Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Knowledge and Pride

Now that I am attending an academic program known for the intensity of its intellectual life, I am having to remind myself to keep humble while doing well in my studies. A good spiritual life takes precedence even over a good intellectual life; for without the former, the latter is worthless. And in the intellectual life, probably one of the greatest temptations is that of pride. Those who are intellectually gifted have to realize that whatever wisdom they possess is as nothing compared to the wisdom of God; and thus, that to God, the wisdom of the wise and the folly of the foolishness are both folly. One who arrogantly asserts his superior intellectual abilities in order to gain the respect and esteem of others falls into that old sin of pride which started with Lucifer - who was indeed the most beautiful of all the angels. The same goes for one who envies the intellectual talents of others and engages is a sort of competition with them. I am finding these two temptations to be especially strong, now that I have dived more deeply into the academic world. 

The interior and spiritual life takes priority over everything else without exception, in the life of a Christian. Every other pursuit or interest should be subordinated to that one pursuit, the pursuit of holiness and the glory of God. Thus, the intellectual pursuits are worthless, in the long run, if they are not subordinated to the spiritual life. I am just as poor when it comes to remembering this as any other man. On occasion, I have thought it good to resolve never to begin any endeavor without first dedicating it to God, and praying for His intervention in whatever I am about to pursue. The saints and spiritual writers whom I have read recommend practices of this sort. Every single human endeavor, without exception, they say, should be devoted to God. Now, this does not mean that one ought literally to say a prayer every time one is about to attempt something, but it does mean that one ought always to have that prayerful, recollected disposition, whereby one never does anything that is not done for God. But a good practical way of applying this rule is to say a prayer before any endeavor - perhaps not every one, but in general it is a good thing to practice. 

I've quoted this before, but here again is a passage from Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange on the subject: 
The interior life is for all the one thing necessary. It ought to be constantly developing in our souls; more so than what we call our intellectual life, more so than our scientific, artistic or literary life. The interior life is lived in the depths of the soul; it is the life of the whole man, not merely of one or other of his faculties. And our intellectual life would gain immeasurably by appreciating this; it would receive an inestimable advantage if, instead of attempting to supplant the spiritual life, it recognized its necessity and importance, and welcomed its beneficial influence -- the influence of the theological virtues and the gifts of the Holy Ghost. (Three Ways of the Spiritual Life.)


  1. Tell yourself this frequently: “What hast thou that thou hast not received?” [1 Cor. iv, 7]

    Also, Fr. Cajetan Mary da Bergamo's Humility of Heart is excellent. So is Fr. Sertillanges, O.P.'s The Intellectual Life.

  2. Oh, another good act of humility is to remember that the human sciences are less noble than sacra doctrina, which is the queen of the sciences (Summa Iª q. 1 a. 5). Her principles are 100% certain and true because God Himself has revealed them, and He cannot deceive or be deceived.