The Great Heresies

The Great Heresies

Hilaire Belloc

Table of Contents

Introduction: Heresy

Scheme of This Book

The Arian Heresy

The Great and Enduring Heresy of Mohammed

The Albigensian Attack

What Was the Reformation?

The Modern Phase


What is a heresy, and what is the historical importance of such a

Like most modern words, "Heresy" is used both vaguely and
diversely. 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 fifty things.

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 understood.

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 life.

We must begin by a definition, although definition involves a
mental effort and therefore repels.

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 behaviour
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[1] 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 marvellous 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

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
marvellous but not found in any other document, may be accepted as

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 marvellous, 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
they retain."

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 "Heresy."

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 sceptics,
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 favour 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 sceptical 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

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 something other.

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 definition.

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 destroyed.

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

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

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."



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
essential morals and essential doctrine. This institution calls
itself the Catholic Church.

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

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.) is to be found affirmed through preceding
centuries, up to a little before the 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 of doctrine has been affirmed has been from the outset a
body of men bound by a certain tradition through which they
claimed to have the authority in question.

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 is still made; the other the credibility of that

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 not affect its historical existence. The claim has
been made and continues to be made, and those who make it are in
unbroken continuity with those who made it in the beginning. They
form, collectively, the organism which called 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
existence continued assaults. There have been denials of its
claim. There have been denials of this or that section of its
doctrines. There has been the attempted replacing of these by
other doctrines. Even attempted destruction 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

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 would have failed; and with its failure would have
followed the break-down of that 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
authority by attacking the full Divinity of her Founder. But it
did much more, because its underlying motive was a rationalizing
of the mystery upon which the church bases herself: the Mystery of
the Incarnation. Arianism was essentially a revolt against the
difficulties attaching to mysteries as a whole though expressing
itself as an attack on the chief mystery only. Arianism was a
typical example on the largest scale of that reaction against the
supernatural which, when it is fully developed, withdraws from
religion 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, strictly speaking, a new religion attacking the old, it was
essentially a heresy; but from the circumstances of its birth it
was a heresy alien rather than intimate. It threatened to kill the
Christian Church by invasion rather than to undermine it from

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 the Universe; the conception that that good and evil are ever
struggling as equals, and that Omnipotent Power is neither single
nor beneficient. Closely intertwined with this idea and
inseparable from it was the conception that matter is evil and
that all pleasure, especially of the body, is evil. This form of
attack, of which I say the Albigensian was the most notorious and
came nearest to success, was rather an attack upon morals than
upon doctrine; it had the character of a cancer fastening upon the
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 a malignant 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 at creating 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 the old sense of the word-
that is, an infallible, united, teaching body, a Person speaking
with Divine authority-should be denied; not the doctrines it might
happen to advance, but its very claim to advance them with unique
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 the fundamental conception that the
Church is not a visible, definable and united personality, that
there is no central infallible authority, and that 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
Protestant temperament through certain historical associations;
but there is no one doctrine nor set of doctrines which can be
affirmed as being the kernel of Protestantism. Its essential
remains the rejection of unity through authority.

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 old Greek word "alogos"; but that would have seemed
pedantic. And yet it is a pity to have to reject it, for it
admirably describes by implication the quarrel 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 themselves
Christians, the Divinity of Christ. They were said to do so from
lack of "wit," in the sense of "fullness of comprehension,"
"largeness of apprehension." Men felt about this kind of
rationalism as normal people feel about a colour-blind man.

One might also have chosen the term "Positivism," seeing that the
modern movement relies upon the distinction between things
positively proved by experiment and things accepted upon other
grounds; but the term "Positivism" has already a special
connotation and to use it would have been 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 by repeated trial. What are generally called `religious
affirmations' are, always <presumably>, sometimes <demonstrably>,
illusions. The idea of God itself and all that follows on it is
man-made and a figment of the imagination." This is the attack
which has superseded all the older ones, which is now gaining
ground so rapidly and whose votaries feel (as did in their 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 the assault 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 later to 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. But the main kinds of attack would seen
to be exhausted by the list which history has hitherto presented.
We have had examples of heresy, working from without and forming a
new world in that fashion, of which Islam is the great example. We
have had examples of heresy at work attacking the root of the
Faith, the Incarnation, and specializing upon that-of which
Arianism was the great example. We have had the growth of the
foreign body from within, the Albigenses, and all their Manichean
kindred before and after them. We have had the attack on the
personality, that is the unity, of the Church-which is
Protestantism. And we now behold, even as Protestantism is dying,
the rise and growth of yet another form of conflict-the proposal
to treat all transcendental affirmation as illusion. It would seem
as though the future could hold no more than the repetition of
these forms.

The Church might thus be regarded as a citadel presenting a
certain number of faces between the angles of its defences, 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 last

form the list would seem exhausted. If or when that last danger is
dissipated, the next can only appear after some fashion of which
we have already 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 upon the life of the Catholic Church as are the heresies;
the greatest schism of all, the Greek or Orthodox, which has
produced the Greek or Orthodox communion, is manifestly a
disruption of our strength. Yet I think that the various forms of
attack on the Church by way of heretical doctrine are in a
different category from the schisms. No doubt a schism commonly
includes a heresy, and no doubt certain heresies have attempted to
plead that we should be reconciled with them, as we might be with
a schism. But though the two evils commonly appear in company, yet
each is of a separate 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.



