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Degenaar in Dialogue: An Essay in Four Parts Part Two: Challenged to Conform

Invitation to a commemoration

In the early years of his appointment as a lecturer in philosophy at the University of Stellenbosch, Johan Degenaar was by all accounts conspicuously challenging established conventions. He was doing so not through open confrontation, but rather through wit, suggestion and questioning, and it must have been hard for the establishment of the time to know whether to call him to order, and how to do that.

I believe, however, that there was at least one moment during the early years of Degenaar’s academic career, when he was more or less explicitly challenged to move in one direction or the other: either to conform in a more definite way to dominant norms and beliefs, or to openly refuse to conform and suffer the consequences. There may have been other such moments, but the one I have in mind is both vivid and well-documented. This moment provides a view of Degenaar, at a crucial moment of his formation, that is sharply focused, although also partly obscured, in ways I’ll describe.

The event I have in mind took place in 1954, when Degenaar was invited to contribute a short essay to a student publication—with the title Herdenkingsblad van die Admissiebond, Stellenbosch—on the topic of “theology of dance.”[1] It is necessary, I think, to say something about how I came across this episode.

I came across the title of Degenaar’s essay in 1986, when I found it listed in the University of Stellenbosch Jaarboek of 1955, in a list of the previous year’s publications by members of the Department of Philosophy. André du Toit had invited me to contribute an essay for a festschrift to mark Degenaar’s sixtieth birthday, later in that year (1986), and I had in mind to write about Degenaar’s early years at Stellenbosch. I began looking for material for this essay, with the intention of, at the same time, filling in gaps in the bibliography of his writings, to be included in that volume.

But I was sufficiently intrigued at the time to ask Degenaar about that specific essay. He responded by describing the context of the invitation. Looking back, he saw the invitation to write about theology and dance as a kind of challenge, or even a trap. As I recall, his words were: “Hulle wou my vastrek.”[2]

After our conversation, I decided to look for the essay. However, at that time, there was no record of the Herdenkingsblad in the university library or the library of the Theological Seminary. And it soon became apparent that the essay I had envisaged writing on Degenaar would be more demanding than I’d envisaged, and would have to wait for another time. As I recall, I returned to it in the early 1990s, when I wanted to take a break from a writing project of a more abstract nature with which I was making slow and uncertain progress.

In March 2020, almost five years after Degenaar’s death, I began to think again about writing an essay on his legacy. My initial thought was to write about his style of discussion with students, which is the focus of Part Three of this essay. But I became aware that this style had a history, and then thought about this episode from 1954 again, and the account of it that he gave me in 1986. This time I requested the UCT interlibrary loan office to see if they could locate a copy. It seemed that there was no record of it in any reference library in South Africa, and it seems safe to assume there is still no publicly accessible copy of it.[3]

It was only a few months later, in May 2020, that I came into possession of a copy of the Herdenkingsblad of 1954, almost by accident. It turned out that this publication marked the twenty-first anniversary of the founding of the Admissiebond in 1933, when the organization was known as Ons Bid- en Studiekring (Our Prayer and Study Circle). It seems that this was the only anniversary of the Admissiebond ever commemorated in this way. Finally discovering a copy of the publication not only gave me access to Degenaar’s essay, for the first time, but also provided a partial view of its context.

Herdenkingsblad 1954
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My belief—by after hearing Degenaar’s account of the event, and now having read the Herdenkingsblad—is that Degenaar was right to see the invitation to contribute an essay on dance to the publication as a kind of challenge or trap set for him. If the invitation was intended to call Degenaar to account, then it is not the likely that this intention would be publicly documented, but it is just unlikely that the intention to call him to order will be documented. I’ll explain later in this essay why I believe that Degenaar’s account of it—and my memory of Degenaar’s account—is, on balance, reliable.

What follows is a somewhat tangled tale, with the material on which it’s based abundant in some respects and missing in others. The tale seems to me to illuminate his early commitment to dialogue, in a difficult and even hostile context, and is worth untangling, if only for that reason.

Will dancing lead to sex?

What makes the question of who chose the topic of theology of dance significant is the awkwardness, at that time and place, of addressing the topic openly, especially in church circles. As Degenaar explained it, the question of the theology of dance was essentially a question about whether dancing would lead to sex, and especially to pre-marital or adulterous sex—although this was not necessarily the only kind of sex that was potentially a problem for the Church hierarchy of the time.

This view seems plausible. It is not difficult to estimate roughly how the Dutch Reformed Church (and perhaps any church) would have viewed extra-marital sex at that time. There is no shortage of Biblical texts that can plausibly be read as hostile to extra-marital sex, with the Old Testament calling for the death penalty for adultery, and the New Testament including the sin of “committing adultery in your heart,” but without specifying the penalty.[4]

At that time, the DRC still had the standing to call for compliance with such Biblical norms, with the expectation that they would not be openly contradicted. But it was an authority which had to be used with discretion, and there was always a danger that extending that authority too far, or imposing it too conspicuously, could lead to ridicule. Premarital sex was to be discouraged—even prohibited, insofar as this was possible—but not in a way that would lead to young people talking too freely about over-zealous clergy, or even laughing at them.

At the same time, contact between men and women students could not be constantly supervised, and the hormones of healthy young people could not be commanded from the pulpit. In that context, the question of dance admitted to no clear, or perhaps even coherent, answer; and it was surely cloaked in anxiety and hypocrisy.[5]

For a young lecturer who was testing the limits of the local theological culture, as Degenaar was apparently doing, the invitation to write about the theology of dance contained an implicit, but relatively unconcealed, challenge: if you want to encourage your students to be daring in their thought, then show us how daring you are willing to be, on this most dangerous of questions. Either join the establishment in upholding the dominant norms of the time, or openly defy the established norms.

It’s not clear that, in the context of the times, there was a middle road. Establishing the limits within which dancing could avoid the temptations that led to sex would have been a futile task. Even to describe clearly the questions that supposedly made a theology of dance necessary may have been to look for trouble.

Theology of dance

How did Degenaar approach the dangerous topic he had undertaken to contribute to the Herdenkingsblad? First, he made a small, but significant, change to the title he had been assigned; instead of writing about “the theology of dance,” his text was entitled “a theology of dance.”

This implied that the field of theology allowed for a diversity of permissible viewpoints. It allows him to present a theological framework, as if it were one among many. That is, it allows him to overlook a context in which theology did not easily admit to plurality, or did not view alternative theological views as friendly rivals. As we’ll see, this strategy also allowed him to keep his own views on the main argument open-ended.

