be, but that He was none the less a
creature. He was not the Infinite and Omnipotent God who must be of His nature
one and indivisible, and could not (so they said) be at the same time a limited
human moving and having his being in the temporal sphere.
Arianism (I will later describe the origin of the name) was willing to grant our
Lord every kind of honor and majesty short of the full nature of the Godhead. He
was created (or, if people did not like the word "created'' then "he came
forth'') from the Godhead before all other effects thereof. Through Him the
world was created. He was granted one might (say paradoxically) all the divine
attributes except divinity.
Essentially this movement sprang from exactly the same source as any other
rationalistic movement from the beginning to our own time. It sprang from the
desire to visualize clearly and simply something which is beyond the grasp of
human vision and comprehension. Therefore, although it began by giving to our
Lord every possible honor and glory short of the actual Godhead, it would
inevitably have led in the long run into mere unitarianism and the treating of
our Lord at last as a prophet and, however exalted, no more than a prophet.
As all heresies necessarily breathe the air of the time in which they arise, and
are necessarily a reflection of the philosophy of whatever non-Catholic ideas
are prevalent at that moment they arise, Arianism spoke in the terms of its day.
It did not begin as a similar movement would begin today by making our Lord a
mere man and nothing else. Still less did it deny the supernatural as a whole.
The time in which it arose (the years round about A.D. 300) was a time in which
all society took thesupernatural for granted. But it
spoke of our Lord as a Supreme Agent of Gouda Demiurge and regarded him as the
first and greatest of those emanations of the Central Godhead through which
emanations the fashionable philosophy of the day got over the difficulty of
reconciling the Infiniteand simple Creator with a
complex and finite universe.
So much for the doctrine and for what its rationalistic tendencies would have
ended in had it conquered. It would have rendered the new religion something
like Mohammedanism or perhaps, seeing the nature of Greek and Roman society,
something like an Oriental Calvinism.
At any rate, what I have just set down was the state of this doctrine so long as
it flourished: a denial of Our Lord's full Godhead combined with an admission of
all his other attributes.
Now when we are talking of the older dead heresies we have to consider the
spiritual and therefore social effects of them much more than their mere
doctrinal error, although that doctrinal error was the ultimate cause of all
their spiritual and social effects. We have to do this because, when a heresy
has been long dead, its savor is forgotten. The particular tone and unmistakable
impress which it stamped upon society being no longer experienced is
non-existent for us, and it had to be
resurrected, as it were, by anyone who wants to talk true history. It would be
impossible, short of an explanation of this kind, to make a Catholic from Bearn
today, a peasant from the neighborhood of Lourdes where Calvinism, once
prevalent there, is now dead, understand the savor and individual character of
Calvinism as it still survives in Scotland and in sections of the United States.
But we must try to realize this now forgotten Arian atmosphere, because, until
we understand its spiritual and therefore social savor, we cannot be said to
know it really at all.
Further, one must understand this savor or intimate personal character of the
movement, and its individual effect on society, in order to understand its
importance. There is no greater error in the whole range of bad history than
imagining that doctrinal differences, because they are abstract and apparently
remote from the practical things of life, are not therefore of intense social
effect. Describe to a Chinaman today the doctrinal quarrel of the Reformation,
tell him that it was above all a denial of the doctrine of the “one” visible
church, and a denial of the special authority of its officers. That would be
true. He would so far understand what happened at this Reformation as he might
understand a mathematical statement. But would that make him understand the
French Huguenots of today, the Prussian manner in war and politics, the nature
of England and her past since Puritanism arose in this country? Would it make
him understand the Orange Lodges or the moral and political systems of, say, Mr.
H. G. Wells or Mr. Bernard Shaw? Of course it would not! To give
a man the history of tobacco, to give him the chemical formula (if there be such
a thing) for nicotine, is not to make him understand what is meant by the smell
of tobacco and the effects of smoking it. So it is with Arianism. Merely to say
that Arianism was what it was doctrinally is to enunciate a formula, but not to
give the thing itself.
When Arianism arose it came upon a society which was already, and had long been,
the one Universal Polity of which all civilized men were citizens. There were no
separate nations. The Roman empire was one state from the Euphrates to the
Atlantic and from the Sahara to the Scottish
Highlands. It was ruled in monarchic fashion by the Commander-in-Chief, or
Commanders-in-Chief, of the armies. The title for the Commander-in-Chief was
"Imperator'' whence we get our word Emperor and therefore we talk of that State
as the "Roman Empire.'' What the emperor or associated emperors (there had been
two of them according to the latest scheme, each with a coadjutor, making four,
but these soon coalesced into one supreme head and unique emperor) declared
themselves to be, that was the attitude of the empire officially as a whole.
The emperors and therefore the whole official scheme dependent on them had been
anti-Christian during the growth of the Catholic Church in the midst of Roman
and Greek pagan society. For nearly 300 years they and the official scheme of
that society had regarded the increasingly powerful Catholic Church as an alien
and very dangerous menace to the traditions and therefore to the strength of the
old Greek and Roman pagan world. The Church was, as it were, a state within a
state, possessing her own supreme officials, the bishops, and her own
organization, which was of a highly developed and powerful kind. She was
ubiquitous. She stood in strong contrast with the old world into which she had
thrust herself. What would be the life of the one would be the death of the
other. The old world defended itself through the action of the last pagan
emperors. They launched many persecutions against the Church, ending in one
final and very drastic persecution which failed.
The Catholic cause was at first supported by, and at last openly joined by, a
man who conquered all other rivals and established himself as supreme monarch
over the whole State: the Emperor Constantine the Great ruling from
Constantinople, the city which he had founded and called "NewRome.'' After this the central office of the Empire was Christian. By the
critical date A.D. 325, not quite three centuries after Pentecost, the Catholic
Church had become the official, or at any rate the Palace, Religion of the
Empire, and so remained (with one very brief exceptional interval) as long as
the empire stood.
But it must not be imagined that the majority of men as yet adhered to the
Christian religion, even in the Greek speaking East. They certainly were not of
that religion by anything like a majority in the Latin speaking West.
As in all great changes throughout history the parties at issue were minorities
inspired with different degrees of enthusiasm or lack of enthusiasm. These
minorities had various motives and were struggling each to impose its mental
attitude upon the wavering and undecided mass. Of
these minorities the Christians were the largest and (what was more important)
the most eager, the most convinced, and the only fully and strictly organized.
The conversion of the Emperor brought over to them large and increasing numbers
of the undecided majority. These, perhaps, for the greater part hardly
understood the new thing to which they were rallying, and certainly for the most
part were not attached to it. But it had finally won politically and that was
enough for them. Many regretted the old gods, but thought it not worth while to
risk anything in their defense. Very many more cared nothing for what was left
of the old gods and not much more for the new Christian fashions. Meanwhile
there was a strong minority remaining of highly intelligent and determined
pagans. They had on their side not only the traditions of a wealthy governing
class but they had also the great bulk of the best writers and, of course, they
also had to strengthen them the recent memories of their long dominance over
There was yet another element of that world, separate from all the rest, and one
which it is extremely important for us to understand: the Army. Why it is so
important for us to understand the position of the Army will be described in a
When the power of Arianism was manifested in those first years of the official
Christian Empire and its universal government throughout the Graeco-Roman world,
Arianism became the nucleus or centre of many forces which would be, of
themselves, indifferent to its doctrine. It became the rallying point for many
strongly surviving traditions from the older world: traditions not religious,
but intellectual, social, moral, literary and all the rest of it.
We might put it vividly enough in modern slang by saying that Arianism, thus
vigorously present in the new great discussions within the body of the Christian
Church when first that Church achieved official support and became the official
religion of the Empire, attracted all the "high-brows,'' at least half the snobs
and nearly all the sincere idealistic Tories the "die-hards' whether nominally
Christian or not. It attracted, as we know, great numbers of those who were
definitely Christian. But it was also the rallying point of these non-Christian
forces which were of such great importance in the society of the day.
A great number of the old noble families were reluctant to accept the social
revolution implied by the triumph of the Christian Church. They naturally sided
with a movement which they instinctively felt to be spiritually opposed to the
life and survival of that Church and which carried with it an atmosphere of
social superiority over the populace. The Church relied upon and was supported
at the end by the masses. Men of old family tradition and wealth found the Arian
more sympathetic than the ordinary Catholic and a better ally for gentlemen.
Many intellectuals were in the same position. These had not pride of family and
old social traditions from the past, but they had pride of culture. They
remembered with regret the former prestige of the pagan philosophers. They
thought that this great revolution from paganism to Catholicism would destroy
the old cultural traditions and their own cultural position.
The mere snobs, who are always a vast body in any society that is, the people
who have no opinions of their own but who follow what they believe to be the
honorific thing of the moment would be divided. Perhaps the majority of them
would follow the official court movement and attach
themselves openly to the new religion. But there would always be a certain
number who would think it more "chic,'' more "the thing'' to profess sympathy
with the old pagan traditions, the great old pagan families, the long inherited
and venerable pagan culture and literature and all the rest of it. All these
reinforced the Arian movement because it was destructive of Catholicism.
Arianism had yet another ally and the nature of that alliance is so subtle that
it requires very careful examination. It had for ally the tendency of government
in an absolute monarchy to be half afraid of emotions present in the minds of
the people and especially in the poorer people: emotions which if they spread
and became enthusiastic and captured the mass of the people might become too
strong to be ruled and would have to be bowed to. There is here a difficult
paradox but one important to be recognized.
Absolute government, especially in the hands of one man, would seem, on the
surface, to be opposed to popular government. The two sound contradictory to
those who have not seen absolute monarchy at work. To those who have, it is just
the other way. Absolute government is the support of the masses against the
power of wealth in the hands of a few, or the power of armies in the hands of a
few. Therefore one might imagine that the imperial power of Constantinople would
have had sympathy with the popular Catholic masses rather than with the
intellectuals and the rest who followed Arianism. But we must remember that
while absolute government has for its very cause of existence the defense of the
masses against the powerful few, yet it likes to rule. It does not like to feel
that there is in the State a rival to its own power. It does not like to feel
that great decisions may be imposed by organizations other than its own official
organization. That is why even the most Christian emperors and their officials
always had at the back of their minds, during the first lifetime
of the Arian movement, a potential sympathy with Arianism, and that is why this
potential sympathy in some cases appears as actual sympathy and as a public
declaration of Arianism on their part.
There was yet one more ally to Arianism through which it almost triumphed the
In order to understand how powerful such an ally was we must appreciate what the
Roman Army meant in those days and of what it was composed.
The Army was, of course, in mere numbers, only a fraction of society. We are not
certain what those numbers were; at the most they may have come to half a
million they were probably a good deal less. But to judge by numbers in the
matter would be ridiculous. The Army was normally half, or more than half, the
State. The Army was the true cement, to use one metaphor, the framework to use
another metaphor, the binding force and the support and the very material self
of the Roman Empire in that fourth century; it had been so for centuries before
and was to remain so for further generations.
It is absolutely essential to understand this point, for it explains
three-fourths of what happened, not only in the case of the Arian heresy but of
everything else between the days of Marius (under whose administration the Roman
Army first became professional), and the Mohammedan attack upon Europe, that is,
from more than a century before the Christian era to the early seventh century.
The social and political position of the Army explains all those seven hundred
years and more.
The Roman Empire was a military state. It was not a civilian state. Promotion to
power was through the Army. The conception of glory and success, the attainment
of wealth in many cases, in nearly all cases the attainment of political power,
depended on the Army in those days, just as it depends upon money-lending,
speculation, caucuses, manipulation of votes, bosses and newspapers nowadays.
The Army had originally consisted of Roman citizens, all of whom were Italians.
Then as the power of the Roman State spread it took in auxiliary troops, people
following local chieftains, and affiliated to the Roman military system and even
recruited its regular ranks from up and down the Empire in every province. There
were many Gauls that is Frenchmen in the Army, many Spaniards, and so forth,
before the first one hundred years of the Empire had run out. In the next two
hundredyears that is, in the two hundred years A.D.
100-300, leading up to the Arian heresy the Army had become more and more
recruited from what we call "Barbarians,'' a term which meant not savages but
people outside the strict limits of the Roman Empire. They were easier to
discipline, they were much cheaper to hire than citizens were. They were also
less used to the arts and comforts of civilization than the citizens within the
frontiers. Great numbers of them were German, but there were many Slavs and a
good many Moors and Arabs and Saracens and not a few Mongols even, drifting in
from the East.
This great body of the Roman Army was strictly bound together by
its discipline, but still more by its professional pride. It was a long
service army. A man belonged to it from his adolescence to his middle age.No one else except the Army had any physical power. There could be noquestion of resisting it by force, and it was in a sense the government.Its commander-in-chief was the absolute monarch of the whole state. "Nowthe army went solidly Arian."
That is the capital mark of the whole affair. But for the Army, Arianism would
never have meant what it did. With the Army and the Army wholeheartedly on its
side Arianism all but triumphed and managed to survive even when it represented
a little more than the troops and theirchief
It was true that a certain number of German troops from outside the Empire had
been converted by Arian missionaries at a moment when high society was Arian.
But that was not the main reason that the Army as a whole went Arian. The Army
went Arian because it felt Arianism to be the distinctive thing which made it
superior to the civilian masses, just as Arianism was a distinctive thing which
made the intellectual feel superior to the popular masses. The soldiers, whether
of barbaric or civilian recruitment, felt sympathy with Arianism for the same
reason that the old pagan families felt sympathy with Arianism. The army then,
and especially the Army chiefs, backed the new heresy for all they were worth,
and it became a sort of test of whether you were somebody a soldier as against
the despised civilians or no. One might say that there had arisen a feud between
the Army chiefs on the one hand and the Catholic bishops on the other. Certainly
there was a division an official severance between the Catholic populace in
towns, the Catholic peasantry in the country and the almost universally Arian
soldier; and the enormous effect of this junction between the new heresy and the
Army we shall see at work in all that follows.
Now that we have seen what the spirit of Arianism was and what forces were in
its favor, let us see how it got its name.
The movement for denying the full Godhead of Christ and making Him a creature
took its title from one Areios (in the Latin form Arius), a Greek-speaking
African cleric rather older than Constantine, and already famous as a religious
force some years before Constantine's victories and
first imperial power.
Remember that Arius was only a climax to a long movement. What was the cause of
his success? Two things combined. First, the momentum of all that came before
him. Second, the sudden release of the Church by Constantine. To this should be
added undoubtedly something in Arius' own personality. Men of this kind who
become leaders do so because they have some personal momentum from their own
past impelling them. They would not so become unless there were something in
I think we may take it that Arius had the effect he had through a convergence of
forces. There was a great deal of ambition in him, such as you will find in all
heresiarchs. There was a strong element of rationalism. There was also in him
enthusiasm for what he believed to be the truth.
His theory was certainly not his own original discovery, but he made it his own;
he identified it with his name. Further, he was moved to a dogged resistance
against people whom he thought to be persecuting him. He suffered from much
vanity, as do nearly all reformers. On the top of all this a rather thin
simplicity, "commonsense,'' which at once appeals to multitudes. But he would
never have had his success but for something eloquent about him and a driving
He was already a man of position, probably from the Cyrenaica (now an Italian
colony in North Africa, east of Tripoli), though he was talked of as being
Alexandrian, because it was in Alexandria that he lived. He had been a disciple
of the greatest critic of his time, the martyr Lucian of Antioch. In the year
318 he was presiding over the Church of Bucalis in Alexandria, and enjoyed the
high favor of the Bishop of the City, Alexander.
Arius went over from Egypt to Caesarea in Palestine, spreading his already
well-known set of rationalizing, Unitarian ideas with zeal. Some of the eastern
Bishops began to agree with him. It is true that the two main Syrian Bishoprics,
Antioch and Jerusalem, stood out; but apparently most of the Syrian hierarchy
inclined to listen to Arius.
When Constantine became the master of the whole Empire in 325, Arius appealed to
the new master of the world. The great Bishop of Alexandria, Alexander, had
excommunicated him, but reluctantly. The old heathen Emperor Licinius had
protected the new movement.
A battle of vast importance was joined. Men did not know of what importance it
was, violently though their emotions were excited. Had this movement for
rejecting the full divinity of Our Lord gained the victory, all our civilization
would have been other than what it has been from that day to this. We all know
what happens when an attempt to simplify and rationalize the mysteries of the
Faith succeeds in any society. We have before us now the ending experiment of
the Reformation, and the aged but still very vigorous Mohammedan heresy, which
may perhaps appear with renewed vigor in the future. Such rationalistic efforts
against the creed produce a gradual social degradation following on the loss of
that direct link between human nature and God which is provided by the
Incarnation. Human dignity is lessened. The authority of Our Lord is weakened.
He appears more and more as a man perhaps a myth. The substance of Christian
life is diluted. It wanes. What began as Unitarianism ends as Paganism.
To settle the quarrel by which all Christian society was divided, a council was
ordered by the Emperor to meet, in A.D. 325, at the town of Nicaea, fifty miles
from the capital, on the Asiatic side of the Straits. The Bishops were summoned
to convene there from the whole Empire, even from districts outside the Empire
where Christian missionaries had planted the Faith. The great bulk of those who
came were from the Eastern Empire, but the West was represented, and, what was
of the first importance, delegates arrived from the Primatial See of Rome; but
for their adherence the decrees of the Council would not have held. As it was
their presence gave full validity to these Decrees. The reaction against the
innovation of Arius was so strong that at this Council of Nicaea he was
In that first great defeat, when the strong vital tradition of Catholicism had
asserted itself and Arius was condemned, the creed which his followers had drawn
up was trampled under-foot as a blasphemy, but the spirit behind that creed and
behind that revolt was to re-arise.
It re-arose at once, and it can be said that Arianism was actually strengthened
by its first superficial defeat. This paradox was due to a cause you will find
at work in many forms of conflict. The defeated adversary learns from his first
rebuff the character of the thing he has attacked; he discovers its weak points;
he learns how his opponent may be confused and into what compromises that
opponent may be led. He is therefore better prepared after his check than he was
at the firstonslaught. So it was with Arianism.
In order to understand the situation we must appreciate the point that Arianism,
founded like all heresies on an error in doctrine that is on something which can
be expressed in a dead formula of mere words soon began to live, like all
heresies at their beginning, with a vigorous new life and character and savor of
its own. The quarrel which filled the third century from 325 onwards for a
lifetime was not after its first years a quarrel between opposing forms of words
the difference between which may appear slight; it became very early in the
struggle a quarrel between opposing spirits and characters: a quarrel between
two opposing personalities, such as human personalities are: on the one side the
Catholic temper and tradition, on the other a soured, proud temper, which would
have destroyed the Faith.
Arianism learned from its first heavy defeat at Nicaea to compromise on forms,
on the wording of doctrine, so that it might preserve, and spread with less
opposition, its heretical spirit. The first
conflict had turned on the u se of a Greek word which means "of the same
substance with.'' The Catholics, affirming the full Godhead of Our Lord,
insisted on the use of this word, which implied that the Son was of the same
Divine substance as the Father; that He was of the same Being: i.e., Godship. It
was thought sufficient to present this word as a test. The Arians it was thought
would always refuse to accept the word and could thus be distinguished from the
Orthodox and rejected.
But many Arians were prepared to compromise by accepting the mere word and
denying the spirit in which it should be read. They were willing to admit that
Christ was of the Divine essence, but not fully God; not uncreated. When the
Arians began this new policy of verbal compromise, the
Emperor Constantine and his successors regarded that policy as an honest
opportunity for reconciliation and reunion. The refusal of the Catholics to be
deceived became, in the eyes of those who thought thus, mere obstinacy; and in
the eyes of the Emperor, factious rebellion and inexcusable disobedience. "Here
are you people, who call yourself the only real Catholics, prolonging and
needlessly embittering a mere faction-fight. Because you have the popular names
behind you, you feel yourselves the masters of your fellows. Such arrogance is
"The other side have accepted your main point; why cannot you now settle the
quarrel and come together again? By holding out you split society into two
camps; you disturb the peace of the Empire, and are as criminal as you are
That is what the official world tended to put forward and honestly believed.
The Catholics answered: "The heretics have not accepted our main point. They
have subscribed to an Orthodox phrase, but they interpret that phrase in an
heretical fashion. They will repeat that Our Lord is of Divine nature, but not
that he is fully God, for they still say He was created. Therefore we will not
allow them to enter our communion. To do so would be to endanger the vital
principle by which the Church exists, the principle of the Incarnation, and the
Church is essential to the Empire and Mankind.''
At this point, there entered the battle that personal force which ultimately won
the victory for Catholicism: St. Athanasius. It was the tenacity and single aim
of St. Athanasius, Patriarch of Alexandria, the great Metropolitan See of Egypt,
which decided the issue. He enjoyed a position of advantage, for Alexandria was
the second most important town in the Eastern Empire and, as a Bishopric, one of
the first four in the world. He further enjoyed popular backing, which never
failed him, and which made his enemies hesitate to take extreme measures against
him. But all this would not have sufficed had not the man himself been what he
At the time when he sat at the Council of Nicaea in 325 he was still a young man
probably not quite thirty; and he only sat there as Deacon, although already his
strength and eloquence were remarkable. He lived to be seventy-six or
seventy-seven years of age, dying in A.D. 373, and during nearly the whole of
that long life he maintained with inflexible energy the full Catholic doctrine
of the Trinity.
When the first compromise of Arianism was suggested, Athanasius was already
Archbishop of Alexandria. Constantine ordered him to re-admit Arius to
Communion. He refused.
It was a step most perilous because all men admitted the full power of the
Monarch over Life and Death, and regarded rebellion as the worst of crimes.
Athanasius was also felt to be outrageous and extravagant, because opinion in
the official world, among men of social influence, and throughout the Army, upon
which everything then reposed, was strong that the compromise ought to be
accepted. Athanasius was exiled to Gaul, but Athanasius in exile was even more
formidable than Athanasius at Alexandria. His presence in the West had the
effect of reinforcing the strong Catholic feeling of all that part of the
He was recalled. The sons of Constantine, who succeeded one after the other to
the Empire, vacillated between the policy of securing popular support which was
Catholic and of securing the support of the Army which was Arian. Most of all
did the Court lean towards Arianism because it
disliked the growing power of the organized Catholic Clergy, rival to the lay
power of the State. The last and longest lived of Constantine's sons and
successors, Constantius, became very definitely Arian. Athanasius was exiled
over and over again but the Cause of which he was champion was growing in
When Constantius died in 361, he was succeeded by a nephew of Constantine's,
Julian the Apostate. This Emperor went over to the large surviving Pagan body
and came near to reestablishing Paganism; for the power of an individual Emperor
was in that day overwhelming. But he was killed in battle against the Persians
and his successor, Jovian, was definitely Catholic.
However, the see-saw still went on. In 367, St. Athanasius, being then an old
man of at least seventy years of age, the Emperor Valens exiled him for the
fifth time. Finding that the Catholic forces were now too strong he later
recalled him. By this time Athanasius had won his battle. He died as the
greatest man of the Roman world. Of such value are sincerity and tenacity,
combined with genius.
But the Army remained Arian, and what we have to follow in the next generations
is the lingering death of Arianism in the Latin-speaking Western part of the
Empire; lingering because it was supported by the Chief Generals in command of
the Western districts, but doomed because thepeople
as a whole had abandoned it. How it thus died out I shall now describe.
It is often said that all heresies die. This may be true in the very long run
but it is not necessarily true within any given period of time. It is not even
true that the vital principle of a heresy necessarily loses strength with time.
The fate of the various heresies has been most various; and the greatest of
them, Mohammedanism, is not only still vigorous but is more vigorous over the
districts which it originally occupied than is its Christian rival, and much
more vigorous and much more co-extensive with its own society than is the
Catholic Church with our Western civilization which is the product of
Arianism, however, was one of those heresies which did die. The same fate has
overtaken Calvinism in our own day. This does not mean that the general moral
effect or atmosphere of the heresy disappears from among men, but that its
creative doctrines are no longer believed in, so that
its vitality is lost and must ultimately disappear.
Geneva today, for instance, is morally a Calvinist city, although it has a
Catholic minority sometimes very nearly equal to half its total numbers,
sometimes actually becoming (I believe) a slight majority. But there is not one
man of a hundred in Geneva today who accepts Calvin's highly defined theology.
The doctrine is dead; its effects on society survive.
Arianism died in two fashions, corresponding to the two halves into which the
Roman Empire which was in those days, for its citizens, the whole civilized
The Eastern half had Greek for its official language and it was governed from
Constantinople, which was also called Byzantium.
It included Egypt, North Africa, as far as Cyrene, the East Coast of the
Adriatic, the Balkans, Asia Minor, Syria as far (roughly) as the Euphrates. It
was in this part of the Empire that Arianism had sprung up and proved so
powerful that between A.D. 300 and A.D. 400 it very nearly conquered.
