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OUR CULTURE IS A FLAT EXPANSE OF RUBBLE

John Carroll’s irrational anti-humanism

Paul Monk

“Everything hinged on this. If Erasmus won, Christ was done for. The history of the next five hundred years would prove Luther right…Once reason is given an inch, the questioning begins, and there is no way to stop it. This is why Luther calls ‘Mistress Reason’ the ‘Devil’s whore’. She is seductive, deceiving, offering a moment of pleasure in order to seize the whole soul.”

- John Carroll (2004)[i]

“Not infrequently, Luther himself was bewildered by the new world he encountered, and his instincts in such moments were conservative.”

- John Dillenberger (1961)[ii]

“Objection, evasion, happy distrust, pleasure in mockery are signs of health: everything unconditional belongs in pathology.”

- Friedrich Nietzsche (1886)[iii]

John Carroll's The Wreck of Western Culture: Humanism Revisited (Scribe, 2004) is a very strange book. Its author believes he has ‘diagnosed what has gone wrong with Western culture’. The West has replaced faith with reason and has, in consequence, wrecked its culture.[iv] Things started to go wrong about 500 years ago and now “we live amidst the ruins of the great, five-hundred-year epoch of humanism”. To recover, he asserts, we must restore the authority of Christianity, since without Christ crucified there is nothing but death in store for us.

To see the past 500 years as an epoch of failure and decline within Western culture requires a heroic inversion of reality. Yet we can grant Carroll that some things are wrong, perhaps very seriously so, within Western culture. Many observers, from very different vantage points, have made a similar claim. One thinks, for instance, of Jacques Barzun[v], or Harold Bloom[vi], both teachers, as John Carroll is, and also prolific authors. Carroll’s diagnosis and prescription are other matters entirely.

The assertion that something is fundamentally wrong with Western culture is a commonplace. The ideological Left, whether Marxist, anarchist, anti-globalist or environmentalist, has asserted it for many decades. The ideological and religious Right has been prone to make it at least since the French Revolution. Metternich saw the decline as dating from the sixteenth century, because the invention of the printing press undermined ecclesiastical authority, while the invention of gunpowder and the conquest of the Americas undermined the old aristocratic order[vii].

Carroll belongs somewhere in this Metternichian tradition. With his insistent complaint that Western culture has lost its sources of authority and his appeal to some kind of ill-defined Christianity, he is certainly not a man of the Left. His renunciation of virtually the entire Western canon, from Erasmus and Shakespeare to Voltaire and Kant, Marx and Darwin makes him sound at times like a cardinal secretary of the Holy Office providing grounds for the prohibition of books. He calls Marx and Darwin ‘wreckers’, but comments that “There were, of course, hundreds of others in all cultural areas.”[viii] One wonders what would be done with libraries full of such humanist writings, or the works (or even the persons) of ‘wreckers’, in Carroll’s ideal Christian state.[ix]

Would he ban such works, as Plato, in the 4th century BCE, wanted to ban the old poets from his Republic? Carroll’s theological enthusiasm brings to mind the marvellous legend, judged by Edward Gibbon to be apocryphal, concerning the destruction of the great library at Alexandria. Asked by his general Amrou, who had captured the city, what to do with the vast collection of books, the Muslim Caliph Omar is said to have responded, “If these writings of the Greeks agree with the book of God, they are useless and need not be preserved; if they disagree, they are pernicious and ought to be destroyed.”[x]

Carroll does not advocate book burning, but his anti-humanism is so irrational that something like Omar’s legendary judgement is implicit in it. He asserts that things have been going fundamentally wrong for centuries, because we have strayed from collective belief in the God of the Bible. He asserts that we have so strayed because we relied on reason, instead of on faith.[xi] He asserts that all humanism is vitiated by the nihilism that follows from reliance on reason, so that humanism “was doomed from the start” and that it is now in ruins. He even sees the attack on New York by Muslim fanatics on September 11, 2001 as demonstrating the hollowness of humanism and precipitating its complete demise. I believe he is in error on every count.

The simplest response to his sweeping polemic would be to turn his own rejection of reason back on him. Reason, he asserts, is the root of the problem - give it an inch and there is no stopping it, Christian faith is done for. There is, of course, a rich Catholic tradition which takes a very different view of the matter. But consider that, having repudiated reason itself, he tries to reason us into agreeing with his interpretation of the last 500 years. That he does a bad job of this is the least of his problems. By his own account, he has no business even attempting the task. After all, either he (with Luther) is right and reason is the Devil’s whore, or else they are wrong, in which case the entire polemic against reason and humanism is misconceived.

