The Anti-Modernist Academia #3: Denying Supernatural Facts Is The Root Of All Modernism

The Anti-Modernist Academia #3: Denying Supernatural Facts Is The Root Of All Modernism

The world we live in was, morally speaking, far different from that of 70 years ago. The existence of God, as discerned by the study of the material world, His Providence, and the sacredness of His rules were the guiding force which led society’s lifestyle, law, and behaviour with little opposition. Places like Quebec, Ireland, Mexico and the Philippines reported high levels of attendance at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass every Sunday. Businesses were closed on those days to give people a day of rest, in accordance with the Third Commandment. The public acceptance of evils like euthanasia, sexual deviancy, senseless on-screen gore, Marxist ideals, or irreligion amongst other things was far and few. It was a time when Catholic schools taught the Faith whole, inviolate and unashamedly – free from secular interference. In 2022, all that has changed. Though the population has grown by billions since then, social adherence to Christianity has been rejected, and morality became rooted in the threefold tenets of religious liberty, humanist equality, and ecumenical fraternity. To paraphrase St. Jerome: “The whole world groaned, and was astonished to find itself against Christianity”.

Much like the West has repudiated Christian morals, Little Witch Academia has the main characters, who hail from the Luna Nova magical academy, living among the heavily secularized people of Blytonbury and confronting their rampant apathy towards anything with supernatural implications – magic included.

The People Of Blytonbury: Character Analysis

The first instance of this poor relationship can be found in The Enchanted Parade, a 2013 movie where Akko, Sucy, Lotte, Amanda, Constanze and Jasminka are sent to town to fetch materials to build a parade float for their annual witches’ festival, which in recent years has become a source of humiliation for the school, as its students partake in mock death marches, are pelted with tomatoes and dunked into water in remembrance of the witch trials of old. This attitude extends to the series, reflected in Luna Nova’s declining enrollment, revisionism of a poor opinion toward witches, neglecting to mention the good they have done, and a shift towards scientism. (It makes me wonder how the churches in-show are doing…)

The perfect picture summarizing the contentious coexistence between the worlds of magic and secularism

Magic shops in both Blytonbury and Finland (episode 16) are empty, financially struggling and are seen as relics of the past, with witch lineages dying by the numbers. Diana perfectly describes this state in episode 12: “Once, good magic was abundant around us. However, in this century, its decline is inevitable; I wish to seek the power of the Grand Triskelion to revitalize it once more.” We have already seen, in the inaugural Anti-Modernist Academia post, how Professor Croix adopted a rationalist view of magic and sets out to reconcile it with scientific eyes. Others, however, see it contrarily:

  • Andrew Hanbridge: Akko’s crush, and a member of a royal household with ties to Diana’s Cavendish family. He shares the same dislike for witches as his father, Paul, a high-ranking government minister who cares about his reputation more than anything else.
  • Daryl Cavendish: Diana’s cousin, and second-in-line to the headship of the Cavendish household. Despite her family’s magical background, she sees them as void of any ethereal or even sentimental significance, selling them off to interested buyers for financial stability.
  • Fafnir: A dragon who, in episode 5, acts as a loan shark for Luna Nova. Since the scientific revolution, he has since abandoned hope in a magical revival, and puts his time and effort into investing in stocks.

The strict denial of the otherworldly leads them to a heightened focus on a naturalistic attitude towards everything in their surroundings. This belief binds them, amongst others, very strongly, and is reflected by how much their livelihoods revolve around this banner which Pope St. Pius X, in Pascendi Dominici Gregis, identifies as the root of Modernism.

Modernist Components #3: Agnosticism

Akko, saddened after dealing with the consequences of Modernism in Blytonbury’s citizens

Questions about the role of God in the world is one that Catholic thinkers such as St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine or St. Anselm of Canterbury have analyzed. The First Vatican Council of 1869-70 eternally enshrined in its canons that man, by reason and grace, can come to know God’s existence by arguments based on logic and natural observation. For the Modernist, however, humanity is inherently tied to agnosticism, incapable of attaining to a certain knowledge of Him or the supernatural order; thus, scholastic arguments such as the above are touted as ineffective, and detrimental to apologetics. Having embraced this worldview, the Modernist sets out to cleanse the theological curriculum of these references.

Modernists place the foundation of religious philosophy in that doctrine which is usually called Agnosticism. According to this teaching human reason is confined entirely within the field of phenomena, that is to say, to things that are perceptible to the senses, and in the manner in which they are perceptible; it has no right and no power to transgress these limits. Hence it is incapable of lifting itself up to God, and of recognizing His existence, even by means of visible things. From this it is inferred that God can never be the direct object of science, and that, as regards history, He must not be considered as an historical subject.

