Friday, July 28, 2006

The Everlasting Man Mind Blockers

Thanks to those of you who told me your "Ah-haa!" moments while reading Everlasting Man.

Now, for those of you who had difficulty reading TEM, would you share with me where you got stumped, what stopped you, what chapter got you bogged down?

I know many people start and stop, restart and stop Everlasting Man. Why do you think that happens? Is there just too much in it?


  1. +JMJ+

    For me, every part which assumes that the reader has a decent background in Classical History was very difficult for me to read. At the time I was reading The Everlasting Man for the first time, I knew nothing about Ancient Greece or Rome. I was really confused when Uncle Gilbert was writing about Carthage, for instance. It didn't help that the first Classics student I turned to didn't care for his interpretation of why Carthage had to be destroyed.

  2. Probably the first classics student you asked didn't know what the heck he/she was talking about. Chesterton's interpretation of why Carthage had to be destroyed was that the Romans, good people they were in the years before their decay, found the Carthaginians' sacrifice of human babies to Baal (i.e., satan) to be every bit as offensive as you or I would find it. If your friend doesn't think human sacrifice -- especially of babies -- is important enough to level a town, then you ought to find someone else to ask about it.

    I knew nothing-to-very-little about this history when I first read TEM either, and I managed to get out of it the essential message. :-)

  3. Sorry, I wrote "Baal" when I should have written "Moloch."

  4. I know I'm being a little topsy-turvy here, sharing bogged down parts when the others were discussing wows and vice versa. But I just got to my first big "wow" moment and here it is, from the chapter Man and Mythologies...

    "The point is that the personality perfects the water with significance."

    Wow! Much more wow because I'm re-reading the Iliad right now too. Sorry if it doesn't make any sense out of context.

  5. Not really - this would have been one for me except that I had already looked into a certain great poem - and so, with a single sentence GKC explains the technique of St. Francis in his "Canticle of the Sun" - my sister water, my brother fire... but more than significance, these things are "related" to us, because of our common origin in God - unlike the pagans, this poem of St. Francis is about GOD (praise be you O Lord, for x, y, z) and NOT about the creatures.

  6. +JMJ+


    That Classics student didn't even know about the sacrifice of live babies! :S In fact, while Uncle Gilbert had written of it as if it were common knowledge, my friend seemed completely (and complacently) clueless.

    This is such a dramatic part of history that I wonder why it isn't made a bigger deal of in schools. We learn about the Holocaust, and the "witch hunts" of the Middle Ages are completely blown out of proportion, but Carthage's evil has been completely forgotten. Maybe it's a good thing: deleta est Carthago and all. Still, I don't think something so immense should have been allowed to drift into obscurity like that.

  7. Excellent stuff Dr. Thursday! This really has my head spinning with plans for studying the Iliad and related asundry with Ria and her friends next year. How wonderful to have Chesterton help us read the Iliad and then see "how much more so" beautiful the Canticle of the Sun is. Thanks!

  8. This is such a dramatic part of history that I wonder why it isn't made a bigger deal of in schools. We learn about the Holocaust, and the "witch hunts" of the Middle Ages are completely blown out of proportion, but Carthage's evil has been completely forgotten. Maybe it's a good thing: deleta est Carthago and all. Still, I don't think something so immense should have been allowed to drift into obscurity like that.

    Enbrethiliel, maybe it was allowed to drift into obcurity because it hits too close for comfort for our modern Carthaginians: the purveyors of the modern Sacrament of Abortion, who don't even have the virtue of making the slaughter of live babies a public ritual, like the old Carthaginians did.

  9. Another obscure spot that I think I figured out is about 3/4 of the way through "Man and Mythologies" at the end of the paragraph that begins with "The crux and crisis is that man found it natural to worship..." The part is in this sentence "But whatever name be written on the pedestal, whether Zeus or Ammon or Apollo, the god whom he worships if Proteus." I didn't know who Proteus was and I looked it up on a couple of sites (including an online dictionary of Mythology) without luck. Finally on a site about Proteus - the sixth moon of the planet Neptune - I found a refernece explaining that "Proteus was a sea god who could change his shape at will." (!)It's a really great reference ... if you are more familiar with mythology to start with.

  10. Thanks L2L. You will be happy to know that if you were to now read the future annotated TEM, that reference would have been immediately explained to you. And that is why this annotated should be done, and why we are working on it just as fast as a bunch of volunteers who have work and children and homeschooling and etc also going on-can work on it.

    Thanks for all the great "sticking points" and feel free to continue posting them here, they all help.

  11. +JMJ+

    Now I'm wondering:

    Will you have an English translation of the Latin quote from Virgil which Uncle Gilbert said is untranslatable?

    I once saw a Greek translation of The Everlasting Man which still had that line in its original Latin. In the same way that Greek characters stand out in a page full of English letters, those Latin words jumped out of that page full of Greek characters. It really underlined Uncle Gilbert's point about having to read them as Virgil wrote them.

  12. You must have an EARLY version of the book, possibly the first English edition. In a later (American) edition, he revised it:

    We can use no other word in that mighty line in which Virgil spoke to all who suffer with the veritable cry of a Christian before Christ: "O you that have borne things more terrible, to this also God shall give an end."

    I am told that this is from Virgil's Aeneid, Book I line 199.

    It is hoped to have ALL the foreign items translated, and perhaps commented on...

    Or perhaps you refer to the line from the 4th Eclogue, which itself gets into some very interesting speculation:

    Incipe, parve puer, risu cognoscere matrem

    Which is roughly,

    "Begin, little boy, to know your mother by her smile."

    (see also "A Little Litany" CW10:356-7)

    And we would be interested in knowing more about the Greek translation - is there a copy available, or was it in a library?

  13. +JMJ+

    You're right that it was a really, really early edition. It was printed (if I remember correctly) in the 1920's and had no notes at all!

    I've now done some Googling and seen what is in the revised American edition. It is quite different. :S

    I'm sorry that I can't help with the Greek translation. I saw it in a library and remembered nothing else about it except how the Latin suddenly, dramatically stood out on the page. :)

  14. Worry not about miswritings, Chestertonian. Moloch was the Baal of the Phoenicians, as Marduk the Baal of the Babylonians and YHWH the Baal of the Hebrews. Later, to distinguish their "Lord" (which is what Ba'al means) from those of their pagan neighbors, the Jews started to refer to him, and only him, by the Aramaic word for Lord, Adonai.

    Believe it or not, I knew Proteus thanks to the Disney cartoon Gargoyles, where Proteus shows up occasionally as a shape-shifting villain. I never learned as much watching the (revisionist) History Channel as I've learned from cartoons.

    Anyway, the whole chapter on Rome impressed me greatly, and the one about Christ having been betrayed by the best religion and the best law of humanity actually brought tears to my eyes, it was such a fascinating way of looking at it, that things had to go as wrong as they could before they could be set right. I believe I actually sobbed at the part about "as though God Himself was forgotten of God."
    That's why I say Chesterton should not be classed among the apologsts, and (with apologies to Mr. Ahlquist), not called the Apostle of Common Sense. He's quite obviously one of the mystics.

  15. +JMJ+

    Nancy, will the notes include the original passages from the editions before the revised one?


Join our FaceBook fan page today!