The "Three Waves'' of American Society
Robert A. Herrera
Dr. Robert Herrera offers us an insightful analysis of an unholy
trinity of contemporary aberrations which are corrupting
American society: the rise of the pseudo-sacred bereft of
intellectual grounding; a new public orthodoxy which seeks a
revolutionary restructuring of society; and lastly, a trendy and
aggressive "dictatorship of the disadvantaged.''
Somewhere in the , Plato speaks of three revolutionary theories
or which would surely provoke the hostility of the great majority of
people. Today _ some 2400 years or so later _ one of these _ the
incorporation of women into the ruling class _ is accepted by all but the most
recalcitrant. The second _ the community of children _ appears sporadically
in the programs of the advanced and progressive sort. The third _ rule by
the Philosopher-King _ has rightly been dismissed as a utopian fantasy,
which, after all, is possibly what Plato intended it to be.
One wonders what the three would be today. . . . seen from the
other side. What beliefs could be fingered as being as worthy of public
enmity as those of Plato, which, had they been implemented, might even
have accelerated the disintegration of Athenian society. Living, as we do, in
a technologically sophisticated but culturally naive society, makes the task
difficult. The unconscious and its role in human life prefigured by Plato in a
truly brilliant insight when speaking of the tyrannical man, is today fully
exploited by the multiplicity of hidden persuaders with which we are afflicted.
We are in a state of confusion. The old may appear to be new, the new, old.
Novelty is accorded a distinguished ancestry while the ancient deep and
permanent things are dismissed out of hand. This is not surprising in an age
characterized by Ortega as "the age of the masses'' in which Musil's "man
without qualities'' proliferates. The perilous fragility of civilization is simply
ignored as is rigor of thought and the uncompromising character of truth.
Everything is tested in the marketplace: polls, contests, surveys etc., are the
order of the day. Lurking in back of this scenario is the voracious individual
demanding immediate satisfaction, centered on its own desires,
experiences, drives, and aberrations, to whom everything _ from the most
banal to the most elevated _ is a form of entertainment. Judging by the
splendid salaries given media and sports personalities the only serious
entertainment today is entertainment itself.
Still, in spite of the difficulties involved in making a selection, a good case
can be made that three themes encompass to some extent the many
aberrations of the day and have an especially noxious character. First, the
obsession with a distorted version _ a caricature _ of the . Second,
the acceptance of a . Third, the formation of a
. They intertwine and in strengthening
each other threaten the body politic.
The theme of the has vaulted the theoretical domain and
insinuated itself within the academy in a way that can only be characterized
as autocratic. This is far more than another academic boondoggle.
Professor Niemeyer has suggested that it is a malady of the spirit generated
by the realization that the good of permanent things has been lost.1 This
malady of the spirit generates a lifestyle distilled into a style of vice for the
masses and a style of nihilism for the educated. He suggests that even the
monumental efforts of Eliade and Otto in restoring the sacred is only "mere
scholarship,'' hopeless attempts to recover a missing dimension. He hits the
mark in stating that the search for relevant experiences to rekindle the sense
of the sacred usually tend to psychological hype and aesthetic encounters
However, almost as an afterthought, Professor Niemeyer suggests that the
road of renewal and recovery is not through the study of symbols and
ancient texts but through relevant inner experiences. There is little doubt
that the pursuit of the sacred through scholarship is destined to fail. The
variations on Aristotle's Agent Intellect littered the Middle Ages with
casualties. However, it is very doubtful whether an appeal to relevant inner
experiences is more satisfactory. It might even prove to be less satisfactory
than misplaced intellectualism.
The past decade or so has seen a renewed interest, amounting to a near
obsession, with the sacred and the experiences surrounding it. Professor
Bloom, the "guru'' of yesterday, has suggested that the sacred is the latest
fad. While it has prospered, he suggests that real religion and the
knowledge of the Bible have diminished to the vanishing point. Bloom
flourishes on exaggeration. Still, there is no doubt that religion, under the
guise of the sacred, has become respectable. Professors who cringe at the
mention of St. Thomas or Martin Luther welcome the "sacred'' into their
classrooms with enthusiasm.
A few years ago, I happened to be a member of a College committee
charged with drawing up a humanities curriculum. After having settled down
to the usual living death of committee work, I found that a bibliography had
been compiled. A strange bibliography indeed! Together with some books
that were familiar to me there were others which struck me as decidedly odd:
. A major justification for endorsing a
curriculum reflected in this bizarre hotchpotch was the "sacred.'' An
accompanying note indicated that with regard to the sacred there was a
"positive'' group, those who struggled against their gods, and a "negative''
group, those who remained ensconced in prescribed patterns of worship.
