Despite Charles Malik’s prolific career and accomplishments on the world stage, his written legacy has largely been lost to history, falling out of circulation or never making it to print. It survives in hard-to-access libraries and sometimes in languages foreign to Western readers.

The Library of Congress in D.C. holds the largest collection of Malik’s work with 114.8 linear feet of material. Below you will find the Charles Malik Institute’s ongoing effort to mine this archive, with occasional additions from other libraries, and bring Malik’s work back into public discourse.

Find a Charles Malik Original Quote

There is plenty of material injustice in the world, but intellectual and spiritual injustice is infinitely more significant.  There is inherent injustice so long as the great literature which is available, for instance, to American youth is entirely out of…

There is plenty of material injustice in the world, but intellectual and spiritual injustice is infinitely more significant.  There is inherent injustice so long as the great literature which is available, for instance, to American youth is entirely out of proportion to that which is available to the youth of other parts of the world.  When I enter certain American or European homes and find what the boys and girls of those homes can read and study, from Homer to Tolstoy, and reflect at the same time that this wealth of literature, which has helped to make history more than anything else, is not open to the youth of other lands, except insofar as they have learned a European language, I feel deeply disturbed.  There is a great tradition of human thought and sentiment which is known and participated in by only a fraction of humanity.  This is quite unfair.  To have some peoples and nations enjoy the infinite riches of the mind while the rest of humanity wallows in darkness and error is an act of injustice of the first order….  There can be no peace, there certainly can be no real justice, so long as the goods of the mind and spirit are abundant in some countries and miserably deficient in others; so long as the great classics of human thought and feeling, from Plato to the present day, have penetrated and transformed the life and literature and outlook of certain countries and are totally unheard of in others; so long as the supreme persons of history belong to the living tradition of certain countries and are absent from others.  The ultimate ground of peace is participation in a community of generis ideas.  Such a community can be culled from the great classics of the past….  We are often urged to work for what is ambiguously called “rising standards of living.”  Now I firmly believe we should do that.  But what about rising standards of thinking and feeling?  Shouldn’t we also work for that?  Or is it that the refinement of the mind and spirit would automatically and magically follow upon the abundance of material goods and comforts?  The highest insights and convictions of the ages must be more equally distributed throughout the world.  Without this intellectual and spiritual justice there can be no real peace.  To be sure, there can be no peace so long as people are physically starving, so long as the material goods of the world are unjustly distributed between classes and peoples.  But there is a deeper starvation, a deeper injustice.  The goods of the mind and spirit are themselves unequally and unjustly distributed throughout the world.”

Source: Speech on the proposal for the translation and publication of the Classics 1

United Nations | Western Thought |

Yet a general critique is necessary, because war and peace are not only a function of Communism: they depend also on the state of health and illness in Western culture. There are many phases of Western life which are repulsively…

Yet a general critique is necessary, because war and peace are not only a function of Communism: they depend also on the state of health and illness in Western culture.

There are many phases of Western life which are repulsively materialistic. The spirit of business and gain, the maddening variety of things exciting your concupiscence, the utter selfishness of uncoordinated activity, all this is not something to attract and inspire. To the superficial observer who is unable to penetrate to the core of love and truth which is still at the heart of the West, there is little to choose between the soulless materialism of the West and the militant materialism of the East.

Quality is in eclipse. Quantity and size dominate. Not the better and truer, but the larger and physically stronger: these call forth moral approbation.

There is a corresponding bankruptcy of fundamental ideas. There is thus in this realm an unequal struggle for the hearts of men between Communism and the West. Communism displays a set of generic ideas—I believe for the most part false—in which it passionately believes, for which Communists are willing—I believe misguidedly—to die. There is no comparable ideological passion in the West. The talk about democracy, freedom, representative government, is woefully inadequate: it deals for the most part with pure form, sheer external machinery. It does not satisfy man’s deepest cravings for friendship and understanding and truth and love.

Politically the West will not serve the cause of peace by allying itself with dark regimes just because it is more expedient not to disturb them. Such regimes are running sores on the body politic of humanity. The West must be honest enough to rebuke and challenge them. It must firmly lead them into the broad ways of responsible change. Their peoples are poised to see whether the West acts from principle or from expediency. And the subversive whispers of world revolution become more and more potent the more these peoples despair of their rulers and the West.

