17 October, 2023
We are keen to firm up numbers for our three five-day intensive courses in January – in Western Civilisation, Latin and Biblical Greek. Full details appear below, and on our website. You can easily enrol using Humanitix.
Regretfully, and despite several requests, we have not found it feasible to teach these courses online. Our resources are insufficient to do it properly, but even if we could we question the efficacy of an approach to education that is becoming increasingly popular, a trend that was accelerated by Covid. There is nothing more wonderful than direct human contact, but travel is the price one has to pay for it!
THE AUSTRALIAN REFERENDUM
Some see the rejection of the proposed Voice as a triumph, but others are heartbroken. I voted NO, but am deeply sad for those whose hopes were dashed. It is not a time to gloat, but neither is it a time for anger. If we believe in our democratic processes (if we don’t, why did we spend all that money on a referendum?) we must accept the outcome and live with it. It is absurd to accuse the Australian people of racism, for there are few countries on earth that have better assimilated peoples from every continent. Instead let us accept that racial distinction has been excluded from the Constitution. Race should no more be a criterion for bestowing benefits. Let need alone be the criterion.
TIME AND ETERNITY
Not all those who read this newsletter are believers, but the following reflection on the truepurpose and goal of human civilisation might resonate with those who are:
‘Before Abraham was, I AM.’ (St John, 8:58).
This stunning statement assures us, with crystal clarity, that God’s dwelling place is beyond and outside time. It’s true that Scripture often tries to explain eternity by analogy with time – for example, ‘one day in thy courts is better than a thousand’ (Psalm 84) – but the Church has always understood that sort of language to be merely figurative. What we might call ‘everlastingness’ is not at all the same thing as Eternity.
Eternity is impossible for us to grasp, just as it’s impossible for a person blind from birth to understand sight. The great Christian philosopher Boethius (c. 480 – 524) says that time ‘imitates’ eternity. If you could live an infinite number of days, he argues, you would not be enjoying eternity, for time is merely linear, whereas eternity is incomprehensible to the human mind and therefore inexpressible. He does try to express it, however: he defines eternity as ‘the total, perfect and simultaneous possession of unbounded life’. By a strange paradox, eternity is simple, but time is complex: we who live under the tyranny of time have a fleeting present, a past that’s lost for ever, and a future that’s unknown. In eternity we shall have it all at once, in unimaginable ways.
I am much moved by a song by English singer George Ezra, in which he dreams of one day meeting his ideal future partner. She’s out there somewhere waiting to love him – or so he hopes:
Somewhere out there is my girl…
…We’ll dance by the light of the moon in the sky
We’ll sail on through forever for a while.
‘forever for a while…’ The pathos of that is almost unbearable. It sums up the whole human dilemma: we want our loves to be eternal – but we know they can’t last.
Our task in the Dawson Centre is to do what we can, little though it be, to defend the good name of Christian Civilisation. But we need to remind ourselves that that’s not a worthy end in itself. Civilisation is a stabilising force within a human society, that shapes and directs its moral progress, and both allows and stimulates its creative instincts. Its value lies solely in its fruits. They are the arts and sciences that distinguish mankind from the beasts, and the laws that regulate human behaviour, guiding it towards a just and fair distribution of the world’s goods, and inhibiting (as far as such blunt instruments can) our selfish impulses.
But civilisations can also go sour and bring forth bad fruit. We have to maintain a constant vigilance to keep our society productive, just, compassionate and truthful. Human nature being what it is, that means we are always at war with our fellows over this or that aspect of personal or national behaviour. All our victories are merely temporary – but the great consoling thought is that our setbacks are temporary too! There is to be no peace or lasting resolution this side of eternity.
With best wishes to all,
IN THE NEWS
PROF JOHN HALDANE gave a splendid talk on ‘Catholic Education and the Common Good’ at the Hope and Anchor Tavern, Hobart, last Thursday 12 October.
