Saturday, July 6, 2013

George Grant and Hinduism: Contemplative Probes - Ron Dart

Christianity seems in a certain way closer to Hinduism than it does to its fellow religions that arose in the East.
George Grant, George Grant in Conversation(1995) p. 176
In talking about a philosophical response, are we not supposed to have agreed upon understanding as to what philosophy is? And certainly one should not try to take advantage of the fact that there is no definition of philosophy on which all are agreed.  
John Arapura, Modernity and Responsibility: Essays for George Grant (1983) p.52       
Modern scientists, like the modern thinkers in Swift’s Battle of the Books,explain nature, human and non-human, the idea of soul, and not surprisingly they have produced a world where it is difficult to think what it means to be open to the whole. Ancient thinkers are compared to the bee which goes around collecting honey from the flowers; modern thinkers are compared to the spider which spins webs out of itself and then catches its food in that web.
George Grant in Dennis Lee, Poetry and Philosophy (1982)      
The recent book, Athens and Jerusalem: George Grant’s Theology, Philosophy, and Politics (2006), probed Grant’s deeper theological roots, but in the doing of this, Grant’s interest and affinity with the Orient and Hinduism was missed and ignored. This is a serious lack and weakness in an otherwise needed and necessary commentary on Grant.  
Grant saw himself as standing within the ‘Hindu wing of Christianity’, and, as mentioned above, he thought the contemplative and mystical core of Christianity made it ‘closer to Hinduism’ than to either the Jewish or Islamic traditions.
What did Grant mean by the statements mentioned above, and why was he, as a Canadian, at the forefront of probing greater contemplative depths in the Christian Tradition, and, by doing so, opening up new trails for interfaith dialogue?

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Dostoevsky's Idiot and Holbein's Christ by Brad Jersak


The theologia crucis of George Grant, John Oman and Dostoevsky by Brad Jersak

George Grant on Oman’s theologia crucis

George P. Grant’s PhD dissertation focused on John Oman. And Grant’s theology of the Cross actually bears many of the marks of Oman’s theologia crucis. Both men held the Cross as central to all Christian theology, that faith (not reason) is essential to one’s knowledge of God’s love and forgiveness, and that God’s providence must ultimately remain a mystery. Both believed redemption was accomplished—consummated1—in Gethsemane and Golgotha. They believed that Christ is risen, but that Easter Sunday did not reverse a Good Friday defeat. The Resurrection was not a fulfillment, but a consequence of the Cross.2 Sheila illustrates Oman’s lingering impact on Grant by comparing an analogy common to each.

Oman: “The theologia gloriae sees on the cross ‘the King in rags, who will soon tear off his disguise and show himself in triumph.”

Grant (1976 lectures at McMasters): “There is a ghastly way of speaking about the Resurrection in the modern world which I call the fairy-tale way. A prince is dressed in rags, and everybody scorns him. Suddenly the clothes are pulled off and he appears in his prince’s costume, and everybody treats him well.”3

But Grant also critiques Oman’s theology as insufficient—too simple, triumphant, and voluntaristic for moderns whose faith is shattered by despair. Oman’s vision is beautiful as far as it goes: Grant acknowledges Oman’s Cross as a prophetic revelation of the Father’s love, the Son’s forgiveness, and the call to “find joy in the world by the knowledge that all can be redeemed.”4 It also reveals God’s call to an ethic of forgiveness: “Oman’s faith is that Our Lord on the Cross reveals the Father as Love, Who demands from men that they take up their crosses in forgiveness. The Father’s Love and man’s freedom to partake of it are the essence of Christianity.”5 But something is missing. By resisting Oman, Grant tells us his own story—how this simplicity is marred by the reality of doubt and despair that comes with extreme affliction.