The Imperial Court had wavered between Arianism and Catholicism with one
momentary lapse back into paganism. But before the century was over, that is
well before the year A.D. 400, the Court was definitely Catholic and seemed
certain to remain so. As I explained above, although the Emperor and his
surrounding officials (which I have called "the Court'') were theoretically all
powerful (for the constitution was an absolute monarchy and men could not think
in any other terms in those days), yet, at least as powerful, and less subject
to change, was the army on which the whole of that society reposed. And the army
meant the generals; the generals of the army were for the most part, and
When the central power, the Emperor and his officials, had become permanently
Catholic the spirit of the military was still in the main Arian, and that is why
the underlying ideas of Arianism that is, the doubt whether Our Lord was or
could be really God survived after formal Arianism had ceased to be preached and
accepted among the populace.
On this account, because the spirit which had underlain Arianism (the doubt on
the full divinity of Christ) went on, there arose a number of what may be called
"derivatives'' from Arianism; or "secondary forms'' of Arianism.
Men continued to suggest that there was only one nature in Christ, the end of
which suggestion would necessarily have been a popular idea that Christ was only
a man. When that failed to capture the official machine, though it continued to
affect millions of people, there was another suggestion made that there was only
one Will in Christ, not a human will and a divine will, but a single will.
Before these there had been a revival of the old idea, previous to Arianism and
upheld by early heretics in Syria, that the divinity only came into Our Lord
during His lifetime. He was born no more than a man, and Our Lady was the mother
of no more than a man and so on. In all their various forms and under all their
technical names (Monophysites, Monothelites, Nestorians, the names of the
principal three and there were any number of others) these movements throughout
the Eastern or Greek half of the Empire were efforts at escaping from, or
rationalizing, the full mystery of the Incarnation; and their survival depended
on the jealousy felt by the army for the civilian society round it, and on the
lingering remains of pagan hostility to the Christian mysteries as a whole. Of
course they depended also on the eternal human tendency to rationalize and to
reject what is beyond the reach of reason.
But there was another factor in the survival of the secondary effects of
Arianism in the East. It was the factor which is called today in European
politics "Particularism,'' that is, the tendency of a part of the state to
separate itself from the rest and to live its own life. When this feeling
becomes so strong that men are willing to suffer and die for it, it takes the
form of a Nationalist revolution. An example of such was the feeling of the
southern Slavs against the Austrian Empire which feeling gave rise to the Great
War. Now this discontent of provinces and districts with the Central Power by
which they had been governed increased as time went on in the Eastern Empire;
and a convenient way of expressing it was to favor any kind of criticism against
the official religion of the Empire. That is why great bodies in the East (and
notably a large proportion of the people in the Egyptian province) favored the
Monophysite heresy. It expressed their dissatisfaction with the despotic rule of
Constantinople and with the taxes imposed upon them and with the promotion given
to those near the court at the expense of the provincials and all the rest of
Thus the various derivatives from Arianism survived in the Greek Eastern half of
the Empire, although the official world had long gone back to Catholicism. This
also explains why you find all over the East today large numbers of schismatic
Christians, mainly Monophysite, sometimes Nestorian, sometimes of lesser
communities, whom not all these centuries of Mohammedan oppression have been
able to unite with the main Christian body.
What put an end, not to these sects, for they still exist, but to their
importance, was the sudden rise of that enormous force, antagonistic to the
whole Greek world Islam: the new Mohammedan heresy out of the desert, which
rapidly became a counter-religion; the implacable enemy of all the older
Christian bodies. The death of Arianism in the East was the swamping of the mass
of the Christian Eastern Empire by Arabian conquerors. In the face of that
disaster the Christians who remained independent reacted towards orthodoxy as
their one chance for survival, and that is how even the secondary effects of
Arianism died out in the countries free from subjugation to the Mohammedans in
In the West the fortunes of Arianism are quite different. In the West Arianism
died altogether. It ceased to be. It left no derivatives to carry on a lingering
The story of this death of Arianism in the West is commonly misunderstood
because most of our history has been written hitherto on a misconception of what
European Christian society was like in Western Europe during the fourth, fifth
and sixth centuries, that is, between the time when Constantine left Rome and
set up the new capital of the Empire, Byzantium, and the date when, in the early
seventh century (from A.D. 633 onwards), the Mohammedan invasion burst upon the
What we are commonly told is that the Western Empire was overrun by savage
tribes called "Goths'' and "Visigoths'' and "Vandals'' and "Suevi'' and
"Franks'' who "conquered'' the Western Roman Empire that is, Britain and Gaul
and the civilized part of Germany on the Rhine and the upper Danube, Italy,
North Africa, and Spain.
The official language of all this part was the Latin language. The Mass was said
in Latin, whereas in most of the Eastern Empire it was said in Greek. The laws
were in Latin, and all the acts of administration were in Latin. There was no
barbarian conquest, but there was a continuation of what had been going on for
centuries, an infiltration of people from outside the Empire into the Empire
because within the Empire they could get the advantages of civilization. There
was also the fact that the army on which everything depended was at last almost
entirely recruited from barbarians. As society gradually got old and it was
found difficult to administer distant places, to gather the taxes from far away
into the central treasury, or to impose an edict over remote regions, the
government of those regions tended to be taken over more and more by the leading
officers of the barbarian tribes, who were now Roman soldiers; that is, their
chieftains and leaders.
In this way were formed local governments in France and Spain and even Italy
itself which, while they still felt themselves to be a part of the Empire, were
For instance, when it became difficult to govern Italy from so far off as
Constantinople, the Emperor sent a general to govern in his place and when this
general became too strong he sent another general to supersede him. This second
general (Theodoric) was also, like all the others, a barbarian chief by birth,
though he was the son of one who had been taken into the Roman service and had
himself been brought up at the Court of the Emperor.
This second general became in his turn practically independent.
The same thing happened in southern France and in Spain. The local generals took
over power. They were barbarian chiefs who handed over this power, that is, the
nominating to official posts and the collecting of taxes, to their descendants.
Then there was the case of North Africa what we call today Morocco, Algiers and
Tunis. Here the quarrelling factions, all of which were disconnected with direct
government from Byzantium, called in a group of Slav soldiers who had migrated
into the Roman Empire and had been taken over as a military force. They were
called the Vandals; and they took over the government of the province which
worked from Carthage.
Now all these local governments of the West (the Frankish general and his group
of soldiers in northern France, the Visigothic one in southern France and Spain,
the Burgundian one in southeastern France, the other Gothic one in Italy, the
Vandal one in North Africa) were at issuewith the
official government of the Empire on the point of religion. The Frankish one in
north-eastern France and what we call today, Belgium, was still pagan. All the
others were Arian.
I have explained above what this meant. It was not so much a doctrinal feeling
as a social one. The Gothic general and the Vandal general who were chiefs over
their own soldiers felt it was grander to be Arians than to be Catholics like
the mass of the populace. They were the army; and the army was too grand to
accept the general popular religion. It was a feeling very much like that which
you may see surviving in Ireland still, in places, and which was universal there
until quite lately: a feeling that "ascendency'' went properly with
Since there is no stronger force in politics than this force of social
superiority, it took a very long time for the little local courts to drop their
Arianism. I call them little because, although they
collected taxes from very wide areas, it was merely as administrators. The
actual numbers were small compared with the mass of the Catholic population.
While the governors and their courts in Italy and Spain and Gaul and Africa
still clung with pride to their ancient Arian name and character, two things,
one sudden, the other gradual, militated against both their local power and
The first, sudden, thing was the fact that the general of the Franks who had
ruled in Belgium conquered with his very small force another local general in
northern France a man who governed a district lying to the west of him. Both
armies were absurdly small, each of about 4,000 men; and it is a very good
example of what the times were like that the beaten army, after the battle, at
once joined the victors. It also shows what times were like that it seemed
perfectly natural for a Romangeneral commanding no
more than 4,000 men to begin with, and only 8,000 men after the first success,
to take over the administration taxes, courts of law and all the imperial forms
over a very wide district. He took over the great mass of northern France just
as his colleagues, with similar forces, took over official action in Spain and
Italy and elsewhere.
Now it so happened that this Frankish general (whose real name we hardly know,
because it has come down to us in various distorted forms, but best known as
"Clovis'') was a pagan: something exceptional and even scandalous in the
military forces of the day when nearly all important people had become
But this scandal proved a blessing in disguise to the Church, for the man Clovis
being a pagan and never having been Arian, it was possible to convert him
directly to Catholicism, the popular religion; and when he had accepted
Catholicism he at once had behind him the whole force of themillions of citizens and the organized priesthood and Bishoprics of the
Church. He was the one popular general; all the others were at issue with their
subjects. He found it easy to levy great bodies of armed men because he had
popular feeling with them. He took over the government of the Ariangenerals in the South, easily defeating them, and his levies became the
biggest of the military forces in the Western Latin-speaking Empire. He was not
strong enough to take over Italy and Spain, still less Africa, but he shifted
the centre of gravity away from the decaying Arian tradition of the Roman army
now no more than small dwindling groups.
So much for the sudden blow which was struck against Arianism in the West. The
gradual process which hastened the decay of Arianism was of a different kind.
With every year that passed it was becoming, in the decay of society, more and
more difficult to collect taxes, to keep up a revenue, and therefore to repair
roads and harbors and public buildings and keep order and do all the rest of
With this financial decay of government and the social disintegration
accompanying it the little groups who were nominally the local governments, lost
their prestige. In, say, the year 450 it was a
fine thing to be an Arian in Paris or Toledo or Carthage or Arles or Toulouse or
Ravenna; but 100 years later, by say, 550, the social prestige of Arianism had
gone. It paid everybody who wanted to "get on'' to be a Catholic; and the
dwindling little official Arian groups were despised even when they acted
savagely in their disappointment, as they did in Africa. They lost ground.
The consequence was that after a certain delay all the Arian governments in the
West either became Catholic (as in the case of Spain) or, as happened in much of
Italy and the whole of North Africa, they were taken over again by the direct
rule of the Roman Empire from Byzantium.
This last experiment did not continue long. There was another body of barbarian
soldiers, still Arian, who came in from the north-eastern provinces and took
over the government in northern andcentral Italy and
shortly afterwards the Mohammedan invasion swept over North Africa and
ultimately over Spain and even penetrated into Gaul. Direct Roman
administration, so far from surviving Western Europe, died out. Its last
effective existence in the South was swamped by Islam. But long before this
happened Arianism in the West was dead.
This is the fashion in which the first of the great heresies which threatened at
one moment to undermine and destroy the whole of Catholic society disappeared.
The process had taken almost 300 years and it is interesting to note that so far
as doctrines are concerned, about that space of time, or a little more, sufficed
to take the substance out of the various main heresies of the Protestant
They, too, had almost triumphed in the middle of the sixteenth century, when
Calvin, their chief figure, all but upset the French monarchy. They also had
wholly lost their vitality by the middle of the nineteenth 300 years.
1. For the discussion on the date of the Crucifixion, Resurrection and Pentecost
I must refer my readers to Dr. Arendzen's clear and learned work, ``Men and
Manners in the time of Christ'' (Sheed and Ward). From the evidence, which has
been fully examined, it is clear that the date is not earlier than 29 A.D., and
may possibly be a few years later, while the most widely accepted traditional
date is 33 A. D.
2. It is not easy to establish the exact point after which the Official Religion
of the Roman State, or even of the Empire, is Christian. Constantine's victory
at the Milvian bridge was in the autumn of 312. The Edict of Milan, issued by
himself and Licinius, which gave toleration to the practice of the Christian
religion throughout the Empire, was issued early in the following year, 313.
When Constantine had become the sole Emperor he soon lived as a Catechumen of
the Christian Church, yet he remained head of the old Pagan religious
organization as Pontifex Maximus. He was not baptized until the eve of his
death, in 337. And though he summoned and presided over gatherings of Christian
Bishops, they were still but a separate body in a society mainly Pagan.
Constantine's own son and successor had sympathies with the old dying Paganism.
The Senate did
not change for a lifetime. For active official destruction of the lingering
Pagan worship men had to wait till Theodosius at the very end of the century.
The whole affair covers one long human life: over eighty years.
The Great and Enduring Heresy of Mohammed
It might have appeared to any man watching affairs in the earlier years of the
seventh century say from 600 to 630_that only one great main assault having been
made against the Church, Arianism and its derivatives, that assault having been
repelled and the Faith having won its victory, it was now secure for an
Christendom would have to fight for its life, of course, against outward
unchristian things, that is, against Paganism. The nature worshippers of the
high Persian civilization to the east would attack us in arms and try to
overwhelm us. The savage paganism of barbaric tribes, Scandinavian, German, Slav
and Mongol, in the north and center of Europe would also attack Christendom and
try to destroy it. The populations subject to Byzantium would continue to parade
heretical views as a label for their grievances. But the main effort of heresy,
at least, had failed so it seemed. Its object, the undoing of a united Catholic
civilization, had been missed. The rise of no major heresy need henceforth be
feared, still less the consequent disruption of Christendom.
By A.D. 630 all Gaul had long been Catholic. The last of the Arian generals and
their garrisons in Italy and Spain had become orthodox. The Arian generals and
garrisons of Northern Africa had been conquered by the orthodox armies of the
It was just at this moment, a moment of apparently universal and permanent
Catholicism, that there fell an unexpected blow of overwhelming magnitude and
force. Islam arose quite suddenly. It came out of the desert and overwhelmed
half our civilization.
Islam the teaching of Mohammed conquered immediately in arms. Mohammed's Arabian
converts charged into Syria and won there two great battles, the first upon the
Yarmuk to the east of Palestine in the highlands above the Jordan, the second in
Mesopotamia. They went on to overrun Egypt; they pushed further and further into
the heart of our Christian civilization with all its grandeur of Rome. They
established themselves all over Northern Africa; they raided into Asia Minor,
thoughthey did not establish themselves there as yet.
They could even occasionally threaten Constantinople itself. At last, a long
lifetime after their first victories in Syria, they crossed the Straits of
Gibraltar into Western Europe and began to flood Spain. They even got as far as
the very heart of Northern France, between Poitiers and Tours, less than a
hundred years after their first victories in Syria in A.D. 732.
They were ultimately thrust back to the Pyrenees, but they continued to hold all
Spain except the mountainous north-western corner. They held all Roman Africa,
including Egypt, and all Syria. They dominated the whole Mediterranean west and
east: held its islands, raided and left armed settlements even on the shores of
Gaul and Italy. They spread mightily throughout Hither Asia, overwhelming the
Persian realm. They were an increasing menace to Constantinople. Within a
hundred years, a main part of the Roman world had fallen under the power of this
new and strange force from the Desert.
Such a revolution had never been. No earlier attack had been so sudden, so
violent or so permanently successful. Within a score of years from the first
assault in 634 the Christian Levant had gone: Syria, the cradle of the Faith,
and Egypt with Alexandria, the mighty Christian See. Within a lifetime half the
wealth and nearly half the territory of the Christian Roman Empire was in the
hands of Mohammedan masters and officials, and the mass of the population was
becoming affected more and more by this new thing.
Mohammedan government and influence had taken the place of Christian government
and influence, and were on the way to making the bulk of the Mediterranean on
the east and the south Mohammedan.
We are about to follow the fortunes of this extraordinary thing which still
calls itself Islam, that is, "The Acceptation" of the morals and simple
doctrines which Mohammed had preached.
I shall later describe the historical origin of the thing, giving the dates of
its progress and the stages of its original success. I shall describe the
consolidation of it, its increasing power and the threat which it remained to
our civilization. It very nearly destroyed us. It kept up the battle against
Christendom actively for a thousand years, and the story is by no means over;
the power of Islam may at any moment re-arise.
But before following that story we must grasp the two fundamental things, first,
the nature of Mohammedanism; second, the essential cause of its sudden and, as
it were, miraculous success over so many thousands of miles of territory and so
many millions of human beings.
Mohammedanism was a heresy: that is the essential point to grasp before going
any further. It began as a heresy, not as a new religion. It was not a pagan
contrast with the Church; it was not an alien enemy. It was a perversion of
Christian doctrine. It vitality and endurance soon gave it the appearance of a
new religion, but those who were contemporary with its rise saw it for what it
was not a denial, but an adaptation and a misuse, of the Christian thing. It
differed from most (not from all) heresies in this, that it did not arise within
the bounds of the Christian Church. The chief heresiarch, Mohammed himself, was
not, like most heresiarchs, a man of Catholic birth and doctrine to begin with.
He sprang from pagans. But that which he taught was in the main Catholic
doctrine, oversimplified. It was the great Catholic world on the frontiers of
which he lived, whose influence was all around him and whose territories he had
known by travel which inspired his convictions. He came of, and mixed with, the
degraded idolaters of the Arabian wilderness, the conquest of which had never
seemed worth the Romans' while.
He took over very few of those old pagan ideas which might have been native to
him from his descent. On the contrary, he preached and insisted upon a whole
group of ideas which were peculiar to the Catholic Church and distinguished it
from the paganism which it had conquered in the Greek and Roman civilization.
Thus the very foundation of his teaching was that prime Catholic doctrine, the
unity and omnipotence of God. The attributes of God he also took over in the
main from Catholic doctrine: the personal nature, the all-goodness, the
timelessness, the providence of God, His creative power as the origin of all
things, and His sustenance of all things by His power alone. The world of good
spirits and angels and of evil spirits in rebellion against God was a part of
the teaching, with
a chief evil spirit, such as Christendom had recognized. Mohammed preached with
insistence that prime Catholic doctrine, on the human side the immortality of
the soul and its responsibility for actions in this life, coupled with the
consequent doctrine of punishment and reward after death.
If anyone sets down those points that orthodox Catholicism has in common with
Mohammedanism, and those points only, one might imagine if one went no further
that there should have been no cause of quarrel. Mohammed would almost seem in
this aspect to be a sort of missionary, preaching and spreading by the energy of
his character the chief and fundamental doctrines of the Catholic Church among
those who had hitherto been degraded pagans of the Desert. He gave to Our Lord
the highest reverence, and to Our Lady also, for that matter. On the day of
judgment (another Catholic idea which he taught) it was Our Lord, according to
Mohammed, whowould be the judge of mankind, not he,
Mohammed. The Mother of Christ, Our Lady, "the Lady Miriam" was ever for him the
first of womankind. His followers even got from the early fathers some vague
hint of her Immaculate Conception.
But the central point where this new heresy struck home with a mortal blow
against Catholic tradition was a full denial of the Incarnation.
Mohammed did not merely take the first steps toward that denial, as the Arians
and their followers had done; he advanced a clear affirmation, full and
complete, against the whole doctrine of an incarnate God. He taught that Our
Lord was the greatest of all the prophets, but still only a prophet: a man like
other men. He eliminated the Trinity altogether.
With that denial of the Incarnation went the whole sacramental structure. He
refused to know anything of the Eucharist, with its Real Presence; he stopped
the sacrifice of the Mass, and therefore the institution of a special
priesthood. In other words, he, like so many other lesser heresiarchs, founded
his heresy on simplification.
Catholic doctrine was true (he seemed to say), but it had become encumbered with
false accretions; it had become complicated by needless man-made additions,
including the idea that its founder was Divine, and the growth of a parasitical
caste of priests who battened on a late, imagined, system of Sacraments which
they alone could administer. All those corrupt accretions must be swept away.
There is thus a very great deal in common between the enthusiasm with which
Mohammed's teaching attacked the priesthood, the Mass and the sacraments, and
the enthusiasm with which Calvinism, the central motive force of the
Reformation, did the same. As we all know, the new teaching relaxed the marriage
laws but in practice this did not affect the mass of his followers who still
remained monogamous. It made divorce as easy as possible, for the sacramental
idea of marriage disappeared. It insisted upon the equality of men, and it
necessarily had that further factor in which it resembled Calvinism the sense of
predestination, the sense of fate; of what the followers of John Knox were
always calling "the immutable decrees of God."
Mohammed's teaching never developed among the mass of his followers, or in his
own mind, a detailed theology. He was content to accept all that appealed to him
in the Catholic scheme and to reject all that seemed to him, and to so many
others of his time, too complicated or mysterious to be true. Simplicity was the
note of the whole affair; and since all heresies draw their strength from some
true doctrine, Mohammedanism drew its strength from the true Catholic doctrines
which it retained: the equality of all men before God "All true believers are
brothers." It zealously preached and throve on the paramount claims of justice,
social and economic.
Now, why did this new, simple, energetic heresy have its sudden overwhelming
One answer is that it won battles. It won them at once, as we shall see when we
come to the history of the thing. But winning battles could not have made Islam
permanent or even strong had there not been a state of affairs awaiting some
such message and ready to accept it.
Both in the world of Hither Asia and in the Graeco-Roman world of the
Mediterranean, but especially in the latter, society had fallen, much as our
society has today, into a tangle wherein the bulk of men were disappointed and
angry and seeking for a solution to the whole group of social strains. There was
indebtedness everywhere; the power of money and consequent usury. There was
slavery everywhere. Society reposed upon it, as ours reposes upon wage slavery
today. There was weariness and discontent with theological debate, which, for
all its intensity, had grown out of touch with the masses. There lay upon the
freemen, already tortured with debt, a heavy burden of imperial taxation; and
there was the irritant of existing central government interfering with men's
lives; there was the tyranny of the lawyers and their charges.
To all this Islam came as a vast relief and a solution of strain. The slave who
admitted that Mohammed was the prophet of God and that the new teaching had,
therefore, divine authority, ceased to be a slave. The slave who adopted Islam
was henceforward free. The debtor who "accepted" was rid of his debts. Usury was
forbidden. The small farmer was relieved not only of his debts but of his
crushing taxation. Above all, justice could be had without buying it from
lawyers. . . . All this in theory. The practice was not nearly so complete. Many
a convert remained a debtor,many were still slaves.
But wherever Islam conquered there was a new spirit of freedom and relaxation.
It was the combination of all these things, the attractive simplicity of the
doctrine, the sweeping away of clerical and imperial discipline, the huge
immediate practical advantage of freedom for theslave
and riddance of anxiety for the debtor, the crowning advantage of free justice
under few and simple new laws easily understood that formed the driving force
behind the astonishing Mohammedan social victory. The courts were everywhere
accessible to all without payment and giving verdicts which all could
understand. The Mohammedan movement was essentially a "Reformation," and we can
discover numerous affinities between Islam and the Protestant Reformers on
Images, on the Mass, on Celibacy, etc.
The marvel seems to be, not so much that the new emancipation swept over men
much as we might imagine Communism to sweep over our industrial world today, but
that there should still have remained, as there remained for generations, a
prolonged and stubborn resistance to Mohammedanism.
There you have, I think, the nature of Islam and of its first original blaze of
We have just seen what was the main cause of Islam's extraordinarily rapid
spread; a complicated and fatigued society, and one burdened with the
institution of slavery; one, moreover, in which millions of peasants in Egypt,
Syria and all the East, crushed with usury and heavy taxation, were offered
immediate relief by the new creed, or rather, the new heresy. Its note was
simplicity and therefore it was suited to the popular mind in a society where
hitherto a restricted class had pursuedits quarrels
on theology and government.
That is the main fact which accounts for the sudden spread of Islam after its
first armed victory over the armies rather than the people of the Greek-speaking
Eastern Empire. But this alone would not account for two other equally striking
triumphs. The first was the power the new heresy showed of absorbing the Asiatic
people of the Near East, Mesopotamia and the mountain land between it and India.
The second was the wealth and the splendor of the Caliphate (that is, of the
central Mohammedan monarchy) in the generations coming immediately after the
first sweep of victory.
The first of these points, the spread over Mesopotamia and Persia and the
mountain land towards India, was not, as in the case of the sudden successes in
Syria and Egypt, due to the appeal of simplicity, freedom from slavery and
relief from debt. It was due to a certain underlying historical character in the
Near East which has always influenced its society and continues to influence it
today. That character is a sort of natural uniformity. There has been inherent
in it from times earlier thanany known historical
record, a sort of instinct for obedience to one religious head, which is also
the civil head, and a general similarity of social culture. When we talk of the
age-long struggle between Asia and the West, we mean by the word "Asia" all that
sparse population of the mountain land beyond Mesopotamia towards India, its
permanent influence upon the Mesopotamian plains themselves, and its potential
influence upon even the highlands and sea coast of Syria and Palestine.
The struggle between Asia and Europe swings over a vast period like a tide
ebbing and flowing. For nearly a thousand years, from the conquest of Alexander
to the coming of the Mohammedan Reformers (333 B.C. -634), the tide had set
eastward; that is, Western influences Greek, and then Greek and Roman had
flooded the debatable land. For a short period of about two and a half to three
centuries even Mesopotamia was superficially Greek in its governing class, at
any rate. Then Asia began to flood back again westward. The old Pagan Roman
Empire and the Christian Empire, which succeeded it and which was governed from
Constantinople, were never able to hold permanently the land beyond the
Euphrates. The new push from Asia westward was led by the Persians, and the
Persians and Parthians (which last were a division of the Persians) not only
kept their hold on Mesopotamia but were able to carry out raids into Roman
territory itself, right up to the end of that period. In the last few years
before the appearance of Mohammedanism they had appeared on the Mediterranean
coast and had sacked Jerusalem.
