Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Malcolm Muggeridge Quotes

 [compiled and added to my website in 1997]


It was the Catholic Church's firm stand against contraception and abortion which finally made me decide to become a Catholic . . . As the Romans treated eating as an end in itself, making themselves sick in a vomitorium so as to enable them to return to the table and stuff themselves with more delicacies, so people now end up in a sort of sexual vomitorium. The Church's stand is absolutely correct. It is to its eternal honour that it opposed contraception, even if the opposition failed. I think, historically, people will say it was a very gallant effort to prevent a moral disaster . . .

{Confessions of a Twentieth-Century Pilgrim, San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1988, 140-141}

Media Orthodoxy

There is something, to me, very sinister about this emergence of a weird kind of conformity, or orthodoxy, particularly among the people who operate the media, so that you can tell in advance exactly what they will say and think about anything. It is true that so far they have not got an Inquisition to enforce their orthodoxy, but they do have ways of enforcing it which make the old thumbscrews and racks seem quite paltry.

{Christ and the Media, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1977, 91}

Absurdity Among the Eminent

The eminent so often say and do things which are infinitely more ridiculous than anything you can invent for them. That might not sound to you like a terrible difficulty but it is, believe me, the main headache of the editor of an ostensibly humorous paper. You go to great trouble to invent a ridiculous Archbishop of Canterbury and give him ridiculous lines to say and then suddenly he rises in his seat at the theatre [at a performance of Godspell] and shouts out: "Long live God" . . . which, as I reflected at the time, was like shouting, "carry on eternity" or "keep going infinity" . . . And you're defeated, you're broken.

{The End of Christendom, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1980, 13}

Mother Teresa

If God counts the hairs of each of their heads, if none are excluded from the salvation the Crucifixion offers, who will venture to exclude them from earthly blessings and esteem; pronounce this life unnecessary, that one better terminated or never begun? I never experienced so perfect a sense of human equality as with Mother Teresa among her poor. Her love for them, reflecting God's love, makes them equal, as brothers and sisters within a family are equal, however widely they differ in intellectual and other attainments, in physical beauty and grace.

{Something Beautiful for God, New York: Harper and Row, 1971, 23}

Concerning Cistercian Monks

What good are they doing? What future have they got? Prayers don't show in the Gross National Product, and so cannot be said to lighten the Chancellor of the Exchequer's burdens. Nor do they, like napalm and hot air, serve the cause of freedom in any perceptible way . . . Telly-deprived, denied access to the treasures of the daily and periodical press, how can the monks be expected to have meaningful views on the birth pill, LSD, the Stones and other burning issues of the day? . . . In an increasingly materialistic world they are non-productive citizens . . . By all the laws of Freud and the psycho-prophets, the monks are depriving themselves of the sensual satisfactions which alone make a whole life possible; they ought to be up the wall and screaming. Actually, . . . it is the children of affluence, not deprived monks, who howl and fret in psychiatric wards.

{Jesus Rediscovered, Bungay, Suffolk, UK: Fontana Books, 1969, 64-65}

Liberals and Stalin

Liberal minds flocked to the USSR in an unending procession, from the great ones like Shaw and Gide and Barbusse and Julian Huxley and Harold Laski and Sidney and Beatrice Webb, down to poor little teachers, crazed clergymen and millionaires, drivelling dons, all utterly convinced that, under the aegis of the great Stalin, a new dawn is breaking in the world, so that the human race may at last be united in liberty, equality and fraternity forevermore . . . These Liberal minds are prepared to believe anything, however preposterous, to overlook anything, however villainous, to approve anything, however obscurantist and brutally authoritarian, in order to be able to preserve intact the confident expectation that one of the most thoroughgoing, ruthless and bloody tyrannies ever to exist on earth can be relied on to champion human freedom, the brotherhood of man, and all the other good Liberal causes to which they had dedicated their lives . . . They are unquestionably one of the marvels of the age . . . all chanting the praises of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, and of Stalin as its most gracious and beloved figurehead. It was as though a Salvation Army contingent had turned out with bands and banners in honour of some ferocious tribal deity, or as though a vegetarian society had issued a passionate plea for cannibalism.

{Confessions of a Twentieth-Century Pilgrim, San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1988, 87-88}

Jesus and History

In his own lifetime Jesus made no impact on history. This is something that I cannot but regard as a special dispensation on God's part, and, I like to think, yet another example of the ironical humour which informs so many of His purposes. To me, it seems highly appropriate that the most important figure in all history should thus escape the notice of memoirists, diarists, commentators, all the tribe of chroniclers who even then existed . . .

{Jesus: The Man Who Lives, New York: Harper and Row, 1975, 23}

20th Century Credulity

Our twentieth century, far from being notable for scientific scepticism, is one of the most credulous eras in all history. It is not that people believe in nothing - which would be bad enough - but that they believe in anything - which is really terrible. Recoiling, as they do, from accepting the validity of miracles, and priding themselves on seeing the Incarnation as a transcendental con-trick, they will accept at its face value any proposition, however nonsensical, that is presented in scientific or sociological jargon - for instance, the existence of a population explosion, which has been so expertly and decisively demolished by Professor Colin Clark of Monash University. Could any mediaeval schoolman, I ask myself, sit through a universally applauded television series like Bronowski's Ascent of Man without a smile of derision at such infantile acceptance of unproven and unprovable assertions?

