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Title: God and the State
Author: Bakunin, Mikhail Aleksandrovich
Language: English
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Mother Earth Publishing Association

[Illustration: MICHAEL BAKUNIN]




With a Preface by Carlo Cafiero and Elisée Reclus

First American Edition

Mother Earth Publishing Association
20 East 125th Street
New York City

Preface to the First French Edition

One of us is soon to tell in all its details the story of the life of
Michael Bakunin, but its general features are already sufficiently
familiar. Friends and enemies know that this man was great in thought,
will, persistent energy; they know also with what lofty contempt he
looked down upon wealth, rank, glory, all the wretched ambitions which
most human beings are base enough to entertain. A Russian gentleman
related by marriage to the highest nobility of the empire, he was one
of the first to enter that intrepid society of rebels who were able
to release themselves from traditions, prejudices, race and class
interests, and set their own comfort at naught. With them he fought the
stern battle of life, aggravated by imprisonment, exile, all the dangers
and all the sorrows that men of self-sacrifice have to undergo during
their tormented existence.

A simple stone and a name mark the spot in the cemetery of Berne where
was laid the body of Bakunin. Even that is perhaps too much to honor the
memory of a worker who held vanities of that sort in such slight esteem.
His friends surely will raise to him no ostentatious tombstone or
statue. They know with what a huge laugh he would have received them,
had they spoken to him of a commemorative structure erected to his
glory; they knew, too, that the true way to honor their dead is to
continue their work--with the same ardor and perseverance that they
themselves brought to it. In this case, indeed, a difficult task
demanding all our efforts, for among the revolutionists of the present
generation not one has labored more fervently in the common cause of
the Revolution.

In Russia among the students, in Germany among the insurgents of
Dresden, in Siberia among his brothers in exile, in America, in
England, in France, in Switzerland, in Italy, among all earnest men,
his direct influence has been considerable. The originality of his
ideas, the imagery and vehemence of his eloquence, his untiring zeal in
propagandism, helped too by the natural majesty of his person and by a
powerful vitality, gave Bakunin access to all the revolutionary groups,
and his efforts left deep traces everywhere, even upon those who, after
having welcomed him, thrust him out because of a difference of object or
method. His correspondence was most extensive; he passed entire nights
in preparing long letters to his friends in the revolutionary world,
and some of these letters, written to strengthen the timid, arouse the
sluggish, and outline plans of propagandism or revolt, took on the
proportions of veritable volumes. These letters more than anything else
explain the prodigious work of Bakunin in the revolutionary movement of
the century. The pamphlets published by him, in Russian, French, and
Italian, however important they may be, and however useful they may have
been in spreading the new ideas, are the smallest part of Bakunin's

The present memoir, "God and the State," is really a fragment of a
letter or report. Composed in the same manner as most of Bakunin's other
writings, it has the same literary fault, lack of proportion; moreover
it breaks off abruptly: we have searched in vain to discover the end of
the manuscript. Bakunin never had the time necessary to finish all the
tasks he undertook. One work was not completed when others were already
under way. "My life itself is a fragment," he said to those who
criticised his writings. Nevertheless, the readers of "God and the
State" certainly will not regret that Bakunin's memoir, incomplete
though it be, has been published. The questions discussed in it are
treated decisively and with a singular vigor of logic. Rightly
addressing himself only to his honest opponents, Bakunin demonstrates to
them the emptiness of their belief in that divine authority on which all
temporal authorities are founded; he proves to them the purely human
genesis of all governments; finally, without stopping to discuss those
bases of the State already condemned by public morality, such as
physical superiority, violence, nobility, wealth, he does justice to the
theory which would entrust science with the government of societies.
Supposing even that it were possible to recognize, amid the conflict of
rival ambitions and intrigues, who are the pretenders and who are the
real savants, and that a method of election could be found which would
not fail to lodge the power in the hands of those whose knowledge is
authentic, what guarantee could they offer us of the wisdom and honesty
of their government? On the contrary, can we not foresee in these new
masters the same follies and the same crimes found in those of former
days and of the present time? In the first place, science is not: it
is becoming. The learned man of to-day is but the know-nothing of
to-morrow. Let him once imagine that he has reached the end, and for
that very reason he sinks beneath even the babe just born. But, could he
recognize truth in its essence, he can only corrupt himself by privilege
and corrupt others by power. To establish his government, he must try,
like all chiefs of State, to arrest the life of the masses moving below
him, keep them in ignorance in order to preserve quiet, and gradually
debase them that he may rule them from a loftier throne.

For the rest, since the _doctrinaires_ made their appearance, the true
or pretended "genius" has been trying his hand at wielding the sceptre
of the world, and we know what it has cost us. We have seen them at
work, all these savants: the more hardened the more they have studied;
the narrower in their views the more time they have spent in examining
some isolated fact in all its aspects; without any experience of life,
because they have long known no other horizon than the walls of their
cheese; childish in their passions and vanities, because they have been
unable to participate in serious struggles and have never learned the
true proportion of things. Have we not recently witnessed the foundation
of a whole school of "thinkers"--wretched courtiers, too, and people of
unclean lives--who have constructed a whole cosmogony for their sole
use? According to them, worlds have been created, societies have
developed, revolutions have overturned nations, empires have gone down
in blood, poverty, disease, and death have been the queens of humanity,
only to raise up an _élite_ of academicians, the full-blown flower, of
which all other men are but the manure. That these editors of the
_Temps_ and the _Debats_ may have leisure to "think," nations live and
die in ignorance; all other human beings are destined for death in order
that these gentlemen may become immortal!

But we may reassure ourselves: all these academicians will not have the
audacity of Alexander in cutting with his sword the Gordian knot; they
will not lift the blade of Charlemagne. Government by science is
becoming as impossible as that of divine right, wealth, or brute force.
All powers are henceforth to be submitted to pitiless criticism. Men in
whom the sentiment of equality is born suffer themselves no longer to be
governed; they learn to govern themselves. In precipitating from the
heights of the heavens him from whom all power is reputed to descend,
societies unseat also all those who reigned in his name. Such is the
revolution now in progress. States are breaking up to give place to a
new order, in which, as Bakunin was fond of saying, "human justice will
be substituted for divine justice." If it is allowable to cite any one
name from those of the revolutionists who have taken part in this
immense work of renovation, there is not one that may be singled out
with more justice than that of Michael Bakunin.

                                                  Carlo Cafiero.
                                                  Elisée Reclus.


Who are right, the idealists or the materialists? The question once
stated in this way hesitation becomes impossible. Undoubtedly the
idealists are wrong and the materialists right. Yes, facts are before
ideas; yes, the ideal, as Proudhon said, is but a flower, whose root
lies in the material conditions of existence. Yes, the whole history of
humanity, intellectual and moral, political and social, is but a
reflection of its economic history.

All branches of modern science, of true and disinterested science,
concur in proclaiming this grand truth, fundamental and decisive: The
social world, properly speaking, the human world--in short, humanity--is
nothing other than the last and supreme development--at least on our
planet and as far as we know--the highest manifestation of animality.
But as every development necessarily implies a negation, that of its
base or point of departure, humanity is at the same time and essentially
the deliberate and gradual negation of the animal element in man; and it
is precisely this negation, as rational as it is natural, and rational
only because natural--at once historical and logical, as inevitable
as the development and realization of all the natural laws in the
world--that constitutes and creates the ideal, the world of intellectual
and moral convictions, ideas.

Yes, our first ancestors, our Adams and our Eves, were, if not gorillas,
very near relatives of gorillas, omnivorous, intelligent and ferocious
beasts, endowed in a higher degree than the animals of any other species
with two precious faculties--_the power to think_ and _the desire to

These faculties, combining their progressive action in history,
represent the essential factor, the negative power in the positive
development of human animality, and create consequently all that
constitutes humanity in man.

The Bible, which is a very interesting and here and there very profound
book when considered as one of the oldest surviving manifestations of
human wisdom and fancy, expresses this truth very naively in its myth of
original sin. Jehovah, who of all the good gods adored by men was
certainly the most jealous, the most vain, the most ferocious, the most
unjust, the most bloodthirsty, the most despotic, and the most hostile
to human dignity and liberty--Jehovah had just created Adam and Eve, to
satisfy we know not what caprice; no doubt to while away his time, which
must weigh heavy on his hands in his eternal egoistic solitude, or that
he might have some new slaves. He generously placed at their disposal
the whole earth, with all its fruits and animals, and set but a single
limit to this complete enjoyment. He expressly forbade them from
touching the fruit of the tree of knowledge. He wished, therefore, that
man, destitute of all understanding of himself, should remain an eternal
beast, ever on all-fours before the eternal God, his creator and his
master. But here steps in Satan, the eternal rebel, the first
freethinker and the emancipator of worlds. He makes man ashamed of his
bestial ignorance and obedience; he emancipates him, stamps upon his
brow the seal of liberty and humanity, in urging him to disobey and eat
of the fruit of knowledge.

We know what followed. The good God, whose foresight, which is one of
the divine faculties, should have warned him of what would happen, flew
into a terrible and ridiculous rage; he cursed Satan, man, and the world
created by himself, striking himself so to speak in his own creation, as
children do when they get angry; and, not content with smiting our
ancestors themselves, he cursed them in all the generations to come,
innocent of the crime committed by their forefathers. Our Catholic and
Protestant theologians look upon that as very profound and very just,
precisely because it is monstrously iniquitous and absurd. Then,
remembering that he was not only a God of vengeance and wrath, but also
a God of love, after having tormented the existence of a few milliards
of poor human beings and condemned them to an eternal hell, he took pity
on the rest, and, to save them and reconcile his eternal and divine love
with his eternal and divine anger, always greedy for victims and blood,
he sent into the world, as an expiatory victim, his only son, that he
might be killed by men. That is called the mystery of the Redemption,
the basis of all the Christian religions. Still, if the divine Savior
had saved the human world! But no; in the paradise promised by Christ,
as we know, such being the formal announcement, the elect will number
very few. The rest, the immense majority of the generations present and
to come, will burn eternally in hell. In the meantime, to console us,
God, ever just, ever good, hands over the earth to the government of the
Napoleon Thirds, of the William Firsts, of the Ferdinands of Austria,
and of the Alexanders of all the Russias.

Such are the absurd tales that are told and the monstrous doctrines that
are taught, in the full light of the nineteenth century, in all the
public schools of Europe, at the express command of the government.
They call this civilizing the people! Is it not plain that all these
governments are systematic poisoners, interested stupefiers of the

I have wandered from my subject, because anger gets hold of me whenever
I think of the base and criminal means which they employ to keep the
nations in perpetual slavery, undoubtedly that they may be the better
able to fleece them. Of what consequence are the crimes of all the
Tropmanns in the world compared with this crime of treason against
humanity committed daily, in broad day, over the whole surface of the
civilized world, by those who dare to call themselves the guardians and
the fathers of the people? I return to the myth of original sin.

God admitted that Satan was right; he recognized that the devil did not
deceive Adam and Eve in promising them knowledge and liberty as a reward
for the act of disobedience which he had induced them to commit; for,
immediately they had eaten of the forbidden fruit, God himself said (see
Bible): "Behold, the man is become as one of the gods, to know good and
evil; prevent him, therefore, from eating of the fruit of eternal life,
lest he become immortal like Ourselves."

Let us disregard now the fabulous portion of this myth and consider its
true meaning, which is very clear. Man has emancipated himself; he has
separated himself from animality and constituted himself a man; he has
begun his distinctively human history and development by an act of
disobedience and science--that is, by _rebellion_ and by _thought_.

       *     *     *     *     *

Three elements or, if you like, three fundamental principles constitute
the essential conditions of all human development, collective or
individual, in history: (1) _human animality_; (2) _thought_; and (3)
_rebellion_. To the first properly corresponds _social and private
economy_; to the second, _science_; to the third, _liberty_.

       *     *     *     *     *

Idealists of all schools, aristocrats and _bourgeois_, theologians and
metaphysicians, politicians and moralists, religionists, philosophers,
or poets, not forgetting the liberal economists--unbounded worshippers
of the ideal, as we know--are much offended when told that man, with
his magnificent intelligence, his sublime ideas, and his boundless
aspirations, is, like all else existing in the world, nothing but
matter, only a product of _vile matter_.

We may answer that the matter of which materialists speak, matter
spontaneously and eternally mobile, active, productive, matter
chemically or organically determined and manifested by the properties or
forces, mechanical, physical, animal, and intelligent, which necessarily
belong to it--that this matter has nothing in common with the _vile
matter_ of the idealists. The latter, a product of their false
abstraction, is indeed a stupid, inanimate, immobile thing, incapable
of giving birth to the smallest product, a _caput mortuum_, an _ugly_
fancy in contrast to the _beautiful_ fancy which they call _God_; as the
opposite of this supreme being, matter, their matter, stripped by them
of all that constitutes its real nature, necessarily represents supreme
nothingness. They have taken away from matter intelligence, life, all
its determining qualities, active relations or forces, motion itself,
without which matter would not even have weight, leaving it nothing but
impenetrability and absolute immobility in space; they have attributed
all these natural forces, properties, and manifestations to the
imaginary being created by their abstract fancy; then, interchanging
_rôles_, they have called this product of their imagination, this
phantom, this God who is nothing, "supreme Being," and, as a necessary
consequence, have declared that the real being, matter, the world, is
nothing. After which they gravely tell us that this matter is incapable
of producing anything, not even of setting itself in motion, and
consequently must have been created by their God.

At the end of this book I exposed the fallacies and truly revolting
absurdities to which one is inevitably led by this imagination of a God,
let him be considered as a personal being, the creator and organizer of
worlds; or even as impersonal, a kind of divine soul spread over the
whole universe and constituting thus its eternal principle; or let him
be an idea, infinite and divine, always present and active in the world,
and always manifested by the totality of material and definite beings.
Here I shall deal with one point only.

The gradual development of the material world, as well as of organic
animal life and of the historically progressive intelligence of man,
individually or socially, is perfectly conceivable. It is a wholly
natural movement from the simple to the complex, from the lower to the
higher, from the inferior to the superior; a movement in conformity with
all our daily experiences, and consequently in conformity also with our
natural logic, with the distinctive laws of our mind, which being formed
and developed only by the aid of these same experiences, is, so to
speak, but the mental, cerebral reproduction or reflected summary

The system of the idealists is quite the contrary of this. It is the
reversal of all human experiences and of that universal and common good
sense which is the essential condition of all human understanding, and
which, in rising from the simple and unanimously recognized truth
that twice two are four to the sublimest and most complex scientific
considerations--admitting, moreover, nothing that has not stood the
severest tests of experience or observation of things and facts--becomes
the only serious basis of human knowledge.

Very far from pursuing the natural order from the lower to the higher,
from the inferior to the superior, and from the relatively simple to
the more complex; instead of wisely and rationally accompanying the
progressive and real movement from the world called inorganic to the
world organic, vegetables, animal, and then distinctively human--from
chemical matter or chemical being to living matter or living being, and
from living being to thinking being--the idealists, obsessed, blinded,
and pushed on by the divine phantom which they have inherited from
theology, take precisely the opposite course. They go from the higher to
the lower, from the superior to the inferior, from the complex to the
simple. They begin with God, either as a person or as divine substance
or idea, and the first step that they take is a terrible fall from the
sublime heights of the eternal ideal into the mire of the material
world; from absolute perfection into absolute imperfection; from thought
to being, or rather, from supreme being to nothing. When, how, and why
the divine being, eternal, infinite, absolutely perfect, probably weary
of himself, decided upon this desperate _salto mortale_ is something
which no idealist, no theologian, no metaphysician, no poet, has
ever been able to understand himself or explain to the profane. All
religions, past and present, and all the systems of transcendental
philosophy hinge on this unique and iniquitous mystery.[1] Holy men,
inspired lawgivers, prophets, messiahs, have searched it for life, and
found only torment and death. Like the ancient sphinx, it has devoured
them, because they could not explain it. Great philosophers, from
Heraclitus and Plato down to Descartes, Spinoza, Leibnitz, Kant, Fichte,
Schelling, and Hegel, not to mention the Indian philosophers, have
written heaps of volumes and built systems as ingenious as sublime, in
which they have said by the way many beautiful and grand things and
discovered immortal truths, but they have left this mystery, the
principal object of their transcendental investigations, as unfathomable
as before. The gigantic efforts of the most wonderful geniuses that the
world has known, and who, one after another, for at least thirty
centuries, have undertaken anew this labor of Sisyphus, have resulted
only in rendering this mystery still more incomprehensible. Is it to be
hoped that it will be unveiled to us by the routine speculations of some
pedantic disciple of an artificially warmed-over metaphysics at a time
when all living and serious spirits have abandoned that ambiguous
science born of a compromise--historically explicable no doubt--between
the unreason of faith and sound scientific reason?