Pope St. Pius X, Pascendi Dominici Gregis #6

In the study of Christology, ecclesiology, dogmatics, and those concerning spirituality, they resort to naturalistic methods of validation (scientific/historical/sociological), admitting that without exception, Christianity’s truth must be explainable this way, the ethereal notwithstanding. Where St. Paul writes “And if Christ be not risen again, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:14), you have Modernists simultaneously affirming Christ’s Resurrection as spiritual insofar as His disciples remember Him, and not physical. The Apostles spoke of Christ as “a man approved of God among you, by miracles, and wonders, and signs, which God did by him, in the midst of you” (Acts 2:22); the Modernist reduce him to a purely secular hero. God exists, not as a primary cause or the infallible, undeceivable progenitor of Divine Revelation, but only insofar as He works through human acts.

Rejecting the supernatural has dire consequences for Christianity: far from vindicating it, they reduce it from a divinely instituted Faith of special value to a social justice movement with trappings of religious ritual. Its laws admit of no sacrosanct obligation, and can be overturned at will; its central figures and events, generic persons with little overall significance.

Agnostic Permanence In Little Witch Academia

By (agnosticism) every avenue that leads the intellect to God is barred, but the Modernists would seek to open others available for sentiment and action. Vain efforts! For, after all, what is sentiment but the reaction of the soul on the action of the intelligence or the senses. Take away the intelligence, and man, already inclined to follow the senses, becomes their slave. Vain, too, from another point of view, for all these fantasias on the religious sentiment will never be able to destroy common sense, and common sense tells us that emotion and everything that leads the heart captive proves a hindrance instead of a help to the discovery of truth… it is of no use to the man who wants to know above all things whether outside himself there is a God into whose hands he is one day to fall.

Pope St. Pius X, Pascendi Dominici Gregis #39.2

In Little Witch Academia, we see ways in which attacks on a belief in a vitality of magic’s sort are expressed thoroughly in word and setup, and I will explicate its similarities with Modernism afterwards.

  • Fafnir, in episode 5, glorifies the progress of science and technology as outplacing the services of Luna Nova’s magic, to the point of conceding nihilism: “You only have yourselves to blame for pushing magic while it’s falling out of favour. Look at me – my online investments are netting immense profits!!… as long as science is winning, dragons and witches won’t be needed.” He equally scoffs at Akko who, though misguided in her efforts, brims with passion for magic, convinced of the world’s need for it.
  • Professor Croix rejects the idea of magic as supernatural, by forcibly hoping to unite it under science’s banner. Her magic system adopts some cybernetic, industrial form bearing little resemblance to what Akko and friends use, and she challenges Luna Nova’s system as “Outdated… burdened by their dark history…”
  • While visiting her hometown in Finland, Lotte remarks that her family are the only remaining practitioners of such in the area, and their business presumably faced hard times recently, brought on by owners who have turned to other means outside of it. “Nowadays, magic items don’t sell that much, so our store has begun to double as a kiosk. After all, we’re the only witches remaining in town…”
  • Daryl becomes the source of Diana’s frustration in episode 18, when she proposes to pawn off her family’s heirlooms in exchange for money, something which the latter says would invoke her deceased mother’s wrath. She dismisses her and repudiates both her mother’s legacy and magical lineage: “You’re pretty stubborn at insisting on magic, just like your mother. I laugh at the fact you think it alone can save us. Face it, the era of magic is over…”
  • In The Enchanted Parade Thomas and his friends insult Akko’s group with stereotypes, while also comparing them against what science has passed them in: “You do stuff in that moldy excuse of a place you call a school, right? Makng stew out of caterpillars and all? Gross!” or “Magic is so outdated!… They (witches) are so stupid, they don’t even believe in science enough to use cellphones!”
  • Paul Hanbridge makes a disparaging assessment of Luna Nova’s faculties in episode 6 on his way home from the estate. He sees them as a reminder of a backward age, likening them as stupid for believing such a thing has immense power, quipping “Good grief, today was a waste of a day. All that hubbub only proved to me further that there’s no such need for magic in this day and age.” on top of considering them as “enemies” that require appeasement. His son, Andrew, repeats these sentiments in the same episode during his first meeting with Akko, and holds steadfastly to it as late as episode 17.
Of course we can’t forget Professor Croix’s pessimistic attitude towards her craft’s ancient origins

Each response shows the twofold fruits of Modernism’s consequences. It extols human achievements as the peak of civilization, and its means as the only standard of measuring the world. Magic, and the supernatural, on the other hand, are presented as a stumbling block to this effort with its emphasis on tradition and perennialism. Out it must go, its opponents conclude, and they launch a campaign of skepticism by exposing its apparent deficiencies compared to modern methods, removing it from having a role in historical significance and smearing its practitioners as less intelligent. If one reads the works of Modernist theologians, such as Fr. George Tyrell’s articles on dogmatic theology, this same attitude of contempt is expressed towards its past: on the Church’s Teaching Authority, the infallibility of Scripture and dogmas and its theocentric approach are derided.

