Thursday, July 19, 2012

Review of Brad Jersak's George P. Grant: Minerva's Snowy Owl -- by Ron Dart

Review of Brad Jersak, George P. Grant: Minerva’s Snowy Owl: Essays in Political Theology (FWP, 2012).

Only when the dusk starts to fall
does the owl of Minerva
spread its wings and fly

Owl-for-webGeorge Grant is, without much doubt, one of Canada’s most significant public intellectuals, philosophers and theologians. He has dared to ask questions that few have, and he has ventured into territory that even fewer dare go. Grant was a creative thinker who sought to interpret and apply the fullness of the Western and Eastern Traditions to the plight and problems of the 20th century. He was, in short, like the philosophic owl of bygone days---wise, and as Jersak rightly notes in the title of collected essays, a snowy white owl-----pure in his longing and quest for wisdom.

The subtitle also speaks much about the recently published book by Jersak------it is a series of ‘essays in political theology’. There has been a silly tendency to separate theology and political philosophy by some----such were and are the prejudices of much of modernity---Grant never did this, and Brad, faithful to Grant does not do this.

‘George P. Grant: Minerva’s Snowy Owl’ is a must need read and interpretation of Grant, and many of the essays emerge from Brad’s substantive and meticulous probes into the intellectual journey of Grant. The book is divided into six parts and a couple of Appendices: 1) Conversion, 2) The Rise of Modernity, 3) Mystical Epistemology, 4) Grantian Theology, 5) Grantian Justice, 6) Primary Sources and two Appendices.

There is natural and organic unfolding in the tome that moves at a steady and sure pace from the origins and roots of Grant’s conversion to the interpretive meaning of such a graphic and intense experience.

Grant sought to understand the meaning of eternity in time and how the Classical understanding of God and Platonic Goodness had been tampered with by Modernity (and the implications of such a shift in consciousness). Grant turned again and again to Plato and Simone Weil (and Weil’s read of Plato) as a means of challenging many moderns who are so enmeshed and immersed in the matrix of modernity and postmodernity that they cannot think outside of such a box and straightjacket. Brad highlights in a judicious way and manner how Grant does this in the areas of epistemology, theology and our notions of justice. Each essay (and most are short but quite readable) walks the reader into the creative approach of Grant as he dared to confront the reigning monarch and imperialistic tendencies of liberal modernity.

‘George P. Grant: Minerva’s Snowy Owl’ is a valuable contribution to the emerging literature on Grant, and for those interested in political, philosophic and theological life in Canada, a thorough immersion in Grant and Jersak’s read of him is imperative.

Hegel (who Grant parted company with as a young man) and Grant both realized that the owl of philosophy often only spread its broad wings and began to fly when the dusk of an era had appeared. The dusk of modernity is now with us, and we are entering the night of such an era. Grant has seen further and deeper into the heart of modernity than most, and, like the snowy philosophic owl he is, he realized such an ethos is in its dusk phase. How many see as cleanly or as clearly as Grant in this manner? Grant, unlike most in Minerva’s Aviary, has called into question those like Hegel and tribe that are apologists for modernity. Canadians are fortunate to have a prophet like Grant who has bored to the very centre and core of the deeper dilemmas we face in our age, and Brad has unpacked well why this snowy owl should be heard and heeded.    
I might add, by way of a departing footnote, that the book is also a primer and entrée to Brad’s doctoral thesis on Grant, ‘We are not our own: the Platonic Christianity of George Grant’. The thesis will be defended at Bangor, Wales in the autumn of 2012. Hopes are high that the thesis will also be rapidly converted into a book. The thesis and ‘Minerva’s Snowy Owl’ will definitely add to the ongoing interest and in depth read of Grant in Canada and beyond.

Ron Dart   

Minerva's Snow Owl is available via for $19.95.

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