Category — History
As you have come to this lecture to hear what are the causes of the decline of christian civilization, it might be taken that you agree that there are sufficient evidences that there has been a decline in christian civilization and that we can therefore proceed directly to consider the causes. We, however, feel that it is necessary to first examine the evidence in order to see whether this opinion is the result of the temporary and passing troubled state of the world at this time or whether it is a deep rooted condition.
In making a judgment of the state of society, it is necessary to consider how a just judgment is to be made, and not take for granted that we are prepared to make a judgment. A judgment to be of any value must be impartial, or unbiased. We must therefore first consider the things which might bias our judgment. A judgment biased by prejudice is obviously valueless.
It is a tendency of mankind to divide into two classes, one of which calls itself conservative and the other progressive. The conservative form of mind, clings to old habits which it considers proven, it has a fondness for things of the past, it cares for what is ancient. The so-called progressive form of mind, loves novelties, it takes up with the latest movements, in an attempt to be up with the times.
Either of these attitudes causes a biased judgment. A man of sound judgment views everything on its own merit, whether it is old or new makes no difference to him, he only wishes to know whether a thing is genuine or not, and he knows that whether a thing is old or new has nothing to do with its genuineness. Such a man is also on his guard against extremes. The Greeks used to speak of a golden mean. The golden mean can only be found by a man of balanced judgment. The golden mean is not a passive neutrality but an active and alert balance. It may be compared to a man seated on a spirited horse, who alertly maintains his equilibrium lest he fall to one side or the other.
In this series of lectures we will show the ills of society are caused by going now to one extreme, now to the opposite extreme.
You have come to this lecture to hear me consider the causes of the decline of civilization; thus most of you are probably already of the opinion that there has been a decline. If your opinion is merely a prejudice in favor of old things, a kind of nostalgic regret at seeing them pass, it is of no value. On the other hand, if it involves a perception of an actual condition, you have come here in the hopes that the matter may become more clear.
A man who is truly adult desires to know the truth, even when it runs contrary to his prejudices. This Swedenborg calls, “The Love of truth for the sake of Truth”. There are, however, many who call themselves “seekers after truth”, who are so proud of seeking and examining all kinds of things with what they fancy to be an impartial mind that they would never recognize the truth when they meet it. To find the truth, would wound their vanity, for in this case they would no longer belong to the proud select group of seekers.
One who is truly looking for the truth does not boast of being a seeker after truth. To fairly and justly judge concerning our times, we must vigorously divest ourselves of prejudices due to our education and upbringing.
The Lord said “He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of He, and he that taketh not up his cross and followeth after lie is not worthy of Me”, Matt.10:37.
A man’s spiritual father and mother, is all the tradition, the education he has received from parents, from teachers, from our fatherland, or from our alma mater. A man who is truly looking for the truth must be willing to give up all that is not in agreement with the truth when he finds it. If he is not willing to do this he is wasting his time in looking for the truth.