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Title: Outlines of a Philosophy of Religion based on Psychology and History
Author: Sabatier, Auguste
Language: English
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  _Outlines of a Philosophy
  of Religion based on
  Psychology and History_

_By Auguste Sabatier_

_Author of the "Apostle Paul" etc._



119-121 WEST 23D STREET.







  1. First Critical Reflections
  2. Initial Contradiction of the Psychological Consciousness
  3. Religion the Prayer of the Heart



  1. The Mystery of the Religious Life
  2. Mythological Notion of Revelation
  3. Dogmatic Notion
  4. Psychological Notion
  5. Conclusion



  1. The Notion of Miracle in Antiquity
  2. Miracle and Science: Miracle and Piety
  3. Religious Inspiration



  1. The Social Element in Religion
  2. Progress in the Outward Forms of Religion
  3. Progress in the Representation of the Divine
  4. The History of Prayer
  5. Conclusion




  1. Prophetism
  2. The Dawn of the Gospel



  1. The Problem
  2. The Christian Principle
  3. The Gospel of Jesus
  4. A Necessary Distinction
  5. The Corruptions of the Christian Principle



  1. The Evolution of the Christian Principle
  2. Jewish or Messianic Christianity
  3. Catholic Christianity
  4. Protestant Christianity
  5. Conclusion




  1. Definition
  2. Genesis of Dogma
  3. The Role and the Religious Value of Dogma



  1. Three Prejudices
  2. The Two Elements in Dogma
  3. The Crisis of Dogma



  1. Mixed Character of the Science of Dogmas
  2. The Science of Dogmas and the Church
  3. The Science of Dogmas and Philosophy



  1. Antiquated Theories
  2. The Kantian Theory of Knowledge
  3. The Two Orders of Knowledge
  4. Subjectivity of Religious Knowledge
  5. Teleology
  6. Symbolism
  7. Conclusion


Reply to Criticisms


This volume contains three parts which are related to each other as the
three stories of one and the same edifice.  The first treats of
religion and its origin; the second of Christianity and its essence;
the third of Dogma and its nature.

Proceeding thus from the general to the particular, from the elementary
forms of religion to its highest form, passing afterwards from
religious phenomena to religious doctrines, I have endeavoured to
develop a series of connected and progressive views which I do not wish
to be regarded as a system, but as the rigid application and the first
results of the method of strictly psychological and historical
observation that for years I have applied to this species of studies.
In no domain is there a greater incoherence of ideas, a sharper
conflict of feeling, or data more contradictory or, at all events, more
difficult to reconcile.  In no other is it more urgent to introduce a
little sequence, clearness, harmony.  Our century, from the beginning,
has had two great passions which still inflame and agitate its closing
years.  It has driven abreast the twofold worship of the scientific
method and of the moral ideal; but, so far from being able to unite
them, it has pushed them to a point where they seem to contradict and
exclude each other.  Every serious soul feels itself to be inwardly
divided; it would fain conciliate its most generous aspirations, the
two last motives for living and acting that still remain to it.  Where
but in a renovated conception of religion will this needed
reconciliation be found?

No one nowadays underestimates the social importance of the religious
question.  Philosophers, moralists, politicians, show themselves to be
alive to it; they see it dominating all others, whose solution, in the
end, it may prevent or decide.  But, singular contradiction! the more
zeal and the more decision these men manifest in handling the religious
question in the social order, the more indifference or impotence they
show in solving it for themselves both in their inner and their family
life...  No one has the right to impose a doctrine or the presumption,
surely, to dictate to others how they must direct their thought; but a
sincere and persuaded mind may tell how it has directed its own, and
may set forth as an experience and a "document" the views at which it
has arrived....

The solidarity of minds has now become so great, the currents of ideas,
like the currents in the atmosphere, move so quickly and create, in
circumstances so different and so far apart, states of soul so similar
that many who read these studies, and who are struggling with the same
difficulties as those which have so long engaged the author's thoughts,
may find both interest and profit in seeing how he has succeeded in
satisfying himself.  Those even who have never reflected on these
questions, or have lightly turned from them because they deemed them
insoluble, will not perhaps object to be directed to them by one who
wishes, not to check their freedom of thought, but to stimulate them to
exercise it.  Who, at the close of his secret meditations, on the
confines of his knowledge, at the end of his affections, of the joys he
has tasted, of the trials he has endured, has not seen rising before
him the religious question--I mean the mysterious problem of his
destiny?  Of all questions it is the most vital.  Men may be turned
from it for a time by manifold distractions and by a sense of
powerlessness to solve the question, but it is impossible that they
should not return to it.  Has life a meaning?  Is it worth living?  Our
efforts, have they an end?  Our works and our thoughts, have they any
permanent value to the universe?  This problem, which one generation
may evade, returns with the next.  Each new recruit to the human race
brings the problem along with him, because he wishes to live, and to
live is to act, and all action requires a faith.  It is of the young
that I have thought while preparing these pages, and it is to them that
I dedicate them.

To a generation that believed it could repose in Positivism in
philosophy, utilitarianism in morals, and naturalism in art and poetry,
has succeeded a generation that torments itself more than ever with the
mystery of things, that is attracted by the ideal, that dreams of
social fraternity, of self-renunciation, of devotion to the little, to
the miserable, to the oppressed--devotion like the heroism of Christian
love.  Hence what has been called the renaissance of Idealism, the
return, _i.e._, to general ideas, to faith in the invisible, to the
taste for symbols, and to those longings, as confused as they are
ardent, to discover a religion or to return to the religion their
fathers have disdained.  Our young people, it seems to me, are pushing
bravely forward, marching between two high walls: on the one side
modern science with its rigorous methods which it is no longer possible
to ignore or to avoid; on the other, the dogmas and the customs of the
religious institutions in which they were reared, and to which they
would, but cannot, sincerely return.  The sages who have led them
hitherto point to the impasse they have reached, and bid them take a
part,--either for science against religion, or for religion against
science.  They hesitate, with reason, in face of this alarming
alternative.  Must we then choose between pious ignorance and bare
knowledge?  Must we either continue to live a moral life belied by
science, or set up a theory of things which our consciences condemn?
Is there no issue to the dark and narrow valley which our anxious youth
traverse?  I think there is.  I think I have caught glimpses of a steep
and narrow path that leads to wide and shining table-lands above.
Indeed I have ascended in the footsteps of some others, and I signal in
my turn to younger, braver pioneers who, in course of time, will make a
broader, safer road, along which all the caravan may pass.





1. _First Critical Reflections_

Why am I religious?  Because I cannot help it: it is a moral necessity
of my being.  They tell me it is a matter of heredity, of education, of
temperament.  I have often said so to myself.  But that explanation
simply puts the problem further back; it does not solve it

The necessity which I experience in my individual life I find to be
still more invincible in the collective life of humanity.  Humanity is
not less incurably religious than I am.  The cults it has espoused and
abandoned have deceived it in vain; in vain has the criticism of
savants and philosophers shattered its dogmas and mythologies; in vain
has religion left such tracks of blood and fire throughout the annals
of humanity; it has survived all change, all revolution, all stages of
culture and progress.  Cut down a thousand times, the ancient stem has
always sent new branches forth.  Whence comes this indestructible
vitality?  What is the cause of the universality and perpetuity of

Before entering upon this question it will be necessary to remove a
fruitful cause of error with respect to the essence and origin of the
religious sense, especially among the peoples of Latin extraction.
This cause lies in the very word _religion_.  It very badly designates
the psychological phenomenon to be studied; it envelops it in accessory
and even in alien ideas, which blind and mislead half-educated men.
The word comes to us from the least religious of the peoples of the
world.  It has no synonym or equivalent in the language of the ancient
Hebrews, or in that of the Greeks, the Germans, the Celts, or the
Hindus, the human families which, in the religious order, have been the
most original and the most creative.  It was Rome that imposed the word
upon us along with her language, her genius, and her institutions.

The first Christians were not acquainted with it.  It is absent from
the New Testament.  When, in the third century, it enters into
Christian speech, it no doubt undergoes a sort of baptism, and seems to
cover a meaning more in conformity with the spirit of the Gospel.
Lactantius defines religion as "the link which unites man to God."  But
in the ancient Roman writers the word never had this profound and
mystical meaning.  Instead of marking the inward and subjective side of
religion, and signalising it as a phenomenon of the life of the soul,
it defined religion by the outside, as a tradition of rites, and as a
social institution bequeathed by ancestors.  The Christian baptism
through which the word passed did not efface this ancient Roman stamp.
To the majority, even now, religion is hardly anything more than a
series of traditional rites, supernatural beliefs, political
institutions; it is a Church in possession of divine sacraments,
constituted by a sacerdotal hierarchy, for the discipline and
government of souls.  Such is the form under which the genius of Rome
conceived and realised Christianity in the Western world; and the
fascination that this political and social conception of religion still
exercises is so great that minds the most enlightened know no better
than to agree with M. Brunetière, who, when wishing to set forth the
superiority of Catholicism to Protestantism, confines himself, like
Bossuet, to praising it as a perfect model of government.

