The Life of Prayer. An unsigned review of Prayer and Intelligence by Jacques and Raïssa Maritain, trans. Algar Thorold
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446 ] The Life of Prayer An unsigned review of Prayer and Intelligence, by Jacques and Raïssa Maritain, trans. Algar Thorold London: Sheed and Ward, 1928. Pp. xi + 56. The Times Literary Supplement, 1377 (21 June 1928) 460 It seems at first sight rather a pity that Mr. Thorold has translated the title La Vie d’oraison by Prayer and Intelligence, which suggests, to anyone acquainted with the nature of M. Maritain’s philosophical work, another philosophical treatise rather than a tiny book of devotional aid.1 But there is, on second thoughts, some justification for this title. And, all the more because these fifty-six small pages of aids to spiritual exercise are composed by an eminent philosopher and his wife, their chief and sufficient value is as a reminder that the intellectual life is not enough, a reminder by a leader of Roman Catholic intellectualism who has already had much influence even outside the Roman Catholic world.2 There are many excellent elementary treatises on the spiritual life, such as Father Bull’s How to Meditate; there are very advanced treatises, such as the books of Baron von Hügel, to say nothing of the prayers of Andrewes, the exercises of St. Ignatius, the letters of St. Francis de Sales, and the writings of the great Christian mystics.3 La Vie d’oraison does not fall into any of these categories. It is indeed a book to carry about and to ponder. It is not a book for those who approach religion solely through their emotional nature: it is rather for those who approach it intellectually, and is itself a corrective to the authors’ intellectualism. For there may be many persons, attracted by M. Maritain’s intellectual brilliance, and impressed by Thomist philosophy which he has popularized, who may be tempted to accept Christianity merely as a mental feat, and neglect the side of emotional discipline.4 It is for persons of this type – a modern type – that M. Maritain’s small books should be of the greatest use: We must therefore consecrate the whole effort of our intelligence, as of our will, to know and love God, to make Him known and loved. But the intelligence itself can only develop its highest powers in so far as it is protected and fortified by the peace given by prayer. The closer a soul [ 447 The Life of Prayer approaches God by love, the simpler grows the gaze of her intelligence and the clearer her vision. [4-5] On the other hand: Prayer, particularly in the case of intellectuals, can only preserve a perfectly right direction and escape the dangers which threaten it, on condition of being supported and fed by Theology. [6] It must not be supposed that the little book is limited to this type of counsel; admirable as this is, the other counsels of prayer and meditation, and the recommendations for those who are occupied with the “active” life (which includes the intellectual activities of this world), are equally good. In this kind of religious literature there is, of course, little to say that has not been said before. But there is always value in contemporary presentation of established truth. We should not commit ourselves to the statement that M. Maritain and his wife have written this book primarily for intellectuals ; the book has value for all who study the life of prayer. But, with Maritain’s name upon it, the book has special value for the intellectual. And in spite of its small size, the book is important for the study of Maritain’s work also. Perhaps one of the most incontestable virtues of this philosopher is his reminder that the development of the mind and the development of the emotions should proceed together. There is, more particularly, a class of persons who find intellectual acceptance of Christian dogma easier than emotional assent; for such persons the training and organization of the feelings towards spiritual realities is specially important. It is, for some, easier to believe in God than to love Him. We have not had an opportunity of comparing the translation with the original, but it seems excellent. But as Mr. Thorold has left the Gospel texts which form the chapter headings in the Latin of the Vulgate, it is a pity that he has translated some of the quotations into a version which is not that of the Authorized Bible. Notes 1. Algar Thorold (1866-1936) was an English translator, author, and editor...


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