Sunday, August 15, 2010
George Grant was Canada’s most significant public philosopher.
George Grant has been called one of the most important public intellectuals in Canada in the latter half of the 20th century. He had a wide ranging mind and imagination that covered and touched most aspects of the Western and Eastern traditions. Grant was a Christian renaissance humanist in the best sense of that compelling term. The fact that Grant was drawn to the best of the Western theological, philosophical and political tradition meant that he encountered the riches of Orthodoxy in his many probes. This brief essay will touch on Grant’s encounter with Orthodoxy. I will ponder his encounter and engagement with the Orthodox tradition in five unfolding phases.
First, Grant’s initial encounter with Orthodoxy was through the marriage of his sister, Alison Grant, to George Ignatieff. Grant had studied with George Ignatieff’s brother, Nicholas, who taught History at Upper Canada College in the 1930s. But the meeting of George Ignatieff and Alison Grant
and their marriage in November 1945 brought Grant into the centre of the Russian Orthodox way as it was embodied in England and Canada in the WWII period. George Ignaitieff had this to say about his Russian Orthodox heritage in his classic book, Memoirs of a Peacemonger:
The Orthodox church gave me a sense of belonging, of being in touch with my roots, of safety and stability in an otherwise confusing world. Even in early childhood I derived great comfort from prayer and from the familiar Orthodox liturgy, and I have remained a devoted member of the church ever since. p. 33.