The Heavenly Father - Lectures on Modern Atheism
by Ernest Naville
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In order solidly to establish this assertion, I will suppose the hypotheses of the most advanced disciples of Mr. Darwin to have been verified by experimental science. I take for granted that it has been proved that all plants and all animals have descended, by way of regular generation, from living cellules originally similar; and that the material particles of the globe, at a given moment, drew together to form these cellules. And now where do we stand? Will God henceforward be a superfluous hypothesis? Do the atheistical consequences which it is desired to draw from this doctrine proceed logically from it? Most certainly not!

I observe first of all that there exists a great question relative to the beginning of things. Matter is perfected and organized in process of time—but whence comes matter itself? Is it also formed little by little in process of time? Does non-existence become existence little by little? So it is said in the preface to the French translation of Mr. Darwin's book. But this appertains to high metaphysics; and I pass on.

If time is the factor of all progress by a necessary law, this necessity must be everywhere the same. Have the elements of matter all the same age? If so, why have some followed the law of progress, and others not? Why has this mud and this coal remained mud and coal, age after age, while these other molecules have risen, in the hierarchy of the universe, to the dignity of life? Why have these mollusks remained mollusks throughout the succession of their generations, while others, happily transformed, have gradually mounted the steps of the ladder up to man? Whence comes this aristocracy of nature? Are the beings which we call inferior only the cadets of the universe, and are they too in their turn to mount all the steps of the ladder? Must we admit that there is going on the continual production, not only of living cellules which are beginning new series of generations, but also of new matter, which, setting out from the most rudimentary condition, is beginning the evolution which is to raise it into life? They do not venture to put forth theses of this nature, and, in order to account for the diversity of things, recourse is had to circumstances. The diversity of circumstances explains the diversity of developments. But whence can come the variety of circumstances in a world where all is produced in the way of fatal necessity, and without the intervention of a will and an intelligence? This is the remark of Newton. Study carefully the systems of materialism: their authors declare that to have recourse to God in order to account for the universe is a puerile conception unworthy of science, because all explanation must be referred to fixed and immutable laws; and then you will be for ever surprising them in the very act of the adoration of circumstances. Convenient deities these, which they summon to their aid in cases which they find embarrassing.

But we will not insist on these preliminary considerations. We have allowed, for argument's sake, that all organized beings have proceeded by means of generation from cellules presenting to sensible observation similar appearances. Natural history cannot prove, nor even attempt to prove, more. Let us transport ourselves, in thought, to the moment at which the highest points of the continents were for the first time emerging from the primitive ocean. We see, on the parts of the soil which are half-dried, and in certain conditions of heat and electricity, particles of matter draw together and form those rudiments of organism which are called living cellules. These cellules have the marvellous faculty of self-propagation, and the faculty, not less marvellous, of transmitting to their posterity the favorable modifications which they have undergone. Generations succeed one another; gradually they form separate branches. New characteristics show themselves; the organisms become complicated, and becoming complicated they separate. The vegetable is distinguished from the animal; the plant which will become the palm-tree is distinguished from the oak which is in course of formation, and the ancestor of the future bird is already different from that of the fish. We follow up this great spectacle. The ages pass, they pass by thousands and by millions, they pass by tens of millions. We need not be stinting in our allowance of time; our imagination will be tired of conceiving of it sooner than thought of supplying it. And at what shall we have arrived at last? At the universe as it has been for some few thousands of years past; at the world with its vegetables of a thousand forms, grouped by classes and series, with the families of animals, with the relations of animals to plants, with the unnumbered harmonies of nature. Let us choose out one particular, on which to fix our attention. Shall it be a she-goat—

Upstretched on fragrant cytisus to browse?

This will suit our purpose, although the cytisus, unless I am mistaken, has no perfume except in M. de Lamartine's verses. Let us fix our attention on a cytisus with its yellow clusters hanging down, and the goat bending its pliant branches as it browses on the foliage. Here is a very small detail in the ample lap of nature. Let us come closer, and to help our ignorance, let us provide ourselves with a naturalist who will answer for us the questions suggested by this simple spectacle. And what have we now before us? The various relations of the animal's organization to the vegetables on which it feeds. In the organization and functions of these two living beings, in the equilibrium and movements of their frames, in the circulation of sap and of blood, we have the application of the most secret laws of mechanism, of physics, and of chemistry. Then again, in the relations which the animal and the plant sustain with the ground which bears them, with the air they breathe, with the sun which enlightens them, with heat and light, with the moisture of the air and its electricity—in all this we see the universal relations which connect all the various parts of the wide universe with each one of its minutest details. In this simple spectacle we have, in fact, reciprocal relations, the balance of things, the harmony which maintains the universal life—intelligence, in short, in the organization of beings, in the characteristics which divide them, in the classes which unite them, in the relations of these classes amongst themselves;—wonders of intelligent design, of which the sciences we are so proud of are spelling out, letter by letter, line after line, the inexhaustible abysses: this is what we find everywhere. Let us now come back to our primitive cellules.

All the living beings which people the surface of the globe are composed materially of some of the elements of the earth's substance. The birth therefore of the first living beings could only offer to the view the bringing together of some of the elements of the soil; this is not the matter in question. The primitive cellules were to all appearance alike. Weighed in scales, opened by the scalpel, placed beneath the microscope, they would have offered no appreciable difference; I grant it: it is the supposition we have agreed to make. Therefore they were identical, say you. I deny it, and here is my proof: If the cellules had been identical, they would not have given, in the successive development of their generations, the diverse beings which people the world, and the relations which unite them. Alike to your eyes, the cellules differed therefore by a concealed property which their development brought to light. You have told me as a matter of history how the organization of the world was manifested by slow degrees; you have given me no account of the cause of that organization.

It is said in reply: "We do know the origin of those developments which you refer to a supposed intelligence. The living beings are transformed by the action of food, climate, soil, mode of life. They experience slight variations in the first instance; but these variations are established, and increase; and where you see a plan, types, and species, there is really only the result of modifications slowly accumulated. Nature disposes of periods which have no limit, and everything has come at its proper time, in the course of ages." They are always proposing to us to accept of time as the substitute for intelligence. I am tempted to say with Alcestis:

Time in this matter, Sirs, has nought to do.[127]

You know what intelligence is; you know it by knowing yourself. Is there, or is there not, intelligence in the universe? Allow me to reproduce some old questions: If a machine implies intelligence, does the universe imply none? If a telescope implies intelligence in the optician, does the eye imply none in its author? The production of a variety of the camelia, or of a new breed of swine, demands of the gardener and the breeder the patient and prolonged employment of the understanding; and are our entire flora and fauna to be explained without any intervention of mind? And if there is intelligence in the universe, is this intelligence a chemical result of the combination of molecules? is it a physical result of caloric or of electricity? It is in vain that you give to material agents an unlimited time; what has time to do here? Whether the world as it now exists arose out of nothing, or whether it was slowly formed during thousands of ages, the question remains the same. With matter and time, you will not succeed in creating intelligence; this were an operation of transcendent alchemy utterly beyond our power. In the theory of slow causes, the adjective ends by devouring the substantive; it seems that by dint of becoming slow the causes become superfluous. A breath of reason upsets, like a house of cards, the structures of this erring and misnamed science. Time has a relative meaning and value. We reckon duration as long or short, by taking human life as our measure. But they tell of insects which are born in the morning, arrive at mature age at mid-day, and only reach the evening if they are patriarchs of their race. Is it not easy to conceive of beings organized for an existence such that our centuries would be moments with them, and centuries heaped together one of our hours? Suppose one of these beings to be contemplating our geological periods, and slow causes will to him appear rapid causes, and the question of intelligence will be the same for him as for us.

