under the patronage of St Joseph and St Dominic
By the rivers of Babylon there we sat and wept, remembering Zion;
JOSEPH PEARCE AND G K CHESTERTON
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Joseph Pearce, former member of a white supremacist organization demanding the forced removal of all non-whites from the United Kingdom, the National Front, has just published the story of his conversion from hatred to love, from insanity to sanity and the religion God established on earth. Gilbert Keith Chesterton played no little part in that conversion.
Of all writers, Chesterton is the most difficult to categorise. One tries in vain to source a quote. He will write on one topic, A Tale of Two Cities, for instance, and begin with an illustration that is about as far from London and Paris as Tasmania’s Freycinet Peninsula, or as removed from Dickens’ tale of love and self-sacrifice as the private life of the Devil. He seems bent on obscuring the integrity and continuity of the various strands of his thought. Nor do the titles of his essays give clue to content whether the essential or the (often more valuable) accidental as the following collection may serve to illustrate :
Read any of his essays and you encounter another problem. There is no obvious path to chase what seemed, when you stumbled over it, a most profound thought which led you, willy-nilly, to another, and another, and another. You promise yourself at the end of the essay to return to the sentence that impressed you, and do you think you can find it ? Or even the faintest indication of where it is hidden ? The only way to read Chesterton is with pencil and notebook to hand, forcing yourself to pause at the end of each sentence or, if defacing a book does not trouble you, by using a highlighter.
There is a thought of Chesterton’s on sleep. The writer read it some forty years or so ago and has tried in vain to find it ever since. It refers to the truth that when I wake in the morning I have no idea where I have been for the last seven or so hours, or in whose keeping I have been (certainly not in my own), or why I should have been immersed so profoundly in obscure adventures in another land. Sleep is surely proof of man’s utter dependence on something, or someone, other than himself.
Here is a related thought :
Precisely ! The world did not need us ; yet here, through some miracle, we are. And, somehow, we existed previously to our appearance on earth, a reality the theologians explain through our existence (from all eternity) in the mind of God.
How could one foresee the discovery of a paragraph such as the following in Chesterton’s essay with the title Pickwick Papers ?
The more frequent visitors to this website will be familiar with the view of its author about the first sentence in Genesis, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…”, namely, that before He created the earth the Almighty first created a material setting, the heavens (or heaven as the Latin Vulgate has it), which must necessarily have pre-existed all of common or ordinary matter because there had first to be a place in which he could create it. Chesterton continues—
Here, most satisfying to the man of common sense, is a grasp of the metaphysical utterly foreign to the materialist and atheist, to the modern scientist (not because of his science but because his science is strangled by materialism and subjectivism) ; foreign to anyone who will not trouble to study the Doctrine of Causality. Here is the sense of the eternal ideas premised on the truth that a form must first exist in mind before it can appear in the real. That which is the foundation of all human making founded, long before man came into existence, the natural order.
The atheist is blind. He receives daily the gift of life, the nature he enjoys so freely—not only the air he breathes but the very facility to breathe it—but he refuses to acknowledge a giver. He did not bring himself into existence ; he does not keep himself in existence : content with the proximate and ephemeral, he never troubles himself with the ultimate. In what he is pleased to call his mind, he thinks reality is nothing but matter randomly organised ; no design in his body or soul, no ends in nature ; no ends save those he contrives in his making. The Jumbo jet is ‘a miracle’ of human making, the wind-hovering falcon, which does naturally and within a week of fledging what it takes 30,000 man-years of effort to achieve, is nothing but the result of a series of happy accidents. God save us from such lapidary, folly ! The pagan Aristotle was light years ahead of the modern materialist.
Once the thinker grasps the truth that every being, whether material or immaterial, has an end—a final cause, something intended—he must acknowledge that someone (it cannot be something) has done the intending, has established the end. Having crossed that threshold, since how something operates is determined by its end, he reaches (albeit confusedly) an understanding of the indelible character of form. Form follows end (not function, as architect Louis Sullivan liked to assert). Insofar as the end is fixed, so is the form of what acts for that end. Here is the reason dogs produce nothing but dogs, cats nothing but cats, whales nothing but whales. It is the indelible form they pass on, not the ever-fluctuating matter in which the individual is found. Here is the reason Darwin’s macro-evolutionary thesis is utter nonsense.
Once the thinker takes this step, suddenly, life has meaning. It was for his assistance in taking the step that Joseph Pearce has given thanks to G K Chesterton.
 Race with the Devil ; My Journey from Racial Hatred to Rational Love, Charlotte, North Carolina (St Benedict Press), 2013
 The Road to Damascus, John A. O’Brien (ed.), Vol. I, London, 1949, p. 271, quoted in Joseph Pearce, Wisdom and Innocence, A Life of G K Chesterton, San Francisco (Ignatius Press), 1996, Preface.
 G K Chesterton in G. K.’ s Weekly, Jan. 3, 1935, quoted in Race with the Devil op. cit. Ch. 15, footnote 7.
 There is a ‘modern’ way to cope and that is to take the book in electronic form with a facility in the collection program that allows you to highlight as you read.
 Heretics, London, 1905 ; reprinted in 1951, The Bodley Head, p. 191. He repeated the thought a year or two later in Orthodoxy (London, 1908, p. 82) : “The test of all happiness is gratitude; and I felt grateful though I hardly knew to whom. . . We thank people for birthday presents of cigars and slippers. Can I thank no one for the birthday present of birth ?”
 Thus, the fool Richard Dawkins.
 Cf. Joseph Pearce, Wisdom and Innocence, A Life of G K Chesterton, San Francisco (Ignatius Press), 1996