Also affected are those who seek at a way of reconciling the two worlds together. The mystic craft must now become servant to the natural order in an “if you can’t beat them, join them” scenario. In Professor Croix, who seeks to mix magic and science (with a special emphasis on the latter), or Shiny Chariot who identifies the human consciousness as the source of it, they both accentuate magic’s downfall further by giving its embedded supernatural element no special place: as does the Modernist, who having separated God from their practice, shoot themselves in the foot relentlessly. They espouse one contradiction after another against their professed Catholicity, an inability to explain doctrines clearly and convincingly, thus failing to make a coherent case for why Catholicism is true. They collapse the very foundation of their religion, and annihilate any need for it.

In the person of Christ, they say, science and history encounter nothing that is not human. Therefore, in virtue of the first canon deduced from agnosticism, whatever there is in His history suggestive of the divine, must be rejected. Then, according to the second canon, the historical Person of Christ was transfigured by faith; therefore everything that raises it above historical conditions must be removed. Lately, the third canon, which lays down that the person of Christ has been disfigured by faith, requires that everything should be excluded, deeds and words and all else that is not in keeping with His character, circumstances and education, and with the place and time in which He lived. A strange style of reasoning, truly; but it is Modernist criticism.

Pope St. Pius X, Pascendi Dominici Gregis #9

Proving Doubters Wrong At The Edge Of The World

In The Enchanted Parade, Thomas admits “I greatly underestimated the witches” when they use their power to rescue his town. Diana triggers a change of heart within Daryl by saving her from death, sacrificing her chance to become head of her household in the process. At the outset of Professor Croix’s missile launch, which came from her despair at not being able to activate the Grand Triskelion with her scientific knowledge, Andrew drops his father’s animosity and calls upon his peers to give Akko and her friends, who set out to stop said missile, a fighting chance at a miracle. This he is joined with by Fafnir, Daryl, Lotte’s fellow villagers, and others, putting an end to impending disaster, and winning his father’s approval: “It appears I was wrong about my thoughts on magic. Would you be willing to share more about their value?”

How Little Witch Academia props as a defense for its supernatural order, against its in-show doubters, consists of two points:

  • Sensory methods of validation are not always sufficient. Andrew, Thomas or Fafnir doubted Akko’s high value on magic, and required tangible explanations for its use; they are proven wrong when her efforts save them from impending doom. I see this as an analogy to how naturalistic methods are limited. Take science: great as it is (my mother is a doctor, my father has an engineering background, and I’m a software developer; hardly an anti-science bunch), it alone cannot give an explanation for everything. Ethics/morality or universal constants, for example, cannot be measured empirically, yet we trust them nonetheless. Something else must suffice to explain it.
  • Intellectual study is a necessary tool for conviction. Diana’s entire personality revolves around this, and I admire that part about her. As stiff as she may be when confronting Akko, her studiousnes, willingness to apply its principles and immense reverence for tradition does show a point: you mustn’t be afraid to engage in study of your subject of interest, and prepare to defend it intellectually when confronted. For in mastering this, she was able to regain her magical abilities back, grow strong in it, inspire others, and complete that goal which Akko desired to do.

How do these lessons carry over with respect to the topic at hand? Put simply, what is needed to combat Modernism’s dangers is a synthesis between faith and reason. Traditionalist Catholic theology, which has always been philosophical at heart, is this – so the request to prove celestial truths, say, the existence of God and His relation to evil or free will, the human-divine nature of Christ, how prayer works, or the facts surrounding the Filioque must be approached from that lens; anything else is a deflection. By having recourse to theological classics such as Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma by Fr. Ludwig Ott or the volumes on dogmatic theology by Fr. Joseph Pohle, for instance, they will be able to explicate the hard questions concerning Catholic dogma and answer all common objections. Understanding this will allow one to deeply value it as Truth, but also grow stronger in the spiritual life thanks to a strong foundation in these fundamentals. They will better appreciate the value of their prayers, make advances in attaining holiness, and do God’s will more effectively.