By a sort of logical necessity, whenever and wherever this political
conception of religion has predominated, an analogous explanation of
its origin has always arisen.  It is natural that men should have
applied to it the ancient juridical adage: _is fecit cui prodest_.
Religion admirably serves to govern the peoples; therefore it was
originally invented for that purpose.  It was the work of priests and
chiefs who wished by means of it to strengthen and to ratify their
authority.  So reason the Romans in the days of Cicero and the
philosophers of the eighteenth century.  And there is some foundation
for their arguments.  Religion has often been utilised by politics:
pious frauds are to be found in all the cults.  But what then?  What do
the facts prove?  It is not the pious fraud that produces the religion;
it is the religion that gives occasion and opportunity to pious frauds.
Without religion there would have been no pious frauds.  When I hear it
said, "Priests made religion," I simply ask, "And who, pray, made the
priests?"  In order to create a priesthood, and in order that that
invention should find general acceptance with the people that were to
be subject to it, must there not have been already in the hearts of men
a religious sentiment that would clothe the institution with a sacred
character?  The terms must be reversed: it is not priesthood that
explains religion, but religion that explains priesthood.

The theory propounded by Positivism is profounder and more serious.
Religion, which dates from the earliest ages, can only have been a
first attempt at an explanation of the extraordinary phenomena by which
man in his ignorance was astonished and frightened.  It is the
beginning of the childish form of science, which, in course of time,
would naturally give place to higher and more rigorous forms.  Children
and savages animate all things round about them with a psychical life;
they see particular wills behind every phenomenon that excites their
hope or fear.  Thus the imagination of primitive man peopled the
universe with an infinite number of spirits, good and evil, whose
mysterious action made itself felt at every moment of their destiny.  A
while ago we had the explanation of religion by priesthood; now we have
the explanation by mythology.  But it is the same vicious circle: it is
an insufficient psychology once more mistaking the effect for the cause.

To conceive of religion as a species of knowledge is an error not less
grave than to represent it as a sort of political institution.  No
doubt religious faith is always accompanied by knowledge, but this
intellectual element, however indispensable, so far from being the
basis and the substance of religion, varies continually at all the
epochs of religious evolution.  Doctrinal formulas and liturgies are
means of expression and of education, of which religion avails itself,
but which it can exchange for others after each philosophical crisis.
Rites and beliefs become obliterated or die out; religion possesses a
power of perpetual resurrection, whose principle cannot be exhausted in
any external form or in any dogmatic idea.

Comte's theory of the three stages through which human thought has
passed is well known: the theological stage of primitive times, the
metaphysical stage in the Middle Ages, the positive or scientific stage
of modern times.  If knowledge were the essence of religion, one could
easily understand the logical course of this evolution, an inferior
form of knowledge being condemned to disappear before a superior form.
The proof that it is nothing of the kind is the fact that religion does
not cease to reappear at all epochs and in the most widely different
conditions of culture.  The three stages are not successive but
simultaneous; they do not correspond to three periods of history, but
to three permanent needs of the human soul.  You find them combined in
various degrees in antiquity, in Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle; in
modern times, in Descartes, Pascal, Leibniz, Kant, Claude Bernard, and
Pasteur.  The more science progresses and becomes conscious of its true
method and of its limits, the more does it become distinguished from
philosophy and religion.  Scientific research, exclusively devoted to
the determination of phenomena and of their conditions in time and
space, is one thing; the philosophic need of comprehending the universe
as an intelligible whole, and of explaining all that exists by a
principle of sufficient reason, is another and a different thing; and,
lastly, differing from both, is the religious need which, rightly
understood, is but a manifestation, in the moral order, of the instinct
of every being to persevere in being.  Why may not these divers
tendencies of soul, coexisting always and everywhere, manifest
themselves simultaneously and on parallel lines?

We need not go beyond the Positivists themselves for examples and
proofs of this persistence of the religious sentiment.  Comte, Spencer,
and Littré may be called as witnesses.  The founder of Positivism, who
had predicted the fatal extinction of the disposition to religion in
the human soul, crowned his system and ended his career by founding a
new religion, clumsily copied from the sacerdotal organisation and the
ritual practices of Roman Catholicism.  There actually exists a
Positivist Church, with a calendar of saints, with relics and
anniversaries, with a catechism, and with a high priest not less
infallible than the one at Rome.  A few disciples, scandalised by this
supreme temptation of the master, desired to excuse him by declaring
that he had gone mad.  It was a mistake.  The fact is that, arriving at
the construction of a Positive Sociology, Comte comprehended the _rôle_
of the religious instinct and of religious feeling in the life of
peoples, and he believed that he would only be able to cement the
edifice of society in the future by religion.  It is said that those
who have been amputated sometimes feel sharp twitches in the limbs they
have lost.  Comte and his disciples have experienced something similar.
Nature, with her usual irony, has avenged herself on them for the
violence they have done to her.

Of Herbert Spencer not much need be said; everybody knows that the
_Unknowable_ in his system has become a sort of undetermined and
unconscious force, eluding every effort of the mind to grasp it, but
remaining, none the less, the cause explaining evolution, and the
source profound whence all things flow.  Under different names, do we
not recognise the First Cause of the philosophers, and the image,
half-effaced, of the God of believers?  Need we be surprised that the
English thinker pronounces religion to be eternal? that he finally
reduces the mental life of man to these two essential and primordial
activities--the scientific activity which pursues the knowledge of
phenomena and their transformation, and religious activity delivering
itself up to mystical contemplation and to silent adoration of
universal being?

The example of Littré is more touching still.  I remember reading a
sublime page in one of his works, in which the savant, after running
through the _terra firma_ of positive knowledge, reaches its utmost
limit, and, seating himself on the extremest promontory, sees himself
surrounded by the mystery of the unknowable, as by an infinite ocean.
He has neither barque, nor sails, nor compass wherewith to explore this
boundless sea; nevertheless, he stands there gazing into it; he
contemplates it; he meditates in presence of this vast unknown, and
finally abandons himself to a movement of adoration and of confidence
which renews his mental vigour and which fills his heart with peace.
What is this, I ask, but a sudden outburst of religious feeling which
positive science, so far from extinguishing, has only served to deepen
and accentuate?  And since we have here the religion of the unknowable,
is it not evident that religion is not necessarily knowledge?

I now come to a third explanation which, older than either of the
others, will bring us nearer to the end at which we aim.  "It is fear,"
says a Latin poet, "that engenders the gods."  There is a sense in
which this is true.  It cannot be doubted that religion was at first
awakened in the heart of man under the impress of the terror caused by
the disordered and destructive forces of primitive Nature.  Thrown
naked and disarmed on the barely-cooled planet, walking tremblingly
upon a soil that quaked beneath his tread, his would be a state of
misery and distress which filled his heart with an infinite terror.
But the explanation needs completing.  In itself and of itself, fear is
not religious; it paralyses, crushes, stuns.  In order that it may
become religiously fruitful, it is necessary that, from the outset, it
should be mixed with an opposite sentiment, an impulse of hope; it is
necessary that man, the prey of fear, should conceive, in some way or
other, the possibility of surmounting it--that is to say that he should
find above him some help, some succour, by which to confront the
dangers which threaten him.  Fear only gives birth to religion in man
because it awakens hope and calls forth prayer--prayer that opens an
issue to human distress.  There is that amount of truth in the ancient
hypothesis.  It brings us near the source we are seeking, for it places
us on the practical arena of life, and not in the theoretical region of
science.  The question man puts to himself in religion is always a
question of salvation, and if he seems sometimes to be pursuing in it
the enigma of the universe, it is only that he may solve the enigma of
his life.  And now we must press nearer to the problem.  We must
ascertain out of what fundamental contradiction the religious feeling
arises.  We may reach it by a mental analysis that every one can
follow, and verify the more easily inasmuch as it is always in course
of reconstruction, by noting our own experiences.

2. _Initial Contradiction of the Psychological Consciousness_

What is man?  Externally he does not differ much from the higher
animals, the series of which seems to have been closed by his
appearance on our planet.  His physical organism is composed of the
same elements, acting according to the same laws; and of the same
organs, performing analogous functions.  It is by the incomparable
development of his mental life that man is distinguished, and little by
little disengages himself from animality.  Phenomena and laws of a new
kind now make their appearance.  The mysterious life of the spirit,
emerging from the physical life, unfolds itself gradually like a divine
flower, and gives the world, for us, its meaning and its loveliness.
The region of the true, the beautiful, the good, is opened up to
consciousness; the moral world is constituted as a higher order to
which man belongs.  It is these moral laws, capable of dominating
physical laws and bending them to higher ends that, in the human
animal, realise and constitute humanity.  Man is only man in so far as
he obeys them, and such is the point of transition that he occupies
between two worlds, such the necessity of the crisis by which he must
disengage himself from material animality, that, if he does not rise
above the brute, he necessarily, by the very perversion of his higher
life, falls beneath him.