It is manifest that the attempt is being made to restore the worship of the old Chronos, to whom the ancients had erected temples. Let us look the idol in the face. Time appears at first to our imagination as the great destroyer. He is armed with a scythe, and passes gaunt and bald over the ruins of all that has lived. When he lifts up his great voice and cries—

Mighty nations famed in story Into darkness I have hurled,— Gone their myriads and their glory (Lo! ye follow) from the world: My dark shade for ever covers Stars I quenched as on they rolled:—

the beautiful, and frightened girl in the song is not singular as she exclaims in her terror:

Ah! we're young, and we are lovers, Spare us, Reaper gaunt and old![128]

Such is the first impression which time makes upon us. But birth succeeds to death. From an inexhaustible spring, nature sends gushing forth new products and new developments. Youth full of hope trips lightly over the ground, without a thought that the ground it treads on is the vast cemetery of all past generations. If we fix our thoughts on the permanence of life and the manifestations of progress, time appears to us as the great producer. Destroyer of all that is, producer of all that is to be, time has thus a double form. It is a mysterious tide, ever rising and ever receding; it is the power of death, and it is the power of life. All this, Gentlemen, is for the imagination. In the view of a calm reason, time is the simply negative condition of all development, as space is the negative condition of all motion. Just as without bodies and forces infinite space could not produce any motion; so, without the action of causes, ages heaped on ages could neither produce nor destroy a single atom of matter, or a single element of intelligence. Time is the scene of life and of death; it neither causes to be born, nor to die.

The struggle which we are now maintaining against the philosophers of matter is as ancient as science, and was going on, nearly in the same terms, more than two thousand three hundred years ago. About five hundred years before the Christian era was born at Clazomenae, a city of Ionia, the son of Eubulus, who was to become famous by the name of Anaxagoras. He fixed his abode at Athens, and the Athenian people gave him a glorious surname,—they called him Intelligence. On what account? There were taught at that time doctrines which explained the world by the transformations of matter rising progressively to life and thought, without the intervention of a mind. The philosopher Anaximander gave out that the first animals had their origin in the watery element, and became modified by living in drier regions, so that man was only a fish slowly transformed. "I am quite willing to grant it," replied Anaxagoras; "but for your transformations there must be a transforming principle. Matter is the material of the world, no doubt; but it could not produce universal order except as ruled by intelligence." The Athenians admired this discovery. For us, Gentlemen, the discovery has been made a long while. Let us not then be talking in this discussion about modern science and the lights of the age. Our natural history is much advanced as compared with that of the Greeks; but the vital question has not varied. Does nature manifest the intervention of a directing mind, or do we see in it only a fortuitous aggregation of atoms?

Intelligence radiates from the face of nature, and it is in vain that men endeavor to veil its splendor. Nevertheless I consent to forget all that has just been said, in order to intrench myself in an argument, which of itself is sufficient for the object we have in view to-day. Our object is to prove that material science does not contain the explanation of all the realities of the universe. Even though they had succeeded in persuading us that there is no intelligence in nature, it would still be necessary to explain the origin of that intelligence which is in us, and the existence of which cannot be disputed. Whence proceeds the mind which is in ourselves?

Let us first of all give our attention to a strange contradiction. Those savants who make of the human soul a simple manifestation of matter, are the same who wish to explain nature without the intervention of the Divine intelligence. In order to keep out of view the design which is displayed in the organization of the world, they take a pleasure in finding nature at fault, and in pointing out its imperfections. Still, they do not pretend to be able to do better than nature; they would not undertake the responsibility of correcting the laws of life, and regulating the course of the seasons. They do not say, "We could make a better world," but "We can imagine a world more perfect than our own." Now what is our answer? Simply this: "You are right." Nature is not the supreme perfection, and therefore we will not worship it. How admirable soever be the visible universe, we have the faculty of conceiving more and better. We understand that the atmosphere might be purified, so that the tempest should not engulf the ships, nor the thunderbolt produce the conflagration. We dream of mountain-heights more majestic than the loftiest summits of our Alps, of waters more transparent than the pure crystal of our lakes, of valleys fresher and more peaceful than the loveliest which hide among our hills. The spectacle of nature awakens in us the powers of thought, and the sentiment of beauty draws us on to the pursuit of an ideal which surpasses all realities. Nature is not perfect: let us be forward to acknowledge it, and let us draw from the fact its legitimate consequence. The stream cannot rise higher than its source. If man conceives an ideal superior to nature, he is not himself the mere product of nature. By what strange contradiction is it affirmed at once that our spirit overpasses the bounds of all the realities which encompass it, and that it has not a source more elevated than those realities? Listen to a thought of that weighty writer Montesquieu:[129] "Those who have said that a blind fatality has produced all the effects which we see in the world, have said a great absurdity; for what greater absurdity than a blind fatality which should have produced intelligent beings?" Without restricting ourselves to this simple and solid argument, let us see how they will explain man by nature. For this end, we must examine the theory of the perfected monkey, which, introduced to us by the lectures of Professor Vogt and the spirited rejoinders of M. de Rougemont, made a great noise as it descended a short time ago from the mountains of Neuchatel.[130] A celebrated orator said one day to an assembly of Frenchmen: "I am long, Gentlemen; but it is your own fault: it is your glory that I am recounting." Have not I the right to say to you: "I am long, Gentlemen, but it is worth while to be so; it is our own dignity which is in question."

Man is a perfected monkey! I have three preliminary observations to make before I proceed to the direct examination of this theory.

In the first place, this definition transgresses the first and most essential rules of logic. We must always define what is unknown by what is known. This is an elementary principle. What a man is, I know. To think, to will, to enjoy, to hope, to fear, are functions of the mental life. These words answer to clear ideas, because those ideas result directly from our personal consciousness. But what is the soul of a monkey? The nature of animals is a mystery, one which is perhaps incapable of solution, and which, in all cases is wrapped in profound darkness, because the animal appears to us an intermediate link between the mechanism of nature and the functions of the spiritual life, which are the only two conceptions we have that are really clear and distinct. In taking the monkey therefore as our point of departure for the definition of man, we are defining what is clear by what is obscure.

My second remark is this: If it is affirmed that there is but one species, including all the animals and man, so that man is only a monkey modified, and the monkey, in its turn, an inferior animal modified; when once we have established the reality of man we arrive at this result: all animals whatsoever are only inferior developments of humanity, living foetuses which, without having come to their full term, have nevertheless the faculty of living and reproducing themselves. The animal then is an incomplete man; a theory which raises great difficulties, but which is more serious and more easy to understand than the doctrine which would have man to be a consummation of the monkey.

In fact,—and this is my third observation,—when the theory which I am examining is adopted, it must be carried out to its consequences, and the bearing of it clearly seen. Man, it is said, is the consummation of the monkey. The monkey is an improvement upon some quadruped or other, and this quadruped is an improvement upon another, and so on. We must descend, in an inevitable logical series, to the most elementary manifestations of life, and thence, finally, to matter. If it is not admitted that pure matter is a man in a state of torpor, it must be admitted that man is a melange of carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, azote, phosphorus—a melange which has been brought little by little to perfection. Such is the final inference from the doctrine which we are examining; and there are theorists who deduce it clearly. Now what is it that goes on in the minds of these savants? When the object is to banish God from nature, the creative Intelligence is resolved into thousands of ages. When it is desired to get rid in man of the reality of mind, they seek to resolve the human intelligence into a long series of modifications which have caused life to spring from matter, superior animals from simpler organisms, and man from the animal. Do not allow yourselves to be caught in this trap. Maintain firmly, that, whatever the degree of intelligence, of will, of spiritual essence, which may exist in animals, if that element is really found in them, it demands a cause, and cannot, without an enormous confusion of ideas, be regarded as a mere perfecting of matter. In fact, a thing in perfecting itself, realizes continually more fully its own proper idea, and does not become another thing. A perfect monkey would be of all monkeys the one which is most a monkey, and would not be a man. But let us leave the animals in the darkness in which they abide for our minds, and let us speak of what for us is less obscure.

Our spiritual existence is a fact; it is of all facts the one which is best known to us; it is the fact without which no other fact would exist for us. And whence proceeds our spirit? To this question, natural history has no answer. It is easy to see this, though we grant once again to natural history, when made the most of by our adversaries, all that it can pretend to claim. Suppose it proved, that in the historical development of nature, man has a monkey for his mother. I will grant it, and grant it quite seriously in order to ascertain what will be the influence of this hypothesis upon the problem on which we are engaged.