Now when Islam came with its first furious victorious cavalry charges springing
from the desert, it powerfully reinforced this tendency of Asia to reassert
itself. The uniformity of temper which is the mark of Asiatic society, responded
at once to this new idea of one very simple, personal form of government,
sanctified by religion, and ruling with a power theoretically absolute from one
centre. The Caliphate once established at Bagdad, Bagdad became just what
Babylon had been; thecentral capital of one vast
society, giving its tone to all the lands from the Indian borders to Egypt and
But even more remarkable than the flooding of all near Asia with Mohammedanism
in one lifetime was the wealth and splendor and culture of the new Islamic
Empire. Islam was in those early centuries (most of the seventh, all the eighth
and ninth), the highest material civilization of our occidental world. The city
of Constantinople was also very wealthy and enjoyed a very high civilization,
which radiated over dependent provinces, Greece and the seaboard of the Aegean
and the uplands of Asia Minor, but it was focused in the imperial city; in the
greater part of the country-sides culture was on the decline. In the West it was
notoriously so. Gaul and Britain, and in some degree Italy, and the valley of
the Danube, fell back towards barbarism. They never became completely barbaric,
not even in Britain, which was the most remote; but they were harried and
impoverished, and lacked proper government. From the fifth century to the early
eleventh (say A.D. 450 to A.D. 1030) ran the period which we call "The Dark
Ages" of Europe in spite of Charlemagne's experiment.
So much for the Christian world of that time, against which Islam was beginning
to press so heavily; which had lost to Islam the whole of Spain and certain
islands and coasts of the central Mediterranean as well. Christendom was under
siege from Islam. Islam stood up against us in dominating splendor and wealth
and power, and, what was even more important, with superior knowledge in the
practical and applied sciences.
Islam preserved the Greek philosophers, the Greek mathematicians and their
works, the physical science of the Greek and Roman earlier writers. Islam was
also far more lettered than was Christendom. In the mass of the West most men
had become illiterate. Even in Constantinople reading and writing were not as
common as they were in the world governed by the Caliph.
One might sum up and say that the contrast between the Mohammedan world of those
early centuries and the Christian world which it threatened to overwhelm was
like the contrast between a modern industrialized state and a backward,
half-developed state next door to it: the contrast between modern Germany, for
instance, and its Russian neighbor. The contrast was not as great as that, but
the modern parallel helps one to understand it.For
centuries to come Islam was to remain a menace, even though Spain was
re-conquered. In the East it became more than a menace, and spread continually
for seven hundred years, until it had mastered the Balkans and the Hungarian
plain, and all but occupied Western Europe itself. Islam wasthe one heresy that nearly destroyed Christendom through its early
material and intellectual superiority.
Now why was this? It seems inexplicable when we remember the uncertain and petty
personal leaderships, the continual changes of local dynasties, the shifting
foundation of the Mohammedan effort. That effort began with the attack of a very
few thousand desert horsemen, who were as much drawn by desire for loot as by
their enthusiasm for new doctrines. Those doctrines had been preached to a very
sparse body of nomads, boasting but very few permanently inhabited centers. They
had originated in a man remarkable indeed for the intensity of his nature,
probably more than half convinced, probably also a little mad, and one who had
never shown constructive ability yet Islam conquered.
Mohammed was a camel driver, who had had the good luck to make a wealthy
marriage with a woman older that himself. From the security of that position he
worked out his visions and enthusiasms, and undertook his propaganda. But it was
all done in an ignorant and very small way. There was no organization, and the
moment the first bands had succeeded in battle, the leaders began fighting among
themselves: not only fighting, but murdering. The story of all the first
lifetime, and a little more, after the original rush the story of the Mohammedan
government (such as it was) so long as it was centered in Damascus, is a story
of successive intrigue and murder. Yet when the second dynasty which presided
for so long over Islam, the Abbasides, with their capital further east at Bagdad,
on the Euphrates, restored the old Mesopotamian domination over Syria, ruling
also Egypt and all the Mohammedan world, that splendor and science, material
power and wealth of which I spoke, arose and dazzled all contemporaries, and we
must ask the question again: why was this?
The answer lies in the very nature of the Mohammedan conquest. It did not, as
has been so frequently repeated, destroy at once what it came across; it did not
exterminate all those who would not accept Islam. It was just the other way. It
was remarkable among all the powers which have ruled these lands throughout
history for what has wrongly been called its "tolerance." The Mohammedan temper
was not tolerant. It was, on the contrary, fanatical and bloodthirsty. It felt
no respect for, nor even curiosity about, those from whom it differed. It was
absurdly vain of itself, regarding with contempt the high Christian culture
about it. It still so regards it even today.
But the conquerors, and those whom they converted and attached to themselves
from the native populations, were still too few to govern by force. And (what is
more important) they had no idea of organization. They were always slipshod and
haphazard. Therefore a very large majority of the conquered remained in their
old habits of life and of religion.
Slowly the influence of Islam spread through these, but during the first
centuries the great majority in Syria, and even in Mesopotamia and Egypt, were
Christian, keeping the Christian Mass, the Christian Gospels, and all the
Christian tradition. It was they who preserved the Graeco-Roman civilization
from which they descended, and it was that civilization, surviving under the
surface of Mohammedan government, which gave their learning and material power
to the wide territories which we must call, even so early, "the Mohammedan
world," though the bulk of it was not yet Mohammedan in creed.
But there was another and it is the most important cause. The fiscal cause: the
overwhelming wealth of the early Mohammedan Caliphate. The merchant and the
tiller of the land, the owner of property and the negotiator, were everywhere
relieved by the Mohammedan conquest; for a mass of usury was swept away, as was
an intricate system of taxation which had become clogged, ruining the taxpayer
without corresponding results for the government. What the Arabian conquerors
and their successors in that is, much the most of its population was subject to
a special tribute; and it was this tribute which furnished directly, without
loss from the intricacies of bureaucracy, the wealth of the central power: the
revenue of the Caliph. That revenue remained enormous during all the first
generations. The result was that which always follows upon a high concentration
of wealth in one governing centre; the whole of the society governed from that
centre reflects the opulence of its directors.
There we have the explanation of that strange, that unique phenomenon in history
a revolt against civilization which did not destroy civilization; a consuming
heresy which did not destroy the Christian religion against which it was
The world of Islam became and long remained, the heir of the old Graeco-Roman
culture and the preserver thereof. Thence was it that, alone of all the great
heresies, Mohammedanism not only survived, and is, after nearly fourteen
centuries, as strong as ever spiritually. In time it struck roots and
established a civilization of its own over against ours, and a permanent rival
Now that we have understood why Islam, the most formidable of heresies, achieved
its strength and astounding success we must try to understand why, alone of all
the heresies, it has survived in full strength and even continues (after a
fashion) to expand to this day.
This is a point of decisive importance to the understanding not only of our
subject but of the history of the world in general. Yet it is one which is,
unfortunately, left almost entirely undiscussed in the modern world.
Millions of modern people of the white civilization that is, the civilization of
Europe and America have forgotten all about Islam. They have never come in
contact with it. they take for granted that it is decaying, and that, anyway, it
is just a foreign religion which will not concern them. It is, as a fact, the
most formidable and persistent enemy which our civilization has had, and may at
any moment become as large a menace in the future as it has been in the past.
To that point of its future menace I shall return in the last of these pages on
All the great heresies save this one of Mohammedanism seem to go through the
First they rise with great violence and become fashionable; they do so by
insisting on some one of the great Catholic doctrines in an exaggerated fashion;
and because the great Catholic doctrines combined form the only full and
satisfactory philosophy known to mankind, each doctrine is bound to have its
Thus Arianism insisted on the unity of God, combined with the majesty and
creative power of Our Lord. At the same time it appealed to imperfect minds
because it tried to rationalize a mystery. Calvinism again had a great success
because it insisted on another main doctrine, the Omnipotence and Omniscience of
God. It got the rest out of proportion and went violently wrong on
Predestination; but it had its moment of triumph when it looked as though it
were going to conquer all our civilization which it would have done if the
French had not fought it in their great religious war and conquered its
adherents on that soil of Gaul which has always been the battle ground and
testing place of European ideas.
After this first phase of the great heresies, when they are in their initial
vigour and spread like a flame from man to man, there comes a second phase of
decline, lasting, apparently (according to some obscure law), through about five
or six generations: say a couple of hundred years or a little more. The
adherents of the heresy grow less numerous and less convinced until at last only
quite a small number can be called full and faithful followers of the original
Then comes the third phase, when each heresy wholly disappears as a bit of
doctrine: no one believes the doctrine any more or only such a tiny fraction
remain believers that they no longer count. But the social and moral factors of
the heresy remain and may be of powerful effect for generations more. We see
that in the case of Calvinism today. Calvinism produced the Puritan movement and
from that there proceeded as a necessary consequence of the isolation of the
soul, the backup of corporate social action, unbridled competition and greed,
and at last the full establishment of what we call "Industrial Capital- ism"
today, whereby civilization is now imperiled through the discontent of the vast
destitute majority with their few plutocratic masters. There is no one left
except perhaps a handful of people in Scotland who really believe the doctrines
Calvin taught, but the spirit of Calvinism is still very strong in the countries
it originally infected, and its social fruits remain.
Now in the case of Islam none of all this happened except the "first" phase.
There was no second phase of gradual decline in the numbers and conviction of
its followers. On the contrary Islam grew from strength to strength acquiring
more and more territory, converting more and more
followers, until it had established itself as a quite separate civilization and
seemed so like a new religion that most people came to forget its origin as a
Islam increased not only in numbers and in the conviction of its followers but
in territory and in actual political and armed power until close on the
eighteenth century. Less than 100 years before the American War of Independence
a Mohammedan army was threatening to overrun and destroy Christian civilization,
and would have done so if the Catholic King of Poland had not destroyed that
army outside Vienna.
Since then the armed power of Mohammedanism has declined; but neither its
numbers nor the conviction of its followers have appreciably declined; and as to
the territory annexed by it, though it has lost places in which it ruled over
subject Christian majorities, it has gained new adherents to some extent in
Asia, and largely in Africa. Indeed in Africa it is still expanding among the
negroid populations, and that expansion provides an important future problem for
the European Governments who have divided Africa between them.
And there is another point in connection with this power of Islam. Islam is
The missionary efforts made by great Catholic orders which have been occupied in
trying to turn Mohammedans into Christians for nearly 400 years have everywhere
wholly failed. We have in some places driven the Mohammedan master out and freed
his Christian subjects from Mohammedan control, but we have had hardly any
effect in converting individual Mohammedans save perhaps to some small amount in
Southern Spain 500 years ago; and even so that was rather an example of
political than of religious change.
Now what is the explanation of all this? Why should Islam alone of all the great
heresies show such continued vitality?
Those who are sympathetic with Mohammedanism and still more those who are
actually Mohammedans explain it by proclaiming it the best and most human of
religions, the best suited to mankind, and the most attractive.
Strange as it may seem, there are a certain number of highly educated men,
European gentlemen, who have actually joined Islam, that is, who are personal
converts to Mohammedanism. I myself have known and talked to some half-dozen of
them in various parts of the world, and there are a very much larger number of
similar men, well instructed Europeans, who, having lost their faith in
Catholicism or in some form of Protestantism in which they were brought up, feel
sympathy with the Mohammedan social scheme although they do not actually join it
or profess belief in its religion. We constantly meet men of this kind today
among those who have traveled in the East.
These men always give the same answer Islam is indestructible because it is
founded on simplicity and justice. It has kept those Christian doctrines which
are evidently true and which appeal to the common sense of millions, while
getting rid of priestcraft, mysteries, sacraments, and all the rest of it. It
proclaims and practices human equality. It loves justice and forbids usury. It
produces a society in which men are happier and feel their own dignity more than
in any other. That is its strength and that is why it still converts people and
endures and will perhaps return to power in the near future.
Now I do not think that explanation to be the true one. All heresy talks in
those terms. Every heresy will tell you that it has purified the corruptions of
Christian doctrines and in general done nothing but good to mankind, satisfied
the human soul, and so on. Yet every one of them except Mohammedanism has faded
In order to get the answer to the problem we must remark in what the fortunes of
Islam have differed from those of all the other great heresies, and when we
remark that I think we shall have the clue to the truth.
Islam has differed from all the other heresies in two main points which must be
(1) It did not rise within the Church, that is, within the frontiers of our
civilization. Its heresiarch was not a man originally Catholic who led away
Catholic followers by his novel doctrine as did Arius or Calvin. He was an
outsider born a pagan, living among pagans, and never baptized. He adopted
Christian doctrines and selected among them in the true heresiarch fashion. He
dropped those that did not suit him and insisted on those that did which is the
mark of the heresiarch but he did not do this as from within; his action was
Those first small but fierce armies of nomad Arabs who won their astounding
victories in Syria and Egypt against the Catholic world of the early seventh
century were made of men who had all been pagans before they became Mohammedan.
There was among them no previous Catholicism to which they might return.
(2) This body of Islam attacking Christendom from beyond its frontiers and not
breaking it up from within, happened to be continually recruited with fighting
material of the strongest kind and drafted in from the pagan outer darkness.
This recruitment went on in waves, incessantly, through the centuries until the
end of the Middle Ages. It was mainly Mongol coming from Asia (though some of it
was Berber coming from North Africa), and it was this ceaseless, recurrent
impact of new adherents, conquerors and fighters as the original Arabs had been,
which gave Islam its formidable resistance and continuance of power.
Not long after the first conquest of Syria and Egypt it looked as though the
enthusiastic new heresy, in spite of its dazzling sudden triumph, would fail.
The continuity in leadership broke down. So did the political unity of the whole
scheme. The original capital of the movement was Damascus and at first
Mohammedanism was a Syrian thing (and, by extension, an Egyptian thing); but
after quite a short time a break-up was apparent. A new dynasty began ruling
from Mesopotamia and no longer from Syria. The Western Districts, that is North
Africa and Spain (after the conquest of Spain), formed a separate political
government under a separate obedience. But the caliphs at Baghdad began to
support themselves by a bodyguard of hired fighters who were Mongols from the
steppes of Asia.
The characteristic of these nomadic Mongols (who come after the fifth century
over and over again in waves to the assault against our civilization), is that
they are indomitable fighters and at the same time almost purely destructive.
They massacre by the million; they burn and destroy; they turn fertile districts
into desert. They seem incapable of creative effort.
Twice we in the Christian European West have barely escaped final destruction at
their hands; once when we defeated the vast Asiatic army of Attila near Chalons
in France, in the middle of the fifth century (not before he had committed
horrible outrage and left ruin behind him everywhere), and again in the
thirteenth century, 800 years later. Then the advancing Asiatic Mongol power was
checked, not by our armies but by the death of the man who had united it in his
one hand. But it was not checked till it reached north Italy and was approaching
It was this recruitment of Mongol bodyguards in successive installments which
kept Islam going and prevented its suffering the fate that all other heresies
had suffered. It kept Islam thundering like a battering ram from outside the
frontiers of Europe, making breaches in our defense and penetrating further and
further into what had been Christian lands.
The Mongol invaders readily accepted Islam; the men who served as mercenary
soldiers and formed the real power of the Caliphs were quite ready to conform to
the simple requirements of Mohammedanism. They had no regular religion of their
own strong enough to counteract the effects of those doctrines of Islam which,
mutilated as they were, were in the main Christian doctrines the unity and
majesty of God, the immortality of the soul and all the rest of it. The Mongol
mercenaries supporting the political power of the Caliphs were attracted to
these main doctrines and easily adopted them. They became good Moslems and as
soldiers supporting the Caliphs were thus propagators and maintainers of Islam.
When in the heart of the Middle Ages it looked as though again Islam had failed,
a new batch of Mongol soldiers, "Turks" by name, came in and saved the fortunes
of Mohammedanism again although they began by the most abominable destruction of
such civilization as Mohammedanismhad preserved. That
is why in the struggles of the Crusades Christians regarded the enemy as "The
Turk"; a general name common to many of these nomad tribes. The Christian
preachers of the Crusades and captains of the soldiers and the Crusaders in
their songs speak of "The Turk" as the enemy much more than they do in general
In spite of the advantage of being fed by continual recruitment, the pressure of
Mohammedanism upon Christendom might have failed after all, had one supreme
attempt to relieve that pressure upon the Christian West succeeded. That supreme
attempt was made in the middle of the whole business (A.D. 1095-1200) and is
called in history "The Crusades." Catholic Christendom succeeded in recapturing
Spain; it nearly succeeded in pushing back Mohammedanism from Syria, in saving
the Christian civilization of Asia, and in cutting off the Asiatic Mohammedan
from the African. Had it done so perhaps Mohammedanism would have died.
But the Crusades failed. Their failure is the major tragedy in the history of
our struggle against Islam, that is, against Asia against the East.
What the Crusades were, and why and how they failed I shall now describe.
The success of Mohammedanism had not been due to its offering something more
satisfactory in the way of philosophy and morals, but, as I have said, to the
opportunity it afforded of freedom to the slave and debtor, and an extreme
simplicity which pleased the unintelligent masses who were perplexed by the
mysteries inseparable from the profound intellectual life of Catholicism, and
from its radical doctrine of the Incarnation. But it was spreading and it looked
as though it were bound to
win universally, as do all great heresies in their beginnings, because it was
the fashionable thing of the time the conquering thing.
Now against the great heresies, when they acquire the driving power of being the
new and fashionable thing, there arises a reaction within the Christian and
Catholic mind, which reaction gradually turns the current backward, gets rid of
the poison and re-establishes Christian civilization. Such reactions, begin, I
repeat, obscurely. It is the plain man who gets uncomfortable and says to
himself, "This may be the fashion of the moment, but I don't like it." It is the
mass of Christian men who feel in their bones that there is something wrong,
though they have difficulty in explaining it. The reaction is usually slow and
muddled and for a long time not successful. But in the long run with internal
heresy it has always succeeded; just as the native health of the human body
succeeds in getting rid of some internal infection.
A heresy, when it is full of its original power, affects even Catholic thought
thus Arianism produced a mass of semi-Arianism running throughout Christendom.
The Manichean dread of the body and the false doctrine that matter is evil
affected even the greatest Catholics of the time. There is a touch of it in the
letters of the great St. Gregory. In the same way Mohammedanism had its affect
on the Christian Emperors of Byzantium and on Charlemagne, the Emperor of the
West; for instance there was a powerful movement started against the use of
images, which are so essential to Catholic worship. Even in the West, where
Mohammedanism had never reached, the attempt to get rid of images in the
churches nearly succeeded.
But while Mohammedanism was spreading, absorbing greater and greater numbers
into its own body ;out of the subject Christian populations of East and North
Africa, occupying more and more territory, a defensive reaction against it had
begun. Islam gradually absorbed North Africa and crossed over into Spain; less
than a century after those first victories in Syria it even pushed across the
Pyrenees, right into France. Luckily it was defeated in battle halfway between
Tours and Poitiers in the north centre of the country. Some think that if the
Christian leaders had not won battle, the whole of Christendom would have been
swamped by Mohammedanism. At any rate from that moment in the West it never
advanced further. It was pushed back to the Pyrenees, and very slowly indeed
over a period of 300 years it was thrust further and further south toward the
center of Spain, the north of which was cleared again of Mohammedan influence.
In the East, however, as we shall see, it continued to be an overwhelming
Now the success of Christian men in pushing back the Mohammedan from France and
halfway down Spain began a sort of re-awakening in Europe. It was high time. We
of the West had been besieged in three ways; pagan Asiatics had come upon us in
the very heart of the Germanies; paganpirates of the
most cruel and disgusting sort had swarmed over the Northern Seas and nearly
wiped out Christian civilization in England and hurt it also in Northern France;
and with all that there had been this pressure of Mohammedanism coming from the
South and South-east a much more civilized pressure than that of the Asiatics or
Scandinavian pirates but still a menace, under which our Christian civilization
came near to disappearing.
It is most interesting to take a map of Europe and mark off the extreme limits
reached by the enemies of Christendom during the worst of this struggle for
existence. The outriders of the worst Asiatic raid got as far as Tournus on the
Saine, which is in the very middle of what is France today; the Mohammedan got,
as we have seen, to the very middle of France also, somewhere between Tournus
and Poitiers. The horrible Scandinavian pagan pirates raided Ireland, all
England, and came up all the rivers of Northern France and Northern Germany.
They got as far as Cologne, they besieged Paris, they nearly took Hamburg.
People today forget how very doubtful a thing it was in the height of the Dark
Ages, between the middle of the eighth and the end of the ninth century, whether
Catholic civilization would survive at all. Half the Mediterranean Islands had
fallen to the Mohammedan, all the Near East; he was fighting to get hold of Asia
Minor; and the North and center of Europe were perpetually raided by the
Asiatics and the Northern pagans.
Then came the great reaction and the awakening of Europe.
The chivalry which poured out of Gaul into Spain and the native Spanish knights
forcing back the Mohammedans began the affair. The Scandinavian pirates and the
raiders from Asia had been defeated two generations before. Pilgrimages to
Jerusalem, distant, expensive and perilous, but continuous throughout the Dark
Ages, were now especially imperiled through a new Mongol wave of Mohammedan
soldiers establishing themselves over the East and especially in Palestine; and
the cry arose that the Holy Places, the True Cross (which was preserved in
Jerusalem) and the remaining Christian communities of Syria and Palestine, and
above all the Holy Sepulcher the site of the Resurrection, the main object of
every pilgrimage ought to be saved from the usurping hands of Islam.
Enthusiastic men preached the duty of marching eastward and rescuing the Holy
Land; the reigning Pope, Urban, put himself at the head of the movement in a
famous sermon delivered in France to vast crowds, who cried out: "God wills it."
Irregular bodies began to pour out eastward for the thrusting back of Islam from
the Holy Land, and in due time the regular levies of great Christian Princes
prepared for an organized effort on a vast scale. Those who vowed themselves to
pursue the effort took the badge of the Cross on their clothing, and from this
the struggle became to be known as the Crusades.
The First Crusade was launched in three great bodies of more or less organized
Christian soldiery, who set out to march from Western Europe to the Holy Land. I
say "more or less organized" because the feudal army was never highly organized;
it was divided into units of very different sizes each following a feudal lord
but of course it had sufficient organization to carry a military enterprise
through, because a mere herd of men can never do that. In order not to exhaust
the provisions of the countries through which they had to march the Christian
leaders went in three bodies, one from Northern France, going down the valley of
the Danube; another from Southern France, going across Italy; and a third of
Frenchmen who had recently acquired dominion in Southern Italy and who crossed
the Adriatic directly, making for Constantinople through the Balkans. they all
joined at Constantinople, and by the time they got there, there were still in
spite of losses on the way something which may have been a quarter of a million
men perhaps more. The numbers were never
accurately known or computed.
The Emperor at Constantinople was still free, at the head of his great Christian
capital, but he was dangerously menaced by the fighting Mohammedan Turks who
were only just over the water in Asia Minor, and whose object it was to get hold
of Constantinople and so press on to the ruin of Christendom. This pressure on
Constantinople the great mass of the Crusaders immediately relieved; they won a
battle against the Turks at Dorylaeum and pressed on with great difficulty and
further large losses of men till they reached the corner where Syria joins onto
Asia Minor at the Gulf of Alexandretta. There, one of the Crusading leaders
carved out a kingdom for himself, making his capital at the Christian town of
Edessa, to serve as a bulwark against further Mohammedan pressure from the East.
The last of the now dwindling Christian forces besieged and with great
difficulty took Antioch, which the Mohammedans had got hold of a few years
before. Here another Crusading leader made himself feudal lord, and there was a
long delay and a bad quarrel between the Crusaders and the Emperor of
Constantinople, who naturally wanted them to return to him what had been
portions of his realm before Mohammedanism had grown up while the Crusaders
wanted to keep what they had conquered so that the revenues might become an
income for each of them.
At last they got away from Antioch at the beginning of the open season of the
third year after they started the last year of the eleventh century, 1099; they
took all the towns along the coast as they marched; when they got on a level
with Jerusalem they struck inland and stormed the city on the 15th of July of
that year, killing all the Mohammedan garrison and establishing themselves
firmly within the walls of the Holy City. They then organized their capture into
a feudal kingdom, making one of their number titular King of the new realm of
Jerusalem. They chose for that office a great noble of the country where the
Teutonic and Gallic races meet in the north-east of France Godfrey of Bouillon,
a powerful Lord of the Marches. He had under him as nominal inferiors the great
feudal lords who had carved out districts for themselves from Edessa southwards,
and those who had built and established themselves in the great stone castles
which still remain, among the finest ruins in the world.
By the time the Crusaders had accomplished their object and seized the Holy
Places they had dwindled to a very small number of men. It is probable that the
actual fighting men, as distinguished from servants, camp followers and the
rest, present at the siege of Jerusalem, did not count much more than 15,000.
And upon that force everything turned. Syria had not been thoroughly recovered,
nor the Mohammedans finally thrust back; the seacoast was held with the support
of a population still largely Christian, but the plain and the seacoast and
Palestine up to the Jordan make only a narrow strip behind which and parallel to
which comes a range of hills which in the middle of the country are great
mountains the Lebanon and the Anti-Lebanon. Behind that again the country turns
into desert, and on the edge of the desert there is a string of towns which are,
as it were, the ports of the desert that is, the points where the caravans
These "ports of the desert" have always been rendered very important by
commerce, and their names go back well beyond the beginning of recorded history.