{Vintage Muggeridge, ed. Geoffrey Barlow, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1985, 74-75, "The Bible Today," from a lecture delivered on 7 October 1976}

Alexander Solzhenitsyn

The pack [i.e., the media and the "intelligentsia"] is after him and because what he says is unbearable: that the answer to dictatorship is not liberalism, but Christianity. I mean, that is an unbearable proposition from their point of view, and it is where he stands . . . It has been something wonderful to watch and, to more people than you might think, enormously heartening: that that is what this man should have to say instead of a lot of claptrap . . . They started off by never mentioning that he was a Christian. I mean, for a long time, he was made a hero of the cause for freedom, but it was never mentioned that an integral and essential part of it was his Christian belief.

{Vintage Muggeridge, ed. Geoffrey Barlow, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1985, 132; interview on William F. Buckley's Firing Line, 1978}

Words and Electronic Images

Words, printed words, are words that have arisen in a human mind. They are connected with thought and with art. But photography or filming, is a completely different thing. It is machine made; . . . it is seeing with, not through, the eye; looking but not seeing.

{Christ and the Media, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1977, 106; emphasis added}

Marx and Freud

Marx and Freud are the two great destroyers of Christian civilization, the first replacing the gospel of love by the gospel of hate, the other undermining the essential concept of human responsibility.

{My Life in Pictures, New York: William Morrow and Co., 1987, 94}

The First Personal Epiphany

In atheistic despair over the meaninglessness and futility of life and the universe, Muggeridge decided to commit suicide in 1942, by walking out into the sea and drowning himself. But something strange happened to prevent this, as he recalls:

Suddenly, without thinking or deciding, I started swimming back to shore . . . I shouted foolishly for help, and kept my eyes fixed on the lights of Peter's Cafe and the Costa da Sol. They were the lights of the world; they were the lights of my home, my habitat, where I belonged. I must reach them. There followed an overwhelming joy such as I had never experienced before; an ecstasy. In some mysterious way it became clear to me that there was no darkness, only the possibility of losing sight of a light which shone eternally; . . . that our sufferings, our affliction, are part of a drama - an essential, even an ecstatic part - endlessly revolving around the two great propositions of good and evil, of light and darkness. A brief interlude, an incarnation, reaching back into the beginning of time, and forward into an ultimate fulfilment in the universal spirit of love which informs, animates, illuminates all creation, from the tiniest particle of insentient matter to the radiance of God's very throne . . . Though I scarcely realised it at the time and subsequently only very slowly and dimly, this episode represented for me one of those deep changes which take place in our lives; as, for instance, in adolescence, only more drastic and fundamental. A kind of spiritual adolescence, whereby, thenceforth, all my values and pursuits and hopes were going to undergo a total transformation - from the carnal towards the spiritual; from the immediate, the now, towards the everlasting, the eternal. In a tiny dark dungeon of the ego, chained and manacled, I had glimpsed a glimmer of light . . .

{Chronicles of Wasted Time, Washington, D.C.: Regnery Gateway, 1973, 458-459}

Meeting the Risen Christ

It was while I was in the Holy Land for the purpose of making three B.B.C. television programmes on the New Testament that a curious, almost magical, certainty seized me about Jesus' birth, ministry and Crucifixion . . . I became aware that there really had been a man, Jesus, who was also God - I was conscious of his presence. He really had spoken those sublime words - I heard them. He really had died on a cross and risen from the dead. Otherwise, how was it possible for me to meet him, as I did? . . . The words Jesus spoke are living words, as relevant today as when they were first spoken; the light he shone continues to shine as brightly as ever. Thus he is alive, as for instance Socrates - who also chose to lay down his life for truth's sake - isn't . . . The Cross is where history and life, legend and reality, time and eternity, intersect. There, Jesus is nailed for ever to show us how God could become a man and a man become God.

{Jesus Rediscovered, Bungay, Suffolk, UK: Fontana Books, 1969, 8 [Foreword] }

The Religion of Sex

When the devil makes his offer (always open incidentally) of the kingdoms of the earth, it is the bordellos which glow so alluringly to most of us, not the banks and the counting-houses and the snow-swept corridors of power . . . Sex is the mysticism of a materialistic society - in the beginning was the Flesh, and the Flesh became Word; with its own mysteries - this is my birth pill; swallow it in remembrance of me! - and its own sacred texts and scriptures - the erotica which fall like black atomic rain on the just and unjust alike, drenching us, stupefying us. To be carnally minded is life!