It is Christ or reason, the “I Am” of the God of the Bible or the ‘‘I am’’ of the human individual, Carroll asserts[xii]. “The early men of the Renaissance were not aware that they would have to choose,” he comments. “They were Christians. The most instructive example, Erasmus himself, tried in his moderate Christian humanism to adapt his religion to the methods of the new secularism. It took Luther to smell a rat…When Luther said to Erasmus…‘You are not devout!’, he had, philosophically speaking, hit the nail on the head. He had prophesied the inevitable path of humanism once it had chained itself, as it must, to a belief in free will. This simple and direct, uncouth German peasant had told the most refined, best educated, wittiest and most eloquent man of his time, a man he admired, ‘You stand on nothing.’”[xiii]

This is Carroll’s most constant refrain: humanism stands on nothing - and that we have to have a place to stand. He asserts, with Luther, that the place to stand is unreasoning faith in Christ, which he freely describes as ‘the darkness of faith’. Yet he appears to expect either that we shall agree with him, because of the reasons he provides, or attempt to reason him out of his stand. He provides us with a superficially impressive display of knowledge, only to declare that “The path of knowledge leads in circles, spiralling down - into the heart of darkness.”[xiv]. If knowledge leads us inexorably on such a downward spiral, why does he take us on that path? But if, as he seems to imply by his use of it, knowledge can lead to enlightening insights, why does he assert that it leads only to the heart of darkness?

In short, we could dismiss Carroll out of hand, because of his radical intellectual incoherence. But consider the case he makes that the past 500 years have seen a rebellion against Christianity, with the consequence that our whole culture is now in ruins. For if such a case could plausibly be made, even if Carroll himself made it badly, and even though he undermines his own case by repudiating reason and knowledge, it would be useful to respond to it. Otherwise, we run the risk of a Christian counterpart to Islamism arising in our midst, based on the proposition that ours is an apostate culture and must be overturned in the name of revealed truth.[xv]

Throughout his book, Carroll seems to imagine himself to be presiding over the funeral of ‘Caesar’, by which he fairly clearly means modern humanism. “A requiem must be sung,” he writes in his Prologue, “one that gets the story right, in all its magnificence and its meanness. We come less to honour Caesar than to bury him, that there be no mistaking that he is dead, that we understand him so as not to choose him again.”[xvi] This is, surely, not merely an appropriation of Shakespeare’s famous setting of the funeral of Caesar, but also a deliberate inversion of celebrated passages in Hegel, Heine[xvii] and Nietzsche which proclaimed the death of God. But what does he mean by getting the story right?

He means, if I have understood him at all, telling the truth about the history of ideas from Pico della Mirandola and William Shakespeare to Sigmund Freud, Joseph Conrad and Marcel Duchamp. He also means telling the truth about the consequences of those ideas in the ‘real world’ - the world of material life and social institutions. He thinks he knows the truth in both cases and can rationally compel us to agree with him. He has, of course, no place to stand in this regard. But that aside, the story he tells is unconvincing.

The truth in the first case, he argues, is that humanism’s idea of the self-sufficiency of the human individual is negated by the reality of death. “Without God, without a transcendental law, there is only death,” he declares.[xviii] This is quite a characteristic statement by Carroll, but we have to work hard to ascertain what, precisely, he means by it. His interpretation of Holbein’s The Ambassadors and Shakespeare’s Hamlet suggests that he means, without God, life is futile, because it ends in death[xix]. He places particular emphasis on Hamlet in this regard. Shakespeare, “the greatest of all humanists”,[xx] he writes, was the principal teacher of the futility of humanism and Hamlet “the hub of Shakespeare’s whole work”.[xxi]

Hamlet is death obsessed, Carroll suggests, and is “obliteratingly alone”.[xxii] His dilemmas are those of the humanist individual and modern humanism has been obsessed with him. “Hamlet, Hamlet and Hamlet again - the West would come to know it by heart,” he writes.[xxiii] Harold Bloom has a similar view of the importance of Shakespeare and of Hamlet. He even agrees with Carroll that Hamlet’s fierce intelligence leads him to nihilism.[xxiv] But Bloom has a far wider and less theologically frantic perspective on what we can learn from the great play and its central character. His view of our fate as mortal beings is elegiac. Carroll’s might be called Elijiac, since he seems, like Elijah, to be bent on slaying the priests of Baal - the ‘wreckers’ of culture.[xxv] More generally, Carroll completely fails to address the question of why Christianity is any better a response to the reality of death than are any number of other sets of beliefs.

