Sunday, February 18, 2007

Wisdom of the world

"The wisdom of the world is that of which it is said, 'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, i.e. those whom the world calls wise.' 'The wisdom of the flesh is an enemy of God,' and does not come from above. It is earthly, devilish and carnal.

This worldly wisdom consists in an exact conformity to the maxims and fashions of the world; a continual inclination towards greatness and esteem; and a subtle and endless pursuit of pleasure and self-interest, not in an uncouth and blatant way by scandalous sin, but in an astute, discreet, and deceitful way. Otherwise the world would no longer label it wisdom but pure licentiousness.

In the opinion of the world, a wise man is one with a keen eye to business; who knows how to turn everything to his personal profit without appearing to do so. He excels in the art of duplicity and well-concealed fraud without arousing suspicion. He thinks one thing and says or does another. Nothing concerning the graces and manners of the world is unknown to him. He accomodates himself to everyone to suit his own end, completely ignoring the honor and interests of God. He manages to make a secret but fatal reconciliation of truth and falsehood, of the gospel and the world, of virtue and sin, of Christ and Belial. He wishes to be considered an honest man but not a devout man, and most readily scorns, distorts and condemns devotions he does not personally approve of. In short, a man is worldly-wise who, following solely the lead of his senses and human-reasoning, poses as a good Christian and a man of integrity, but makes little effort to please God or atone by penance for the sins he has committed against him.

The worldly man bases his conduct on personal honor, on 'What will people say?', on convention, on high living, on self-interest, on ceremonious manners, and on witty conversation. These seven principles are irreproachable supports on which, he believes, he can safely depend to enjoy a peaceful life.

The world will canonize him for such virtues as courage, finesse, tactfulness, shrewdness, gallantry, politeness and good humor. It stigmatizes as serious offenses, insensitiveness, stupidity, poverty, boorishness and bigotry.

He obeys as faithfully as he can the commandments which the world gives him:

You shall be well acquainted with the world.
You shall be respectable.
You shall be successful in business.
You shall hold on to whatever is yours.
You shall rise above your background.
You shall make friends for yourself.
You shall frequent fashionable society.
You shall seek the good life.
You shall not be a kill-joy.
You shall not be singular, uncouth or over-pious.

Never has the world been so corrupt as it is now, for never has it been so cunning, so wise in its own way, and so crafty. It cleverly makes use of the truth to foster untruth, virtue to justify vice, and the very maxims of Jesus Christ to endorse its own, so that even those who are wisest in the sight of God are often deceived.

Infinite is the number of these men, wise in the sight of the world but foolish in the eyes of God.

- St. Louis de Montfort, Love of Eternal Wisdom

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