It will shortly be posted on our YouTube Channel here.
‘THE GREAT FORGETTING’
is the title of a recent article in First Things. Unfortunately it’s behind a pay wall. Here’s an extract but we recommend the whole piece (the author is R R Reno):
‘A new generation of leaders knows next to nothing about the great thinkers who have shaped our history. Who can blame them? They have been educated during the Great Forgetting. We have embarked on a remarkable experiment: a society governed by those who have little knowledge of the humanities, which means no informed sense of who we are and where we’ve come from.’ A Cambridge student writes: ‘I took an undergraduate degree in English but, by the end of the three-year course, I had not studied Milton or Coleridge, Wordsworth or Shelley, nor Keats or Collins or Dickens. These writers were replaced by black, female, and “queer” writers, often for no other reason than that they are black or female or queer. Foucault takes pride of place on the top floor, whilst Chaucer and Shakespeare have been relegated to the basement.’
ARTS FACULTIES UNFIT FOR PURPOSE?
Many departments in modern mainstream arts faculties have ceased to be fit for purpose. This piece by the Director from the Epoch Times, What’s Wrong with Arts Degrees, covers the same sort of ground as the Reno piece but may be more accessible.
‘CANCELLING THE F-WORD’
This piece by former Macquarie University Vice-Chancellor Steven Schwartz identifies another absurd trend of modern education!
CHESTERTON CONFERENCE, 21 OCTOBER
Sydney readers might enjoy this annual event at Campion College on Saturday 21 October. It is run by the Australian Chesterton Society. The theme this year is Chesterton and the Rise of a Counter-Culture. You can book here.
COLLOQUIUM 2024 – DATE CLAIMER
The 2024 Colloquium will be on SATURDAY 6 JULY
Topic: Authentic Humanism and the Crisis of Culture
SUMMER SCHOOLS JANUARY 2024
SUMMER SCHOOL ON WESTERN CULTURE 2024
Monday 8 to Friday 12 January 2024 inclusive
Hobart – Royal Botanical Gardens
The Dawson Centre was founded to advance the notion that the Christian Faith and the intellectual tradition that grew up with it are essential components of our civilisation, not optional extras, but core elements in the very fabric of the culture. Christopher Dawson maintained that a true human culture cannot exist at all without a religious component, and the Christian religion is inherent in and inseparable from our Western culture. ENROL HERE
What are some of the great and distinctive achievements of the West?
We are offering this course for the third time as a sort of a ‘taster’, a broad and sweeping view of the terrain and some of its principal landmarks. It cannot claim to be any more than a sketch of the panorama, but we hope it will meet a need and inspire participants to delve further into our fascinating and rich heritage. ENROL HERE
SUMMER SCHOOL – LATE AND ECCLESIASTICAL LATIN
Monday 15 to Friday 19 January 2024
at Notre Dame Priory, Colebrook, Tasmania
The Latin school assumes some prior knowledge of the language and leads participants through a selection of important readings in poetry and prose, sacred and secular, from authors such as Augustine, Jerome, Bede, Peter Abelard, Aquinas, the Carmina Burana, and even Dante. In date our selections range from the poet Virgil to the abdication speech of Pope Benedict! Accommodation is available on request at Bethany House in the Priory grounds. ENROL HERE
SUMMER SCHOOL – BIBLICAL GREEK FOR BEGINNERS
Monday 22 to Friday 26 January 2024
at The Emmanuel Centre, 123 Abbott Street, Newstead, Launceston
The New Testament and Koine Greek school is for beginners who want to experience the excitement of reading parts of the Bible in the original language. We shall read extracts from the Gospel and Epistles, as well as some important passages from the Septuagint (the ancient Greek version of the Old Testament), as well as some pieces from the early Fathers of the Church and the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom. Accommodation at the Centre is available on request. We are trialling the Emmanuel Centre for the first time – it sounds ideal. ENROL HERE