Second, the theological point of view which Degenaar presents is one which, in his account, he initially finds puzzling, perhaps even unintelligible, despite his warm admiration for its author, Gerardus van der Leeuw, who had been his teacher and mentor in Groningen. This admission allows his readers to share his own confusion, and offers the prospect that a different point of view will become acceptable in time.

Degenaar speaks initially of his admiration without even revealing on whom it is so lavishly bestowed: “No-one has ever made such an impression on me. . . . The further time removes me from this encounter, the closer I am drawn to this poet of God and friend of humanity.”[6]

Degenaar describes van der Leeuw as an exemplary human being and academic: “Is it not he of whom we are told that he could regard a glass of sherry with the same reverence as he would regards a confession of faith? Is it not he who tried to build a bridge between the scientist and the theologian, who are drifting ever further from life and from each other? Like few others, he makes us aware of how the framework of every –ism does not do justice to life, even if it my own ---ism and it is precious to me. It is he who became indignant, with Christians specifically, who divide the human person into soul and body, and clothes the former in immortality and delivers the latter to the world, because this creates a mistaken separation in the world. He demands our attention because he abhors the attitude which leads people to hang labels around the necks of other people.”[7]

It was surely not immediately obvious to readers of the Herdenkingsblad that this description provided a basis for admiring van der Leeuw. But Degenaar does not explain why they should share his admiration; he simply states it.

After introducing van der Leeuw, Degenaar addresses the question of dance, describing how difficult it was for him to understand van der Leeuw’s strongly-held view that theology students should begin their studies by taking dance classes. Degenaar’s admiration for van der Leeuw enables him to persist in his efforts to understand his point of view, overcoming the initial resistance natural to an “ordinary farm boy.” Whether his readers would have believed that Degenaar—eloquent, well-travelled and dapper—was a gewone boerseun, is a question we need to consider.

Third, when Degenaar eventually sets out van der Leeuw’s defence of dance, he does so by presenting it as essentially a theology of movement, with that movement described in what may be described as meteorological or even geophysical terms. Thus, at the time of the creation God “moved upon the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:2); when the Jews fled their captivity in Egypt, God sent a pillar of fire ahead of them (Exodus 13:21); God “sent” his messenger to announce the coming of Jesus (Mark 1:2).

It is true that these Biblical episodes involve movement. But do they provide a basis for van der Leeuw’s conclusion that “God is love, that is: movement”? Do they demonstrate that God’s creation of the world is also the beginning of dance? These conclusions are so gently indicated in Degenaar’s gloss of the passage from van der Leeuw that they remain mere gestures. Perhaps we can see them as Degenaar’s own light-footed dance steps?

Degenaar comes closer to van der Leeuw’s real account of dance when he speaks of “his vision of the possibility that humanity may once again speak in its oldest language . . . the language of dance, in which we speak of the secrets of movement and counter-movement: the movement that goes out from this earth to God, and that goes out from God to this earth.”[8] But he does not develop the striking metaphor of dance as language, or even as the source of all language.

Fourth, perhaps recognizing that he has not made a substantial case for dance as integral to Christian theology, Degenaar concludes his essay “without necessarily agreeing” with van der Leeuw. His admiration “never meant that I go along with all of his views.” Instead he hopes that “these thoughts in which heaven and dance are brought into connection with each other, although in a manner to which you and I are not accustomed, will awaken our interest in this theologian.”[9]

By the end of his short essay, Degenaar has not himself expressed a view on dance, and he has not mentioned sex. Indeed, he has avoided any suggestion that it is necessary to hold a firm view on either dance or sex. However, he has developed and expressed views against dogmatism and in favour of diversity and debate; he has testified to and demonstrated his own enjoyment in life generally and intellectual life in particular; he has shown something of what it means to learn from a valued mentor and at the same time form your own independent views. He has, in effect, challenged the underlying assumptions of those who set the challenge for him, probably without even being aware of their own assumptions.

On the face of it, he has avoided the trap that was set for him. Instead of approaching the question of dance on the basis of prevailing assumptions and fears, he has provided an open-ended invitation to his reader to consider a new perspective on a familiar topic. At the same time, he sketches an image of what the philosophical and theological life could be. But that is not to say that his contribution would be taken at face value. His readers may have already made up their minds about what Degenaar really meant.

“Are we satisfied with a half-Christ?”

Degenaar may have seen the invitation as a kind of trap—in the way I’ve described—but he may not have known that for certain. When the Herdenkingsblad is read as a whole, however, there are clear indications of this possibility. This is evident, I believe, in the contributions written in defence of Christian belief against unspecified, or only broadly specified, threats.

Four prominently-placed contributions to the Herdenkingsblad emphasize the need to defend Christian values against what are described as dangerous and insidious temptations of false or half-hearted versions of Christianity. These are the contributions made most firmly in the imperative voice, although their condemnations find echoes elsewhere in the publication.

The editor of the Herdenkingsblad, Jan Loubser, who was also the chairman of the Admissiebond, gives the clearest account of the interpretation of Christianity that must be rejected. He describes Christ as speaking openly, and stating his beliefs fully. He then asks: “Are we satisfied with a half-Christ? Do you wish to involve the Person of Christ in your attitude to life?” And answers: “No! Christ speaks always originally through the Word. He gives you an instruction, and He gives me an instruction. In these circumstances, it is my duty [to carry out the instruction] because He says so . . . . If Christ lives in us, if He is our life, then we must not limit Him.” He exclaims: “How Satan uses a single aspect of His Person to blind us to the wonderful otherness of every meeting with Him! How he [Satan] uses a deed or a word of Jesus to deafen us to His voice!”[10]

What Loubser rejects here, is any engagement with specific aspects of Christianity, identified separately from the entire body of faith and commitment, or discussed in their relation to secular life. Any engagement with Christianity which does not take the form of unconditional belonging, is an opening for Satan to “use a deed or word of Jesus to deafen us to his voice.”

Loubser’s questions may be posed in a spirit of righteous indignation, but they also have a specific rhetorical effect. Even the most devout Christian believer, if they are honest about it, has to accept areas of uncertainty about the meaning and intention of Christ’s words and actions. Even his disciples sometimes found themselves in this position. What is known about Christ comes from a handful of his followers, as they remembered him decades after his death, and from Saint Paul, who converted to Christianity after the death of Jesus, and developed the first theology of Christianity. The Christian Bible came into existence centuries later, and our knowledge of events depicted in it continues to be altered by such fields as Biblical archaeology. In this context, how is interpretation to be avoided, or banished?

But for Loubser, the question is not so much about knowledge as commitment. In an essay which appears later in the Herdenkingsblad, he argues that all knowledge serves either God or Satan.[11] But this exclusive focus on the alignment of thought, rather than its content, rules out any interpretation of Christian belief, such as that attempted by Degenaar or van der Leeuw, for example. For interpretation of Christian belief poses the danger of selecting or emphasizing what suits your individual “attitude of life.”