Arianism was the first of the great heresies.

There had been from the foundation of the Church at Pentecost A.D.
29[1] to 33 a mass of heretical movements filling the first three
centuries. They had turned, nearly all of them, upon the nature of

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 affair.

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 close companions 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 indefinitely.

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 honour 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 honour 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 the supernatural for granted.
But it spoke of our Lord as a Supreme Agent of God-a 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
Infinite and 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

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 savour 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 neighbourhood of
Lourdes where Calvinism, once prevalent there, is now dead,
understand the savour 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
savour, we cannot be said to <know> it really at all.

Further, one must understand this savour 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

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 "New Rome." 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.[2]

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 defence. 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 society.

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 moment.

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

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 defence 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 Army.

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 hundred years-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 no question 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. <Now the army went solidly

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 their chief officers.

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 severence 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 favour, 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 themselves.

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 power.

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 favour 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
vigour 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 overwhelmed.

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 first onslaught. 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 savour 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 use 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 intolerable.

"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 fanatical."

That is what the official world tended to put forward and honestly

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

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 Empire.

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 the people 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 Catholicism.

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 world-fell.

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 permanently,

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

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

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 favour 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) favoured 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 their grievances.

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 the East.

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 life.

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 world.

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

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 practically independent.

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 Visi-gothic 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 issue with 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 anti-Catholicism.

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 their Arianism.

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 Roman general 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 Christians.

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 the millions 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
Arian generals 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 harbours and public buildings and keep order and do all the
rest of public work.

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 and
central 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 Reformers.

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.


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 indefinite

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 centre 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 Emperor.

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, though they 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

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

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, who
would 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.[1]

But the central point where this new heresy struck home with a
mortal blow against Catholic tradition was a full denial of the

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

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

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

Now, why did this new, simple, energetic heresy have its sudden
overwhelming success?

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

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 the slave 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 victory.

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 pursued its 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 splendour 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 than any 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; the central
capital of one vast society, giving its tone to all the lands from
the Indian borders to Egypt and beyond.

But even more remarkable than the flooding of all near Asia with
Mohammedanism in one lifetime was the wealth and splendour 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 focussed 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 splendour 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 was the one heresy that nearly destroyed
Christendom through its early material and intellectual

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 centres. 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 centred 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 splendour 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 Mesopotamia did was
to replace all that by a simple, straight system of tribute.

What ever was not Mohammedan in the immense Mohammedan Empire-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 directed.

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
to us.

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 Mohammedanism.

All the great heresies-save this one of Mohammedanism-seem to go
through the same phases.

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 special appeal.

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 movement.

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 Capitalism" today,
whereby civilization is now imperilled 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 heresy.

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 apparently <unconvertible>.

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 travelled 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 out.

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 carefully noticed:

(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 external.

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

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 Venice.

It was this recruitment of Mongol bodyguards in successive
instalments 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 defence 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
Mohammedanism had 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 of Mohammedanism.

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

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 centre 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 threat.

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; pagan pirates 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 Saone, 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
centre 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 imperilled 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 Sepulchre-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 arrive.

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 won.

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 religion.

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 centuries.

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 harbour
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 the bulwark 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 paralysing the
central authority of the German Emperors. They had to compromise
with the leaders of 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

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 centred 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 still immensely 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

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 vigour. 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 what has been for more than a
thousand years its greatest opponent.

Why this conviction should have arisen in the minds of certain
observers and travellers, 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-and reappear 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 paralysed 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 up business 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

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 world?

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

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 old-fashioned patriotism.

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

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 vigour 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
splitting up 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

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[2]; 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 favoured
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 Islam.

It would seem as though the Great Heresies were granted an effect
proportionate to the lateness of their appearance in the story of

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 splendour. 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, from the 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 had made.

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

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.



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 Heresy."

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 most clearly 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

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 kind?

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 death?

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 die>?"

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 pretence, 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 favourite 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 Saviour) 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 among us.

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 centres,
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

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 [1]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 vigour 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 place.

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 time already 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 vigour 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

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 wide district 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 had wandered 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
favour 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 Count of 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 favoured the
movement, as many another heretical movement has been favoured
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 clamour 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 imperilled 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-a
small but fortified place called Monfort, one long day's march on
the 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
ancestral lordship.

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 fighting.

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

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 count with 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 was.)

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 peril which 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.



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 savour: that which we call
"Protestantism" today.

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 vigour 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

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 harbour 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 excrescences, 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
defence 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 what not.

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 re-
ligious 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. The active
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.[1] 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
hostile camps.

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 into the, 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 scepticism, 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- Catholic.

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 Luther's outbreak.

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 to take 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

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 Papacy 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

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 old

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

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 much despair.

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 favourite 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 programme. 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 African shores, 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 defence 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 day.

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

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 Catholic.

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 unity.

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 clamour 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

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 reform.

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 ideas.

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
clamour, 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 Reformers.

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 follows:-

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 more important, 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 an 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 counter-Church.

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 paralysing Free

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." Groups arose 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.[2] 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 conflict.

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

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.[3]

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 but a 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 Spanish allies, just when
victory was in their grasp.

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 marvelled 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.[4]

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 greed>.

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 with the 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 <locum-tenens> 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 doctrine.

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 centre 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

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 Netherlands.