A string of towns thus stretched along the edge of the desert begins from Aleppo
in the north down as far as Petra, south of the Dead Sea. They were united by
the great caravan route which reaches to North Arabia, and they were all
predominantly Mohammedan by the time of the Crusading effort. The central one of
these towns and the richest, the great mark of Syria, is Damascus. If the first
Crusaders had had enough men to take Damascus their effort would have been
permanently successful. But their forces were insufficient for that, they could
only barely hold the sea coast of Palestine up to the Jordan and even so they
held it only by the aid of immense fortified works.
There was a good deal of commerce with Europe, but not sufficient recruitment of
forces, and the consequence was that the vast sea of Mohammedanism all around
began to seep in and undermine the Christian position. The first sign of what
was coming was the fall of Edessa (the capital of the north-eastern state of the
Crusading federation, the state most exposed to attack), less than half a
century after the first capture of Jerusalem.
It was the first serious set-back, and roused great excitement in the Christian
West. The Kings of France and England set out with great armies to re-establish
the Crusading position, and this time they went for the strategic key of the
whole country Damascus. But they failed to take it: and when they and their men
sailed back again the position of the Crusaders in Syria was as perilous as it
had been before. They were guaranteed another lease of precarious security as
long as the Mohammedan
world was divided into rival bodies, but it was certain that if ever a leader
should arise who could unify the Mohammedan power in his hands the little
Christian garrisons were doomed.
And this is exactly what happened. Salah-ed- Din whom we call Saladin a soldier
of genius, the son of a former Governor of Damascus, gradually acquired all
power over the Mohammedan world of the Near East. He became master of Egypt,
master of all the towns on the fringe of the desert, and when he marched to the
attack with his united forces the remaining Christian body of Syria had no
chance of victory. They made a fine rally, withdrawing every available man from
their castle garrisons and forming a mobile force which attempted to relieve the
siege of the castle of Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee. The Christian Army was
approaching Tiberias and had got as far as the sloping mountain-side of Hattin,
about a day's march away, when it was attacked by Saladin and destroyed.
That disaster, which took place in the summer of 1187, was followed by the
collapse of nearly the whole Christian military colony in Syria and the Holy
Land. Saladin took town after town, save one or two points on the sea coast
which were to remain in Christian hands more than another lifetime. But the
kingdom of Jerusalem, the feudal Christian realm which had recovered and held
the Holy Places, was gone. Jerusalem itself fell of course, and its fall
produced an enormous effect in Europe. All the great leaders, the King of
England, Richard Plantagenet, the King of France and the Emperor, commanding
jointly a large and first-rate army mainly German in recruitment, set out to
recover what had been lost. But they failed. They managed to get hold of one or
two more points on the coast, but they never retook Jerusalem and never
re-established the old Christian kingdom.
Thus ended a series of three mighty duels between Christendom and Islam. Islam
Had the Crusaders' remaining force at the end of the first Crusading march been
a little more numerous, had they taken Damascus and the string of towns on the
fringe of the desert, the whole history of the world would have been changed.
The world of Islam would have been cut in two, with the East unable to approach
the West; probably we Europeans would have recovered North Africa and Egypt we
should certainly have saved Constantinople and Mohammedanism would have only
survived as an Oriental religion thrust beyond the ancient boundaries of the
Roman Empire. As it
was Mohammedanism not only survived but grew stronger. It was indeed slowly
thrust out of Spain and the eastern islands of the Mediterranean, but it
maintained its hold on the whole of North Africa, Syria, Palestine, Asia Minor,
and thence it went forward and conquered the Balkans and Greece, overran Hungary
and twice threatened to overrun Germany and reach France again from the East,
putting an end to our civilization. One of the reasons that the breakdown of
Christendom at the Reformation took place was the fact that Mohammedan pressure
against the German Emperor gave the German Princes and towns the opportunity to
rebel and start Protestant Churches in their dominions.
Many expeditions followed against the Turk in one form or another; they were
called Crusades, and the idea continued until the very end of the Middle Ages.
But there was no recovery of Syria and no thrusting back of the Moslem.
Meanwhile the first Crusading march had brought so many new experiences to
Western Europe that culture had developed very rapidly and produced the
magnificent architecture and the high philosophy and social structure of the
Middle Ages. That was the real fruit of the Crusades. They failed in their own
field but they made modern Europe. Yet they made it at the expense of the old
idea of Christian unity; with increasing material civilization, modern nations
began to form, Christendom still held together, but it held together loosely. At
last came the storm of the Reformation; Christendom broke up, the various
nations and Princes claimed to be independent of any common control such as the
moral position of the Papacy had insured, and we slid down that slope which was
to end at last in the wholesale massacre of modern war which may prove the
destruction of our civilization. Napoleon Bonaparte very well said: "Every war
in Europe is really a civil war". It is profoundly true. Christian Europe is and
should be by nature one; but it has forgotten its nature in forgetting its
The last subject but one in our appreciation of the great Mohammedan attack upon
the Catholic Church and the civilization she had produced, is the sudden last
effort and subsequent rapid decline of Mohammedan political power just after it
had reached its summit. The last subject of all in this connection, the one
which I will treat next, is the very important and almost neglected question of
whether Mohammedan power may not re-arise in the modern world.
If we recapitulate the fortunes of Islam after its triumph in beating back the
Crusaders and restoring its dominion over the East and confirming its increasing
grasp over half of what had once been a united Graeco-Roman Christendom, Islam
proceeded to develop two completely different and even contradictory fortunes:
it was gradually losing its hold on Western Europe while it was increasing its
hold over South-eastern Europe.
In Spain it had already been beaten back halfway from the Pyrenees to the
Straits of Gibraltar before the Crusades were launched and it was destined in
the next four to five centuries to lose every inch of ground which it had
governed in the Iberian Peninsula: today called Spain and Portugal. Continental
Western Europe (and even the islands attached to it) was cleared of Mohammedan
influence during the last centuries of the Middle Ages, the twelfth to fifteenth
This was because Mohammedans of the West, that is, what was then called
"Barbary," what is now French and Italian North Africa, were politically
separated from the vast majority of the Mohammedan world which lay to the East.
Between the Barbary states (which we call today Tunis, Algiers and Morocco) and
Egypt, the desert made a barrier difficult to cross. The West was less barren in
former times than it is today, and the Italians are reviving its prosperity. But
the vast stretches of sand and gravel, with very little water, always made this
barrier between Egypt and the West a deterrent and an obstacle. Yet, more
important than this barrier was the gradual disassociation between the Western
Mohammedans of North Africa and the mass of Mohammedans to the East thereof. The
religion indeed remained the same and the social habits and all the rest.
Mohammedanism in North Africa remained one world with Mohammedanism in Syria,
Asia and Egypt, just as the Christian civilization in the West of Europe
remained for long one world with the Christian civilization of Central Europe
and even of
Eastern Europe. But distance and the fact that Eastern Mohammedans never
sufficiently came to their help made the Western Mohammedans of North Africa and
of Spain feel themselves something separate politically from their Eastern
To this we must add the factor of "distance" and its effect on sea power in
those days and in those waters. The Mediterranean is much more than two thousand
miles long; the only period of the year in which any effective fighting could be
done on its waters under mediaeval conditions was the late spring, summer and
early autumn and it is precisely in those five months of the year, when alone
men could use the Mediterranean for great expeditions, that offensive military
operations were handicapped by long calms. It is true these were met by the use
of many-oared galleys so as to make fleets as little dependent on wind as
possible, but still, distances of that kind did make unity of action difficult.
Therefore, the Mohammedans of North Africa not being supported at sea by the
wealth and numbers of their brethren from the ports of Asia Minor and of Syria
and the mouths of the Nile, gradually lost control of maritime communications.
They lost, therefore, the Western islands, Sicily and Corsica and Sardinia, the
Balearics and even Malta at the very moment when they were triumphantly
capturing the Eastern islands in the Aegean Sea. The only form of sea power
remaining to the Mohammedan in the West was the active piracy of the Algerian
sailors operating from the lagoon of Tunis and the half-sheltered bay of
Algiers. (The word "Algiers" comes from the Arabic word for "islands." There was
no proper harbor before the French conquest of a hundred years ago, but there
was a roadstead partially sheltered by a string of rocks and islets.) These
pirates remained a peril right on until the seventeenth century. It is
interesting to notice, for instance, that the Mohammedan call to prayer was
heard on the coasts of Southern Ireland within the lifetime of Oliver
Cromwell, for the Algerian pirates darted about everywhere, not only in the
Western Mediterranean but along the coasts of the Atlantic, from the Straits of
Gibraltar to the English Channel. They were no longer capable of conquest, but
they could loot and take prisoners whom they held to ransom.
While this beating back of the Mohammedan into Africa was going on to the
Western side of Europe, exactly the opposite was happening on the Eastern side.
After the Crusades had failed Mohammedans made themselves secure in Asia Minor
and began that long hammering at Constantinople which finally succeeded.
Constantinople was by far the richest and greatest capital of the Ancient World;
it was the old centre of Greek and Roman civilization and even when it had lost
all direct political power over Italy, and still more over France, it continued
to be revered as the mighty monument of the Roman past. the Emperor of
Constantinople was the direct heir of the Caesars. On the military side this
very strong city supported by great masses of tribute and by a closely knit,
well disciplined army, was thebulwark of Christendom.
So long as Constantinople stood as a Christian city and Mass was still said in
St. Sophia, the doors of Europe were locked against Islam. It fell in the same
generation that saw the expulsion of the last Mohammedan Government from
Southern Spain. Men who in their maturity marched into Granada with the
victorious armies of Isabella the Catholic could remember how, in early
childhood, they had heard the awful news that Constantinople itself had fallen
to the enemies
of the Church.
The fall of Constantinople at the end of the Middle Ages (1453) was only the
beginning of further Mohammedan advances. Islam swept all over the Balkans; it
took all the Eastern Mediterranean islands, Crete and Rhodes and the rest; it
completely occupied Greece; it began pushing up the Danube valley and northwards
into the great plains; it destroyed the ancient kingdom of Hungary in the fatal
battle of Mohacs and at last, in the first third of the sixteenth century, just
at the moment when the storm of the Reformation had broken out Islam threatened
Europe close at hand, bringing pressure upon the heart of the Empire, at Vienna.
It is not generally appreciated how the success of Luther's religious revolution
against Catholicism in Germany was due to the way in which Mohammedan pressure
from the East was paralyzing the central authority of the German Emperors. They
had to compromise with the leadersof the religious
revolution and try to patch up a sort of awkward peace between the
irreconcilable claims of Catholic authority and Protestant religious theory in
order to meet the enemy at their gates; the enemy which had already overthrown
Hungary and might well overthrow all of Southern Germany and perhaps reach the
Rhine. If Islam had succeeded in doing this during the chaos of violent civil
dissension among the Germans, due to the launching of the Reformation, our
civilization would have been as effectively destroyed as it would have been if
the first rush of the Mohammedans through Spain had not been checked and beaten
back eight centuries earlier in the middle of France.
This violent Mohammedan pressure on Christendom from the East made a bid for
success by sea as well as by land. The last great wave of Mongol soldiery, the
last great Turkish organization working now from the conquered capital of
Constantinople, proposed to cross the Adriatic, to attack Italy by sea and
ultimately to recover all that had been lost in the Western Mediterranean.
There was one critical moment when it looked as though the scheme would succeed.
A huge Mohammedan armada fought at the mouth of the Gulf of Corinth against the
Christian fleet at Lepanto. The Christians won that naval action and the Western
Mediterranean was saved. But it was a very close thing, and the name of Lepanto
should remain in the minds of all men with a sense of history as one of the half
dozen great names in the history of the Christian world. It has been a worthy
theme for the finest battle poem of our time, "The Ballad of Lepanto," by the
late Mr. Gilbert
Today we are accustomed to think of the Mohammedan world as something backward
and stagnant, in all material affairs at least. We cannot imagine a great
Mohammedan fleet made up of modern ironclads and submarines, or a great modern
Mohammedan army fully equipped with modern artillery, flying power and the rest.
But not so very long ago, less than a hundred years before the Declaration of
Independence, the Mohammedan Government centered at Constantinople had better
artillery and better army equipment of every kind than had we Christians in the
West. The last
effort they made to destroy Christendom was contemporary with the end of the
reign of Charles II in England and of his brother James and of the usurper
William III. It failed during the last years of the seventeenth century, only
just over two hundred years ago. Vienna, as we saw, was almost taken and only
saved by the Christian army under the command of the King of Poland on a date
that ought to be among the most famous in history-September 11, 1683. But the
peril remained, Islam was stillimmensely powerful
within a few marches of Austria and it was not until the great victory of Prince
Eugene at Zenta in 1697 and the capture of Belgrade that the tide really turned
and by that time we were at the end of the seventeenth century.
It should be fully grasped that the generation of Dean Swift, the men who saw
the court of Louis XIV in old age, the men who saw the Hanoverians brought in as
puppet Kings for England by the dominating English wealthy class, the men who
saw the apparent extinction of Irish freedom after the failure of James II's
campaign at the Boyne and the later surrender of Limerick, all that lifetime
which overlapped between the end of the seventeenth and the beginning of the
eighteenth century,was dominated by a vivid memory of
a Mohammedan threat which had nearly made good and which apparently might in the
near future be repeated. The Europeans of that time thought of Mohammedanism as
we think of Bolshevism or as white men in Asia think of Japanese power today.
What happened was something quite unexpected; the Mohammedan power began to
break down on the material side. The Mohammedans lost the power of competing
successfully with the Christians in the making of those instruments whereby
dominion is assured; armament, methods of
communication and all the rest of it. Not only did they not advance, they went
back. Their artillery became much worse than ours. While our use of the sea
vastly increased, theirs sank away till they had no first class ships with which
to fight naval battles.
The eighteenth century is a story of their gradual losing of the race against
the European in material things.
When that vast revolution in human affairs introduced by the invention of modern
machinery began in England and spread slowly throughout Europe, the Mohammedan
world proved itself quite incapable of taking advantage thereof. During the
Napoleonic wars, although supported by England, Islam failed entirely to meet
the French armies of Egypt; its last effort resulted in complete defeat (the
land battle of the Nile).
All during the nineteenth century the process continued. As a result, Mohammedan
North Africa was gradually subjected to European control; the last independent
piece to go being Morocco. Egypt fell under the control of England. Long before
that Greece had been liberated, and the Balkan States. Half a lifetime ago it
was taken for granted everywhere that the last remnants of Mohammedan power in
Europe would disappear. England bolstered it up and did save Constantinople from
being taken by the Russians in 1877-78, but it seemed only a question of a few
years before the Turks would be wiped out for good. Everyone was waiting for the
end of Islam, on this side of the Bosphorus at least; while in Syria, Asia Minor
and Mesopotamia it was losing all political and military vigor. After the Great
War, what was left of Mohammedan power, even in hither Asia, was only saved by
the violent quarrels between the Allies.
Even Syria and Palestine were divided between France and England. Mesopotamia
fell under the control of England and no menace of Islamic power remained,
though it was still entrenched in Asia Minor and kept a sort of precarious hold
on the thoroughly decayed city of Constantinople alone. The Mediterranean was
gone; every inch of European territory was gone; all full control over African
territory was gone; and the great duel between Islam and Christendom seemed at
last to have been decided in our own day.
To what was due this collapse? I have never seen an answer to that question.
There was no moral disintegration from within, there was no intellectual
breakdown; you will find the Egyptian or Syrian student today, if you talk to
him on any philosophical or scientific subject which he has studied, to be the
equal of any European. If Islam has no physical science now applied to any of
its problems, in arms and communications, it has apparently ceased to be part of
our world and fallen definitely below it. Of every dozen Mohammedans in the
world today, eleven are actually or virtually subjects of an Occidental power.
It would seem, I repeat, as though the great duel was now decided.
But can we be certain it is so decided? I doubt it very much. It has always
seemed to me possible, and even probable, that there would be a resurrection of
Islam and that our sons or our grandsons would see the renewal of that
tremendous struggle between the Christian culture and whathas been for more than a thousand years its greatest opponent.
Why this conviction should have arisen in the minds of certain observers and
travelers, such as myself, I will now consider. It is indeed a vital question,
"May not Islam arise again?"
In a sense the question is already answered because Islam has never departed. It
still commands the fixed loyalty and unquestioning adhesion of all the millions
between the Atlantic and the Indus and further afield throughout scattered
communities of further Asia. But I ask the question in the sense "Will not
perhaps the temporal power of Islam return and with it the menace of an armed
Mohammedan world which will shake off the domination of Europeans still
nominally Christian andreappear again as the prime
enemy of our civilization?" The future always comes as a surprise but political
wisdom consists in attempting at least some partial judgment of what that
surprise may be. And for my part I cannot but believe that a main unexpected
thing of the future is the return of Islam. Since religion is at the root of all
political movements and changes and since we have here a very great religion
physically paralyzed but morally intensely alive, we are in the presence of an
unstable equilibrium which cannot remain permanently unstable. Let us then
examine the position.
I have said throughout these pages that the particular quality of Mohammedanism,
regarded as a heresy, was its vitality. Alone of all the great heresies
Mohammedanism struck permanent roots, developing a life of its own, and became
at last something like a new religion. So true is this that today very few men,
even among those who are highly instructed in history, recall the truth that
Mohammedanism was essentially in its origins not a new religion, but a heresy.
Like all heresies, Mohammedanism lived by the Catholic truths which it had
retained. Its insistence on personal immortality, on the Unity and Infinite
Majesty of God, on His Justice and Mercy, its insistence on the equality of
human souls in the sight of their Creator these are its strength.
But it has survived for other reasons than these; all the other great heresies
had their truths as well as their falsehoods and vagaries, yet they have died
one after the other. The Catholic Church has seen them pass, and though their
evil consequences are still with us the heresies themselves are dead.
The strength of Calvinism was the truth on which it insisted, the Omnipotence of
God, the dependence and insufficiency of man; but its error, which was the
negation of free-will, also killed it. For men could not permanently accept so
monstrous a denial of common sense and common experience. Arianism lived by the
truth that was in it, to wit, the fact that the reason could not directly
reconcile the opposite aspects of a great mystery that of the Incarnation. But
Arianism died because it added to this truth a falsehood, to wit, that the
apparent contradiction could be solved by denying the full Divinity of Our Lord.
And so on with the other heresies. But Mohammedanism, though it also contained
errors side by side with those great truths, flourished continually, and as a
body of doctrine is flourishing still, though thirteen hundred years have passed
since its first great victories in Syria. The causes of this vitality are very
difficult to explore, and perhaps cannot be reached. For myself I should ascribe
it in some part to the fact that Mohammedanism being a thing from the outside, a
heresy that did not arise from within the body of the Christian community but
beyond its frontiers, has always possessed a reservoir of men, newcomers pouring
in to revivify its energies. But that cannot be a full explanation; perhaps
Mohammedanism would have died but for the successive waves of recruitment from
the desert and from Asia; perhaps it would have died if the Caliphate at Baghdad
had been left entirely to itself; and if the Moors in the West had not been able
to draw upon continual recruitment
from the South.
Whatever the cause be, Mohammedanism has survived, and vigorously survived.
Missionary effort has had no appreciable effect upon it. It still converts pagan
savages wholesale. It even attracts from time to time some European eccentric,
who joins its body. "But the Mohammedan never becomes a Catholic". No fragment
of Islam ever abandons its sacred book, its code of morals, its organized system
of prayer, its simple doctrine.
In view of this, anyone with a knowledge of history is bound to ask himself
whether we shall not see in the future a revival of Mohammedan political power,
and the renewal of the old pressure of Islam upon Christendom.
We have seen how the material political power of Islam declined very rapidly
during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. We have just followed the story
of that decline. When Suleiman the Magnificent was besieging Vienna he had
better artillery, better energies and better everything than his opponents;
Islam was still in the field the material superior of Christendom at least it
was the superior in fighting power and fighting instruments. That was within a
very few years of the opening of the eighteenth century. Then came the
inexplicable decline. The religion did not decay, but its political power and
with that its material power declined astonishingly, and in the particular
business of arms it declined most of all. When Dr. Johnson's father, the
bookseller, was setting upbusiness at Lichfield, the
Grand Turk was still dreaded as a potential conqueror of Europe; before Dr.
Johnson was dead no Turkish fleet or army could trouble the West. Not a lifetime
later, the Mohammedan in North Africa had fallen subject to the French; and
those who were then young men
lived to see nearly all Mohammedan territory, except for a decaying fragment
ruled from Constantinople, firmly subdued by the French and British Governments.
These things being so, the recrudescence of Islam, the possibility of that
terror under which we lived for centuries reappearing, and of our civilization
again fighting for its life against what was its chief enemy for a thousand
years, seems fantastic. Who in the Mohammedan world today can manufacture and
maintain the complicated instruments of modern war? Where is the political
machinery whereby the religion of Islam can play an equal part in the modern
I say the suggestion that Islam may re-arise sounds fantastic but this is only
because men are always powerfully affected by the immediate past: one might say
that they are blinded by it.
Cultures spring from religions; ultimately the vital force which maintains any
culture is its philosophy, its attitude toward the universe; the decay of a
religion involves the decay of the culture corresponding to it we see that most
clearly in the breakdown of Christendom today. The bad work begun at the
Reformation is bearing its final fruit in the dissolution of our ancestral
doctrines the very structure of our society is dissolving.
In the place of the old Christian enthusiasms of Europe there came, for a time,
the enthusiasm for nationality, the religion of patriotism. But self-worship is
not enough, and the forces which are
making for the destruction of our culture, notably the Jewish Communist
propaganda from Moscow, have a likelier future before them than our
In Islam there has been no such dissolution of ancestral doctrine or, at any
rate, nothing corresponding to the universal break-up of religion in Europe. The
whole spiritual strength of Islam is still present in the masses of Syria and
Anatolia, of the East Asian mountains, of Arabia, Egypt and North Africa.
The final fruit of this tenacity, the second period of Islamic power, may be
delayed: but I doubt whether it can be permanently postponed.
There is nothing in the Mohammedan civilization itself which is hostile to the
development of scientific knowledge or of mechanical aptitude. I have seen some
good artillery work in the hands of Mohammedan students of that arm; I have seen
some of the best driving and maintenance of mechanical road transport conducted
by Mohammedans. There is nothing inherent to Mohammedanism to make it incapable
of modern science and modern war. Indeed the matter is not worth discussing. It
should be self-evident to anyone who has seen the Mohammedan culture at work.
That culture happens to have fallen back in material applications; there is no
reason whatever why it should not learn its new lesson and become our equal in
all those temporal things which now "alone" give us our superiority over it
whereas in "Faith" we have fallen inferior to it.
People who question this may be misled by a number of false suggestions dating
from the immediate past. For instance, it was a common saying during the
nineteenth century that Mohammedanism had lost its political power through its
doctrine of fatalism. But that doctrine was in full vigor when the Mohammedan
power was at its height. For that matter Mohammedanism is no more fatalist than
Calvinism; the two heresies resemble each other exactly in their exaggerated
insistence upon the immutability of Divine decrees.
There was another more intelligent suggestion made in the nineteenth century,
which was this: that the decline of Islam had proceeded from its fatal habit of
perpetual civil division: the splittingup and
changeability of political authority among the Mohammedans. But that weakness of
theirs was present from the beginning; it is inherent in the very nature of the
Arabian temperament from which they started. Over and over again this
individualism of theirs, this "fissiparous" tendency of theirs, has gravely
weakened them; yet over and over again they have suddenly united under a leader
and accomplished the greatest things.
Now it is probable enough that on these lines unity under a leader the return of
Islam may arrive. There is no leader as yet, but enthusiasm might bring one and
there are signs enough in the political heavens today of what we may have to
expect from the revolt of Islam at some future date perhaps not far distant.
After the Great War the Turkish power was suddenly restored by one such man.
Another such man in Arabia, with equal suddenness, affirmed himself and
destroyed all the plans laid for the incorporation of that part of the
Mohammedan world into the English sphere. Syria, which is the connecting link,
the hinge and the pivot of the whole Mohammedan world, is, upon the map, and
superficially, divided between an English and a French mandate; but the two
Powers intrigue one against the other and are equally detested by their
Mohammedan subjects, who are only kept down
precariously by force. There has been bloodshed under the French mandate more
than once and it will be renewed; while under the English mandate the forcing
of an alien Jewish colony upon Palestine has raised the animosity of the native
Arab population to white heat. Meanwhile a ubiquitous underground Bolshevist
propaganda is working throughout Syria and North Africa continually, against the
domination of Europeans over the original Mohammedan population.
Lastly there is this further point to which attention should be paid: the
attachment (such as it is) of the Mohammedan world in India to English rule is
founded mainly upon the gulf between the Mohammedan and Hindu religions. Every
step towards a larger political independence for either party strengthens the
Mohammedan desire for renewed power. The Indian Mohammedan will more and more
tend to say: "If I am to look after myself and not to be favored as I have been
in the past by the alien European master in India which I once ruled I will rely
upon the revival of Islam." For all these reasons (and many more might be added)
men of foresight may justly apprehend, or at any rate expect, the return of
It would seem as though the Great Heresies were granted an effect proportionate
to the lateness of their appearance in the story of Christendom.
