Newman, The Pillar of the Cloud

Newman, The Pillar of the Cloud

Newman, The Pillar of the Cloud

Newman, The Pillar of the Cloud

Excerpt

In the autumn of 1805 a child of four lay in his cot and stared at the candles stuck in the windows of his home, flames against the dark, in celebration of the victory of Trafalgar. It was one of the first events that John Henry Newman remembered by its date in history, at once definite and mysterious. Light within and darkness outside, victory far off at sea: the image remained in his mind.

The house and the world in which he lay belonged to the eighteenth century; in England the old order reigned, though the nation was profoundly disturbed by the repercussions of the French Revolution and the birth pangs of industrialism. John Henry Newman was born with the nineteenth century and died at the beginning of its last decade; he was to see the whole face of his country and of Europe change and he was one of the few who foresaw something of the century to come. Not that he was a prophet of events, but his profound insight into the conflict of ideas behind the transformation enabled him to forecast the trend things were likely to take.

We are beginning to realize that the spectacular events of our own time are but the developments of the ideas and discoveries of the first half of the nineteenth century, a period of revolutionary energy comparable only to the sixteenth. Perhaps the continuity of scientific and political theory has been more readily recognized than that of religious and cosmological ideas relating to the nature of man, his place in the universe and the meaning of his existence. We are still trying to understand the implications of the great theory of evolution, the most fundamental of nineteenth-century discoveries, which alters the whole context of our thought. As the astronomical theories of sixteenth-century scientists destroyed the concept of the earth as static and central in space, shaking in men's minds their image of the external poles of good and evil, so the nineteenth-century evolutionary theories have shattered the idea of the world as static in time, and man's image of himself as master of his fate. Newman frequently . . .

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