Nor does it do merely to reject Communism. A positive alternative must be suggested. The only effective answer to Communism is a genuine spiritualized materialism which seeks to remove every trace of social injustice without loss of the higher values which constitute the very soul of the West. Communism cannot be met by a mere nay; it requires a mighty yea which will do full justice to man’s material needs but will at the same time place them in their subordinate position in the scale of values.

The tragedy of the world today is that the traditions which embody the deepest truth are not bothering clearly, sufficiently, responsibly, boldly to articulate themselves.

Whatever be the weakness and decadence of the West, it still has one saving glory: the University is free, the Church is free. It is a great thing to preserve unbroken the tradition of free inquiry started by Plato and Aristotle, and the tradition of love started by God. Truth can still be sought, and God can still be loved and proclaimed in joy and freedom. And this fact alone is going to save us. It will not be by pacts, or by atomic bombs, or by economic arrangements, or by the United Nations, that peace will be established, but by the freedom of the Church and the University each to be itself. Communism does not know what it has done when it subjected the Church and the University to its own dictates.

Source: War and Peace 2

Communism | Western Thought |

Nothing is as important in the world today as for the Christians of America to grasp their historic opportunities and prove themselves equal to them.  I say ‘the Christians,’ but I must add also ‘the Jews’ because what is fatefully…

Nothing is as important in the world today as for the Christians of America to grasp their historic opportunities and prove themselves equal to them.  I say ‘the Christians,’ but I must add also ‘the Jews’ because what is fatefully at stake today are the highest spiritual values of the Judeo-Christian tradition.  If the highest Christian values are overturned, so will the highest Jewish values.

Source: The Two Tasks 1

Faith | Western Thought |

The Greeks, more than any other people, displayed an irrepressible and unbounded passion for the exercise of reason and an incredible curiosity to investigate and know everything; and the university is nothing if it is not the home of free…

The Greeks, more than any other people, displayed an irrepressible and unbounded passion for the exercise of reason and an incredible curiosity to investigate and know everything; and the university is nothing if it is not the home of free inquiry and unfettered curiosity. “All knowledge is of the universal,” proclaimed Aristotle, and this is precisely the inalienable principle of the university. By knowledge Aristotle means scientific knowledge. Thus from the beginning the horizon of thought envisaged by the Greeks was the whole of the human mind. Man as man was their theme. No people on earth surpassed them, or even approached them, in this. What you know, or think you know, that you cannot articulate in such a way as to share it with all mankind is not knowledge. It could be faith, it could be feeling, it could be intuition, it could be hallucination, it could be daydreaming, but it is not knowledge. It remains your private property until you manage to convert it into knowledge, namely, until you succeed in communicating it to others, indeed potentially to all mankind. Knowledge is essentially publishable and shareable with all men. Knowledge therefore is not the possession of this or that individual or culture alone; knowledge is never something esoteric: knowledge, as knowledge, is universally human or it is something fake.

Source:  A Christian Critique of the University 1

Western Thought |

The West does not only incorporate Western countries and British overseas dominions, but those that are united by the Greco-Roman-Judeo-Christian tradition. Four factors enter into this unity: the existence of free centers of learning and research, the presence of independent…

The West does not only incorporate Western countries and British overseas dominions, but those that are united by the Greco-Roman-Judeo-Christian tradition. Four factors enter into this unity: the existence of free centers of learning and research, the presence of independent churches (the distinction between the religious and the secular realms), the belief that authority (of the government) arises from the will of the people, and the relationship between the government and material wealth, in which governments do not monopolize the means of production. Thus we can read Truth, God, Government, and Wealth which goes back to the afore-mentioned tradition. The essence of this relationship lies in the subordination of Man to God and the recognition of the ultimacy of the individual person.