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 many prosperous 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 get 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 exaggerated."

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 fervour on both
sides, but in a subtle, undeclared way it was more and more
subordinated to worldly motives, especially to patriotism and

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 in the
Protestant culture more thoroughly than in the Catholic, and its
dissolution released energies which Catholicism had restrained,
especially the energy of competition.

All forms of innovation were naturally more favoured 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 triumphed.

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

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 spirit flourished vigorously
among the Dutch and English, and the universal admission of
competition continued to favour 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 huge dominions over-
seas, the splendid French Monarchy-yet the future was with the
Protestants, Protestantism, to use the modern phrase, was "making

Moreover confidence was on the Protestant side, and the Catholic
side was disheartened. One last factor was greatly in favour 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 sceptic 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
scepticism were commonplaces. Men took them for granted. They led
less and less to personal animosities and civil division.

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 false philosophy.

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

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

The Protestant culture was untroubled by this growth of
scepticism. 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 anti-

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

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 judgment.

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

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

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 white

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 hands.

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 to

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 apparent.

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

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,[5] 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

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 Western Europe.

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 great r1le 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 civilization.

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

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 vigour 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

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 sceptical 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 Jewish folklore, 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

It questioned the authenticity of the four Gospels, particularly
the two written by eyewitnesses 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 labelled 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 association.

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 own.

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 favourite-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 civilization these 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 analyse.


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 district-seven 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 Reich.

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.



We approach the greatest moment of all.

The Faith is now in the presence not of a particular heresy as in
the past-the Arian, the Manichean, the Albigensian, the
Mohammedan-nor is it in the presence of a sort of generalized
heresy as it was when it had to meet the Protestant revolution
from three to four hundred years ago. The enemy which the Faith
now has to meet, and which may be called "The Modern Attack," is a
wholesale assault upon the fundamentals of the Faith-upon the very
existence of the Faith. And the enemy now advancing against us is
increasingly conscious of the fact that there can be no question
of neutrality. The forces now opposed to the Faith design to
<destroy>. The battle is henceforward engaged upon a definite line
of cleavage, involving the survival or destruction of the Catholic
Church. And <all>-not a portion-of its philosophy.

We know, of course, that the Catholic Church cannot be destroyed.
But what we do not know is the extent of the area over which it
will survive; its power of revival or the power of the enemy to
push it further and further back on to its last defences until it
may seem as though anti-Christ had come and the final issue was
about to be decided. Of such moment is the struggle immediately
before the world.

To many who have no sympathy with Catholicism, who inherit the old
Protestant animosity to the Church (although doctrinal
Protestantism is now dead) and who think that any attack on the
Church must somehow or other be a good thing, the struggle already
appears as a coming or present attack on what they call

You will find people saying on every side that the Bolshevist
movement (for instance) is "definitely anti-Christian"--"opposed
to every form of Christianity"-and must be "resisted by all
Christians irrespective of the particular Church to which each may
belong," and so on.

Speech and writing of this kind are futile because they mean
nothing definite. There is no such thing as a religion called
"Christianity"-there never has been such a religion.

There is and always has been the Church, and various heresies
proceeding from a rejection of some of the Church's doctrines by
men who still desire to retain the rest of her teaching and
morals. But there never has been and never can be or will be a
general Christian religion professed by men who all accept some
central important doctrines, while agreeing to differ about
others. There has always been, from the beginning, and will always
be, the Church, and sundry heresies either doomed to decay, or,
like Mohammedanism, to grow into a separate religion. Of a common
Christianity there has never been and never can be a definition,
for it has never existed.

There is no essential doctrine such that if we can agree upon it
we can differ about the rest: as for instance, to accept
immortality but deny the Trinity. A man will call himself a
Christian though he denies the unity of the Christian Church; he
will call himself a Christian though he denies the presence of
Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament; he will cheerfully call
himself a Christian though he denies the Incarnation.

No; the quarrel is between the Church and the anti-Church-the
Church of God and anti-God-the Church of Christ and anti-Christ.

The truth is becoming every day so much more obvious that within a
few years it will be universally admitted. I do not entitle the
modern attack "anti-Christ"-though in my heart I believe that to
be the true term for it: No, I do not give it that name because it
would seem for the moment exaggerated. But the name doesn't
matter. Whether we call it "The Modern Attack" or "anti-Christ" it
is all one; there is a clear issue now joined between the
retention of Catholic morals, tradition, and authority on the one
side, and the active effort to destroy them on the other. The
modern attack will not tolerate us. It will attempt to destroy us.
Nor can we tolerate it. We must attempt to destroy it as being the
fully equipped and ardent enemy of the Truth by which men live.
The duel is to the death.

Men sometimes call the modern attack "a return to Paganism." That
definition is true if we mean by paganism a denial of Catholic
truth: if we mean by Paganism a denial of the Incarnation, of
human immortality, of the unity and personality of God, of man's
direct responsibility to God, and all that body of thought,
feeling, doctrine and culture which is summed up in the word
"Catholic," then, and in that sense, the modern attack is a return
to Paganism.

But there is more than one Paganism. There was a Paganism out of
which we all came-the noble, civilized Paganism of Greece and
Rome. There was the barbaric Paganism of the outer savage tribes,
German, Slavonic and the rest. There is the degraded Paganism of
Africa, the alien and despairing Paganism of Asia. Now since, from
all of these, it has been found possible to draw men towards the
universal Church, any new Paganism rejecting the Church now known
would certainly be quite unlike the Paganisms to which the Church
was or is unknown.