The earlier heresies on the Incarnation, when they died out, left no enduring
relic of their presence. Arianism was revived for a moment in the general chaos
of the Reformation. Sundry scholars, including Milton in England and presumably
Bruno in Italy and a whole group of Frenchmen, put forward doctrines in the
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries which attempted to reconcile a modified
materialism and a denial of the Trinity with some part of Christian religion.
Milton's effort was particularly noticeable. English official history has, of
course, suppressed it as much as possible, by the usual method of scamping all
emphasis upon it. The English historians do not deny Milton's materialism; quite
recently several English writers on Milton have discoursed at length on his
refusal of full Divinity to Our Lord. But this effort at suppression will break
down, for one cannot ever hide a thing so important as Milton's attack, not only
on the Incarnation, but on the Creation, and on the Omnipotence of Almighty God.
But of that I will speak later when we come to the Protestant movement. It
remains generally true that the earlier heresies not only died out but left no
enduring memorial of their action on European society.
But Mohammedanism coming as much later than Arianism as Arianism was later than
the Apostles has left a profound effect on the political structure of Europe and
upon language: even to some extent on science.
Politically, it destroyed the independence of the Eastern Empire and though
various fragments have, some of them, revived in maimed fashion, the glory and
unity of Byzantine rule disappeared for ever under the attacks of Islam. The
Russian Tsardom, oddly enough, took over a maimed inheritance from Byzantium,
but it was a very poor reflection of the old Greek splendor. The truth is that
Islam permanently wounded the east of our civilization in such fashion the
barbarism partly returned. On North Africa its effect was almost absolute and
remains so to this day. Europe has been quite unable has been quite unable to
reassert herself there. The great Greek tradition has utterly vanished from the
Valley of the Nile and from the Delta, unless one calls Alexandria some sort of
relic thereof, with its mainly European civilization, French and Italian, but
beyond that right up to the Atlantic the old order failed apparently for ever.
The French in taking over the administration of Barbary and planting therein a
considerable body of their own colonists, of Spaniards, and of Italians, have
left the main structure of North African society wholly Mohammedan; and there is
no sign of its becoming anything else.
In what measure Islam affected our science and our philosophy is open to debate.
Its effect has been, of course, heavily exaggerated, because to exaggerate it
was a form of attack upon Catholicism. The main part of what writers on
mathematics, physical science and geography, fromthe
Islamic side, writers who wrote in Arabic, who professed either the full
doctrine of Islam or some heretical form of it (sometimes almost atheist) was
drawn from the Greek and Roman civilization which Islam had overwhelmed. It
remains true that Islam handed on through such writers a great part of the
advances in those departments of knowledge which the Graeco-Roman civilization
During the Dark Ages and even during the early Middle Ages, or at any rate the
very early Middle Ages, the Mohammedan world detained the better part of
academic teaching and we had to turn to it for our own instruction.
The effect of Mohammedanism on Christian language, though of course a
superficial matter, is remarkable. We find it in a host of words, including such
very familiar ones as "algebra," "alcohol," "admiral," etc. We find it in the
terms of heraldry, and we find it abundantly in place
names. Indeed, it is remarkable to see how place names of Roman and Greek origin
have been replaced by totally different Semitic terms. Half the rivers of Spain,
especially in the southern part of the country, include the term "wadi," and it
is curious to note how far in the Western Hemisphere "Guadeloupe" preserves an
Arabic form drawn from Estremadura.
The towns in North Africa and the villages for that matter as a rule were
rebaptized, the names of the most famous for instance, Carthage and Caesarea,
disappeared. Others arose spontaneously, such as "Algiers," a name derived from
the Arabic phrase for "the islands" the old roadstead of Algiers owing its
partial security to a line of rocky islets parallel with the coast.
The whole story of this replacing of the original names of towns and rivers by
Semitic forms is one of the most valuable examples we have of the disconnection
between language and race. The race in North Africa from Libya westward is much
of what it has been from the beginning of recorded time. It is Berber. Yet the
Berber language survives only in a few hill districts and in desert tribes. The
Punic, the Greek, the Latin, the common speech of Tripoli (a surviving Greek
name, by the way), Tunis, and all Barbary, have quite gone. Such an example
should have given pause to the academic theorists who talked of the English as
"Anglo-Saxon," and argued from their place names that the English had come over
from North Germany and Denmark in little boats, exterminated everybody east of
Cornwall and replanted it with their own communities. Yet of such fantasies a
good deal survives, most strongly, of course, at Oxford and Cambridge.
1. It was from this fact that certain French writers opposed to the Church got
their enormous blunder, that the Immaculate Conception came to us from
Mohammedan sources! Gibbon, of course, copies his masters blindly here--as he
always does, and he repeats the absurdity in his "decline and Fall."
2. Written in March, 1936.
The Albigensian Attack
In the heart of the Middle Ages, just when they were working up to their most
splendid phase, the great thirteenth century, there arose and was for the moment
completely defeated a singular and powerful attack upon the Catholic Church and
all the culture for which it stood.
This was an attack, not only on the religion that made our civilization, but on
that civilization, itself; and its general name in history is "The Albigensian
In the case of this great struggle we must proceed as in the case of all our
other examples by first examining the nature of the doctrine which was set up
against the body of truth taught by the Catholic Church.
The false doctrine of which the Albigensians were a main example has always been
latent among men in various forms, not only in the civilization of Christendom
but wherever and whenever men have had to consider the fundamental problems of
life, that is, in every time and place. But it happened to take a particularly
concentrated form at this moment in history. It was then the false doctrines the
false doctrines we are about to examine stood out in the highest relief and can
be mostclearly appreciated. By what its effects were
when it was thus at its highest point of vitality we can estimate what evils
similar doctrines do whenever they appear.
For this permanent trouble of the human mind has swollen into three great waves
during the Christian period, of which three the Albigensian episode was only the
central one. The first great wave was the Manichean tendency of the early
Christian centuries. The third was the Puritan movement in Europe accompanying
the Reformation, and the sequel of that disease, Jansenism. The first strong
movement of the sort was exhausted before the end of the eighth century. The
second was destroyed when the definite Albigensian movement was rooted out in
the thirteenth century. The third, the Puritan wave, is only now declining,
after having worked every kind of evil.
Now what is this general tendency or mood which, from its earliest name, was
called <Manichean>, which, in its most clear-cut form with which we are about to
deal, is called the Albigensian, and which we know in modern history as
Puritanism? What is the underlying motive power which produces heresies of this
To answer that main question we must consider a prime truth of the Catholic
Church itself, which has shortly been put in this form: "The Catholic Church is
founded upon the recognition of pain and death." In its more complete form the
sentence should rather run "The Catholic Church is
rooted in the recognition of suffering and mortality and her claim to have
provided a solution for the problem they present." This problem is generally
known as "The problem of evil."
How can we call man's destiny glorious and heaven his goal and his Creator all
good as well as all powerful when we find ourselves subject to suffering and to
Nearly all young and innocent people are but slightly aware of this problem. How
much aware of it they may be depends upon what fortunes they have, how early
they may have been brought into the presence of loss by death or how early they
may have suffered great physical or even mental pain. But sooner or later every
human being who thinks at all, everyone not an idiot, is faced by this "Problem
of Evil"; and as we watch the human race trying to think out for itself the
meaning of the universe, or accepting Revelation thereon, or following warped
and false partial religions and philosophies, we find it always at heart
concerned with that insistent question: "Why should we suffer? Why should we
Various ways out of the torturing enigma have been proposed. The simplest and
basest is not to face it at all; to turn one's eyes away from suffering and
death; to pretend they are not there, or, when they are thrust upon us so
insistently that we cannot keep up the pretense, why then to hide our feelings.
And it is part also of this worst method of dealing with the problem to boycott
mention of evil and suffering and try to forget them as much as one can.
Another way less base, but equally contemptible intellectually, is to say there
is no problem because we are all part of a meaningless dead thing with no
creative God behind it: to say there is no reality in right and wrong and in the
conception of beatitude or of misery.
Another nobler way, which was the favorite way of the high pagan civilization
from which we sprang the way of the great Romans and the great Greeks is the way
of Stoicism. This might vulgarly be termed "The philosophy of grin-and-bear-it."
It has been called by some academic person or other "The permanent religion of
humanity," but it is indeed nothing of the sort; for it is not a religion at
all. It has at least the nobility of facing facts, but it proposes no solution.
It is utterly negative.
Another way is the profound but despairing way of Asia of which the greatest
example is Buddhism: the philosophy which calls the individual an illusion, bids
us get rid of the desire for immortality and look forward to being merged in the
impersonal life of the universe.
What the Catholic solution is we all know. Not that the Catholic Church has
proposed a complete solution of the mystery of evil, for it has never been
either the claim or the function of the Church to explain the whole nature of
all things, but rather to save souls. But the Catholic Church has on this
particular problem a very definite answer within the field of her own action.
She says "first" that man's nature is immortal, and made for beatitude; "next"
that mortality and pain are the result of his Fall, that is, of his rebellion
against the will of God. She says that since the fall our mortal life is an
ordeal or test, according to our behavior, in which we regain (but through the
merits of our Savior) that immortal beatitude which we had lost.
Now the Manichean was so overwhelmed by the experience or prospect of suffering
and by the appalling fact that his nature was subject to mortality, that he took
refuge in denying the omnipotent goodness of a Creator. He said that evil was at
work in the universe just as much as good; the two principles were always
fighting as equals one against the other. Man was subject to the one just as
much as to the other. If he could struggle at all he should struggle to join the
good principle and avoid the power of the bad principle, but he must treat evil
as an all-powerful thing. The Manichean recognized an evil god as well as a good
god, and he attuned his mind to that appalling conception.
Such a mood bred all sorts of secondary effects. In some men it would lead to
devil worship, in many more to magic, that is a dependence on something other
than one's own free will, to tricks by which we might stave off the evil power
or cheat it. It also led, paradoxically enough, to the doing of a great deal of
evil deliberately, and saying either that it could not be helped or that it did
not matter, because we were in any case under the thrall of a thing quite as
strong as the power for good and we might as well act accordingly.
But one thing the Manichean of every shade has always felt, and that is, that
matter belongs to the evil side of things. Though there may be plenty of evil of
a spiritual kind yet good must be wholly spiritual. That is something you find
not only in the early Manichean, not only in the Albigensian of the Middle Ages,
but even in the most modern of the remaining Puritans. It seems indissolubly
connected with the Manichean temper in every form. Matter is subject to decay
and is therefore evil.Our bodies are evil. Their
appetites are evil. This idea ramifies into all sorts of absurd details. Wine is
evil. Pretty well any physical pleasure, or half-physical pleasure, is evil. Joy
is evil. Beauty is evil.Amusements are evil and so
on. Anyone who will read the details of the Albigensian story will be struck
over and over again by the singularly modern attitude of these ancient heretics,
because they had the same root as the Puritans who still, unhappily, survive
Hence derive the main lines which were completed in detail as the Albigensian
movement spread. Our bodies are material, they decay and die. Therefore it was
the evil god that made the human body while the good god made the soul. Hence
also our Lord was only “apparently” clothed with a human body. He only
“Apparently suffered”. Hence also the denial of the Resurrection.
Because the Catholic Church was strongly at issue with an attitude of this kind
there has always been irreconcilable conflict between it and the Manichean or
Puritan, and that conflict was never more violent than in the form it took
between the Albigensians and the organized Catholic Church of their day (the
eleventh and twelfth centuries) in the west of Europe. The Papacy, the hierarchy
and the whole body of Catholic doctrine and established Catholic sacraments,
were the target of the Albigensian offensive.
The Manichean business, whenever it appears in history, appears as do certain
epidemic diseases of the human body. It comes, you hardly know whence. It is
found cropping up in various centers, increases in power and becomes at last a
sort of devastating plague. So it was with the great
Albigensian Fury of 800 and 900 years ago. Its origins are therefore obscure,
but we can trace them.
The eleventh century, the years between 1000 and 1100, may be called the
awakening of Europe. Our civilization had just passed through fearful trials.
The West had been harried, and in some places Christendom almost extinguished,
by droves of pagan pirates from the North, the at first unconverted and later
only half-converted Scandinavians. It had been shaken by Mongol raiders from the
East, pagans riding in hordes against Europe from the Plains of North Asia. And
it had suffered the great Mohammedan attack upon the Mediterranean, which attack
had succeeded in occupying nearly all Spain, had permanently subdued North
Africa and Syria and threatened Asia Minor and Constantinople.
Europe had been under seige but had begun to beat off its enemies. The Northern
pirates were beaten and tamed. The newly civilized Germans attacked the
Mongols and saved the Upper Danube and a borderland to the east. The Christian
Slavs organized themselves farther east again. There were the beginnings of the
kingdom of Poland. But the main battleground was Spain. There, during this
eleventh century, the Mohammedan power was beaten back from one fluctuating
border to another further south, until long before the eleventh century was over
the great bulk of the Peninsula was recaptured for Christian rule. With this
material success there went, and was a cause as well as an effect, a strong
awakening of the intelligence in philosophical disputation and in new
speculations on physical science. One of those periods had begun which appear
from time to time in the story of our race, when there is, so to speak, "spring
in the air." Philosophy grew vigorous, architecture enlarged, society began to
be more organized and the civil and ecclesiastical authorities to extend and
codify their powers.
All this new vitality was working for vigor in heresy as well as in orthodoxy.
There began to appear from the East, cropping up now here, now there, but in
general along lines of advance towards the West, individuals or small
communities who proposed and propagated a new and, as they called it, a purified
form of religion.
These communities had some strength in the Balkans, apparently before they
appeared in Italy. They seem to have acquired some strength in North Italy
before they appeared in France, although it was in France that the last main
struggle was to take place. They were known by various names; Paulicians, for
instance, or a name referring them to a Bulgarian origin. They were very
generally known as "The Pure Ones." They themselves liked to give themselves
that epithet, putting it in the Greek form and calling themselves "Cathari." The
whole story of this obscure advance of peril from the east of Europe has been so
lost in the succeeding blaze of glory when, during the thirteenth century,
Christendom rose to the summit of its civilization, that the Albigensian origins
are forgotten and their obscurity is accentuated by the shade which that later
glory throws them into. Yet it was an influence both widespread and perilous and
there was a moment when it looked as though it was going to undermine us
altogether. Church Councils were early aware of what was going on, but the thing
was very difficult to define and seize. At Arras, in Flanders, as early as 1025,
a Council condemned certain heretical propositions of the kind. In the middle of
the century again, in 1049, there was another more general condemnation issued
by a Council held at Rheims, in Champagne.
The whole influence hung like a miasma or poisonous mist, which moves over the
face of a broad valley and settles now here, now there. It began to concentrate
and take strong form in southern France, and that was where the final and
decisive clash between it and the organized force of Catholic Europe was to take
The heresy was helped on its way to definition and strength by the effect of the
first great crusading march, which stirred up all Europe and let in a flood of
new influences from the East as well as stimulating every kind of activity in
the West. That march, as we have seen on a previous page, coincided with the
very end of the eleventh century. Jerusalem was captured in 1099. It was with
the succeeding century, the twelfth (A.D. 1100-1200), that its effect was
manifest. It was a timealready greatly in advance of
its predecessors. The universities were coming into being, so were their
representative bodies called parliaments, and the first of the pointed arches
arose, the "Gothic." All the true Middle Ages began to appear above ground. In
such an atmosphere of vigor and growth the Cathari strengthened themselves, as
did all the other forces around them. It was in the early part of this XIIth
century that the thing began to get alarming, and already before the middle of
the period the northern French were urging the Papacy to act.
Pope Eugenius sent a Legate into southern France to see what could be done, and
St. Bernard, the great orthodox orator of that vital period, preached against
them. But no force was used. There was not any true organization arranged to
meet the heretics, although already far-seeing men were demanding a vigorous
action if society were to be saved. At last the peril became alarming. In 1163 a
great Church Council held at Tours fixed a label and a name whereby the thing
was to be known. Albigensian was that name, and has been kept ever since.
It is a misleading title. The Albigensian district (known in French as "Albigeois")
is practically the same as the department of Tarn, in the central French
mountains: a district the capital of which is the town of Albi. No doubt certain
of the heretic missionaries had come from there and had suggested this name, but
the strength of the movement was not up here in the ill populated hills, but
down in the wealthy plains towards the Mediterranean, in what was called the
"Langue d'Oc", a widedistrict of which the great city
of Toulouse was the capital. Already a score of years before this Council of
Tours had fixed a label and a name on the now subversive movement Peter of Bruys
had been preaching the new doctrines in the "Langue d'Oc", and with him a
companion called Henry hadwandered about preaching
them at Lausanne, in what is today Switzerland, and later in Le Mans in northern
France. It is to be noted that the population were so exasperated with the first
of these men that they seized him and burnt him alive.
But as yet there was no official action against the "Albigensians" and they were
still allowed to develop their strength rapidly for years on years in the hope
that spiritual weapons would be enough to meet them. The Papacy was always
hoping against hope that there would be a peaceful
solution. In 1167 came a turning point. The Albigensians, now fully organized as
a counter-church (much as Calvinism was organized as a counter-church four
hundred years later), held a general council of their own at Toulouse and by the
time the ominous political fact appeared that the greater part of the small
nobles, who formed the mass of the fighting power in the centre of France and
the south, lords of single villages, were in favor of the new movement. Western
Europe in those days was not organized as it is now in great centralized
nations. It was what is called "feudal." Lords of small districts were grouped
under overlords, these again under very powerful local men who were the heads of
loosely joined, but none the less unified, provinces. A Duke of Normandy, a
Toulouse, a Count of Provence, was in reality a local sovereign. He owned
deference and fealty to the King of France, but nothing more.
Now the mass of the smaller lords in the south favored the movement, as many
another heretical movement has been favored since by the same class of men,
because they saw a chance of private gain at the expense of the Church's landed
estates. That had always been the main motive, in these revolts. But there was
another motive, which was the growing jealousy felt in the south of France
against the spirit and character of Northern France. There was a difference in
speech and a difference in character between the two halves of what was
nominally the one French monarchy. The northern French began to clamor again for
the suppression of the southern heresy, and thus fanned the flame. At last, in
1194, after Jerusalem had been lost, and the Third Crusade had failed to recover
it, the thing came to a head. The Count of Toulouse, the local monarch, in that
year took sides with the heretics. The great Pope, Innocent III, at last began
to move. It was high time: indeed, it was almost too late. The Papacy had
advised delay in a lingering hope of attaining spiritual peace by preaching and
example: but the only result of the delay was that it allowed the evil to grow
to dimensions in which it imperilled all our culture.
How much that culture was imperiled can be seen from the main tenets which were
openly preached and acted upon. All the sacraments were abandoned. In their
place a strange ritual was adopted, mixed up with fire worship, called "The
Consolation," in which it was professed that the soul was purified. The
propagation of mankind was attacked; marriage was condemned, and the leaders of
the sect spread all the extravagances which you find hovering round Manicheism
or Puritanism wherever it appears. Wine was evil, meat was evil, war was always
absolutely wrong, so was capital punishment; but the one unforgivable sin was
reconciliation with the Catholic Church. There again the Albigensians were true
to type. All heresies make that their chief point.
It was obvious that the thing must come to the decision of arms, for now that
the local government of the south was supporting this new highly organized
counter-church, if that counter-church grew a little stronger all our
civilization would collapse before it. The simplicity of
the doctrine, with its dual system of good and evil, with its denial of the
Incarnation and the main Christian mysteries and its anti-sacramentalism, its
denunciation of clerical wealth and its local patriotism all this began to
appeal to the masses in the towns as well as to the nobles. Still, Innocent,
great Pope though he was, hesitated as every statesman-like man tends to
hesitate before the actual appeal to arms; but even he, just before the end of
the century, adumbrated the necessity of a crusade.
When fighting came, it would necessarily be something like a conquest of the
southern, or rather south-eastern, corner of France between the Rhone and the
mountains, with Toulouse as its capital, by the northern barons.
Still the crusade halted. The turn of the century had passed before Raymond
Count of Toulouse (Raymond VI), frightened at the threat from the north,
promised to change and withdraw his protection from the subversive movement. He
even promised to exile the leaders of the now strongly organized heretical
counter-church. But he was not sincere. His sympathies were with his own class
in the south, with the mass of fighting men, his supporters, the small lords of
the Langue d'Oc, who were deep in the new doctrines. St. Dominic, coming out of
Spain, became by the force of his character and the directness of his intention,
the soul of the approaching reaction. In 1207 the Pope asked the King of France,
as sovereign and overlord of Toulouse, to use force. Nearly all the towns of the
south-east were already affected. Many were wholly held by the heretics, and
when the Papal Legate, Castelnau, was murdered presumably with the complicity of
the Count of Toulouse the demand for a crusade was repeated and emphasized.
Shortly after this murder the fighting began.
The man who stood out as the greatest leader in the campaign was a certain not
very important, rather poor lord of a northern manor way to Normandy from Paris.
You may see the ruins of the place still standing in the dense wooded country
round about. It lies somewhat to the north of the main road between Paris and
Chartres: an abrupt, rather isolated little hill in the midst of tumbled
country. To that little isolated and fortified hill the name of "the strong
hill," "mont fort", had been attached, and Simon took his name from that
When the fighting began Raymond of Toulouse was at his wit's end. The king of
France was becoming more powerful than he had been. He had recently confiscated
the estates and all the overlordship of the Plantagenets in northern France.
John, the Plantagenet king of England, French speaking as was the whole of the
English upper class of the day, was also (under the King of France) Lord of
Normandy and of Maine and of Anjou, and through the inheritance of his mother of
half the country south of the Loire: Aquitaine. All the northern part of this
vast possession from the Channel right away down to the central mountains had
fallen at one blow to the King of France when John of England's peers had
condemned him to forfeiture. Raymond of Toulouse dreaded the same fate. But he
was still lukewarm. Though he marched with the Crusaders against certain of his
own cities in rebellion against the Church, at heart he desired the northerners
to be beaten. He had already been excommunicated once. He was excommunicated
again at Avignon in 1209, the first year of the main
That fighting had been very violent. There had been shocking carnage and sack of
cities, and there had already appeared the one thing which the Pope most feared:
the danger of a financial motive coming in to embitter the already dreadful
business. The lords of the north would naturally demand that the estates of the
conquered heretics should be carved out among them. There was still an effort at
reconciliation, but Raymond of Toulouse, probably despairing of ever being let
alone, prepared to resist. In 1207 he was declared an outlaw of the Church, and
like John his possessions were declared forfeited by Feudal law.
The critical moment of the whole campaign came in 1213. It is probable that the
forces of the northern French barons would have been too strong for the
southerners if Raymond of Toulouse could not get allies. But two years after his
final excommunication for forfeiture, very powerful allies suddenly appeared on
his side in the field. It seemed certain that the tide would be turned and that
the Albigensian cause would win. With its victory the kingdom of France would
collapse, and the Catholic Cause in Western Europe. That short group of years
therefore, was decisive for the future. It was in those years that a great
coalition, led by the now despoiled John and backed by the Germans, marched
against the King of France in the north and failed. The King of France managed
against great odds to win the victory of Bouvines near Lille (29th of August,
1214). But already, the year before, another decisive victory by the Northern
Lords in the South against the Albigensians had prepared the way.
The new allies coming to the aid of the Count of Toulouse were the Spaniards
from the south side of the Pyrenees, the men of Aragon. There was an enormous
host of them led by their king, young Peter of Aragon, the brother-in-law of
Raymond of Toulouse. A drunkard, but a man of fearful energy, he was one who was
not incompetent at times to conduct a campaign. He led something like one
hundred thousand men first and last (a number which includes camp followers)
across the mountains directly to the relief of Toulouse.
Muret is a little town to the south-west of Raymond's capital, standing on the
Garonne above stream, a day's march from Toulouse itself. The huge Spanish host
which had no direct interest in the heresy itself but a strong interest in
weakening the power of the French, was encamped in the flat country to the south
of the town of Muret. As against them the only active force available was one
thousand men under Simon de Monfort. The odds seemed ridiculous one to one
hundred. It was not nearly as bad as that of course because the thousand men
were picked, armed, mounted nobles. The mounted forces in the Spanish host were
probably not more then three or four times as great, the rest of the Spanish
body being foot men, and many of them unorganized. But even so the odds were
sufficient to make the result one of the most astonishing things in history.
It was the morning of the 13th of September, 1213. The thousand men on the
Catholic side, drawn up in ranks with Simon at their head, heard Mass in the
saddle. The Mass was sung by St. Dominic himself. Only the leaders, of course,
and a few files could be present in the church itself where all remained
mounted, but through the open doors the rest of the small force could watch the
Sacrifice. The Mass over, Simon rode out at the head of his little band, took a
fetch round to the west and then struck with a sudden charge at the host of
Peter, not yet properly drawn up and ill-prepared for the shock. The thousand
northern knights of Simon destroyed their enemies altogether. The Aragonese host
became a mere cloud of flying men, completely broken up, and no longer in being
as a fighting force. Peter himself was killed.