{Jesus Rediscovered, Bungay, Suffolk, UK: Fontana Books, 1969, 33}

Kierkegaard's Prediction of Mass Stupefaction

Marx and Kierkegaard, the two key voices of the twentieth century. The curious thing is that though Marx purported to have an infallible scientific key to history, almost all his prophecies have failed to happen. On the other hand, Kierkegaard's forecasts have been fulfilled to a remarkable degree. Take for instance his profound sense that if men lost the isolation, the separateness, which awareness of the presence of God alone can give, they would soon find themselves irretrievably part of a collectivity with only mass communications to shape their hopes, formulate their values and arrange their thinking . . .
[Kierkegaard:] Day in and day out the daily press does nothing but delude men with the supreme axiom . . . that numbers are decisive. Christianity, on the other hand, is based on the thought that the truth lies in the single individual . . . . . Not until the single individual has established an ethical stance in despite of the whole world, not until then can there be any question of genuinely uniting. Otherwise it gets to be a union of people who separately are weak; a union as unbeautiful and depraved as a child marriage.
{A Third Testament, New York: Ballantine Books, 1976, 104-106}

The Sacredness of Life

This life in us, . . . however low it flickers or fiercely burns, is still a divine flame which no man dare presume to put out, be his motives never so humane and enlightened. To suppose otherwise is to countenance a death-wish. Either life is always and in all circumstances sacred, or intrinsically of no account; it is inconceivable that it should be in some cases the one, and in some the other.

{Something Beautiful for God, New York: Harper and Row, 1971, 29}

Great Minds, Fools, and Christianity

The greatest artists, saints, philosophers and, until quite recent times, scientists, through the Christian centuries, . . . have all assumed that the New Testament promise of eternal life is valid, and that the great drama of the Incarnation which embodies it, is indeed the master-drama of our existence. To suppose that these distinguished believers were all credulous fools whose folly and credulity in holding such beliefs has now been finally exposed, would seem to me untenable; and anyway I'd rather be wrong with Dante and Shakespeare and Milton, with Augustine of Hippo and Francis of Assisi, with Dr Johnson, Blake and Dostoevsky than right with Voltaire, Rousseau, the Huxleys, Herbert Spencer, H.G. Wells and Bernard Shaw.

{Vintage Muggeridge, ed. Geoffrey Barlow, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1985, 32-33}

TV and Fantasy

There is a gulf between reality, which for Christians is Christ, and the world of fantasy that the media project, and . . . Western people are being enormously misled by being induced to regard things on the screen as real, when actually they are fantasy. But, of course, God can use all things - even television, even you and me.

{Christ and the Media, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1977, 90}

Imagination vs. Fantasy

When I use the word "fantasy", I do not mean the imagination, because the imagination is the heart and source of all art. Coleridge has a splendid exposition of the difference between fancy, or fantasy, and the imagination. When Blake said he believed in the imagination, he saw the imagination as providing an image of truth. But fantasy is the creation of images and ideas which are not truth, which have no relation to truth, and which cannot have a relation to truth . . . It's an entirely different thing - like the difference between sentimentality and sentiment.

{Christ and the Media, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1977, 107}

The Incarnation

As far as the Incarnation is concerned, I believe firmly in it. I believe that God did lean down to become Man in order that we could reach up to Him, and that the drama which embodies that Incarnation, the drama described in the Creed, took place.

{Confessions of a Twentieth-Century Pilgrim, San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1988, 140}

Men Like Gods

Writers like Aldous Huxley and George Orwell have imagined the sort of scientific utopia which is coming to pass, but already their nightmare fancies are hopelessly out of date. A vast, air-conditioned, neon-lighted, glass-and-chromium broiler-house begins to take shape, in which geneticists select the best stocks to fertilise, and watch over the developing embryo to ensure that all possibilities of error and distortion are eliminated. Where is the need for God in such a set-up? Or even for a moral law? When man is thus able to shape and control his environment and being, then surely he may be relied on to create his own earthly paradise and live happily ever after in it. But can he? . . . Is the endlessly repeated message of the media - that money and sex are the only pursuits in life, violence its only excitement, and success its only fulfillment - irresistible? . . . The Way begins where for Christ himself its mortal part ended - at the cross. There alone, with all our earthly defences down and our earthly pretensions relinquished, we can confront the true circumstances of our being . . . There, contemplating God in the likeness of man, we may understand how foolish and inept is man when he sees himself in the likeness of God.

{Jesus Rediscovered, Bungay, Suffolk, UK: Fontana Books, 1969, 112-113, 115-116}

Pope John Paul II

The Pope is a brave man and a tough man . . . he is an admirable choice as Pope precisely because he has been a cardinal in a communist country and therefore knows at first hand what it means to be at the mercy of an atheistic, tyrannical regime . . . His experience makes him - when faced by hostile movements or undermining tactics such as "liberation theology" in Latin America - the best champion to strengthen the authority of Pope and Church. And that strengthening is sorely needed in an irreligious, materialistic world, even at the cost of a certain conservatism.

{My Life in Pictures, New York: William Morrow and Co., 1987, 104}



kkollwitz said...

Thanks for this Muggeridge medley. He must be my favorite Englishman. Let me burden you with a bit of Mugg from my own life:


Randall said...

Great quotes. I have not read Muggeridge, but I plan to do so now.