No indication is given of where this threat is coming from, or why the warning is so urgent. However, the idea of a conscious choice of lewenshouding (attitude of life) was prominent in Degenaar’s early work, and featured in the title of a later collection of his essays, dealing largely with the relationship of church and state.[12]

In his message, the acting rector of the university, H.B. Thom, congratulates the Admissiebond for its “purity of outlook and fearlessness of spirit” and for “driving out doubt and error and bringing certainty to many a young heart.” He calls on them to “continue building bulwarks, so that those of our youth who feel called to a great and elevated task may help to guard against the destructive spiritual erosion of the present day . . . and help to bind us ever more firmly to those proven sheet-anchors of our nation’s past: our Bible and our Church.”[13] Again, there is no indication of the source of the “destructive spiritual erosion” that requires such determined resistance.

The professor of Semitic languages, P.F.D. Weiss, addresses the same question in a lengthy article. He begins with the question: “What are you doing with our children?” According to him, “This question is asked by parents who send their children to university with great expectations, but are disappointed when his studies lead to disaster or he comes under the influence of alien ideas or strays from the path morally. Often the cause of the disaster is attributed to lecturers who introduce the student to all kinds of strange conceptions.”[14]

In this context, Weiss raises the question of how Christian lecturers are to bear witness to their beliefs and act upon the Word of God in their academic activities. But I think it’s fair to say that he cannot decide on a way in which to carry out this ambitious programme, and his essay meanders without getting any closer to realization of the goal he seems to share with Loubser and Thom.

Weiss calls on academics to be objective and scientific, but then concedes that their views will unavoidably and perhaps legitimately become apparent in their teaching. He turns to the necessity for lecturers to provide certainty to their students, only to be distracted by the need for students to think for themselves. He then falls back on the hope that students will realize that the university provides them with wonderful opportunities to prepare themselves to serve their fellow human beings and their God. But this thought somehow turns against itself, leading him to the possibility that less pious students will provide a bad example, and thus obstruct the path to salvation.

Having begun with a bold aim of turning back the tide of secular ideas, Weiss finds no way of realizing it. He concedes unhappily that “all the knowledge that the lecturer can impart to the student and all the efforts that are made to equip him for life cannot make anything of him, if he does not wish to accept it, if the Spirit of God does not change his heart.”[15] It seems as if the professor has accepted an assignment, or perhaps had it pressed upon him, that he cannot carry out!

Most of the twenty-three texts spread over forty pages of the publication (it also has eight pages of advertisements) are less programmatic. There are several short stories, including one by J.F. Kirsten.[16] The remaining texts display varying mixtures of theological focus and religious exhortation. We have no way of knowing whether specific topics were assigned to specific authors, but it seems very unlikely. Who would have asked Professor Kirsten to write a humorous account of the phrase his mother used, when he was a child, to promise him a pony that his family could not afford?[17] Degenaar’s essay is alone in dealing with a difficult or controversial topic. Indeed, it is probably the only one which deals with what we could call a secular topic or activity, relating it to the field of theology.

What refuge for the student authors?

Perhaps the least strident of these warnings against the corruption of Christian and conservative youth is that of the student chaplain, ds. J.S. Gericke, who was also chair of the Curatorium of the Theological Seminary and had recently been appointed as Vice Chancellor and Chair of the Council of the University.[18] In his message, written as a founder-member of the Admissiebond, Gericke remarks that preparation for the Theological Seminary is “not only an academic, but especially a spiritual preparation.” He warns that admission to the Seminary requires “spiritual ripeness” and offers “the prayer of my heart that this Bond will be a means in the hand of the Lord to provide to the Seminary each year a number of mondige gelowiges [mature believers].”[19]

But what exactly is a mondige gelowige? Is it coincidence that Gericke choses here a distorted echo of the definition of Enlightenment provided by Immanuel Kant in his essay of 1784: “Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one’s own understanding without the guidance of another”?[20] It seems unlikely that Gericke just happened to be thinking about Kant at the time. But it is quite possible that he had heard reports of Degenaar’s use of Kant’s idea of Enlightenment, including Degenaar’s approving use of this idea of coming of age (mondigwording). This probably did not lead Gericke to consult Degenaar’s extensive discussion of Kant, in his recently completed doctoral thesis. But it may have tempted him to claim the idea of adult maturity for his own theological views, as a rebuttal and a coded warning!

The most conspicuous theme among the student essays is that of denial or negation of the self, as a form of commitment to Jesus.[21] The Biblical verse most often quoted is from the Epistle to the Galatians: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God.”[22] This self-negation goes along with a negation of family attachment: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”[23] And this leads naturally to the idea that the Christian believer’s relationship to Jesus is that of a slave to a master, and to a kind of celebration of this slavery.[24]

What these articles share with the texts warning against unspecified dangers to Christianity is their resistance to interpretation. Biblical verses of this kind are largely metaphors. None of the authors have literally been crucified or enslaved; it seems unlikely that they have literally renounced their families, although this is at least possible. Nonetheless, the verses are simply affirmed, not interpreted; the need to live in accordance with them is vigorously asserted, but the question of how one lives in accordance with them—in effect, the question of their meaning—is never raised. The implications of holding these beliefs is explored only through rejection of unspecified others who may call these beliefs into question.

It is as if the students are aware that a great deal depends on their affirming acceptable beliefs—indeed, admission to the career to which they have been called—but cannot be certain what reasons for these beliefs would be accepted. In the face of unspecified accusations against Christians of insufficient fervor, what option is there for the admissante but unspecified and complete fervor? In this context, their safest option is to negate any beliefs of their own, as a token that they will believe whatever is required of them. It is hard not to read the student essays as coming from a hostage situation of this kind.

What would the Broederbond do?

I do not think it is likely that the whole initiative of producing the Herdenkingsblad was a concerted attempt to isolate or discredit Degenaar. To the extent, that the publication became something of that kind, it seems unlikely that most or even many of its contributors were actively or knowingly involved. But even if the publication began life with a different aim in mind, it may have been given an additional purpose along the way.

Key aspects of the Herdenkingsblad could have been decided, for example, at an informal discussion at the end of a meeting of the Broederbond in Stellenbosch, especially if the Broeders involved were very powerful both within the university and the Bond.[25] Who was better fitted for this role than Gericke and Thom? Gericke was widely believed to be the driving force within the Stellenbosch branch of the Broederbond, along with holding positions of considerable power at the university. Thom, who was Rector of the University from 1954 until 1970, was national chairperson of the Broederbond from 1952 to 1960.[26]

How might the Herdenkingsblad have been given the role of challenging Degenaar to conform? We cannot know for certain, but we can imagine ways in which a small number of Broederbonders may have prepared the ground. Gericke, as student chaplain, may have requested a church official or strategically placed koshuisvader to speak informally to one or more members of the Admissiebond committee.