Muret is a name that should always be remembered as one of the decisive battles
of the world. Had it failed, the campaign would have failed. Bouvines would
probably never have been fought and the chances are that the French monarchy
itself would have collapsed, splitting up into feudal classes, independent of
any central lord.
It is one of the many distressing things in the teaching of history to note that
the capital importance of the place and of the action that was fought there is
still hardly recognized. One American author has done it full justice in a most
able book: I refer to Mr. Hoffman Nickerson's volume "The Inquisition". I know
of no other English monograph on this subject, though it ought to be in the
forefront of historical teaching. Had Muret been lost, instead of being
miraculously won, not only would the French monarchy have been weakened and
Bouvines never won, but almost certainly the new heresy would have triumphed.
With it our culture of the West would have sunk, hamstrung, to the ground.
For the country over which the Albigensians had power was the wealthiest and the
best organized of the West. It had the highest culture, commanded the trade of
the Western Mediterranean with the great port of Narbonne, it barred the way of
all northern efforts southward, and its example would have been inevitably
followed. As it was the Albigensian resistance collapsed. The northerners had
won their campaign and the south was half ruined in wealth and weakened in power
of revolution against the now powerful central monarchy in Paris. That is why
Muret should countwith Bouvines as the foundation of
that monarchy and with it of the high Middle Ages. Muret opens and seals the
thirteenth century the century of St. Louis, of Edward of England and of all the
burgeoning of the occidental culture.
As for the Albigensian heresy itself, it was attacked politically both by civil
and by clerical organizations as well as by arms. The first Inquisition arose
from the necessity of extirpating the remnants of the disease. (It is
significant that a man pleading his innocence had only to show that he was
married to be acquitted of the heresy! It shows what the nature of the heresy
Under the triple blow of loss of wealth, loss of military organization, and a
thoroughly organized political rooting out this Manichean thing seemed in a
century to have disappeared. But its roots ran underground, where, through the
secret tradition of the persecuted or from the very nature of the Manichean
tendency, it was certain to re-arise in other forms. It lurked in the central
mountains of France itself and cognate forms lurked in the valleys of the Alps.
It is possible to trace a sort of vague continuity between the Albigensian and
the later Puritan groups, such as the Vaudois, just as it is possible to trace
some sort of connection between the Albigensian and the earlier Manichean
heresies. But the main thing, the thing which bore the Albigensian name the
had proved so nearly mortal to Europe had been destroyed.
It had been destroyed at dreadful cost; a high material civilization had been
half ruined and memories of hatred which lingered for generations had been
founded. But the price had been worth the paying for Europe was saved. The
family of Toulouse was re-admitted to its titular position and its possessions
did not fall to the French crown until much later. But its ancient independence
was gone, and with it the threat to our culture which had so nearly succeeded.
1. All Southern Germany had been affected by Roman civilization in some degree,
and the Rhine valley most fully. But the final civilization of the Germans as a
whole, including the North and the men of Elbe, was the work of the Catholic
missionaries in the early Middle Ages, mainly
English and Irish.
What Was the Reformation?
The movement generally called "The Reformation" deserves a place apart in the
story of the great heresies; and that for the following reasons:
1. It was not a particular movement but a general one, i.e., it did not propound
a particular heresy which could be debated and exploded, condemned by the
authority of the Church, as had hitherto been every other heresy or heretical
movement. Nor did it, after the various heretical propositions had been
condemned, set up (as had Mohammedanism or the Albigensian movement) a separate
religion over against the old orthodoxy. Rather did it create a certain separate
"moral atmosphere" which we still call "Protestantism." It produced indeed a
crop of heresies, but not one heresy and its characteristic was that all its
heresies attained and prolonged a common savor: that which we call
2. Though the immediate fruits of the Reformation decayed, as had those of many
other heresies in the past, yet the disruption it had produced remained and the
main principle reaction against a united spiritual authority so continued in
vigor as both to break up our European civilization in the West and to launch at
last a general doubt, spreading more and more widely. None of the older heresies
did that, for they were each definite. Each had proposed to supplant or to rival
the existing Catholic Church; but the Reformation movement proposed rather to
dissolve the Catholic Church and we know what measure success has been attained
by that effort!
The most important thing about the Reformation is to understand it. Not only to
follow the story of it stage by stage a process always necessary to the
understanding of any historical matter but to grasp its essential nature.
On this last it is easy for modern people to go wrong, and especially modern
people of the English-speaking world. The nations we English- speaking people
know are, with the exception of Ireland, predominantly Protestant; and yet (with
the exception of Great Britain and South Africa) they harbor large Catholic
In that English-speaking world (to which this present writing is addressed)
there is full consciousness of what the Protestant spirit has been and what it
has become in its present modification. Every Catholic who lives in that
English-speaking world knows what is meant by the
Protestant temper as he knows the taste of some familiar food or drink or the
aspect of some familiar vegetation. In a less degree the large Protestant
majorities in Great Britain it is an overwhelming Protestant majority have some
idea of what the Catholic Church is. They know much less about us than we know
about them. That is natural, because we proceed from older origins, because we
are universal while they are regional and because we hold a definite
intellectual philosophy whereas they possess rather an emotional and indefinite,
though characteristic, spirit.
Still, though they know less about us than we know about them, they are aware of
a distinction and they feel a sharp division between themselves and ourselves.
Now, both Catholics and Protestants today tend to commit a capital historical
error. They tend to regard Catholicism on the one side, Protestantism on the
other, as two mainly opposed religious and moral systems, producing, from the
very origins of the movement, opposed and even sharply contrasted moral
characters in their individual members. They take this duality for granted even
in the beginning. Historians who write in English on either side of the Atlantic
talk of so-and-so (even in the early part of the sixteenth century) as a
"Protestant" and so-and- so-other as a "Catholic." It is true that
contemporaries also used these terms, but they used the words in a very
different sense and with very different feelings. For a whole lifetime after the
movement called the "Reformation" had started (say from 1520 to 1600), men
remained in an attitude of mind which considered the whole religious quarrel in
Christendom as an "Oecumenical" one. They thought of it as a debate in which
"all" Christendom was engaged and on which some kind of ultimate decision would
be taken for all. This decision would apply to Christendom as a whole and
produce a general religious peace.
That state of mind lasted, I say, a whole long lifetime but its general
atmosphere lasted much longer. Europe was not resigned to accept religious
disunion for yet another lifetime. The reluctant resolve to make the best of the
disaster does not become evident as we shall see till the Peace of Westphalia,
130 years after Luther's first challenge, and the complete separation into
Catholic and Protestant groups was not accomplished for another fifty years:
say, 1690- 1700.
It is of first importance to appreciate this historical truth. Only a few of the
most bitter or ardent Reformers set out to destroy Catholicism as a separate
existing thing of which they were conscious and which they hated. Still less did
most of the Reformers set out to erect some other united counter-religion.
They set out (as they themselves put it and as it had been put for a century and
a half before the great upheaval) "to reform." They professed to purify the
Church and restore it to its original virtues of directness and simplicity. They
professed in their various ways (and the various groups of them differed in
almost everything except their increasing reaction against unity) to get rid of
superstitions and historical falsehoods of which, heaven knows, there was a
multitude for them to attack.
On the other side, during this period of the Reformation, the defense of
orthodoxy was occupied, not so much in destroying a specific thing (such as the
spirit of Protestantism is today), as in restoring
unity. For at least sixty years, even on to eighty years more than the full
active lifetime of even a long-lived man the two forces at work, Reform and
Conservatism, were of this nature: interlocked, each affecting the other and
each hoping to become universal at last.
Of course, as time went on, the two parties tended to become two hostile armies,
two separate camps, and at last full separation was accomplished. What had been
a united Christendom of the West broke into two fragments: the one to be
henceforward the Protestant Culture, the other the Catholic Culture. Each
henceforward was to know itself and its own spirit as a thing separate from and
hostile to the other. Each also grew to associate the new spirit with its own
region, or nationality, of City-State: England, Scotland, Hamburg, Zurich and
After the first phase (which covered, naturally enough, about a lifetime) came a
second phase covering another lifetime. If one is to reckon right up to the
expulsion of the Catholic Stuart kings in England, it covered rather more than a
lifetime close on one hundred years.
In this second phase the two worlds, Protestant and Catholic, are consciously
separated and consciously antagonistic one to the other. It is a period filled
with a great deal of actual physical fighting: "the Religious Wars" in France
and in Ireland, above all in the widespread German-speaking regions of Central
Europe. A good deal before this physical struggle was over the two adversaries
had "crystallized" into permanent form. Catholic Europe had come to accept as
apparently inevitable the loss of what are now the Protestant states and cities.
Protestant Europe had lost all hope of permanently affecting with its spirit
that part of Europe which had been saved for the Faith. The new
state of affairs was fixed by the main treaties that ended the religious wars in
Germany (half way between 1600 and 1700). But the struggle continued
sporadically for a good forty years more, and parts of the frontiers between the
two regions were still fluctuating even at the end of that extra period. Things
did not finally settle down into two permanent worlds till 1688 in England, or,
even, 1715, if we consider all Europe.
To get the thing clear in our minds, it is well to have fixed dates. We may take
as the origin of the open struggle the violent upheaval connected with the name
of Martin Luther in 1517. By 1600 the movement as a general European movement
had fairly well differentiated itself into a Catholic, as against Protestant,
world, and the fight had become one as to whether the first or the second should
predominate, not as to whether the one philosophy or the other should prevail
throughout our civilization; although, as I have said, many still hoped that at
last, the old Catholic tradition would die out, or that at last,
Christendom as a whole would return to it.
The second phase begins, say, as late as 1606 in England, or a few years earlier
on the Continent and ends at no precise date, but generally speaking, during the
last twenty years of the seventeenth century. It ends in France earlier than in
England. It ends among the German States from exhaustion more than for any other
reason even earlier than it ends in France, but one may say that the idea of a
direct religious struggle was fading into the idea of a political struggle by
1670 or 1680 or so. Theactive religious wars filled
the first part of this phase, ending in Ireland with the middle of the
seventeenth century, and in Germany a few years earlier, but the thing is still
thought of as being a religious affair as late as 1688 or even a few years later
in those parts where conflict was still maintained.
By the middle of the seventeenth century, in Cromwell's time, 1649-58, Great
Britain was definitely Protestant, and would remain so though possessed of a
large Catholic minority. The same was true of Holland. Scandinavia had long
been made Protestant for good and all, by her rich men, and so were many
Principalities and States of the German Empire, mainly the north. Others (mainly
in the south) would clearly be Catholic for the future in bulk.
Of the Low Countries (what we now call Holland, and Belgium) the north (Holland)
with a very large Catholic minority was to be officially Protestant, while the
south (Belgium) was to be almost wholly Catholic with hardly any Protestant
element at all.
The Swiss Cantons divided, much as the German States did. Some went Catholic,
some Protestant. France was to be Catholic, in the main, but with a powerful and
wealthy, though not very large, Protestant minority: 10 per cent, at the very
most, probably nearer 5 per cent. Spain and Portugal and Italy had settled down
to retain for good the traditions of Catholic Culture.
So we are about to follow the story of two successive epochs, gradually changing
in character. The first, from a little before 1520 to around 1600, an epoch of
universal debate and struggle. The second an epoch of clearly opposed forces,
becoming political as much as religious, and more and more sharply defined into
When all this was over, towards the end of the seventeenth century_1700_more
than two hundred years ago there came new developments: the spread of doubt and
an anti-Catholic spirit "within the Catholic culture itself"; while within the
Protestant culture, where there was less definite doctrine to challenge, there
was less internal division but an increasing general feeling that religious
differences must be accepted; a feeling which, in a larger and larger number of
individuals, grew intothe, at first, secret but later
avowed attitude of mind that nothing in religion could be certain, and therefore
that toleration of all such opinions was reasonable.
Side by side with this development went the political struggle between nations
originally of Catholic culture and the regions of the new Protestant culture.
During the nineteenth century the preponderance of power gradually fell to the
Protestants, led by the two chief anti-Catholic powers, England and Prussia,
symbolized sometimes under their capital cities as "London and Berlin." It has
been said that "London and Berlin were the twin pillars of Protestant domination
during the nineteenth century": and that judgment is sound.
This, then, is the general process we are about to follow. A lifetime of fierce
conflict between ideas everywhere; another lifetime of growing regional
separation, becoming more and more a political rather than a religious conflict.
Then, a century the eighteenth of increasing skepticism, beneath which the
characteristics of the Catholic and Protestant culture were maintained though
hidden. Then another century the nineteenth during which the political struggle
between the two cultures, Catholic and Protestant, was obvious enough and during
which the Protestant culture continually increased its political power at the
expense of the Catholic, because the latter was more divided against itself than
the former. France, the leading power of Catholic culture, was half of it
anti-clerical in Napoleon's day, when England was, as she remains, solidly anti-
The origins of that great movement which shook and split for generations the
spiritual world, and which we call the "Reformation," the preparation of the
materials for that explosion which shattered Christendom in the sixteenth
century, cover two full lifetimes, at least, before the first main act of
rebellion against religious unity in 1517.
Many have taken as the starting point of the affair the abandonment of Rome by
the Papacy and its establishment at Avignon, more than two hundred years before
There is some truth in such an attitude, but it is a very imperfect truth.
Everything has a cause, and every cause has another cause behind it, and so on.
The abandonment of Rome by the Papacy, soon after 1300, did weaken the structure
of the Church but was not in itself fatal. It is better, in seeking the main
starting point, to take that awful catastrophe, the plague called today "the
Black Death" (1348-50), forty years after the abandonment of Rome. It might even
be more satisfactory totake as a starting point the
opening of the great schism, nearly thirty years after the Black Death, after
which date, for the better part of an active lifetime, the authority of the
Catholic world was almost mortally wounded by the struggles of Popes and
anti-popes, rival claimants to the awful authority of the Holy See. Anyhow,
before the Black Death, 1348-50, and before the opening of the schism, you have
to begin with the abandonment of Rome by the Popes.
The Holy See, as the central authority of all Christendom, had long been engaged
in a mortal quarrel with the lay power of what was called "The Empire," that is,
the Emperors of German origin who had general, but very complicated and varied
and often only shadowy, authority, not only in the German-speaking countries,
but over northern Italy and a belt of what is now eastern France, as also over
the Low Countries and certain groups of the Slavs.
A lifetime before the Popes left Rome this struggle had been coming to a climax
under one of the most intelligent and most dangerous men that ever ruled in
Christendom, the Emperor Frederick II, whose power was the greater because he
had inherited not only the old diversified rule over the German States and the
Low Countries and what we call today eastern France, but also eastern and
southern Italy. The whole of central Europe, except the States governed
immediately by the Pope in the middle of Italy, were more or less under
Frederick's shadow, under his claim to power. He challenged the Church. The
Papacy won, and the Church was saved; but the Papacy as a political power had
become exhausted in the struggle.
As so often happens, a third party benefited by a violent duel between two
others. It was the king of France who now became the chief force, and for
seventy years, that is, during all the bulk of the
fourteenth century (from 1307 to 1377) the Pa- pacy became a French thing, the
Popes residing in Avignon (where their huge palace remains to this day, a
splendid monument of that time and its meaning) and the men elected to fill the
office of Pope being, after the change, mainly French.
This change (or rather interlude, for the change was not permanent) fell just at
the moment when a national spirit was beginning to develop in the various
regions of Europe, and particularly in France. All the more did the peculiarly
French character of the Papacy shock the conscience of the time. The Papacy
ought of its nature to be Universal. That it should be National was shocking to
the western European of that time.
The tendency of western Christendom to divide into separate compartments and to
lose the full unity which it had possessed for so long was increased by the
failure of the Crusades,which as long as they were
active had been a unifying force, presenting a common ideal to all Christian
chivalry. This tendency was increased also by what is called the Hundred Years
War; not that it lasted one hundred years continuously, but that from the first
battle to the last you may reckon nearly that space of time.
The Hundred Years War was a struggle between the French-speaking dynasty, ruling
in England and supported by the French-speaking upper class for all the upper
class in England still spoke French even in the late fourteenth century and the
equally French-speaking monarchy and upper classes in France itself. The
English, French-speaking royal family was called "Plantagenet ', and the French
royal family we call "Capetian".
The French Capetian monarchy had descended regularly from father to son for
generations until there came a disputed succession after 1300, soon after the
Pope went to Avignon in France . The young Edward Plantagenet, the third of that
name, the French-speaking King of England, claimed the French crown through his
mother, the sister of the last King, who had no son. The Capetian King Philip,
cousin of the dead King, claimed as a male, his lawyers inventing a plea that
women could neither inherit nor transmit the French monarchy. Edward won two
remarkable campaigns, those of Crecy and Poitiers, and nearly succeeded in
establishing his claim to be King of France. Then came a long lull in which the
Plantagenet forces were driven out of France, save in the south-west. Later came
a rally of the Plantagenets, after the usurping Lancastrian branch of that
family had made themselves Kings of England, and consolidated their unjust
power. They kindled the war in France again (under Henry V of England) and came
much nearer to success than their forerunners, because France was in a state of
civil war. Indeed, the great soldier of this period, Henry V of England,
marrying the daughter of the King of France and saying that her brother was
illegitimate, actually succeeded in getting his little son crowned as French
King. But the dispute was not over.
We all know how that ended. It ended in the campaigns of Joan of Arc and her
successors and the collapse of the Plantagenet claim for good and all. But the
struggle had, of course, enhanced national feeling, and every strengthening of
the now growing national feeling in Christendom made for the weakening of the
In the midst of this fell something much more important even than such a
struggle, and something which, as I have said above, had most to do with the
deplorable splitting up of Christendom into separate independent nations. This
woeful incident was the terrible plague, now called "the Black Death." The
fearful disaster broke out in 1347 and swept the whole of Europe from east to
west. The marvel is that our civilization did not collapse, for certainly
one-third of the adult population died, and probably more.
As is always the case in great catastrophes, there was a "time-lag" before the
full effects were felt. It was in the 1370's and the 1380's that those effects
began to be permanent and pretty much universal.
In the first place, as always happens when men are severely tried, the less
fortunate men became violently hostile towards the more fortunate. There were
risings and revolutionary movements. Prices were disturbed, there was a snapping
of continuity in a host of institutions. The names of the old institutions were
kept, but the spirit changed. For instance, the great monasteries of Europe kept
their old riches but fell to half their numbers.
The important part of these effects of the Black Death was the appearance of
England gradually, after about a lifetime, as a country united by a common tie.
The upper classes ceased to talk French, and the various local popular dialects
coalesced into a language that was becoming the literary language of a new
nation. It is the period of Piers Plowman and of Chaucer.
The Black Death had not only shaken the physical and political structure of
European society. It had begun to affect the Faith itself. Horror had bred too
Another direct result of the Black Death was the "Great Schism" in the Papacy.
The warring Kings of France and England and the rival civil factions in France
itself and the lesser authorities of the smaller states took sides continually
for the one claimant to the Papacy or the other, so that the whole idea of a
central spiritual authority was undermined.
The growth of vernacular literatures, that is of literatures no longer generally
expressed in Latin, but in the local speech (northern or southern French, or
English, or High or Low German) was another disruptive factor. If you had said
to a man one hundred years before 1347 "Why should your prayers be in Latin? Why
should not our churches use our own language?" your question would have been
ridiculed; it would have seemed to have no meaning. When it was asked of a man
in 1447, towards the declining end of the Middle Ages, with the new vernacular
languages beginning to flourish, such a question was full of popular appeal.
In the same way opponents of central authority could point to the Papacy as a
mere local thing, an Italian, southern thing. The Pope was becoming as much an
Italian Prince as he was head of the Church. Such a social chaos was admirably
adapted for specific heresies; that is, for particular movements questioning
particular doctrines. One very favorite opinion, founded on the social
disturbances of the time, was the idea that the right to property and office
went with Grace; that authority, political or economic, could not rightly be
exercised save by men in a State of Grace a most convenient excuse for every
kind of rebellion!
Grafted on to this quarrel were violent quarrels between laity and the clergy.
The endowments of the Church were very large, and corruption, both in monastic
establishments and among the seculars, was increasing. Endowment was beginning
to be treated more and more as a revenue to be disposed of for rewards or any
political program. Even one of the best of the Popes of that time, a man
fighting the corrupt habit of uniting many endowments in one hand, himself held
seven bishoprics as a matter of course.
National and racial feeling took advantage of the confusion in movements like
that of the Hussites in Bohemia. Their pretext against the clergy was a demand
for the restoration of the cup at Communion to the laity. They were really
inspired by the hatred of the Slav against the German. Huss is a hero in Bohemia
to this day. During the Great Papal Schism efforts had been made to restore a
central authority on a firm basis by the calling of great councils. They called
on the Popes to resign. They confirmed new appointments in the Papacy. But in
the long run, by shaking the authority of the Holy See, they weakened the idea
of authority in general.
After such confusions and such complicated discontents, <particularly the
spreading and increasing discontent with the worldliness of the official
clergy>, came a vivid intellectual awakening; a recovery of the classics and
especially a recovery of the knowledge of Greek. It filled the later fifteenth
century-_(1450-1500). At the same time the knowledge of the physical world was
spreading. The world (as we put it now) was "expanding." Europeans had explored
the Atlantic and the Africanshores, found their way
to the Indies round the Cape of Good Hope, and before the end of that century,
come upon a whole new world, later to be called America.
Through all this ferment went the continual demand: "Reform of the Church!"
"Reform of head and members!" Let the Papacy be recalled to its full spiritual
duties and let the corruption of the official Church be purged. There was a
rising, stormy cry for simplicity and reality, a rising stormy indignation
against the stagnant defense of old privileges, a universal straining against
rusted shackles no longer fitted to European society. The cry for change by
amendment, for a purification of the clerical body and restoration of spiritual
ideals, may be compared to the cry today (centred not on religion but on
economics) which demands a spoliation of concentrated wealth for the advantage
of the masses.
The spirit abroad, A.D. 1500-1510, was one in which any incident might produce a
sudden upheaval just as the incidents of military defeat, the strain of so many
years' warfare, produced the sudden upheaval of Bolshevism in the Russia of our
The incident that provoked an explosion was a minor and insignificant one but as
a date of origin it is tremendous. I mean, of course, the protest of Luther
against the abuse (and, for that matter, against the use) of indulgences.
That date, the Eve of All Saints, 1517, is not only a definite date to mark the
origin of the Reformation, but it is the true initial moment. Thenceforward \the
tidal wave grew overwhelming. Till that moment the conservative forces, however
corrupt, had felt sure of themselves. Very soon after that movement their
certitude was gone. The flood had begun.
I must here reiterate for purposes of clarity, the very first thing for anyone
to realize who wants to understand the religious revolution which ended in what
we call today "Protestantism." That revolution, which is generally called "The
Reformation," fell into two fairly distinct halves, each corresponding roughly
to the length of a human life. Of these the first phase was not one of conflict
between two religions but a conflict within one religion; while the second phase
was one in which a distinct new religious culture was arising, opposed to and
separate from the Catholic culture.
The first phase, I repeat (roughly the first lifetime of the affair), was not a
conflict between "Catholics and Protestants" as we know them now; it was a
conflict within the boundaries of one Western European body. Men on the extreme
left wing, from Calvin to the Prince Palatine, still thought in terms of
"Christendom." James I at his accession, while denouncing the Pope as a
three-headed monster, still violently affirmed his right to be of the Church
Till we have appreciated that, we cannot understand either the confusion or the
intense passions of the time. What began as a sort of spiritual family quarrel
and continued as a spiritual civil war, was soon accompanied by an actual civil
war in arms. But it was not a conflict between a Protestant world and a Catholic
world. That came later, and when it came, it produced the state of affairs with
which we are all familiar, the division of the white world into two cultures,
Catholic and anti-Catholic: the breakup of Christendom by the loss of European
Now the most difficult thing in the world in connection with history, and the
rarest of achievement, is the seeing of events as contemporaries saw them,
instead of seeing them through the distorting medium of our later knowledge. We
know what was going to happen; contemporaries did not. The very words used to
designate the attitude taken at the beginning of the struggle change their
meanings before the struggle has come to an end. So it is with the Catholic and
Protestant; so it is with the word "Reformation" itself.
The great religious upheaval which so swiftly turned into a religious revolution
was envisaged by the contemporaries of its origins as an effort to put right the
corruptions, errors and spiritual crimes
present in the spiritual body of Christendom. At the beginning of the movement
no one worth consideration would have contested for a moment the necessity for
reform. All were agreed that things had got into a terrible state and threatened
a worse future unless something were done. The crying necessity for putting
things right, the clamor for it, had been rising during more than a century and
was now, in the second decade of the sixteenth century, come to a head. The
situation might be compared to the economic situation today. No one worth
consideration today is content with industrial capitalism, which has bred such
enormous evils. Those evils increase and threaten to become intolerable.
Everyone is agreed that there must be reform and change.
