I had the chance to sit down and talk with a skeptic friend this morning, and the following dialogue ensued:
1. Why must you rail against Modernism? Isn’t it just tilting at windmills, and aren’t we all postmoderns at this point?
Bernard, I applaud your “windmills” allusion to Don Quixote. It is appropriate, insofar as Cervantes wrote the first Modern novel — a paean to the pointlessness of virtue, the needlessness of war, the heedlessness of headlong masculine chivalry, etc. I refer you to Lepanto.
First, what is Modernism? This question is difficult to answer because part of the nature of what we call Modernism is that it has many heads and faces, like the chimera. Pius X wrote that Modernism “presents its doctrines without order and systematic arrangement into one whole, scattered and disjointed one from another, so as to appear to be in doubt and uncertainty, while they are in reality firm and steadfast.”
Like the positive and negative terminals on a battery, two main poles provide Modernism with its energy:
1. Agnosticism. This means that human reason is limited to the senses. No more, no less. Thou shalt not mention metaphysics, unless thou proceedest directly to phenomenology. God is right out.
2. Vital immanence. This means that the common religious urging felt by man is limited to and originates from him. Hence, religion is only a movement of man’s heart, why or whence he knows not, and this we call sentiment. Blech.
Now, we see these two aspects of Modernist philosophy storming the minds of the young on a daily basis. Take for instance The Matrix. When Morpheus tells Neo that there is a universal feeling everyone experiences “when you go to Church…when you pay your taxes,” he is telling Neo that 1) vital immanence is what causes any sort of transcendental yearning in man, and 2) his is merely a sensory existence, as evidenced by the ridiculous tubing apparatus through which man experiences the empirical reality known as the Matrix. Cute metaphor for Modernism, no?