From the beginning, physical life implies a double movement: a movement
inward from the outside to the centre of the ego, and a movement
outward from the centre to the circumference.  The first represents the
action of external things upon the ego by sensation (passivity); the
second, the reaction of the ego upon things by the will (activity).
This internal flux and reflux is the whole mental life.  From this
point we shall soon perceive the initial contradiction in which this
life is formed, and in which it goes on developing itself continually.
The passive side and the active side of the life of the mind are not
harmonious.  Sensation crushes the will.  The activity, the free
expansion of the ego, its desires to extend and aggrandise itself are
checked and crushed by the weight of the world, which on every side is
pressing in upon it.  Springing up from the centre, the wave of life
breaks itself inevitably on the rocks of outward things.  This
perpetual collision, this conflict of the ego and the universe,--this
is the primary cause and origin of all pain.  Thus thrown back upon
itself, the activity of the ego returns upon the centre and heats it
like the axle of a wheel in motion.  Sparks soon fly, and the inner
life of the ego is lit up.  This is _consciousness_.  Brought back by
painful sensations and by repeated failure of its efforts from the
outside, the ego begins to reflect upon itself; it doubles itself and
knows itself; soon it judges itself; it separates itself from the
organism with which at first it confounded itself; it opposes itself to
itself, as if there were really in itself two _beings_, an ideal ego
and an empirical ego.  Hence comes its torment, its struggles, its
remorse, but also the impulse ever renewed, the indefinite progress of
its spiritual life, of which each moment seems to be but a degree from
which it ought to rise to a stage still higher.

May we not here foresee the divine purpose of pain?  Without it, it
would seem as if the life of the spirit could not have arisen out of
physical life.  All births are painful.  Consciousness, like every
other child, was born in tears.  The child of pain, it can only be
developed by pain.  Where do you find intelligence the most refined,
consciousness the keenest, inner life the most intense, if not amongst
the human beings whose external activities have been repressed by
sickness or by some limitation in their social position?  How else will
you explain the _Pensées_ of Pascal or of Maine de Biran, or the
_Journal_ of Amiel?  Whence comes that extraordinary development of
consciousness of which we are all aware in men like these, unless it be
that they feel more profoundly than others that radical contradiction
which constitutes at once the misery and the grandeur of human destiny?

Continue this observation; follow each of our faculties in its
progressive expansion.  Starting from a contradiction without which
they would not exist, you see them all end in a contradiction in which
they seem to perish, so that that which has engendered consciousness
seems as if it must destroy it.  Everywhere the same discouraging
antinomy.  Man cannot know himself without knowing himself to be
limited.  But he cannot feel these fatal limitations without going
beyond them in thought and by desire, so that he is never satisfied
with what he possesses, and cannot be happy except with that which he
cannot attain.  I desire to know; my labouring intellect is athirst to
comprehend and understand, and its first discoveries enchant it.  But,
alas, my head soon runs itself against the wall of mystery.  Not only
are there things it does not know, but there are things which it knows
for a certainty that it will never be able to know.  How can a man jump
off his own shadow, or stand on his own shoulders, to look over the
impassable wall?  That all which is intelligible to us is real, I
grant; but is all that is real intelligible to us?  And then what
becomes my knowledge save a melancholy feeling of ignorance that knows
itself to be such?  The same contradiction in my faculty for enjoyment.
As my seeming knowledge changed into its opposite, so now I see
pleasure and happiness changing into pain and sorrow.  Let the
superficial and the vulgar lay on fate or things the blame of their
deceptions and of their inability to be happy; as for me, I can only
blame the inner constitution of my being.  It is as the result of that
very constitution that enjoyment bears within itself the cause of its
own exhaustion, that pleasure is changed into disgust, and that pain is
born of all voluptuousness.  Pessimism is in the right; for it is
proved by an experience only too long-lived that the only result of
happiness exclusively pursued is an increase of the capacity for
suffering.  Need I speak of moral activity?  I desire to do good, but
"evil is present with me."  I do not do that which I approve, and I do
not approve that which I do: I feel myself free in my will, and I am
enslaved in action.  The more effort I make towards an ideal
righteousness, the more that ideal, which I never reach, constitutes me
a sinner and strengthens in me the consciousness of sin; so that here
again, and here especially, the final result of my search is the
opposite of that which I set out to seek.

Whence shall deliverance come?  How shall I solve this contradiction of
my being which makes me at the same time live and die?  To free man
from the miseries and limitations of his nature men count upon the
progress of science and the amelioration of the conditions of his life.
But who does not see that here is a new source of despair?  How can we
forget that, so far from attenuating it, science in its progress
aggravates and renders mortal the original condition of life?  To make
a discovery, to explain a new phenomenon, what is this but to add
another link to the causal and necessary network which science weaves
and spreads over things?  To put sequence, order, and stability into
the world, is not this, for science, to put necessity into it, and to
make necessity the sovereign ruler of the world?  Science, in the
strict sense of the word, is determinist.  But then, prolong this
progress of science indefinitely; multiply it by ten, by a hundred, a
thousand; what do you do but multiply proportionately the weight of
universal determinism beneath which our soul groans and ceases to
strive?  We should then end in the still more tragic
contradiction--between science and conscience, physical laws and moral
laws, action and reflection.  The more the one enlarges and triumphs
the vainer seems the other.  Hence that philosophical dualism in which
modern thought ends--a science which cannot engender an acknowledged
morality, and a morality which cannot be the object of positive
science.  We touch the cause of that strange malady _le mal du siècle_,
a sort of internal consumption by which all cultivated minds are more
or less affected.  It is an intestine war which arms the human ego
against itself and dries up all the springs of life.  The more one
reflects on the reasons that may be urged in favour of living and
acting, the less capable one is of effort and of action.  Clearness of
thought is in inverse proportion to the energy of the will.  The
Pessimists tell us that if we were fully and perfectly conscious we
should lose the will to act, and even the desire to be.  And which of
us is not more or less of a Pessimist nowadays?  Who does not complain
of "the weary weight of all this unintelligible world"?  Who does not
feel his weakness and the pressure of external things?  Who has not
marked that union now become almost habitual of frivolity of character
and intellectual culture the most perfect and refined?  That sad
monotone which comes to us on every wind, from the latest volume of
philosophy, from the most popular novel, from the most successful
play,--what is it but the melancholy sigh of a life that seems to be
ready to expire, of a world that seems about to disappear.  Must one
give up thinking then if he would retain the courage to live, and
resign himself to death in order to preserve the right to think?

From this feeling of distress, from this initial contradiction of the
inner life of man, religion springs.  It is the rent in the rock
through which the living and life-giving waters flow.  Not that
religion brings a theoretical solution to the problem.  The issue it
opens and proposes to us is pre-eminently practical.  It does not save
us by adding to our knowledge, but by a return to the very principle on
which our being depends, and by a moral act of confidence in the origin
and aim of life.  At the same time this saving act is not an arbitrary
one; it springs from a necessity.  Faith in life both is and acts like
the instinct of conservation in the physical world.  It is a higher
form of that instinct Blind and fatal in organisms, in the moral life
it is accompanied by consciousness and by reflective will, and, thus
transformed, it appears under the guise of religion.

Nor is this life-impulse (_élan de la vie_) produced in the void, or
objectless.  It rests upon a feeling inherent in every conscious
individual, the feeling of dependence which every man experiences with
respect to universal being.  Which of us can escape this feeling of
absolute dependence?  Not only is our destiny, in principle, decided
outside ourselves and apart from ourselves according to the general
laws of cosmical evolution, in the course of which we appear at a given
time and place with a heritage of forces which we have not chosen or
produced, but, not being able to discover in ourselves or in any series
of individuals the sufficient reason of our existence, we are obliged
to seek outside ourselves, in universal being, the first cause and
ultimate aim of our existence and our life.  To be religious is, at
first, to recognise, to accept with confidence, with simplicity and
humility, this subjection of our individual consciousness; it is to
bring this back and bind it to its eternal principle; it is to will to
be in the order and the harmony of life.  This feeling of our
subordination thus furnishes the experimental and indestructible basis
of the idea of God.  This idea may possibly remain more or less
indetermined, and may indeed never be perfected in our mind; but its
object does not on that account elude our consciousness.  Before all
reflection, and before all rational determination, it is given to us
and, as it were, imposed on us in the very fact of our absolute
dependence; without fear we may establish this equation: the feeling of
our dependence is that of the mysterious presence of God in us.  Such
is the deep source from which the idea of the divine springs up within
us irresistibly.  But it springs at once as religion and as an effect
of religion.

