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In Quest of Catholicity

In Quest of Catholicity

Malachi Martin Responds to Wolfgang Smith

164 pp

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About the Book

What might happen when two of the most expansive and original Catholic thinkers of our times engage in a discussion on issues that profoundly affect our understanding of the Church past, present and future? In a two-year correspondence with Malachi Martin, Wolfgang Smith broaches a wide spectrum of topics, to which Fr. Martin responds in a way that may surprise many readers. What ultimately stands at issue is the meaning of authentic Catholicity—the universality of Catholic truth.

It emerges from the exchange that when it comes to this fundamental issue, theologians have long been stymied and misled by what Malachi Martin refers to as an “intellectual impasse” that needs to be “deblocked.” It proves to be needful, after all, “to open doors and windows,” not in the name of an aggiornamento, but for the very opposite reason: namely, to rediscover an ancient wisdom that proves to be theological and cosmological at once.

In this profound dialogue—ranging from Jacob Boehme to Catherine Pickstock’s esoteric Thomism—between a great Catholic historian and a great Catholic metaphysician and physicist, we catch a glimpse of a Church risen to the fullness of its Christ-given Catholicity by encompassing, mystically speaking, all truth.

This luminous exchange will be welcomed by all readers seeking deeper currents in contemporary Catholic thought.


“A fascinating exchange of letters between two celebrated Catholic traditionalists, on topics from Boehme to Balthasar, Thomism to Kabbalah, depth psychology to quantum physics. Both Malachi Martin (Hostage to the Devil) and Wolfgang Smith (Christian Gnosis) hold strong, sometimes controversial views, making for a provocative, vastly enjoyable read. Highly recommended.”


co-author of The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings

“This extraordinary book touches on nothing less than the intellectual credibility of the Catholic faith. Here Wolfgang Smith engages in a very personal dialogue with a priest whose over-riding concern is the welfare of souls. The salvation of a generation—at least—turns on an understanding that reaches as deeply into the truth as they do. In Quest of Catholicity is a providential stimulus rich enough to establish us unshakably in saving truth.”


author of The Meaning of Blue: Recovering a Contemplative Spirit

“In these cordial discussions, Wolfgang Smith and the late Malachi Martin consider Jacob Boehme, quantum theory, the natura pura debate, Perennialism, and various esoterica in their search for the core of Catholicism, both within and without the precincts of Mater Ecclesia. The result is an exhilarating journey at the frontiers of Catholic thought, frontiers that even now are little explored. Theirs is a welcome engagement.”


author of The Submerged Reality: Sophiology and the Turn to a Poetic Metaphysics

In Quest of Catholicity presents an exchange of ideas that induces the reader not only to accept a judgment but to think for himself. The letters, grouped into chapters (Boehme, von Balthasar, Borella, St. John of the Cross, Kabbalah, …), exhibit a striking continuity that forms them into a coherent and consistent discourse, i.e., a book—which I, for my part, have found captivating from beginning to end.”


author of Introduction à une metaphysique des mystèreres chrétiens

“The reader of these letters gains an insight into what is here in quest: an understanding that breaks the narrowness of the modern and truly deserves the predicate catholic.”


Supérieur provincial

About the Author

Malachi Martin began his adult life as a member of the Jesuit order. He obtained doctorates in archeology, Oriental studies, and Semitic languages from the Catholic University of Louvain. Fr. Martin pursued a brilliant research career in paleography and related fields, taught at the Pontifical Biblical Institute, and served as private secretary to Cardinal Bea. Later he gained renown as the bestselling author of Hostage to the DevilThe JesuitsThe Windswept House, and many other works.

Wolfgang Smith was born in Vienna in 1930. At age eighteen he graduated from Cornell University with majors in physics, mathematics, and philosophy. At age twenty he received his Master’s degree in theoretical physics from Purdue University, and climbed the Matterhorn. After contributing to the theoretical solution of the re-entry problem as an aerodynamicist at Bell Aircraft Corporation, Smith earned his doctorate in Mathematics at Columbia University, subsequently embarking upon a 30-year career as a Professor of Mathematics at MIT, UCLA, and Oregon State University. Despite his impeccable credentials in physics, mathematics, and philosophy, Wolfgang Smith is at heart an outsider not only in regard to these academic disciplines, but more profoundly, in reference to the post-Enlightenment premises of our contemporary world. Finding himself, thus, irreconcilably at odds with the prevailing Zeitgeist, Smith decided to forego a professional career in the fields of his primary interest—i.e., physics and philosophy—in favor of pure mathematics: the one and only academic discipline, he avers, in which “political correctness” can find no foothold. And so he enjoyed the luxury of pursuing a respected university career while being at liberty, as he puts it, “to remain perfectly sane.” It is no wonder, then, that when he finally confronted the so-called quantum enigma, Smith perceived the issue in a very different light than his peers. The problem all along had actually not been “technical”! It was not a question to be resolved by way of differential equations, nor primarily a matter of finding something new—but one of jettisoning an entire Weltanschauung. And for Wolfgang Smith this posed no difficulty: he had in fact done so decades earlier, as can be discerned in his remarkable series of publications.

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