To read the rest of this article:  Download Grant Oman Dostoevsky

Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday - 1951 by George Grant

Good Friday [1]

O dearest word, the very Word indeed,
Breathes on our striving, for the cross is done;
All fate forgotten and from judgement freed,
Call Him then less - Who shows us this - Your Son?
Look it is here, at death, not three days later,
The love that binds the granite into being.
Here the sea's blueness finds its true creator,
His glance on Golgotha our sun for seeing.
Nor say the choice is ours, what choice is left?
Forgiveness shows God's Will most fully done.
There on the cross the myth of hell is cleft,
And the black garden blazes with the sun.
Hold close the crown of thorns, the scourge, the rod,
For in His sweat, full front, the face of God.

[1] S. Grant, “Grant and the Theology of the Cross” (1996), 248 (citing United Church Observer 13.6 (15/05/1951): 16).

Saturday, March 2, 2013

New Books on George Grant and Red Toryism

These new publications on George Grant and Red Toryism are now available in paperback and kindle. They include essays in political theology, political science and philosophy, exploring Grant's engagement with Nietzsche, Heidegger, Weil and much more.

Red torySimone Weil and George P. Grant were among the 20th century's top political theologians. Weil, a philosopher-activist-mystic from France, was the Christian mystic who refused to join the Church but nevertheless, influenced the Vatican II popes with her radical openness. George Grant, one of Canada's top three thinkers, once said that next to the four Gospels, Weil was his highest authority. This book is a series of essays in political theology, exploring some of their key themes and how their work inter-relates. This book explores in depth, for the first time, how their 'theology of consent' informs their political philosophy and a public ethic of the Cross.

Table of Contents Preface / 1 Part 1 – SIMONE WEIL: RED VIRGIN 1. Simone Weil: George Grant’s Diotima / 5 2. Stages of Weil’s Mystical Ascent / 19 3. Competing Conceptions of God in Biblical Religion / 49 Part 2 – GEORGE GRANT: RED TORY 4. Grant and the Matrix: Complex of Ideologies / 71 5. Grant and the Matrix: Dialogue Partners / 75 6. Finding His Voice: Conversion to Lament / 83 Part 3 – DIVINE CONSENT 7. Wrath and Love as Divine Consent / 109 Abbreviations / 123 Bibliography of Sources Consulted / 127

Minerva coverGeorge P. Grant (1918-88) was one of Canada's premier political philosophers and stands as the benchmark for the Red Tory Tradition. He can also be credited with introducing the thought of Nietzsche, Heidegger and Simone Weil to Canada, critically analyzing their work seriously for the first time. Grant's Red Toryism has been revived and modified in the UK, but for a look at the essential thought of its chief architect, this book is a must read. Included in this work are essays in political theology, along with previously unpublished letters and classnotes that are critical to an understanding of Grant's 'primacy of the Good' vis-a-vis the 'primacy of freedom-as-mastery.' Especially important is the analysis of his theological relationship to Simone Weil and an appropriation of his work to rise above the culture wars of left and right.

Table of Contents Preface / 1 Part 1 – CONVERSION 1. George Grant’s Conversion Accounts / 5 2. Simone Weil’s Encounter with Christ in Marseilles / 13 3. Grant’s McMaster Sermon / 17 Part 2 – THE RISE OF MODERNITY 4. Sprouts of Modernity in Medieval Theology / 23 5. Blooms of Modernity in the Reformation and Calvinist Puritanism / 37 6. The Autonomous Subject: Knowing as Willing in Descartes, Bacon and Kant / 49 Part 3 – MYSTICAL EPISTEMOLOGY 7. Etymology of Nous / 65 8. Heidegger’s Eckart / 81 9. Weil’s Mystical Ascent / 85 Part 4 – GRANTEAN THEOLOGY 10. God the All-Powerful, All-Powerless / 111 11. Consent as Coercion / 123 Part 5 – GRANTEAN JUSTICE 12. Grant’s Rhetorical Method / 131 13. Christ at the Checkpoint / 141 Part 6 – PRIMARY SOURCES 14. Previously Unpublished Letters and Journal Entries / 151 15. Reading Simone Weil: Unpublished Excerpt / 199 16. Dalhousie Classnotes on Plato / 201 17. Robin Mathews: The Wave of the Future / 211 18. Grant’s References to Martin Luther’s Thesis 21 / 213 APPENDICES 19. Grant’s Readings in Weil: French and English / 219 20. Beyond Dualism: Correspondence with Radical Orthodoxy / 221 Abbreviations / 227 Bibliography of Sources Consulted / 231

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Ron Dart's Keepers of the Flame - Response by Brad Jersak

Ron Dart, Keepers of the Flame: Canadian Red Toryism (Fermentation Press, 2012).