So far so good: You might put it this way: there was no one born between the
years 1450-1500 who did not, by the critical date 1517, when the explosion took
place, see that something had to be done, and in proportion to their integrity
and knowledge were men eager that something should be done just as there is no
one alive today, surviving from the generation born between 1870 and 1910, who
does not know that something drastic must be done in the economic sphere if we
are to save civilization.
A temper of this kind is the preliminary condition of all major reforms, but
immediately such reforms proceed to action three characters appear which are the
concomitants of all revolutions, and the right management of which alone can
prevent catastrophe. The first character is this:
Change of every kind and every degree is proposed simultaneously, from reforms
which are manifestly just and necessary being reversions to the right order of
things to innovations which are criminal and mad.
The second character is that the thing to be reformed necessarily resists. It
has accumulated a vast accretion of custom, vested interests, official
organization, etc., each of which, even without direct volition, puts a drag on
Thirdly (and this is much the most important character) there appear among the
revolutionaries an increasing number who are not so much concerned to set right
the evils which have grown up in the thing to be reformed, as filled with
passionate hatred of the thing itself its essential, its good, that by which it
has a right to survive. Thus today we have in the revolt against industrial
capitalism men proposing all at once every kind of remedy guilds, partial State
Socialism, the safeguarding of small property (which is the opposite of
Socialism), the repudiation of interest, the debasing of currency, the
maintenance of the unemployed, complete Communism, national reform,
international reform, even anarchy. All these remedies and a hundred others are
being proposed pell-mell, conflicting one with another and producing a chaos of
In the face of that chaos all the organs of industrial capitalism continue to
function, most of them jealously struggling to preserve their lives. The banking
system, great interest-bearing loans, proletarian life, the abuse of machinery
and the mechanization of society all these evils go on in spite of the clamor,
and more and more take up the attitude of stubborn resistance. They put forward
consciously or half consciously the plea, "If you upset us, there will be a
crash. Things may be bad, but it looks as though you were going to make them
worse. Order is the first essential of all," etc., etc. . . .
Meanwhile the third element is appearing quite manifestly: the modern world is
getting fuller and fuller of men who so hate industrial capitalism that this
hatred is the motive of all they do and think. They would rather destroy society
than wait for reform, and they propose methods of reform which are worse than
the evils to be remedied they care far more for the killing of their enemy than
they do for the life of the world.
All this appeared in what I here call "The Turmoil," which lasted in Europe
roughly from 1517 to the end of the century, a lifetime of a little over eighty
years. In the beginning all good men with
sufficient instruction and many bad men with equally sufficient instruction, a
host of ignorant men, and not a few madmen, concentrated upon the evils which
had grown up in the religious system of Christendom. Such were the first
No one can deny that the evils provoking reform in the Church were deep rooted
and widespread. They threatened the very life of Christendom itself. All who
thought at all about what was going on around them realized how perilous things
were and how great was the need of reform. Those evils may be classified as
Firstly (and least important) there was a mass of bad history and bad historical
habits due to forgetfulness of the past, to lack of knowledge and mere routine.
For instance, there was a mass of legend, most of it beautiful, but some of it
puerile and half of it false, tacked on to true tradition. There were documents
upon which men depended as authoritative which proved to be other than what they
pretended to be, for example, the famous false Decretals, and particularly that
one called the Donation of Constantine, which, it had been thought, gave its
title to the temporal power of the Papacy. There was a mass of false relics,
demonstrably false, as for instance (among a thou- sand others) the false relics
of St. Mary Magdalen, and innumerable cases in which two or more competing
objects pretended to be the same relic. The list could be extended indefinitely,
and the increase of scholarship, the renewed discovery of the past, particularly
the study of the original Greek documents, notably the Greek New Testament, made
these evils seem intolerable.
The next group of evils was more serious, for it affected the spiritual life of
the Church in its essence. It was a sort of "crystallization" (as I have called
it elsewhere) or, if the term be preferred, an "ossification" of the clerical
body in its habits, and even in doctrinal teaching. Certain customs, harmless in
themselves, and perhaps on the whole rather good than otherwise, had come to
seem moreimportant, especially as forms of local
attachment to local shrines and ceremonies, than the living body of the Catholic
truth. It was necessary to examine these things and to correct them in all
cases, in some to get rid of them altogether.
Thirdly, and much the most important of all, there was worldliness, widespread
among the officers of the Church, in the exact theological sense of
"worldliness": the preference of temporal interests to eternal.
A prime example of this was the vested interest in Church endowment, which had
come to be bought and sold, inherited, cadged for, much as stocks and shares are
today. We have seen how, even in the height of the movement, one of the greatest
of the reforming Popes held the revenues of seven Bishoprics, thus deprived of
their resident pastors. The revenues of a Bishopric could be given as a salary
by a King to one who had served him, who never went near his See and lived
perhaps hundreds of miles away. It had come to be normal for a man like Wolsey,
for example (and he was only one among many others), to hold two of the
first-rate Sees of Christendom in his own hand at the same time: York and
Winchester. It had been customary for men like Campeggio, learned, virtuous and
example in their lives to all, to draw the revenues of a Bishopric in England
while they themselves were Italians living in Italy and rarely approaching their
Sees. The Papal Courts, though their evils have been much exaggerated, were
recurrent examples, of which the worst was that of Alexander VI's family, a
scandal of the first magnitude to all Christendom.
Every kind of man would violently attack such monstrous abuses with the same
zeal as men today, both good and bad, attack the wanton luxury of the rich
contrasted with the horrible depths of modern proletarian poverty. It was from
all this that the turmoil sprang, and as it increased in violence threatened to
destroy the Christian Church itself.
Under the impulse of this universal demand for reform, with passions at work
both constructive and destructive, it might well have been that the unity of
Christendom should have been preserved. There would have been a great deal of
wrangling, perhaps some fighting, but the instinct for unity was so strong, the
"patriotism" of Christendom was still so living a force everywhere that, like as
not, we should have ended by the restoration of Christendom and a new and better
era for our civilization as the result of purging worldliness in the hierarchy
and the manifold corruptions against which the public con- science was seething.
There was no plan in the air at the beginning of the loud protest during the
chaotic revolutionary Lutheran outcry in the Germanies, seconded by the humanist
outcry everywhere. There was no concerted attack on the Catholic Faith. Even
those who were most instinctively its enemies.
(Luther himself was not that) and men like Zwingli (who personally hated the
central doctrines of the Faith and who led the beginning of the looting of the
endowments of religion) could not organize a campaign.
There was no constructive doctrine abroad in opposition to the ancient body of
doctrine by which our fathers had lived, until a man of genius appeared with a
book for his instrument, and a violent personal power of reasoning and preaching
to achieve his end. This man was a Frenchman, Jean Cauvin (or Calvin), the son
of an ecclesiastical official, steward and lawyer to the See of Noyon. After the
excommunication of his father for embezzlement and the confiscation by his
Bishop of much of the income which he, Jean Calvin, himself enjoyed, he, John,
set to work and a mighty work it was.
It would be unjust to say that the misfortunes of his family and the bitter
private money quarrel between himself and the local hierarchy was the main
driving force of Calvin's attack. He was already on the revolutionary side in
religion; he would perhaps have been in any case a chief figure among those who
were for the destruction of the old religion. But whatever his motive, he was
certainly the founder of a new religion. For John Calvin it was who set up a
He proved, if ever any man did, the power of logic the triumph of reason, even
when abused, and the victory of intelligence over mere instinct and feeling. He
framed a complete new theology, strict and consistent, wherein there was no room
for priesthood or sacraments; he launched an attack not anti-clerical, not of a
negative kind, but positive, just as Mohammed had done nine hundred years
before. He was a true heresiarch, and though his effect in the actual imposition
of dogma has not had a much longer life than that of Arianism yet the spiritual
mood he created has lasted on into our day. All that is lively and effective in
the Protestant temper still derives from John Calvin.
Though the iron Calvinist affirmations (the core of which was an admission of
evil into the Divine nature by the permission of but One Will in the universe)
have rusted away, yet his vision of a Moloch God remains; and the coincident
Calvinist devotion to material success, the Calvinist antagonism to poverty and
humility, survive in full strength. Usury would not be eating up the modern
world but for Calvin nor, but for Calvin, would men debase themselves to accept
inevitable doom; nor, but for Calvin, would Communism be with us as it is today,
nor, but for Calvin, would Scientific Monism dominate as it (till recently) did
the modern world, killing the doctrine of miracle and paralyzing Free Will.
This mighty French genius launched his Word nearly twenty years after the
religious revolution had begun: round that Word the battle of Church and
counter-Church was fought out; and the destruction of Christian unity, which we
call the Reformation, was essentially for more than a century to become the
product of a vivid effort, enthusiastic as early Islam had been, to replace the
ancient Christian thing by Calvin's new creed. It acted as all revolutions do,
by the forming of "cells." Groupsarose throughout the
West, small highly disciplined societies of men, determined to spread "the
Gospel," "the Religion" it had many names. The intensity of the movement grew
steadily, especially in France, the country of its founder.
The Reformation, unlike all the other great heresies, led to no conclusion, or
at least has led to none which we can as yet register, although the first
upheaval is now four hundred years behind us. The Arian business slowly died
away; but the Protestant business, though its doctrine has disappeared, has
borne permanent fruit. It has divided the white civilization into two opposing
cultures, Catholic and anti-Catholic.
But at the outset, before this result was reached, the challenge of the
reformers led to fierce civil wars. For the better part of a lifetime it looked
as though one side or the other (the traditional, orthodox rooted Catholic
culture of Europe, or the new revolutionary Protestant thing) would certainly
prevail. As a fact, neither prevailed. Europe, after that first violent physical
conflict, sank back exhausted, registering victory to neither side and formed
into those two halves which have ever since divided the Occident. Great Britain,
most of north Germany, certain patches of Germans to the south among the Swiss
cantons, and even on the Hungarian plain, remained fixed against Catholicism; so
did the northern Netherlands, in their ruling part at least. So did
Scandinavia. The main part of the Rhine and the Danube valleys, that is, the
southern Germans, most of the Hungarians, the Poles, the Italians, the
Spaniards, the Irish, and in the main, the French, were found after the shock
still clinging to the ancestral religion which had made our great civilization.
To understand the nature of the confusion and general battle which shook Europe
is difficult indeed on account of the manifold factors entering into the
First of all let us fix the chief dates. The active Reformation, the eruption
which followed two lifetimes of premonitory shocks and rumblings broke out in
1517. But fighting between the two opponents did not break out on any
considerable scale for forty years. It began in France in 1559. The French
religious wars lasted for forty years: i.e., till just on the end of the
century. Less than twenty years later the Germans, who had hitherto maintained a
precarious balance between the two sides, began their religious wars which
lasted for thirty years. With the middle of the seventeenth century, i.e.,
1648-49, the religious wars in Europe ended in a stalemate.
By 1517 the nations, especially France and England, were already half conscious
of their personalities. They expressed their new patriotism by king-worship.
They followed their princes as national leaders even in religion. Meanwhile the
popular languages began to separate nations still more as the common Latin of
the Church grew less familiar. The whole modern state was developing and the
modern economic structure, and all the while geographical discovery and physical
and mathematical science were expanding prodigiously.
In the midst of so many and such great forces all clashing, it is, I say,
difficult indeed to follow the battle as a whole, but I think we can grasp it in
its very largest lines if we remember certain main points.
The first is this: that the Protestant movement, which had begun as something
merely negative, an indignant revolt against the corruption and worldliness of
the official Church, was endowed with a new strength by the creation of
Calvinism, twenty years after the upheaval had begun. Though the Lutheran forms
of Protestantism covered so great an area, yet the driving power the centre of
vitality in Protestantism was, after Calvin's book had appeared in 1536, Calvin.
It is the spirit of Calvin which actively combats Catholicism wherever the
struggle is fierce. It is the spirit of Calvin that inhabited dissident sects
and that lent violence to the increasing English minority who were in reaction
against the Faith.
Now Calvin was a Frenchman. His mind appealed to others indeed, but principally
and first to his compatriots; and that is why you find the first outbreak of
violence upon French soil. The religious wars, as they are called, which broke
out in France, are conducted there with greater ferocity than elsewhere, and
even when a halt is called to them, after half a lifetime of horrors, it is a
truce and not a victory. The truce was imposed partly by the fatigue of the
combatants in France and partly by the Catholic tenacity of the capital, Paris;
but it was a truce only.
Meanwhile, religious war had been staved off among the Germans while it had been
raging among the French. The turmoil of the Reformation had led at one moment to
a social revolution in some German states, but that soon failed, and for a
century after the original rebellion of Luther, a long lifetime after the
outbreak of religious civil war in France, the Germans escaped general religious
conflict in arms.
This was because the Germans had fallen into a sort of tessellated map of free
cities, smaller and larger lordships, little and big states. The whole was under
the nominal sovereignty of the Emperor in Vienna; but the Emperor had neither
income nor feudal levies sufficient to impose his personal power. At long last
the Emperor, being challenged by a violent Bohemian (that is, Slav) revolt
against him, counter attacked and proposed to re-unite all Germans and impose
not only a national unity buta religious unity as
well. He would restore Catholicism throughout the German states and their
dependencies. He all but succeeded in the attempt. His armies were everywhere
victorious, having for their most vigorous recruitment the Spanish troops, who
worked with the Emperor because the
Crowns at Madrid and Vienna were in the same family the Hapsburgs.
But two things came in to prevent the triumph of German Catholicism. The first
was the character of a usurping family then reigning over the little Protestant
state of Sweden. It had produced a military genius of the first order, the young
Swedish King Gustavus Adolphus. The second thing which made all the difference
was the diplomatic genius of Richelieu, who in those days directed all the
policy of France.
The Spanish power in the south beyond the Pyrenees (backed by all the new-found
wealth of the Americas, and governing half Italy), the German power of the
Empire lying to the east, together threatened France as a nation like the claws
of two pincers. Richelieu was a Catholic cardinal. He was personally attached to
the Catholic side in Europe, and yet it was he who launched the Protestant
military genius, Gustavus Adolphus, against the German Catholic Emperor, with
his Catholic Spanishallies, just when victory was in
For Richelieu not only discovered the genius of Gustavus Adolphus but discovered
a way of hiring that genius. Richelieu had offered him three tubs of gold. He
stood out for five and got them.
Gustavus Adolphus could not have imagined the great future that was in front of
him when he took the French gold as a bribe to attempt the difficult adventure
of attacking the prestige and power of the Emperor. Like Napoleon and Cromwell
and Alexander and almost all the great captains in history, he discovered his
talents as he went along. He must himself have marveled to find how easily and
completely he won his great campaigns.
It is an astonishing story. The brilliant victories only lasted a year; at the
end of that year Gustavus Adolphus was killed in action at Lutzen, near Leipsig,
in 1632, but in so brief a time he very nearly established a Protestant German
Empire. He very nearly did what Bismarck was to do two and a half centuries
later; even as it was he made it for ever impossible for Germans to be fully
united again, and equally impossible for them to return as a whole to the
religion of their fathers. He established German Protestantism so firmly that it
went on from that day to this increasing in power, until today (from Berlin) it
inspires in a new paganized form the great mass of the German peoples.
The religious wars in Germany gradually petered out. By the middle of the
seventeenth century, as I have said, a long lifetime after the first fighting
had begun in France, there was a general agreement throughout Europe for each
party to stand upon its gains, and the religious map of Europe has remained much
the same from that day to this, that is from about 1648-49 to our own time.
Now anyone reading only the outward military story, with its first chapter of
violent French religious war, its second chapter of violent German religious
war, would miss the character of the whole thing, though he knew every battle
and every leading statesman and warrior; for there underlay that great affair
another factor which was neither doctrinal nor dynastic nor international but
moral; and it was this factor which provoked fighting, imposed peace, and
decided the ultimate religious trend of the various communities. It is
recognized by historians but never sufficiently emphasized. It was the factor of
The old Catholic Europe, prior to Luther's uprising, had been filled with vast
clerical endowments. Rents of land, feudal dues, all manner of incomes, were
fixed for the maintenance of bishoprics, cathedral chapters, parish priests,
monasteries and nunneries. Not only were there vast incomes, but also endowments
(perhaps one- fifth of all the rents of Europe) for every sort of educational
establishment, from petty local schools to the great colleges of the
universities. There were other endowments for hospitals, others for guilds,
(that is, trade unions and associations of craftsmen and merchants and shop-
keepers), others for Masses and shrines. All this corporate property was either
directly connected with the Catholic Church, or so much part of her patronage as
to be under peril of loot wherever the Catholic Church was challenged.
The first act of the Reformers, wherever they were successful, was to allow the
rich to seize these funds. And the intensity of the fighting everywhere depended
upon the determination of those who had looted the Church to keep their loot,
and of those who tried to restore the Church to recover the Church wealth.
That is why in England there was so very little fighting. The English people as
a whole were little affected in doctrine by the early Reformation, but the
monasteries had been dissolved and their property had passed to the lords of the
villages and the town merchants. The same is true of many of the Swiss cantons.
The French lords of villages, that is the noble class (what are called in
England "the Squires"), and the greater nobles above them, were anxious to share
in the loot.
The French Crown, dreading the increase of power which this loot would give to
the class immediately below it, resisted the movement, hence the French
religious wars; while in England a child King and two women succeeding each
other on the throne permitted the rich to get away withthe Church spoils. Hence the absence of religious wars in England.
It was this universal robbery of the Church, following upon the religious
revolution, which gave the period of conflict the character it had.
It would be a great error to think of the loot of the Church as a mere crime of
robbers attacking an innocent victim. The Church endowments had come, before the
Reformation, to be treated throughout the greater part of Europe as mere
property. Men would buy a clerical income for their sons, or they would make
provision for a daughter with a rich nunnery. They would give a bishopric to a
boy, purchasing a dispensation for his lack of years. They took the revenues of
monasteries wholesale to provide incomes for laymen, putting in a locumtenens to
do the work of the abbot, and giving him but a pittance, while the bulk of the
endowment was paid for life to the layman who had seized it.
Had not these abuses been already universal the subsequent general loot would
not have taken place. As things were, it did. What had been temporary invasions
of monastic incomes in order to provide temporary wealth for laymen became
permanent confiscation wherever the Reformation triumphed. Even where bishoprics
survived the mass of their income was taken away, and when the whole thing was
over you may say that the Church throughout what remained of Catholic Europe,
even including Italy and Spain, had not a half of its old revenues left. In that
part of Christendom which had broken away, the new Protestant ministers and
bishops, the new schools, the new colleges, the new hospitals, enjoyed not a
tenth of what the old endowments had yielded.
To sum up: By the middle of the seventeenth century the religious quarrel in
Europe had been at work, most of the time under arms, for over one hundred and
thirty years. Men had now settled down to the idea that unity could never be
recovered. The economic strength of religion had, in half of Europe,
disappeared, and in the other half so shrunk that the lay power was everywhere
master. Europe had fallen into two cultures, Catholic and Protestant; these two
cultures would always be instinctively and directly opposed one to the other (as
they still are), but the directly religious issue was dropping out and, in
despair of a common religion, men were concerning themselves more with temporal,
above all with dynastic and national, issues, and with the capture of
opportunities for increasing wealth by trade rather than with matters of
After the middle of the seventeenth century, Europe had witnessed the triumph of
a Puritan- officered army in England, the triumph of the German Protestants
through the help of France under Cardinal Richelieu in their effort to shake
themselves free from the Catholic control of the Emperor, and the triumph of the
Dutch rebels against Catholic Spain. Europe fell back exhausted from the purely
religious struggle. The wars of religion were at an end; they had ended in a
draw: neither side had won. Religious conflict had remained in patches. Thus
England tried to kill Catholic Ireland and France to kill French Huguenotry. But
by 1700 it was clear no more national wars of religion would arise.
Henceforward it was taken for granted that our civilization must continue
divided. There was to be a Protestant culture side by side with the Catholic
culture. Men could not lose the memory of the great past; they did not quickly
become what we have since become nations growing indifferent to the unity of
European civilization but the old moral unity which came of our universal
Catholicism was ruined.
Roughly speaking, the mass of Europe fell into the following form:
The Greek or Orthodox Church of the East had ceased to count. Russia had not
arisen as a power, and everywhere else the Greek Christians were dominated by,
and subject to, Moslems, so that the only map to be considered in 1650 was one
stretching from Poland on the East to the Atlantic on the West.
In that region the Italian peninsula, divided into various states, was wholly
Catholic save for a very small population in some of the northern mountains
which had Protestant forms of worship.
The Iberian peninsula_Spain and Portugal was also wholly Catholic. The Empire,
as it was called, that is, the body of states, most of which spoke German and of
which the moral head was the Emperor at Vienna, was divided into Protestant
states and self-governing cities, and Catholic states and self-governing cities.
The Emperor had tried to bring them all back to Catholicism and had failed,
because of the diplomacy of Richelieu.
In mere numbers, as the Protestant German population was as yet much smaller
than the Catholic. Roughly speaking, the northern German states and cities were
Protestant and the southern Catholic not, as is falsely pretended, because
something in the northern climate or race tended to Protestantism, but because
they lay further away from the center of Catholic power in Vienna. Though the
various "Germanies" (as the German- speaking states and cities were called) were
thus roughly divided into Protestant North and Catholic South, there were any
number of exceptions, islands of Catholic population in the North and Protestant
in the South, and often the citizens of one city were divided in religion.
Scandinavia, that is, Denmark, Sweden and Norway, were by this time wholly
Protestant. Poland, though it had never formed part of the Roman Empire, went
Catholic after a sort of see- saw and hesitation during the time of the
religious wars. It has remained one of the most intensely Catholic districts of
the world ever since, because, like the Irish, the Poles were violently
persecuted for their religion.
The Low Countries had divided into two. The northern provinces (which we now
call Holland) had acquired their independence from their original sovereign, the
King of Spain, and, largely as a protest against the Spanish power, proclaimed
themselves officially Protestant. Their government was Protestant and the
political effect of Holland in Europe was Protestant; but it is a great error,
though a very common one, to think that the Dutch population as a whole was
Protestant. There was a very large Catholic minority and today, of the Christian
population that is the population so declared over two-fifths but rather less
than one-half are Catholic.
The southern provinces of the ancient Netherlands remained solidly of the
Catholic culture. They had joined in the revolt against Spain, but when the
northern merchants and rich landowners went Calvinist in order to emphasize the
struggle with Spain, the merchants and rich men of the southern provinces
reacted strongly the other way. Today we call this Catholic half of the
Netherlands Belgium, but it included in the middle of the seventeenth century a
strip of what is today French Flanders; for instance, the great town of Lille,
the chief city of Flanders, was part of the Catholic and still Spanish
The Swiss Cantons, which were gradually becoming a nation and already mainly
independent of the Empire, were divided; some were of the Protestant culture,
some of the Catholic as they remain to this day.
France, after the compromise at the end of the religious wars and the victory of
Richelieu over the Huguenots, became officially Catholic. The French monarchy
was strongly Catholic and the mass of the nation was of the Catholic culture.
But there remained a minority of Protestants, important in numbers (no one knows
quite how many, but probably, as we saw on a former page, less than a seventh
but more than a tenth of the nation) and far more important in wealth and social
position than in numbers. The Protestants in France were also important because
they were not confined to one district but were to be found all over the place;
for instance, Dieppe, the harbour in the north, was still a strongly Protestant
town. So was La Rochelle, the harbour on the Atlantic; so, especially, were manyprosperous southern towns such as Montpelier and Nimes. Much of the
banking and commerce of France remained in Protestant hands.
England and Scotland in 1650 had been under a common monarch for half a century
and were both officially Protestant. This English-Scotch monarchy was strongly
Protestant, and there was continual and heavy persecution of Catholicism. But it
is another common error to regard the English nation as a whole as being already
Protestant at this moment. What was really happening was the dying down of
Catholicism very gradually. Perhaps a third of the nation was still vaguely in
sympathy with the old religion when the civil wars began, and a sixth of it was
willing to make heavy sacrifices by calling itself openly Catholic. Of the
officers killed in action on both sides, about one-sixth were estimated to be
admittedly and openly Catholics. But it was impossible for the ordinary man to
the Sacraments, and difficult even for rich men, who could afford to pay for
private chapels, fines, etc., to get Mass and the Catholic Communion.
None the less, so strong was the ancient root of Catholicism in England that
there were constant conversions, especially in the upper classes. For nearly
forty years to come it looked as though a very large, solid minority of
Catholicism might survive in England, as it had in Holland.
On the other hand, England and Scotland were not only officially Protestant, but
a growing majority had come to think of Catholicism as alien to the interests of
the country, and a very large and growing minority was filled with a more
violent hatred of Catholicism than you could find anywhere else in Europe.
Ireland of course remained Catholic; the number of Protestants present in
Ireland, even after the plantations and the conquest by Cromwell, was not
one-twentieth of the population. But nineteen-twentieths of the land had been
taken by force from the Irish and Catholic people and was now (1650) either in
the possession of renegades or of Protestant adventurers from Great Britain, to
whom the original owners of the land now had to pay rent or for whom they had to
work at a wage.