It is evident that this terrible mystery is inexplicable--that is,
absurd, because only the absurd admits of no explanation. It is evident
that whoever finds it essential to his happiness and life must renounce
his reason, and return, if he can, to naive, blind, stupid faith, to
repeat with Tertullianus and all sincere believers these words, which
sum up the very quintessence of theology: _Credo quia absurdum_. Then
all discussion ceases, and nothing remains but the triumphant stupidity
of faith. But immediately there arises another question: _How comes an
intelligent and well-informed man ever to feel the need of believing in
this mystery?_

Nothing is more natural than that the belief in God, the creator,
regulator, judge, master, curser, savior, and benefactor of the
world, should still prevail among the people, especially in the rural
districts, where it is more widespread than among the proletariat of the
cities. The people, unfortunately, are still very ignorant, and are kept
in ignorance by the systematic efforts of all the governments, who
consider this ignorance, not without good reason, as one of the
essential conditions of their own power. Weighted down by their daily
labor, deprived of leisure, of intellectual intercourse, of reading, in
short of all the means and a good portion of the stimulants that develop
thought in men, the people generally accept religious traditions without
criticism and in a lump. These traditions surround them from infancy in
all the situations of life, and artificially sustained in their minds by
a multitude of official poisoners of all sorts, priests and laymen, are
transformed therein into a sort of mental and moral habit, too often
more powerful even than their natural good sense.

There is another reason which explains and in some sort justifies the
absurd beliefs of the people--namely, the wretched situation to which
they find themselves fatally condemned by the economic organization
of society in the most civilized countries of Europe. Reduced,
intellectually and morally as well as materially, to the minimum of
human existence, confined in their life like a prisoner in his prison,
without horizon, without outlet, without even a future if we believe
the economists, the people would have the singularly narrow souls and
blunted instincts of the bourgeois if they did not feel a desire to
escape; but of escape there are but three methods--two chimerical and a
third real. The first two are the dram-shop and the church, debauchery
of the body or debauchery of the mind; the third is social revolution.
Hence I conclude this last will be much more potent than all the
theological propagandism of the freethinkers to destroy to their last
vestige the religious beliefs and dissolute habits of the people,
beliefs and habits much more intimately connected than is generally
supposed. In substituting for the at once illusory and brutal enjoyments
of bodily and spiritual licentiousness the enjoyments, as refined as
they are real, of humanity developed in each and all, the social
revolution alone will have the power to close at the same time all the
dram-shops and all the churches.

Till then the people, taken as a whole, will believe; and, if they have
no reason to believe, they will have at least a right.

There is a class of people who, if they do not believe, must at
least make a semblance of believing. This class, comprising all the
tormentors, all the oppressors, and all the exploiters of humanity;
priests, monarchs, statesmen, soldiers, public and private financiers,
officials of all sorts, policemen, gendarmes, jailers and executioners,
monopolists, capitalists, tax-leeches, contractors and landlords,
lawyers, economists, politicians of all shades, down to the smallest
vendor of sweetmeats, all will repeat in unison those words of Voltaire:

"If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him." For, you
understand, "the people must have a religion." That is the safety-valve.

There exists, finally, a somewhat numerous class of honest but timid
souls who, too intelligent to take the Christian dogmas seriously,
reject them in detail, but have neither the courage nor the strength nor
the necessary resolution to summarily renounce them altogether. They
abandon to your criticism all the special absurdities of religion, they
turn up their noses at all the miracles, but they cling desperately to
the principal absurdity; the source of all the others, to the miracle
that explains and justifies all the other miracles, the existence of
God. Their God is not the vigorous and powerful being, the brutally
positive God of theology. It is a nebulous, diaphanous, illusory being
that vanishes into nothing at the first attempt to grasp it; it is a
mirage, an _ignis fatuus_ that neither warms nor illuminates. And yet
they hold fast to it, and believe that, were it to disappear, all would
disappear with it. They are uncertain, sickly souls, who have lost their
reckoning in the present civilization, belonging to neither the present
nor the future, pale phantoms eternally suspended between heaven and
earth, and occupying exactly the same position between the politics of
the bourgeois and the Socialism of the proletariat. They have neither
the power nor the wish nor the determination to follow out their
thought, and they waste their time and pains in constantly endeavoring
to reconcile the irreconcilable. In public life these are known as
bourgeois Socialists.

With them, or against them, discussion is out of the question. They are
too puny.

But there are a few illustrious men of whom no one will dare to speak
without respect, and whose vigorous health, strength of mind, and good
intention no one will dream of calling in question. I need only cite the
names of Mazzini, Michelet, Quinet, John Stuart Mill.[2] Generous and
strong souls, great hearts, great minds, great writers, and the first
the heroic and revolutionary regenerator of a great nation, they are
all apostles of idealism and bitter despisers and adversaries of
materialism, and consequently of Socialism also, in philosophy as well
as in politics.

Against them, then, we must discuss this question.

First, let it be remarked that not one of the illustrious men I have
just named nor any other idealistic thinker of any consequence in our
day has given any attention to the logical side of this question
properly speaking. Not one has tried to settle philosophically the
possibility of the divine _salto mortale_ from the pure and eternal
regions of spirit into the mire of the material world. Have they feared
to approach this irreconcilable contradiction and despaired of solving
it after the failures of the greatest geniuses of history, or have
they looked upon it as already sufficiently well settled? That is
their secret. The fact is that they have neglected the theoretical
demonstration of the existence of a God, and have developed only its
practical motives and consequences. They have treated it as a fact
universally accepted, and, as such, no longer susceptible of any
doubt whatever, for sole proof thereof limiting themselves to the
establishment of the antiquity and this very universality of the
belief in God.

This imposing unanimity, in the eyes of many illustrious men and writers
to quote only the most famous of them who eloquently expressed it,
Joseph de Maistre and the great Italian patriot, Giuseppe Mazzini--is of
more value than all the demonstrations of science; and if the reasoning
of a small number of logical and even very powerful, but isolated,
thinkers is against it, so much the worse, they say, for these thinkers
and their logic, for universal consent, the general and primitive
adoption of an idea, has always been considered the most triumphant
testimony to its truth. The sentiment of the whole world, a conviction
that is found and maintained always and everywhere, cannot be mistaken;
it must have its root in a necessity absolutely inherent in the very
nature of man. And since it has been established that all peoples, past
and present, have believed and still believe in the existence of God, it
is clear that those who have the misfortune to doubt it, whatever the
logic that led them to this doubt, are abnormal exceptions, monsters.

Thus, then, the _antiquity_ and _universality_ of a belief should be
regarded, contrary to all science and all logic, as sufficient and
unimpeachable proof of its truth. Why?

Until the days of Copernicus and Galileo everybody believed that the sun
revolved about the earth. Was not everybody mistaken? What is more
ancient and more universal than slavery? Cannibalism perhaps. From the
origin of historic society down to the present day there has been
always and everywhere exploitation of the compulsory labor of the
masses--slaves, serfs, or wage-workers--by some dominant minority;
oppression of the people by the Church and by the State. Must it be
concluded that this exploitation and this oppression are necessities
absolutely inherent in the very existence of human society? These are
examples which show that the argument of the champions of God proves

Nothing, in fact, is as universal or as ancient as the iniquitous and
absurd; truth and justice, on the contrary, are the least universal, the
youngest features in the development of human society. In this fact,
too, lies the explanation of a constant historical phenomenon--namely,
the persecution of which those who first proclaim the truth have been
and continue to be the objects at the hands of the official, privileged,
and interested representatives of "universal" and "ancient" beliefs, and
often also at the hands of the same masses who, after having tortured
them, always end by adopting their ideas and rendering them victorious.

To us materialists and Revolutionary Socialists, there is nothing
astonishing or terrifying in this historical phenomenon. Strong in our
conscience, in our love of truth at all hazards, in that passion for
logic which of itself alone constitutes a great power and outside of
which there is no thought; strong in our passion for justice and in our
unshakable faith in the triumph of humanity over all theoretical and
practical bestialities; strong, finally, in the mutual confidence and
support given each other by the few who share our convictions--we resign
ourselves to all the consequences of this historical phenomenon, in
which we see the manifestation of a social law as natural, as necessary,
and as invariable as all the other laws which govern the world.

This law is a logical, inevitable consequence of the _animal origin_
of human society; for in face of all the scientific, physiological,
psychological, and historical proofs accumulated at the present day, as
well as in face of the exploits of the Germans conquering France, which
now furnish so striking a demonstration thereof, it is no longer
possible to really doubt this origin. But from the moment that this
animal origin of man is accepted, all is explained. History then appears
to us as the revolutionary negation, now slow, apathetic, sluggish,
now passionate and powerful, of the past. It consists precisely in
the progressive negation of the primitive animality of man by the
development of his humanity. Man, a wild beast, cousin of the gorilla,
has emerged from the profound darkness of animal instinct into the light
of the mind, which explains in a wholly natural way all his past
mistakes and partially consoles us for his present errors. He has gone
out from animal slavery, and passing through divine slavery, a temporary
condition between his animality and his humanity, he is now marching on
to the conquest and realization of human liberty. Whence it results that
the antiquity of a belief, of an idea, far from proving anything in its
favor, ought, on the contrary, to lead us to suspect it. For behind us
is our animality and before us our humanity; human light, the only thing
that can warm and enlighten us, the only thing that can emancipate us,
give us dignity, freedom, and happiness, and realize fraternity among
us, is never at the beginning, but, relatively to the epoch in which we
live, always at the end of history. Let us, then, never look back,
let us look ever forward; for forward is our sunlight, forward our
salvation. If it is justifiable, and even useful and necessary, to turn
back to study our past, it is only in order to establish what we have
been and what we must no longer be, what we have believed and thought
and what we must no longer believe or think, what we have done and what
we must do nevermore.

So much for _antiquity_. As for the _universality_ of an error, it
proves but one thing--the similarity, if not the perfect identity,
of human nature in all ages and under all skies. And, since it is
established that all peoples, at all periods of their life, have
believed and still believe in God, we must simply conclude that the
divine idea, an outcome of ourselves, is an error historically necessary
in the development of humanity, and ask why and how it was produced in
history and why an immense majority of the human race still accept it
as a truth.

Until we shall account to ourselves for the manner in which the idea of
a supernatural or divine world was developed and had to be developed in
the historical evolution of the human conscience, all our scientific
conviction of its absurdity will be in vain; until then we shall never
succeed in destroying it in the opinion of the majority, because we
shall never be able to attack it in the very depths of the human being
where it had birth. Condemned to a fruitless struggle, without issue and
without end, we should for ever have to content ourselves with fighting
it solely on the surface, in its innumerable manifestations, whose
absurdity will be scarcely beaten down by the blows of common sense
before it will reappear in a new form no less nonsensical. While the
root of all the absurdities that torment the world, belief in God,
remains intact, it will never fail to bring forth new offspring. Thus,
at the present time, in certain sections of the highest society,
Spiritualism tends to establish itself upon the ruins of Christianity.

It is not only in the interest of the masses, it is in that of the
health of our own minds, that we should strive to understand the
historic genesis, the succession of causes which developed and produced
the idea of God in the consciousness of men. In vain shall we call and
believe ourselves Atheists, until we comprehend these causes, for, until
then, we shall always suffer ourselves to be more or less governed by
the clamors of this universal conscience whose secret we have not
discovered; and, considering the natural weakness of even the strongest
individual against the all-powerful influence of the social surroundings
that trammel him, we are always in danger of relapsing sooner or later,
in one way or another, into the abyss of religious absurdity. Examples
of these shameful conversions are frequent in society to-day.

       *     *     *     *     *

I have stated the chief practical reason of the power still exercised
to-day over the masses by religious beliefs. These mystical tendencies
do not signify in man so much an aberration of mind as a deep discontent
at heart. They are the instinctive and passionate protest of the human
being against the narrowness, the platitudes, the sorrows, and the shame
of a wretched existence. For this malady, I have already said, there is
but one remedy--Social Revolution.

In the meantime I have endeavored to show the causes responsible for the
birth and historical development of religious hallucinations in the
human conscience. Here it is my purpose to treat this question of the
existence of a God, or of the divine origin of the world and of man,
solely from the standpoint of its moral and social utility, and I shall
say only a few words, to better explain my thought, regarding the
theoretical grounds of this belief.

All religions, with their gods, their demigods, and their prophets,
their messiahs and their saints, were created by the credulous fancy of
men who had not attained the full development and full possession of
their faculties. Consequently, the religious heaven is nothing but a
mirage in which man, exalted by ignorance and faith, discovers his own
image, but enlarged and reversed--that is, _divinized_. The history of
religions, of the birth, grandeur, and decline of the gods who have
succeeded one another in human belief, is nothing, therefore, but the
development of the collective intelligence and conscience of mankind. As
fast as they discovered, in the course of their historically progressive
advance, either in themselves or in external nature, a power, a quality,
or even any great defect whatever, they attributed them to their gods,
after having exaggerated and enlarged them beyond measure, after the
manner of children, by an act of their religious fancy. Thanks to this
modesty and pious generosity of believing and credulous men, heaven
has grown rich with the spoils of the earth, and, by a necessary
consequence, the richer heaven became, the more wretched became humanity
and the earth. God once installed, he was naturally proclaimed the
cause, reason, arbiter, and absolute disposer of all things: the world
thenceforth was nothing, God was all; and man, his real creator, after
having unknowingly extracted him from the void, bowed down before him,
worshipped him, and avowed himself his creature and his slave.

Christianity is precisely the religion _par excellence_, because it
exhibits and manifests, to the fullest extent, the very nature and
essence of every religious system, which is _the impoverishment,
enslavement, and annihilation of humanity for the benefit of divinity_.

God being everything, the real world and man are nothing. God being
truth, justice, goodness, beauty, power, and life, man is falsehood,
iniquity, evil, ugliness, impotence, and death. God being master, man is
the slave. Incapable of finding justice, truth, and eternal life by his
own effort, he can attain them only through a divine revelation. But
whoever says revelation says revealers, messiahs, prophets, priests,
and legislators inspired by God himself; and these, once recognized as
the representatives of divinity on earth, as the holy instructors of
humanity, chosen by God himself to direct it in the path of salvation,
necessarily exercise absolute power. All men owe them passive and
unlimited obedience; for against the divine reason there is no human
reason, and against the justice of God no terrestrial justice holds.
Slaves of God, men must also be slaves of Church and State, _in so far
as the State is consecrated by the Church_. This truth Christianity,
better than all other religions that exist or have existed, understood,
not excepting even the old Oriental religions, which included only
distinct and privileged nations, while Christianity aspires to embrace
entire humanity; and this truth Roman Catholicism, alone among all the
Christian sects, has proclaimed and realized with rigorous logic. That
is why Christianity is the absolute religion, the final religion; why
the Apostolic and Roman Church is the only consistent, legitimate, and
divine church.

With all due respect, then, to the metaphysicians and religious
idealists, philosophers, politicians, or poets: _The idea of God implies
the abdication of human reason and justice; it is the most decisive
negation of human liberty, and necessarily ends in the enslavement of
mankind, both in theory and practice._

Unless, then, we desire the enslavement and degradation of mankind,
as the Jesuits desire it, as the _mômiers_, pietists, or Protestant
Methodists desire it, we may not, must not make the slightest concession
either to the God of theology or to the God of metaphysics. He who, in
this mystical alphabet, begins with A will inevitably end with Z; he who
desires to worship God must harbor no childish allusions about the
matter, but bravely renounce his liberty and humanity.

If God is, man is a slave; now, man can and must be free; then, God does
not exist.

I defy anyone whomsoever to avoid this circle; now, therefore, let all

Is it necessary to point out to what extent and in what manner religions
debase and corrupt the people? They destroy their reason, the principal
instrument of human emancipation, and reduce them to imbecility, the
essential condition of their slavery. They dishonor human labor, and
make it a sign and source of servitude. They kill the idea and sentiment
of human justice, ever tipping the balance to the side of triumphant
knaves, privileged objects of divine indulgence. They kill human pride
and dignity, protecting only the cringing and humble. They stifle in the
heart of nations every feeling of human fraternity, filling it with
divine cruelty instead.

All religions are cruel, all founded on blood; for all rest principally
on the idea of sacrifice--that is, on the perpetual immolation of
humanity to the insatiable vengeance of divinity. In this bloody
mystery man is always the victim, and the priest--a man also, but a man
privileged by grace--is the divine executioner. That explains why the
priests of all religions, the best, the most humane, the gentlest,
almost always have at the bottom of their hearts--and, if not in their
hearts, in their imaginations, in their minds (and we know the fearful
influence of either on the hearts of men)--something cruel and

None know all this better than our illustrious contemporary idealists.
They are learned men, who know history by heart; and, as they are at the
same time living men, great souls penetrated with a sincere and profound
love for the welfare of humanity, they have cursed and branded all these
misdeeds, all these crimes of religion with an eloquence unparalleled.
They reject with indignation all solidarity with the God of positive
religions and with his representatives, past, present, and on earth.

