Religion in the Modern World

Including Correspondence with Thomas Merton

Lord Northbourne

Hillsdale, NY: Sophia Perennis, 2002.
108 pages
ISBN: 0-900588-57-8
Price: $18.95 US
Buy now on

Lord Northbourne had a gift for expressing the profoundest truths in simple and graceful language, and it is the publisher’s hope that his unique combination of gentleness and rigor, whether on the subject of healthy local agriculture and flowers, cultural and religious innovation and the plight of modern man, theology and the inner path of prayer, or comparative metaphysics, will spur new readers to the study of other traditionalist authors. It is just this quality which formed the basis for the fascinating but all too short correspondence with Fr Thomas Merton that has been added to this volume. Sophia Perennis has also recently republished Lord Northbourne’s Looking Back on Progress and Look to the Land.

Table of Contents

Introduction—Religion and Tradition—Modernism: The Profane Point of View—The Idea of God—Tradition and Anti-Tradition—Modern Science—Art Ancient and Modern—What am I?—Decadence and Idolatry—Deviation and Perversion—Correspondence with Thomas Merton


I have just finished reading your book Religion in the Modern World. It has helped me to organize my ideas at a time when we in the Catholic Church, and in the monastic Orders, are being pulled this way and that. I could not agree more fully with your principles and with your application of them. In particular, I am grateful for your last chapter. For one thing, it clears up a doubt that had persisted in my mind about the thinking of the Schuon-Guénon 'school', as well as about the rather slapdash ecumenism that is springing up in some quarters. It is most important first of all to understand deeply and live one's own tradition, not confusing it with what is foreign to it, if one is to seriously appreciate other traditions and distinguish in them what is close to one's own and what is, perhaps, irreconcilable with one's own. The great danger at the moment is a huge muddling and confusing of the spiritual traditions that still survive. As you so well point out, this would be crowning the devil's work. I am very grateful for your important and thoughtful book, and I am sure you can see I am in the deepest possible sympathy with your views.
Thomas Merton, condensed from letter to the author

About the Author

Lord Northbourne (1896–1982) was a man of exceptional vision, who already in the 1940s diagnosed in detail the sickness of modern society as stemming from the severance of its organic links with the wholeness of life. A leading figure in the early organic farming movement, his writings profoundly affected such other pioneers as Sir Albert Howard, Rolf Gardiner, Ehrenfried Pfeiffer, and H.J. Massingham. His path led him on to a profound study of comparative religion, traditional metaphysics, and the science of symbols, which he employed in incisive observations on the character of modern society. His later writings exercised considerable influence on his younger contemporaries E.F. Schumacher and Thomas Merton, and in many ways anticipate the essays of Wendell Berry. Sophia Perennis has also published revised editions of Lord Northbourne's two other works, Religion in the Modern World and Looking Back on Progress. These later works present his wider reflections on the Divine and human society, but always with the sensibility of a man who has roots in the soil. He corresponded with mountaineer and Tibetan Buddhist Marco Pallis, who introduced him to the school of perennialist writers. Northbourne translated René Guénon's The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times as well as Frithjof Schuon's Light on Ancient Worlds and Titus Burckhardt's Sacred Art in East and West.