 It is with regard to material life and social institutions, however, that Carroll most exposes how tendentious his interpretation of both past and present really is. In his Preface, he states that The Wreck of Western Culture: Humanism Revisited “has given stronger acknowledgement to the achievements of liberal democracy” than did his 1993 book, Humanism: The Wreck of Western Culture. He states:

“Humanism succeeded in building its city of light…The wreck of humanist culture is in stark contrast to the physical edifice that its drive to know, channeled into science and technology, and applied in factories, has produced. Humanism’s lasting achievement has been industrial civilization and its brilliant triumph over most of the trials inflicted by age-old necessity: poverty, starvation, disease and brute labor…Who in their right mind would give up clean water, sanitation and sewers, antibiotics, reliable supplies of varied foodstuffs, civic police, the jumbo jet, computers and skyscrapers in exchange for what came before - the filth, contagion and stench of medieval Europe?”[xxvi]

Given his repudiation of reason and knowledge as futile and as leading to the heart of darkness, this acknowledgement of the benefits of Western culture borders on the hilarious.

It brings to mind the celebrated scene in Monty Python’s The Life of Brian, in which Reg (John Cleese), leader of the Judean People’s Front, asks his fellow malcontents “What have the Romans ever done for us?” One after another, the others mention things the Romans have (allegedly) actually introduced to Judea: the aqueduct, sanitation, roads, irrigation, medicine, education, wine, public baths, public order and peace. The retort of an irritated Reg is classic, “Yeah, alright, fair enough…Alright, but apart from sanitation, the public baths, education, wine, public order, the roads, the fresh water supply and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us??”[xxvii] In the case of Monty Python, the list of benefits brought by Rome is inaccurate in various respects, but Carroll’s list of the benefits of modern humanism is perfectly accurate and could easily be extended. This makes it all the more bemusing that he takes the stand he does.

One could argue with Carroll endlessly about his various observations, but there is little point. He is lost in the labyrinth of the past and we need not chase him there[xxviii]. For his assertion that humanism stands on nothing is empty. It is a mere metaphysical conceit. What humanism has, in fact, done is to open up the world to our understanding in ways never even remotely approximated by religious ‘revelation’. Has it wrecked our culture in the process? Not compared with anything before 1500[xxix]. On the contrary, it has made available to countless millions of people the riches of human culture across all the ages.[xxx] This has put a great deal, including Carroll’s kind of Christian fundamentalism, into the melting pot, but it has no more wrecked Western culture than the cosmopolitanism of Athens and Rome ‘wrecked’ archaic Mediterranean culture.

All that said, there are more interesting speculations on the condition and possible fate of Western culture, and even human civilisation as a whole, than Carroll’s. One of them is a little book written more than 30 years ago by Carroll’s own mentor, George Steiner - In Bluebeard’s Castle. Steiner ruminated on the possibility that scientific humanism would open up too much knowledge and bring self-destruction on humanity in the process. What he did not do was to quail at this thought and try to take refuge in some unreasoning and atavistic form of religion. He allowed at least two possible responses: stoic acquiescence or a “Nietzschean gaiety in the face of the inhuman, the tensed, ironic perception that we are, that we always have been, precarious guests in an indifferent, frequently murderous, but always fascinating world.”[xxxi]

Carroll has failed to rise even to the level of his mentor, in allowing that there is more than one possible way to respond to how the world looks, at what Steiner dubbed “this cruel, late stage in Western affairs”.[xxxii] Yet even Steiner could have allowed other possibilities. There is no self-evident reason to believe that the stage we are at in Western or human affairs is either especially cruel or ‘late’. St Augustine believed he lived in the senescence of the world.[xxxiii] We have far more reason to believe that, God or Nature permitting, we stand on the cusp of extraordinary possibilities[xxxiv]. Death does not make any of these futile. On the contrary, it gives them their savour and their magnificence.


[i] John Carroll The Wreck of Western Culture: Humanism Revisited, Scribe, Melbourne, 2004, pp. 53-55.

[ii] John Dillenberger Martin Luther: Selections From His Writings, Anchor Books, Doubleday & Co., New York, 1961, Introduction, p. xii.