At the same time, it is well to note at what a cost the mind of man
accepts this subordination in relation to the principle of universal
life.  We have seen this mind in conflict with external things.  The
mind revolts against them because they are of a different nature to
itself, and because it is the proud prerogative of mind to comprehend,
to dominate, to rule things and not to be subordinate to them.
Pascal's phrase is to the point: "Man is but a reed, the feeblest thing
in nature; but he is a thinking reed.  Were the universe to crush him,
man would still be nobler than the universe that killed him, for he
would be conscious of the calamity, and the universe would know nothing
of the advantage it possessed."  That is why the material universe is
not the principle of sovereignty to which it is possible for man to
submit.  The superior dignity of spirit to the totality of things can
only be preserved in our precarious individuality by an act of
confidence and communion with the universal Spirit.  It is only on a
spiritual power that my consciousness does actually make both me and
the universe to depend, and in making us both to depend on the same
spiritual power, it reconciles us to each other, because, in that
universal being conceived as spirit, both I and the universe have a
common principle and a common aim.  Descartes was right: the first step
of the human mind desirous of confirming to itself the sense of its own
worth and dignity is an essentially religious act.  The circle of my
mental life, which opens with the conflict of these two
terms--consciousness of the ego, experience of the world--is completed
by a third in which the other terms are harmonised: the sense of their
common dependence upon God.  But is not this account of the genesis of
religion too philosophic and too abstract to be capable of universal
application?  If it explains the persistence of the religious sentiment
in epochs of high culture, can it also explain its appearance in the
pre-historic ages of humanity?  Those who raise this objection have not
sufficiently marked the permanent nature of the initial contradiction
which constitutes, at the beginning as at the end, the empirical life
of man, and which renders it in all degrees so precarious and so
miserable.  It is not a contradiction created by logic.  To experience
it and to suffer from it man did not need to wait until he became a
philosopher.  It manifested itself in the terrors of the savage in
presence of the cataclysms of nature, in the midst of the perils of the
primeval forest not less than in our troubled thought in presence of
the enigma of the universe and the mystery of death.  The expression of
human misery and the consciousness thereof are different things; the
religious thrill which brings relief, at bottom is the same.  Pascal,
with all his knowledge, did not experience less distress than primitive
man, when he exclaimed: "The eternal silence of the infinite spaces
terrifies me."  The disciple of Kant, shutting himself up in despair
within the impassable limits of phenomenal knowledge, or the disciple
of Schopenhauer ending in the internecine conflict between intellect
and will, are they not smitten with a feeling of impotence still more
painful, and, when they cease to reason in order to decide to live, do
they not feel forming within themselves, and in spite of themselves, a
sigh which is the beginning of a prayer?

Religion, therefore, is immortal.  Far from drying up with time, the
spring from whence it flows in the human soul enlarges, deepens, and
becomes more rich under the twofold action of philosophic reflection
and of the painful experiences of life.  Those who predict its
approaching end mistake for religion that which is only its outward and
fleeting expression.  The periodical crises in which it seems as if it
must perish, renew its traditions and its forms, and, so far from
proving its weakness, demonstrate its fecundity and its faculty of
rejuvenescence.  Never, in all history, has the human soul been seen
entirely naked.  On this tree, in which the sap divine mounts ever, the
leaves of one season only fall, however dry they may be, under the
pressure of new leaves.  Religious beliefs do not die; they are simply
transformed.  Let the friends of religion then cease to be alarmed and
its enemies to rejoice.  The hopes of the one and the fears of the
other show an equal misconception of that which is its essence and its
principle.  If they seek it in themselves, they will find it all the
more living in their inner life, the more its traditional forms outside
themselves seem menaced.  The sigh, the impulse, or the melancholy of
the soul in distress are more religious than an interested or
mechanical devotion.  There are hours when the heresy which suffers,
and which seeks and prays, is much nearer the source of life than the
intellectual obstinacy of an orthodoxy incapable, as it would seem, of
comprehending the dogmas that it keeps embalmed.  Let the men who
despise religion learn first to know it; let them see it as it is--the
inward happy crisis by which human life is transformed and an issue
opened up to it towards the ideal life.  All human development springs
from it and ends in it.  Art, morals, science itself fade and waste
away if this supreme inspiration be wanting to them; the irreligious
soul expires as if from lack of breath.  Man is not; he has to make
himself; and in order to this he must mount from the darkness and
bondage of earth to light and liberty.  It is by religion that humanity
begins in him, and it is by religion that it is established and

3. _Religion is the Prayer of the Heart_

We shall now be able to define the essence of religion.  It is a
commerce, a conscious and willed relation into which the soul in
distress enters with the mysterious power on which it feels that it and
its destiny depend.  This commerce with God is realised by prayer.
Prayer is religion in act--that is to say, real religion.  It is prayer
which distinguishes religious phenomena from all those which resemble
them or lie near to them, from the moral sense, for instance, or
æsthetic feeling.  If religion is a practical need, the response to it
can only be a practical action.  No theory would suffice.  Religion is
nothing if it is not the vital act by which the whole spirit seeks to
save itself by attaching itself to its principle.  This act is prayer,
by which I mean, not an empty utterance of words, not the repetition of
certain sacred formulas, but the movement of the soul putting itself
into personal relation and contact with the mysterious power whose
presence it feels even before it is able to give it a name.  Where this
inward prayer is wanting there is no religion; on the other hand,
wherever this prayer springs up in the soul and moves it, even in the
absence of all form and doctrine clearly defined, there is true
religion, living piety.  From this point of view, perhaps a history of
prayer would be the best history of the religious development of
mankind.  That history would be seen to commence in the crudest cry for
help and to complete itself in perfect prayer which, on the lips of
Christ, is simply submission to and confidence in the Father's will.

This concrete definition of religion has the advantage of correcting by
completing that of Schleiermacher.  It reconciles the two antithetic
elements which constitute the religious sentiment: the passive and the
active elements, the feeling of dependence and the movement of liberty.
Prayer, springing up out of our state of misery and oppression,
delivers us from it.  There is in it both submission and faith.
Submission makes us recognise and accept our dependence, faith
transforms that dependence into liberty.  These two elements correspond
to the two poles of the religious life; for in all true piety man
prostrates himself before the omnipotence that encompasses him, and he
rises with a feeling of deliverance and of concord with his God.
Schleiermacher erred in insisting only upon resignation.  Thenceforth
he could neither escape Pantheism in order to arrive at liberty, nor
find any link between the religious and the moral life.  Religion,
then, is a free act as well as a feeling of dependence.  And such is
the character and the virtue of the act of prayer that everything is
transformed by it.  The crushing feeling of my defeat becomes the
joyful and triumphant feeling of my victory.  Each of these states is
changed into its opposite, so that the truly religious man lives at
once in a free obedience and in an obedient liberty.  If religion has
often been an oppressive power and an instrument of servitude, it has
been at least as often the mother of all the liberties.  The force
which bows me down is that which also lifts me up, for it passes into
my soul.  The God that I adore comes in the end to be an inward God
whose presence drives away all fear and places me beyond the reach of
all the menaces of things.  The conscious realisation of this presence
of God,--that is the true salvation of my being and my life.

I now understand why "natural religion" is not a religion.  It deprives
man of prayer; it leaves God and man at a distance from each other.  No
intimate commerce, no interior dialogue, no exchange between them, no
action of God in man, no return of man to God.  At bottom, this
pretended religion is nothing but philosophy.  It arises in periods of
rationalism, of criticism, of impersonal reason, and has never been
anything but an abstraction.  The three dogmas in which it is summed
up--the existence of God, the immortality of the soul, and the
obligation of duty--are but the inorganic residue, the _caput mortuum_,
found at the bottom of the crucible in which all positive religions are
dissolved.  This natural religion, so called, is not found in Nature;
it is no more natural than it is religious.  A lifeless, artificial
creation, it shows hardly any of the characteristic marks of a
religion.  For the moment, it may seem to have the advantage of
escaping the attacks of scientific criticism.  On trial, it is found to
be less resistant than any other.  The self-same reason that
constructed it destroys it, and its dogmas are perhaps more compromised
to-day in face of modern thought than those it professes to replace.

Religion then is inward prayer and deliverance.  It is inherent in man
and could only be torn from his heart by separating man from himself,
if I may so say, and destroying that which constitutes humanity in him.
I am religious, I repeat, because I am a man, and neither have the wish
nor the power to separate myself from my kind.



