Looking Back on Progress

Lord Northbourne

Hillsdale, NY: Sophia Perennis, 2002.
140 pages
ISBN: 0-900588-53-5
Price: $18.95
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Most of us are deeply committed to a cult of change. We believe in the essential beneficence of progress. We deal piecemeal with the frightening range of new problems that increasingly beset our society, but the assumptions underlying the ideology of progress are seldom seriously called into question. It is becoming increasingly urgent that these assumptions be questioned dispassionately and with a real desire to see the truth. In this book the author does not set out to deal with every aspect of our exceedingly involved situation. Rather he stands back and looks at that situation from various points of view, relating each to his central theme. The penetrating clarity and freshness of the pictures presented to the reader cannot fail to contribute to a better understanding of the ideology of progress, both as to its origins and as to its tendencies in the world of today. In the absence of some such understanding, even the most well-intentioned actions are likely to be undertaken in vain. 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 flowers, or of predestination and freewill, will spur new readers to the study of other traditionalist authors.

Table of Contents

Foreword—Introductory—Pictures of the Universe—The Beauty of Flowers—Being Oneself—Predestination and Free Will—Planning for Progress—A Glance at Agriculture—Old Age—'With God All Things Are Possible'


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 books, and I am sure you can see I am in the deepest possible sympathy with your views.
Thomas Merton

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 Look to the Land. These works present his 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'sLight on Ancient Worlds and Titus Burckhardt's Sacred Art in East and West.