Descent into Bestiality

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2 Responses to Descent into Bestiality

  1. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    This quotation is from MacDonald’s wonderful story The Princess and Curdie. Curdie is given the capacity to hold someone’s hand to discern whether that person is becoming a beast and what beast they are becoming:

    ‘Have you ever heard what some philosophers say–that men were all animals once?’

    ‘No, ma’am.’

    ‘It is of no consequence. But there is another thing that is of the greatest consequence–this: that all men, if they do not take care, go down the hill to the animals’ country; that many men are actually, all their lives, going to be beasts. People knew it once, but it is long since they forgot it.’

    ‘I am not surprised to hear it, ma’am, when I think of some of our miners.’

    ‘Ah! But you must beware, Curdie, how you say of this man or that man that he is travelling beastward. There are not nearly so many going that way as at first sight you might think. When you met your father on the hill tonight, you stood and spoke together on the same spot; and although one of you was going up and the other coming down, at a little distance no one could have told which was bound in the one direction and which in the other. Just so two people may be at the same spot in manners and behaviour, and yet one may be getting better and the other worse, which is just the greatest of all differences that could possibly exist between them.’

    ‘But ma’am,’ said Curdie, ‘where is the good of knowing that there is such a difference, if you can never know where it is?’

    ‘Now, Curdie, you must mind exactly what words I use, because although the right words cannot do exactly what I want them to do, the wrong words will certainly do what I do not want them to do. I did not say you can never know. When there is a necessity for your knowing, when you have to do important business with this or that man, there is always a way of knowing enough to keep you from any great blunder. And as you will have important business to do by and by, and that with people of whom you yet know nothing, it will be necessary that you should have some better means than usual of learning the nature of them.

    ‘Now listen. Since it is always what they do, whether in their minds or their bodies, that makes men go down to be less than men, that is, beasts, the change always comes first in their hands–and first of all in the inside hands, to which the outside ones are but as the gloves. They do not know it of course; for a beast does not know that he is a beast, and the nearer a man gets to being a beast the less he knows it. Neither can their best friends, or their worst enemies indeed, see any difference in their hands, for they see only the living gloves of them. But there are not a few who feel a vague something repulsive in the hand of a man who is growing a beast.

    ‘Now here is what the rose-fire has done for you: it has made your hands so knowing and wise, it has brought your real hands so near the outside of your flesh gloves, that you will henceforth be able to know at once the hand of a man who is growing into a beast; nay, more–you will at once feel the foot of the beast he is growing, just as if there were no glove made like a man’s hand between you and it.

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  2. This is a powerful quote from George McDonald and reminds me of something I’ve read on spiritual maturity–a mark of spiritual maturity is recognizing that you will never get to perfection on your own because of the corruption The Fall has brought on humanity. In other words, knowing that you’ve become a beast is one of the first steps to becoming a man. At least that was my takeaway.

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