A man going uphill may be at the same level as another man going
down hill; but they are facing different ways and have different
destinies. Our world, passing out of the old Paganism of Greece
and Rome towards the consummation of Christendom and a Catholic
civilization from which we all derive, is the very negation of the
same world leaving the light of its ancestral religion and sliding
back into the dark.

These things being so, let us examine the Modern Attack-the anti-
Christian advance-and distinguish its special nature.

We find, to begin with, that it is at once materialist and

There is here a contradiction in reason, but the modern phase, the
anti-Christian advance, has abandoned reason. It is concerned with
the destruction of the Catholic Church and the civilization
preceding therefrom. It is not troubled by apparent contradictions
within its own body so long as the general alliance is one for the
ending of all that by which we have hitherto lived. The modern
attack is materialistic because in its philosophy it considers
only material causes. It is superstitious only as a by-product of
this state of mind. It nourishes on its surface the silly vagaries
of spiritualism, the vulgar nonsense of "Christian Science," and
heaven knows how many other fantasies. But these follies are bred,
not from a hunger for religion, but from the same root as that
which has made the world materialist-from an inability to
understand the prime truth that faith is at the root of knowledge;
from thinking that no truth is appreciable save through direct

Thus the spiritualist boasts of his demonstrable manifestations,
and his various rivals of their direct clear proofs; but all are
agreed that Revelation is to be denied. It has been well remarked
that nothing is more striking than the way in which all the modern
quasi-religious practices are agreed upon <this>-that Revelation
is to be denied.

We may take it then that the new advance against the Church-what
will perhaps prove the final advance against the Church, what is
at any rate the only modern enemy of consequence-is fundamentally
materialist. It is materialist in its reading of history, and
above all in its proposals for social reform.

Being Atheist, it is characteristic of the advancing wave that it
repudiates the human reason. Such an attitude would seem again to
be a contradiction in terms; for if you deny the value of human
reason, if you say that we cannot through our reason arrive at any
truth, then not even the affirmation so made can be true. Nothing
can be true, and nothing is worth saying. But that great Modern
Attack (which is more than a heresy) is indifferent to self-
contradiction. It merely affirms. It advances like an animal,
counting on strength alone. Indeed, it may be remarked in passing
that this may well be the cause of its final defeat; for hitherto
reason has always overcome its opponents; and man is the master of
the beast through reason.

Anyhow, there you have the Modern Attack in its main character,
materialist, and atheist; and, being atheist, it is necessarily
indifferent to truth. For God is Truth.

But there is (as the greatest of the ancient Greeks discovered) a
certain indissoluble Trinity of Truth, Beauty and Goodness. You
cannot deny or attack one of these three without at the same time
denying or attacking both the others. Therefore with the advance
of this new and terrible enemy against the Faith and all that
civilization which the Faith produces, there is coming not only a
contempt for beauty but a hatred of it; and immediately upon the
heels of this there appears a contempt and hatred for virtue.

The better dupes, the less vicious converts to the enemy, talk
vaguely of a "readjustment, a new world, a new order"; but they do
not begin by telling us, as in common reason they should, upon
what principles this new order is to be raised. They do not define
the end they have in view.

Communism (which is only one manifestation, and probably a passing
one, of this Modern Attack) professes to be directed towards a
certain good, to wit, the abolition of poverty. But it does not
tell you why this should be a good; it does not admit that its
scheme is also to destroy other things which are also by the
common consent of mankind good; the family, property (which is the
guarantee of individual freedom and individual dignity), humour,
mercy, and every form of what we consider right living.

Well, give it what name you like, call it as I do here "The Modern
Attack," or as I think men will soon have to call it, "Anti-
Christ," or call it by the temporary borrowed term of "Bolshevism"
(which is only the Russian for "whole hogger"), we know the
<thing> well enough. It is <not> the revolt of the oppressed; it
is not the rising of the proletariat against capitalist injustice
and cruelty; it is something from without, some evil spirit taking
advantage of men's distress and of their anger against unjust

Now that thing is at our gates. Ultimately, of course, it is the
fruit of the original break-up of Christendom at the Reformation.
It began in the denial of a central authority, it has ended by
telling man that he is sufficient to himself, and it has set up
everywhere great idols to be worshipped as gods.

It is not only on the Communist side that this appears, it appears
also in the organizations opposed to Communism; in the races and
nations where mere force is set in the place of God. These also
set up idols which hideous human sacrifice is paid. By these also
justice and the right order of things are denied.

Such is the nature of the battle now engaged-and against such
enemies the position of the Catholic Church today seems weak

But there are certain forces in her favour which may lead, after
all, to a reaction, whence the power of the Church over mankind
may re-arise.

I shall in my next pages consider what the immediate results may
be of this new great idolatry; and in the pages following I shall
discuss the main question of all. It is this: whether things point
to the Church's becoming an isolated fortress defending itself
against great odds, an ark in the midst of a rising flood which,
though it does not sink the vessel, covers and destroys all else;
or whether the Church shall perhaps be restored to something of
her ancient power.

