I have just completed ‘God’s Master Key – The Law of Control and Direction’ by Agnes Holloway. The book begins with an introduction by Fr Edward Holloway, Agnes’s son and the spiritual father of the ‘Faith Movement’. Speaking of his mother’s revelations and the ideas to which they led him Fr Holloway recounts that “I found myself being introduced to theology of the Church that developed the Fathers above all, and was much deeper than the theology of the Scholastics…”. I was surprised by this comment as it seemed so obviously and directly opposed to Pius XII’s strictures in Humani Generis against those who seek to use the Fathers as an excuse for avoiding the Scholastics . However, at the end of the book this is explained. Fr Holloway rebukes Pius XII for his lack of humility in failing to accept his and his mother’s theological vision (an account of which he sent to the Holy Father in 1950). The problems of the Post-Conciliar Church are, in fact, largely due to Pius XII’s proud indifference to the message of Fr Holloway. 

I would say that the prototype of Catholicism: A New Synthesis which reached Pius XII about the time of Humani Generis, would, if it had been taken seriously and in all humility have given the Holy See the essential vision on which to base a new framework of speculative Catholic philosophy and theology in time for the Second Vatican Council. ‘Prophets in rags’ have never been accepted in the Old Covenant or the New. Yet, God has never spoken to His Church through any other medium. Rome did have the warning it needed and the material it needed before 1960, but took no notice of it.

So, Fr Holloway was a sort of cross between St Francis of Assisi and the Prophet Jeremiah. If only Pius XII had had the humility to see what was so obvious to Fr Holloway himself! He would never have said silly things like…

In theology some want to reduce to a minimum the meaning of dogmas; and to free dogma itself from terminology long established in the Church and from philosophical concepts held by Catholic teachers, to bring about a return in the explanation of Catholic doctrine to the way of speaking used in Holy Scripture and by the Fathers of the Church.… they assert that when Catholic doctrine has been reduced to this condition, a way will be found to satisfy modern needs, that will permit of dogma being expressed also by the concepts of modern philosophy, whether of immanentism or idealism or existentialism or any other system. Some more audacious affirm that his can and must be done, because they hold that the mysteries of faith are never expressed by truly adequate concepts but only by approximate and ever changeable notions, in which the truth is to some extent expressed, but is necessarily distorted. Wherefore they do not consider it absurd, but altogether necessary, that theology should substitute new concepts in place of the old ones in keeping with the various philosophies which in the course of time it uses as its instruments, so that it should give human expression to divine truths in various ways which are even somewhat opposed, but still equivalent, as they say. They add that the history of dogmas consists in the reporting of the various forms in which revealed truth has been clothed, forms that have succeeded one another in accordance with the different teachings and opinions that have arisen over the course of the centuries. –  Humani Generis §14-§15

Given that Fr Holloway is making such audacious claims to correct the supreme pastor I thought it would take a good deal of argument to winkle out the problems with the main text. Not so. I had anticipated that the Gnosis/Theosophy, Christological, Anthropological and Eucharistic heresies I suspected the book would contain would be heavily concealed. Instead, Mrs Holloway goes straight in at the deep end with wild pseudo-scientific speculations which she believed had been revealed to her by Our Lord Himself. Here is a taster…

The life-principle has its seed in the Universe itself, inside it. So that it is reasonable to conclude that its source and method of action is the same as the rest of the Universe. By the existence within its organism of electrons (as I am given to understand) in quanta it would seem to demand the need of somewhere where the electrons can be stored or secreted…Each fiery nebula radiates heat and energy in the form of electrons etc. the whole Universe is impregnated with this radiated energy which forms the control and direction of all creation. Our planet is part of the Universe, and all living things upon it because they are in harmony with the natural law, are impregnated with this energy, which acts upon and with their organic nervous system and through the life principle ever seek and respond to it…. Looking at his [Man’s] nervous system it does not differ in a very marked degree from the higher mammals. The senses receive their direction from without the same as theirs. The same air is necessary for, and taken in by his lungs, as for them. The earth produces his food and drink as for them. Because of such he is a rational animal. Why then this difference? Why does not all mankind like the rest of the Universe obey a set direction or course of action? This is where the explanation is given to me. I have said man is organic to the world, he belongs to its process, he is in all material aspects like unto the animals in as much as his organism resembles theirs. There is this difference, it is found on examination that his brain is larger than theirs, the brain cells I understand are the same in number, but the development greater. An eminent scientist has said that he believes the key to the whole explanation is in the brain of man. It does seem to be so, and is indeed so, if the explanation given to me is true. The brain of man is larger than the animals. Well now, the secretion of electrons (secreted energy) will be greater than that of the animals. That means to say that there will be more than enough for the animal needs of man. The brain of the animals secrete just enough energy as the body needs; this is being constantly renewed there is no waste. If the smaller brain of the animals secrete just enough energy for their daily material needs, the brain of man being larger will secrete more than enough for his material needs. In man’s animal capacity his material needs are no greater than the other animals. Therefore unless this excess of secretion is utilised it will destroy the brain. As its secretions are being constantly renewed in accordance with natural law, there would, unless there is some way of rejecting its waste, result disease.