If all monkeys were fossils, and if we had a natural history, also fossil, setting forth to us the customs and habits of these animals; if the savages that are said to be the nearest neighbors to monkeys were all fossils; we should find ourselves in presence of a progressive and continued development of beings, and, for an inattentive mind, all would be easily explained by the slow and continued action of time. But this is not the case. All the elements of nature are before our eyes, from inorganic matter up to man. We do not see that time suffices for savages to become civilized, and still less for monkeys to become men. I was, in the spring of this year, in the Jardin des plantes at Paris, musing on the question which we are discussing, and I took a good look at the monkeys. Come now, I said to myself, canst thou recognize them as thine ancestors? The question was badly put. The monkeys are not our ancestors, inasmuch as they are living at the same time with us; they can only be our cousins, and it would seem that they are the eldest branch, as they have best preserved the primitive type. But let us speak more seriously. The races of monkeys have lived as long or longer than we: it is neither time nor climate which has made men of them. Recollect, I pray you, that the words 'time' and 'progress' explain nothing. There must have occurred favorable circumstances to transform the earth's substance into living cellules, and the living cellules into plants clearly marked, and into animals properly so called; and in the same way there must have been a propitious circumstance to transform the monkey into man. I think so, in fact; and this propitious circumstance well deserves to be studied with attention.

Man presents characteristics which distinguish him profoundly from the animal races: no one disputes it. He possesses speech; he is capable of religion; he exhibits the varied phenomena of civilization, while the animals succeed one another generations after generations in the unrecorded obscurity of a life for ever the same. Suppose we admit that human phenomena presented themselves at first in a very elementary form; in rudiments of language and rudiments of religion,—although the historical sciences do not quite give this result:—still suppose the case that at a given moment a branch of the monkey species presented the germ, as little developed as you please, but real, of new phenomena. One variety of the monkey species has been endowed with speech, has become religious, capable of civilization, and the other varieties of the species have not offered the same characteristics, although they have had the same number of ages in which to develop themselves. Observe well now my process of reasoning. Remark attentively whether I oppose theories to facts, whether I substitute oratorical declamations for arguments. I grant the hypotheses best calculated, as commonly thought, to contradict my theses. I assume that natural history demonstrates by solid proofs that the first man was carried in the bosom of a monkey; and I ask: What is the circumstance which set apart in the animal species a branch which presented new phenomena? What is the cause? That monkey-author of our race which one day began to speak in the midst of his brother-monkeys, amongst whom thenceforward he had no fellow; that monkey, that stood erect in the sense of his dignity; that, looking up to heaven, said, My God! and that, retiring into himself, said: I!—that monkey which, while the female monkeys continued to give birth to their young, had sons by the partner of his life and pressed them to his heart; that monkey—what shall we say of it? What climate, what soil, what regimen, what food, what heat, what moisture, what drought, what light, what combination of phosphorus, what disengagement of electricity, separated from the animal races, not only man, but human society? humanity with its combats, its falls, its risings again, its sorrows and its joys, its tears and its smiles; humanity with its arts, its sciences, its religion, its history in short, its history and its hopes of immortality? That monkey, what shall we say of it? Do you not see that the breath of the Spirit passed over it, and that God said unto it: Behold, thou art made in mine image: remember now thy Father who is in heaven? Do you not see that though we grant everything to the extreme pretensions of naturalists, the question comes up again whole and entire? When by dint of confusions and sophisms such theorists imagine that they have extinguished the intelligence which radiates from nature, that intelligence again confronts them in man, and there, as in an impregnable fortress, sets all attacks at defiance. Mark then where lies the real problem. Whether the eternal God formed the body of the first man directly from the dust of the earth; or whether, in the slow series of ages, He formed the body of the first man of the dust of the earth, by making it pass through the long series of animality—the question is a grave one, but it is of secondary importance. The first question is to know whether we are merely the ephemeral product of the encounter of atoms, or whether there is in us an essence, a nature, a soul, a reality in short, with which may connect itself another future than the dissolution of the sepulchre; whether there remains another hope than annihilation as the term of our latest sorrows, or, for the aspirants after fame, only that evanescent memory which time bears away with everything beside.

This is the question. Do not allow it to be put out of sight beneath details of physiology and researches of natural history, which can neither settle, nor so much as touch the problem. If therefore you fall in with any one of these philosophers of matter, bid him take this for all your answer: "There is one fact which stands out against your theory and suffices to overthrow it: that fact is—myself!" And since, to have the better of materialism, it is sufficient to understand well what is one thought of the mind, one throb of the spiritual heart, one utterance of the conscience,—add boldly with Corneille's Medea:

I,—I say,—and it is enough.

In fact, nature does not explain man, and to this conclusion has tended all that I have said to you to-day.


[97] Harmonices mundi, libri quinque.

[98] Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica.


The whole universe is full of His magnificence. May this God be adored and invoked for ever!

[100] Le Rationalisme, page 19.

[101] Force et Matiere, page 262.

[102] Les Mondes Causeries astronomiques by Guillemin; see p. 122 (3rd edition), where Kepler is described as an intelligence "penetrated by a profound faith in nature and exalted by a noble pride." See also pages 327 and 336.

[103] The question discussed in these pages must not be confounded with that of the relations between the science of nature and the documents of revelation. Whether nature can be explained without God is one question. Whether geology is in accordance with the language of the book of Genesis is another question, as regards both its nature and its importance. This latter subject does not come within the scope of these lectures. I will merely call attention to the fact, that if nature and the sacred text are fixed elements, this is not the case with the interpretations of theologians, and the results of geology. It is difficult to pronounce upon the exact relation of two quantities more or less indeterminate.

[104] In the writings of M. de Rougemont, if I am not mistaken.

[105] Systema naturae.

[106] Ps. civ. 24.

[107] Biographie universelle.

[108] A. P. de Candolle, by A. de la Rive, pp. 12 and 13.

[109] M. Vaucher's principal title to scientific distinction is his Histoire des conferves d'eau douce, Geneve, an XI (1803), 4 deg..

[110] Comptes rendus de l'Academie des Sciences of 20 April, 1863, page 738.

[111] Exeter Hall Lectures—The Power of God in His Animal Creation, pamphlet in 12mo. This remarkable lecture contains a twofold protest—against the blindness of those savants who fail to recognize the presence of God in nature; and against the pretensions of those theologians who attack the certain results of the study of nature, relying upon texts more or less accurately interpreted.

[112] Chemistry applied to Agriculture and to Physiology (in German). Seventh edition. Introd. page 69.

[113] Since these words were spoken, M. de la Rive has been named an associated member of the Institute of France (Academy of Sciences), and thus elevated to the first of scientific dignities. It might be shown, I believe, that the greater number of the eight associates of the Academy of Sciences to be found in the world, make profession of their faith in God the Creator, the Almighty and Holy One. The silence which others may have preserved on the subject would, moreover, be no authority for concluding that they do not share in beliefs and sentiments which they have not had the occasion perhaps of publicly expressing.

[114] On the Origin of Species, page 81. Fifth edition.

[115] On the Origin of Species. The text is—"the necessary series of facts;" but it would be to do the writer wrong to impute to him the idea that observation reveals to us what is necessary, in the philosophical import of the word.

[116] On the Origin of Species.

[117] Caro, L'Idee de Dieu, page 47.

[118] Force et Matiere, page 181.

[119] The Buechner proceeding is found again pretty exactly in Les Mondes of M. Amedee Guillemin. This writer affirms (page 60 of the third edition) that science does not approach metaphysical questions; and asserts in the same page, ten lines further on, that astronomical experience leads our reason to the idea of the eternity of the universe. After that, he may laugh, if he will, at lovers of the absolute.

[120] See in particular the Revue des Deux Mondes, passim.

[121] S'enivrait en marchant du plaisir de la voir.

[122] See the lecture above mentioned.

[123] Lettres sur les Etats-Unis d'Amerique, by Lieutenant-Colonel Ferri Pisani, page 400.—Letter of 25 Sept. 1861.

[124] On the origin of species, in the Archives des sciences de la Bibliotheque universelle, March, 1860.

[125] Vous coulez des moucherons.

[126] In his Principes de philosophie zoologique, a collection of answers made by Geoffroy, in the discussions of the Academie des Sciences, in 1830.