The God whom they adore, or whom they think they adore, is distinguished
from the real gods of history precisely in this--that he is not at all
a positive god, defined in any way whatever, theologically or even
metaphysically. He is neither the supreme being of Robespierre and J. J.
Rousseau, nor the pantheistic god of Spinoza, nor even the at once
immanent, transcendental, and very equivocal god of Hegel. They take
good care not to give him any positive definition whatever, feeling very
strongly that any definition would subject him to the dissolving power
of criticism. They will not say whether he is a personal or impersonal
god, whether he created or did not create the world; they will not even
speak of his divine providence. All that might compromise him. They
content themselves with saying "God" and nothing more. But, then, what
is their God? Not even an idea; it is an aspiration.

It is the generic name of all that seems grand, good, beautiful, noble,
human to them. But why, then, do they not say, "Man." Ah! because King
William of Prussia and Napoleon III. and all their compeers are likewise
men: which bothers them very much. Real humanity presents a mixture of
all that is most sublime and beautiful with all that is vilest and most
monstrous in the world. How do they get over this? Why, they call one
_divine_ and the other _bestial_, representing divinity and animality as
two poles, between which they place humanity. They either will not or
cannot understand that these three terms are really but one, and that to
separate them is to destroy them.

They are not strong on logic, and one might say that they despise it.
That is what distinguishes them from the pantheistical and deistical
metaphysicians, and gives their ideas the character of a practical
idealism, drawing its inspiration much less from the severe development
of a thought than from the experiences, I might almost say the emotions,
historical and collective as well as individual, of life. This gives
their propaganda an appearance of wealth and vital power, but an
appearance only; for life itself becomes sterile when paralyzed by a
logical contradiction.

This contradiction lies here: they wish God, and they wish humanity.
They persist in connecting two terms which, once separated, can come
together again only to destroy each other. They say in a single breath:
"God and the liberty of man," "God and the dignity, justice, equality,
fraternity, prosperity of men"--regardless of the fatal logic by
virtue of which, if God exists, all these things are condemned to
non-existence. For, if God is, he is necessarily the eternal, supreme,
absolute master, and, if such a master exists, man is a slave; now, if
he is a slave, neither justice, nor equality, nor fraternity, nor
prosperity are possible for him. In vain, flying in the face of good
sense and all the teachings of history, do they represent their God as
animated by the tenderest love of human liberty: a master, whoever he
may be and however liberal he may desire to show himself, remains none
the less always a master. His existence necessarily implies the slavery
of all that is beneath him. Therefore, if God existed, only in one way
could he serve human liberty--by ceasing to exist.

A jealous lover of human liberty, and deeming it the absolute condition
of all that we admire and respect in humanity, I reverse the phrase of
Voltaire, and say that, _if God really existed, it would be necessary to
abolish him_.

The severe logic that dictates these words is far too evident to require
a development of this argument. And it seems to me impossible that the
illustrious men, whose names so celebrated and so justly respected I
have cited, should not have been struck by it themselves, and should not
have perceived the contradiction in which they involve themselves in
speaking of God and human liberty at once. To have disregarded it, they
must have considered this inconsistency or logical license _practically_
necessary to humanity's well-being.

Perhaps, too, while speaking of _liberty_ as something very respectable
and very dear in their eyes, they give the term a meaning quite
different from the conception entertained by us, materialists and
Revolutionary Socialists. Indeed, they never speak of it without
immediately adding another word, _authority_--a word and a thing which
we detest with all our heart.

What is authority? Is it the inevitable power of the natural laws which
manifest themselves in the necessary concatenation and succession of
phenomena in the physical and social worlds? Indeed, against these
laws revolt is not only forbidden--it is even impossible. We may
misunderstand them or not know them at all, but we cannot disobey them;
because they constitute the basis and fundamental conditions of our
existence; they envelop us, penetrate us, regulate all our movements,
thoughts, and acts; even when we believe that we disobey them, we only
show their omnipotence.

Yes, we are absolutely the slaves of these laws. But in such slavery
there is no humiliation, or, rather, it is not slavery at all. For
slavery supposes an external master, a legislator outside of him whom he
commands, while these laws are not outside of us; they are inherent
in us; they constitute our being, our whole being, physically,
intellectually, and morally: we live, we breathe, we act, we think, we
wish only through these laws. Without them we are nothing, _we are not_.
Whence, then, could we derive the power and the wish to rebel against

In his relation to natural laws but one liberty is possible to man--that
of recognizing and applying them on an ever-extending scale in
conformity with the object of collective and individual emancipation or
humanization which he pursues. These laws, once recognized, exercise an
authority which is never disputed by the mass of men. One must, for
instance, be at bottom either a fool or a theologian or at least a
metaphysician, jurist, or bourgeois economist to rebel against the law
by which twice two make four. One must have faith to imagine that fire
will not burn nor water drown, except, indeed, recourse be had to some
subterfuge founded in its turn on some other natural law. But these
revolts, or, rather, these attempts at or foolish fancies of an
impossible revolt, are decidedly the exception; for, in general, it may
be said that the mass of men, in their daily lives, acknowledge the
government of common sense--that is, of the sum of the natural laws
generally recognized--in an almost absolute fashion.

The great misfortune is that a large number of natural laws, already
established as such by science, remain unknown to the masses, thanks to
the watchfulness of these tutelary governments that exist, as we know,
only for the good of the people. There is another difficulty--namely,
that the major portion of the natural laws connected with the
development of human society, which are quite as necessary, invariable,
fatal, as the laws that govern the physical world, have not been duly
established and recognized by science itself.

Once they shall have been recognized by science, and then from science,
by means of an extensive system of popular education and instruction,
shall have passed into the consciousness of all, the question of
liberty will be entirely solved. The most stubborn authorities must
admit that then there will be no need either of political organization
or direction or legislation, three things which, whether they emanate
from the will of the sovereign or from the vote of a parliament elected
by universal suffrage, and even should they conform to the system of
natural laws--which has never been the case and never will be the
case--are always equally fatal and hostile to the liberty of the masses
from the very fact that they impose upon them a system of external and
therefore despotic laws.

The liberty of man consists solely in this: that he obeys natural laws
because he has _himself_ recognized them as such, and not because they
have been externally imposed upon him by any extrinsic will whatever,
divine or human, collective or individual.

Suppose a learned academy, composed of the most illustrious
representatives of science; suppose this academy charged with
legislation for and the organization of society, and that, inspired only
by the purest love of truth, it frames none but laws in absolute harmony
with the latest discoveries of science. Well, I maintain, for my part,
that such legislation and such organization would be a monstrosity,
and that for two reasons: first, that human science is always and
necessarily imperfect, and that, comparing what it has discovered with
what remains to be discovered, we may say that it is still in its
cradle. So that were we to try to force the practical life of men,
collective as well as individual, into strict and exclusive conformity
with the latest data of science, we should condemn society as well as
individuals to suffer martyrdom on a bed of Procrustes, which would soon
end by dislocating and stifling them, life ever remaining an infinitely
greater thing than science.

The second reason is this: a society which should obey legislation
emanating from a scientific academy, not because it understood itself
the rational character of this legislation (in which case the existence
of the academy would become useless), but because this legislation,
emanating from the academy, was imposed in the name of a science which
it venerated without comprehending--such a society would be a society,
not of men, but of brutes. It would be a second edition of those
missions in Paraguay which submitted so long to the government of the
Jesuits. It would surely and rapidly descend to the lowest stage of

But there is still a third reason which would render such a government
impossible--namely that a scientific academy invested with a
sovereignty, so to speak, absolute, even if it were composed of the most
illustrious men, would infallibly and soon end in its own moral and
intellectual corruption. Even to-day, with the few privileges allowed
them, such is the history of all academies. The greatest scientific
genius, from the moment that he becomes an academician, an officially
licensed _savant_, inevitably lapses into sluggishness. He loses his
spontaneity, his revolutionary hardihood, and that troublesome and
savage energy characteristic of the grandest geniuses, ever called
to destroy old tottering worlds and lay the foundations of new. He
undoubtedly gains in politeness, in utilitarian and practical wisdom,
what he loses in power of thought. In a word, he becomes corrupted.

It is the characteristic of privilege and of every privileged position
to kill the mind and heart of men. The privileged man, whether
politically or economically, is a man depraved in mind and heart. That
is a social law which admits of no exception, and is as applicable to
entire nations as to classes, corporations, and individuals. It is the
law of equality, the supreme condition of liberty and humanity. The
principal object of this treatise is precisely to demonstrate this truth
in all the manifestations of human life.

A scientific body to which had been confided the government of society
would soon end by devoting itself no longer to science at all, but to
quite another affair; and that affair, as in the case of all established
powers, would be its own eternal perpetuation by rendering the society
confided to its care ever more stupid and consequently more in need of
its government and direction.

But that which is true of scientific academies is also true of all
constituent and legislative assemblies, even those chosen by universal
suffrage. In the latter case they may renew their composition, it is
true, but this does not prevent the formation in a few years' time of a
body of politicians, privileged in fact though not in law, who, devoting
themselves exclusively to the direction of the public affairs of a
country, finally form a sort of political aristocracy or oligarchy.
Witness the United States of America and Switzerland.

Consequently, no external legislation and no authority--one, for that
matter, being inseparable from the other, and both tending to the
servitude of society and the degradation of the legislators themselves.

Does it follow that I reject all authority? Far from me such a thought.
In the matter of boots, I refer to the authority of the bootmaker;
concerning houses, canals, or railroads, I consult that of the architect
or engineer. For such or such special knowledge I apply to such or such
a _savant_. But I allow neither the bootmaker nor the architect nor the
_savant_ to impose his authority upon me. I listen to them freely and
with all the respect merited by their intelligence, their character,
their knowledge, reserving always my incontestable right of criticism
and censure. I do not content myself with consulting a single authority
in any special branch; I consult several; I compare their opinions,
and choose that which seems to me the soundest. But I recognize no
infallible authority, even in special questions; consequently, whatever
respect I may have for the honesty and the sincerity of such or such an
individual, I have no absolute faith in any person. Such a faith would
be fatal to my reason, to my liberty, and even to the success of my
undertakings; it would immediately transform me into a stupid slave, an
instrument of the will and interests of others.

If I bow before the authority of the specialists and avow my readiness
to follow, to a certain extent and as long as may seem to me necessary,
their indications and even their directions, it is because their
authority is imposed upon me by no one, neither by men nor by God.
Otherwise I would repel them with horror, and bid the devil take their
counsels, their directions, and their services, certain that they would
make me pay, by the loss of my liberty and self-respect, for such scraps
of truth, wrapped in a multitude of lies, as they might give me.

I bow before the authority of special men because it is imposed upon
me by my own reason. I am conscious of my inability to grasp, in all
its details and positive developments, any very large portion of
human knowledge. The greatest intelligence would not be equal to a
comprehension of the whole. Thence results, for science as well as for
industry, the necessity of the division and association of labor. I
receive and I give--such is human life. Each directs and is directed
in his turn. Therefore there is no fixed and constant authority, but
a continual exchange of mutual, temporary, and, above all, voluntary
authority and subordination.

This same reason forbids me, then, to recognize a fixed, constant, and
universal authority, because there is no universal man, no man capable
of grasping in that wealth of detail, without which the application of
science to life is impossible, all the sciences, all the branches of
social life. And if such universality could ever be realized in a single
man, and if he wished to take advantage thereof to impose his authority
upon us, it would be necessary to drive this man out of society, because
his authority would inevitably reduce all the others to slavery and
imbecility. I do not think that society ought to maltreat men of genius
as it has done hitherto; but neither do I think it should indulge them
too far, still less accord them any privileges or exclusive rights
whatsoever; and that for three reasons: first, because it would often
mistake a charlatan for a man of genius; second, because, through such
a system of privileges, it might transform into a charlatan even a real
man of genius, demoralize him, and degrade him; and, finally, because
it would establish a master over itself.

To sum up. We recognize, then, the absolute authority of science,
because the sole object of science is the mental reproduction, as
well-considered and systematic as possible, of the natural laws inherent
in the material, intellectual, and moral life of both the physical and
the social worlds, these two worlds constituting, in fact, but one and
the same natural world. Outside of this only legitimate authority,
legitimate because rational and in harmony with human liberty, we
declare all other authorities false, arbitrary and fatal.

We recognize the absolute authority of science, but we reject the
infallibility and universality of the _savant_. In our church--if I may
be permitted to use for a moment an expression which I so detest: Church
and State are my two _bêtes noires_--in our church, as in the Protestant
church, we have a chief, an invisible Christ, science; and, like the
Protestants, more logical even than the Protestants, we will suffer
neither pope, nor council, nor conclaves of infallible cardinals, nor
bishops, nor even priests. Our Christ differs from the Protestant and
Christian Christ in this--that the latter is a personal being, ours
impersonal; the Christian Christ, already completed in an eternal past,
presents himself as a perfect being, while the completion and perfection
of our Christ, science, are ever in the future: which is equivalent to
saying that they will never be realized. Therefore, in recognizing
_absolute science_ as the only absolute authority, we in no way
compromise our liberty.

I mean by the words "absolute science," the truly universal science
which would reproduce ideally, to its fullest extent and in all its
infinite detail, the universe, the system or co-ordination of all the
natural laws manifested by the incessant development of the world. It is
evident that such a science, the sublime object of all the efforts of
the human mind, will never be fully and absolutely realized. Our Christ,
then, will remain eternally unfinished, which must considerably take
down the pride of his licensed representatives among us. Against that
God the Son in whose name they assume to impose upon us their insolent
and pedantic authority, we appeal to God the Father, who is the real
world, real life, of which he (the Son) is only a too imperfect
expression, whilst we real beings, living, working, struggling, loving,
aspiring, enjoying, and suffering, are its immediate representatives.

But, while rejecting the absolute, universal, and infallible authority
of men of science, we willingly bow before the respectable, although
relative, quite temporary, and very restricted authority of the
representatives of special sciences, asking nothing better than to
consult them by turns, and very grateful for such precious information
as they may extend to us, on condition of their willingness to receive
from us on occasions when, and concerning matters about which, we are
more learned than they. In general, we ask nothing better than to see
men endowed with great knowledge, great experience, great minds, and,
above all, great hearts, exercise over us a natural and legitimate
influence, freely accepted, and never imposed in the name of any
official authority whatsoever, celestial or terrestrial. We accept all
natural authorities and all influences of fact, but none of right; for
every authority or every influence of right, officially imposed as such,
becoming directly an oppression and a falsehood, would inevitably impose
upon us, as I believe I have sufficiently shown, slavery and absurdity.

In a word, we reject all legislation, all authority, and all privileged,
licensed, official, and legal influence, even though arising from
universal suffrage, convinced that it can turn only to the advantage of
a dominant minority of exploiters against the interests of the immense
majority in subjection to them.

This is the sense in which we are really Anarchists.

The modern idealists understand authority in quite a different way.
Although free from the traditional superstitions of all the existing
positive religions, they nevertheless attach to this idea of authority
a divine, an absolute meaning. This authority is not that of a truth
miraculously revealed, nor that of a truth rigorously and scientifically
demonstrated. They base it to a slight extent upon quasi-philosophical
reasoning, and to a large extent on vaguely religious faith, to a large
extent also on sentiment, ideally, abstractly poetical. Their religion
is, as it were, a last attempt to divinize all that constitutes humanity
in men.

This is just the opposite of the work that we are doing. In behalf
of human liberty, dignity, and prosperity, we believe it our duty to
recover from heaven the goods which it has stolen and return them to
earth. They, on the contrary, endeavoring to commit a final religiously
heroic larceny, would restore to heaven, that divine robber, finally
unmasked, the grandest, finest, and noblest of humanity's possessions.
It is now the freethinkers' turn to pillage heaven by their audacious
impiety and scientific analysis.

The idealists undoubtedly believe that human ideas and deeds, in order
to exercise greater authority among men, must be invested with a divine
sanction. How is this sanction manifested? Not by a miracle, as in the
positive religions, but by the very grandeur or sanctity of the ideas
and deeds: whatever is grand, whatever is beautiful, whatever is noble,
whatever is just, is considered divine. In this new religious cult every
man inspired by these ideas, by these deeds, becomes a priest, directly
consecrated by God himself. And the proof? He needs none beyond the
very grandeur of the ideas which he expresses and the deeds which he
performs. These are so holy that they can have been inspired only by

Such, in few words, is their whole philosophy: a philosophy of
sentiments, not of real thoughts, a sort of metaphysical pietism. This
seems harmless, but it is not so at all, and the very precise, very
narrow, and very barren doctrine hidden under the intangible vagueness
of these poetic forms leads to the same disastrous results that all the
positive religions lead to--namely, the most complete negation of human
liberty and dignity.

To proclaim as divine all that is grand, just, noble, and beautiful in
humanity is to tacitly admit that humanity of itself would have been
unable to produce it--that is, that, abandoned to itself, its own nature
is miserable, iniquitous, base, and ugly. Thus we come back to the
essence of all religion--in other words, to the disparagement of
humanity for the greater glory of divinity. And from the moment that the
natural inferiority of man and his fundamental incapacity to rise by his
own effort, unaided by any divine inspiration, to the comprehension of
just and true ideas, are admitted, it becomes necessary to admit also
all the theological, political, and social consequences of the positive
religions. From the moment that God, the perfect and supreme being, is
posited face to face with humanity, divine mediators, the elect, the
inspired of God spring from the earth to enlighten, direct, and govern
in his name the human race.

