Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Ball and the Cross | G.K. Chesterton

"'I was telling you just now... that I can prove the best part of the rational case and the Christian humbug from any symbol you liked to give me, from any instance I came across… What could possibly express your philosophy and my philosophy better than the shape of that cross and the shape of this ball? This globe is reasonable; that cross is unreasonable… The globe is at unity with itself; the cross is primarily and above all things at enmity with direction. That silent thing up there is essentially a collision, a crash, a struggle in stone. Pah! that sacred symbol of yours has actually given its name to a description of desperation and muddle. When we speak of men at once ignorant of each other and frustrated by each other, we say they are at cross-purposes. Away with the thing! The very shape of it is a contradiction in terms’

‘What you say is perfectly true… But we like contradictions in terms. Man is a contradiction in terms; he is a beast whose superiority to other beasts consists in having fallen. That cross is, as you say, an eternal collision; so am I. That is a struggle in stone. Every form of life is a struggle in flesh. The shape of the cross is irrational, just as the shape of the human animal is irrational…’

‘Of course everything is relative, and I would not deny that the element of struggle and self-contradiction, represented by that cross, has a necessary place at a certain evolutionary stage. But surely the cross is the lower development and the sphere the higher. After all it is easy enough to see what is really wrong with [the]… architectural arrangement… The cross is on top of the ball… That is surely wrong. The ball should be on top of the cross. The cross is a mere barbaric prop; the ball is perfection. The cross at its best is but the bitter tree of man’s history; the ball is the rounded, the ripe and final fruit. And the fruit should be at the top of the tree, not at the bottom of it.’

‘Oh! so you think that in a rationalistic scheme of symbolism the ball should be on the top of the cross?’

‘It sums up my whole allegory.’

‘Well, that is really very interesting… because I think in that case you would see a most singular effect… You would see, I think, that thing happen which is always the ultimate embodiment and logical outcome of your logical scheme.’

‘What would happen?’

‘It would fall down.’

A discussion of the World (Reason) vs. the Gospel (Faith) between Lucifer, the professor, and Michael, the monk, on pages 5-6 of G.K. Chesterton’s book, The Ball and the Cross (less than $10!/~/product/category=8626191&id=1546001).

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