Christianity and History by Herbert Butterfield

By Herbert Butterfield

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Example text

The contemporary historians o f that day, therefore, were only observing i t while i t was still i n mid-career, though they failed to realise the fact—failed to see that here was a piece o f story which still had a significant part o f its course to run. They imagined that they could rule o f f the whole episode and draw their conclusions f r o m it, awarding the prizes and pointing the moral i n the way historians like to do. Since their assessment was premature we shall not be surprised to learn that the results at which they arrived were such as to give them serious misgivings on occasion.

This last point is particularly important and i t equally affects the students o f the natural sciences; because i t is true that we fall into certain habits o f m i n d and easily become the slaves o f them, when i n reality we only adopted them for the purpose o f a particular technique. It is as though people could be so long occupied i n tearing flowers to pieces and studying their mechanism that they forget ever to stand back again and see the buttercup whole. I t is possible that i n the transition to the modern oudook the w o r l d was guided much less by any deliberated philosophy than is often assumed, and I think that few people could be said to have come to that modern outlook by an authentic process o f thinking things out.

The more human beings are lacking i n imagination, the more incapable men are o f any profound kind o f self-analysis, the more we shall find that their self-righteousness hardens, so that i t is just the thick-skinned w h o are more sure o f being right than anybody else. A n d though conflict might still be inevitable i n history even i f this particular evil did not exist, there can be no doubt that its presence multiplies the deadlocks and gravely deepens all the tragedies o f all the centuries.

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