May we not suppose that all men are equally inspired by God? Then,
surely, there is no further use for mediators. But this supposition is
impossible, because it is too clearly contradicted by the facts. It
would compel us to attribute to divine inspiration all the absurdities
and errors which appear, and all the horrors, follies, base deeds, and
cowardly actions which are committed, in the world. But perhaps, then,
only a few men are divinely inspired, the great men of history, the
_virtuous geniuses_, as the illustrious Italian citizen and prophet,
Giuseppe Mazzini, called them. Immediately inspired by God himself and
supported upon universal consent expressed by popular suffrage--_Dio e
Popolo_--such as these should be called to the government of human

But here we are again fallen back under the yoke of Church and State.
It is true that in this new organization, indebted for its existence,
like all the old political organizations, to the _grace of God_, but
supported this time--at least so far as form is concerned, as a
necessary concession to the spirit of modern times, and just as in the
preambles of the imperial decrees of Napoleon III.--on the (pretended)
_will of the people_, the Church will no longer call itself Church; it
will call itself School. What matters it? On the benches of this School
will be seated not children only; there will be found the eternal minor,
the pupil confessedly forever incompetent to pass his examinations,
rise to the knowledge of his teachers, and dispense with their
discipline--the people.[4] The State will no longer call itself
Monarchy; it will call itself Republic: but it will be none the less the
State--that is, a tutelage officially and regularly established by a
minority of competent men, _men of virtuous genius or talent_, who will
watch and guide the conduct of this great, incorrigible, and terrible
child, the people. The professors of the School and the functionaries of
the State will call themselves republicans; but they will be none the
less tutors, shepherds, and the people will remain what they have been
hitherto from all eternity, a flock. Beware of shearers, for where there
is a flock there necessarily must be shepherds also to shear and devour

The people, in this system, will be the perpetual scholar and pupil. In
spite of its sovereignty, wholly fictitious, it will continue to serve
as the instrument of thoughts, wills, and consequently interests not its
own. Between this situation and what we call liberty, the only real
liberty, there is an abyss. It will be the old oppression and old
slavery under new forms; and where there is slavery there is misery,
brutishness, real social _materialism_, among the privileged classes as
well as among the masses.

_In deifying human things the idealists always end in the triumph of a
brutal materialism._ And this for a very simple reason: the divine
evaporates and rises to its own country, heaven, while the brutal alone
remains actually on earth.

Yes, the necessary consequence of theoretical idealism is practically
the most brutal materialism; not, undoubtedly, among those who sincerely
preach it--the usual result as far as they are concerned being that they
are constrained to see all their efforts struck with sterility--but
among those who try to realize their precepts in life, and in all
society so far as it allows itself to be dominated by idealistic

To demonstrate this general fact, which may appear strange at first,
but which explains itself naturally enough upon further reflection,
historical proofs are not lacking.

Compare the last two civilizations of the ancient world--the Greek
and the Roman. Which is the most materialistic, the most natural,
in its point of departure, and the most humanly ideal in its results?
Undoubtedly the Greek civilization. Which on the contrary, is the most
abstractly ideal in its point of departure--sacrificing the material
liberty of the man to the ideal liberty of the citizen, represented by
the abstraction of judicial law, and the natural development of human
society to the abstraction of the State--and which became nevertheless
the most brutal in its consequences? The Roman civilization, certainly.
It is true that the Greek civilization, like all the ancient
civilizations, including that of Rome, was exclusively national and
based on slavery. But, in spite of these two immense defects, the former
none the less conceived and realized the idea of humanity; it ennobled
and really idealized the life of men; it transformed human herds into
free associations of free men; it created through liberty the sciences,
the arts, a poetry, an immortal philosophy, and the primary concepts
of human respect. With political and social liberty, it created free
thought. At the close of the Middle Ages, during the period of the
Renaissance, the fact that some Greek emigrants brought a few of those
immortal books into Italy sufficed to resuscitate life, liberty,
thought, humanity, buried in the dark dungeon of Catholicism. Human
emancipation, that is the name of the Greek civilization. And the name
of the Roman civilization? Conquest, with all its brutal consequences.
And its last word? The omnipotence of the Cæsars. Which means the
degradation and enslavement of nations and of men.

To-day even, what is it that kills, what is it that crushes brutally,
materially, in all European countries, liberty and humanity? It is the
triumph of the Cæsarian or Roman principle.

Compare now two modern civilizations--the Italian and the German. The
first undoubtedly represents, in its general character, materialism; the
second, on the contrary, represents idealism in its most abstract, most
pure, and most transcendental form. Let us see what are the practical
fruits of the one and the other.

Italy has already rendered immense services to the cause of human
emancipation. She was the first to resuscitate and widely apply the
principle of liberty in Europe, and to restore to humanity its titles to
nobility: industry, commerce, poetry, the arts, the positive sciences,
and free thought. Crushed since by three centuries of imperial and papal
despotism, and dragged in the mud by her governing bourgeoisie, she
reappears to-day, it is true, in a very degraded condition in comparison
with what she once was. And yet how much she differs from Germany! In
Italy, in spite of this decline--temporary let us hope--one may live
and breathe humanly, surrounded by a people which seems to be born for
liberty. Italy, even bourgeois Italy, can point with pride to men like
Mazzini and Garibaldi. In Germany one breathes the atmosphere of an
immense political and social slavery, philosophically explained and
accepted by a great people with deliberate resignation and free will.
Her heroes--I speak always of present Germany, not of the Germany of the
future; of aristocratic, bureaucratic, political and bourgeoise Germany,
not of the Germany of the _prolétaires_--her heroes are quite the
opposite of Mazzini and Garibaldi: they are William I., that ferocious
and ingenuous representative of the Protestant God, Messrs. Bismarck
and Moltke, Generals Manteuffel and Werder. In all her international
relations Germany, from the beginning of her existence, has been slowly,
systematically invading, conquering, ever ready to extend her own
voluntary enslavement into the territory of her neighbors; and, since
her definitive establishment as a unitary power, she has become a
menace, a danger to the liberty of entire Europe. To-day Germany is
servility brutal and triumphant.

To show how theoretical idealism incessantly and inevitably changes into
practical materialism, one needs only to cite the example of all the
Christian Churches, and, naturally, first of all, that of the Apostolic
and Roman Church. What is there more sublime, in the ideal sense, more
disinterested, more separate from all the interests of this earth, than
the doctrine of Christ preached by that Church? And what is there more
brutally materialistic than the constant practice of that same Church
since the eighth century, from which dates her definitive establishment
as a power? What has been and still is the principal object of all her
contests with the sovereigns of Europe? Her temporal goods, her revenues
first, and then her temporal power, her political privileges. We must do
her the justice to acknowledge that she was the first to discover, in
modern history, this incontestable but scarcely Christian truth that
wealth and power, the economic exploitation and the political oppression
of the masses, are the two inseparable terms of the reign of divine
ideality on earth: wealth consolidating and augmenting power, power ever
discovering and creating new sources of wealth, and both assuring,
better than the martyrdom and faith of the apostles, better than divine
grace, the success of the Christian propagandism. This is a historical
truth, and the Protestant Churches do not fail to recognize it either. I
speak, of course, of the independent churches of England, America, and
Switzerland, not of the subjected churches of Germany. The latter have
no initiative of their own; they do what their masters, their temporal
sovereigns, who are at the same time their spiritual chieftains,
order them to do. It is well known that the Protestant propagandism,
especially in England and America, is very intimately connected with
the propagandism of the material, commercial interests of those two
great nations; and it is known also that the objects of the latter
propagandism is not at all the enrichment and material prosperity of the
countries into which it penetrates in company with the Word of God, but
rather the exploitation of those countries with a view to the enrichment
and material prosperity of certain classes, which in their own country
are very covetous and very pious at the same time.

In a word, it is not at all difficult to prove, history in hand, that
the Church, that all the Churches, Christian and non-Christian, by the
side of their spiritualistic propagandism, and probably to accelerate
and consolidate the success thereof, have never neglected to organize
themselves into great corporations for the economic exploitation of the
masses under the protection and with the direct and special blessing of
some divinity or other; that all the States, which originally, as we
know, with all their political and judicial institutions and their
dominant and privileged classes, have been only temporal branches of
these various Churches, have likewise had principally in view this same
exploitation for the benefit of lay minorities indirectly sanctioned by
the Church; finally and in general, that the action of the good God and
of all the divine idealities on earth has ended at last, always and
everywhere, in founding the prosperous materialism of the few over the
fanatical and constantly famishing idealism of the masses.

We have a new proof of this in what we see to-day. With the exception
of the great hearts and great minds whom I have before referred to as
misled, who are to-day the most obstinate defenders of idealism? In the
first place, all the sovereign courts. In France, until lately, Napoleon
III. and his wife, Madame Eugénie; all their former ministers,
courtiers, and ex-marshals, from Rouher and Bazaine to Fleury and
Piétri; the men and women of this imperial world, who have so completely
idealized and saved France; their journalists and their _savants_--the
Cassagnacs, the Girardins, the Duvernois, the Veuillots, the Leverriers,
the Dumas; the black phalanx of Jesuits and Jesuitesses in every garb;
the whole upper and middle bourgeoisie of France; the doctrinaire
liberals, and the liberals without doctrine--the Guizots, the Thiers,
the Jules Favres, the Pelletans, and the Jules Simons, all obstinate
defenders of the bourgeoise exploitation. In Prussia, in Germany,
William I., the present royal demonstrator of the good God on earth; all
his generals, all his officers, Pomeranian and other; all his army,
which, strong in its religious faith, has just conquered France in that
ideal way we know so well. In Russia, the Czar and his court; the
Mouravieffs and the Bergs, all the butchers and pious proselyters of
Poland. Everywhere, in short, religious or philosophical idealism, the
one being but the more or less free translation of the other, serves
to-day as the flag of material, bloody, and brutal force, of shameless
material exploitation; while, on the contrary, the flag of theoretical
materialism, the red flag of economic equality and social justice, is
raised by the practical idealism of the oppressed and famishing masses,
tending to realize the greatest liberty and the human right of each in
the fraternity of all men on the earth.

Who are the real idealists--the idealists not of abstraction, but of
life, not of heaven, but of earth--and who are the materialists?

It is evident that the essential condition of theoretical or divine
idealism is the sacrifice of logic, of human reason, the renunciation of
science. We see, further, that in defending the doctrines of idealism
one finds himself enlisted perforce in the ranks of the oppressors and
exploiters of the masses. These are two great reasons which, it would
seem, should be sufficient to drive every great mind, every great heart,
from idealism. How does it happen that our illustrious contemporary
idealists, who certainly lack neither mind, nor heart, nor good
will, and who have devoted their entire existence to the service of
humanity--how does it happen that they persist in remaining among the
representatives of a doctrine henceforth condemned and dishonored?

They must be influenced by a very powerful motive. It cannot be logic or
science, since logic and science have pronounced their verdict against
the idealistic doctrine. No more can it be personal interests, since
these men are infinitely above everything of that sort. It must,
then, be a powerful moral motive. Which? There can be but one. These
illustrious men think, no doubt, that idealistic theories or beliefs are
essentially necessary to the moral dignity and grandeur of man, and that
materialistic theories, on the contrary, reduce him to the level of the

And if the truth were just the opposite!

Every development, I have said, implies the negation of its point
of departure. The basis or point of departure, according to the
materialistic school, being material, the negation must be necessarily
ideal. Starting from the totality of the real world, or from what
is abstractly called matter, it logically arrives at the real
idealization--that is, at the humanization, at the full and complete
emancipation--of society. _Per contra_ and for the same reason, the
basis and point of departure of the idealistic school being ideal,
it arrives necessarily at the materialization of society, at the
organization of a brutal despotism and an iniquitous and ignoble
exploitation, under the form of Church and State. The historical
development of man according to the materialistic school, is a
progressive ascension; in the idealistic system it can be nothing
but a continuous fall.

Whatever human question we may desire to consider, we always find this
same essential contradiction between the two schools. Thus, as I have
already observed, materialism starts from animality to establish
humanity; idealism starts from divinity to establish slavery and condemn
the masses to an endless animality. Materialism denies free will and
ends in the establishment of liberty; idealism, in the name of human
dignity, proclaims free will, and on the ruins of every liberty founds
authority. Materialism rejects the principle of authority, because it
rightly considers it as the corollary of animality, and because, on the
contrary, the triumph of humanity, the object and chief significance of
history, can be realized only through liberty. In a word, you will
always find the idealists in the very act of practical materialism,
while you will see the materialists pursuing and realizing the most
grandly ideal aspirations and thoughts.

History, in the system of the idealists, as I have said, can be nothing
but a continuous fall. They begin by a terrible fall, from which they
never recover--by the _salto mortale_ from the sublime regions of pure
and absolute idea into matter. And into what kind of matter! Not into
the matter which is eternally active and mobile, full of properties and
forces, of life and intelligence, as we see it in the real world; but
into abstract matter, impoverished and reduced to absolute misery by the
regular looting of these Prussians of thought, the theologians and
metaphysicians, who have stripped it of everything to give everything
to their emperor, to their God; into the matter which, deprived of all
action and movement of its own, represents, in opposition to the divine
idea, nothing but absolute stupidity, impenetrability, inertia and

The fall is so terrible that divinity, the divine person or idea, is
flattened out, loses consciousness of itself, and never more recovers
it. And in this desperate situation it is still forced to work miracles!
For from the moment that matter becomes inert, every movement that takes
place in the world, even the most material, is a miracle, can result
only from a providential intervention, from the action of God upon
matter. And there this poor Divinity, degraded and half annihilated by
its fall, lies some thousands of centuries in this swoon, then awakens
slowly, in vain endeavoring to grasp some vague memory of itself, and
every move that it makes in this direction upon matter becomes a
creation, a new formation, a new miracle. In this way it passes through
all degrees of materiality and bestiality--first, gas, simple or
compound chemical substance, mineral, it then spreads over the earth as
vegetable and animal organization till it concentrates itself in man.
Here it would seem as if it must become itself again, for it lights in
every human being an angelic spark, a particle of its own divine being,
the immortal soul.

How did it manage to lodge a thing absolutely immaterial in a thing
absolutely material; how can the body contain, enclose, limit, paralyze
pure spirit? This, again, is one of those questions which faith alone,
that passionate and stupid affirmation of the absurd, can solve. It is
the greatest of miracles. Here, however, we have only to establish the
effects, the practical consequences of this miracle.

After thousands of centuries of vain efforts to come back to itself,
Divinity, lost and scattered in the matter which it animates and
sets in motion, finds a point of support, a sort of focus for
self-concentration. This focus is man, his immortal soul singularly
imprisoned in a mortal body. But each man considered individually is
infinitely too limited, too small, to enclose the divine immensity; it
can contain only a very small particle, immortal like the whole, but
infinitely smaller than the whole. It follows that the divine being, the
absolutely immaterial being, mind, is divisible like matter. Another
mystery whose solution must be left to faith.

If God entire could find lodgment in each man, then each man would be
God. We should have an immense quantity of Gods, each limited by all the
others and yet none the less infinite--a contradiction which would imply
a mutual destruction of men, an impossibility of the existence of more
than one. As for the particles, that is another matter; nothing more
rational, indeed, than that one particle should be limited by another
and be smaller than the whole. Only, here another contradiction
confronts us. To be limited, to be greater and smaller are attributes of
matter, not of mind. According to the materialists, it is true, mind
is only the working of the wholly material organism of man, and the
greatness or smallness of mind depends absolutely on the greater or less
material perfection of the human organism. But these same attributes
of relative limitation and grandeur cannot be attributed to mind as
the idealists conceive it, absolutely immaterial mind, mind existing
independent of matter. There can be neither greater nor smaller nor any
limit among minds, for there is only one mind--God. To add that the
infinitely small and limited particles which constitute human souls are
at the same time immortal is to carry the contradiction to a climax. But
this is a question of faith. Let us pass on.

Here then we have Divinity torn up and lodged, in infinitely small
particles, in an immense number of beings of all sexes, ages, races, and
colors. This is an excessively inconvenient and unhappy situation, for
the divine particles are so little acquainted with each other at the
outset of their human existence that they begin by devouring each other.
Moreover, in the midst of this state of barbarism and wholly animal
brutality, these divine particles, human souls, retain as it were a
vague remembrance of their primitive divinity, and are irresistibly
drawn towards their whole; they seek each other, they seek their whole.
It is Divinity itself, scattered and lost in the natural world, which
looks for itself in men, and it is so demolished by this multitude of
human prisons in which it finds itself strewn, that, in looking for
itself, it commits folly after folly.