It may seem redundant to follow up Robert Williams' fine review of Keepers of the Flame (below), but having recently completed three years of Grantean studies under Dart's supervision, I would like to voice my own response while the experience is still fresh. 

In this book, we get the sort of 'best-of' material that has put Ron Dart at the forefront of Red Toryism in Canada. With Williams, I see Ron standing among the ranks of the 'Keepers of the Flame' discussed in this book. The capacity to scan the landscape from 30,000 feet enables him to see very broad patterns and connections, as well as significant discontinuities and contrasts. I would argue that this eagle-eye perspective makes Dart one of Red Toryism's premier analytical historians today, taking up the torch from giants like William Christian.

This book in particular was helpful for Grant scholars who want to learn about the other great Canadian Red Tories. I recognized names like Leacock, Mathews and Acorn, but there were a number of names that I had not encountered previously. For example, Catherine Parr Traill, Susanna Moodie and Marya Fiamengo were women important to the movement that had completely escaped my notice (and shouldn't have!). 

What struck me too was how many Red Tories were not primarily politicians or political scientists, but significant poets whose words are a heartbeat that one simply cannot capture when tied to the deceptive binary of political right or left -- they transcend the culture wars with a higher vision of the Good and of truth and justice. None of this escapes Dart. He peruses the landscape, then sets these characters over against popular counterparts in literature (Atwood), activism (Chomsky), politics (Manning) and theology (Pinnock). I am challenged to ponder the ease with which I jump on bandwagons and cautioned against simple either-or thinking. The Canadian Red Tories call us to be at once more prophetic and more nuanced in our engagement. Just when I believe I have 'nailed it,' Ron and his heroes apply the brakes. They also serve to slow the pendulum swings of our (my) reactive nature, noting that at any given moment, someone like Grant could be the darling of the New Left or their greatest disappointment, opposing abortion or promoting public health care on 'any given Sunday.' 

In all of this, Ron Dart's book provides a sense of quality control. What is the Canadian vision? What is a conservative? And what is a Red Tory? Perhaps this is easier in Canada, where Red Toryism has become extinct enough such that it's easier to define. Less so in the UK, where a revival of Red Toryism proves dynamic and slippery. This is of concern to Ron, because newcomers (like me) are prone to emphasize similarities between George Grant and the new UK Red Tories like Philip Blond. Blond's book, Red Tory, looks familiar to me. He shares Grant's Christian Platonism; his call to restore 'the virtues' and identify 'the Good' in education; and even the moniker 'Red Tory.' Meanwhile, Ron is able to see problematic differences--he sees a distortion and a loss. This is not entirely clear to me yet, and I had hoped for something substantive in this book that lays out the differences plainly. For now, I will look forward to that in Ron's future articles and books, satisfied that Keepers of the Flame has established a standard on the Canadian front.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Review of Ron Dart's 'Keepers of the Flame' - by Robert Williams

Keepers of the Flame: Canadian Red Toryism (2012) – A Short Review
Professor Ron Dart’s latest book, Keepers of the Flame: Canadian Red Toryism, a collection of Dart’s essays written over a period of about 15 years, was published by Fermentation Press out of Quebec in the closing days of December 2012. For those of us who’ve read Dart’s earlier work, the content of the book should come as no surprise. Within the pages of Keepers of the Flame, many a familiar topic is discussed, pondered and thought about:

  • Red Toryism (its roots and new routes, to play off the title of an earlier text by Dart) 
  • Liberalism (its matrix, principles, prejudices and short-comings) 
  • American Imperialism and its impacts on Canada 
  • Canadian nationalism and compradorism.