The modern world revolves around science. Despite this, so many people who “fucking love science” are unable to really pin down what it actually is beyond some superficial meaning related to progress or technology or something along those lines. The word comes from the Latin scientia, meaning knowledge. But do the modern sciences really have that much to do with true knowledge? There seems to have been a mix up in the scientific order.
Indeed, one only needs to open up a history book to see how much the idea behind science has changed. The scholastics also loved science, but they did not mean the same thing by the term as our current society understands it. A university education was a rather rare thing in the Middle Ages, reserved for the wealthy and gifted, and typically offered with the expectation that the prospective scholar would enter the priesthood (if not a priest already). Someone like Saint Thomas Aquinas underwent rigorous study to attain a position as a master. At most schools, students started their education with the trivium: grammar, logic, and rhetoric. After completing these subjects, they learned the four arts of the quadrivium: arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy. Having mastered all of those disciplines, formal study in philosophy commenced. Only after proficiency was achieved in the seven liberal arts and philosophy, and only then, could theology be offered to the student.
That seems like a lot of work to go through just to learn theology or even philosophy. Why was there this long path? These two schools are looked down upon now. To moderns, they are speculative at best and absolutely useless or detrimental at their very worst. They’re not sciences, or if they are, they are the lowest of all the sciences. “Better just stick with STEM, right? Studying humanities is worthless.” Sound familiar? You’ll find that all over the place — even in the dissident Right. Perhaps you, dear reader, feel that way. I disagree. Yeah, most humanities degrees are garbage and the courses are taught by the worst kinds of people. I’m talking about theology and philosophy, though, since they’re tossed out with the trash even though they once held a greater position.
The medieval intellectuals certainly didn’t think little of ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ (the word of God). Theology was sacred; the highest science. The greatest knowledge is attained through the study of God.
You’re not convinced. I’m not surprised. Physics, chemistry, biology — these all have more immediate effects and goals.
Theology unifies all, just as God is Unity. It uses the highest principles to grasp at Truth, at the Unknowable. All lower forms of learning culminate in theology which is why the medieval theologian started at the basics and worked his way up. The lower truths act as stepping-stones to get to the highest Truth.
“Why care? After all, it doesn’t contribute anything practical to the material world as the modern sciences do.” Sure. But, if all you think about is practicality and materialism, then you’re still stuck in modernity. The object of theology is God; the highest being (Being). Nothing used to be more important than God. All creation leads back to its Creator. The opportunity to have even the slightest contact with Truth through the study of the supernatural had to be limited to those who were capable of doing so. The theologian was the greatest scientist, he who disseminated truth for the masses and offered his hand to help the commoner onto the road of salvation, or at least instructed the lower priest on how to do so.
Modern sciences do not offer anything close to that most sacred science. This brings me to another point. The current fields that we call science are almost completely severed from higher truth and knowledge. They care only about profane and material manifestations of the the two. We are so caught up with “Fact.” It is sought simply for the sake of knowing, even when there’s no reason to know. Everyone is taught that a water molecule consists of two hydrogen atoms bonded to one oxygen atom, even though that information is completely unnecessary for the vast majority of the population. At the same time, there are many who are unaware of extremely basic ideas like God is Being, Act, Truth, Goodness, Beauty, Love, etc. That there are so many people who think that God is somehow comparable to an imaginary spaghetti creature capable of flight shows the dearth of metaphysical knowledge in the West. God has been replaced by Fact. Fact does not tell you anything without application. On its own, Fact is meaningless and lacks any sort of value. Yet, “scientists” always search for more. Atoms were discovered and we dug further and saw electrons, neutrons, and protons. We went deeper and found quarks and bosons. All of this, without caring about the larger world but gathering facts for their own sake. The forest is lost for the trees. Details remain details. As Rene Guenon put it:
[T]he traditional conception… attaches all the sciences to the principles of which they are the particular applications, and it is this attachment that the modern conception refuses to admit. ~ The Crisis of the Modern World
Even when there is application, it is often shallow. Let’s take biology, for it is quite popular in our sphere. The left looks at the facts of human biology and comes to the conclusion that race is a social construct since all humans are so similar. The (far) Right says the opposite, that all the differences add up to show that race is a biological reality. Both of these views miss the bigger picture. Race is more than variances in DNA. It is also spiritual, cultural, etc. All the factors must be taken into account and put together.
Contemporary science lacks meaningful application. “B-but medicine!” Yes, medicine has come a long way in last couple thousand years. It is the crown jewel of modern science. Moderns love it, while shunning anything metaphysical since it is “superstition.” No one sees the great contradiction in this. We are so concerned with keeping people alive and breathing while not being able to answer the basic question: What is the purpose and meaning of life? Only what is “practical” is allowed to have a place in modern science. “Leave the philosophizing and soteriology to the irrational priests, none of that really matters.” Pragmatism and technological advancement are not necessary to have a moral and united social order. There are more important things to be focused on. Science lost its way some time ago. We must fix what has been undone.
Ancient sciences like metaphysics, cosmology, alchemy, astrology, and so on are seen as strange and primitive. But, they tried to connect the divine and the natural. They wanted to unify all the separate things in the universe rather than fence them off into their own little categories. Modernity, with its developed technology and records of knowledge put down millenia ago, does not even attempt to try the same. Materialism has such a hold that anything which deals with what is beyond the material realm is mocked.
All of this does not mean that any sort of lower science has no place in the world. Truth is truth wherever it is found. The same goes for knowledge. The lower sciences must come to know where they fall in the order while maintaining a connection to the whole. There were architects and engineers in the Middle Ages; they are useful for building but their work is supplementary, not necessary. Take a look a medieval construction and you’ll see that it is unlike its modern counterpart. It is often not “practical.” Instead, it is beautiful and seeks the glorification of something beyond the physical like the Monarchy, the Church, the Divine, etc.
There will be some who cling to materialism that call all of this crazy. No matter, once this is understood, there is no going back. Modern science is disorder and disunion. Some may seek to rein it in and put it back in its place. Others will cast it aside to reach the higher sciences.
[T]hough every science is legitimate as long as it keeps to the place that belongs to it by virtue of its own nature, it is nevertheless easy to understand that knowledge of a lower order, for anyone who possesses knowledge of a higher order, is bound to lose much of its interest. ~ Rene Guenon