1. _The Mystery of the Religious Life_

"Thou wouldst not seek me hadst thou not already found me."  In this
word that Pascal heard amid his restless search, the whole mystery of
piety is disclosed.  If religion is the prayer of man, it may be said
that revelation is the response of God, but only on condition that we
add that this response is always, in germ at least, in the prayer

This thought struck me like a flash of light.  It was the solution of a
problem that had long appeared to me to be insoluble.  I had never read
without a certain amount of doubt, and as an oratorical exaggeration,
that promise made by Jesus to His disciples with so strange an
assurance: "Ask, and it shall be given you: seek, and ye shall find:
knock, and it shall be opened unto you.  For every one that asketh,
receiveth: and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it
shall be opened" (Matt vii. 7, 8).  Jesus had experienced a truth of
which I am only beginning to catch sight: no prayer remains unanswered,
because God to whom it is addressed is the One who has already inspired
it.  The search for God cannot be fruitless: for, the moment I set out
to seek Him, He finds me and lays hold of me.  Allow me to reflect a
little longer on this mystery.  I seem as if I were listening to these
gospel words and promises for the first time.  They sound in my ears
like deep and solemn music which, bearing to me the echo of the
religiously active soul of Jesus, brings succour to my own.  The
religious life, then, is not a fixed state; it is a movement of the
soul, it is a desire, a need.  The love of truth, is it not the
principle of science?  To love truth above all things, is not that in
some way to be already in the truth?  The point of departure, the
inward beginning of a real righteousness, is not this repentance, that
is to say the pain of not being righteous?  I understand now why the
Christ has made humility and confidence the sole conditions of entrance
to His kingdom, why His Word has made riches spring from poverty,
health from sickness, and satisfaction from the very intensity of need.
Secret of the gospel, mysterious laws of spirit, pure moral essence of
the kingdom of God, paradoxes which disconcert the man immersed in the
ideas of the life of sense and self, but which contain the highest
realities of moral life, reveal yourselves with ever-growing clearness
to my consciousness, since, for me, on this first revelation all the
rest depend!

I turn to another thought of Pascal.  "Piety," he says, "is God
sensible to the heart."  If so, it is evident that in all piety there
is some positive manifestation of God.  The ideas of religion and
revelation are therefore correlative and religiously inseparable.
Religion is simply the subjective revelation of God in man, and
revelation is religion objective in God.  It is the relation of subject
and object, of effect and cause, organically united; it is one and the
same psychological phenomenon, which can neither subsist nor be
produced save by their conjunction.  It is as impossible to isolate as
it is to confound them.

I conceive therefore that revelation is as universal as religion
itself, that it descends as low, goes as far, ascends as high, and
accompanies it always.  No form of piety is empty; no religion is
absolutely false; no prayer is vain.  Once more, revelation is in
prayer and progresses with prayer.  From a revelation obtained in a
first prayer is born a purer prayer, and from this a higher revelation.
Thus light grows with life, truth with piety.  This makes it possible
for me to enter into communion and sympathy with all sincerely
religious souls, however simple and however crude or gross their
worship and their faith; but if I can comprehend them, I cannot always
speak their language or share their ideas.  All religions are not
equally good, nor are all prayers acceptable to my consciousness.  To
return to exploded superstitions or to beliefs now recognised to be
illusory is as much a moral impossibility as it would be for a
full-grown man to return to the puerilities of his childhood.
Revelation therefore is not a communication once for all of immutable
doctrines which only need to be held fast.  The object of the
revelation of God can only be God Himself, and if a definition must be
given of it, it may be said to consist of the creation, the
purification, and the progressive clearness of the consciousness of God
in man,--in the individual and in the race.

From this point of view, I see very clearly that the revelation of God
never needs to be proved to any one.  The attempt would be as
contradictory as it is superfluous.  Two things are equally impossible:
for an irreligious man to discover a divine revelation in a faith he
does not share, or for a truly pious man not to find one in the
religion he has espoused and which lives in his heart.  With what,
moreover, and how could it be proved that light shines except by
forcing those who are asleep to awake and open their eyes?  All serious
Apologetics must insist as a necessary starting-point on the awakening
and conversion of the soul.

Having always been religious, mankind has never been destitute of
revelation, that is to say of witness more or less obscure, more or
less correctly interpreted, of the presence in it and the action of
God.  But if men have always maintained some relation and some commerce
with the deity, they have not always represented in the same manner the
mode in which communications have been received from Him.  The notion
of revelation has progressed with the growth of mental enlightenment
and with the nature of the piety.  It is therefore necessary to
criticise that notion and to see what it has now become for us.  It is
to this examination that I shall devote this second meditation.  The
idea of revelation has passed through three phases in the course of
history: the mythological, the dogmatic, and the critical.

2. _The Mythological Notion of Revelation_

Among the faculties of man, the first to awaken in the mental life of
the child and of the savage is the imagination.  All literatures begin
with chants, all histories with legends, and all religions with myths
or symbols.  Poetry always makes its appearance before prose.  One can
only see the effect of an inveterate rationalism in the promptitude
with which men are scandalised at any attempt to point out in the Bible
or around the cradle of Christianity legends and myths serving as
sacred vehicles for the purest and sublimest religious revelations, as
if the divine Spirit, in order to be intelligible to the simple and the
ignorant, could not as well avail Himself of the fictions of poetry as
of logical reasonings, of the chants of the angels at Bethlehem as of
the rabbinical exegesis and argumentations of the Apostle Paul.  A myth
is false in appearance only.  When the heart was pure and sincere the
veils of fable always allowed the face of truth to shine through.  And
why so much disdain?  Does not childhood run on into maturity and old
age?  What are our most abstract ideas but primitive metaphors which
have been worn and thinned by usage and reflection?

It is none the less true, as St. Paul says, that in advancing in age we
have left behind the speech and thought of infancy.  The first men did
not know how to distinguish between the substance and the form of their
beliefs.  This distinction has become easy to us.  The most
conservative minds can no longer read the stories or the monuments of
the ancient religions without criticising and translating them.

The men of other times, timid and ingenuous as children, saw everywhere
material signs by which they believed the will of the gods was
manifested.  They early formed the art of divination--an essentially
religious art.  It is found among all peoples, the ancient Hebrews not
excepted.  The thunder was to them the voice of God.  They consulted
Him by the Urim and Thummim, and by the sacred ephod.  They did not
doubt, any more than the Greeks, either the divine origin or the
prophetic sense of dreams.  Elsewhere they evoked the dead, they
interrogated the flight of birds, they listened to the sound of the
wind in the foliage of the oaks, or to the noise of waters in sonorous
caverns.  That was an external and, in some sort, physical conception
of revelation, from which modern peoples have escaped, but with which
all set out.

In the oldest traditions of Hebraism, God speaks to Adam, to Noah, to
Abraham, to Moses, as one man speaks to another, by articulate sounds
perceived by the ear.  The sacred formula, _Thus saith the Lord_,
serves as the uniform introduction to civil, political, and ritual, as
well as to moral and religious, laws.  Religion then embraced and
regulated all the life.  The great empires of antiquity all claim a
divine origin.  As to ancient legislations, there is not one that is
not said to have come from heaven.  The Egyptians refer theirs to the
god Thoth or Hermes; Minos, in Crete, is said to have received his laws
from Jupiter; Lycurgus, in Sparta, from Apollo; Zoroaster, in Persia,
from Ahura Mazda; Numa Pompilius, at Rome, from the nymph Egeria.
Moses does not stand alone.  I am not here comparing the value of the
things; I am simply pointing out the identity of the representations.

Nor was it only religious and political institutions that they referred
to the will of the gods; they referred to it all kinds of decisions and
enterprises; declarations of war, raids to make, the order of battle,
the extermination of the vanquished, the sharing of the spoils,
conditions of peace, expiations to be made; everything was done in
obedience to supernatural orders the authenticity of which no one
thought of discussing.  In the same way, a divine inspiration explained
the gift of predicting the future, the eloquence of orators, the
sagacity of statesmen, the genius of great soldiers, the verve of
poets, and even the skill of the more famous artisans.  "Legends!" it
is said.  No doubt.  But these legends are universal.  Men speak
everywhere the same language, because everywhere they think in the same

A great progress, however, is accomplished in Israel.  The notion of
revelation gradually becomes interior and moral.  Among the prophets,
revelation is conceived of as the action of the Spirit of Jehovah
entering and acting in the spirit of man.  It is true that the mythical
conception still persists and betrays itself in this: divine
inspiration is represented as the invasion of a human being by another
being alien to him,--as a sort of mental alienation or possession.  The
divine Spirit is represented as a force which comes from without, a
wind from above which no one can resist, of which the elect are as much
the victims as the organs.  Its action is measured by the agitation and
commotion of the inspired, by the disorder of their faculties, by the
incoherence of their gestures and their speech.  The delirium of man
becomes the sign of the presence of God.  Madmen, valetudinarians,
epileptics, are regarded almost everywhere as the favourites of Heaven.
Their strange words or acts men believe to be divine oracles delivered
unconsciously and against the will.

