Belloc & Jung: A Study of Contrasts

Author: Paul Likoudis


by Paul Likoudis

Throughout his long career as a journalist, historian, and Catholic polemicist, Hilaire Belloc assailed the German zeitgeist so powerful in his time.

To Belloc, German history was "a pack of lies." German philosophy "mud." And German science "myths."

Belloc, one could reasonably conclude after reading Richard Noll's fascinating study of Carl Jung and the intellectuals who formed him, was a master of understatement. When one reflects on that brew of bad science and worse philosophy which Jung and so many of his contemporaries consumed, one wonders how intelligent men could be so duped. The answer, of course, is that those who hate the Church will swallow anything.

It's a shame Jung didn't read Belloc.

No two men could have been more different than Jung and Belloc, though the years of their lives are almost the same. Belloc lived from 1870 to 1953, during which period he wrote more than 150 books, countless newspaper and magazine articles, and at least 800,000 letters to his friends.

Jung lived from 1875 to 1961, and he, too, left behind a mountain of writings. But there the similarities end.

Belloc was a Catholic to the very core of his being, and all his work was inspired by his deep love for the Catholic Church. Jung, at first a Lutheran, abandoned the Christianity of his parents for the occult, and all his work was motivated by his detestation of the Church.

How ironic that the former has been largely forgotten by American Catholics, while the one who rejected the Church with unbridled passion has become the guru of so many Catholics .

Both were brilliant men; both were infatuated with the past, and plunged into history to discover the "core" of their beings and the meaning of history.

Belloc, his biographers relate, marched incessantly across England, across Europe and North Africa, through the Alps and Pyrenees, and across the wastes of the Mideast, savoring the ancient towns, marveling at the work of his ancestors, literally touching history, trying to "connect" with the spirit that made Catholic Europe.

In one particular passage in , a history of the Roman Road between Winchester and Canterbury, Belloc reflects:

"For my part I desired to step exactly in the footprints of such ancestors. I believed that, as I followed their hesitations at the rivercrossings, as I climbed where they had climbed to a shrine from whence they also had seen a wide plain, as I suffered the fatigue they suffered, and laboriously chose, as they had chosen, the proper soils for going, something of their much keener life would wake again in the blood I drew from them and that in a sort I should forget the vileness of my own time, and renew for some few days the better freedom of that vigorous morning when men were already erect, articulate, and worshiping God, but not yet broken by complexity and the long accumulation of evil."

Jung, on the other hand, plunged into books: history, philosophy, religion, and science written by men who loved paganism and despised Christianity, particularly the Catholic Church. His search was for a scientific justification for incest, patricide, sodomy, sun-worship, and phallus worship, and what support he couldn't find in the works of his contemporary neopagan archaeologists, he sought to find by plumbing the unconscious through Eastern meditation techniques and ancient pagan rituals.

The experience Jung extolled was nothing but the experience of self-induced fantasies and visions.

Whereas Belloc sang loudly and proudly of the European peasant, the man who went to Mass, worked in his fields, lived above his cows and horse, and delighted in ordinary living and the common tasks of sowing and reaping, baking and brewing, all rooted in the traditions of his ancestors, Jung was obsessed with the idea of the "superman," the type who (as Noll describes him) would produce "a new elite that would revolutionize human culture and lead it to a new utopia"- a man to be made by reviving ancient occult practices.

Only a few 20th-century writers have come close to appreciating as much as Belloc did the utter necessity of religious faith and ritual, which to him meant the Roman Catholic faith and ritual, because what wasn't Catholic was pagan or, what is worse, neopagan. The Mass, the rosary, novenas, benedictions, and vespers were, to Belloc, gifts from God that kept a man balanced, on an even keel, and restrained the mind from indulging in fantasies. He lauded these practices of the faith in countless essays.

From a different perspective, Jung also appreciated faith and ritual, but his were of another variety: hypnotism, spiritism, seances, cults of Mithras and Dionysus, "liturgies" that unlocked the powers of darkness.

Both, as fin de siecle personalities, were concerned with the idea of social and personal renewal. Belloc believed the tired West could find it only in the faith and ritual of the Catholic Church. Jung thought it could be achieved only by rejecting 2,000 years of Christian morality.

Both alas, were prophets. Belloc saw clearly the impending arrival of the neopagan barbarian with his strange New Age religion concocted from the most vile myths of the pre-Christian Past.

The spirits Jung conjured up foul our personal and private world of the psyche, and the larger world without. The antidote is a healthy dose of Belloc, who, wrote Frederick Wilhelmsen in his masterly profile of him, (Sheed & Ward, 1953), "incarnated a sanity and a vigor that reached back to Chaucerian England and the Paris of Francois Villon for its roots.

"For this reason he has always irritated the advance guard of spiritual decay. He seems too confident of himself; too dogmatic. There is a healthy earthiness sustaining all his work that is too solid, too full of substance for the intellectual attuned only to broken men. Belloc has fed himself on reality, and he has tasted its bitterness and salt. He has affirmed being. In so doing, Belloc has accepted whatever can genuinely nourish and sustain the fabric of human existence. He is not starved.

"There is to be found in his work no trace of that sense of guilt in simply being a man that so defines the modern spirit. Belloc's Christian conscience is keenly aware of the limitations of human perfection, and his soul is soaked in a healthy conviction of the fact that sin has rendered us all more or less ugly in the sight of God. Belloc wrote once that 'man, being man, has a worm in his heart.' He penetrated into the reality of evil and his healthy realism and high integrity prevented him from surrounding sin with the glamour of a 'mystique.' Guilt, for Belloc, was the result of a failure in human nature; it was not rooted, as it is for the contemporary mind, in the very fabric of human existence. It is because of this that Belloc parts company with the contemporary mind, which is almost ashamed to be. Every other emotion, every shade of feeling and nuance of thought can be found within his vast literary output: irony, humor, a deep pathos that never degenerates into sentimentality, hate, piety, rigorous logic, a profound gravity that at times only Christian hope rescues from despair, tenderness, love; all these in abundance, but guilt-guilt in the mere fact of existence-is nowhere to be found, because Hilaire Belloc is, in every sense of the term, an unalienated man."

Wilhelmsen concluded his book with lines that speak poignantly to us 40 years later:

"Belloc can only echo the suppressed conscience of those millions of silent men-the men who bend over nets and who rest on their plows and who say nothing-the men who still bear within themselves the dreams and passions of Christendom: the love of one's own, the feel for the soil, the sense of arms, the hunger for certitude. Belloc speaks for the underground of Europe.

"In some future time, possibly not remote, when New Man will have exhausted himself attempting to escape his destiny, when he will have tried all the doors leading nowhere, when he will have sickened of paper humanisms, he may turn to the gnarled wisdom and the eternal youth of this last guardian of the West. If he does, he will learn what it means to be a man."

Oh, why would men learn from Jung when there is Belloc?

This article was taken from the January 5, 1995 issue of "The Wanderer," 201 Ohio Street, St. Paul, MN 55107, 612-224-5733. Subscription Price: $35.00 per year; six months $20.00.