[127] Voyons, Messieurs, le temps ne fait rien a l'affaire.


Sur cent premiers peuples celebres, J'ai plonge cent peuples fameux, Dans un abime de tenebres Ou vous disparaitrez comme eux. J'ai couvert d'une ombre eternelle Des astres eteints dans leur cours. —Ah! par pitie, lui dit ma belle, Vieillard, epargnez nos amours!

[129] Esprit des Lois, Bk. I. chap. 1.

[130] Lecons sur l'homme, by Carl Vogt (lectures delivered during the winter of 1862-1863, at Neuchatel and at Chaux-de-Fonds), 1 vol. 8vo. Paris, 1865.—L'Homme et le Singe, by Frederic de Rougemont, pamphlet, 12mo. Neuchatel, 1863.



(At Geneva, 1st. Dec., 1863.)


Man has need of God. If he be not fallen into the most abject degradation, he does not succeed in extinguishing the instinct which leads him to inquire after his Creator. A false wisdom labors to still the cravings which the truth alone can satisfy; but false wisdom remains powerless, and betrays itself continually by some outrageous contradiction. Here is a curious example of this:

In a book which was famous in the last century, and which was called the gospel of atheism,[131] the Baron d'Holbach explains as follows the existence of the universe: "The universe, that vast assemblage of all that exists, everywhere presents to our view only matter and motion.—Nature is the grand whole which results from the assemblage of different material substances, from their different combinations, and from the different motions which we see in the universe."[132] Here is a clear doctrine: all that exists, the soul included, is nothing but matter in motion. I pass from the beginning to the end of the work, and I arrive at this conclusion: "O nature! sovereign of all beings! and ye, her adorable daughters, virtue, reason, truth! be ye for ever our sole divinities; to you it is that the incense and the homage of the earth are due."[133] If we try to translate this sort of hymn in accordance with the express definitions of the author, we shall obtain the following result: "O matter in motion! sovereign of all material substances in motion! and ye, virtue, reason, truth, who are various names of matter which moves, be ye the only divinities of that moving matter which is ourselves." Yet this author was no blockhead. What then passed in his mind? He laid down the thesis of materialism: bodies in motion are the only reality. But he is all the while a man. The need for adoration is not destroyed in his soul, and he deceives himself. He defines nature as consisting wholly of matter, and when he sets himself to worship it, he entirely forgets his definition. This is not on his part a piece of philosophical jugglery, but the manifestation of the real condition of our nature, which is always giving the lie, in one direction or another, to erroneous systems. The power of wholly maintaining himself in error has not been granted to man. He who denies God is always deifying something; and all worship which is not that of the Eternal and Infinite Mind is stultified by glaring contradictions. Here is a recent example of this: We were not a little surprised a short time since to see M. Ernest Renan deny clearly enough the immortality of our persons, and, in the opening of the very book in which this negation appears, to find him invoking the soul of his sister at rest with God.[134] Elsewhere, the same writer says that the Infinite Being does not exist, that absolute reason and absolute justice exist only in humanity, and he concludes his exposition of these views by an invocation of the Heavenly Father.[135] The Baron d'Holbach had put eight hundred and thirty-nine pages between his materialistic definition of the universe and his invocation of nature. Now-a-days everything goes faster; and M. Renan places but a few pages of the Revue des Deux Mondes between his denial of God and his prayer to the Heavenly Father. With this difference, which is to the advantage of the writer of the eighteenth century, the process is absolutely the same. The philosopher declares God to be an imaginary being, and the future life an illusion; but the man protests, and, by a touching illusion of the heart, the man who in his system of doctrine has neither God nor hope, finds that he has a sister in the realms eternal, and a Father in the heavens. It is impossible not to see, especially in literary works destined to a success of fashion, the seductive influence of art, the precautions of prudence, the concessions made to public opinion; but we cannot wholly explain the incredible contradictions of the Holbachs and Renans, without allowing full weight to that need for God which shows itself even in the farthest wanderings of human thought by sudden and abrupt returns.

The illusion which deifies matter in motion is gross enough. It belongs only to minds which Cicero called, in the aristocratic pride of a Roman gentleman, the plebeians of philosophy.[136] It requires, in fact, no great reflection to understand that truth, beauty, and goodness are neither atoms nor a certain movement of atoms. The attempt, which is to form the subject of our study to-day, that of deifying man, is a far more subtle one. Let us first of all inquire into the origin of the strange worship which humanity accords to itself.

Nature, considered separately from the beings which receive sensible impressions from it, has neither heat nor light. In a world peopled by the blind, light would have no name. If all men were entirely paralyzed as to their sensations, the idea of heat would not exist. Light and heat, regarded as existing in matter itself, without reference to sensitive organizations, are, in the opinion of our natural philosophers, only determinate movements. In the same way, if nature were without any spectator whatever, beauty would not exist; if there were nowhere any intelligence, truth would no longer be. In the same way again, if there were no wills, goodness, which is nothing else than the law of the will, would be a word deprived of all meaning. Beauty expresses the object of the perceptions of the soul. Truth denotes the quality of the judgments of intelligences. Goodness (I speak of moral goodness) expresses a certain direction of the free will. There exists no means of causing to proceed from nature, or from matter, the attributes of the spiritual being. This is only done by imaginary transformations, by a course of arrant juggling. The flame does not feel its own heat, light does not see itself, the planets know nothing of the laws of Kepler. Materialism is the result of a modesty wholly misplaced which leads man to forget himself, in order to attribute gratuitously to nature realities which exist only in spiritual beings connected with nature by a marvellous harmony. In order therefore to account for the universe, we must raise ourselves above the atom in motion, and penetrate into a higher world where truth, beauty, goodness become the objects of thought. Truth, beauty, goodness conduct the mind to God, their eternal source. But there is a philosophy which endeavors to stop midway in the ascent of the Divine ladder, and thinks to satisfy itself in the contemplation of the true, the beautiful, the good, without connecting them with their cause. This philosophy considers the true, the beautiful, the good, as ideas which exist by themselves, without a supreme Spirit of which they are the manifestation. It has received, in consequence, the name of idealism.

To conceive of ideas without a mind, ideas having an existence by themselves, is a thing impossible; such a conception is expressed by words which give back a hollow sound, because they contain nothing. We have already stated this thesis; let us now confirm it by an example. A literary Frenchman, M. Taine, would make us understand in what manner the universe may be explained without reference to God, and by means of a pure idea. Listen well, not to understand, but to make sure that you do not understand: "The universe forms a unique being, indivisible, of which all the beings are members. At the supreme summit of things, at the highest point of the luminous and inaccessible ether, pronounces itself the eternal axiom; and the prolonged resounding of this creative formula composes, by its inexhaustible undulations, the immensity of the universe. Every form, every change, every movement, every idea is one of its acts."[137]

M. Taine is a man of humor, and the burlesque has a place in his philosophical writings; but in the words which I have just read to you he seems to have intended seriously to expound the system which replaces God by an idea. Try now to form a definite conception of this universe composed of the undulations of an axiom. Do you understand how an axiom undulates, and how the heavens and the earth are only the undulations of an axiom? Making all allowance for rhetoric and figures, do you understand what can be the acts of an axiom, and how an axiom pronounces itself without being pronounced? You do not understand it, as neither do I. Such doctrines, then, as we have said, can only be the portion of a small number of thinkers who have lost, by dint of abstraction, the sentiment of reality. The ideas—truth, beauty, good—will only exist for the common order of men, under such a system, in the human mind, where we have cognizance of them; and thenceforward, the ideal, or God, is nothing else than the image of humanity which contemplates itself in a sort of mirage. Thus it is that the adoration of man by man is disengaged from the high theories of idealism. Let us proceed to the examination of this worship, which is cried up now-a-days in divers parts of the intellectual globe.