The "new consciousness'' was contrasted, favorably to be sure, with official
tradition, as was one's own "sacred journey'' with those traditional paths
inherited from family, community and nation.
It is inane to carp about the lunacy of academics. If this fad had been
allowed to structure a curriculum, it would have provided the student with a
stimulant prodding him towards innovation and away from tradition, towards
enthusiasm and chaos, away from reticence and structure. If all
manifestations of the sacred are equally valid, a rank egalitarianism is
imposed and intellectual discrimination becomes the first casualty. The
major religions are then no better than superstition, magic,
psychopathological phenomena, or constantly changing fad. The continuity
of mind required for the preservation of civilization is lost and traditional
religion and philosophy trivialized out of existence. If Christianity and
Judaism are merely minute enclaves within the vast domain of religion and
Western Thought, a small segment of a gigantic mural, enjoying no
privileged status, loyalty to either is irrational and man becomes a displaced
person without home or sanctuary.
In effect, the rhapsodists of the sacred are resuscitating the major
temptations of the past. The ancient Greeks identified the sacred, at its
highest, with the cosmos, the Romans with the city (Rome), which
established laws and guaranteed public life, the moderns with subjectivity,
divested, after Descartes, of its divine resident. Today's cult of the pseudo-
sacred finds the sacred in all three: the physical world, the human
community, and consciousness. But, having rejected transcendence, these
points of departure which should lead to God become mere dead ends.
Whenever God's presence is experienced in the Old Testament man
encounters the wonder and mystery of the sacred, of holiness. Moses is
forbidden to approach the burning bush. When Yahweh is about to descend
on Sinai, the entire mountain is placed off limits. This attitude is summarized
in the 33:20 admonition that no man can see God and live. Most
cultures have safeguarded the sacred by Draconian measures. The tragic
account of the stoning of Achan ( 7:20-25) is paralleled by Roman
penalties for sacrilege _ the most severe being crucifixion and burning _ the
harsh measures of the Theodosian and Justinian codes, and the penalties
found in the Penitentials, early collections of disciplinary canons. The Old
Testament prescriptions find their apogee in the Temple laws, the Roman in
civic and military ordinances, early Christian codes in dispositions regarding
heresy, and medieval canons in safeguarding the sacred host from
profanation. Sacrilege is the other side of the sacred.
The distinction between the sacred/essential, with its privileged status and
protective battlements, and the profane/inessential, is traditionally the
decisive factor in the constitution of a social order. It generates customs and
usages which insure the survival of society. As proximity to the sacred
provides the ultimate criterion of value, society will be hierarchically
structured and composed of different classes. The sacred, understood in
this way, acts as a guiding principle in the formation of a public orthodoxy.
There is little doubt that the sacred _ the authentic sacred _ is no longer the
basis of society. God is absent or, in the tradition of the Psalms and Psalms
of Solomon, has withdrawn. This absence or withdrawal has produced
Professor Niemeyer's "widespread malaise,'' one that cannot be exorcised
through the cult of the nouvelle sacred which deifies the trivial. It is to Rudolf
Otto's credit that he stressed that the sacred is experienced as
consciousness of creaturehood: dust and ashes as against awesome
majesty. The transcendent as the only complete reality is only a few steps
away. Otto's term "numinous'' suggests that creature-consciousness is not a
form of self-consciousness but the shadow cast by awesome majesty.2 The
"numinous'' is felt as objective, as outside of the self.
It is well to remember that the opposite of the Biblical view of God is not
atheism, which rejects the sacred, but paganism which deifies the world.
Socrates, in the , discusses the holy and its relation to the gods
in a manner that should be unsettling to Jews and Christians. In Plato's
, the "Athenian Stranger'' faults the "modern scientists'' for the rise of
unbelief. He asks: what can be expected from persons who do not accept
the divinity of the sun, moon, and earth and teach they are mere earth and
stone, incapable of interest in human affairs. From this perspective Jews
and Christians would be accounted atheists, as indeed they often were in the
twilight of the Pagan world. Augustine's greatest praise for the "Platonists''
was that they had established a hierarchy in which the One God was
elevated above the lesser deities. As these "lesser deities'' were usually
identified as demons, guilty of legitimizing the most depraved human
passions through their specious authority, Augustine, in demythologizing the
kosmos, cleared the decks of these lesser deities and forces.
