Presuppositions often underline all our thoughts and judgements. For instance, when we speak of leaders governing us, there is an underlining reality in our minds that we are speaking in the general context of democracy and the elective process under our Constitution.
In living our daily lives, we also move and decide within unwritten and unvoiced presuppositions that we all accept and that are merely ‘givens’ in our rational discourse as Americans.
But what if some of those presuppositions have changed?
We, therefore, must question those suppositions to see if there has been a change that has altered our view of reality.
The presupposition that I want to highlight is the ancient sense that there are invisible and hence unmeasurable entities in life that, alongside the material realm, constitute the reality of our daily lives.
If we study the literature of the past as well as much of the thought of the present’s more primitive societies, we come away with the distinct impression that there is a lot going on beneath the material reality of life.
But, with the Enlightenment, that began to change. The philosophers of that time saw the invisible realities to be constructs of the human mind: spiritual worlds, spirits of the woods, ghosts, God, etc. They sought to remove from consciousness all things that science cannot inspect and measure. Therefore, they ended up with the material world alone as the totality of reality. Gone were the spirits, the angels, the saints, the devils, and God Himself.
While it began with the more educated classes, this mentality has filtered in our own day into the thinking of the common person. This process of continual impoverishment of the spiritual in the lives of ordinary people has progressed to the extent that even in the Arts, transcendent realities have become no more than the movement of enzymes in the physical reality of our brains with no more reality to them than the dragons and sprites of past mythologies.
This may seem to be rather esoteric and unrelated to our daily lives, but the truth is that this impoverishment is all around us affecting even our belief in the Sacraments. For if we deny the reality of all things spiritual and assert that the only real things are the material things in our lives, of what use is Faith? Prayer? Church? Sacraments? Holy Eucharist?
Parents often come to priests and register their alarm that their children and grandchildren (all educated at great expense in Catholic Institutions!) no longer want to be married in church or even baptize their children! Where does this come from? Is it not from the culture’s role in sucking out the spiritual air of life by a progressive materialization of our presuppositions through which we make our judgements and assert our priorities?
This unseen degradation happens first in the mind of the person and then materializes (pun intended) in the daily behavior of the individual.
The importance of understanding the presuppositions with regard to anything of value was brought home to me by an incident in the life of St. John Henry Newman. At one point, he tried to convert his atheist brother to the Christian Faith. He tried everything but to no avail. He then realized that there was no chance or probability that his brother would even be open to his attempts. His brother had closed down all possibility that there is a God by mentally making a decision to never listen or consider that possibility again. His presupposition was that he had proven to himself that there is no God and that he would never be open to even considering it.
Just as St. John Henry Newman discovered, the air of the modern world is poisoned with non-belief and many have made the decision that there is no spiritual reality, only material reality. With this presupposition, is it any wonder that the modern person does not even recognize the language of belief that we use?
One may think, therefore, that evangelism is impossible! Maybe for man, but all things are possible for God (cf. Matthew 19:26). For He can cause even presuppositions to come falling down. That is what miracles are for! For through miracles, and to a lesser extent demonic possession, God reasserts that there is reality not just to the material but also to the spiritual, that He is Lord of the visible and the invisible.
Thus, when one sits down to watch TV or surfs the internet, one has to understand that those who write the stories are writing under the presupposition that there is no God and that the spiritual is a figment of the imagination of the common people who have not been educated enough. They are not smart enough to see the error of their presuppositions. St. Thomas Aquinas, arguably the most intelligent man who ever lived, would, in their view, need to go back to school; as if the common script writer is intellectually superior to this Master of theology and the Spiritual!
Perhaps, the very pride of Lucifer!