Core: noun, the most important part of a thing, the essence; from the Latin cor, meaning heart.

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 Volume 1.19 This View’s Prose June 17, 2002 

    The Vital Problem of Democracy    

Europe gained the leadership in world culture, not by its material wealth, but by its pre-eminence in the things of the mind — in science and literature and ideas. It created the ideals which the rest of the world followed. If modern democracy were to involve giving up this mission and abandoning spiritual leadership for material satisfaction, then it would justly mean the decline of Western culture.

But as we have seen, democracy is by no means essentially materialistic; the democratic movement was founded on idealism, and if it is losing its ideals that is not the fault of the people as a whole. One of the most acute critics of modern tendencies, M. Lucien Romier, has written as follows:

The modern masses are not closed to ideas, but they want them and understand them only within the limits of their own experience and their own most constant and vital preoccupations. The problem is not to level all thought down to mass tendencies, but to answer the questions put by the masses. If the pure scientist or the philosopher who is capable of originality and leadership refuses to answer — then some slave of the crowd, some low journalist or venal politician, anxious for popularity and profit, will answer instead.

This is the vital problem of democracy, the problem of spiritual leadership. We need men who are something more than cunning manipulators of the political and economic machine, men who stand not for success or material efficiency, but for the old Christian ideals of faith, hope and charity.

And it is not only religious people who feel this. Even a thorough sceptic and modernist like Bertrand Russell is just as convinced as we are that if modern society goes on putting power and economic efficiency above spiritual values, it will end in disaster. This is what he says:

Our world has a heritage of culture and beauty, but unfortunately we have been handing on this heritage only to the less active and important members of each generation. The government of the world (by which I do not mean its ministerial posts, but its key positions of power) has been allowed to fall into the hands of men ignorant of the past, without tenderness to what is traditional, without understanding of what they are destroying.

And consequently the new society that is arising, based on pure economic and scientific technology, is a society that is

incompatible with the pursuit of truth, with love, with art, with spontaneous delight with every ideal that men have cherished with the sole exception of ascetic renunciation.

It is impossible to state the issue more clearly. The society that exists for wealth and power alone may attain a kind of greatness, but it is the greatness of despotism, not that of a democracy.


Christopher Dawson (b. 1889)


from The Modern Dilemma (1932)
quoted in Return to Tradition: A Directive Anthology pp. 311f
ed. Francis Beauchesne Thornton


    The Defense of Liberty    
    What constitutes the bulwark of our own liberty and independence? It is not our frowning battlements, our bristling seacoasts, the guns of our war steamers, or the strength of our gallant and disciplined army. These are not our reliance against a resumption of tyranny in our fair land. All of them may be turned against our liberties, without making us stronger or weaker for the struggle. Our reliance is in the love of liberty which God has planted in our bosoms. Our defense is in the preservation of the spirit which prizes liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands, everywhere. Destroy this spirit, and you have planted the seeds of despotism around your own doors. Familiarize yourselves with the chains of bondage, and you are preparing your own limbs to wear them. Accustomed to trample on the rights of those around you, you have lost the genius of your own independence, and become the fit subjects of the first cunning tyrant who rises.
    Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)
    from Speech at Edwardsville, Illinois, September 11, 1858
Collected Works
Volume III p. 95

 Volume 1.19 This View’s Prose June 17, 2002 

The View from the Core, and all original material, © E. L. Core 2002. All rights reserved.

Cor ad cor loquitur J. H. Newman — “Heart speaks to heart”