The Modern Attack on the Catholic Church, the most universal that
she has suffered since her foundation, has so far progressed that
it has already produced social, intellectual and moral forms which
combined give it the savour of a religion.

Though this Modern Attack, as I have said, is not a heresy in the
old sense of the word, nor a sort of synthesis of heresies having
in common a hatred of the Faith (such as the Protestant movement
was), it is even more profound, and its consequences more
devastating than any of these. It is essentially atheist, even
when the atheism is not overtly predicated. It regards man as
sufficient to himself, prayer as mere self-suggestion and-the
fundamental point-God as no more than a figment of the
imagination, an image of man's self thrown by man on the universe;
a phantasm and no reality.

Among his many wise pronouncements the reigning Pope uttered one
sentence, the profound judgment of which was most striking at the
time and has been powerfully confirmed by events ever since. What
he said was that whereas the denial of God had been confined in
the past to a comparatively small number of intellectuals, <that
denial had now gained the multitude and was acting everywhere as a
social force>.

This is the modern enemy; this is that rising flood; the greatest
and what may prove to be the final struggle between the Church and
the world. We must judge it principally by its fruits; and these
fruits, though not yet mature, are already apparent. What are
those fruits?

First, we are witnessing a revival of slavery, the necessary
result of denying free will when that denial goes one step beyond
Calvin and denies responsibility to God as well as lack of power
in man. The two forms of slavery which are gradually appearing and
will as time goes on be more and more matured under the effect of
the modern attack upon the Faith, are slavery to the State and
slavery to private corporations and individuals.

Terms are used so loosely nowadays; there is such a paralysis in
the power of definition, that almost any sentence using current
phrases may be misinterpreted. If I were to say, "slavery under
capitalism," the word "capitalism" would mean different things to
different men. It means to one group of writers (what I must
confess it means to me when I use it) "the exploitation of the
masses of men still free by a few owners of the means of
production, transport and exchange." When the mass of men are
dispossessed-own nothing-they become wholly dependent upon the
owners; and when those owners are in active competition to lower
the cost of production the mass of men whom they exploit not only
lack the power to order their own lives, but suffer from want and
insecurity as well.

But to another man, the term "capitalism" may mean simply the
right to private property; yet to another it means industrial
capitalism working with machines, and contrasted with agricultural
production. I repeat, to get any sense into the discussion, we
must have our terms clearly defined.

When the reigning Pope in his Encyclical talked of men reduced "to
a condition not far removed from slavery," he meant just what has
been said above. When the mass of families in a State are without
property, then those who were once citizens become virtually
slaves. The more the State steps in to enforce conditions of
security and sufficiency; the more it regulates wages, provides
compulsory insurance, doctoring, education, and in general takes
over the lives of the wage-earners, for the benefit of the
companies and men employing the wage-earners, the more is this
condition of semi-slavery accentuated. And if it be continued for,
say, three generations, it will become so thoroughly established
as a social habit and frame of mind that there may be no escape
from it in the countries where State Socialism of this kind has
been forged and riveted on the body politic.

In Europe, England in particular (but many other countries in a
lesser degree) has bound itself to this system. Below a certain
level of income a man is guaranteed a bare subsistence should he
be out of employment. It is doled out to him by public officials
at the expense of losing human dignity. Every circumstance of his
family is examined; he is even more in the hands of these
officials when out of employment than in the hands of his employer
when employed. The thing is still in transition; the mass of men
do not yet see to what goal they are tending; but the neglect of
human dignity, the potential, if not actual, denial of the
doctrine of free will, have led by a natural consequence to what
are already semi-servile institutions. These will become fully
servile institutions as time goes on.

Now against the evil of wage-slavery there has been long proposed
and is now working hard, in actual function, a certain remedy. The
briefest name for it is Communism: slavery to the State: far more
advanced and thorough than the first form, slavery to the

Of modern "wage-slavery" one can only talk by metaphor; the man
working at a wage is not fully free as is the man possessed of
property; he must do as his master tells him, and when his
condition is that not of a minority nor even of a limited
majority, but of virtually the whole population except a
comparatively small capitalist class, the proportion of real
freedom in his life dwindles indeed-yet legally it is there. The
employee has not yet fallen to the status of the slave even in the
most highly industrialized communities. His legal status is still
that of a citizen. In theory he is still a free man who has
contracted with another man to do a certain amount of work for a
certain amount of pay. The man who contracts to pay may or may not
be making a profit out of it; the man who contracts to work may or
may not receive in wages more than the value of what he produces.
But both are technically free.

This first form of social evil produced by the modern spirit is
rather a tendency to slavery than actual slavery; you may call it
a half slavery, if you like, where it attaches to vast
enterprises-huge factories, monopolist corporations, and so on.
But still it is not full slavery.

Now Communism is full slavery. It is the modern enemy working
openly, undisguisedly, and at high pressure. Communism denies God,
denies the dignity and therefore the freedom of the human soul,
and openly enslaves men to what it calls "the State"-but what is
in practice a body of favoured officials.

Under full Communism there would be no unemployment, just as there
is no unemployment in a prison. Under full Communism there would
be no distress or poverty, save where the masters of the nation
chose to starve men or give them insufficient clothing, or in any
other way oppress them. Communism worked honestly by officials
devoid of human frailties and devoted to nothing but the good of
its slaves, would have certain manifest material advantages as
compared with a proletarian wage-system where millions live in
semi-starvation, and many millions more in permanent dread
thereof. But even if it were administered thus Communism would
only produce its benefits through imposing slavery.