It is a somber thought that perhaps, after nearly two millennia, a complete
reversal of this process is taking place. Heidegger (an authorized voice)
spoke of this age as:
the time of the gods that have fled and the God that is coming. It is
the time of need, because it lies under a double lack and a double not:
the no-more of the gods that have fled and the Not-yet of the god that
Whether lament or prophecy these words directly address the problem at
hand. When God is absent, the gods return. The vacuum produced by the
withdrawal of God can be filled by the negative inclinations of the age:
atheism, neo-paganism or its cosmetic surrogate, the cult of the pseudo-
sacred. Some twenty years ago, in an article sounding an unusual
emotional note, Etienne Gilson stated that the major discovery of the age
was the "death of God'' and warned that Nietzsche left many disciples who
believe that in order to create society in their image, the existing order must
first be destroyed.4 The principal obstacle to their overweening húbris is
itself. It follows that a defense of the normative tradition must
primarily be a defense of being.
Unlike the contemporary purveyors of the sacred who praise all cultures
except perhaps their own, or academic lotus-eaters, spinning webs in a void,
a reasonable man should delight in forming part of the Western tradition.
Today it has become obligatory to vigorously endorse cultural and religious
chauvinism in the face of the siren-songs of the pseudo-sacred. To despise
minor loyalties so as to unfurl the flag of humanity has been the fashion
since perhaps the Renaissance but, as Ortega indicated, it is also the most
sublime, and hence the most despicable, form of demagoguery. A
"liberation'' from the past would sever those bonds of memory and tradition
which makes the future a real possibility.
From the viewpoint of education, the cult of the pseudo-sacred is just
another way of performing a cultural lobotomy on the student, severing him
from historical continuity and setting him adrift in a chaos where the laws of
gravity have been revoked. The surgery is furthered through attitudes and
courses which downgrade Western civilization, presenting other cultures as
near paradises flawed only by contamination from the West. Usually
propaganda pure and simple, this contrived pastiche of Asia, Africa, South
America, and perhaps the Middle East, carries the same message of hostility
to the West. Moreover, traditional religious education has suffered a
grotesque sea-change. Even the severities of dogmatic Roman Catholicism
have been sweetened, the content of belief degutted, emptied, replaced with
a veritable swamp of saccharine emotion and overripe platitude.
One of the major causes of these developments has been the cult of the
pseudo-sacred. It must be rejected, cast into the outer darkness. Taken to
its ultimate conclusions, it would hermetically seal each person in the tomb of
individual consciousness, separate him from the objective world of Being
and inherited civilization. There is no exit, no Cartesian God to provide an
opening to reality. In summary, the cult of the pseudo-sacred perverts
sensibility, darkens the mind, and obscures reality. It encourages rootless
enthusiasm based on the most trivial aspects of self and nature. It hinders
the growth of intelligence and subverts discrimination.
The burgeoning accusations of racism, sexism, and homophobia, with
attendant massive publicity _ in the public forum, the marketplace, and the
university _ would be only tedious if they did not reflect a public malaise
which threatens to become epidemic. Of course, any unjust or uncharitable
act should be condemned. But these accusations are far more than cries for
justice. They reflect a New Public Orthodoxy which threatens to replace
traditional values and habits of mind, and which, to some extent, has already
done so. It goes hand in hand with a bland humanitarianism which dulls the
mind, weakens the will, and is as ubiquitous and polluted as the air we
The New Public Orthodoxy is no less than a massive attempt at reorganizing
society _ in the direction of a utopia which is alien to both sane political
philosophy and American tradition. Dartmouth and Stanford _ in fact the
academic establishment as a whole _ is scarcely representative of the nation
but merely of certain pressure groups which, with truly evangelical zeal,
attempt to impose their ideology. In a nation where, alas, everything seems
to be replaceable, this is not an impossible task. Both Tocqueville and
Dickens noted the inflexibility and self-congratulatory character of public
orthodoxy as it is encountered in the United States.
The new public orthodoxy is reflected in limiting debate and discussion to
what might be called "canonical opinion.'' Try debating a controversial
theme taking the unauthorized, which is to say, the unpopular view:
abortion, homosexuality, South Africa, capital punishment, immigration
quotas, etc. The heretical opinion is not discussed. It is simply dismissed
out of hand and the person advocating it attacked. Invective takes the place
of argument; intimidation of persuasion. The of
centuries seems to have been distilled and projected on to the secular order.
