The author was a priest in the Catholic Church and subsequently left it as he slowly lost faith in its teachings. He then began a life-long literary career until his death in 1955. He translated over 200 books and some 300 titles under Haldeman-Julius Publications and became know as the "world's greatest scholar." Quoted from the author's "Preface."
"THE catastrophe which oppresses the mind of the race in our time leads many of us once more to make ironic reflections upon the nature of progress. Is it, after all, an illusion? Nearly two hundred years ago the French philosophers, who did so much to emancipate man' s
courage as well as his intellect, discovered that there lies before the race an era of unlimited " perfectibility," as they called progress. For the first time in history men learned that neither supernatural curse nor natural law restricted their power to improve themselves and their social forms; and the discovery a century later of the truth of evolution set a seal upon the new charter of our rights."
"But the larger knowledge of history which we acquired in the course of the nineteenth century led many writers to oppose this view. The path of humanity is, they say, like that of a planet circling round a sun, giving us an eternal alternation of summers and winters, not a straight and ascending course through time. Progress is cyclic. The race passes from vitality to decay and then, slowly and laboriously, back to vitality. Every long-lived empire has had a succession of Golden Ages and Dark Ages and time and again some portion of the human family — the Assyrians, the Chaldaeans, the Phcenicians, the Greeks, and the Romans — has created a superb polity which in a few centuries crumbled into dust."
"This is a hasty and superficial estimate of the story of the race, and, in any case, we entered upon the twentieth century with such promise of peace and such consciousness
of power that we thrust aside this melancholy theory of progress and returned to the inspiring philosophy of Diderot and D'Alembert. There would be no more Dark Ages. Our trail had crossed the foothills, with their disheartening rise and fall, and before us were the shining
peaks of some vaguely wonderful civilization. Now . . . Whatever may be the issue of the present conflict, we are skirting the edge of the pit. We sank swiftly from the highest and, apparently, the most secure height which the race had yet reached, and in less than a quarter of a century from the optimistic years we found ourselves confronting the spectre of a Dark Age with all its barbaric features made still more horrid by the very science which
had lifted us so high."
"Singularly, no historian has made a scientific study of the creative forces which raised nations to the peak of their civilization and the destructive forces which brought them down. Naturally each expert historian speculates upon the vicissitudes of the particular nation of his choice. One inquires why the ancient civilization of Egypt passed, after three millennia of Golden Ages and Dark Ages, into a chronic and pathetic sterility. Another makes the same
inquiry in the case of China, India, or Persia, or tries to explain to us why Rome or Athens rose to such magnificence and fell to such depths. But no modern historian has attempted to assign the common factors, or to ascertain if there were common factors, in the elevation
and the downfall of all these higher forms of civilization." […]
"However, if we insisted upon testing our Golden Ages by all our modem criteria of civilization, we should perhaps conclude that there have not yet been any Golden Ages in
history. Let us say, then, that we select the periods which the majority of the experts on each civilization deem the most brilliant and most progressive, and we search for the forces which caused the advance and those which checked and ruined it; and we will particularly inquire into the condition of religious belief and moral character in each such period. It is surely the most important function of history to teach us, by the analysis of facts, what are our genuine means of lifting life to a higher level and what are the principal reasons why the splendid achievements of one century have been submerged in the barbarism of the next."