I open the Revue des Deux Mondes, of the 15th February, 1861. As the author of the article I refer to[138] appears to admit "that one assertion is not more true than another opposed to it,"[139] we will not be so simple as to ask whether he adopts the opinions which he propounds. He presents to us, in a rapid sketch, the principal tendencies of the modern mind. The modern mind is here characterized by one of its declared partisans; you will not take therefore for a wicked caricature the picture which he puts before us. Here then are the thoughts of the modern mind: "There is only one infinite, that of our desires and our aspirations, that of our needs and our efforts.[140] The true, the beautiful, the just are perpetually occurring; they are for ever in course of self-formation, because they are nothing else than the human mind, which, in unfolding itself, finds and knows itself again."[141] This is only the French translation of a saying celebrated in Germany: "God is not: He becomes." What we call God is the human mind. What was there at the beginning of things? The human mind, which did not know itself. What will there be in the end? The human mind, which, in unfolding itself, will have come to know itself, and will adore itself as the supreme God. If this be indeed the final object of the universe, it appears that, in the opinion of these philosophers, the consummation of all things must be near. Once that humanity, faithful to their doctrine, shall have pronounced the lofty utterance, "I am God, and there is none else," the world will no longer have any reason for existing.

Such is the system of which we have to follow out the consequences. Let us take as our point of comparison the old ideas which we are urged to abandon.

We usually explain human destinies by the concurrence of two causes, infinitely distinct, since the one is creative and the other created, but both of which we hold for real: man, and God. Humanity has received from its Author the free power which we call will, and the law of that will which we name conscience. The law proceeds from God, the liberty proceeds from God; but the acts of the created will, when it violates its law and revolts against its Author, are the creation of the creature. God is the eternal source of good, and liberty is a good; but God is not the source of evil, which is distinctly a revolt against Him, the abuse of the first of His gifts. Together with will, man has received understanding, and gives himself to the search after truth. Truth is the object of the understanding, its Divine law. Error is a deviation from the law of the understanding, as evil is a deviation from the law of the will. Lastly, with will and understanding, man has received the faculty of feeling. This faculty applies itself to the world of bodies, from which we receive pain or pleasure. But our faculty of feeling does not stop there. Above the animal life, the mind has enjoyments which are proper to it, and the object of which is beauty. Beauty is not only in nature and in works of art, it is everywhere, in whatever attracts our love. The sciences are beautiful, and the harmony of the truths which are discovered in their order and mutual dependence causes us to experience a feeling similar to that produced by the most delightful music. Virtue is beautiful; it shines in the view of the conscience with the purest brightness, and, as was said by one of the ancients, if it could reveal itself to our eyes in a sensible form, it would excite in our souls feelings of inexpressible love. Vice is ugly when once stripped of the delusive fascination of the passions; the vicious excesses of the lower nature are ugly and repulsive as soon as the intoxication is over. Error is ugly too; there are no beautiful errors but those which contain a larger portion of truth than the prosaic verities, which are nothing else than falsehoods put in a specious way. Beauty therefore is the law of our feelings, as truth is the law of our thought, and good the law of our will. We will not inquire now what secret relations shall one day bring together in an indissoluble unity of light, the good, the true, and the beautiful, and in a unity of darkness, evil, deformity, and falsehood. Let it suffice to have pointed out how a threefold aspiration leads man to God, under the guidance of the conscience, the understanding, and the feelings; and that a threefold rebellion estranges him from God, by sinking him into the dark regions of deformity, error, and evil. Humanity has therefore a law; it has been endowed with liberty, but that a liberty of which the legitimate end is determined. It advances towards this end, or it swerves from it. There is a rule above its acts. The thing as it is may not be the thing as it ought to be; rebellion is not obedience, and good is not evil.

All these consequences are included in the idea of creation. The struggle between two opposite principles, a struggle which sums up human destiny, is a fact of which each one of us can easily assure himself in his own person. What will happen when man, sensible of the law of his nature, and conscious of this struggle, proceeds to encounter humanity? Each one of us carries humanity in his own bosom. But humanity, the character of man which is common to us, and which makes the spiritual unity of our species, is found to be altered by the influence of places, times, and circumstances. Our reason is encumbered by prejudices of birth and education, and by such as we have ourselves created in our minds in the exercise of our will. Our sense of beauty is vitiated and narrowed by local influences and habits. Our conscience is likewise subjected to influences which impair its free manifestation. Every one needs to enlarge his horizon. By seeking occasions of intercourse with our fellows, we shall learn to discriminate true and eternal beauty in the diversity of its manifestations; we shall distinguish the truth from the individual prepossessions of our own minds; good and evil, disengaged from the narrownesses of habit, will appear to us in their real and enduring nature. Our taste will be formed, our conscience purified, our mind enlarged; we shall more and more become men, in the high and full acceptation of the term. In order that the meeting together of the individual and of humanity may produce such fruits, God must dwell continually in the sanctuary of the conscience. The inner light is kindled in the intercourse of the soul with its Creator; it is afterwards brightened and nurtured by the soul's intercourse with the traces of God which humanity reveals. But this light makes manifest within us, and without us, great darkness. We have no right to abandon ourselves to every spectacle which strikes our view. If, in presence of what is passing in the world, we are tempted to regard the prosperity of the wicked with cowardly envy; if we would fill up, for the satisfaction of our evil desires, the abyss which separates the holy from the impure, the inner voice lifts itself up and cries to us: "Woe! woe to them who call evil good, and good evil."[142] God is our Master, even as He is our good and our hope. The fact of the revolts of humanity can have no effect against His sovereign will. Soldiers in the service of the Almighty, life is for us a conflict, and duty imposes on us a combat.

Such, Sirs, is the explanation of our destinies, an old, and, if you like, a vulgar one. Let us now give our attention to the doctrine which deifies humanity, and follow out its consequences. Humanity carries within its bosom the idea of truth, the love of beauty, the sense of good. What does it need more? These noble aspirations mark for it the end of its efforts. What will be wanting to a life regulated by duty, enlightened by truth, ennobled by art? What will be wanting to such a life? Nothing, or everything. Nothing, if the search after good, truth, and beauty leads to God. Everything, if it be sought to carry it on without any reference to God, because from the moment that man desires to be the source of light to himself, the light will be changed into darkness, as we said at the beginning of this lecture. Put God out of view, and good, beauty, and truth will disappear; while you will see produced the decline of art, the dissolution of thought in scepticism, the absolute negation of morality. Let us consider with the attention it deserves, and in contemporary examples, this sad and curious spectacle.

I open a treatise by M. Taine. The English historian Macaulay speaks of literary men who "have taken pains to strip vice of its odiousness, to render virtue ridiculous, to rank adultery among the elegant fashions and obligatory achievements of a man of taste." The honest Englishman takes the liberty to judge and to condemn men who have made so pernicious a use of their talents. This pretension to make the conscience speak is in the eyes of the French man of letters a gothic prejudice. Listen how he expresses himself on the subject: "Criticism in France has freer methods.—When we try to give an account of the life, or to describe the character, of a man, we are quite willing to consider him simply as an object of painting or of science.... We do not judge him, we only wish to represent him to the eyes and to set him intelligibly before the reason. We are curious inquirers and nothing more. That Peter or Paul was a knave matters little to us, that was the business of his contemporaries, who suffered from his vices—At this day we are out of his reach, and hatred has disappeared with the danger—I experience neither aversion nor disgust; I have left these feelings at the gate of history, and I taste the very deep and very pure pleasure of seeing a soul act according to a definite law—."[143] You understand, Gentlemen: the distinction between good and evil, as that between error and truth; these are old sandals which must be put off before entering into the temple of history; and the man of the nineteenth century, if he has taste and information, is merely an historian, and nothing more. The sacred emotion which generous actions produce in us, the indignation stirred in us by baseness and cruelty, are childish emotions which are to disappear in order that we may be free to contemplate vice and virtue with a pleasure always equal, very deep, and very pure. We have not here the aberration of a young and ill-regulated mind, but the doctrine of a school. I open again the Revue des Deux Mondes, and there I encounter the theory of which M. Taine has made the application: "We no longer know anything of morals, but of manners; of principles, but of facts. We explain everything, and, as has been said, the mind ends by approving of all that it explains. Modern virtue is summed up in toleration.[144]—Immense novelty! That which is, has for us the right to be.[145]—In the eyes of the modern savant, all is true, all is right in its own place. The place of each thing constitutes its truth."[146]

I cut short the enumeration of these enormities. All rule has disappeared, all morality is destroyed; there is no longer any difference between right and fact, between what is and what ought to be. And what is the real account to give of all this? It is as follows: Humanity is the highest point of the universe; above it there is nothing; humanity is God, if we consent to take that sacred name in a new sense. How then is it to be judged? In the name of what rule? since there is no rule: in the name of what law? since there is no law. All judgment is a personal prejudice, the act of a narrow mind. We do not judge God, we simply recount His dealings; we accept all His acts, and record them with equal veneration. All science is only a history, and the first requisite in a historian is to reduce to silence his conscience and his reason, as sorry and deceitful exhibitions of his petty personality, in order to accept all the acts of the humanity-deity, and establish their mutual connection. The deification of the human mind is the justification of all its acts, and, by a direct consequence, the annihilation of all morality. Let us look more in detail at the origin and development of these notions.