The noxious effect of this new public orthodoxy is felt above all by American
youth. The educationists _ to be distinguished from serious academics _
have endorsed this agenda with disastrous results. The past, the work of
civilization, has been distorted, slanted, and moralized; the boundaries of
reality purposefully blurred. The educationists begin by "correcting'' the
traditional curriculum, making it responsive to social imperatives. They then
proceed to impose a "feelgood'' agenda by subverting or replacing Western
Civilization courses and downgrading the importance of the English
Language as the unifying principle of American culture and its vehicle of
transmission. Minor authors are substituted for the classics, periods of
history converted into blank pages, in their attempt to trim the ragged and
unpleasant edges of history and remake civilization to order.
When the era of "anything goes'' began in the 60's, nonsense became the
order of the day. It has progressively increased to the point that today _
when "tilting'' and "feel good'' are fading in popularity, "radical lobotomy'' is
the latest ploy. If the majority of students know nothing or next to nothing, if
they are ignorant of American history and their religious heritage, they are
ripe for indoctrination. Anyone who teaches on the college level is familiar
with the cultural void presented by many of our students, the numbing
amount of pap and platitude which has taken the place of knowledge,
computer fixation which has replaced literacy, the frivolous attitude without
the fun of frivolity, the banal cynicism without ever having lived.
Why this slanting, distortion, moralization, and denial of American History
and religious belief? The short-term reasons are not hard to find: create
instant credentials for the illiterate and uncultured, make all groups feel
good, increase the number of trash courses, and _ of course _ curb elitism.
It is an updated version, a radicalization, of the old "education for
Democracy'' but lacking its native roots. It joins the idealism of abstract
equality with autocratic impatience with the inequalities and differences
which actually do exist. If these differences cannot be erased they must be
denied. The abstract ideal must be served at all cost. Students who ignore
Shakespeare and Dante are urged to study some socially "relevant'' non-
entity. Those who barely have a nodding acquaintance with their own
culture are prodded to study the cultures of India and China. What this
amounts to is scarcely education. It is indoctrination of the basest kind.
If the educationists are the principle culprits, the clergy are not far behind.
Many have accepted the New Public Orthodoxy and helped to further it
appreciably. If our students show little acquaintance with history or literature
and place geography in the same slot as nuclear physics, their knowledge of
Christianity is perhaps even more sketchy. The notions they possess
concerning the awesome themes of God, sin, and salvation are usually
infantile. Most have only a faint recollection of the Trinity and some even
believe that grace is only a proper name, and this after more than two
decades in which Christians _ at least Catholics _ have been congratulating
themselves on their "spiritual adulthood.''
But there are other factors which must be added to educationist húbris _
"let's make the world a school house''; and clerical silliness _ "dance your
way to heaven.'' Professorial apathy and administrative officiousness also
contribute to the possible victory of the New Public Orthodoxy. Many
professors find it difficult to cope with the civilizational wasteland presented
by many of their students. They react to this in different ways. Some
withdraw into themselves, others teach for their own enjoyment, others teach
an ideal audience which happens to be imaginary, still others concoct
Disneyland courses only tenuously connected to the subject-matter at hand.
College administration usually borrows their model from the business world,
but not business men themselves, elaborate a caricature of the corporate
world reflected in dulling rounds of committee work, meetings, seminars, get-
togethers, so-called "brain-storming sessions,'' faculty "retreats'' and other
absurdities which paralyze the mind, lower the intellectual tone, breed ever-
proliferating paper-work, constant chatter, obsession with trivia and a
habitual lack of candor. As government funding is, for the most part, in the
hands of the educationists, one cannot blame administrations when they
take the way of least resistance and lead their institution down the primrose
path to an information dispenser or trade school future.
Merit, taste, discrimination, together with most factors which safeguard and
build up civilization are fast disappearing. Only by rethinking the legitimate
goals of education and its relation to civilization and the commonweal, by
reassessing the awesome imperatives of the Christian faith, while recalling
with St. Teresa that "solo Dios basta'' (only God suffices), can a cultural and
spiritual decline be averted.
