Keynotes Of The Centuries In Relation To The Great War -- By: Bernard C. Steiner
BSac 73:290 (April 1916) p. 293
Keynotes Of The Centuries In Relation To The Great War
Nothing is more fascinating nor more dangerous than to attempt to explain historic events by referring them to a formula. One is so apt to find the formula applicable to facts, because he fits the facts to the formula; to discover proof of his a priori theories; to see the working of general laws which he wishes to prove, forgetting or overlooking facts which disprove those laws, or, at any rate, seriously modify them. When one reads a book such as Flint’s history of the Philosophy of History, he is impressed with the insufficient grounds upon which men build up such philosophies. The perusal of the pages of that book is like a walk through a graveyard filled with tombstones, each bearing the inscription, Hic jacet, for the philosophies laboriously worked out by learned men have been interred deep in the oblivion of forgotten things, until now one can hardly read the inscriptions for the moss which covers them.
Yet there is a value in grouping the main facts of an epoch together and considering what are the general principles they illustrate and what trend of human thoughts, what direction of human progress, they show. Often we find that, in a rough and ready way, a term will sum up the events of an era, and that, in some degree, the Procrustean bed of a century may serve as the frame in which to fit the record of some
BSac 73:290 (April 1916) p. 294
great movement of men. Thus the fourth century before the Christian era may well be summed up in the rise of Macedon and the Hellenization of the East through the conquest of Alexander, and the first century of the Christian era may receive like summation in the consolidation of the Roman empire and the rise of the Christian church. There are only a few times in the world’s history, like the present, when we see all things rocking to their fall, when old things are visibly passing away and the parturient world, with cries like a woman in travail, struggles to bring new life into existence. Nevertheless, though the changes may usually be slow, they are sure and, like the slow changes of man’s life, we may roughly group together a certain number of years, as those of the childhood, the adolescence, maturity, or senescence of an idea. In the last thousand years, we find that it is possible to group the most important events of the various centuries together, so as to give each century a keynote. If a single keynote be too narrow to fit the multiform activity of a century, two or three, at any rate, will suffice, and will give us a reasonable explanation of the major events of the period. From the welter of conflicting interests and of struggling tribes which had lasted for centuries, Charlemagne a...
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