Source: The Relations of East and West 1

Faith | Western Thought |

No man who has drunk deep from the fountainheads of Western civilization—I mean, from Plato and Aristotle, from the Roman Stoics, from the Bible, from the great saints, from Dante and Shakespeare, from the great art of Spain and Holland…

No man who has drunk deep from the fountainheads of Western civilization—I mean, from Plato and Aristotle, from the Roman Stoics, from the Bible, from the great saints, from Dante and Shakespeare, from the great art of Spain and Holland and Germany and Italy and France, from the great German thinkers, from the hymns and sacred music of the church, from Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, from the great love for liberty and man which has always characterized the heart of America—no man, I say, who has really known the West and loves it at its truest and deepest and highest, is not disturbed and pained today […] at the absence of really great leadership—political, intellectual, moral and religious. (17-19)

Source: Survival in an Age of Revolution 1

Crisis Leadership | Western Thought |

I must say in all humility that the leadership of the West in general does not seem to be adequate to the unprecedented challenges of the age. There is a tragic dearth of men, men who are so genuinely in…

I must say in all humility that the leadership of the West in general does not seem to be adequate to the unprecedented challenges of the age. There is a tragic dearth of men, men who are so genuinely in touch with the truth and with the hearts of their fellow men as to have only to open their mouths to be loved and believed and followed. The world desperately cries for masters; for it is only the voice of conviction and truth that is going to save us. 

Nor is it sufficient in this cruel century to be happy and self-sufficient. You must step forth and lead, and not only in material things. It is not enough to realize good institutions and to leave it to others to copy them. For man isn’t only an ape: he does not only mimic the good example of others. Man thirsts after ideas. If the habits and institutions of the West are not adapted for the production of a ringing message, full of content and truth, satisfying the mind, appealing to the heart, firing the will, a message on which one can stake his whole life, then in the present world, in which there is, perhaps as never before, a universal hunger for truth and justice and rest, the West cannot lead. Leadership must pass on to others, no matter how perverted and false these others might be. For the Logos prefers and can finally utilize a false prophet far better than no prophet at all. If your only export in these realms is the silent example of flourishing political institutions and happy human relations, you cannot lead. If your only export is a distant reputation for wealth and prosperity and order, you cannot lead. Nor can you really lead if you send forth to others only expert advice and technical assistance. To be able to lead and save yourself and others, you must above everything else address their mind and soul. Your tradition, rooted in the glorious Greco-Roman-Hebrew-Christian-Western-European-humane outlook, supplies you with all the necessary presuppositions for leadership. All you have to do is to be the deepest you already are. The challenge of this epoch is not Communism, but is whether Western society, conceived in the joyous liberties of the Greek city-states and nurtured on Christian charity, can still recover from the worship of false and alien gods and return to its authentic sources. The challenge of the moment is whether modern man, distracted and overwhelmed by himself and by the world, can still regain the original integrity of his soul. (31-34)

Source: War and Peace 1

Communism | Crisis Leadership | Faith | Western Thought |

The spirit flourishes and peace supervenes when men believe in the possibility of a real, common, natural good. (29)

The spirit flourishes and peace supervenes when men believe in the possibility of a real, common, natural good. (29)

Source: The Spiritual Significance of the United Nations 8

United Nations | Western Thought |

War arises either from hatred or from fear or from greed, and all three are fundamental sins against reason. For hatred at bottom wills the elimination of the other fellow, because it is blind to the possibility that there is…

War arises either from hatred or from fear or from greed, and all three are fundamental sins against reason. For hatred at bottom wills the elimination of the other fellow, because it is blind to the possibility that there is a truth, a community of the spirit, that can bracket you both, provided both of you are humbly and practically exposed to it. Fear, on the other hand, fears precisely that the other fellow rejects such a possibility, and therefore moves to strike first. Greed does not recognize the truth of objective justice, namely, that infinite desire is the source of all evil because while there may be enough and plenty for all our need, as a matter of fact there is not enough for all our greed. (29)

Source: The Spiritual Significance of the United Nations 7

Faith | United Nations | Western Thought |

Peace is promised to men of good will, namely, in my judgement, to the men who allow for the possibility of a rational common good; but even angels, if faced with men who absolutely reject such a possibility, who teach…

Peace is promised to men of good will, namely, in my judgement, to the men who allow for the possibility of a rational common good; but even angels, if faced with men who absolutely reject such a possibility, who teach instead that the good is not determined by reason and love but by force—no matter how ingenious their dialectical interpretations of this force might be—even angels, I say, facing such a breed of men must take up arms and fight. (29)

Source: The Spiritual Significance of the United Nations 6

United Nations | Western Thought |


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