I am ashamed to say that lately I have become wary of minorities, women,
the sick and crippled, in fact almost everyone who is in some way
disadvantaged. Like most men of my age, bordering on the half-century, I
was taught to be polite to everyone, especially women, have compassion for
the sick and disabled, be race and color blind, and overlook all but the most
overtly antisocial behaviour. One followed the Judaeo-Christian tradition
mellowed by Victorian gentility, at times concretized into everyday behaviour
such as helping the blind, the poverty-stricken, the old, keeping an eye on
the bedridden and the recluse. It was not proper to wax indignant _ at least
in public _ over vice, sin, irreligion, or social aberration, though they were not
condoned. It was poor form indeed to support any cause of which one was a
Things have changed radically. Perhaps the turning point was Woodstock _
now many years in the past _ where thousands of fringe-persons came
together gloriously aware of their oddity. This was a
in contemporary history. Even the mobs of the French Revolution and the
later masses assembled in Moscow or Nuremberg had a modicum of
common purpose and discipline. Woodstock was serendipitous, the
gathering of a surprising number of moral, physical, mental, and spiritual
outcasts. After Woodstock the outcast _ the fringe-person _ was legitimized
and immediately proceeded to claim identity with the American people. The
spirit of Woodstock _ emotional and visionary _ entered society with a
vengeance, virtue gone wild, the exacerbations of Democracy pushed to its
Many followed the Gospel injunction "sell what you have and give to the
poor,'' in reverse. They sold nothing, gave little, and took on all the
accoutrements of poverty except poverty itself. They appropriated the sordid
aspect _ the ugliness _ of poverty and strove for Nirvana in a ball of wax.
God's goodness as reflected in nature became an embarrassment. Those
graces which should have elicited delight and gratitude _ beauty,
intelligence, virtue, civility _ provoked pique and resentment. Reality began
to be disfigured according to whim while their heirs began to concoct a social
ideal which is raceless, genderless, without memory or roots, with the
ultimate criterion only mere number.
Once this numerical criterion is enforced even the most ludicrous projects
become feasible if backed by statistics. The many minorities moved from
being fragments of the polity and subject to the dictates of the whole to
become entities unto themselves, nations within a nation, zealously occupied
in forcing society into strange and alien moulds. The legitimate minorities
generated a multiplicity of offshoots which range from minorities based on
"sexual preference'' to those based on a variety of physical and mental
impairments. Moreover, those groups which are traditionally linked to
society _ such as white males; or those who had attained a degree of
prominence _ such as Jews and Orientals _ are in danger of being relegated
to an underclass status justified by neither personal merit or past history.
History cannot be reversed nor forgotten. Except for the English and
Scotch-Irish who made their mark early and contributed significantly to the
formation of the nation, all other groups had chequered careers and have
suffered many casualties. It is to be hoped that all groups will be able to
continue liberating their talents for their own benefit and for that of society at
large. To insure this goal many programs have been set up _ rightfully so _
not primarily to redress past inequities but to insure future national well-
being. Unfortunately, the goal of giving everyone a "fair deal'' has given
place to that of giving some a "preferential deal'' without limitations or
The usual argument against preferential treatment for minorities runs as
follows: why should the latest minorities be spared the rites of passage _ of
initiation _ which other groups were forced to endure? It may be answered
that times do change and the possibilities of government tilting were very
different a hundred or so years ago than they are at present. Nevertheless,
unlimited preferential treatment can, with reason, be considered an
especially perverse type of prejudice as it is based on the invidious
presumption that some minorities could not pass muster even after the help
they have received. It betrays a scarcely veiled contempt.
An especially insidious type of prejudice found in establishment circles
consists in identifying a given minority with the prevalent caricature of that
minority, restricting culture and civility to their own caste. It follows that often
measures favoring a given minority become measures in favor of the
caricature. This is simply redneck prejudice reversed. Instead of leading to
a lynching it leads to a promotion. I have witnessed gifted Black and
Hispanic scholars shunted aside in favor of less qualified candidates who
fulfilled the degrading establishment caricature of the little brown brother.
This is a parody of justice. Society benefits from the more capable elements
of all groups rising to the top as far as this imperfect world allows.
The crippled, the sick, the disabled, the aged, have always had a difficult
time contending with human apathy and sadism. People tend to look the
other way, at times to regard the disadvantaged as pariahs who contaminate
by their very presence. The past decades have seen a welcome change in
this attitude. Many of the priorities of the disadvantaged have been
incorporated into law, provisions made for their comfort, and their voice is
heard in the public forum. However, this voice has lately acquired an
unbecoming shrillness. Their spokesmen often appear to be dictating to
society as if society were no more than a function of the disadvantaged. The
Americans with Disabilities Act includes people with AIDS and carriers of
HIV virus within its definition of disabled people protected against
discrimination. Although the disadvantaged have a right to more than the
usual share of ill temper _ who more than they? _ a misplaced Caesarian
attitude must be rejected. The disadvantaged are anything but a privileged
Of the many "minorities'' attempting to exploit the umbrella of the
disadvantaged the most prominent are the Feminists and the Homosexuals.