Beginning with fetichism, it searches for and adores itself, now in a
stone, now in a piece of wood, now in a rag. It is quite likely that it
would never have succeeded in getting out of the rag, if _the other_
divinity which was not allowed to fall into matter and which is kept in
a state of pure spirit in the sublime heights of the absolute ideal, or
in the celestial regions, had not had pity on it.

Here is a new mystery--that of Divinity dividing itself into two halves,
both equally infinite, of which one--God the Father--stays in the purely
immaterial regions, and the other--God the Son--falls into matter. We
shall see directly, between these two Divinities separated from each
other, continuous relations established, from above to below and from
below to above; and these relations, considered as a single eternal and
constant act, will constitute the Holy Ghost. Such, in its veritable
theological and metaphysical meaning, is the great, the terrible mystery
of the Christian Trinity.

But let us lose no time in abandoning these heights to see what is going
on upon earth.

God the Father, seeing from the height of his eternal splendor that the
poor God the Son, flattened out and astounded by his fall, is so plunged
and lost in matter that even having reached human state he has not yet
recovered himself, decides to come to his aid. From this immense number
of particles at once immortal, divine, and infinitely small, in which
God the Son has disseminated himself so thoroughly that he does not know
himself, God the Father chooses those most pleasing to him, picks his
inspired persons, his prophets, his "men of virtuous genius," the great
benefactors and legislators of humanity: Zoroaster, Buddha, Moses,
Confucius, Lycurgus, Solon, Socrates, the divine Plato, and above all
Jesus Christ, the complete realization of God the Son, at last collected
and concentrated in a single human person; all the apostles, Saint
Peter, Saint Paul, and Saint John before all, Constantine the Great,
Mahomet, then Charlemagne, Gregory VII., Dante, and, according to some,
Luther also, Voltaire and Rousseau, Robespierre and Danton, and many
other great and holy historical personages, all of whose names it is
impossible to recapitulate, but among whom I, as a Russian, beg that
Saint Nicholas may not be forgotten.

Then we have reached at last the manifestation of God upon earth. But
immediately God appears, man is reduced to nothing. It will be said that
he is not reduced to nothing, since he is himself a particle of God.
Pardon me! I admit that a particle of a definite, limited whole, however
small it be, is a quantity, a positive greatness. But a particle of the
infinitely great, compared with it, is necessarily infinitely small.
Multiply milliards of milliards by milliards of milliards--their
product compared to the infinitely great, will be infinitely small, and
the infinitely small is equal to zero. God is everything; therefore man
and all the real world with him, the universe, are nothing. You will not
escape this conclusion.

God appears, man is reduced to nothing; and the greater Divinity
becomes, the more miserable becomes humanity. That is the history of
all religions; that is the effect of all the divine inspirations and
legislations. In history the name of God is the terrible club with which
all divinely inspired men, the great "virtuous geniuses," have beaten
down the liberty, dignity, reason, and prosperity of man.

We had first the fall of God. Now we have a fall which interests us
more--that of man, caused solely by the apparition of God manifested on

See in how profound an error our dear and illustrious idealists find
themselves. In talking to us of God they purpose, they desire, to
elevate us, emancipate us, ennoble us, and, on the contrary, they
crush and degrade us. With the name of God they imagine that they can
establish fraternity among men, and, on the contrary, they create pride,
contempt; they sow discord, hatred, war; they establish slavery. For
with God come the different degrees of divine inspiration; humanity is
divided into men highly inspired, less inspired, uninspired. All are
equally insignificant before God, it is true; but, compared with each
other, some are greater than others; not only in fact--which would be of
no consequence, because inequality in fact is lost in the collectivity
when it cannot cling to some legal fiction or institution--but by the
divine right of inspiration, which immediately establishes a fixed,
constant, petrifying inequality. The highly inspired _must_ be listened
to and obeyed by the less inspired, and the less inspired by the
uninspired. Thus we have the principle of authority well established,
and with it the two fundamental institutions of slavery: Church and

Of all despotisms that of the _doctrinaires_ or inspired religionists is
the worst. They are so jealous of the glory of their God and of the
triumph of their idea that they have no heart left for the liberty or
the dignity or even the sufferings of living men, of real men. Divine
zeal, preoccupation with the idea, finally dry up the tenderest souls,
the most compassionate hearts, the sources of human love. Considering
all that is, all that happens in the world from the point of view of
eternity or of the abstract idea, they treat passing matters with
disdain; but the whole life of real men, of men of flesh and bone, is
composed only of passing matters; they themselves are only passing
beings, who, once passed, are replaced by others likewise passing, but
never to return in person. Alone permanent or relatively eternal in men
is humanity, which steadily developing, grows richer in passing from one
generation to another. I say _relatively_ eternal, because, our planet
once destroyed--it cannot fail to perish sooner or later, since
everything which has begun must necessarily end--our planet once
decomposed, to serve undoubtedly as an element of some new formation in
the system of the universe, which alone is really eternal, who knows
what will become of our whole human development? Nevertheless, the
moment of this dissolution being an enormous distance in the future, we
may properly consider humanity, relatively to the short duration of
human life, as eternal. But this very fact of progressive humanity is
real and living only through its manifestations at definite times, in
definite places, in really living men, and not through its general idea.

The general idea is always an abstraction and, for that very reason, in
some sort a negation of real life. I have stated in the Appendix that
human thought and, in consequence of this, science can grasp and name
only the general significance of real facts, their relations,
their laws--in short, that which is permanent in their continual
transformations--but never their material, individual side, palpitating,
so to speak, with reality and life, and therefore fugitive and
intangible. Science comprehends the thought of the reality, not reality
itself; the thought of life, not life. That is its limit, its only
really insuperable limit, because it is founded on the very nature of
thought, which is the only organ of science.

Upon this nature are based the indisputable rights and grand mission of
science, but also its vital impotence and even its mischievous action
whenever, through its official licensed representatives, it arrogantly
claims the right to govern life. The mission of science is, by
observation of the general relations of passing and real facts,
to establish the general laws inherent in the development of the
phenomena of the physical and social world; it fixes, so to speak, the
unchangeable landmarks of humanity's progressive march by indicating the
general conditions which it is necessary to rigorously observe and
always fatal to ignore or forget. In a word, science is the compass of
life; but it is not life. Science is unchangeable, impersonal, general,
abstract, insensible, like the laws of which it is but the ideal
reproduction, reflected or mental--that is cerebral (using this word to
remind us that science itself is but a material product of a material
organ, the _brain_). Life is wholly fugitive and temporary, but also
wholly palpitating with reality and individuality, sensibility,
sufferings, joys, aspirations, needs, and passions. It alone
spontaneously creates real things and beings. Science creates nothing;
it establishes and recognizes only the creations of life. And every time
that scientific men, emerging from their abstract world, mingle with
living creation in the real world, all that they propose or create is
poor, ridiculously abstract, bloodless and lifeless, still-born, like
the _homunculus_ created by Wagner, the pedantic disciple of the
immortal Doctor Faust. It follows that the only mission of science is
to enlighten life, not to govern it.

The government of science and of men of science, even be they
positivists, disciples of Auguste Comte, or, again, disciples of the
_doctrinaire_ school of German Communism, cannot fail to be impotent,
ridiculous, inhuman, cruel, oppressive, exploiting, maleficent. We may
say of men of science, _as such_, what I have said of theologians and
metaphysicians: they have neither sense nor heart for individual and
living beings. We cannot even blame them for this, for it is the natural
consequence of their profession. In so far as they are men of science,
they have to deal with and can take interest in nothing except
generalities; that do the laws[5] ... they are not exclusively men
of science, but are also more or less men of life.[6]

       *     *     *     *     *

Nevertheless, we must not rely too much on this. Though we may be well
nigh certain that a _savant_ would not dare to treat a man to-day as he
treats a rabbit, it remains always to be feared that the _savants_ as
a body, if not interfered with, may submit living men to scientific
experiments, undoubtedly less cruel but none the less disagreeable to
their victims. If they cannot perform experiments upon the bodies of
individuals, they will ask nothing better than to perform them on the
social body, and that is what must be absolutely prevented.

In their existing organization, monopolizing science and remaining thus
outside of social life, the _savants_ form a separate caste, in many
respects analogous to the priesthood. Scientific abstraction is their
God, living and real individuals are their victims, and they are the
consecrated and licensed sacrificers.

Science cannot go outside of the sphere of abstractions. In this respect
it is infinitely inferior to art, which, in its turn, is peculiarly
concerned also with general types and general situations, but which
incarnates them by an artifice of its own in forms which, if they are
not living in the sense of real life, none the less excite in our
imagination the memory and sentiment of life; art in a certain sense
individualizes the types and situations which it conceives; by means of
the individualities without flesh and bone, and consequently permanent
and immortal, which it has the power to create, it recalls to our minds
the living, real individualities which appear and disappear under our
eyes. Art, then, is as it were the return of abstraction to life;
science, on the contrary, is the perpetual immolation of life, fugitive,
temporary, but real, on the altar of eternal abstractions.

Science is as incapable of grasping the individuality of a man as that
of a rabbit, being equally indifferent to both. Not that it is ignorant
of the principle of individuality: it conceives it perfectly as a
principle, but not as a fact. It knows very well that all the animal
species, including the human species, have no real existence outside of
an indefinite number of individuals, born and dying to make room for new
individuals equally fugitive. It knows that in rising from the animal
species to the superior species the principle of individuality becomes
more pronounced; the individuals appear freer and more complete. It
knows that man, the last and most perfect animal of earth, presents the
most complete and most remarkable individuality, because of his power to
conceive, concrete, personify, as it were, in his social and private
existence, the universal law. It knows, finally, when it is not vitiated
by theological or metaphysical, political or judicial _doctrinairisme_,
or even by a narrow scientific pride, when it is not deaf to the
instincts and spontaneous aspirations of life--it knows (and this is its
last word) that respect for man is the supreme law of Humanity, and that
the great, the real object of history, its only legitimate object, is
the humanization and emancipation, the real liberty, the prosperity and
happiness of each individual living in society. For, if we would
not fall back into the liberticidal fiction of the public welfare
represented by the State, a fiction always founded on the systematic
sacrifice of the people, we must clearly recognize that collective
liberty and prosperity exist only so far as they represent the sum of
individual liberties and prosperities.

Science knows all these things, but it does not and cannot go beyond
them. Abstraction being its very nature, it can well enough conceive the
principle of real and living individuality, but it can have no dealings
with real and living individuals; it concerns itself with individuals in
general, but not with Peter or James, not with such or such a one, who,
so far as it is concerned, do not, cannot, have any existence. Its
individuals, I repeat, are only abstractions.

Now, history is made, not by abstract individuals, but by acting, living
and passing individuals. Abstractions advance only when borne forward by
real men. For these beings made, not in idea only, but in reality of
flesh and blood, science has no heart: it considers them at most as
_material for intellectual and social development_. What does it care
for the particular conditions and chance fate of Peter or James? It
would make itself ridiculous, it would abdicate, it would annihilate
itself, if it wished to concern itself with them otherwise than as
examples in support of its eternal theories. And it would be ridiculous
to wish it to do so, for its mission lies not there. It cannot grasp the
concrete; it can move only in abstractions. Its mission is to busy
itself with the situation and the _general_ conditions of the existence
and development, either of the human species in general, or of such a
race, such a people, such a class or category of individuals; the
_general_ causes of their prosperity, their decline, and the best
_general_ methods of securing their progress in all ways. Provided it
accomplishes this task broadly and rationally, it will do its whole
duty, and it would be really unjust to expect more of it.

But it would be equally ridiculous, it would be disastrous to entrust it
with a mission which it is incapable of fulfilling. Since its own nature
forces it to ignore the existence of Peter and James, it must never be
permitted, nor must anybody be permitted in its name, to govern Peter
and James. For it were capable of treating them almost as it treats
rabbits. Or rather, it would continue to ignore them; but its licensed
representatives, men not at all abstract, but on the contrary in very
active life and having very substantial interests, yielding to the
pernicious influence which privilege inevitably exercises upon men,
would finally fleece other men in the name of science, just as they
have been fleeced hitherto by priests, politicians of all shades, and
lawyers, in the name of God, of the State, of judicial Right.

What I preach then is, to a certain extent, the _revolt of life against
science_, or rather against the _government of science_, not to destroy
science--that would be high treason to humanity--but to remand it to its
place so that it can never leave it again. Until now all human history
has been only a perpetual and bloody immolation of millions of poor
human beings in honor of some pitiless abstraction--God, country, power
of State, national honor, historical rights, judicial rights, political
liberty, public welfare. Such has been up to to-day the natural,
spontaneous, and inevitable movement of human societies. We cannot undo
it; we must submit to it so far as the past is concerned, as we submit
to all natural fatalities. We must believe that that was the only
possible way to educate the human race. For we must not deceive
ourselves: even in attributing the larger part to the Machiavellian
wiles of the governing classes, we have to recognize that no minority
would have been powerful enough to impose all these horrible sacrifices
upon the masses if there had not been in the masses themselves a dizzy
spontaneous movement which pushed them on to continual self-sacrifice,
now to one, now to another of these devouring abstractions, the vampires
of history, ever nourished upon human blood.

We readily understand that this is very gratifying to the theologians,
politicians, and jurists. Priests of these abstractions, they live only
by the continual immolation of the people. Nor is it more surprising
that metaphysics, too, should give its consent. Its only mission is to
justify and rationalize as far as possible the iniquitous and absurd.
But that positive science itself should have shown the same tendencies
is a fact which we must deplore while we establish it. That it has done
so is due to two reasons: in the first place, because, constituted
outside of life, it is represented by a privileged body; and in the
second place, because thus far it has posited itself as an absolute and
final object of all human development. By a judicious criticism, which
it can and finally will be forced to pass upon itself, it would
understand, on the contrary, that it is only a means for the realization
of a much higher object--that of the complete humanization of the _real_
situation of all the _real_ individuals who are born, who live, and who
die, on earth.

The immense advantage of positive science over theology, metaphysics,
politics, and judicial right consists in this--that, in place of the
false and fatal abstractions set up by these doctrines, it posits true
abstractions which express the general nature and logic of things, their
general relations, and the general laws of their development. This
separates it profoundly from all preceding doctrines, and will assure it
for ever a great position in society: it will constitute in a certain
sense society's collective consciousness. But there is one aspect in
which it resembles all these doctrines: its only possible object being
abstractions, it is forced by its very nature to ignore real men,
outside of whom the truest abstractions have no existence. To remedy
this radical defect positive science will have to proceed by a different
method from that followed by the doctrines of the past. The latter have
taken advantage of the ignorance of the masses to sacrifice them with
delight to their abstractions, which, by the way, are always very
lucrative to those who represent them in flesh and bone. Positive
science, recognizing its absolute inability to conceive real individuals
and interest itself in their lot, must definitely and absolutely
renounce all claim to the government of societies; for if it should
meddle therein, it would only sacrifice continually the living men whom
it ignores to the abstractions which constitute the sole object of its
legitimate preoccupations.

The true science of history, for instance, does not yet exist; scarcely
do we begin to-day to catch a glimpse of its extremely complicated
conditions. But suppose it were definitely developed, what could it give
us? It would exhibit a faithful and rational picture of the natural
development of the general conditions--material and ideal, economical,
political and social, religious, philosophical, æsthetic, and
scientific--of the societies which have a history. But this universal
picture of human civilization, however detailed it might be, would never
show anything beyond general and consequently _abstract_ estimates. The
milliards of individuals who have furnished the _living and suffering
materials_ of this history at once triumphant and dismal--triumphant by
its general results, dismal by the immense hecatomb of human victims
"crushed under its car"--those milliards of obscure individuals without
whom none of the great abstract results of history would have been
obtained--and who, bear in mind, have never benefited by any of these
results--will find no place, not even the slightest, in our annals. They
have lived and been sacrificed, crushed for the good of abstract
humanity, that is all.

Shall we blame the science of history? That would be unjust and
ridiculous. Individuals cannot be grasped by thought, by reflection, or
even by human speech, which is capable of expressing abstractions only;
they cannot be grasped in the present day any more than in the past.
Therefore social science itself, the science of the future, will
necessarily continue to ignore them. All that we have a right to demand
of it is that it shall point us with faithful and sure hand to the
_general causes of individual suffering_--among these causes it will not
forget the immolation and subordination (still too frequent, alas!) of
living individuals to abstract generalities--at the same time showing
us the _general conditions necessary to the real emancipation of the
individuals living in society_. That is its mission; those are its
limits, beyond which the action of social science can be only impotent
and fatal. Beyond those limits being the _doctrinaire_ and governmental
pretentions of its licensed representatives, its priests. It is time to
have done with all popes and priests; we want them no longer, even if
they call themselves Social Democrats.

Once more, the sole mission of science is to light the road. Only Life,
delivered from all its governmental and _doctrinaire_ barriers, and
given full liberty of action, can create.

How solve this antinomy?

On the one hand, science is indispensable to the rational organization
of society; on the other, being incapable of interesting itself in that
which is real and living, it must not interfere with the real or
practical organization of society.