These are the first fruits of the Modern Attack on the social
side, the first fruits appearing in the region of the social
structure. We came, before the Church was founded, out of a pagan
social system in which slavery was everywhere, in which the whole
structure of society reposed upon the institution of slavery. With
the loss of the Faith we return to that institution again.

Next to the social fruit of the Modern Attack on the Catholic
Church is the moral fruit; which extends of course over the whole
moral nature of man. And throughout this field its business so far
has been to undermine every form of restraint imposed by human
experience acting through tradition.

I say, "so far," because in many parts of morals this rapid
dissolution of the bonds must lead to a reaction; human society
cannot co-exist with anarchy; new restraints and new customs will
arise. Hence those who would point to the modern break-down of
sexual morals as the chief effect of the Modern Attack on the
Catholic Church are probably in error; for it will not have the
most permanent results. Some code, some set of morals, must, in
the nature of things, arise; even if the old code is on this point
destroyed. But there are other evil effects, which may prove more

Now to find out what these effects may be, we have a guide. We can
consider how men of our blood carried on before the Church created
Christendom. What we chiefly discover is this:-

That in the realm of morals one thing stands out, the unquestioned
prevalence of cruelty in the unbaptized world. Cruelty will be the
chief fruit in the moral field of the Modern Attack, just as the
revival of slavery will be the chief fruit in the social field.

Here the critic may ask whether cruelty were not more the note of
Christian men in the past than it is today. Is not all the history
of our two thousand years a history of armed conflict, massacre,
judicial tortures and horrible executions, the sack of towns, and
all the rest of it?

The reply to this objection is that there is a capital distinction
between cruelty exceptional, and cruelty the rule. When men apply
cruel punishments, depend on physical power to obtain effects, let
loose violence in the passions of war, if all this is done in
violation of their own accepted morals, it is one thing; if it is
done as part of a whole mental attitude taken for granted, it is

Therein lies the radical distinction between this new, modern,
cruelty and the sporadic cruelty of earlier Christian times. Not
cruel vengeance, nor cruelty in excitement, nor cruelty in
punishment against acknowledged evil, nor cruelty in repression of
what admittedly must be repressed, is the fruit of an evil
philosophy; though such things are excesses or sins they do not
come from false doctrine. But the cruelty which accompanies the
modern abandonment of our ancestral religion is a cruelty native
to the Modern Attack; a cruelty which is part of its philosophy.

The proof lies in this: that men are not shocked at cruelty but
indifferent to it. The abominations of the revolution in Russia,
extended to those in Spain, are an example in point. Not only did
people on the spot receive the horror with indifference, but
distant observers do so. There is no universal cry of indignation,
there is no sufficient protest, because there is no longer in
force the conception that man as man is something sacred. That
same force which ignores human dignity also ignores human

I say again, the Modern Attack on the Faith will have in the moral
field a thousand evil fruits, and of these many are apparent
today, but the characteristic one, the one presumably the most
permanent, is the institution everywhere of cruelty accompanied by
a contempt for justice.

The last category of fruits by which we may judge the character of
the Modern Attack consists in the fruit it bears in the field of
the intelligence-what it does to human reason.

When the Modern Attack was gathering, a couple of lifetimes ago,
while it was still confined to a small number of academic men, the
first assault upon reason began. It seemed to make but little
progress outside a restricted circle. The plain man and his
common-sense (which are the strongholds of reason) were not
affected. Today they are.

But reason today is everywhere decried. The ancient process of
conviction by argument and proof is replaced by reiterated
affirmation; and almost all the terms which were the glory of
reason carry with them now an atmosphere of contempt.

See what has happened for instance to the word "logic," to the
word "controversy"; note such popular phrases as "No one yet was
ever convinced by argument," or again, "Anything may be proved,"
or "That may be all right in logic, but in practice it is very
different." The speech of men is becoming saturated with
expressions which everywhere connote contempt for the use of the

But the Faith and the use of the intelligence are inextricably
bound up. The use of reason is a main part-or rather the
foundation-of all inquiry into the highest things. It was
precisely because reason was given this divine authority that the
Church proclaimed mystery-that is, admitted reason to have its
limits. It had to be so, lest the absolute powers ascribed to
reason should lead to the exclusion of truths which the reason
might accept but could not demonstrate. Reason was limited by
mystery only more to enhance the sovereignty of reason in its own

When reason is dethroned, not only is Faith dethroned (the two
subversions go together) but every moral and legitimate activity
of the human soul is dethroned at the same time. There is no God.
So the words "God is Truth" which the mind of Christian Europe
used as a postulate in all it did, cease to have meaning. None can
analyse the rightful authority of government nor set bounds to it.
In the absence of reason, political authority reposing on mere
force is boundless. And reason is thus made a victim because
Humanity itself is what the Modern Attack is destroying in its
false religion of humanity. Reason being the crown of man and at
the same time his distinguishing mark, the Anarchs march against
reason as their principle enemy.

So the Modern Attack develops and works. What does it presage for
the future? That is the practical, the immediate question we all
have to face. The attack is by this time sufficiently developed
for us to make some calculation of what the next phase may be.
What doom will fall on us?