This violent opposition between the supernatural action of the divine
Spirit and the normal exercise of rational faculties is gradually
attenuated in the course of the ages.  It is easy to see that in the
great prophets of Israel the formula _Thus saith the Lord_, while still
frequent and still expressing the same subjective certitude of
inspiration, has become a simple rhetorical form.  God speaks
henceforth to His people by their eloquence, by their faith, by their
genius.  "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me," cries the second
Isaiah; "because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings to
the meek," etc.  (Is. lxi. 1-3).

This evolution appears to have been completed in the soul of Christ.
Here inspiration ceases to be miraculous without ceasing to be
supernatural.  It is no longer produced by fits and starts or
intermittently.  An ancient gospel ("The Gospel of the Hebrews")
admirably marks this change.  At the moment of His baptism the Holy
Spirit says to Jesus: _Mi fili, te exspectabam in omnibus prophetis, ut
venires et requiescerem in te.  Tu enim es requies mea_.  (My Son, in
all the prophets I awaited Thy coming in order that I might repose in
Thee.  Thou art indeed my rest.)

Being continuous, the inspiration becomes normal.  The ancient conflict
between the divine Spirit and the human vanishes.  The immanent and
constant action of the one manifests itself in the regular and fruitful
action of the other.  God lives and works in man, man lives and works
in God.  Religion and Nature, the voice divine and the voice of
conscience, the subject and the object of revelation, penetrate each
other and become one.  The supreme revelation of God shines forth in
the highest of all consciousnesses and the loveliest of human lives.

This progress, is it not admirable?  Should it not strike the attention
all the more inasmuch as, instead of being the effect of rational
criticism, it is, in Christianity, exclusively the work of piety?
This, become more profound, has conquered the ancient antithesis
created by the ignorance of early times.  Divesting itself more and
more of foreign and inferior elements, the idea of revelation has been
found to be more human as it has become more inward, more constant,
more strictly moral and religious.  Christ has not given us a critical
theory of revelation; He has done what is better; He has given us
revelation itself--a perfect and permanent revelation; He presents God
and man to us so intimately united in all the acts and moments of His
inner life, that they become inseparable.  The Father acts in His Son,
and the Son reveals the Father to all who wish to know Him.

Though he still retained many remnants of the ancient mythological
notion (visions, dreams, ecstasies, delirium of tongues), the Apostle
Paul seized with energy the distinguishing characteristic of the
Christian revelation, and propounded the theory of it with a sacred
boldness.  That theory consists in the effusion and habitation of the
Holy Spirit in the souls of Christians who, in their turn, become
"children of God," and enjoy, by this Spirit, the same direct and
permanent communion with the Father.  This Spirit is no longer an alien
guest or a perturbing force; He becomes in us a second nature.  That is
why the Christian is set free from all the old tutelages; he judges
everything and is judged by nothing; he has his law within himself, so
that from this inspiration springs his autonomy and his liberty.

But neither this spiritual piety nor the lofty conception which flows
from it could long be sustained.  Preoccupied in founding its
authority, and only being able to succeed in it by returning to the
idea of an external revelation, the Catholic Church made it to consist
chiefly in rules and dogmas, and, by this change, it naturally
transformed the mythological notion of revelation into a dogmatic
notion not essentially different.

3. _Dogmatic Notion_

"The Greeks," said Paul, "seek philosophy; the Jews demand miracles."
From these two tendencies combined, from Greek rationalism and Hebrew
supernaturalism, sprang the new notion that may be summed up and
defined thus: a divine doctrine legitimated by divine signs or miracles.

These two elements of the theory are mutually dependent, and form an
indivisible whole.  Given to man in a supernatural way, the doctrine
surpasses the reach of the human understanding; hence it must not be
imposed upon the mind by its own evidence or examined by natural
reason.  The supernatural doctrine demands supernatural proof.  This
proof can only be found in the miracles which have accompanied the
doctrine from its birth.  Thus mysteries, incomprehensible in the order
of reason, will necessarily be established by inexplicable events in
the order of Nature.

The theory, in this way, becomes coherent, but it is not complete.  A
third term must be added.  The divine doctrine must be embodied in a
form which distinguishes it from all others, and placed under an
authority that guarantees it.  For Protestantism, the form and the
authority of revelation is--the Bible; for Catholicism, it is the Bible
sovereignly interpreted by the Church.  The scholastic notion of
revelation is now complete.  The doctors teach us to distinguish three
things in it: the object, which is dogma; the form, which is Scripture;
and the proof or criterion, which is miracle.  This construction
appears to be compact in all its parts; in reality it is so fragile and
so artificial that it crumbles at a touch.

To make of dogma, that is to say of an intellectual datum, the object
of revelation is, in the first place, to eliminate from it its
religious character by separating it from piety, and in the next place
it is to place it in permanent and irreconcilable conflict with the
reason, which is always progressing.  In vain do they appear to deduce
this scholastic theory from the Bible; it is simply an unfaithful
translation of the Biblical notion.  They tear up from the soil of the
religious life the revelation of God in order to constitute it into a
body of supernatural verities, subsisting by itself, to which they make
it an obligation and a merit to adhere, silencing, if needs be, both
the judgment and the conscience.  Faith, which, in the Bible, was an
act of confidence and consecration to God, becomes an intellectual
adherence to an historical testimony or to a doctrinal formula.  A
mortal dualism starts up in religion.  It is admitted that orthodoxy
may exist apart from piety, that a man may obtain and possess the
object of faith apart from the conditions that faith presupposes, and,
at a push, serve divine truth while inwardly an unbeliever and a
reprobate.  Get rid of this illusion, frivolous and irreligious man!
Whatever your authorities in earth or heaven, you are not in the truth,
because you are not in piety.  God has not spoken anything to you.  To
the prophets He has spoken, doubtless, and to Christ and the apostles
and the saints; to you He still remains a stranger and unknown.  His
revelation has not been to you a light, for you are walking in
darkness.  You are like the Jews who built the tombs of the prophets
and crowned their memory with empty honours.  Had you been living in
the time of the men of God, you would have been the first to stone them.

This idea of revelation is at bottom entirely pagan.  In the region of
authentic Christianity you cannot separate the revealing act of God
from His redeeming and sanctifying action.  God does not enlighten, on
the contrary He blinds those whom He does not save or sanctify.  Let us
boldly conclude, therefore, against all traditional orthodoxies, that
the object of the revelation of God could only be God Himself, that is
to say the sense of His presence in us, awakening our soul to the life
of righteousness and love.  When the word of God does not give us life,
it gives us nothing.  It is true that that presence and that action of
the divine Spirit in our hearts become in them a light whose rays
illumine all the faculties of the soul.  But do not hope to enjoy that
light apart from the central sun from which it flows.

The scholastic notion is not only irreligious; it is
anti-psychological.  In entering the human understanding this
supernatural knowledge introduces into it a hopeless dualism.  The
sacred sciences are set up alongside the profane sciences without its
being possible to organise them together into a coherent and harmonious
body, for they are not of the same nature, they do not proceed from the
same method, they do not accept the same control.  You have thus a
sacred cosmogony and a profane cosmogony, a sacred history of the
origins of man and a purely human history of his beginnings, and of his
first adventures, a divine metaphysic and another purely rational.  How
to make them live together and unite them?  If, by a subtle theology,
you succeed in rationalising dogma, do you not see that you destroy it
in its very essence?  If you demonstrate that it is essentially
irrational, do you not feel that you are instituting an endless warfare
between the authority of dogma and the authority of reason?  One
remembers the generous attempt of mediæval scholasticism, taken up
again by the Protestant theologians of the seventeenth century, and one
has not forgotten its twice fatal issue.  One would need to have no
notion of the laws of human thought to be astonished at it.  Nominalism
in the fifteenth century and rationalism in the eighteenth were the two
natural heirs of orthodoxy.