Conclusion

To the question of how the universe came into being, or how certain things can, beyond our understanding, come to be, expect the atheist to unsatisfactorily reply: “I don’t know”. In other words, to save their premise they must cloak out “I refuse to acknowledge the conclusion, so I will choose to remain ignorant of the facts”. Such is the state also for the Modernist who, having disavowed God, looks to bond the sacred with the profane. In contrast lies the hopeful optimism in the supernatural that Little Witch Academia expresses and manifests to the public, justifying a place for it amidst its critical environment. In a similar way, do we still find the wonderful fruits of God’s work here, especially those that point to Him having walked on Earth all those years ago, for our good and contemplation, giving us a chance at attaining Heaven and in a life of the world to come: everything that the formers despise, a product of their hopeless system of convictions.

…Holy Mother Church holds and teaches that God, the source and end of all things, can be known with certainty from the consideration of created things, by the natural power of human reason: ever since the creation of the world, his invisible nature has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made.

It was, however, pleasing to his wisdom and goodness to reveal himself and the eternal laws of His will to the human race by another, and that a supernatural, way.

This is how the Apostle puts it: In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son. It is indeed thanks to this divine revelation, that those matters concerning God which are not of themselves beyond the scope of human reason, can, even in the present state of the human race, be known by everyone without difficulty, with firm certitude and with no intermingling of error.

First Vatican Council, On Revelation, #1-3
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8 thoughts on “The Anti-Modernist Academia #3: Denying Supernatural Facts Is The Root Of All Modernism

  1. Great article. I remember father Dwight longerncker a former Anglican vicar writing an article for catholic answers on the current divisions in the Anglican Church. He said the division was primarily between those who believed Christianity was a divinely revealed religion and those who believed it was primarily a social construct that should move and shape itself to the times. It explains a lot of the problems the c of e is having now with most recently the bishop of Oxfrd coming out in favour of gay marriage. I have mixed feelings about this. Part of me thinks the more radical the anglicans go the more will convert as there are still large numbers of Anglo catholics who still are part of the church many of whom may swim
    The Tiber but we will have to see. Once thing we can say is that in spite of things being bad in terms of the church one thing o can clearly see is a strong counterculture crystallising around the church as many begin to see that only she has the solution to the societal crisis . Have you heard of the conversion of Cameron bertuzzi from
    Capturing Christianity. Good news.

    Finally I have finished hyouka . Thank you for reccomending it . One of the best I have seen. Do you have any other reccomendations. I only am subscribed to Netflix and Crunchyroll so it would need to be on them as I am to cheap to spring for a third sub

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you esteem it my friend! As for recommendations, SpyxFamily, The Rising Of The Shield Hero and Angel Beats (a fitting show for the month of November, as it’s set in quasi-purgatory) are pretty good shows with a mix of action and comfiness, while Nadia: Secret Of Blue Water is perfect if you’re looking for something with more depth. I have seen the latter most recently and it’s excellent. Just stay away from the movie though lol

      I’m well aware of how much Unglicanism (as I call the C of E) has been a cesspool of Modernism, more than ever since they “ordained” women. I even read one of their cathedrals was turned into a golf course and how their “bishops” said belief in the Divinity of Christ was optional. Every day I find it hard to believe there are still people who can cope with being part of that sect despite having exposed themselves. They’re a few steps away from becoming like the Unitarians in Canada, whose leader I’ve heard from my parish sacristan is an avowed atheist!!

      Yes, I saw news of Cameron’s conversion on Twitter, and I pray he continues to sustain the Faith!

      Like

      1. You don’t know the half of it. The bishops have used a cathedral for a fashion show and a helper sketer which the bishop said part of the service as he slid down. As for why people remain I can explain that easily at least in regards to England . They go because it is primarily churchianity as opposed to Christianity for most of them . They always went to that church as their parents and grandparents did before them so they go. Most parishioners do not think highly of the clergy or the bishops but they are not exercised enough to do anything more than complain on the internet. My priest a former Anglican vicar said if they were to start preaching Buddhism from the pulpit many would grumble but still not stop coming. Someone once described the c of e as guardian readers preaching to telegraph readers or to put it another way the clergy are left but the people are right. so they are used to having to live with the compromise that is the Church of England

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Seems to me they’re living the reality of what happens when religion is mixed too much with the secular and profane; when you have a monarch that purely rules the secular and never defines matters of Faith (I can’t recall the last time C of E ever dealt with a dogmatic definition!), so too will the people follow. I’m reminded of how they forget to practice this verse “And they shall teach my people the difference between holy and profane, and shew them how to discern between clean and unclean.” (Ezekiel 44:23)

        I pray that one day England will come to return to the Catholic Faith. There’s a beautiful prayer in the old Raccolta book that defines such here: https://www.catholic.org/prayers/prayer.php?p=2150

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