[iii] Friedrich Nietzsche Beyond Good and Evil, ‘Maxims and Interludes’ #154, translated by R. J. Hollingdale, Penguin, 1973, p. 85. Consider, also, Nietzsche’s remarks, in his famous polemic against Christianity, The Antichrist (1888): “Truth has had to be fought for every step of the way, almost everything else dear to our hearts, on which our love and our trust in life depend, has had to be sacrificed to it. Greatness of soul is needed for it: the service of truth is the hardest service. For what does it mean to be honest in intellectual things? That one is stern towards one’s heart, that one despises ‘fine feelings’, that one makes every Yes and No a question of conscience! - Belief makes blessed: consequently it lies…” #50. Or again: “One should not let oneself be misled: great intellects are skeptics…Convictions are prisons…The believer is not free to have a conscience at all over the question ‘true’ and ‘false’: to be honest on this point would mean his immediate destruction. The pathological conditionality of his perspective makes of the convinced man a fanatic - Savonarola, Luther, Rousseau, Robespierre, Saint-Simon - the antithetical type of the strong, emancipated spirit. But the larger than life attitudes of these sick spirits, these conceptual epileptics, impresses the great masses - fanatics are picturesque, mankind would rather see gestures than listen to reasons…”. #54.

[iv] John Carroll The Wreck of Western Culture: Humanism Revisited, Scribe, Melbourne, 2004, Prologue, p. 1.

[v] Jacques Barzun From Dawn to Decadence: 1500 to the Present, Harper Collins, New York, 2000, 877 pp.

[vi] Harold Bloom The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages, Harcourt, Brace and Co., New York, San Diego and London, 1994, 578 pp. and Where Shall Wisdom Be Found?, Riverhead Books, New York, 2004, 284 pp. In an interview following publication of The Western Canon, Bloom remarked “I am aware that I am fighting a rear-guard action and that the war is over and we have lost.” Newsweek 7 November 1994, p. 62.

[vii] Henry Kissinger, in his study of the Congress of Vienna, rather curiously, extolled what he called Metternich’s ‘lucid and powerful’ worldview. “Up to the sixteenth century, Metternich maintained, the forces of conservation and of destruction had been in an increasingly spontaneous balance. But then there occurred three events which, in time, caused civilization to be supplanted by violence and order by chaos; the invention of printing and of gunpowder and the discovery of America. Printing facilitated the exchange of ideas, which thereby became vulgarized; the invention of gunpowder changed the balance between offensive and defensive weapons; and the discovery of America transformed the situation, both materially and psychologically. The influx of precious metals produced a sudden change in the value of landed property, which is the foundation of a conservative order, and the prospect of rapid fortunes brought about a spirit of adventure and a dissatisfaction with existing conditions. And then the Reformation completed the process by overturning the moral world and exalting man above the forces of history.” A World Restored: The Politics of Conservatism in a Revolutionary Age, Universal Library, Grosset and Dunlap, New York, 1964, p. 201.

[viii] John Carroll The Wreck of Western Culture: Humanism Revisited, Scribe, Melbourne, 2004, p. 162.

[ix] One thing which springs to mind in this context is the notorious Syllabus of Errors promulgated by Pope Pius IX (1792-1878, Pope 1846-1878), in December 1864 - 140 years ago. In it, the Pope denounced 80 common ideas of the Enlightenment as “errors”. It would be of interest to ask Carroll which of these ideas he, too, would denounce as errors and which of them he would endorse against the teaching of the Vatican. They included the following: “14. Philosophy is to be treated without taking any account of supernatural revelation; 15. Every man is free to embrace and profess that religion which, guided by the light of reason, he shall consider true; 18. Protestantism is nothing more than another form of the same true Christian religion in which form it is given to please God equally as in the Catholic Church; 21. The Catholic Church has not the power of defining dogmatically that the religion of the Catholic Church is the only true religion; 23. Roman pontiffs and ecumenical councils have wandered outside the limits of their powers, have usurped the rights of princes, and have even erred in defining matters of faith and morals; 55. The Church ought to be separated from the state and the state from the Church; 76. The abolition of the temporal power of which the Holy See is possessed would contribute in the greatest degree to the liberty and prosperity of the Church; 77. In the present day it is no longer expedient that the Catholic religion should be held as the only religion of the state, to the exclusion of all other forms of worship; 80. The Roman Pontiff can and ought to reconcile himself and come to terms with progress, liberalism and modern civilization.” Walter Kaufmann Religion From Tolstoy to Camus, Harper Torchbooks, New York, 1961, 1964, pp. 163-170.

