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Ideas are living things which ought to be allowed to grow and mature naturally

1 min • Digitized on May 8, 2023

From A Defense of the Teachings of Mary, page 83
By St. John Henry Newman

It is impossible, I say, in a doctrine like this, to draw the line cleanly between truth and error, right and wrong. This is ever the case in concrete matters, which have life.

Life in this world is motion, and involves a continual process of change. Living things grow into their perfection, into their decline, into their death. No rule of art will suffice to stop the operation of this natural law, whether in the material world or in the human mind.

We can indeed encounter disorders, when they occur, by external antagonisms and remedies; but we cannot eradicate the process itself, out of which they arise. Life has the same right to decay, as it has to wax strong.

This is specially the case with great ideas. You may stifle them; or you may refuse them elbow-room; or you may torment them with your continual meddling; or you may let them have free course and range, and be content, instead of anticipating their excesses, to expose and restrain those excesses after they have occurred.

But you have only this alternative; and for myself, I prefer much, wherever it is possible, to be first generous and then just; to grant full liberty of thought, and to call it to account when abused.

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