From this moment, the mid-seventeenth century, when elsewhere there had arisen
compromise throughout Europe in the matter of religion, Catholicism was
persecuted in Ireland in the most violent fashion, and in a fashion which got
more violent as time went on. All the power, very nearly all the land, and most
of the liquid wealth of Ireland were in the hands not only of Protestants but of
people determined to destroy Catholicism. For a long time to come it was as
though Ireland were a test; as though the destruction of the Catholic Church in
Ireland were to be a symbol of the triumph of Protestantism and the decline of
the Faith. That destruction was nearly accomplished but not quite.
Such was the map of Europe as the drawn battle of religious wars had left it.
But apart from the geographical division, the effect of the long struggle, and
particularly the fact that it had been inconclusive, was on the moral side more
profound than on the geographical.
It was obvious to the eye that European culture would in future be divided into
two camps, but what only gradually entered the mind of Europe was the fact that
on account of this permanent division men were coming to regard religion itself
as a secondary thing. Political considerations, the
ambition of separate nations and separate dynasties, began to seem more
important than the separate religions men professed. It was as though people had
said to themselves, not openly, but half-consciously, "Since all this tremendous
fight has had no result, the causes which led to the conflict were probably
In the only department that counts, in the mind of man, the effect of the
religious wars and their ending in a drawn battle was that religion as a whole
was weakened. More and more men began to think in their hearts, "One cannot
arrive at the truth in these matters, but we do know what worldly prosperity is
and what poverty is, and what political power and political weakness are.
Religious doctrine belongs to an unseen world which we do not know as thoroughly
or in the same way."
That was the prime fruit of the battles not having been won and of the two
antagonists virtually consenting to fall back on their positions. There was
still plenty of religious fervor on both sides, but in a subtle, undeclared way
it was more and more subordinated to worldly motives, especially to patriotism
Meanwhile, though men did not observe it for a long time, a certain result of
this success which Protestantism had obtained, this establishment and
entrenching of itself over against the old religion, was working under the
surface and was soon to come clearly to light. The Protestant culture, though it
remained for another lifetime much smaller numerically than the Catholic
culture, and even as a whole poorer, had more vitality. It had begun in a
religious revolution; the eagerness of that revolution carried on and inspired
it. It had broken up old traditions and bonds which had formed the framework of
Catholic society for hundreds of years. The social stuff of Europe was dissolved
Protestant culture more thoroughly than in the Catholic, and its dissolution
released energies which Catholicism had restrained, especially the energy of
All forms of innovation were naturally more favored in the Protestant culture
than in the Catholic; both cultures advanced rapidly in the physical sciences,
in the colonization of distant lands, in the expansion of Europe throughout the
world; but the Protestants were more vigorous in all these than were the
To take one example: in the Protestant culture (save where it was remote and
simple) the free peasant, protected by ancient customs, declined. He died out
because the old customs which supported him against the rich were broken up.
Rich men acquired the land; great masses of men formerly owning farms became
destitute. The modern proletariat began and the seeds of what we today call
Capitalism were sown. We can see now what an evil that was, but at the time it
meant that the land was better cultivated. New and more scientific methods were
more easily applied by the rich landowners of the new Protestant culture than by
the Catholic traditional peasantry; and, competition being unchecked, the former
Again, inquiry tended to be more free in the Protestant culture than in the
Catholic, because there was no one united authority of doctrine; and though in
the long run this was bound to lead to the
break-up of philosophy and of all sound thinking, the first effects were
stimulating and vitalizing.
But the great, the chief, example of what was happening through the break-up of
the old Catholic European unity, was the rise of banking.
Usury was practised everywhere, but in the Catholic culture it was restricted by
law and practised with difficulty. In the Protestant culture it became a matter
of course. The Protestant merchants of Holland led the way in the beginnings of
modern banking; England followed suit; and that is why the still comparatively
small Protestant nations began to acquire formidable economic strength. Their
mobile capital and credit kept on increasing compared with their total wealth.
The mercantile spiritflourished vigorously among the
Dutch and English, and the universal admission of competition continued to favor
the growth of the Protestant side of Europe.
All this increase of Protestant power was becoming clear in the lifetime after
the Peace of Westphalia (1648-50 to 1720). It was no longer subconscious but
conscious, and was felt everywhere as the first third of the eighteenth century
progressed. Before the middle of that century there was a feeling in the air
that al- though Catholicism still held the ancient thrones, with all their
traditional glory and show of strength the Imperial Crown, the Papal States, the
Spanish Monarchy with its hugedominions over- seas,
the splendid French Monarchy yet the future was with the Protestants,
Protestantism, to use the modern phrase, was "making good."
Moreover confidence was on the Protestant side, and the Catholic side was
disheartened. One last factor was greatly in favor of the Protestant culture:
the decline of religious feeling was going on
everywhere after 1750, and this decline of religion did not, at first, hurt
Protestant society as much as it hurt Catholic society. In Catholic society it
divided men bitterly one from the other. The skeptic was there the enemy of his
pious fellow-countryman. France, to some extent Italy, much later Spain but
France early in the business were divided against themselves, while in the
Protestant culture difference of opinion and skepticism were commonplaces. Men
took them for granted. They led less and less to personal animosities and civil
This internal strength the Protestant culture retained on into modern times and
has only now begun to lose it, through the gradually disintegrating effect of a
Rather more than a hundred and fifty years ago, but less than two hundred say
between 1760 and 1770_it should have been clear to any close observer of our
civilization that we were entering a period in which the anti-Catholic side of
the two halves into which Christendom had split was about to become the chief
party. The Protestant culture was about to get the upper hand and would perhaps
keep it for a long time. It did as a fact not only keep it but increased its
hold for more than a full lifetime for something like a hundred years. Then but
not till our own times it declined.
The outward or political signs of this Protestant growth were continued increase
of financial, military and naval power on that side of Europe. English commerce
rapidly expanded; the Dutch continued to increase their banking and, most
important of all, England began to get hold of India. On the military side, the
Protestant Germans produced a new and formidable army, that of Prussia, with a
strong discipline crowned by victory.
Something that was to have a great effect the British fleet became far more
powerful than any other, and under its protection English trade and control over
the East continually grew. By land Prussia began to win battles and campaigns;
these successes of Prussia were not continuous but they founded a continuous
tradition, and her Soldier- King, Frederick II, was certainly one of the great
captains of history.
Meanwhile the Catholic culture declined in this same political field.
Austria, that is, the power of the Catholic Emperor among Germans, diminished in
strength; so did the vast Spanish Empire, which included at that time much the
greater part of populated America.
These material outward signs of increasing Protestant power and the declining
power of the Catholic culture were but the effects of a spiritual thing which
was going on within. Faith was breaking down.
The Protestant culture was untroubled by this growth of skepticism. The decline
of men's adherence to the old doctrines of Christendom did not weaken Protestant
society. The whole tone of mind in that society called every man free to judge
for himself, and the one thing it repudiated and would not have was the
authority of a common religion.
A common religion is of the nature of the Catholic culture, and so the growing
decline of belief worked havoc there. It destroyed the moral authority of the
Catholic governments, which were closely associated with religion, and it either
cast a sort of paralysis over thought and action, as happened in Spain, or, as
happened in France, violently divided men into two camps, clerical and
Still, though we can see what was at work in the eighteenth century, the men of
the time did not. England through her sea-power had got a stranglehold on India;
Prussia had established herself as a strong power; but no one foresaw that
England and Prussia would overshadow Christendom. India was going to produce
wealth and power for those who should exploit her and, with her as a base,
establish their banking power and commerce throughout the East. Prussia was
going to absorb the Germans and overthrow Europe.
England (also through her naval power) had got hold of the French colony of
Canada; but no one in those days thought colonies of much importance save as
sources of wealth for the mother country, and Canada had never been that for
France. Later, when England lost her own colonies in North America and they
became independent, it was wrongly regarded as a mortal blow to English power
throughout the world.
Very few foresaw what the new republic in North America was going to mean for
the future; its vast and rapid expansion in numbers and wealth immensely
strengthened the position of the Protestant culture in the world. It was much
later that a certain proportion of Catholic immigrants somewhat modified this
position, but even so, the United States remained during their astonishing
increase an essentially Protestant society.
At the end of the eighteenth century and into the beginning of the nineteenth
came the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars. These also increased the general
strength of Protestantism and still further weakened the Catholic culture. They
did so indirectly, and the immediate issues were so much more exciting and so
much more directly concerned men's lives that this ultimate and profound effect
was little appreciated.
To this day there are few historians who appreciate the defeat of Napoleon in
terms of contrasting cultures in Europe. The French Revolution was an
anti-clerical movement, and Napoleon who was its heir was not himself a
believing and practicing Catholic and cannot be said to have returned to the
Faith until his death-bed. Nor, for all his genius, did he clearly perceive that
difference of religion is at the root of differences in culture, for the
generation to which he belonged had no conception of that profound and universal
Nevertheless the truth remains that had Napoleon succeeded the preponderating
culture of Europe would have been Catholic. His Empire inter- married with and
allied to the ancient Catholic tradition of Austria, giving the Church peace and
ending the revolutionary dangers, would have given us a united and settled
Europe, where, in spite of the very wide spread of rationalism in the wealthier
classes, Europe as a whole would have returned to the Catholic tradition.
Napoleon, however, just failed; and he failed through miscalculating his chances
in the campaign in Russia.
After his failure the process of decline, so long at work in the Catholic
culture, continued throughout all the nineteenth century. England as the result
of the defeat of Napoleon was able to expand uninterruptedly through her now not
only unquestioned but invincible sea-power. There was
no rival against her anywhere outside Europe. The Spanish Empire, already fallen
very low, was broken up, largely through the efforts of England, which desired
unimpeded trade with South and Central America. England seized points of vantage
all over the globe, some of which became considerable local societies at first
called colonies but now "Dominations."
Prussia, through the defeat of Napoleon, became the leading power among the
Germans; she annexed the Catholic population of the Rhine and became the
triumphant rival of the Hapsburg- Lorraine House, the Emperor at Vienna. France
fell into unceasing political experiment and breakdown, at the root of which was
the profound religious division between Frenchmen.
There was no united Italy, and such effort as was being made to create one was
being made by anti-Catholics. Indeed, it is one of the most amusing ironies of
history that the great power which Italy has now become was largely called into
being by the sympathy Protestant Europe felt for the original Italian rebellions
against the Catholic King of Naples and the authority of the Papal States.
One working lifetime after the defeat of Napoleon another weighty group of
events was thrown into the scale against the Catholic culture; this was the
series of crushing victories won by Prussia in the field, between 1866 and 1871.
In those five years Prussia destroyed the military power of Catholic Austria and
created a new German Empire in which the Catholics were carefully cut off from
Austria and formed into a minority with Protestant Berlin as their centre of
gravity. Prussia also suddenly and completely defeated the French Army, took
Paris and annexed what suited her of French territory.
This last business, the Franco-Prussian War, was far the most important of all,
and might well have proved the end of the Catholic culture in Europe, through
the establishment of the Parliamentary French Republic (which went from bad to
worse in laws and morals) and from the undermining of the confidence the French
had in themselves. The new regime in France began to ruin French civilization
and increased indefinitely the anti-Catholic faction, which obtained and kept
external power over the French people. Moreover, as a result of that war,
England became stronger still in the East, she took the place of France as the
master in Egypt, taking over the custody of the Suez Canal (which the French had
made just before their final defeat) and acquiring Cyprus.
Italy was now united but weak and despised. Spain and Portugal had declined, it
seemed, beyond all hope of recovery; and with France torn by her religious
quarrel and having the worst kind of professional politicians in power, with the
sun of Austria setting, with Prussia in full career, with the United States now
recovering from its Civil War and more powerful and coherent than ever rapidly
becoming the richest country in the world and with a population as rapidly
expanding it seemed a matter of course that the Catholic culture would be beaten
right out of the field. The Protestant culture had become the manifest leader of
The thing was apparent not only politically but in the economic field as well.
The new machinery which transformed life everywhere, the new rapid
communications of thought and goods and men, were mainly the product of the
Protestant culture. The nations of Catholic culture did but copy the Protestant
nations in these matters.
So it was also with institutions; the English institution of Parliament which
had arisen and was maintained under aristocratic conditions by a governing
class, was imitated everywhere. It was utterly
unsuited to societies with a strong sense of human equality, but such was the
prestige of England that men copied English institutions upon every side.
Meanwhile what may properly be called the test of the fortunes of the Catholic
culture, Ireland, seemed to give the signal of that culture's final ruin. The
Irish population, long dispossessed of its land, was halved by famine; the
wealth of Catholic Ireland fell as rapidly as that of England rose, and no one
of consequence thought it was possible that Ireland, after her awful experiences
in the nineteenth century, could rise again from the dead.
The Pope had been despoiled of his income through the seizure of his States, and
was now a prisoner in the Vatican with all the spirit of the new Italian
Government, his apparent master, more and more opposed to religion. The
educational system of Europe grew more and more divorced from religion, and in
the large Catholic countries either broke up or fell wholly into anti-Catholic
It is very difficult to say when the tide turns in the great processes of
history. But one rule may be wisely applied; the turn of the tide comes earlier
than men judging by surface phenomena conceive. Any great system the actively
centralized Western Roman Empire, the Spanish Empire, the period of Turkish rule
in the East, the period of the absolute Monarchies of Western Europe has really
begun to break down long before the outside observer can note any change. For
instance, as late as 1630 men were still talking and thinking of the Spanish
power as much the greatest thing in the world; yet it had received its death
blow in Holland a lifetime before, and was after Rocroi (1643) slowly bleeding
It was and is so with the Protestant hegemony over our culture, with the
Protestant and anti- Catholic leadership of white civilization. The tide has
turned. But what was the moment of change? When was "slack water"?
It is difficult to fix a date for these things, but a universal rule is that, in
doubt between two dates, the earlier date is to be preferred to the later.
Many would put the years 1899-1901, the ominous Boer War, as the turning point.
Some would put it later. For my part, I should fix it round about the years
1885-1887. It seems to me that a universal observer, unbiased by patriotic
feeling, would fix that moment or 1890 at the latest as the point of flexion in
the curve. The Protestant powers were apparently greater than ever; but a
reaction was stirring and in the next generation it was bound to become
Whatever the causes and whatever the precise dates to be fixed (certainly
somewhere between 1885 and 1904) the tide was turning. It was not turning toward
the re-establishment of the Catholic culture as the leader of Europe, let alone
to the re-establishment of the Catholic Church as the universal spirit of that
culture; but the ideas and the things which had made the opposite culture
all-powerful were breaking down. This modern decline of the Protestant hegemony
and its succession by an altogether new menace and a new Catholic reaction
against that menace I shall now describe.
Whatever date we assign to the summit of power in the Protestant culture,
whether we say that its decay was beginning as early as 1890 or that it cannot
be put earlier than even 1904, there is no doubt that after this date in
other words, with the very first years of the twentieth century the supremacy of
the Protestant culture was undermined.
The various Protestant heresies upon which it had been based, and the general
spirit of all those heresies combined, were declining; therefore their fruit,
the Protestant hegemony over Europe and the white world, was declining also.
Protestantism was being strangled at its root, at its spiritual root; therefore
the material fruits of that tree were beginning to wither.
When we study in detail the process of this veiled decay in the supremacy of the
Protestant culture we find two sets of causes. The first, and apparently the
least important (though posterity may discover it to be of great importance),
was a certain recovery of confidence in a portion (but only a portion) of the
nations deriving from the Catholic culture, and at the same time a revival of
vitality in Catholic teaching.
Politically there was no reaction towards the old strength of the Catholic
culture; it was rather the other way. Ireland continued to decline in population
and wealth, and was now more subject to a Protestant power than ever before.
Poland could apparently no longer hope for resurrection. The divisions within
the Catholic culture itself grew worse than ever. In France (which was the
keystone of the whole) the quarrel between the Church and her enemies became
taken for granted and the victory of these enemies taken for granted as well.
Religion was dying out in the elementary schools. Great tracts of the peasantry
were losing their ancestral faith; and with the decline of religion went a
decline of taste in architecture and all the arts and worst of all in letters.
The old French lucidity of thought began to grow confused. There was no revival
of Spain, and in Italy, what with anti-clerical and Masonic Parliamentary power
and the differences between the various districts, yet another province of
Catholic culture grew weaker.
But there was already apparent some revival of religion in the wealthier classes
among all the nations of Catholic culture.
This might not seem to mean much, for the wealthier classes are a small
minority; but they influenced the universities and therefore the literature and
philosophy of their generation. Where, half a lifetime before, anyone would have
told you that Catholicism could never again appear in the University of Paris
there were evident signs that it was again being taken very seriously. In all
this the great Pope Leo XIII played a chief part, seconded by him who was later
to become Cardinal Mercier. St. Thomas Aquinas was rehabilitated and the
University of Louvain became a focus of intellectual energy radiating throughout
Still, all this was, I repeat, of less significance than the decline of the
Protestant culture from within. The Catholic culture continued to be divided;
there were no signs of its returning to its greatrole
in the past; and though the seeds both of Irish and Polish recovery had been
sown (the former through the very important recovery of their land by the
tenacious Irish peasantry) no one could have foretold as indeed most cannot yet
perceive the strengthening of the Catholic culture as a whole throughout our
There were great converts, as there have always been; there were what is even
more significant, whole groups of very eminent men, such as Brunetiire in
France, who grew less and less sympathetic with the old-fashioned atheism and
agnosticism, and who, without declaring themselves Catholic, were clearly
sympathetic with the Catholic side. But these did not influence the main
current; what really made the change was the great internal weakness of the
Protestant culture as opposed to the Catholic. It was this decay of the opponent
to the Church which began to transform Europe and prepare men for yet another
great change, which I shall call (so as to give it a name and be able to study
it later) "The Modern Phase."
Protestant culture decayed from within from a number of causes, all probably
connected, although it is difficult to trace the connection; all probably
proceeding from what physicists call the "auto-toxic" condition of the
Protestant culture. We say that an organism has become "auto-toxic" when it is
beginning to poison itself, when it loses vigor in its vital processes and
accumulates secretions which continually lessen its energies. Something of this
kind was happening to the Protestant culture towards the end of the nineteenth
century and the beginning of the twentieth.
This was the general cause of the Protestant decline, but its action was vague
and hard to grasp; on the particular causes of that decline we may be more
concrete and certain.
For one thing the spiritual basis of Protestantism went to pieces through the
breakdown of the Bible as a supreme authority. This breakdown was the result of
that very spirit of skeptical inquiry upon which Protestantism had always been
based. It had begun by saying, "I deny the authority of the Church: every man
must examine the credibility of every doctrine for himself." But it had taken as
a prop (illogically enough) the Catholic doctrine of Scriptural inspiration.
That great mass of Jewishfolklore, poetry and
traditional popular history and proverbial wisdom which we call the Old
Testament, that body of records of the Early Church which we call the New
Testament, the Catholic Church had declared to be Divinely inspired.
Protestantism (as we all know) turned this very doctrine of the Church against
the Church herself, and appealed to the Bible against Catholic authority.
Hence the Bible Old and New Testaments combined became an object of worship in
itself throughout the Protestant culture. There was a great deal of doubt and
even paganism floating about before the end of the nineteenth century in the
nations of Protestant culture; but the mass of their populations, in Germany as
in England and Scandinavia, certainly in the United States, anchored themselves
to the literal interpretation of the Bible.
Now historical research, research in physical science and research in textual
criticism, shook this attitude. The Protestant culture began to go to the other
extreme; from having worshipped the very text of the Bible as something
immutable and the clear voice of God, it fell to doubting almost everything that
the Bible contained.
It questioned the authenticity of the four Gospels, particularly the two written
by eye- witnesses to the life of Our Lord and more especially that of St. John,
the prime witness to the Incarnation.
It came to deny the historical value of nearly everything in the Old Testament
prior to the Babylonian exile; it denied as a matter of course every miracle
from cover to cover and every prophecy.
That a document should contain prophecy was taken to prove that it must have
been written after the event. Every inconvenient text was labeled as an
interpolation. In fine, when this spirit (which was the very product of
Protestantism itself) had done with the Bible the very foundation of
Protestantism it had left nothing of Protestantism but a mass of ruins.
There was also another example of the spirit of Protestantism destroying its own
foundations, but in a different field that of social economics.
Protestantism had produced free competition permitting usury and destroying the
old safeguards of the small man's property the guild and the village
In most places where it was powerful (and especially in England) Protestantism
had destroyed the peasantry altogether. It had produced modern industrialism in
its capitalistic form; it had produced modern banking, which at last became the
master of the community; but not much more than a lifetime's experience of
industrial capitalism and of the banker's usurious power was enough to show that
neither the one nor the other could continue. They had bred vast social evils
which went from bad to worse, until men, without consciously appreciating the
ultimate cause of those evils (which cause is, of course, spiritual and
religious) at any rate found the evils unendurable.
But the later wealth and political power of the Protestant culture had been
based upon these very institutions, now challenged.
Industrial capitalism and the usurious banking power were the very strength of
nineteenth- century Protestant civilization. They had especially triumphed in
Victorian England. They are, at the moment in which I write these words, still
on the surface all-powerful but we every one of us know that their hour has
struck. They have rotted from within; and with them the Protestant hegemony
which they so powerfully supported in the generations immediately before our
There was yet another cause of weakening and decline in the Protestant culture:
the various parts of it tended to quarrel one with the other. That was what one
would have expected from a system at once based upon competition and flattering
human pride. The various Protestant societies, notably the British and Prussian,
were each convinced of its own complete superiority. But you cannot have two or
more superior races.
This mood of self-worship necessarily led to conflict between the
self-worshippers. They might all combine in despising the Catholic culture, but
they could not preserve unity among themselves.
The trouble was made worse by an inherent lack of plan. The Protestant culture
having begun by exaggerating the power of human reason, was ending by abandoning
human reason. It boasted its dependence upon instinct and even upon good for-
tune. There was no commoner phrase upon the lips of Protestant Englishmen than
the phrase, "We are not a logical nation." Each Protestant group was "God's
country" God's favorite and somehow or other was bound to come out on top
without the bother of thinking out a scheme for its own conduct.
Nothing more fatal for an individual or a large society in the long run can be
conceived than this blind dependence upon an assured good fortune, and an
equally blind neglect of rational processes. It opens the door to every
extravagance, material and spiritual; to conceptions of universal dominion,
world power and the rest of it, which in their effect are mortal poisons.
All these things combined led to the great breakdown which we date overtly from
1914 but of which the inception lay three years earlier at least; for it was
three years before the outbreak of the Great War that the nations began to make
their preparations for conflict.
In the Great War, of course, the whole of the old state of affairs went down
with a crash. So much as survived what had been the institutions of the
Protestant hegemony control by the banks, the levying of general usury through
international loans, the wholly competitive industrial system, the unchecked
exploitation of a vast proletariat by a small capitalist class only survived
precariously, propped up by every sort of device, and that in only a few
societies. In the mass of our civilizationthese
things rapidly disappeared. The main political institution which had gone with
them parliaments composed of professional politicians and calling themselves
"representative" went down the same road. Our civilization began to enter a
period of political experiments, including despotisms, each of which experiments
may be and probably is ephemeral, but all of which are, at any rate, a complete
break with the immediate past.
The old white world wherein a divided and distracted Catholic culture was
overshadowed by a triumphant and powerful Protestant culture was no more.
But let it be noted that this breakdown of the older anti-Catholic thing, the
Protestant culture, shows no sign of being followed by an hegemony of the
Catholic culture. There is no sign as yet of a reaction towards the domination
of Catholic ideas the full restoration of the Faith by which Europe and all our
civilization can alone be saved.
It nearly always happens that when you get rid of one evil you find yourself
faced with another hitherto unsuspected; and so it is now with the breakdown of
the Protestant hegemony. We are entering a new phase, "The Modern Phase," as I
have called it, in which very different problems face the Eternal Church and a
very different enemy will challenge her existence and the salvation of the world
which depends upon her. What that modern phase is I shall now attempt to
1. How large this minority was at various dates_1625, 1660, 1685_is debatable,
and further confused by the use of similar words for dissimilar things. If we
are speaking of the English minority that was actively Catholic in tradition
though not fully agreed on Papal claims, people who would have called themselves
Catholic rather than Protestant, we have certainly half the population at
Elizabeth's death, but only an eighth at the exile of James II eighty-five years
later. If we mean all those who would have accepted without hostility a return
to the old religion we have, even at the end of 1688, a much larger body. It is
difficult to estimate, for men do not leave record of their vaguest
opinions, but to say that England still had one such person in four at that date
is no great exaggeration. I have given my reasons in my book on James II.
2. This districtseven out of the 16 Spanish
Netherland Provinces, have come to call Holland, after one province alone.
3. A minority till the last years of Elizabeth, but after 1606 an increasing
majority opposed the faith because by that time, opposition to the faith had
become identified with Patriotism.
4. What is called "Hitlerism" or "Nazism" today, whatever its future fate, is a
despotic and powerful control established by the Prussian spirit over all the
5. 1904 was the year of the diplomatic change by which England gave up her
age-long alliance with Protestant Prussia and began, with much misgiving and
against the grain, to support France.
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