It would not have been necessary for him to remind his interlocutor that he was also Vice-Chancellor of the university, chair of the university council and chair of the governing body of the Theological Seminary. And the resulting discussion need not have mentioned Degenaar by name. It could have simply warned one or more of the leading admissante of a danger to their church and their faith, and stressed that the church depended on their loyalty. That would perhaps have been enough to create a certain level of anxiety among the them, which would have communicated itself to their contemporaries.[27]

I do not pretend to know if any of this actually happened; but none of this seems implausible to me; and what I’ve imagined here, or something like it, would help to explain the peculiar features of the Herdenkingsblad, which I’ve described.

But whether there was an attempt to prevent Degenaar from participating in theological life or not, is perhaps not that important to decide. For when one reads through the Herdenkingsblad, it is clear that he was not the only one prevented from developing an opinion. (Even when he spoke for van der Leeuw, Degenaar may have been the only contributor expressing a view of his own.) Perhaps the only way to limit Degenaar’s potential for disruption was to stifle Stellenbosch theological debate as a whole?

Will sex lead to dancing?

I’ve examined these forgotten texts, partly with the question in mind of whether Degenaar was right to believe that a kind of trap had been set for him by the invitation to write on the theology of dance.

My own reasons for believing Degenaar’s view that the invitation for him to contribute to the Herdenkingsblad are not mainly to be found in the texts I’ve discussed, although I think that these texts, and what we know of the leading figures involved, are consistent with them. My view is based rather on my assessment on Degenaar’s judgement in inter-personal matters, as I saw it at work in later decades. First, he was very seldom defensive in debate and discussion; he did not attribute ulterior motives to others, even when he had good reason to do so. Second, in communication with others, he listened carefully to both the meaning and intention of a specific intervention, weighing the formulation and the energy behind it. On balance, I accept his judgement partly because I think he would not have reached that conclusion if any other conclusion had been reasonably possible.

The episode from 1986 has long been vivid in my memory, although this does not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of that memory. Perhaps the most I can do is to describe what interested, or even startled, me, when I discovered the existence of his 1954 essay. It was not the topic itself which aroused my interest, but rather thast Degenaar’s writing had been included in a publication of the Admissiebond.

From soon after I came to Stellenbosch as a first-year student in 1972, I had accepted the widely-held view that Degenaar was regarded as an enemy in the eyes of the Dutch Reformed theological establishment. I can recall being approached early in my first year by an admissant in my residence, who had discovered that I was taking Political Philosophy. Once he had confirmed that, he urged vigorously me to drop the subject immediately, with a warning that, if I continued it, I would surely burn in the everlasting fires of Hell. (The student concerned was, in other contexts, somewhat shy and awkward, in contrast with the bombastic style of many theology students in Dagbreek residence.) This, then, was the question in my mind, when I came across the reference to Degenaar’s essay: Did his inclusion in the Herdenkingsblad mean that he had started out as a trusted figure within that church establishment?

I’ve already described Degenaar’s initial response, when I asked him about it: Hulle wou my vastrek. He described the context at some length. But the remark of his which made the deepest impression on me came at the end of our discussion, and it remained indelible in my mind after that: “The Church believes it should be concerned about dancing, because it may lead to sex. But what they are really concerned about is that sex may lead to dancing.”[28] He said it with a certain sorrow, as if mourning the lost opportunity of many generations. When I went to look for the Herdenkingsblad in the library, I was in search of the perspective that led to this remark. Perhaps the remark itself had done its work within my life by the time I came across the essay.

As I saw it then, and see it now, this formulation was not concerned with contrasting traditional and permissive attitudes to sex (or dancing). It implied an understanding of sex was not primarily focused on its dangers—to respectability, family authority, inheritance of property—but rather on its possibilities, for discovery of self and other, each giving of themselves to the other, and living the many dimensions of our bodies.

I understand that there was a much-told joke among Stellenbosch students in the 1960s, when warned by the dominees against the danger that dancing might lead to sex, that the church was more concerned that sex might lead to dancing. It seems to me that this joke can be told both with a shallow and a deeper intention. It can be told simply as a way of poking fun at the anxiety of the church, who did not understand that male students could keep their sexual urges under control. As Degenaar told it, it had a deeper intent: to question the assumption that sex was no more than an act of uncontrolled appetite, and suggest that it could be viewed as an integral part of a loving union, capable of a wide range of expression.

Whether Degenaar’s encounter of 1954 was the source of this joke, is by now surely impossible to tell. He was practiced in that kind of inversion of terms. And, for him, it was not simply a joke; it was a serious suggestion that sex could be considered, and experienced, in a different light.[29]

Degenaar at the crossroads, but taking his own path

In 1955, the year after the publication of the Herdenkingsblad, Degenaar published in the journal Standpunte the first of a series of three articles that were later to be collected in a slim volume entitled Die Sterflikheid van die Siel. He is more forthright here in challenging theological authority. He begins by rejecting what he describes as the Biblical method, which interprets the Biblical text in order to prove what is already assumed: “I firmly reject this Biblical method, because it allows so little of a phenomenon (whatever it may be) to come into its own. Biblical texts have a tendency to become stubborn blinkers, especially when one knows in advance what you want to see there.” This does not mean rejecting the Bible, he adds, which is “also a phenomenon” and must be treated in that light.[30]

In the concluding essay of that volume, written some years later, Degenaar finds another way of limiting theological authority: “I accept the authority of the church, insofar as the church accepts the authority of the Word of God. . . . The church must listen to man, just as man listens to the church, in the common obedience to the matter itself and the Word of God.”[31] But Degenaar never explains who is to decide whether the church has adequately grasped the Word of God, if not the church itself!

As far as I know, Degenaar never wrote about dance again.[32] His brief discussion of sex in Die Sterflikheid van die Siel is primarily ethical in approach, seeing it neither as conquest nor as moral danger: “When the body is seen as situation, this opens the way to seeing sex as a matter that concerns the person as a whole. The sexual relationship is not a matter of animal copulation, but a situation of directedness at, completion in, participation in, intimacy with, sincerity towards, responsibility for, opportunity for sensitivity and love. . . . In this light, it could be said that we do not have too much sex in the modern world, but actually too little.”[33]

In 1958, four years after the Herdenkingsblad, the process began which led to the removal of Degenaar from the Department of Philosophy, after a formal complaint was made to the rector, H.B. Thom, by the Curatorium of the Theological Seminary and the Dutch Reformed Church. In the following year, the department was split into two separate streams. The Department of Political Philosophy was formally established in 1967. It continued as a separate department for twenty years, until it was re-integrated with Philosophy at the end of 1986.[34] This had the effect of insulating prospective theology students from Degenaar’s influence, which was clearly its main intention.