[x] Edward Gibbon The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Everyman Library, J. M. Dent and Sons, London, 1969, Volume 5, pp. 345-46. Gibbon rejected the story on several grounds: that it was not related by the Christian sources one would expect to have testified to it; that such an action would have been contrary to Muslim practice, which was that “works of profane science, historians or poets, physicians or philosophers, may be lawfully applied to the use of the faithful”; and that there is evidence of gradual destruction of the library by Roman or Christian actions centuries before Amrou’s armies stormed the city, in 638 CE. He went on to observe: “I sincerely regret the more valuable libraries which have been involved in the ruin of the Roman empire; but when I seriously compute the lapse of ages, the waste of ignorance, and the calamities of war, our treasures, rather than our losses, are the object of my surprise.” (p. 347). For a brief history of the library of Alexandria, see Luciano Canfora The Vanished Library, Vintage, London, 1991, 205 pp.

[xi] For a careful reflection on the struggle between the darkness of faith and the uses of reason in the millennium and a half before Erasmus and Luther, see Charles Freeman The Closing of the Western Mind: The Rise of Faith and the Fall of Reason William Heinemann, London, 2002, 470 pp. It is well worth reading, also, Richard E. Rubinstein’s Aristotle’s Children, Harcourt Inc, 2003, 368 pp.

[xii] For a very different understanding of who ‘Christ’ actually was - one which relies on painstaking scholarship and reasoning and which puts in serious question all Christian claims about the man from Galilee, see Geza Vermes The Authentic Gospel of Jesus, Allen Lane, Penguin, 2003, 446 pp. Vermes is of Hungarian origin and is Professor Emeritus of Jewish Studies at Oxford University, as well as director of the Forum for Qumran Research of the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies. This is his fifth book on Jesus. He remarks, in his Prologue: “Acting as a sympathetic historian and discarding denominational biases, both the deification of Jesus by Christians and his traditional Jewish caricature as an apostate, a magician and an enemy of the people of Israel, I have simply tried to put the record straight and to reconstruct a genuine likeness of Yeshua, son of Joseph of the Galilean townlet of Nazareth.” He adds that his wife “has greatly helped to improve the clarity and logic of the presentation of the book by applying to it the trained mind of an experimental scientist.” John Carroll could do with such a companion.

[xiii] Carroll op. cit. p. 4.

[xiv] Ibid p. 199.

[xv] David Daniell dedicates his superb work of humane scholarship, The Bible in English (Yale University Press, 2003, 899 pp) “To the memory of William Tyndale, ?1494-1536, translator of genius, martyred for giving English readers the Bible from the original languages.” The freedom to inquire and not merely accept ecclesiastical authority or some kind of literalist ‘revelation’ was hard won and Western culture would, indeed, be wrecked if this freedom was to be undermined.

[xvi] Ibid p. 2.

[xvii] In his History of Religion and Philosophy in Germany, published in 1834, Heine wrote: "We will speak of this catastrophe, the downfall of deism, in the next instalment. A strange misgiving, a mysterious reverence, forbids us to write further today. We are rent with the most terrible pity. It is Jehovah himself who is preparing for his death. We have known him so well, from his cradle onwards in Egypt, where he was brought up amidst divine calves, and crocodiles, sacred onions, ibises and cats. We saw him say farewell to the play-fellows of his childhood, and to the obelisks and sphinxes of his native Nile valley to become a little god-king in Palestine to a tribe of poor shepherd folk where he lived in a palace of his own. We saw him later coming into contact with the Assyrian and Babylonian civilizations and putting off his all-too human passions [a title later used by Nietzsche]; no longer fulminating wrath and revenge at every turn, or at least not thundering about every paltry trifle. We saw him emigrate to Rome, the capital, where he renounced all his national prejudices and proclaimed the divine equality of all peoples, and organized an opposition against Jupiter with such fine phrases and went on intriguing so long that at last he came into power and reigned over the city and the world-urbem et orbem-from the Capitol. We saw him becoming more and more spiritual; whimpering tenderly, a loving father, a friend of humanity, a universal benefactor, a philanthropist at the last. And nothing could save him. Do you hear the passing bell? Kneel down. They are bringing the sacraments to a dying god." My friend Chris Coffmann drew this particular passage to my attention.

[xviii] Carroll op. cit, p. 32.

[xix] Ibid. p. 33: “The pursuit of knowledge is futile. What is the point if it provides no defence against the skull? Plotting the motion of the stars will not help to provide direction in life. Playing the lute will not soothe raw nerves once the whiff of a corpse has penetrated the nostrils, not unless the music intimates a greater frame, one within which the human individual can stand. The greatest of all humanist institutions, the university, is a mausoleum of dead ideas, a rattling of dry bones. Its teaching is incapable of reaching out to hold the hand through the darkness. Holbein has put it with brutal simplicity: there is no humanist solution. The most learned men have no answer to death. Once faith is gone, fate is reduced to necessity - and the ultimate necessity is death.”

