Modernism As Magia

The Greeks with their first class mathematical and scientific brains made many discoveries in mechanics and other applied sciences but they never took whole-heartedly, with all their powers, the momentous step which western man took at the beginning of the modern period of crossing the bridge between the theoretical and the practical, of going all out to apply knowledge to produce operations. Why was this? It was basically a matter of the will. Fundamentally, the Greeks did not want to operate. They regarded operations as base and mechanical, a degeneration from the only occupation worthy of the dignity of man, pure rational and philosophical speculation. The Middle Ages carried on this attitude in the form that theology is the crown of philosophy and the true end of man is contemplation; any wish to operate can only be inspired by the devil. Quite apart from the question of whether Renaissance magic could, or could not, lead on to genuinely scientific procedures, the real function of the Renaissance Magus in relation to the modern period (or so I see it) is that he changed the will. It was now dignified and important for man to operate; it was also religious and not contrary to the will of God that man, the great miracle, should exert his powers. It was this basic psychological reorientation towards a direction of the will which was neither Greek nor medieval in spirit, which made all the difference.

– Frances Yates, Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition, pp. 155-156

Throughout Church history, there have been always been heretics who denied one or another article of faith. But only with modernism, which St. Pius X called the synthesis of all heresies, was the nature of faith itself denied. True faith is a supernaturally infused virtue of the soul by means of which man is enabled to believe the truths revealed by God. In the Act of Faith that we learn in the Catechism, we pray, “I believe these and all the truths which the Holy Catholic Church teaches, because Thou hast revealed them, Who can neither deceive nor be deceived.” As a virtue that lifts the human intellect to God, faith is ordered to contemplation. Heresy normally wouldn’t change this order. While a heretic denies the true faith, he still insists that salvation is only available by believing what (he claims) God has revealed.

By contrast, modernism teaches that faith is the expression of man’s inner religious sense, the only point of contact he has with an otherwise unknown and unknowable God. All men have an experience of the divine, the modernist says, and this experience is sometimes so moving as to compel them to share it with others. This, they say, is the beginning of religion. In reality, of course, it is the destruction thereof.

The “faith” of a modernist is not ordered to contemplation. It moves his will into the world rather than out of it; from an individual experience it naturally overflows into sharing with others. It pretends to dignify man with a participation in the divine creative power, the power of an individual to originate forms of divine worship that would be believed to come from God. In short, modernist “faith” is ordered not to contemplation but to operation. And if there is an operation of this “faith” in the world, namely the institution of sundry religious practices, then this operation must be perfected in an art. What art could be more fitting to such a thing than the magical art of the Asclepius? As Yates concludes about Agrippa’s treatise on divine or religious magic,

In short, what we are arriving at here is something which is really very like the ideal Egyptian, or pseudo-Egyptian, society as presented in the Hermetic Asclepius, a theocracy governed by priests who know the secrets of a magical religion by which they hold the whole society together, though they themselves understand the inner meaning of those magical rites as being, beyond the magically activated statues, really the religion of the mind, the worship of the One beyond the All, a worship perceived by the initiated as rising beyond the strange forms of its gods, activated by elemental and celestial manipulations, to the intellectual world, or to the Ideas in the divine mens (Ibidem, p. 142).

The agnosticism of the modernist is replaced by gnosticism in magic. But in fact, from the point of view of a magician, these two doctrines would go hand in hand: gnosticism teaches that there is an Elect, an intellectual elite who alone can comprehend the mysteries of God. For the rest, there is no hope of knowledge. It makes perfect sense, then, that when the time came once more for pagan sorcery to dominate the lives of men, that it would present itself to the general public precisely as modernism. In my view, then, modernism is simply the final, most sophisticated expression of an ancient superstition, a diabolical mysticism.