Saturday, October 06, 2007

Orestes Brownson: A Guy You Never Heard About in American Education

Here's a long excerpt for an Indian Summer's afternoon read.

Orestes Brownson was born in 1803, the same year as Ralph Waldo Emerson, and orphaned. Raised in New England Calvinism, he was baptized into the Presbyterian Church, converted to Universalism in the 1820's and was ordained a Universalist minister; rejected Universalism for Unitarianism and subsequently joined the Brook Farm Movement of Beecher-Stow, Hawthorne, and Fuller before 1834 when he and Emerson led the Transcendentalist Movement for ten years. Emerson, a man of dubious inclinations and contrarian self-absorbtions, pushed Brownson into a leadership role of the Transcendentalist Society. Emerson continues to be the touchstone for radical American thought.

Bownson, however, was a guy searching for a solid faith and life anchor. Brownson converted for the final time in 1844 as a Roman Catholic. That was his exit from the American Brahmin Caste.

In a Letter to the Protestant Churches of America Brownson coined the phrase that identifies the roots of American Intellectual pretensions - Odinism.

Odinism is tendency toward the worship of diversity in all things - a desire to make the sacred profane and the profane sacred; ugliness is art. Contrarianism in political thought. 'We must hang those who would hang a traitor.'

Brownson saw the proliferation of Journals in the 19th Century - dominated by Protestant or nominally Protestant journalists. These journalists valorized the sanctity of the secular.

Emerson Thoreau, Hawthroen Beecher-Stowe and their intellectual disciples to this day have done a Joe Stalin on Brownson - Orestes Brownson became a 'Non Person' and remains so in American Thought.

Brownson died in 1876 and is buried in the cryp of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at the University of Notre Dame.

From Protestant Journalism in Brownson's Quarterly Review

We distinguish between the journal and the newspaper. The newspaper originated some three hundred years ago, if we are not mistaken, in the commercial city of Venice, and was designed chiefly to communicate such intelligence as was of special interest to merchants and bankers, or, as we say now, to the business classes. Gradually it enlarged its scope, especially when transferred to England, and gave political intelligence, as well as banking and mercantile information; but it confined itself to giving current news, and avoided all political and other discussions. It grew naturally out of the invention and general adoption of the art of printing, and simply superseded the intelligence which had been, from time immemorial, communicated by written instead of printed letters. The newspaper was not only a harmless, but a useful invention.

The journal may indeed publish news, but it is not by any means a newspaper. It is of recent origin, and owes its birth to the French revolution of 1789, that fountain of so many evils, and, to human eyes, of no good. The design of the journal is to influence and control public opinion, and, through public opinion, to influence and control public action. The public to which it is addressed may be a party, a faction, a coteric, or a sect, but its design is always to influence and control the thought and action of its public, whether its public be larger or smaller; and it seeks to do this by discussion, by arguments addressed to reason or prejudice, and by declamation, or inflammatory appeals to passion. The so-called independent journalism, represented by such journals as the N. Y. Herald, the N. Y. Tribune, and the N. Y. Sun of this city, professes to be independent of all parties, sects, and cliques, and to set forth the views and convictions of its management alone, or what its management believes, or pretends to believe, is for the public interest. But it must have popular support, a wide popular circulation, and, to gain this, it must court popular opinion, and study not to outrage popular prejudice. It can afford to have no unpopular principles, nor to support an unpopular cause. Indeed it cannot afford to have any principles, especially any religious principles, for any decided principles are sure to be unpopular with one or another section of the public. It, in fact, has no positive religion of any sort; and whatever religion it favors, is so vague and indeterminate that it is as good as none at all. Its influence in regard to religion is either to encourage infidelity pure and simple, or perfect indifferentism. Its religions is secularism, and it is less really independent and more fatal to all the great interests of society than even the partisan or sectarian press.

Satan never made a better hit than when he invented independent journalism; and the New York Herald, which so admirably represents the spirit of the age, should be, as we have no doubt it is, a great favorite with him. None but a renegade or bad Catholic could ever have founded and sustained such a marvellous journal; nor could even a bad Catholic have done it without extraordinary satanic assistance. The very design of the journal is satanic. It throws the forming and directing of public opinion and action into the hands of men who are responsible only to the laws, and hardly to them; who have and can give no guaranty of their wisdom, who scout all authority but their own, and proceed always on the assumption of their own infallibility, and that of the public to which they appeal. Independent journalism is Protestantism raised to its highest power, the deification of private judgment, and a fitting forerunner of Antichrist. Its power is immense, and its despotism is in proportion to its power. . . .

The greatest difficulty a Catholic reviewer encounters is in convincing Catholic laymen and journalists that catholic means catholic. The difficulty is almost as great as that of convincing certain routinist philosophers that nothing is nothing, not something. If religion is catholic, it is supreme and universal, the supreme law in every department of life, extending to every species of human activity. Whether we eat or drink, whether we sleep or wake, whatever we do, we are to do it for the glory of God. The goods of this life, whether national or political, social or economical, are never secured, or, if secured, cease to be goods,

That Old Boy understood America and the relativism that continues to diminish American Greatness.

Click on my Post Title for link to more on Orestes Brownson.

1 comment:

Steve Nizer said...

Thanks for the comment, I've added you to my blogroll.