What was Degenaar’s response to these events? The process of his removal from the Department of Philosophy has been examined in detail by Anton van Niekerk, who gained access to the archives of the university for this purpose. He points out that “in all my research, I could not find a single document containing the response of Degenaar himself to this train of events,” except for one comment in Thom’s handwritten minutes of an undated meeting, probably in 1958, at which the Department of Philosophy, the Theological Seminary and the Dutch Reformed Church were represented. These minutes note that “Dr Degenaar is willing to co-operate and even willing to be constrained (aan bande gelê te word) regarding the areas in which he will henceforth be teaching.”[35]

In all the years I knew him, I can recall Degenaar speaking of this process only in the most general terms, without animus or blame, or even much interest. He spoke of it impersonally, as if he had no stake in the outcome. Colleagues who knew Degenaar better than I did, and for longer, had a similar experience.

Despite his own lack of interest in the question, it was perhaps inevitable that various legends developed around this separation, emphasizing sometimes the repressive character of the university authorities, sometimes their fear of Degenaar’s influence, and sometimes their bad judgement in moving him into a Department of Political Philosophy, at a time when the basic premises of South African political life were becoming ever more contested and conflict-ridden.

These legends differed largely in the emphasis they gave either to Degenaar’s defiance of the established norms of the time, or his submission to them. My own belief, looking back on it now, is that both of these emphases were mistaken; that Degenaar simply followed his own path, without giving priority to the consequences. He was, in a sense, living out his commitment to “following the argument where it leads.”

But if Degenaar was following his own path in 1958, when he faced this turning point of removal from the Department of Philosophy, it may equally have applied before that moment and after. This view of Degenaar’s attitude and motivation in relation to his removal from the Department of Philosophy may also apply, for example, to his decision to abandon his short-lived studies at the Theological Seminary.

It seems that many students, then and later, found their studies at the seminary frustrating, but persisted with them with the thought that the ministry provided a respectable career. (Degenaar’s near-contemporary, Daantjie Oosthuizen, is one example.) As I recall Degenaar’s account of his brief stint at the seminary, his heart was simply not in it, and that was enough for him to make up his mind to leave. He had no assurance that an academic career would be possible for him, but felt that he had to follow the path that called out to him.

It is even possible that Degenaar did not see himself as being on a path of confrontation with the dominant theological views of the time. Instead, the theological establishment may have prepared the ground for the controversy around Die Sterflikheid van die Siel, precisely by challenging Degenaar to take on the controversial topic of dance. Instead of exposing and intimidating him, the invitation may have set him more firmly on the path that led to Die Sterflikheid van die Siel.

I do not mean by this that the theologians were themselves responsible for the heresies they saw in Degenaar. I do not mean that the Broederbond “made him do it”—whatever it was that they believed he had done! It seems more likely to me—to return briefly to the Chinese story of the apprentice burglar—that, having skillfully negotiated the trap that had been set for him, Degenaar’s interest in what he sought there was heightened, and he returned to the danger, because it was there that he had proven and, in some sense, had discovered himself, or continued a process of self-discovery.

For in the process, Degenaar seems to discover his own enduring voice: a voice that can easily be recognized by those who encountered him only decades later. Although some these from his postgraduate theses remain present in his work, his manner of addressing them has changed by 1954. He presents a perspective in an open-ended way, as an invitation rather than as the whole truth; he speaks personally, but without ever being boastful or self-important; he anticipates possible objections from his reader (or hearer), but without claiming to know better. It is the voice of a thinker at home with himself and welcoming towards his audience. It is as if he has found a way to be constantly in dialogue with his listener or reader, challenging them to think, but not requiring them to agree; indeed, often enabling their dissent, by helping them to formulate better reasons to disagree with his own view. In the following year (1955), he published in the journal Standpunte the first of a series of three articles that were later to be collected in a slim volume entitled Die Sterflikheid van die Siel. Just a year after the Herdenkingsblad, Degenaar is more forthright in challenging theological authority.

On the way to a political perspective

We can tell what the church and university authorities intended to avoid by removing Degenaar from the mainstream of the Department of Philosophy, and eventually from the department itself. But the only definite indication we have of what they hoped to achieve in the process is the idea of creating a Department of Political Science at Stellenbosch “into which the courses in political philosophy could be incorporated.”[36] There is no indication that anyone, including Degenaar, gave further thought to what the result of his becoming responsible for political philosophy might be.

In the decade after 1959, Degenaar’s published work continued to focus mainly on theological questions. These questions became ever more explicitly related to politics, as time went by. Degenaar also wrote about the poetry of N.P. van Wyk Louw, as it related to existentialism, the novels of Albert Camus, and the evolutionary theory of Teilhard de Chardin. But he also began to write on politics, with a South African focus.

The first result of this endeavour was a series of four essays, written from 1960 to 1962, and published in 1963 as Op Weg na ‘n Nuwe Politieke Lewenshouding (roughly, On the Way to a New Political Attitude of Life). It is a kind of exploratory manifesto, examining political ideas in a broadly phenomenological style, and developing an argument for thinking about politics in a radically open-ended way.

Its starting point is not the South African political situation, but rather the situation of the author, thinking about South Africa and the world, as a white Afrikaner, a Christian and what he calls a European. The term European refers mainly to his situation as a philosopher trained in a European tradition, and able to contribute to its legacy; and perhaps also a kind of intermediary in the Cold War conflict between the Soviet Union and the United States.