This contradiction can be solved only in one way: by the liquidation of
science as a moral being existing outside the life of all, and
represented by a body of breveted _savants_; it must spread among the
masses. Science, being called upon to henceforth represent society's
collective consciousness, must really become the property of everybody.
Thereby, without losing anything of its universal character, of which
it can never divest itself without ceasing to be science, and while
continuing to concern itself exclusively with general causes, the
conditions and fixed relations of individuals and things, it will become
one in fact with the immediate and real life of all individuals. That
will be a movement analogous to that which said to the Protestants at
the beginning of the Reformation that there was no further need of
priests for man, who would henceforth be his own priest, every man,
thanks to the invisible intervention of the Lord Jesus Christ alone,
having at last succeeded in swallowing his good God. But here the
question is not of Jesus Christ, nor good God, nor of political liberty,
nor of judicial right--things all theologically or metaphysically
revealed, and all alike indigestible. The world of scientific
abstractions is not revealed; it is inherent in the real world, of which
it is only the general or abstract expression and representation. As
long as it forms a separate region, specially represented by the
_savants_ as a body, this ideal world threatens to take the place of a
good God to the real world, reserving for its licensed representatives
the office of priests. That is the reason why it is necessary to
dissolve the special social organization of the _savants_ by general
instruction, equal for all in all things, in order that the masses,
ceasing to be flocks led and shorn by privileged priests, may take into
their own hands the direction of their destinies.[7]

But until the masses shall have reached this degree of instruction, will
it be necessary to leave them to the government of scientific men?
Certainly not. It would be better for them to dispense with science than
allow themselves to be governed by _savants_. The first consequence of
the government of these men would be to render science inaccessible to
the people, and such a government would necessarily be aristocratic,
because the existing scientific institutions are essentially
aristocratic. An aristocracy of learning! from the practical point of
view the most implacable, and from the social point of view the most
haughty and insulting--such would be the power established in the name
of science. This _régime_ would be capable of paralyzing the life
and movement of society. The _savants_ always presumptuous, ever
self-sufficient and ever impotent, would desire to meddle with
everything, and the sources of life would dry up under the breath
of their abstractions.

Once more, Life, not science, creates life; the spontaneous action of
the people themselves alone can create liberty. Undoubtedly it would be
a very fortunate thing if science could, from this day forth, illuminate
the spontaneous march of the people towards their emancipation. But
better an absence of light than a false and feeble light, kindled only
to mislead those who follow it. After all, the people will not lack
light. Not in vain have they traversed a long historic career, and paid
for their errors by centuries of misery. The practical summary of their
painful experiences constitutes a sort of traditional science, which in
certain respects is worth as much as theoretical science. Last of all, a
portion of the youth--those of the bourgeois students who feel hatred
enough for the falsehood, hypocrisy, injustice, and cowardice of the
bourgeoisie to find courage to turn their backs upon it, and passion
enough to unreservedly embrace the just and human cause of the
proletariat--those will be, as I have already said, fraternal
instructors of the people; thanks to them, there will be no occasion
for the government of the _savants_.

If the people should beware of the government of the _savants_, all the
more should they provide against that of the inspired idealists. The
more sincere these believers and poets of heaven, the more dangerous
they become. The scientific abstraction, I have said, is a rational
abstraction, true in its essence, necessary to life, of which it is the
theoretical representation, or, if one prefers, the conscience. It may,
it must be, absorbed and digested by life. The idealistic abstraction,
God, is a corrosive poison, which destroys and decomposes life,
falsifies and kills it. The pride of the idealists, not being personal
but divine, is invincible and inexorable: it may, it must, die, but it
will never yield, and while it has a breath left it will try to subject
men to its God, just as the lieutenants of Prussia, these practical
idealists of Germany, would like to see the people crushed under the
spurred boot of their emperor. The faith is the same, the end but little
different, and the result, as that of faith, is slavery.

It is at the same time the triumph of the ugliest and most brutal
materialism. There is no need to demonstrate this in the case of
Germany; one would have to be blind to avoid seeing it at the present
hour. But I think it is still necessary to demonstrate it in the case
of divine idealism.

Man, like all the rest of nature, is an entirely material being. The
mind, the facility of thinking, of receiving and reflecting upon
different external and internal sensations, of remembering them when
they have passed and reproducing them by the imagination, of comparing
and distinguishing them, of abstracting determinations common to
them and thus creating general concepts, and finally of forming
ideas by grouping and combining concepts according to different
methods--intelligence, in a word, sole creator of our whole ideal world,
is a property of the animal body and especially of the quite material
organism of the brain.

We know this certainly, by the experience of all, which no fact has ever
contradicted and which any man can verify at any moment of his life. In
all animals, without excepting the wholly inferior species, we find a
certain degree of intelligence, and we see that, in the series of
species, animal intelligence develops in proportion as the organization
of a species approaches that of man, but that in man alone it attains
to that power of abstraction which properly constitutes thought.

Universal experience,[8] which is the sole origin, the source of all our
knowledge, shows us, therefore, that all intelligence is always attached
to some animal body, and that the intensity, the power, of this animal
function depends upon the relative perfection of the organism. The
latter of these results of universal experience is not applicable only
to the different animal species; we establish it likewise in men, whose
intellectual and moral power depends so clearly upon the greater or less
perfection of their organism as a race, as a nation, as a class, and as
individuals, that it is not necessary to insist upon this point.[9]

On the other hand, it is certain that no man has ever seen or can see
pure mind, detached from all material form, existing separately from
any animal body whatsoever. But if no person has seen it, how is it
that men have come to believe in its existence? The fact of this belief
is certain, and if not universal, as all the idealists pretend, at
least very general, and as such it is entirely worthy of our closest
attention, for a general belief, however foolish it may be, exercises
too potent a sway over the destiny of men to warrant us in ignoring it
or putting it aside.

The explanation of this belief, moreover, is rational enough. The
example afforded us by children and young people, and even by many men
long past the age of majority, shows us that man may use his mental
faculties for a long time before accounting to himself for the way in
which he uses them, before becoming clearly conscious of it. During
this working of the mind unconscious of itself, during this action of
innocent or believing intelligence, man, obsessed by the external
world, pushed on by that internal goad called life and its manifold
necessities, creates a quantity of imaginations, concepts, and ideas
necessarily very imperfect at first and conforming but slightly to the
reality of the things and facts which they endeavor to express. Not
having yet the consciousness of his own intelligent action, not knowing
yet that he himself has produced and continues to produce these
imaginations, these concepts, these ideas, ignoring their wholly
_subjective_--that is, human--origin, he must naturally consider them as
_objective_ beings, as real beings, wholly independent of him, existing
by themselves and in themselves.

It was thus that primitive peoples, emerging slowly from their animal
innocence, created their gods. Having created them, not suspecting
that they themselves were the real creators, they worshipped them;
considering them as real beings infinitely superior to themselves, they
attributed omnipotence to them, and recognized themselves as their
creatures, their slaves. As fast as human ideas develop, the gods, who,
as I have already stated, were never anything more than a fantastic,
ideal, poetical reverberation or an inverted image, become idealized
also. At first gross fetiches, they gradually become pure spirits,
existing outside of the visible world, and at last, in the course of a
long historic evolution, are confounded in a single Divine Being, pure,
eternal, absolute Spirit, creator and master of the worlds.

In every development, just or false, real or imaginary, collective or
individual, it is always the first step, the first act that is the
most difficult. That step once taken, the rest follows naturally as a
necessary consequence. The difficult step in the historical development
of this terrible religious insanity which continues to obsess and crush
us was to posit a divine world as such, outside the world. This first
act of madness, so natural from the physiological point of view and
consequently necessary in the history of humanity, was not accomplished
at a single stroke. I know not how many centuries were needed to develop
this belief and make it a governing influence upon the mental customs of
men. But, once established, it became omnipotent, as each insane notion
necessarily becomes when it takes possession of man's brain. Take a
madman, whatever the object of his madness--you will find that obscure
and fixed idea which obsesses him seems to him the most natural thing in
the world, and that, on the contrary, the real things which contradict
this idea seem to him ridiculous and odious follies. Well, religion is
a collective insanity, the more powerful because it is traditional
folly, and because its origin is lost in the most remote antiquity. As
collective insanity it has penetrated to the very depths of the public
and private existence of the peoples; it is incarnate in society; it
has become, so to speak, the collective soul and thought. Every man
is enveloped in it from his birth; he sucks it in with his mother's
milk, absorbs it with all that he touches, all that he sees. He is so
exclusively fed upon it, so poisoned and penetrated by it in all his
being, that later, however powerful his natural mind, he has to make
unheard-of efforts to deliver himself from it, and even then never
completely succeeds. We have one proof of this in our modern idealists,
and another in our _doctrinaire_ materialists--the German Communists.
They have found no way to shake off the religion of the State.

The supernatural world, the divine world, once well established in the
imagination of the peoples, the development of the various religious
systems has followed its natural and logical course, conforming,
moreover, in all things to the contemporary development of economical
and political relations of which it has been in all ages, in the world
of religious fancy, the faithful reproduction and divine consecration.
Thus has the collective and historical insanity which calls itself
religion been developed since fetichism, passing through all the stages
from polytheism to Christian monotheism.

The second step in the development of religious beliefs, undoubtedly the
most difficult next to the establishment of a separate divine world,
was precisely this transition from polytheism to monotheism, from
the religious materialism of the pagans to the spiritualistic faith
of the Christians. The pagan gods--and this was their principal
characteristic--were first of all exclusively national gods. Very
numerous, they necessarily retained a more or less material character,
or, rather, they were so numerous because they were material, diversity
being one of the principal attributes of the real world. The pagan gods
were not yet strictly the negation of real things; they were only a
fantastic exaggeration of them.

We have seen how much this transition cost the Jewish people,
constituting, so to speak, its entire history. In vain did Moses and
the prophets preach the one god; the people always relapsed into their
primitive idolatry, into the ancient and comparatively much more natural
and convenient faith in many good gods, more material, more human, and
more palpable. Jehovah himself, their sole God, the God of Moses and the
prophets, was still an extremely national God, who, to reward and punish
his faithful followers, his chosen people, used material arguments,
often stupid, always gross and cruel. It does not even appear that
faith in his existence implied a negation of the existence of earlier
gods. The Jewish God did not deny the existence of these rivals; he
simply did not want his people to worship them side by side with him,
because before all Jehovah was a very jealous God. His first commandment
was this:

"I am the Lord thy God, and thou shalt have no other gods before me."

Jehovah, then, was only a first draft, very material and very rough, of
the supreme deity of modern idealism. Moreover, he was only a national
God, like the Russian God worshipped by the German generals, subjects of
the Czar and patriots of the empire of all the Russias; like the German
God, whom the pietists and the German generals, subjects of William I.
at Berlin, will no doubt soon proclaim. The supreme being cannot be a
national God; he must be the God of entire Humanity. Nor can the supreme
being be a material being; he must be the negation of all matter--pure
spirit. Two things have proved necessary to the realization of the
worship of the supreme being: (1) a realization, such as it is, of
Humanity by the negation of nationalities and national forms of worship;
(2) a development, already far advanced, of metaphysical ideas in order
to spiritualize the gross Jehovah of the Jews.

The first condition was fulfilled by the Romans, though in a very
negative way no doubt, by the conquest of most of the countries known to
the ancients and by the destruction of their national institutions. The
gods of all the conquered nations, gathered in the Pantheon, mutually
cancelled each other. This was the first draft of humanity, very gross
and quite negative.

As for the second condition, the spiritualization of Jehovah, that was
realized by the Greeks long before the conquest of their country by the
Romans. They were the creators of metaphysics. Greece, in the cradle of
her history, had already found from the Orient a divine world which had
been definitely established in the traditional faith of her peoples;
this world had been left and handed over to her by the Orient. In her
instinctive period, prior to her political history, she had developed
and prodigiously humanized this divine world through her poets; and when
she actually began her history, she already had a religion ready-made,
the most sympathetic and noble of all the religions which have existed,
so far at least as a religion--that is, a lie--can be noble and
sympathetic. Her great thinkers--and no nation has had greater than
Greece--found the divine world established, not only outside of
themselves in the people, but also in themselves as a habit of feeling
and thought, and naturally they took it as a point of departure. That
they made no theology--that is, that they did not wait in vain to
reconcile dawning reason with the absurdities of such a god, as did the
scholastics of the Middle Ages--was already much in their favor. They
left the gods out of their speculations and attached themselves directly
to the divine idea, one, invisible, omnipotent, eternal, and absolutely
spiritualistic but impersonal. As concerns Spiritualism, then, the Greek
metaphysicians, much more than the Jews, were the creators of the
Christian god. The Jews only added to it the brutal personality of
their Jehovah.

That a sublime genius like the divine Plato could have been absolutely
convinced of the reality of the divine idea shows us how contagious, how
omnipotent, is the tradition of the religious mania even on the greatest
minds. Besides, we should not be surprised at it, since, even in our
day, the greatest philosophical genius which has existed since Aristotle
and Plato, Hegel--in spite even of Kant's criticism, imperfect and too
metaphysical though it be, which had demolished the objectivity or
reality of the divine ideas--tried to replace these divine ideas upon
their transcendental or celestial throne. It is true that Hegel went
about his work of restoration in so impolite a manner that he killed the
good God for ever. He took away from these ideas their divine halo, by
showing to whoever will read him that they were never anything more
than a creation of the human mind running through history in search
of itself. To put an end to all religious insanities and the divine
_mirage_, he left nothing lacking but the utterance of those grand words
which were said after him, almost at the same time, by two great minds
who had never heard of each other--Ludwig Feuerbach, the disciple and
demolisher of Hegel, in Germany, and Auguste Comte, the founder of
positive philosophy, in France. These words were as follows:

"Metaphysics are reduced to psychology." All the metaphysical systems
have been nothing else than human psychology developing itself in

To-day it is no longer difficult to understand how the divine ideas were
born, how they were created in succession by the abstractive faculty of
man. Man made the gods. But in the time of Plato this knowledge was
impossible. The collective mind, and consequently the individual mind as
well, even that of the greatest genius, was not ripe for that. Scarcely
had it said with Socrates: "Know thyself!" This self-knowledge existed
only in a state of intuition; in fact, it amounted to nothing. Hence it
was impossible for the human mind to suspect that it was itself the
sole creator of the divine world. It found the divine world before
it; it found it as history, as tradition, as a sentiment, as a habit
of thought; and it necessarily made it the object of its loftiest
speculations. Thus was born metaphysics, and thus were developed and
perfected the divine ideas, the basis of Spiritualism.

It is true that after Plato there was a sort of inverse movement in the
development of the mind. Aristotle, the true father of science and
positive philosophy, did not deny the divine world, but concerned
himself with it as little as possible. He was the first to study, like
the analyst and experimenter that he was, logic, the laws of human
thought, and at the same time the physical world, not in its ideal,
illusory essence, but in its real aspect. After him the Greeks of
Alexandria established the first school of the positive scientists. They
were atheists. But their atheism left no mark on their contemporaries.
Science tended more and more to separate itself from life. After Plato,
divine ideas were rejected in metaphysics themselves; this was done by
the Epicureans and Skeptics, two sects who contributed much to the
degradation of human aristocracy, but they had no effect upon the

Another school, infinitely more influential, was formed at Alexandria.
This was the school of neo-Platonists. These, confounding in an impure
mixture the monstrous imaginations of the Orient with the ideas of
Plato, were the true originators, and later the elaborators, of the
Christian dogmas.

Thus the personal and gross egoism of Jehovah, the not less brutal
and gross Roman conquest, and the metaphysical ideal speculation of
the Greeks, materialized by contact with the Orient, were the three
historical elements which made up the spiritualistic religion of the

       *     *     *     *     *

Before the altar of a unique and supreme God was raised on the ruins
of the numerous altars of the pagan gods, the autonomy of the various
nations composing the pagan or ancient world had to be destroyed first.
This was very brutally done by the Romans who, by conquering the
greatest part of the globe known to the ancients, laid the first
foundations, quite gross and negative ones no doubt, of humanity. A God
thus raised above the national differences, material and social, of all
countries, and in a certain sense the direct negation of them, must
necessarily be an immaterial and abstract being. But faith in the
existence of such a being, so difficult a matter, could not spring
into existence suddenly. Consequently, as I have demonstrated in the
Appendix, it went through a long course of preparation and development
at the hands of Greek metaphysics, which were the first to establish
in a philosophical manner the notion of _the divine idea_, a model
eternally creative and always reproduced by the visible world. But the
divinity conceived and created by Greek philosophy was an impersonal
divinity. No logical and serious metaphysics being able to rise, or,
rather, to descend, to the idea of a personal God, it became necessary,
therefore, to imagine a God who was one and very personal at once. He
was found in the very brutal, selfish, and cruel person of Jehovah, the
national God of the Jews. But the Jews, in spite of that exclusive
national spirit which distinguishes them even to-day, had become in
fact, long before the birth of Christ, the most international people of
the world. Some of them carried away as captives, but many more even
urged on by that mercantile passion which constitutes one of the
principal traits of their character, they had spread through all
countries, carrying everywhere the worship of their Jehovah, to whom
they remained all the more faithful the more he abandoned them.

