“How,” you ask, “can we make modern people skeptical of their enormously successful science?”

I very much doubt we can, not at least taking “modern people” en masse. I’ve certainly never supposed my own teaching or writing would have much of an effect on the masses. It’s the person who is already suspicious of the successes you have in mind, or (better) who already senses that there are modes of “success” quite unknown to contemporary science, one aims to reach. We can only pray for the rest.

If you’ve been especially attentive during your prayers, you will have noticed that there’s a tiny “space” between perceiving and conceiving the world around us, and the question is whether a given person can remain in that space long enough to take a deep breath or two. If he can, or even if he simply wishes he could—and wishes it just as much as a man held under water wishes to breathe—then he can be helped. Otherwise he is beyond what I at least might hope to do for him.

Am I being an “elitist” in saying this? A correspondent recently complained that we traditionalists are “indifferent to the hoi polloi“, and that a Christian traditionalist in particular would have been strongly rebuked by Saint Paul for splitting the Church into the “spiritual” and the “carnal” and thus for repeating the “disastrous divisiveness” of the Gnostics, whom the Apostle attacks in 1 Corinthians.

I pointed out in reply that a certain kind of “divisiveness” has indeed been overcome in the Gospel, for in Christ “there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, no male and female” (Galatians 3:28). But this surely takes nothing away from the fact—an altogether obvious fact, is it not?—that there is nonetheless a gnosis not accessible to everyone. Saint Paul himself—in 1 Corinthians, in fact—is at some pains to contrast the “spiritual” with the “unspiritual” (or “natural” or “psychic”), and he singles out the “mature” as alone prepared to receive “a secret and hidden wisdom of God”.

The problem, or one problem, with the heretical Gnostics of the first Christian centuries was not their claim that there is a “higher gnosis” but their mistaken assumption that a capacity for this gnosis automatically renders a man superior to other people, as if a childlike faith and spiritual discipline were of no importance. As Schuon observes, true gnosis saves “only when it constitutes a path that works and transforms and wounds our nature as the plough wounds the soil”; and he adds that intelligence alone “does not prevent titanic falls”.

No doubt intellectual pride, like all forms of pride, can lead to “divisiveness”. But the error in this case lies in a misappropriation of gnosis, and not in the existence of gnosis, or gnostics, as such. There is indeed a spiritual elite: it’s for those alone who can make themselves small enough to enter the “space” of prayer.