The intervention of miracle as a _criterion_ or proof of doctrine does
not remove the difficulties of the theory; it multiplies and aggravates
them.  In consequence of the lapse of time, the incertitude of the
documents, and the demands of modern thought, miracle, which formerly
established the truth of religion, has become much more difficult to
demonstrate than religion itself.  The relation between the two has
been reversed.  The foundation of the edifice has become more ruinous
than the building.  Examples?  Consider, then, on the one hand, the
Decalogue, and on the other the thunders and lightnings of Sinai.
Peals of thunder may have served to convince the Hebrews that the law
of Moses came from the Eternal; for they looked upon thunder as
revealing the presence, in some sort material and local, of their God.
But who does not see that it is much easier to-day to prove the
excellence and the truth of the _Ten Words_ of the Law than the divine
character of the most terrible of tempests?  Make the opposite
experiment: you are familiar with the Books of Joshua, Judges, Kings.
You have read in them those orders issued by Jehovah for the total
extermination of peoples whose crime was the defence of their country
against the invaders.  Prodigies abound in them: the walls of Jericho
fall down at the sound of trumpets, etc., etc.  Are these events
sufficient to warrant us in admitting the affirmation of the Hebrew
historian that these terrible reprisals, these crimes and violences,
which were then common in all the Semitic tribes, were commanded either
by the heavenly Father of Jesus Christ or by the impartial God of the
universe?  Our conscience resists and protests.  Prodigies the most
brilliant cannot make it do violence to itself or bend the law of
righteousness and love beneath any manifestation, however striking, of
brute force.  Let us go further; let us come to the miracles of Christ.
Let us interrogate the best Christians of our time: let us ask
ourselves, Is it the cures that Jesus wrought which make us believe
to-day in the divine truth of His word or which give authority to the
Sermon on the Mount?  Is it not rather the Gospel that helps us to
believe in the miracles by persuading us that a man who spake like this
man must have been able to do things and work works as beautiful and as
wonderful as the words which He spoke?  The most conservative
Apologists of the traditional school confess to-day that miracle has
lost its evidential force; it might move those who witnessed it, but
its action and its prestige have necessarily been diminishing day by
day for the generations which have followed them.

What if we were to press the idea of miracle itself which is in process
of vanishing in proportion as the idea of Nature is transformed?  What
is Nature?  Who knows its secrets and its limits?  The theory of the
evolution of things and beings, does it not show Nature to us as in
travail, and as if perpetually giving birth to marvels?  And if this
creative energy which is in it can only religiously be referred to the
constant activity of God in the universe and in history, how can we
still oppose the laws of Nature to the will of God?  Moreover, nothing
is to-day more indeterminate, more impossible to define than the notion
of miracle; it floats without ever being able to fix itself, between
the idea of an absolute violation of the laws of Nature now no longer
witnessed anywhere, to that entirely relative one of an extraordinary
event, which, seeing that it may be encountered everywhere, no longer
proves anything.

Lastly, if from the _object_ and the _criterion_ of revelation, we pass
to the form which conserves and warrants it, _i.e._ to the Bible,
questions become still more numerous and insoluble.  In the seventeenth
century the notion of the Bible and that of revelation were coincident
and commensurate.  But this identity depended upon two dogmas much
impaired to-day.  The one was the divine origin of the two Biblical
Canons, _i.e._ of the Old and New Testaments: the other, the verbal
inspiration of all holy Scripture, considered as divinely dictated.

History and exegesis have dissipated the illusions and the ignorance on
which these two strange affirmations rested.  The Bible appears to us
as the work, slowly and laboriously constructed, of the ancient Jewish
Synagogue, and of the Early Christian Church.  It needed more than four
centuries to establish and to delimitate the New Testament.  The books
which compose it were still in the time of Eusebius divided into two
classes: books admitted everywhere and books contested.  Why then
should we not have the same liberty as Origen of doubting the
authenticity of 2 Peter, _e.g._, or as Denis of Alexandria in
discussing the apostolic origin of the Apocalypse?  As to the theory of
verbal inspiration, which makes the sacred writers God's penmen merely,
no savant nowadays can defend it, so thoroughly have biblical studies
set forth the personal originality of each of them, and the merits or
the imperfections of their works.  Moreover, the distinction clearly
made in all the schools between the sacred writings and revelation must
be considered as an inalienable conquest of modern theology.  There is
no one now who does not admit this truth, which would have seemed
intolerable to our fathers, namely, that the word of God is in the
Bible, but that all the Bible is not the word of God.

If this be so one sees new questions surging up and awaiting solution.
What is the relation of the word of God to the Bible?  By what sign may
we recognise the first and distinguish the second?  Further, if there
be any word of God outside the Bible, if there has been any revelation
of God beyond the limits of the Hebrew people and primitive
Christianity--and how can we deny this without denying the worth of
religion?--what relation is there to establish, and what synthesis to
make, between the biblical revelation and the other revelations suited
to the various human families?  Lastly, what place does the religion of
Jesus occupy in the religious evolution of humanity?  Modern theology
seems deaf to these questions.  Despairing of a solution, it hesitates
to approach them.  But they must be answered.  Contemporary philosophy
presses them upon the conscience of Christians.  The scholastic theory,
it is clear, cannot bring any solution to these new problems.  As soon
as the distinction is made in our consciousness between the word of God
and the letter of holy Scripture, the first becomes independent of all
human form and of all external guarantee.  It is with it as with the
light of the sun.  It is only recognised by the brightness with which
it floods us.  But take care to introduce this criterion of religious
and moral evidence into the scholastic theory is to deposit an
explosive in the heart of it which shatters it to atoms....  I leave to
others the task of masking or repairing the ruins.  A task more urgent
and more fruitful awaits us.  We must build up, on a new principle, a
new theory of revelation, a theory that will at once bear the test of
criticism and give satisfaction to piety.

4. _Psychological Notion_

To return to psychology.  In all piety there is some positive
manifestation of God.  Otherwise, one might question the value of
religious phenomena.

Three consequences follow: the revelation of God will be evident,
interior, progressive.

It will be interior, because God, not having phenomenal existence, can
only reveal Himself to spirit, and in the piety that He Himself

If revealers and prophets believed they heard the voice of God outside
themselves they were the victims of a psychological illusion that
analysis discerns and dissipates.  The old theologian was right who

_Nulla fides si non primum Deus ipse loquitur; Nulla que verba Dei nisi
quæ in penetralibus audit Ipsa fides._[1]  This interior revelation is
only made, it is true, in connection with some external event of Nature
or of History.  If wonder is the beginning of philosophy it is also the
commencement of piety.  Religious emotion does not spring up by chance
and unconditionally.  But external signs are only revealers for those
who know how to comprehend them, and who are able to interpret them in
a religious sense.  That is why the distinction sometimes made between
the _manifestation_ of God in things and divine _inspiration_ in
consciousness, between the sign or external miracle and the inward
word, is of little worth except for pedagogic purposes.  The
manifestation of God in Nature or in History is always a matter of
faith.  It would only appear to be such in the light on the hearth of
consciousness.  Put out that inner light and everything speedily
becomes obscure: "If the light that is in thee be darkness, there will
be darkness round about thee," says Jesus.  To the deaf man the
universe is mute.  The starry heavens which bent the pensive brows of
Newton and of Kant before the majesty of God, said nothing to Laplace.
Lit up within, the soul of Christ saw everywhere the signs of God.
Caiaphas saw none.  In the cross of Jesus, where St. Paul discerned the
manifestation of the wisdom and the power of God, the Pharisees had
only seen the crushing proof that this Messiah was a mere impostor.

[1] There is no faith save in the heart where God has first made
Himself heard, and there are no divine words except those which faith
hears in the inmost sanctuary of the soul.

This inward revelation will be also _evident_.  The contrary would
imply a contradiction.  He who says revelation says the veil withdrawn,
the light come.  True, the word _mystery_ is often on the lips of
Jesus, and in the writings of the New Testament; but, when applied to
the essence of the Gospel it never has the meaning which is given to it
later in the language of theology.  The mystery of which Jesus, Paul,
and the Apostles speak is a revealed mystery, _i.e._ a mystery which
has become evident to pure hearts and pious souls through the public
preaching of it.  The Gospel is not obscurity; it is daylight, and it
is nonsense to demand a criterion of evangelical revelation other than
itself, any other evidence, _i.e._, than its own truth, beauty, and

Lastly, this revelation will be _progressive_.  It will be developed
with the progress of the moral and religious life which God begets and
nourishes in the bosom of humanity.  The word of God is not that of a
poor human founder who formulates in abstract terms ideas which are but
the pale shadows of things.  It is essentially creative.  It carries
with it all the substance of being and all the potency of life.  It
realises that which it proclaims, and never manifests itself except by
its works.  When God wished to give the Decalogue to Israel, He did not
write with His finger on tables of stone; He raised up Moses, and from
the consciousness of Moses the Decalogue sprang.  In order that we
might have the Epistle to the Romans, there was no need to dictate it
to the Apostle; God had only to create the powerful individuality of
Saul of Tarsus, well knowing that when once the tree was made the fruit
would follow in due course.  The same with the Gospel; He did not drop
it from the sky; He did not send it by an angel; He caused Jesus to be
born from the very bosom of the human race, and Jesus gave us the
Gospel that had blossomed in His inmost heart.  Thus God reveals
Himself in the great consciousnesses that His Spirit raises, fills,
illumines one by one; they form a sacred theory through the ages and
leave on history a track of light which brightens, broadens to the
perfect day.