Degenaar seeks to establish a political approach which by-passes preconceived political ideas: “Every person has a specific background which he carries with him, which he consciously or unconsciously imposes on any encounter. In this situation, every person is more important to himself than the situation. This means that every person’s image of the situation is more important to him than the situation itself. . . . There is, however, another attitude possible for each person. That is, to regard the situation as more important than your image of the situation. This, I believe, is a more human attitude. It is an attitude which does justice not only to the situation, but also to your humanity.”[37] From this premise, Degenaar argues for an attitude to politics which “allows politics to be what it is, namely, an arrangement of human co-existence aimed at enabling humankind, in obedience to inter-human legislation, to discover its freedom and humanity.”[38]

From these very general and somewhat woolly premises, Degenaar works his way towards a discussion of South African political life in the early 1960s, beginning with a general discussion of political parties and policies. But from this discussion, a sharply posed question emerges: in a deeply-divided South Africa, how can the author, as a white Afrikaans-speaking South African, belonging to a particular culture, “serve South Africa through my personal decision? How can I serve the whole by belonging to a part?”[39]

The dominant conception of culture, according to Degenaar, is that of something static, not dynamic. New ideas are seen as a threat to Afrikaner culture. But every culture experiences tension, change and development. “In the South African political situation, there is a meeting between different cultures, and I believe I can serve the situation, although I belong to one of these cultures, by treating my culture not as absolute, but relative; by not treating it as absolute, but relative; and by not statically shutting it off, but instead unlocking its dynamism. I cannot serve the South African political situation by trying to belong to another culture, but by trying to keep our culture open, and always even more open, to new and strange experiences in every area of human life.”[40]

It is perhaps a modest statement of what becomes an increasingly radical perspective. Its radicalism comes in part from a global perspective, which seems to make change inevitable: the threat of nuclear war; the independence of former colonies in Asia and Africa; the rapid expansion of technology.[41] This account of global context is slight, but sufficiently dramatised to license a return to Degenaar’s more familiar critique of theological dogma— calling for a secular state without the trappings of religion, church authorities more conscious of their fallibility, theological pluralism, as advocated by the World Council of Churches, and the “coming of age of a world in which humanity begins to understand the responsibility of its freedom.”[42]

It is as if, having been challenged to conform to the norms of Afrikaner Calvinism, and having rejected that conformity, Degenaar now seeks to measure himself against a more universal standard, but at the same time a standard which Afrikaner Calvinism cannot immediately or entirely reject. However, this global perspective on politics was not sustained in Degenaar’s later political thought.

At the same time, however, Degenaar’s foray into the field of political philosophy does not establish a firm or enduring footing for him there. The idea of keeping the future “open” may be a basis for change within a given culture, but it allows for change in any direction. His account of the global context driving making change necessary is selective, ignoring the ways in which the inequalities of colonialism are continued by other means, including the overthrow of democratically elected governments (Guatemala, Iran, Congo); war (Korea, Vietnam); and the mechanisms of the global market. No real attempt is made to explain how more open-ended religious ideas would enable political change.

I recall reading Op Weg na ‘n Nuwe Politieke Lewenshouding eagerly as an undergraduate student, almost ten years after its publication, thinking that I would find in it a clear account of the politics informing Degenaar’s provocative ideas in the classroom. I was disappointed, but thought my own lack of philosophical orientation might be to blame. It now seems to me that Degenaar’s political ideas were still in the process of formation. Perhaps only with the development of his systematic critique of nationalism, developed in the early 1970s, was he able to give his philosophical ideas a clear political thrust.[43]

By 1966, Degenaar had also developed his early arguments concerning death and immortality into their definitive form, in a powerful essay on “die bestaan tot die dood en die bestaan na die dood” (roughly, life until death and life after death). Here Degenaar develops a view of life, in which the knowledge of our death “binds us to the earth,” releases us from a “possessive” drive for self-preservation that cuts us off from others, and enables a life of “communication in the spirit of love.”[44]

What had begun as a theological enquiry a decade or more before, had now been expanded into a philosophical vision capable of sustaining and developing his work across the broad range of his interests and commitments. He had not simply added a political perspective to his earlier perspectives on religion and theology, but had integrated these fields into a single vision. By completing his decade-long enquiry into the ethics of accepting our own finitude and death, Degenaar also established the framework of his practice of political philosophy and its discovered the dialogical form in which he would continue and dee


[1] The title of the publication can be translated roughly as: Commemoration Journal of the Admission League. It marked the twenty-first anniversary of the founding of the Admissiebond, which began as the Ons Bid- en Studiekring and changed its name in 1946. Students taking the B.A. (Admissie) degree were known as admissante (singular: admissant). At some point near the end of the twentieth century, the Theological Seminary of the Dutch Reformed Church became a Faculty of the University, which offers undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in theology.

[2] There is no obvious English translation of vastrek; possibly, “They wanted to get me in a corner.”

[3] I requested UCT interlibrary loans to send a PDF copy of the Herdenkingsblad to the library of the Faculty of Theology at Stellenbosch. When last I heard, the Stellenbosch library had not yet responded.

[4] For example, the Old Testament imposition of the death sentence for adultery in Leviticus 20:10; for Jesus’s account of adultery committed in the heart, see Matthew 5:27-28; the story of King David’s seduction of Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11 and 12) is more ambiguous, to my untrained eye, at least.

[5] It is unlikely that the Church was concerned in 1954 about inter-racial dancing or inter-racial sex, or the sexual life of same-sex partners. At that time, these were criminal offences in South African law, either as a matter of racial policy or colonial morality. Hypocrisy comes into the picture when it is necessary for individuals and institutions to condemn a specific practice, but at the same time turn a blind eye to it.

[6] J.J. Degenaar, “’n Teologie van die Dans,” Herdenkingsblad van die Stellenbosch Admissiebond 1933-45 (hereafter Herdenkingsblad), p. 31. “Geen mens het al ooit so ‘n indruk op my gemaak nie. . . . Hoe verder die tyd my van hierdie ontmoeting verwyder des te digterby kom ek by hierdie digter van God en vriend van die mens.”

[7] “Is dit nie hy van wie gesê kan word dat hy ‘n glas sjerrie met dieselfde eerbied kan bejeën as ‘n geloofsbelydenis nie? Is dit nie hierdie mens wat ‘n brug probeer slaan het tussen die vakwetenskaplike en vakteoloog wat al hoe verder van die lewe en van mekaar drywe nie? Hy kan soos min ander die mens bewus maak van die feit dat die raamwerk van elke –isme die lewe nie tot sy reg laat kom nie, al is dit my eie –isme en al is dit my hoe dierbaar ookal. Dit is hy wat verontwaardig geword het as veral Christene die mens in siel en liggaam verdeel om eersgenoemde deel met onsterflikheid te bekleeen laasgenoemde deel aan die wêreld uit te lewer, omdat hierdie skeiding ‘n verkeerde vreemdheid in die wêreld bewerkstellig word. Hy eis ons aandag omdat hy die gesindheid waardeur mense so graag etikette om ander mense se nekke hang, verafsku.” Degenaar, “’n Teologie van die Dans,” p. 31.

[8] “As ‘n mens sorgvuldig luister na die gedagtes van prof. V. d. Leeuw, dan verstaan ‘n mens ook sy visie op die moontlikheid dat die mens eenmaal weer in sy oudste taal sal spreek. End it is die taal van die dans waarin die mens spreek van die groot geheimenis van beweging en teenbeweging: die beweging wat uitgaan van hierdie aarde na God en dié wat uitgaan van God na hierdie aarde.” Degenaar, “ ‘n Teologie van Dans,” p. 32.