The individual placing himself before humanity is to accept everything: this is the disposition recommended to us, in the name of the modern mind. Good and evil are narrow measures which minds behind the age persist, ridiculously enough, in wishing to apply to things. "We no longer transform the world to our image by bringing it to our standard; on the contrary, we allow ourselves to be modified and fashioned by it."[147] The individual goes therefore to meet humanity without any inner rule: he gives himself up, he abandons himself to the spectacle of facts. But the world is large, and history is long. Even those who spend their whole life in nothing else than in satisfying their curiosity, cannot see and know everything. To what then shall be directed that vague look, equally attracted to all points for want of any fixed rule? At what shall it stop? It will rest on that which shines most brilliantly, like a moth attracted by light. Now, nothing shines more brightly than success; nothing more solicits the attention. The glorification of success is the first and most infallible consequence of moral indifference. In leaving ourselves to be fashioned by the world instead of bringing it to our standard, we shall begin by according our esteem to victory. This philosophy is come to us from Germany. It was set forth on one occasion, in France, with great eclat, by the brilliant eloquence of a man who has rendered signal services to philosophy, and whose entire works must not be judged of by the single particular which I am about to mention. In the year 1829, M. Cousin was developing at the Sorbonne the meaning of these verses of La Fontaine, which introduce the fable of the Wolf and the Lamb:

La raison du plus fort est toujours la meilleure: Je vais le montrer tout a l'heure.

He had written as the programme of one of his lectures: Morality of Victory. Now see how he justified this surprising title: "I have absolved victory as necessary and useful; I now undertake to absolve it as just in the strictest sense of the word. Men do not usually see in success anything else than the triumph of strength, and an honorable sympathy draws us to the side of the vanquished; I hope I have shown that since there must always be a vanquished side, and since the vanquished side is always that which ought to be so, to accuse the conqueror is to take part against humanity, and to complain of the progress of civilization. We must go farther; we must prove that the vanquished deserved to be so, that the conqueror not only serves the interests of civilization, but that he is better, more moral than the vanquished, and that it is on that account he is the conqueror.... It is time that the philosophy of history should place at its feet the declamations of philanthropy."[148]

These words are worth considering. When Brennus the Gaul was having the gold weighed which he exacted from the vanquished Romans, he threw his heavy sword into the balance, exclaiming, Vae Victis! Woe to the conquered! He simply meant to say that he was the stronger, and did not foresee that a Gaul of the nineteenth century, availing himself of the labors of learned Germany, would demonstrate that being the stronger he was on that very account the more just. But we must not wander too far from our subject.

When the spectacle of the world is freely indulged in without any application to it of the measure of the conscience, what first strikes the view is success. It is necessary therefore to begin with rendering glory to success by declaring victory good. Now, mark well here the conflict of the old notions with the so-called modern mind. From the old point of view, victory in the issue belongs to good, because while man is tossed in strife and tumult, God is leading him on; but the success of good is realized by conflict, and the victory is often reached only after a long series of defeats. There are bad triumphs and impious successes. What is proposed to us is, to put aside the rule of our own judgments, and to declare that victory is good in itself. The old point of view, that of the conscience, does not surrender without an energetic resistance; and that resistance shows itself in the very words of M. Cousin. His thesis is, that all victory is just. His intention is therefore to approve victory. Why does he say absolve? it is the term which he employs. Since the matter in question is to absolve victory, it is placed on trial. It is accused of being, like fortune and fame, at one time on the side of good and justice, at another on the side of injustice and evil. Which then is the party accused? Victory. Who is the advocate? An eloquent professor. Who finally is the accuser? Do you not see? It is the human conscience; the conscience which protests in the soul of the orator against the theory of which he is enamoured, and which forces him to say absolve when he should say glorify. And in fact the choice must be made: either to glorify victory, by treading under foot that narrow conscience which sometimes ranks itself with Cato on the side of the vanquished; or to glorify conscience by impeaching the victories which outrage it.

It is not sufficient, however, to sacrifice the conscience in order to rescue from embarrassment the philosophy of success. It strikes on other rocks also. The same causes are by turns victorious and vanquished, and it is hard to make men understand that, in conflicts in which their dearest affections are engaged, they must beforehand, and in all cases, take part with the strongest. It will be in vain for the philosopher to say that the Swiss of Morgarten were right, for that they beat the Austrians; but that the heroes of Rotenthurm were greatly in the wrong, because, crushed without being vanquished, they were obliged to yield to numbers, and leave at last their country's soil to be trodden by the stranger;—the children of old Switzerland will find it hard to admit this doctrine. Even in France, in that nation so accustomed to encircle its soldiers' brows with laurel, this difficulty has risen up in the way of M. Cousin. Beranger, when asked for a souvenir of Waterloo,

Replied, with drooping eyelid, tear-bedewed: Never that name shall sadden verse of mine.[149]

But philosophy would be worth little if it had not at its disposal more extensive resources than those of a song-writer. M. Cousin therefore looked the difficulty in the face. Victory is always good. But how shall young Frenchmen be made to hear this with regard to that signal defeat of the armies of France? Listen: "It is not populations which appear on battle-fields, but ideas and causes. So at Leipzig and at Waterloo two causes came to the encounter, the cause of paternal monarchy and that of military democracy. Which of them carried the day, Gentlemen? Neither the one nor the other. Who was the conqueror and who the conquered at Waterloo? Gentlemen, there were none conquered. (Applause.) No, I protest that there were none: the only conquerors were European civilization and the map. (Unanimous and prolonged applause.)"[150]

To make the youth of Paris applaud at the remembrance of Waterloo is perhaps one of the most brilliant triumphs of eloquence which the annals of history record. But this rhetorical success is not a triumph of truth. There were those who were conquered at Waterloo; and, to judge by what has been going on for some time past in Europe, it would seem that those who were conquered are bent on taking their revenge. We may infer from these facts that all triumphs are not good, since truth may be for a moment overcome by a false philosophy tricked out in the deceitful adornments of eloquence.

But let us admit, whatever our opinion on the subject, that the Waterloo rock has been passed successfully; we have not yet pointed out the main difficulty which rises up in the way of this system. If victory is good, it seems at first sight that defeat is bad. But defeat is the necessary condition of victory; and being the condition of good, it seems therefore that it also is good; and the mind comes logically to this conclusion: "Victory is good;—defeat is good, since it is the condition of victory;—all is good." We set out with the glorification of victory, and, lo! we are arrived at the glorification of fact. All that is, has the right to be; in the eyes of the modern savant whatever is, is right. M. Cousin laid down the principle; he laid it down in a general manner in his philosophical eclecticism, of which it was easy to make use, as has in fact been done, in a sense contrary to his real intentions. Our young critics, wasting an inheritance of which they do not appear always to recognize the origin, are doing nothing else, very often, than catching as they die away the last vibrations of that surpassing eloquence.

In the eyes of the modern savant, everything is right and good: such is the axiom for which the labors of more than one modern historian had prepared us. We are to seek for the relation of facts one to another, that is to explain; and all that we explain, we must approve. Let us follow out this thought in a few examples.

It was necessary that Louis XVI should be beheaded and the guillotine permanently set up, in order to manifest the result of the disorders of Louis XIV, of the shameful excesses of Louis XV, and of the licentious immorality of French society. It was necessary for Louis XIV to be an adulterer, Louis XV a debauchee, the clergy corrupt, and the nobility depraved, to bring about the shocks of the revolution. The facts mutually correspond; I explain, and I approve. In the eyes of the modern savant everything is right.