Or, again, by what good reaction shall we benefit? On that doubt I
will conclude.

The Modern Attack is far more advanced than is generally
appreciated. It is always so with great movements in the story of
mankind. It is yet another case of a "time-lag." A power upon the
eve of victory appears to be but half-way to its goal-even perhaps
to be checked. A power in the full spring of its early energy
appears to contemporaries to be a small precarious experiment.

The modern attack on the Faith (the latest and most formidable of
all) has advanced so far that we can already affirm one all-
important point quite clearly: of two things one must happen, one
of two results must become definite throughout the modern world.
Either the Catholic Church (now rapidly becoming the only place
wherein the traditions of civilization are understood and
defended) will be reduced by her modern enemies to political
impotence, to numerical insignificance, and, so far as public
appreciation goes, to silence; or the Catholic Church will, in
this case as throughout the past, react more strongly against her
enemies than her enemies have been able to react against her; she
will recover and extend her authority, and will rise once more to
the leadership of civilization which she made, and thus recover
and restore the world.

In a word, either we of the Faith shall become a small persecuted
neglected island amid mankind, or we shall be able to lift at the
end of the struggle the old battle-cry, "<Christus Imperat>!"

The normal human conclusion in such conflicts-that one or the
other combatant will be overwhelmed and will disappear, cannot be
accepted. The Church will not disappear, for the Church is not of
mortal stuff; it is the only institution among men not subject to
the universal law of mortality. Therefore we say, not that the
Church may be wiped out, but that it may be reduced to a small
band almost forgotten amid the vast numbers of its opponents and
their contempt of the defeated thing.

Neither is the alternative acceptable. For though indeed this
great modern movement (which so singularly resembles the advance
of Anti-Christ) may be repelled, and may even lose its
characteristics and die as Protestantism has died before our very
own eyes, yet that will not be the end of the conflict. This <may>
be the final conflict. There <may> be a dozen more to come, or a
hundred. But attack upon the Catholic Church there will always be,
and never will the quarrel of men know <complete> unity, peace and
high nobility through the <complete> victory of the Faith. For if
that were so the World would not be the World nor Jesus Christ at
the issue with the World.

But though not in their entirety, yet in the main, one of those
two fates must come, Catholic or Anti-Christian victory. The
Modern Attack is so universal and moving so rapidly that men now
very young will surely live to see something like a decision in
this great battle.

Certain of the most acute modern observers in the last generation
and in this have used their intelligence to discover which way
fate should fall. One of the most intelligent of French Catholics,
a converted Jew, has written a work to prove (or suggest) that the
first of these two possible issues will be our fate. He envisages
the last years of the Church on this earth as lived apart. He sees
a Church of the future reduced to very few in numbers and left on
one side in the general current of the new Paganism. He sees a
Church of the future within which there will be intensity of
devotion, indeed, but that devotion practised by one small body,
isolated and forgotten in the midst of its fellowmen.

The late Robert Hugh Benson wrote two books, each remarkable and
each envisaging one of the opposite possibilities. In the first,
"The Lord of the World," he presents the picture of the Church
reduced to a little wandering band, returning as it were to its
origins, the Pope at the head of the Twelve-and a conclusion on
the Day of Judgement. In the second he envisages the full
restoration of the Catholic thing-our civilization re-established,
reinvigorated, once more seated and clothed in its right mind;
because in that new culture, though filled with human
imperfection, the Church will have recovered her leadership of men
and will inform the spirit of society with proportion and beauty
once more.

What are the arguments to be advanced on either side? On what
grounds should we conclude for a tendency one way or the other?

For the first issue (the dwindling of Catholic influence, the
restriction of our numbers and political value to the edge of
extinction) there is to be noted the increasing ignorance of the
world about us, coupled with the loss of those faculties whereby
men might appreciate what Catholicism means and take advantage of
their salvation. The level of culture, including a sense of the
past, sinks visibly. With each decade the level is lower than the
last. In that decline tradition is breaking away and melting like
a snow-drift at the end of winter. Great lumps of it fall off at
one moment and another, melt, and disappear.

Within our generation the supremacy of the classics has gone. You
find men upon every side possessed of power who have forgotten
that from which we all came; men, to whom Greek and Latin, the
fundamental languages of our civilization, are incomprehensible,
or at best curiosities. Old men now living can remember uneasy
rebellion against tradition; but young men only perceive for
themselves how little there is left against which to rebel, and
many fear that before they die the body of tradition will have

That mood of faith has been largely ruined, ruined certainly for
the greater part of men, all will admit. So true is this that
already a majority (I should affirm it to be a very large
majority) do not know what the word faith means. For most men who
hear it (in connection with religion) it signifies either blind
acceptance of irrational statements and of legends which common
experience condemns, or a mere inherited habit of mental pictures
which have never been tested and which at the first touch of
reality dissolve like the dreams they are. The whole vast body of
apologetics, the whole science of theology (the Queen exalted
above every other science) have for the mass of modern men ceased
to be. If you but mention their titles you give an effect of
unreality and insignificance.

We have already arrived at this strange pass-that while the
Catholic body (which is now already <in practice> a minority even
in the white civilization) understands its opponents, her
opponents do not understand the Catholic Church.