[9] “My bewondering vir prof. V.d. Leeuw het nooit beteken dat ek met al sy opvattinge noodwendig akkoord gaan nie. Nogtans het ek gevind dat hy ‘n person is na wie ‘n mens kan luister. En ek hoop dat ook hierdie paar gedagtes waarin die hemel en die dans in verband met mekaar gebring word, weliswaar op ‘n wyse waaraan u en ek nie gewoond is nie, ons belangstelling ook vir hierdie teoloog sal aanwakker.” Degenaar, “ ’n Teologie van die Dans,” p. 32.

[10] “Is ons tevrede met ‘n halwe Christus? Sien u kans om die persoon van Christus te betrek in u lewenshouding? Nee! Christus spreek altyd oorspronklik deur die Woord. Hy gee vir U ‘n opdrag en Hy gee my my ‘n opdrag. Onder hierdie omstandighede is dit my plig omdat Hy so sê. . . . As Christus in ons leef, dan moet ons ophou om Hom te beperk. . . . Hoe gebruik Satan nie één aspek van Sy Persoon om ons te verblind vir die wonderlike andersheid van van elke ontmoeting met Hom nie! Hoe gebruik hy nie ‘n daad of ‘n woord van Christus om ons te verdoof vir sy stem nie!” Jan Loubser, “Redaksioneel,” Herdenkingsblad, p. 5.

[11] Jan Loubser, “Die Waarde van Ons Kennis,” Herdenkingsblad, p. 45. This essay focuses largely on the Cold War and the rise of nuclear weapons, with a sense of historical context that is absent from the rest of the Herdenkingsblad. Although Loubser seems to have been the leading figure in this student cohort, he apparently did not complete his theological studies. He gained a Ph.D. from Harvard in sociology, and taught for many years mostly at Canadian universities. In my first year at Stellenbosch, I heard Loubser deliver a scathing indictment of apartheid at a public talk to the Stellenbosse Aktuele Aangeleentheid Kring (SAAK).

[12] Cf. J.J. Degenaar, Op Weg na ‘n Nuwe Politieke Lewenshouding (Cape Town: Tafelberg, 1963).

[13] “Die Bond [het] met suiwerheid van blik en onverskrokkenheid van gees gehelp om twyfel en dwaling te verdryf en sekerheid in menige jong hart te bring. . . Mag hy nog steeds bolwerke bou om diegene van ons jeug wat hulle tot ‘n groot en verhewe taak geroepe voel, teen die verwoestende geestelike erosie van die huidige dag te help beskerm; mag hy, deur al sy lede, on snog steeds vaster help bind aan daardie beproefde plegankers van ons volksverlede: ons Bybel en ons Kerk.” H.B. Thom, “Boodskap van die Waarnemende Rektor,” Herdenkingsblad, p. 7.

[14] “ ‘Wat maak julle met ons kinders?’ Hierdie vraag is al deur ouers gestel wat hul kind met groot verwagtinge na die Universiteit gestuur het, maar teleurgesteld geraak het omdat hy van sy studies ‘n mislukking gemaak het of gedurende sy verblyf aan die Universiteit onder die invloed van vreemde beskouings gekom of sedelik op die dwaalspoor geraak het. Dikwels word die oorsaak van die mislukking aan die dosente gewyt wat die student allerlei vreemde opvattings sou inprent.” P.F.D. Weiss, “Dosent en Student aan die Universiteit,” Herdenkingsblad, p. 13.

[15] “Al die kennis wat die dosent hom kan meedeel en al die pogings wat aangewend word om hom vir die lewe toe te rus, kan nie van hom iets maak as hy dit nie wil aanvaar nie, as die Gees van God nie sy hart verander nie.” Weiss, “Dosent en Student aan die Universiteit,” p. 15.

[16] Kirsten (the professor of philosophy and Degenaar’s head of department) contributed two items to the Herdenkingsblad, both attempts at humour in a generally quite solemn publication. The first is a childhood reminiscence, referenced later, and the second a suppose “ancient Eastern tale” about the invention of shoes, in response to the demand of a king that the whole world be carpeted to protect his bare feet.

[17] J.F. Kirsten, “As My Skip Kom,” Herdenkingsblad, pp. 17-18;

[18] At that time, the position of Vice Chancellor was separate from that of Rector. Gericke had been a member of the University Council since 1948 and was Vice Chancellor and Chair of its Council from 1953 until 1981.

[19] “Die voorbereiding vir die Kweekskool is nie net ‘n akademiese nie maar veral ook ‘n geestelike voorbereiding. . . [Dit] veronderstel geestelike rypheid by die student wat toetree . . . [Dit is] die gebed van my hart dat hierdie Bond ‘n middle in die hand van die Here sal wees om elke jaar aan ons Kweekskool ‘n aantal mondige gelowiges te lewer.” The phrase “mondige gelowiges” is in bold print in the original. J.S. Gericke, “Van Een van die Stigters,” Herdenkingsblad, p. 8.

[20] Immanuel Kant, “An Answer to the Question: What Is Enlightenment?”, in Hans Reiss, ed., Kant’s Political Writings (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1971), p. 54.

[21] This is the dominant theme of every student essay, but it is the theme which dominates the student essays in the Herdenkingsblad, taken as a whole.

[22] “Ons is Christusbelyers. Saam met Paulus bely ons dat ons saam met Jesus gekruisig is en ons leef nie meer nie, maar hy leef in ons.” Galatians 2:20, quoted with minor variations in Loubser, “Redaksioneel,” p. 5; W, “Ek Loop Admissie . . . ,” Herdenkingsblad, p. 18; Willem van Aswegen, “Leef Rein en Heilig,” Herdenkingsblad, p. 41.

[23] “As iemand na My toe kom en hy haat nie sy vader en moeder en vrou en kinders en broers en susters, ja selfs ook sy eie lewe nie, kan hy My dissipel nie wees nie.” Luke 14:26, quoted in W, “Ek Loop Admissie . . . ,” Herdenkingsblad, p. 16.

[24] Cf. Willem Louw, “Christus—My Heer,” Herdenkingsblad, pp. 20, 28.

[25] The role of the Broederbond is emphasized by Nico Smith, who was himself a Broederbond member, although based at Stellenbosch only from 1966. Cf. Smith, “Wat bedoel jy as jy sê . . . ?” in Dirk Hertzog, Etienne Britz and Alastair Henderson, ed., Gesprek Sonder Grense: Huldigingsbundel ter ere van Johan Degenaar se 80ste verjaarsdag (Stellenbosch: H & B Uitgewers, 2007), pp. 272-84, especially pp. 282-84.