[xx] Ibid. p. 45.

[xxi] Ibid. p. 38.

[xxii] Ibid. p. 43.

[xxiii] Ibid p. 50.

[xxiv] Harold Bloom Hamlet: Poem Unlimited, Riverhead Books, New York, 2003, 154 pp.

[xxv] 1 Kings 18:40 “And Elijah said unto them, ‘Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape.’ And they took them: and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there.” Holy Bible: King James Version, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1979, p. 499.

[xxvi] Carroll op. cit. p. 8.

[xxvii] Monty Python’s Life of Brian, Handmade Films, 1979, directed by Terry Jones. DVD Criterion Collection 1999.

[xxviii] “Few are made for independence - it is a privilege of the strong. And he who attempts it, having the completest right to it, but without being compelled to it, thereby proves that he is probably not only strong but also daring to the point of recklessness. He ventures into a labyrinth, he multiplies by a thousand the dangers which life as such already brings with it, not the smallest of which is that no-one can behold how and where he goes astray, is cut off from others and is torn to pieces limb from limb by some cave minotaur of conscience. If such a one is destroyed, it takes place so far from the understanding of men that they neither feel it nor sympathize - and he can no longer go back! He can no longer go back even to the pity of men!” Friedrich Nietzsche Beyond Good and Evil, Penguin, 1973, #29, p. 42. I quote this aphorism of Nietzsche’s here not because it applies directly to John Carroll, but because it is worth pondering in regard to the difficulties and dangers of any quest for serious knowledge about the human condition and the nature of existential reality.

[xxix] The work of Norman Cohn offers rich insights into the religious culture and psychology of pre-1500 Europe. He draws particular attention to the roots of apocalyptic thinking and fear of demons and witches in both Biblical and popular religion. See his The Pursuit of the Millennium (Paladin, 1970), Europe’s Inner Demons  (Paladin, 1975) and Cosmos, Chaos and the World to Come (Yale Nota Bene, Yale University Press, 2001). Clearly and unfortunately, apocalyptic beliefs did not end in 1500. They have persisted down to the present, in all manner of sects and cults, but their seed bed is the Bible and especially enthusiastic, ‘darkness of faith’ readings of it.

[xxx] Consider the rich survey of religious belief, art and ethics in the work of the humanist philosopher Walter Kaufmann, for instance. His Religions in Four Dimensions: Existential, Aesthetic, Historical, Comparative (Readers Digest Press, New York, 1976), is far more enlightening and inspiring than any dogmatic scholarship of which I am aware. His Critique of Philosophy and Religion (Princeton University Press, 1978) is a quiet classic. But something like Roy Rappaport’s Ritual and Religion in the Making of Humanity (Cambridge University Press, 1999) is only possible because of humanistic scholarship and demonstrably transcends the dogmatic claims of any particular religion.

[xxxi] George Steiner In Bluebeard’s Castle, Faber and Faber, London, 1971, p. 106.

[xxxii] Ibid. loc. cit.

[xxxiii] “Augustine thought of himself as living in the Sixth, the last, the old Age of the World. He thought of this not as a man living under the shadow of an imminent event; but rather, with the sadness of one for whom nothing new could happen. All that needed to be said had been said: a man is old at sixty, Augustine thought; even if he drags on, as some had done, to one hundred and twenty. It is futile to calculate the end of the world: for even the shortest spell of time would seem too long for those who yearned for it.” Peter Brown Augustine of Hippo, Faber and Faber, London, 1967, p. 296.

[xxxiv] “With the strength of his spiritual sight and insight the distance and as it were the space around man continually expands: his world grows deeper, ever new stars, ever new images and enigmas come into view. Perhaps everything on which the spirit’s eye has exercised its profundity and acuteness has been really but an opportunity for its exercise, a game, something for children and the childish. Perhaps the most solemn concepts which have occasioned the most strife and suffering, the concepts ‘God’ and ‘sin’, will one day seem to us of no more importance than a child’s toy and a child’s troubles seem to an old man - and perhaps ‘old man’ will then have need of another toy and other troubles - still enough of a child, an eternal child!” Friedrich Nietzsche Beyond Good and Evil, Penguin, 1973, #57, p. 64.