Fortunately, the book isn’t very long which is a great mercy as I really didn’t want to have to secrete any more electrons over it than absolutely necessary. I have already posted the extract in which Mrs Holloway outlines her conception of the real presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist. I recommend anyone to read it. It sums up in one passage much of what is going wrong in the book generally. It principally teaches an obscure heresy from the early Middle Ages known as Impanation, but because of her unorthodox account of the soul it also involves a form of pre-natal Adoptionism.

Mrs Holloway clearly envisages the Divine Word uniting Himself to a pre-existing biologically human organism in the womb of Our Lady. This is because she sees the soul in Platonic or Cartesian terms as an angelic entity which makes use of the body instrumentally. This is far distant from the Catholic doctrine of the intellectual soul as the form of the body solemnly defined at the Council of Vienne. She even refers to the body as “its [the soul’s] human charge”, rather like a loving and obedient dog that has regrettably acquired some poor habits from its delinquent owner. In fact that is more or less Mrs Holloway’s account of original sin, so long as we add that when the owner passes on the dog to his son the son then picks up his father’s bad habits from the dog. The soul in her scheme is super-added to an ape which has evolved to a certain point where it is “secreting electrons” at such a rate that it will become diseased if these are not taken up and utilised by ‘the soul’ for the production of thought. The body of the human being is clearly already in existence when ‘the soul’ takes it in charge in each of our personal histories and that of the species as a whole. “The brain did not depend on the soul for its marvellous composition during the process of material evolution, it was complete in its potential qualities of all those things which biologists expound about it today.” In the case of the incarnation the Divine Word takes this body in charge instead. Even Fr Holloway is clearly nervous at this point that his mother’s doctrine might be incipiently Apollinarist as he hastily points out in a footnote that she did believe in the existence of Christ’s human soul. In the Eucharist, according to Mrs Holloway, Christ hypostatically unites himself to the bread and wine in the same instrumental way that (according to the Holloways) the soul unites itself to the body and the Word did to the flesh of Christ.

Mrs Holloway seems to think that there were two types of apple (in her text it was an apple) on the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and we were free to eat of the good ones but not the bad ones. Her text of Genesis 2 seems to vary quite a lot from the usual readings. Fr Holloway is clearly nervous at some of his mother’s more outlandish feats of exegesis and tries to put some distance between these passages and the fountainhead of private revelation but she lets him down by insisting that she was ‘shown’ these things. Mrs Holloway is similarly insistent that the tree of life represents the secret of perpetual biological existence rather than sanctifying grace. Mind you, this is not a line which she draws very clearly anyway.

For Mrs Holloway also teaches that the soul is mortal and requires grace in order to exist, in a manner analogous to a plant’s need for sunlight. Our Lord told her directly “Grace is the sunshine of the soul”. Demons too are consequently the recipients of grace without which they would not exist.

As the material life principle in all its aspects receives from the surrounding Universe with its millions of stars etc. the energy which keeps it in being, so the spirits of Men and Angels both good and bad receive from the Eternal Godhead the necessary energising force which keeps them in existence. Should God withdraw this life force from them the spirit would be annihilated, as is the material life principle when the forces which sustain it are withdrawn through disease or any other reason. As there always proceeds from the Eternal Uncreated Spirit the life force which keeps all created spirits in existence, the full effects of this life force are not felt by the spirit clouded with sin. In other words the ‘Sunshine’ of Grace which proceeds from God for the benefit of all his spiritual creations is withheld from it, although some of its ‘rays’ must always get through to keep the spirit in existence.

I don’t know where to start with this text whose theological implications are unspeakable. In a final florish Mrs Holloway also seems to hold that the conjugal act outside the fertile period is always venially sinful. There is promise of an explanatory footnote but I can’t find Fr Holloway’s text. Admittedly, while this position is certainly wrong, it is possible (though not necessary) to read St Augustine this way.

I am sure Mrs Holloway was a very nice lady acting in good faith and I am sure she didn’t mean any harm. As she emphasises, she was not academically trained. Nevertheless the work is so replete with heresies that it is hard to believe God would bother to embark on such a private revelation foreknowing that it would be completely compromised in its transmission. And indeed, it is fundamentally Gnostic to suggest that special top-ups of revelation are needed to insure that the ‘development’ of doctrine keeps pace with the progress of science. Even if, as Fr Holloway assures us in the introduction,

If it is true, it is not a new public revelation. It is a master correction of the Divine Word Incarnate, through the Holy Spirit, to the development of the doctrine of faith and morals in this age. Without such a true and certain course the Church must falter, and is faltering in this age. It is no more than God’s own indication of the true line of development in wisdom, love and understanding. My mother once said to me that she did not think there was a single thing in it, which great and holy minds could not have worked out for themselves, but they did not. She thought they lacked holiness and humility equal to the challenge.

Poor St Thomas! I always took him to be such a pious and unassuming fellow…