[26] A list of 7500 members is provided in the early expose, Ivor Wilkins and Hans Strydom, The Super Afrikaners: Inside the Afrikaner Broederbond (1978). There is probably a more specific focus on the Stellenbosch Broederbond in Nico Smith, Die Afrikaner Broederbond: Belewings van die Binnekant (2009). Gericke and Thom are included in the list of prominent Broeders in During the Covid-19 lockdown, I am not able to consult published work on the Broederbond.

[27] A few years later, in 1958, the Broederbond established a youth wing, Die Ruiterwag [Mounted Guard), who came to have a strong presence in Stellenbosch student politics. Academics who were Broederbond members were assigned to advise Ruiterwag branches, and probably to select which of them would be invited to join the Broederbond itself, when the time came.

[28] We were speaking Afrikaans at the time. I will not try to recall Degenaar’s exact formulation in Afrikaans; my memory of the idea is very clear, but not my memory of his exact words.

[29] My thanks to Etienne Britz for discussion of this issue and its history.

[30] “Dié Bybelse metode keur ek met alle beslistheid af, omdat op hierdie wyse so min van ‘n fenomeen (wat di took al mag wees) tereg kom. Bybeltekste het ‘n neiging om hardnekkige oogklappe te wees, veral wanneer ‘n mens so voor die tyd reeds weet wat daarin staan.” J.J. Degenaar, Die Sterflikheid van die Siel (Johannesburg: Simondium, 1963), pp. 9-10.

[31] “Ek aanvaar die gesag van die kerk insoverre die kerk die gesag van die Woord van God aanvaar. . . . Die kerk moet na die mens luister soos die men sook na die kerk in hulle gemeenskaplike gehoorsaamheid aan die saak en aan die Woord van God.” Degenaar, Sterflikheid van die Siel, p. 66.

[32] His brief magazine article on Nietzsche in 1997 made use of dance as analogy for a certain kind of philosophical thought, willing to explore and discover ever-new varieties of meaning. Cf. Johan Degenaar, “Denke Wat Kan Dans,” in W.L. van der Merwe and P. Duvenage, ed., Tweede Refleksie: ‘n Keur uit die denke van Johan Degenaar (Stellenbosch: SUN Press, 2008), pp. 3-6.

[33] “Wanneer liggaam as situasie gesien word, open dit die weg om seks te sien as ‘n aangeleentheid van die totale mens. Die seksuele verhouding is nie ‘n saak van dierlike koppeling nie, maar ‘n situasie van gerigtheid op, voltooing in, deelname aan, intimiteit met, opregtheid in, verantwoordelikheid vir, ‘n geleentheid tot sensitiwiteit en liefde. . . . In die lig hiervan sou beweer kon word dat ons nie te veel seks in die modern wêreld het nie, maar juis te min.” Degenaar, Sterflikheid van die Siel, p. 75.

[34] Van Niekerk, “A Department under Siege,” pp. 459-60.

[35] Van Niekerk, “A Department under Siege,” p. 459.

[36] Van Niekerk, “A department under siege,” p. 460, quoting the minutes of the Arts and Letters Faculty Board meeting of 7 May 1958.

[37] J.J. Degenaar, Op Weg na ‘n Nuwe Politieke Lewenshouding (Cape Town: Tafelberg, 1963), pp. 10-11. “Elke mens het ‘n bepaalde agtergrond wat hy met hom meedra en ‘n bepaalde opvatting en denkskema wat hy bewustelik of onbewustelik op die byeenkoms afdruk. In hierdie situasie is elke mens vir homself belangriker as die situasie. Dit beteken ook dat elke mens se beeld van die situasie vir hom belangriker is as die situasie self. . . . Daar is egter ook ‘n ander houding vir u as mens moontlik. Dit is naamlik om die situasie as belangriker te beskou as u beeld van die situasie. Dit, meen ek, is ‘n mensliker houding. Dit is ‘n houding wat nie net aan die situasie groter reg laat geskied nie, maar ook aan u menslikheid.”

[38] Degenaar, Op Weg na ‘n Nuwe Politieke Lewenshouding, p. 20. “Ons moet die politiek laat wees wat dit is, naamlil ‘n reeling van menslike samesyn wat juis daarop gemik is om die mens, in gehoorsaamheid aan intermenslike wetgewing, sy vryheid en menslikheid te laat ontdek.”

[39] Degenaar, Op Weg na ‘n Nuwe Politieke Lewenshouding, p. 45. “Hoe reageer ek op die situasie en hoe kan ek Suid-Afrika dien deur my persoonlike beslissing? Hoe kan ek die geheel dien deur tot ‘n deel te behoort?”

[40] Degenaar, Op Weg na ‘n Nuwe Politieke Lewenshouding, pp. 45-46. “In die Suid-Afrikaanse politieke situasie vind ‘n ontmoeting plaas tussen verskillende kulture, en ek meen dat ek die situasie kan dien al behoort ek tot een van die kulture—end it kan gedoen word deur my kultuur nie absoluut te stel nie, maar relatief; en deur dit nie staties af te sluit nie, maar juis dinamies te ontsluit. Ek kan nie die Suid-Afrikaanse politieke situasie dien deur te probeer om tot ‘n ander kultuur te behoort nie, maar deur te prober om ons kultuur oop te hou en altyd maar weer oop te hou vir nuwe en vreemde ervarings op elke gebied van die mens se lewe.”

[41] Degenaar, Op Weg na ‘n Nuwe Politieke Lewenshouding, ppp. 65-66, 72; also J.J. Degenaar, Sekularisasie (Pretoria and Cape Town: Academica, 1967), p. 9.

[42] For example, Degenaar, Op Weg na ‘n Nuwe Politieke Lewenshouding, pp. 69-70; 84-91; quotation on p. 86: “’n wêreld wat mondig word en waarin die mens begin om die verantwoordelikheid van sy vryheid te verstaan.”

[43] Cf. J. J. Degenaar, Moraliteit en Politiek (Cape Town: Tafelberg, 1976), especially “Die Paradigma van Volksnasionalisme,” pp. 44-54; J.J. Degenaar, “The Philosophical Roots of Nationalism,” in Theo Sundermeier, ed., Church and Nationalism in South Africa (Johannesburg: Ravan Press, 1976).

[44] Degenaar, Sekularisasie, pp. 87-104, quotations from pp. 96, 100, 102.

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I have attached the PDF of the Admissiebond Herdenkingsblad of 1954, which is a crucial source for this essay, to this post. It can be found by scrolling down past the first page or two of the post to the first mention of the publication. It includes Degenaar's essay on the theology of dance. As far as I can establish, it is the only copy of the publication that is publicly available.

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