In Alexandria this terrible god of the Jews made the personal
acquaintance of the metaphysical divinity of Plato, already much
corrupted by Oriental contact, and corrupted her still more by his own.
In spite of his national, jealous, and ferocious exclusivism, he could
not long resist the graces of this ideal and impersonal divinity
of the Greeks. He married her, and from this marriage was born
the spiritualistic--but not spirited--God of the Christians. The
neo-Platonists of Alexandria are known to have been the principal
creators of the Christian theology.

Nevertheless theology alone does not make a religion, any more than
historical elements suffice to create history. By historical elements I
mean the general conditions of any real development whatsoever--for
example in this case the conquest of the world by the Romans and the
meeting of the God of the Jews with the ideal of divinity of the Greeks.
To impregnate the historical elements, to cause them to run through a
series of new historical transformations, a living, spontaneous fact was
needed, without which they might have remained many centuries longer
in the state of unproductive elements. This fact was not lacking in
Christianity: it was the propagandism, martyrdom, and death of Jesus

We know almost nothing of this great and saintly personage, all that
the gospels tell us being contradictory, and so fabulous that we can
scarcely seize upon a few real and vital traits. But it is certain
that he was the preacher of the poor, the friend and consoler of the
wretched, of the ignorant, of the slaves, and of the women, and that by
these last he was much loved. He promised eternal life to all who are
oppressed, to all who suffer here below; and the number is immense.
He was hanged, as a matter of course, by the representatives of the
official morality and public order of that period. His disciples and
the disciples of his disciples succeeded in spreading, thanks to the
destruction of the national barriers by the Roman conquest, and
propagated the Gospel in all the countries known to the ancients.
Everywhere they were received with open arms by the slaves and the
women, the two most oppressed, most suffering, and naturally also the
most ignorant classes of the ancient world. For even such few proselytes
as they made in the privileged and learned world they were indebted in
great part to the influence of women. Their most extensive propagandism
was directed almost exclusively among the people, unfortunate and
degraded by slavery. This was the first awakening, the first
intellectual revolt of the proletariat.

       *     *     *     *     *

The great honor of Christianity, its incontestable merit, and the whole
secret of its unprecedented and yet thoroughly legitimate triumph, lay
in the fact that it appealed to that suffering and immense public to
which the ancient world, a strict and cruel intellectual and political
aristocracy, denied even the simplest rights of humanity. Otherwise it
never could have spread. The doctrine taught by the apostles of Christ,
wholly consoling as it may have seemed to the unfortunate, was too
revolting, too absurd from the standpoint of human reason, ever to have
been accepted by enlightened men. According with what joy the apostle
Paul speaks of the _scandale de la foi_ and of the triumph of that
_divine folie_ rejected by the powerful and wise of the century, but
all the more passionately accepted by the simple, the ignorant, and the

Indeed there must have been a very deep-seated dissatisfaction with
life, a very intense thirst of heart, and an almost absolute poverty of
thought, to secure the acceptance of the Christian absurdity, the most
audacious and monstrous of all religious absurdities.

This was not only the negation of all the political, social, and
religious institutions of antiquity: it was the absolute overturn of
common sense, of all human reason. The living being, the real world,
were considered thereafter as nothing; whereas the product of man's
abstractive faculty, the last and supreme abstraction in which this
faculty, far beyond existing things, even beyond the most general
determinations of the living being, the ideas of space and time, having
nothing left to advance beyond, rests in contemplation of his emptiness
and absolute immobility.

That abstraction, that _caput mortuum_, absolutely void of all
contents, the true nothing, God, is proclaimed the only real, eternal,
all-powerful being. The real All is declared nothing, and the absolute
nothing the All. The shadow becomes the substance, and the substance
vanishes like a shadow.[10]

All this was audacity and absurdity unspeakable, the true _scandale
de la foi_, the triumph of credulous stupidity over the mind for
the masses; and--for a few--the triumphant irony of a mind wearied,
corrupted, disillusioned, and disgusted in honest and serious search
for truth; it was that necessity of shaking off thought and becoming
brutally stupid so frequently felt by surfeited minds:

                    _Credo quod absurdum._

I believe in the absurd; I believe in it, precisely and mainly, because
it is absurd. In the same way many distinguished and enlightened minds
in our day believe in animal magnetism, spiritualism, tipping tables,
and--why go so far?--believe still in Christianity, in idealism, in God.

The belief of the ancient proletariat, like that of the modern, was
more robust and simple, less _haut goût_. The Christian propagandism
appealed to its heart, not to its mind; to its eternal aspirations, its
necessities, its sufferings, its slavery, not to its reason, which still
slept and therefore could know nothing about logical contradictions and
the evidence of the absurd. It was interested solely in knowing when the
hour of promised deliverance would strike, when the kingdom of God would
come. As for theological dogmas, it did not trouble itself about them
because it understood nothing about them. The proletariat converted to
Christianity constituted its growing material but not its intellectual

As for the Christian dogmas, it is known that they were elaborated
in a series of theological and literary works and in the Councils,
principally by the converted neo-Platonists of the Orient. The Greek
mind had fallen so low that, in the fourth century of the Christian
era, the period of the first Council, the idea of a personal God, pure,
eternal, absolute mind, creator and supreme master, existing outside of
the world, was unanimously accepted by the Church Fathers; as a logical
consequence of this absolute absurdity, it then became natural and
necessary to believe in the immateriality and immortality of the human
soul, lodged and imprisoned in a body only partially mortal, there being
in this body itself a portion which, while material, is immortal like
the soul, and must be resurrected with it. We see how difficult it was,
even for the Church Fathers, to conceive pure minds outside of any
material form. It should be added that, in general, it is the character
of every metaphysical and theological argument to seek to explain one
absurdity by another.

It was very fortunate for Christianity that it met a world of slaves. It
had another piece of good luck in the invasion of the Barbarians. The
latter were worthy people, full of natural force, and, above all, urged
on by a great necessity of life and a great capacity for it; brigands
who had stood every test, capable of devastating and gobbling up
anything, like their successors, the Germans of to-day; but they were
much less systematic and pedantic than these last, much less moralistic,
less learned, and on the other hand much more independent and proud,
capable of science and not incapable of liberty, as are the bourgeois of
modern Germany. But, in spite of all their great qualities, they were
nothing but barbarians--that is, as indifferent to all questions of
theology and metaphysics as the ancient slaves, a great number of whom,
moreover, belonged to their race. So that, their practical repugnance
once overcome, it was not difficult to convert them theoretically to

For ten centuries Christianity, armed with the omnipotence of Church and
State and opposed by no competition, was able to deprave, debase, and
falsify the mind of Europe. It had no competitors, because outside of
the Church there were neither thinkers nor educated persons. It alone
thought, it alone spoke and wrote, it alone taught. Though heresies
arose in its bosom, they affected only the theological or practical
developments of the fundamental dogma, never that dogma itself. The
belief in God, pure spirit and creator of the world, and the belief in
the immateriality of the soul remained untouched. This double belief
became the ideal basis of the whole Occidental and Oriental civilization
of Europe; it penetrated and became incarnate in all the institutions,
all the details of the public and private life of all classes, and the
masses as well.

After that, is it surprising that this belief has lived until the
present day, continuing to exercise its disastrous influence even upon
select minds, such as those of Mazzini, Michelet, Quinet, and so many
others? We have seen that the first attack upon it came from the
_renaissance_ of the free mind in the fifteenth century, which produced
heroes and martyrs like Vanini, Giordano Bruno, and Galileo. Although
drowned in the noise, tumult, and passions of the Reformation, it
noiselessly continued its invisible work, bequeathing to the noblest
minds of each generation its task of human emancipation by the
destruction of the absurd, until at last, in the latter half of the
eighteenth century, it again reappeared in broad day, boldly waving the
flag of atheism and materialism.

The human mind, then, one might have supposed, was at last about to
deliver itself from all the divine obsessions. Not at all. The divine
falsehood upon which humanity had been feeding for eighteen centuries
(speaking of Christianity only) was once more to show itself more
powerful than human truth. No longer able to make use of the black
tribe, of the ravens consecrated by the Church, of the Catholic or
Protestant priests, all confidence in whom had been lost, it made use of
lay priests, short-robed liars and sophists, among whom the principal
_rôles_ devolved upon two fatal men, one the falsest mind, the other the
most doctrinally despotic will, of the last century--J. J. Rousseau and

The first is the perfect type of narrowness and suspicious meanness, of
exaltation without other object than his own person, of cold enthusiasm
and hypocrisy at once sentimental and implacable, of the falsehood of
modern idealism. He may be considered as the real creator of modern
reaction. To all appearance the most democratic writer of the eighteenth
century, he bred within himself the pitiless despotism of the statesman.
He was the prophet of the doctrinaire State, as Robespierre, his worthy
and faithful disciple, tried to become its high priest. Having heard the
saying of Voltaire that, if God did not exist, it would be necessary to
invent him, J. J. Rousseau invented the Supreme Being, the abstract and
sterile God of the deists. And it was in the name of the Supreme Being,
and of the hypocritical virtue commanded by this Supreme Being, that
Robespierre guillotined first the Hébertists and then the very genius of
the Revolution, Danton, in whose person he assassinated the Republic,
thus preparing the way for the thenceforth necessary triumph of the
dictatorship of Bonaparte I. After this great triumph, the idealistic
reaction sought and found servants less fanatical, less terrible,
nearer to the diminished stature of the actual bourgeoisie. In France,
Chateaubriand, Lamartine, and--shall I say it? Why not? All must be said
if it is truth--Victor Hugo himself, the democrat, the republican, the
quasi-socialist of to-day! and after them the whole melancholy and
sentimental company of poor and pallid minds who, under the leadership
of these masters, established the modern romantic school; in Germany,
the Schlegels, the Tiecks, the Novalis, the Werners, the Schellings, and
so many others besides, whose names do not even deserve to be recalled.

The literature created by this school was the very reign of ghosts and
phantoms. It could not stand the sunlight; the twilight alone permitted
it to live. No more could it stand the brutal contact of the masses.
It was the literature of the tender, delicate, distinguished souls,
aspiring to heaven, and living on earth as if in spite of themselves.
It had a horror and contempt for the politics and questions of the
day; but when perchance it referred to them, it showed itself frankly
reactionary, took the side of the Church against the insolence of
the freethinkers, of the kings against the peoples, and of all the
aristocrats against the vile rabble of the streets. For the rest, as I
have just said, the dominant feature of the school of romanticism was a
quasi-complete indifference to politics. Amid the clouds in which it
lived could be distinguished two real points--the rapid development of
bourgeois materialism and the ungovernable outburst of individual

To understand this romantic literature, the reason for its existence
must be sought in the transformation which had been effected in the
bosom of the bourgeois class since the revolution of 1793.

From the Renaissance and the Reformation down to the Revolution, the
bourgeoisie, if not in Germany, at least in Italy, in France, in
Switzerland, in England, in Holland, was the hero and representative of
the revolutionary genius of history. From its bosom sprang most of the
freethinkers of the fifteenth century, the religious reformers of
the two following centuries, and the apostles of human emancipation,
including this time those of Germany, of the past century. It alone,
naturally supported by the powerful arm of the people, who had faith in
it, made the revolution of 1789 and '93. It proclaimed the downfall of
royalty and of the Church, the fraternity of the peoples, the rights
of man and of the citizen. Those are its titles to glory; they are

Soon it split. A considerable portion of the purchasers of national
property having become rich, and supporting themselves no longer on the
proletariat of the cities, but on the major portion of the peasants of
France, these also having become landed proprietors, had no aspiration
left but for peace, the re-establishment of public order, and the
foundation of a strong and regular government. It therefore welcomed
with joy the dictatorship of the first Bonaparte, and, although always
Voltairean, did not view with displeasure the Concordat with the Pope
and the re-establishment of the official Church in France: "_Religion is
so necessary to the people!_" Which means that, satiated themselves,
this portion of the bourgeoisie then began to see that it was needful
to the maintenance of their situation and the preservation of their
newly-acquired estates to appease the unsatisfied hunger of the people
by promises of heavenly manna. Then it was that Chateaubriand began to

Napoleon fell and the Restoration brought back into France the
legitimate monarchy, and with it the power of the Church and of the
nobles, who regained, if not the whole, at least a considerable portion
of their former influence. This reaction threw the bourgeoisie back into
the Revolution, and with the revolutionary spirit that of skepticism
also was re-awakened in it. It set Chateaubriand aside and began to read
Voltaire again; but it did not go so far as Diderot: its debilitated
nerves could not stand nourishment so strong. Voltaire, on the contrary,
at once a freethinker and a deist, suited it very well. Béranger and P.
L. Courier expressed this new tendency perfectly. The "God of the good
people" and the ideal of the bourgeois king, at once liberal and
democratic, sketched against the majestic and thenceforth inoffensive
background of the Empire's gigantic victories--such was at that period
the daily intellectual food of the bourgeoisie of France.

Lamartine, to be sure, excited by a vain and ridiculously envious desire
to rise to the poetic height of the great Byron, had begun his coldly
delirious hymns in honor of the God of the nobles and of the legitimate
monarchy. But his songs resounded only in aristocratic salons. The
bourgeoisie did not hear them. Béranger was its poet and Courier was
its political writer.

The revolution of July resulted in lifting its tastes. We know that
every bourgeois in France carries within him the imperishable type of
the bourgeois gentleman, a type which never fails to appear immediately
the parvenu acquires a little wealth and power. In 1830 the wealthy
bourgeoisie had definitely replaced the old nobility in the seats
of power. It naturally tended to establish a new aristocracy. An
aristocracy of capital first of all, but also an aristocracy of
intellect, of good manners and delicate sentiments. It began to feel

This was not on its part simply an aping of aristocratic customs. It
was also a necessity of its position. The proletariat had rendered it
a final service in once more aiding it to overthrow the nobility. The
bourgeoisie now had no further need of its co-operation, for it felt
itself firmly seated in the shadow of the throne of July, and the
alliance with the people, thenceforth useless, began to become
inconvenient. It was necessary to remand it to its place, which
naturally could not be done without provoking great indignation among
the masses. It became necessary to restrain this indignation. In the
name of what? In the name of the bourgeois interest bluntly confessed?
That would have been much too cynical. The more unjust and inhuman an
interest is, the greater need it has of sanction. Now, where find it
if not in religion, that good protectress of all the well-fed and the
useful consoler of the hungry? And more than ever the triumphant
bourgeoisie saw that religion was indispensable to the people.

After having won all its titles to glory in religious, philosophical,
and political opposition, in protest and in revolution, it at last
became the dominant class and thereby even the defender and preserver of
the State, thenceforth the regular institution of the exclusive power of
that class. The State is force, and for it, first of all, is the right
of force, the triumphant argument of the needle-gun, of the _chassepot_.
But man is so singularly constituted that this argument, wholly eloquent
as it may appear, is not sufficient in the long run. Some moral sanction
or other is absolutely necessary to enforce his respect. Further, this
sanction must be at once so simple and so plain that it may convince the
masses, who, after having been reduced by the power of the State, must
also be induced to morally recognize its right.

There are only two ways of convincing the masses of the goodness of any
social institution whatever. The first, the only real one, but also the
most difficult to adopt--because it implies the abolition of the
State, or, in other words, the abolition of the organized political
exploitation of the majority by any minority whatsoever--would be the
direct and complete satisfaction of the needs and aspirations of the
people, which would be equivalent to the complete liquidation of the
political and economical existence of the bourgeois class, or, again,
to the abolition of the State. Beneficial means for the masses, but
detrimental to bourgeois interests; hence it is useless to talk about

The only way, on the contrary, harmful only to the people, precious in
its salvation of bourgeois privileges, is no other than religion. That
is the eternal _mirage_ which leads away the masses in a search for
divine treasures, while, much more reserved, the governing class
contents itself with dividing among all its members--very unequally,
moreover, and always giving most to him who possesses most--the
miserable goods of earth and the plunder taken from the people,
including their political and social liberty.

There is not, there cannot be, a State without religion. Take the
freest States in the world--the United States of America or the Swiss
Confederation, for instance--and see what an important part is played
in all official discourses by divine Providence, that supreme sanction
of all States.

But whenever a chief of State speaks of God, be he William I., the
Knouto-Germanic emperor, or Grant, the president of the great republic,
be sure that he is getting ready to shear once more his people-flock.

The French liberal and Voltairean bourgeoisie, driven by temperament to
a positivism (not to say a materialism) singularly narrow and brutal,
having become the governing class of the State by its triumph of 1830,
had to give itself an official religion. It was not an easy thing.
The bourgeoisie could not abruptly go back under the yoke of Roman
Catholicism. Between it and the Church of Rome was an abyss of blood
and hatred, and, however practical and wise one becomes, it is never
possible to repress a passion developed by history. Moreover, the French
bourgeoisie would have covered itself with ridicule if it had gone back
to the Church to take part in the pious ceremonies of its worship, an
essential condition of a meretorious and sincere conversion. Several
attempted it, it is true, but their heroism was rewarded by no other
result than a fruitless scandal. Finally, a return to Catholicism was
impossible on account of the insolvable contradiction which separates
the invariable politics of Rome from the development of the economical
and political interests of the middle class.