It was necessary that Buonaparte should throw the Corps legislatif out of the window, that he should let loose his armies upon Europe, and leave thousands of dead bodies in the snows of Russia, in order to end the revolution, and extinguish the restless ardor of the French. It needed the massacres of September, the gloomy days of the Terror, the anarchy of the period of the Directory, to throw dismayed France into the arms of the crowned soldier who was to carry to so high a pitch her glory and her influence. The facts correspond; I explain, and I approve. In the eyes of the modern savant, everything is right.

I consider the character of Nero. I take him at the commencement of his reign, when, being forced to sign the death-warrant of a criminal, he exclaimed—"Would I were unable to write!" And then again I regard him after he has perpetrated acts such that to apply his name in future ages to the cruellest of tyrants shall appear to them a cruel injury. What has taken place in the interval? The development of his natural character, Agrippina, Narcissus ... I understand the play of all the springs which have made a monster. As I am out of his clutches, my detestation vanishes with the danger. "I taste the very deep and very pure pleasure of seeing a mind act according to a definite law." I understand, I explain, I approve. In the eyes of the modern savant, everything is right.

It would be impossible, Gentlemen, to pursue this reasoning to its extreme limits without offending against the commonest decency. We should have to descend into blood and mire, continuing to declare the while that everything is right. I pause therefore, and leave the rest to your imaginations. Open the most dismal pages of history. Choose out the acts which inspire the most vivid horror and disgust, the blackest examples of ingratitude, the meanest instances of cowardice, the cases of most refined cruelty, and the most hideous debaucheries: thence let your thoughts pass to facts which bedew the eyelid with the tear of tenderest emotion, to the cases of most heroic self-devotion, to sacrifices the most humble in their greatness; and then try to apply the rule of the modern savant, and to say that all this is equally right and good, and that whatever is has the right to be. Open the book of your own heart. Think of one of those base temptations which assault the best of us, one of those thoughts which raise a blush in solitude; then think of the best, the purest, the most disinterested of the feelings which have ever been given to your soul; and try again to apply the rule of the modern savant, and to affirm that all this is equally good, and that all that is has the right to be. I know very well that in general these doctrines are applied to things looked at in the mass, and to the far-off past of history; but this is a poor subterfuge for the defenders of these monstrous theses. Things viewed in the mass are only the assemblage of things viewed in detail. If the distinction of good and evil do not exist for general facts, how should it exist for particular facts? And how can we apply to the past a rule which we refuse to apply to the present, seeing that the present is nothing else than the past of the future, and that the facts of our own time are matter for history to our posterity? These, I repeat, are but vain subterfuges. If humanity is always adorable, it is so in the faults of the meanest of men as in the splendid sins of the magnates of the earth; it is so to-day as it was thirty centuries ago; the god in growing old does not cease to be the same.

When the mind is engaged in these pernicious ways, the spring of the moral life is broken, and the practical consequence is not long in appearing. The philosophers of success, having become the philosophers of the fait accompli, accept all and endure all; but in another sense than that in which charity accepts all, that it may transform all by the power of love. It is the morality of Philinte:

I take men quietly, and as they are: And what they do I train my soul to bear.[151]

These instructions are not very necessary. There will always be people enough found ready to applaud victory, and to fall in with the fait accompli. But is it not sad to see men of mind, men of heart too, perhaps, making themselves the theorists of baseness, and the philosophers of cowardice?

There is still more to be said. From the glorification of success the mind passes necessarily, as we have just seen, to the glorification alike of all that is. It would appear at first sight that the adept in the doctrine must find himself in a condition of indifference with regard to what prejudiced men continue to call good and evil. This indifference however is only apparent. When it is granted that nothing is evil, the part of good disappears in the end. There had been formed in ancient Rome, under pretence of religion, a secret society, which had as its fundamental dogma the aphorism that nothing is evil.[152] The members of the society did not practise good and evil, it appears, with equal indifference, for the magistrates of the republic took alarm, and smothered, by a free employment of death and imprisonment, a focus of murders, violations, false witness, and forged signatures. This fact reveals, with ominous clearness, a movement of thought on the nature of which it is easy to speculate.

When man casts a vague glance over the world, extinguishing the while the inner light of conscience; when he resigns himself to the things he contemplates without applying to them any standard, what first strikes his attention, as we have said before, is success. And what next? Scandal. Nothing comes more into view than scandal. In a vast city, thousands of young men gain their livelihood laboriously, and devote themselves to the good of their families: no one speaks of them. A libertine loses other men's money at play, and blows out his brains: all the city knows it. Honest women live in retirement; the king's mistresses form the subject of general conversation. Crime and baseness hide themselves; but up to the limits of what the world calls infamy, evil delights in putting itself forward, because eclat and noise supply the means of deadening the conscience; while, as regards the grand instincts of charity, it has been well said that—"the obscure acts of devotedness are the most magnificent." The poor and wretched shed tears in obscurity over benefits done secretly, while folly loves to display its glittering spangles, and shakes its bells in the public squares. There is in each one of us more evil than we think; but there is in the world more good than is commonly known. There are concealed virtues which only show themselves to the eye of the faith which looks for them, and of the attention which discovers them. Bethink you, especially, how the laws of morality set at defiance appear again triumphant in the sorrows of repentance; those laws have their hour, and that hour is usually a silent one. Let a poet of genius defile his works by the impure traces of a life spent in dissipation, and his brow shall shine in the sight of all with the twofold splendor of success and of scandal. But if, stretched on a bed of pain, he renders a tardy but sincere homage to the law which he has violated, to the truth which he has ignored, his voice will often be confined to the sick chamber; his companions in debauchery and infidelity will mount guard perhaps around his dwelling, in order to prevent the public from learning that their friend is a defaulter. The ball and the theatre make a noise and attract observation; but men turn their eyes from hospitals, those abodes in which, in the silence of sickness, or amidst the dull cries of pain, there germinate so many seeds of immortality. Yes, Sirs, evil is more apparent than good. The violations of the divine law have more eclat than penitence. And what is the consequence? The man who abandons himself to the spectacle of the world, and who takes that spectacle for the rule of his thoughts, will see the world under a false aspect, and, in his estimation, evil will have more advantage over good than it has in reality. It will appear to him altogether dominant, and will thenceforward become his rule. From the glorification of success, we passed to the glorification of fact; from the glorification of fact, we arrive at last at the glorification of evil. We have seen how is illustrated the morality of victory. In the same current of ideas, a book famous now-a-days, and quite full of outrages to the conscience, supplies us with illustrations of the morality of falsehood. M. Ernest Renan, in his explanation of Christianity, has applied, point after point, the theory which I have just set forth to you. In order to estimate the grand movements of the human mind, he frees himself from the vulgar prejudices which make up the ordinary morals, and abandons himself to the impression of the spectacle which he contemplates. Jesus had a success without parallel. This success was based on charlatanism; and it is habitually so. To lead the nations by deceiving them is the lesson of history, and the good rule to follow. We find falsehood fortunate as matter of fact, we explain it, we approve it.

Whither then are we bound, under the guidance of modern science? An irresistible current is drawing us on, and causing us to leave the morals of Philinthe in our rear. We are coming to those which Racine has engraven in immortal traits in the person of Mathan. When once conscience is put aside, all means are good in order to succeed; and the experience of the world teaches us that, to succeed, the worst means are often the best.

It is not only at the theatre that such lessons are received; they come out but too commonly from the ordinary dealings of life. Set a young man face to face with the world as it exhibits itself, and tell him to give himself up to what he sees, to let himself be fashioned by life. He will soon come to know that strict probity is a virtue of the olden times, chastity a fantastic excellence, and conscientious scruples an honorable simplicity. Evil will become in his eyes the ordinary rule of life. When the socialist Proudhon wrote that celebrated sentence, "Property is robbery," there arose an immense outcry. Ought there not to arise a louder outcry around a theory which arrives by a fatal necessity at this consequence: "Evil is good"?