Much of the feminist agenda has been incorporated into the New Public
Orthodoxy and has possibly caused as many or more injustices than those it
attempts to correct. The ERA agitation, Titles VII and IX and their sequelae
have prodded American society to develop along perilously utopian lines.
Radical feminists dismiss the biological distinction between the sexes as
without importance, envisage a uni-sex society, and subject both family and
language to ideological manipulation. Feminism is not an isolated
phenomenon but has attached itself to the underbelly of other minorities _
both legitimate and artificial. It has an investment in homosexuality, abortion,
"alternate life-styles,'' and finds its natural allies in "progressive''
educationists lusting for a sea-change.
The most vocal and most obnoxious of the "minorities'' are probably the
homosexuals or "gays'' who, with their grotesque and barbarous posturing,
have succeeded in offending almost everyone except themselves. In spite of
recent self-serving theological whitewashes the traditional Judaeo-Christian
view of homosexuality is very negative. That this wholesale condemnation
has caused much suffering and required the extensive use of disguise and
subterfuge is beyond doubt. But the depredations caused after the
homosexual exit from the proverbial "closet'' have also been enormous.
"Gays'' have become aggressive, self-serving, self-righteous, contributing to
the formation of the New Public Orthodoxy, and, at least implicitly, to the wild
proliferation of artificial "minorities'' based on taste, inclination, and
circumstance. Sexual grotesquerie and anarchy meet at the lower depths.
Most people are in favor of the announced goals of legitimate minorities:
equal opportunity, just wages, upward mobility, and so on. To allow these
goals to become realities and permit society to settle according to natural
gravity, limitations of time and resource are imperative. This is to say, that
the measures taken to insure equity for minorities should be considered as
stop-gap and emergency, especially by the beneficiaries themselves.
Otherwise, the minor loyalties _ group, sex, or race _ may well replace the
fundamental loyalty owed to society as a whole and the paramount loyalty
owed to God. As long as minorities advance prosthetically the more difficult
will self-advancement become. Our goal should be a participatory, equitable
society not a Dictatorship of the Disadvantaged (or their advocates) which
looms on the horizon.
These "three waves'' are interconnected. They respond to the same
currents, follow the same ideological imperatives. The cult of the pseudo-
sacred leads away from the living God to a veritable gallery of puny
caricatures. The Creator God who stands at the center of reality and to
whom everything is indebted for its very existence is bypassed, ignored,
bracketed, even denied outright. In this vacuum the New Public Orthodoxy
can flourish as it provides a welcome though highly shaky scaffolding for
social, political, and cultural life. The Dictatorship of the Disadvantaged
buttresses this state of affairs by preventing its potential enemies _ the very
best elements of all groups _ from rising to prominence, handing leadership
to those persons who, lacking everything, can swallow anything.
No doubt this tract on "What's wrong with America'' should be followed by
one on "What's right with America.'' Doubtless, even today there exist
enclaves of the normative, islands of security, where virtue is practiced,
tradition honored, culture transmitted, the amenities observed, and _ more
significant by far _ God worshipped. Nevertheless, we must realize that the
paradigm of the age is not an Oedipus, a Bisclavret, a Faust, or even an
Ahab, in spite of their many all too contemporary failings. It is Kafka's
Gregor Samsa, an alienated man who barters his human form for a solution
to an intolerable situation. As a disgusting vermin he attains freedom, a
freedom from which the only exit is death. Like Gregor, we are all in danger
of becoming superfluous. Like Gregor, eavesdropping on the three lodgers
dining, we distinctly hear the gnashing of the teeth above the clatter of the
1 The Intercollegiate Review (Spring 1989), Vol. 24, No. 2, pp. 3-12.
2 The Idea of the Holy (New York: O.U.P., 1964), pp. 2-5, 9-11.
3 "Holderin on the Essence of Poetry,'' Existence and Being, ed. by W. Brock
(London: Vision Press, 1949), p. 319.
4 "The Terror of the Year 2000,'' reprinted in The Canadian Catholic Review, Vol.
2, No. 11 (Dec. 1984), p. 23/459.
Robert A. Herrera is Professor of Philosophy at Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey. He holds a Ph.D. from the Graduate Faculty of the New School for Social Research and is author of (St. Bede's Publications) and (University Press of America). Dr. Herrera is a member of editorial board.
Copyright (c) 1996 EWTN