In this respect Protestantism is much more advantageous. It is the
bourgeois religion _par excellence_. It accords just as much liberty as
is necessary to the bourgeois, and finds a way of reconciling celestial
aspirations with the respect which terrestrial conditions demand.
Consequently it is especially in Protestant countries that commerce
and industry have been developed. But it was impossible for the
French bourgeoisie to become Protestant. To pass from one religion to
another--unless it be done deliberately, as sometimes in the case of the
Jews of Russia and Poland, who get baptised three or four times in order
to receive each time the remuneration allowed them--to seriously change
one's religion, a little faith is necessary. Now, in the exclusive
positive heart of the French bourgeois, there is no room for faith. He
professes the most profound indifference for all questions which touch
neither his pocket first nor his social vanity afterwards. He is as
indifferent to Protestantism as to Catholicism. On the other hand, the
French bourgeois could not go over to Protestantism without putting
himself in conflict with the Catholic routine of the majority of the
French people, which would have been great imprudence on the part of a
class pretending to govern the nation.

There was still one way left--to return to the humanitarian and
revolutionary religion of the eighteenth century. But that would have
led too far. So the bourgeoisie was obliged, in order to sanction its
new State, to create a new religion which might be boldly proclaimed,
without too much ridicule and scandal, by the whole bourgeois class.

Thus was born _doctrinaire_ Deism.

Others have told, much better than I could tell it, the story of the
birth and development of this school, which had so decisive and--we may
well add--so fatal an influence on the political, intellectual, and
moral education of the bourgeois youth of France. It dates from Benjamin
Constant and Madame de Staël; its real founder was Royer-Collard; its
apostles, Guizot, Cousin, Villemain, and many others. Its boldly avowed
object was the reconciliation of Revolution with Reaction, or, to use
the language of the school, of the principle of liberty with that of
authority, and naturally to the advantage of the latter.

This reconciliation signified: in politics, the taking away of popular
liberty for the benefit of bourgeois rule, represented by the
monarchical and constitutional State; in philosophy, the deliberate
submission of free reason to the eternal principles of faith. We have
only to deal here with the latter.

We know that this philosophy was specially elaborated by M. Cousin,
the father of French eclecticism. A superficial and pedantic talker,
incapable of any original conception, of any idea peculiar to himself,
but very strong on commonplace, which he confounded with common sense,
this illustrious philosopher learnedly prepared, for the use of the
studious youth of France, a metaphysical dish of his own making, the
use of which, made compulsory in all schools of the State under the
University, condemned several generations one after the other to a
cerebral indigestion. Imagine a philosophical vinegar sauce of the
most opposed systems, a mixture of Fathers of the Church, scholastic
philosophers, Descartes and Pascal, Kant and Scotch psychologists, all
this a superstructure on the divine and innate ideas of Plato, and
covered up with a layer of Hegelian immanence, accompanied, of course,
by an ignorance, as contemptuous as it is complete, of natural science,
and proving, just as two times two make _five_, the existence of a
personal God....


[1] I call it "iniquitous" because, as I believe I have proved in the
Appendix alluded to, this mystery has been and still continues to be the
consecration of all the horrors which have been and are being committed
in the world; I call it unique, because all the other theological and
metaphysical absurdities which debase the human mind are but its
necessary consequences.

[2] Mr. Stuart Mill is perhaps the only one whose serious idealism
may be fairly doubted, and that for two reasons: first, that, if not
absolutely the disciple, he is a passionate admirer, an adherent of the
positive philosophy of Auguste Comte, a philosophy which, in spite of
its numerous reservations, is really Atheistic; second, that Mr. Stuart
Mill is English, and in England to proclaim oneself an Atheist is to
ostracise oneself, even at this late day.

[3] In London I once heard M. Louis Blanc express almost the same idea.
"The best form of government," said he to me, "would be that which would
invariably call _men of virtuous genius_ to the control of affairs."

[4] One day I asked Mazzini what measures would be taken for the
emancipation of the people, once his triumphant unitary republic had
been definitely established. "The first measure," he answered, "will be
the foundation of schools for the people." "And what will the people be
taught in these schools?" "The duties of man--sacrifice and devotion."
But where will you find a sufficient number of professors to teach these
things, which no one has the right or power to teach, unless he preaches
by example? Is not the number of men who find supreme enjoyment in
sacrifice and devotion exceedingly limited? Those who sacrifice
themselves in the service of a great idea obey a lofty passion, and,
_satisfying this personal passion_, outside of which life itself loses
all value in their eyes, they generally think of something else than
building their action into doctrine, while those who teach doctrine
usually forget to translate it into action, for the simple reason that
doctrine kills the life, the living spontaneity, of action. Men like
Mazzini, in whom doctrine and action form an admirable unity, are very
rare exceptions. In Christianity also there have been great men, holy
men, who have really practised, or who, at least, have passionately
tried to practice all that they preached, and whose hearts, overflowing
with love, were full of contempt for the pleasures and goods of this
world. But the immense majority of Catholic and Protestant priests who,
by trade, have preached and still preach the doctrines of chastity,
abstinence, and renunciation belie their teachings by their example. It
is not without reason, but because of several centuries' experience,
that among the people of all countries these phrases have become
by-words: _As licentious as a priest; as gluttonous as a priest; as
ambitious as a priest; as greedy, selfish, and grasping as a priest._ It
is, then, established that the professors of the Christian virtues,
consecrated by the Church, the priests, _in the immense majority of
cases_, have practised quite the contrary of what they have preached.
This very majority, the universality of this fact, show that the fault
is not to be attributed to them as individuals, but to the social
position, impossible and contradictory in itself, in which these
individuals are placed. The position of the Christian priest involves a
double contradiction. In the first place, that between the doctrine of
abstinence and renunciation and the positive tendencies and needs of
human nature--tendencies and needs which, in some individual cases,
always very rare, may indeed be continually held back, suppressed, and
even entirely annihilated by the constant influence of some potent
intellectual and moral passion; which at certain moments of collective
exaltation, may be forgotten and neglected for some time by a large mass
of men at once; but which are so fundamentally inherent in our nature
that sooner or later they always resume their rights: so that, when they
are not satisfied in a regular and normal way, they are always replaced
at last by unwholesome and monstrous satisfaction. This is a natural and
consequently fatal and irresistible law, under the disastrous action of
which inevitably fall all Christian priests and especially those of the
Roman Catholic Church. It cannot apply to the professors, that is to the
priests of the modern Church, unless they are also obliged to preach
Christian abstinence and renunciation.

But there is another contradiction common to the priests of both sects.
This contradiction grows out of the very title and position of master. A
master who commands, oppresses, and exploits is a wholly logical and
quite natural personage. But a master who sacrifices himself to those
who are subordinated to him by his divine or human privilege is a
contradictory and quite impossible being. This is the very constitution
of hypocrisy, so well personified by the Pope, who, while calling
himself _the lowest servant of the servants of God_--in token whereof,
following the example of Christ, he even washes once a year the feet of
twelve Roman beggars--proclaims himself at the same time vicar of God,
absolute and infallible master of the world. Do I need to recall that
the priests of all churches, far from sacrificing themselves to the
flocks confided to their care, have always sacrificed them, exploited
them, and kept them in the condition of a flock, partly to satisfy their
own personal passions and partly to serve the omnipotence of the Church?
Like conditions, like causes, always produce like effects. It will,
then, be the same with the professors of the modern School divinely
inspired and licensed by the State. They will necessarily become, some
without knowing it, others with full knowledge of the cause, teachers of
the doctrine of popular sacrifice to the power of the State and to the
profit of the privileged classes.

Must we, then, eliminate from society all instruction and abolish all
schools? Far from it! Instruction must be spread among the masses
without stint, transforming all the churches, all those temples
dedicated to the glory of God and to the slavery of men, into so
many schools of human emancipation. But, in the first place, let us
understand each other; schools, properly speaking, in a normal society
founded on equality and on respect for human liberty, will exist only
for children and not for adults; and, in order that they may become
schools of emancipation and not of enslavement, it will be necessary to
eliminate, first of all, this fiction of God, the eternal and absolute
enslaver. The whole education of children and their instruction must be
founded on the scientific development of reason, not on that of faith;
on the development of personal dignity and independence, not on that of
piety and obedience; on the worship of truth and justice at any cost,
and above all on respect for humanity, which must replace always and
everywhere the worship of divinity. The principle of authority, in the
education of children, constitutes the natural point of departure; it is
legitimate, necessary, when applied to children of a tender age, whose
intelligence has not yet openly developed itself. But as the development
of everything, and consequently of education, implies the gradual
negation of the point of departure, this principle must diminish as
fast as education and instruction advance, giving place to increasing
liberty. All rational education is at bottom nothing but this
progressive immolation of authority for the benefit of liberty, the
final object of education necessarily being the formation of free men
full of respect and love for the liberty of others. Therefore the first
day of the pupils' life, if the school takes infants scarcely able as
yet to stammer a few words, should be that of the greatest authority and
an almost entire absence of liberty; but its last day should be that of
the greatest liberty and the absolute abolition of every vestige of the
animal or divine principle of authority.

The principle of authority, applied to men who have surpassed or
attained their majority, becomes a monstrosity, a flagrant denial of
humanity, a source of slavery and intellectual and moral depravity.
Unfortunately, paternal governments have left the masses to wallow in an
ignorance so profound that it will be necessary to establish schools not
only for the people's children, but for the people themselves. From
these schools will be absolutely eliminated the smallest applications or
manifestations of the principle of authority. They will be schools no
longer; they will be popular academies, in which neither pupils nor
masters will be known, where the people will come freely to get, if they
need it, free instruction, and in which, rich in their own experience,
they will teach in their turn many things to the professors who shall
bring them knowledge which they lack. This, then, will be a mutual
instruction, an act of intellectual fraternity between the educated
youth and the people.

The real school for the people and for all grown men is life. The only
grand and omnipotent authority, at once natural and rational, the only
one which we may respect, will be that of the collective and public
spirit of a society founded on equality and solidarity and the mutual
human respect of all its members. Yes, this is an authority which is not
at all divine, wholly human, but before which we shall bow willingly,
certain that, far from enslaving them, it will emancipate men. It will
be a thousand times more powerful, be sure of it, than all your divine,
theological, metaphysical, political, and judicial authorities,
established by the Church and by the State; more powerful than your
criminal codes, your jailers, and your executioners.

The power of collective sentiment or public spirit is even now a very
serious matter. The men most ready to commit crimes rarely dare to defy
it, to openly affront it. They will seek to deceive it, but will take
care not to be rude with it unless they feel the support of a minority
larger or smaller. No man, however powerful he believes himself, will
ever have the strength to bear the unanimous contempt of society; no one
can live without feeling himself sustained by the approval and esteem of
at least some portion of society. A man must be urged on by an immense
and very sincere conviction in order to find courage to speak and act
against the opinion of all, and never will a selfish, depraved, and
cowardly man have such courage.

Nothing proves more clearly than this fact the natural and inevitable
solidarity--this law of sociability--which binds all men together, as
each of us can verify daily, both on himself and on all the men whom
he knows. But, if this social power exists, why has it not sufficed
hitherto to moralize, to humanize men? Simply because hitherto this
power has not been humanized itself; it has not been humanized because
the social life of which it is ever the faithful expression is based,
as we know, on the worship of divinity, not on respect for humanity;
on authority, not on liberty; on privilege, not on equality; on the
exploitation, not on the brotherhood of men; on iniquity and falsehood,
not on justice and truth. Consequently its real action, always in
contradiction of the humanitarian theories which it professes, has
constantly exercised a disastrous and depraving influence. It does not
repress vices and crimes; it creates them. Its authority is consequently
a divine, anti-human authority; its influence is mischievous and
baleful. Do you wish to render its authority and influence beneficent
and human? Achieve the social revolution. Make all needs really
solidary, and cause the material and social interests of each to conform
to the human duties of each. And to this end there is but one means:
Destroy all the institutions of Inequality; establish the economic and
social equality of all, and on this basis will arise the liberty, the
morality, the solidary humanity of all.

I shall return to this, the most important question of Socialism.

[5] Here three pages of Bakunin's manuscript are missing.

[6] The lost part of this sentence perhaps said: "If men of science, in
their researches and experiments are not treating men actually as they
treat animals, the reason is that" they are not exclusively men of
science, but are also more or less men of life.

[7] Science, in becoming the patrimony of everybody, will wed itself in
a certain sense to the immediate and real life of each. It will gain in
utility and grace what it loses in pride, ambition, and _doctrinaire_
pedantry. This, however, will not prevent men of genius, better
organized for scientific speculation than the majority of their fellows,
from devoting themselves exclusively to the cultivation of the sciences,
and rendering great services to humanity. Only, they will be ambitious
for no other social influence than the natural influence exercised upon
its surroundings by every superior intelligence, and for no other
reward than the high delight which a noble mind always finds in the
satisfaction of a noble passion.

[8] Universal _experience_, on which all science rests, must be clearly
distinguished from universal _faith_, on which the idealists wish to
support their beliefs: the first is a real authentication of facts; the
second is only a supposition of facts which nobody has seen, and which
consequently are at variance with the experience of everybody.

[9] The idealists, all those who believe in the immateriality and
immortality of the human soul, must be excessively embarrassed by
the difference in intelligence existing between races, peoples, and
individuals. Unless we suppose that the various divine particles have
been irregularly distributed, how is this difference to be explained?
Unfortunately there is a considerable number of men wholly stupid,
foolish even to idiocy. Could they have received in the distribution a
particle at once divine and stupid? To escape this embarrassment the
idealists must necessarily suppose that all human souls are equal, but
that the prisons in which they find themselves necessarily confined,
human bodies, are unequal, some more capable than others of serving as
an organ for the pure intellectuality of soul. According to this, such
a one might have very fine organs at his disposition, such another
very gross organs. But these are distinctions which idealism has not
the power to use without falling into inconsistency and the grossest
materialism; for in the presence of absolute immateriality of soul
all bodily differences disappear, all that is corporeal, material,
necessarily appearing indifferent, equally and absolutely gross. The
abyss which separates soul from body, absolute immateriality from
absolute materiality, is infinite. Consequently all differences, by the
way inexplicable and logically impossible, which may exist on the other
side of the abyss, in matter, should be to the soul null and void, and
neither can nor should exercise any influence over it. In a word, the
absolutely immaterial cannot be constrained, imprisoned, and much less
expressed in any degree whatsoever by the absolutely material. Of all
the gross and materialistic (using the word in the sense attached to it
by the idealists) imaginations which were engendered by the primitive
ignorance and stupidity of men, that of an immaterial soul imprisoned in
a material body is certainly the grossest, the most stupid, and nothing
better proves the omnipotence exercised by ancient prejudices even over
the best minds than the deplorable sight of men endowed with lofty
intelligence still talking of it in our days.

[10] I am well aware that in the theological and metaphysical systems of
the Orient, and especially in those of India, including Buddhism, we
find the principle of the annihilation of the real world in favor of the
ideal and of absolute abstraction. But it has not the added character of
voluntary and deliberate negation which distinguishes Christianity; when
those systems were conceived, the world of human thought, of will and of
liberty, had not reached that stage of development which was afterwards
seen in the Greek and Roman civilization.

[11] It seems to me useful to recall at this point an anecdote--one, by
the way, well known and thoroughly authentic--which sheds a very clear
light on the personal value of this warmer-over of the Catholic beliefs
and on the religious sincerity of that period. Chateaubriand submitted
to a publisher a work attacking faith. The publisher called his
attention to the fact that atheism had gone out of fashion, that the
reading public cared no more for it, and that the demand, on the
contrary, was for religious works. Chateaubriand withdrew, but a few
months later came back with his _Genius of Christianity_.

                    *     *     *     *     *

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The philosophy of a new social order based on liberty unrestricted by
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Voluntary economic cooperation; a social arrangement based on the
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                         The Modern Drama

            _Its Social and Revolutionary Significance_


                          EMMA GOLDMAN

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                       The Selected Works
                      Voltairine de Cleyre

This volume of America's foremost literary rebel and Anarchist
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                   Edited by Alexander Berkman
              Biographical Sketch of Hippolyte Havel

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                  _An Important Human Document_

                         PRISON MEMOIRS
                          AN ANARCHIST

                        ALEXANDER BERKMAN

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Transcriber's note:

The following corrections were made to the text:

  Page       | original word | correction
  7          | viwes         | views
  31         | infalliby     | infallibly
  57         | judcial       | judicial
  59         | up to-day     | up to to-day
  83         | burgeoisie    | bourgeoisie
  83         | singuarly     | singularly
  Footnote 2 | onself        | oneself

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