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Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Are All Things Lawful to the Elect?

In his book, Enthusiasm (1950), Monsignor Ronald Arbuthnott Knox (1888-1957) noted what he called the “ultrasupernaturalist” or enthusiastic tendency to subordinate everything, especially the precepts of the natural law, to one’s desires and personal interpretation of something accepted as God’s Will . . . or one’s personal will, if he or she happens to be a self-contained deity.

Msgr. Ronald A. Knox


This cropped up in the earliest Christian communities, notably the one at Corinth, where there were some individuals setting themselves above others due their presumably having achieved a greater degree of Christian enlightenment . . . which was why Saint Paul wrote those letters to the Corinthians. . . .

Not that other faiths and philosophies are exempt from the tendency to have some people think they’re better than others, although the fact that God is an Englishman, probably educated at Eton, may make it more obvious for Christianity.

There is a seemingly inevitable corollary to this tendency for those who have separated themselves from ordinary people by ascending to a higher plane.  Or plain.  That is the intrusion of the idea that what is forbidden to lower plane or plain ordinary, unenlightened people is perfectly proper, sometimes even mandatory for the elect.  Opinion held by faith is better than knowledge attained by reason.

Oliver "Warts and All" Cromwell


Knox alluded to this a number of times in his book, e.g., to understand why pacifist Quakers suffered no qualms of conscience serving in the army of Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658) during the various phases of the English Civil War (1642-1646, 1648-1649, 1649-1651).  As he explained,

But perhaps the inconsistency is not so grave as it appears, if we study the Anabaptist background of the Quaker movement.  We saw in the last chapter that the Anabaptists did not really hold modern views about non-resistance.  Their doctrine was, not that nobody has a right to take the sword, but that no worldly person has a right to take the sword.  Dominion is founded on grace; if you are not in a state of grace you have, strictly speaking, no rights, and therefore no authority either to government or to make war — least of all on the saints.  But what if the saints contrive to set up the theocratic kingdom which is, always, the subject of their dreams?  Is it so clear that they have no right to enforce their own superior enlightenment on the world?  The Peasants’ Revolt and the defence of Munster give the answer to your question. (Ronald A. Knox, Enthusiasm: A Chapter in the History of Religion.  New York: Oxford University Press, 1961, 148.)

Fidel Castro


This might also explain the apparent contradiction in the twentieth century of Dorothy Day’s Catholic Worker movement separating from the Catholic Radical Alliance over the issue of the legitimacy of armed resistance to Hitler, and later condoning the use of violence by Fidel Castro. (Dorothy Day, “Letter to an Imprisoned Editor,” The Catholic Worker, January 1960, 2, 8.) Those opposing Hitler were doing it for worldly reasons and were consequently ungodly.  Castro was fighting for the rights of the poor, whom Day considered “God’s little ones.”  He was therefore godly and permitted to employ force against others.

Admittedly, the issue of armed resistance to injustice was the ostensible reason, but there were also significant differences over the proper role of the State and the degree of control over the economy and people’s lives.  Day, for example, was suspicious of the New Deal, enthusiastically championed by the Catholic Radical Alliance of Pittsburgh, and the CRA(P)’s mentor, Msgr. John A. Ryan of the Catholic University of America.

Nor is this purely a religious phenomenon.  Time and again, especially in recent history, groups have pleaded for tolerance on the grounds that coercion used against them is wrong.  Yet the moment the formerly oppressed group came into power they proceeded to crush opposition with all possible force.

E.F. Schumacher


It is only necessary in this context to note the demands for toleration of same sex unions under the heading of marriage.  During the campaign, the public at large was assured that no one would be forced to participate or go contrary to his conscience in any way.  Those with same sex attraction insisted all they wanted was their civil rights . . . evidently oblivious to the fact that marriage is not a civil right, but a domestic right, albeit recognized and sanctioned by both civil and religious authority.

Once same sex unions were legally declared marriages, the full force of the law was brought against people who failed to participate or support enthusiastically — double meaning intended.  Society’s overall consciousness had been raised, and coercion was now legitimate against those who insisted on remaining at a lower, unenlightened level.

This is also the sense of the New Age belief that truth changes as different levels of consciousness are achieved.  As asserted in, e.g., A Guide for the Perplexed (1977) by the Fabian socialist Ernst Friedrich “Fritz” Schumacher (1911-1977), what is true at one level of consciousness is not necessarily true at any other level of consciousness, and vice versa.

Badge of the Fabian Society


And, yes, Schumacher was a member of the Fabian Society, the “Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing.”  According to Edward R. Pease, all Society publications were written by members of the “inner circle” to ensure doctrinal purity (The History of the Fabian Society.  London: Frank Cass and Co., Ltd., 1963, 182-184), with only one exception for a single tract on a “special subject” by a member not of the core group who subsequently resigned from the Society when publication of a second piece was denied (ibid., 184).  Pease cited this exclusiveness as one of the reasons H.G. Wells eventually broke with the Society.

Schumacher was the author of Export Policy and Full Employment, Fabian Research Series No. 77.  London: Fabian Publications, 1943, a publication of the New Fabian Research Bureau formed in 1931 at the instigation of George Douglas Howard Cole (1889-1959) to give more direction and “vigour” to member debates.  The Bureau is credited with forming a major portion of the policy of the British Labour Government of 1945, which saw 229 members of the Fabian Society elected to parliament, and in which Schumacher took an active part, first as an economic advisor to, and later Chief Statistician for, the British Control Commission, which was charged with rebuilding the German economy.  (“Our History: Between the Wars,” website of the Fabian Society: The Future of the Left Since 1884,, accessed March 2, 2021.)

"Are you a Good Rich, or a Bad Rich?"


Anyway, one of the elect who has been granted the direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit, therefore, can hold by faith as true and lawful, even as the sign of election itself, something that the week before he raised his consciousness he held by reason as false and unlawful.  He “knows” (gnosis) what he wants is good and lawful, even though the same thing is evil and forbidden to others who are on a lower spiritual plane.  As Knox explained, “‘We know’ [is] a claim, not to worldly wisdom, but to direct spiritual enlightenment.” (Knox, Enthusiasm, op. cit., 18.)

Thus (for example) a rich man who spends his money as he wishes on worldly things, to invest in more capital, or contributes to the wrong political causes, exhibits the evil presumably inherent in being rich.  He is a camel that will never get through the eye of a needle.

A rich man whose consciousness has been raised and who spends his money in ways the ultrasupernaturalist approves, however (such as giving it to the ultrasupernaturalist or to the ultrasupernaturalist’s favored causes), is thereby hailed as one of the elect.  He is a camel that slides through the needle’s eye with ease and may already have entered the Kingdom of God on Earth.