The historian might draw a parallel between the diminishing pagan
body of the fourth and fifth centuries, and the Catholic body of
today. The pagans, especially the educated and cultivated pagans,
who then lived on in smaller and smaller numbers, knew well the
high traditions to which they were attached and understood
(although they hated) this new thing, the Church, which had grown
up among them and was about to disposses them. But the Catholics
who were to supplant the pagans understood less and less of the
pagan mood, neglected its great works of art, and took its gods
for demons. So today the ancient religion is respected but

Those nations which are by tradition anti-Catholic, which were
once Protestant and have now no fixed traditions, have been so
long in the ascendant that they regard their Catholic opponents as
finally beaten. Those nations which had retained the Catholic
culture are now in the third generation of anti-Catholic social
education. Their institutions may tolerate the Church, but are
never in active alliance with it and often in acute hostility.

Judged by all the parallels of history and by the general laws
which govern the rise and decay of organisms, one might conclude
that the active <role> of Catholicism in the things of the world
was over; that in the future, perhaps in the near future,
Catholicism would perish.

The Catholic observer would deny the possibility of the Church's
complete extinction. But he must also follow historical parallels;
he also must accept the general laws governing the growth and
decay of organisms, and he must tend, in view of all the change
that has passed in the mind of man, to draw the tragic conclusion
that our civilization, which has already largely ceased to be
Christian, will lose its general Christian tone altogether. The
future to envisage is a pagan future, and a future pagan with a
new and repulsive form of paganism, but none the less powerful and
omnipresent for all its repulsiveness.

Now on the other side there are considerations less obvious, but
appealing strongly to the thoughtful and learned in things past
and in experience of human nature.

First of all there is the fact that all through the centuries the
Church has reacted strongly towards her own resurrection in
moments of deepest peril.

The Mohammedan struggle was a very close thing; it nearly swamped
us; only the armed reaction in Spain, followed by the Crusades,
prevented the full triumph of Islam. The onslaught of the
barbarian, of the northern pirates, of the Mongol hordes, brought
Christendom to within an ace of destruction. Yet the northern
pirates were tamed, defeated and baptized by force. The barbarism
of the eastern nomads was eventually defeated; very tardily, but
not too late to save what could be saved. The movement called the
Counter-Reformation met the hitherto triumphant advance of the
sixteenth-century heretics. Even the Rationalism of the eighteenth
century was, in its own place and time, checked and repelled. It
is true that it bred something worse than itself; something from
which we now suffer. But there was reaction against it; and that
reaction was sufficient to keep the Church alive and even to
recover for it elements of power which had been thought lost for

Reaction there will always be; and there is about Catholic
reaction a certain vitality, a certain way of appearing with
unexpected force through new men and new organizations. History
and the general law of organic rise and decay lead on their
largest lines to the first conclusion, the rapid withering of
Catholicism in the world; but observation as applied to the
particular case of the Catholic Church does not lead to such a
conclusion. The Church seems to have an organic, a native, life
quite unusual: a mode of being unique, and powers of recrudescence
peculiar to herself.

Next, let this very interesting point be noted: the more powerful,
the more acute, and the more sensitive minds of our time are
clearly inclining toward the Catholic side.

They are of course of their nature a small minority, but they are
a minority of a sort very powerful in human affairs. The future is
not decided for men by public vote; it is decided by the growth of
ideas. When the few men who can think best and feel most strongly
and who have mastery of expression begin to show a novel tendency
towards this or that, then this or that bids fair to dominate the

Of this new tendency to sympathize with Catholicism--and in the
case of strong characters to take the risk, to accept the Faith,
and proclaim themselves the defenders of it--there can be no
doubt. Even in England, where the traditional feeling against
Catholicism is so universal and so strong, and where the whole
life of the nation is bound up with hostility to the Faith, the
conversions which strike the public eye are continually the
conversions of men who lead in thought; and note that for one who
openly admits conversion there are ten at least who turn their
faces toward the Catholic way, who prefer the Catholic philosophy
and its fruit to any others, but who shrink from accepting the
heavy sacrifices involved in a public avowal.

Lastly there is this very important and perhaps decisive
consideration: <though the social strength of Catholicism, in
numbers certainly, and in most other factors as well, is declining
throughout the world; the issue, as between Catholicism and the
completely new pagan thing (the destruction of all tradition, the
breaking with our inheritance), is now clearly marked.>

There is not, as there was even quite a short time ago, a confused
and heterogeneous margin or penumbra which could talk with
confidence of itself under the vague title of "Christian," and
speak confidently of some imaginary religion called
"Christianity." No. There are today already almost quite distinct
and sharing the field between them, soon to be as markedly exposed
as black and white, the Catholic Church on one side, and on the
other opponents of what has hitherto been our civilization.

The ranks have lined up as for a battle; and though such clear
division does not mean that the one or the other antagonist will
conquer, it does mean that a plain issue is defined at last; and
in plain issues a good cause, like a bad one, has a better chance
than in confusion.

Even the most misguided or the most ignorant of men, talking
vaguely of "Churches," are now using a language that rings hollow.
The last generation could talk, in Protestant countries at least,
of "the Churches." The present generation cannot. There are not
many churches; there is one, it is the Catholic Church on the one
side and its mortal enemy on the other. The lists are set.

Thus are we now in the presence of the most momentous question
that has yet been presented to the mind of man. Thus are we placed
at a dividing of the ways, upon which the whole future of our race
will turn.