But do these doctrines exercise any influence for the perversion of public morals? Much; their influence is disastrous. And do the men who profess them believe them, taking the word 'believe' in its real and deep meaning? No; they often do mischief which they do not mean to do, and do not see that they do. They are intoxicated with a bad philosophy, and intoxication renders blind. It is easy to prove that these optimists, who in theory find that everything is right, are perpetually contradicting themselves in practice. Address yourselves to one of them, and say to him: "Your doctrine is big with immorality. You do not yourself believe it; and when you pretend to believe it, you lie." This man who tolerates everything will not tolerate your freedom of speech. He will get angry, and, according to the old doctrines, he will have the right to be so, for insult is an evil. Then say to him: "Here you are, it seems to me, in contradiction with your system. Everything is right; the vivacity of my speech therefore is good. All that is has the right to be; my indignation is therefore a legitimate fact, and it appears to me that yours cannot be so unless you allow (an admission which would be contrary to your system) that mine is not so." If you have to do with a sensible man, he will begin to laugh. If you have met with a blockhead, he will be more angry than ever. This contradiction comes out in every page, and in a more serious manner, in the writings of our optimists. One cannot read them with attention, without meeting incessantly with the protest of their moral nature against the despotism of a false mode of reasoning. The man is at every moment making himself heard, the man who has a heart, a conscience, a reason, and who contradicts the philosopher without being aware of it. Contradictions these, honorable to the writer, but dangerous for the reader, because they serve to invest with brilliant colors doctrines which in themselves are hideous.

No, Gentlemen, it is impossible to succeed in adoring humanity, preserving the while the least consistency of reasoning. In vain men wish to accept everything, to tolerate everything; in vain they wish to impose silence on the inner voice: that voice rebels against the outrage, and its revolt declares itself in the most manifest contradictions. The Humanity-God is divided, and the affirmation— "Everything is right"—will continue false as long as there shall be upon the earth a single conscience unsilenced, as long as there shall be in a single heart

. . . . . that mighty hate Which in pure souls vice ever must create;[153]

that hatred which is nothing else than the indirect manifestation of the sacred love of goodness.

The doctrine that all is equally good, equally divine, in the development of humanity, explains nothing, because humanity, torn by a profound struggle, condemns its own acts, and protests against its degradations. It cries aloud to itself that there are principles above facts, a moral law superior to the acts of the will; and all the petty clamors of a deceitful and deceived philosophy cannot stifle that clear voice. Not only do these doctrines explain nothing, they do not even succeed in expressing themselves; language fails them. "Everything is right and good." What will these words mean, from the time there is no longer any rule of right? How is it possible to approve, when we have no power to blame? The idea of good implies the idea of evil; the opposition of good and evil supposes a standard applied to things, a law superior to fact. He who approves of everything may just as well despise everything. But contempt itself has no longer any meaning, if esteem is a word void of signification. We must say simply that all is as it is, and abandon those terms of speech which conscience has stamped with its own superscription. We must purify the dictionary, and consign to the history of obsolete expressions such terms as good, evil, esteem, contempt, vice, virtue, honor, infamy, and the like. The doctrine which, to be consistent with itself, ought to reduce us to a kind of stupid indifference, does such violence to human nature that its advocates are incapable of enunciating it without contradicting themselves by the very words they make use of.

All these extravagances are the inevitable consequence of the adoration of humanity. The Humanity-God has no rule superior to itself. Whatever it does must be put on record merely, and not judged: it is the immolation of the conscience. But on what altar shall we stretch this great victim? Shall we sacrifice it to pure reason, to reason disengaged from all prejudice? Allow me to claim your attention yet a few minutes longer.

The Humanity-God in all its acts escapes the judgment of the conscience. What measure shall we be able to apply to its thoughts? None. The God which cannot do evil, cannot be mistaken either. For the modern savant all is true, for exactly the same reason that all is right. The human mind unfolds itself in all directions; all these unfoldings are legitimate; all are to be accepted equally by a mind truly emancipated. Furnished with this rule, I make progress in the history of philosophy. The Greek Democritus affirms that the universe is only an infinite number of atoms moving as chance directs in the immensity of space: I record with veneration this unfolding of the human mind. The Greek Plato affirms that truth, beauty, good, like three eternal rays, penetrate the universe and constitute the only veritable realities: I record with equal veneration this other unfolding of the human mind. I pass to modern times. Descartes tells me that thought is the essence of man, and that reason alone is the organ of truth. Helvetius tells me that man is a mass of organized matter which receives its ideas only from the senses. These two theses are equally legitimate, and I admit them both. I quit now philosophers by profession to address myself to those literary journalists who deal out philosophy in crumbs for the use of feuilletons and reviews. There I find all possible notions in the most astounding of jumbles. "The villain has his apologist; the good man his calumniator.... Marriage is honorable, so is adultery. Order is preached up, so is riot, so is assassination, provided it be politic."[154] I contemplate with a calm satisfaction, with a very deep and very pure pleasure, these various unfoldings of the human mind; I place them all, with the same feelings of devotion, in the pantheon of the intelligence. I cannot do otherwise, inasmuch as there is no rule of truth superior to the thoughts of men, and because the human mind is the supreme, universal, and infallible intelligence.

But will our mind be able to entertain together two directly opposite assertions? Will contradiction no longer be the sign of error? We must come to this; we must acknowledge that the modern mind, breaking with superannuated traditions, has proclaimed the principle "that one assertion is not more true than an opposite assertion." We must proclaim that the thinker has not to disquiet himself "about the real contradictions into which he may fall; and that a true philosopher has absolutely nothing to do with consistency."[155] The fear of self-contradiction may be excused in Aristotle and Plato, in St. Anselm and St. Thomas, in Descartes and Leibnitz. These writers were still wrapped in the swaddling clothes of old errors; the light of the nineteenth century had not shone upon their cradles; but the epoch of enfranchisement is come. These things, Gentlemen, are printed now-a-days; they are printed at Paris, one of the metropolises of thought!

Mark well whereabouts we are. We must admit—what? that all is true. But, if all is true, there is nothing true, just as if all is good, there is nothing good. There are thoughts in men's heads; to make history of them is an agreeable pastime; but there is no truth. We must not say that two contradictory propositions are equally true; that would be to make use of the old notion of truth; we must say that they are, and that is all about it. The night is approaching, the sun of intelligence is sinking towards the horizon, and thick vapors are obscuring its setting. But wait!

If the Humanity-God is always right, it must be that two contradictory propositions can be true at the same time, since contradictions abound in the history of human thoughts. If two contradictory propositions can be true, there is no more truth. What then is our reason, of which truth is the object? We are seized with giddiness. Might not everything in the world be illusion? and myself—? Listen to a voice which reaches us, across the ages, from the countries crowned by the Himalayas. "Nothing exists.... By the study of first principles, one acquires this knowledge, absolute, incontestable, comprehensible to the intelligence alone: I neither am, nor does anything which is mine, nor do I myself, exist."[156] What is there beneath these strange lines? The feeling of giddiness, which seeks to steady itself by language. Here is now the modern echo of these ancient words. One of those writers who accept all, in the hope of understanding all, describes himself as having come at last to be aware that he is "only one of the most fugitive illusions in the bosom of the infinite illusion." One of his colleagues expresses himself on this subject as follows: "Is this the last word of all?—And why not?—The illusion which knows itself—is it in fact an illusion? Does it not in some sort triumph over itself? Does it not attain to the sovereign reality, that of the thought which thinks itself, that of the dream which knows itself a dream, that of nothingness which ceases to be so, in order to recognize itself and to assert itself?"[157] We are gone back to ancient India. You will remark here three stages of thought. The fugitive illusion is man. The infinite illusion is the universe. The universal principle of the appearances which compose the universe is nothingness. Here is the explanation of the universe! Nothingness takes life; nothingness takes life only to know itself to be nothingness; and the nothingness which says to itself, "I am nothingness," is the reason of existence of all that is. I said just now that the sun was declining to the horizon. Now the last glimmer of twilight has disappeared; night has closed in—a dark and starless night. Yes, Sirs, but there is never on the earth a night so dark as to warrant us in despairing of the return of the dawn. If the modern mind is such as it is described to us, it has lost all the rays of light; but the sun is not dead.

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