A new and graver problem here arises.  This revelation, made in the
depths of the human soul, remains individual and subjective.  How will
it become objective and concrete?  How will it be made an educating,
saving power?  This problem would be insoluble if Leibniz was right, if
human souls were independent monads, closed against and impenetrable to
one another, if it had been necessary, in a word, to regard them as
absolute entities, posited from the beginning by the Creator.  But they
are nothing of the kind.  Social philosophy has sufficiently
demonstrated that no individual exists either by himself or for himself
alone.  In each man it is humanity that is realised--that is to say, a
moral life common to all.  Moral goods are in essence universal.  They
do not exist, doubtless, apart from the consciousness of the
individual; but no consciousness acquires them without acquiring them,
in principle at least, for all others.

Whence comes that religious kinship of souls, that facility of
communion between them, and that infinite extension and prolongation of
one and the same inspiration, if not from the presence in each of the
same indwelling God?  Men are only divided by their external idols.  In
proportion as they plumb their being and descend into the depths of
their spiritual nature, they discover the same altar, recite the same
prayer, aspire to the same end.  It is for this profound reason that
individual revelations become universal.  There are only prophets
chosen of God because there is a general vocation and election of all
men.  If humanity were not potentially and in some degree an Immanuel
(God with us), there would never have issued from its bosom Him who
bore and revealed this blessed name.  The religious experience He
passed through, He passed through for us; the victory He won was for
our advantage and is repeated indefinitely in every sincere soul that
joins itself to Him to live His life.  Thus the revelation of God given
at one point and in one consciousness infallibly shines forth,
perpetuates and multiplies itself.  A vibration set up in a soul
resounds in kindred souls.  An illumined consciousness illuminates in
turn.  There are religious filiations, just as there are historical
genealogies.  Thus the inner revelation becomes consistent and
objective in history; it forms a chain, a continuous tradition, and
becoming incarnate in each human generation, remains not only the
richest of heritages, but the most fecund of historical powers.

One step more.  Let us follow this historical incarnation of religious
tradition into its most material form.  The inner experiences of men of
God and the witness of them that they give to the world, express
themselves naturally in speech, and this in its turn is transformed
into Scripture.  It is in this way that in all civilised religions
divine revelation is presented to man in the form of a sacred writing;
everywhere it is gathered into collections of sacred books which have
been called the bibles of humanity.  While all these have been born
according to the same psychological and historical laws, it does not
follow that they have all the same value, or that an unintelligent
syncretism has the right to mix together the various elements in them
to make of them one common and characterless Bible.  No; each of them
naturally belongs to a particular stage in the ladder of divine
revelations, and there we must leave them.  The highest will always be
that which contains the deepest and purest expression of inward
religion, and consequently offers to man the most precious treasure.
The rank of the Hebrew and Christian Bible is thus found to be
logically determined by the moral worth of the Hebrew and the Christian
religions.  But in leaving historical criticism and religious
experience to make here the necessary demonstration and render it daily
more evident, we must once more call to mind the always human
conditions of these written collections, of those at the top as well as
those at the bottom of the ladder, conditions which forbid us ever to
identify the letter and the spirit, the divine inspiration and the
particular form in which it has been clothed.

God, wishing to speak to us, has never chosen any but human organs.
With whatever inspiration He has endowed them, that inspiration has
always therefore passed through human subjectivity; it has only been
able either to express or to translate itself in the language and the
turn of mind of a particular individual and of a particular time.  Now,
no individual and historical form can be absolute.  If the contents are
divine, the vessel is always earthen.  The organ of the revelation of
God necessarily limits it.  It must of necessity accommodate itself to
the limits of human receptivity.  How could it possibly enter and
mingle with the changing waves of the intellectual and moral life of
humanity unless it flowed in the bed of the river and between its banks?

However incontestable this historical complexity of the divine and
human elements in religion, most men seem incapable of comprehending
it, and of frankly accepting it.  Men of little faith, we feel
ourselves lost the moment men take from us the illusion that we ever
have before us and outside of us the divine revelation in an objective
and unadulterated form, when alongside authority and tradition they
make a place for the freedom and the interpretation of consciousness.
Is there then some chemistry by which we can separate that which God
has joined so indissolubly?  Has life ever been seen apart from living
beings or light apart from luminous vibrations?  Why not make an effort
to see that the wisdom of God is infinitely greater than our own, and
that what He has given us is better than that of which we dreamed.
Life and light, even if they are not absolute, propagate themselves
with none the less force.

Lastly, what is the criterion by which you may recognise an authentic
revelation of God in the books you read, in the things you are taught?
Listen: only one criterion is sufficient and infallible: every divine
revelation, every religious experience fit to nourish and sustain your
soul, must be able to repeat and continue itself as an actual
revelation and an individual experience in your own consciousness.
What cannot enter thus as a permanent and constituent element into the
woof of your inner life, to enrich, enfranchise, and transform it into
a higher life, cannot be for you a light, or, consequently, a divine
revelation.  The spirit of life is not there.  Do not believe that the
prophets and founders have transmitted to you their experience in order
to make yours needless, or that their revelation has been brought to
you in a book for you to receive passively and as if it were an alien
thing.  Religious truth cannot be borrowed like money, or, rather, if
you do so borrow it you are none the richer.  Remember what the
Samaritans said to the woman: "Now we believe, not because of thy
saying: for we have heard Him ourselves, and know that this is indeed
the Christ, the Saviour of the world" (John iv. 42).  Thus the divine
revelation which is not realised in us, and does not become immediate,
does not exist for us.  And I admire the counsel of God, Who, wishing
to raise man into liberty, did not give to him an objective revelation
which would have become to him a yoke of bondage.  The aim of tradition
is liberty, and liberty returns lovingly to tradition when, instead of
finding it a yoke, it sees in it only a help, an aliment, a guide.

5. _Conclusion_

Such, in its principle, and with all its consequences, is the new idea
of revelation given to us by psychology and history.  Before it vanish
the insoluble antitheses and conflicts raised by scholasticism between
supernatural and natural revelation, between what the theologians call
immediate and mediate, between a universal and a special revelation.
Synthesis is made, and peace is re-established.

There is not and could never have been two revelations different in
nature and opposed to each other.  Revelation is one, in different
forms and various degrees.  It is at once supernatural and natural:
supernatural by the cause which engenders it in souls, and which,
always remaining invisible and transcendent, never exhausts or
imprisons itself in the phenomena it produces; natural, by its effects,
because, realising itself in history, it always appears therein
conditioned by the historical environment and by the common laws which
regulate the human mind.

This revelation also is immediate for all, for the least in the kingdom
of heaven, as for the greatest of the prophets; for God desires to
admit them all into direct and personal communion with Himself; and it
is equally mediate for all; for it comes to none, whether prophets or
their disciples, unconditionally, and without previous preparation.

Lastly, it is not less false and futile to oppose universal revelation
to particular revelations as two exclusive quantities.  Particular
revelations enter into general revelation as varieties into species.
Every special revelation, if it be really from God, is human, and tends
to become universal; every general revelation was once individual, for
it could only have been made in an individuality.  Among the men and
peoples chosen by God as organs there is inequality in gifts but
solidarity in the common work.  We must not mistake the one or the
other.  The religious vocation of humanity does not exclude--it
prepares and supports--the particular vocation of Israel.  In this
national vocation there is a place for that of the prophets, and, among
the prophets, for the vocation of Him who was their heir, and in Whom
the revelation of God was completed, because in His consciousness was
realised perfectly the very idea of piety.

Is everything explained in religion, then, and nothing left obscure?
Far from that!  There remains the ground from which emerges the
conscious and moral life of the soul; there remains that initial
mystery, the relation in our consciousness between the individual and
the universal element, between the finite and the infinite, between God
and man.  How can we comprehend their co-existence and their union, and
yet how can we doubt it?  Where is the thoughtful man to-day who has
not broken the thin crust of his daily life, and caught a glimpse of
those profound and obscure waters on which floats our consciousness?
Who has not felt within himself a veiled presence and a force much
greater than his own?  What worker in a lofty cause has not perceived
within his own personal activity, and saluted with a feeling of
veneration, the mysterious activity of a universal and eternal power?
_In Deo vivimus, movemur et sumus_.  There is perhaps no other mystery
in religion; at all events all others are but particular forms of this.
But this mystery cannot be dissipated, for, without it, religion itself
would no longer exist.



In speaking of revelation we have already touched on the doctrines of
inspiration and of miracle, which are dependencies of it, and, as it
were, constituent parts.  But these two notions are still so obscure in
the public mind, and give rise to so many and such lively
controversies, that it may be well to return to them and study them by
themselves and in some detail.

In this matter there are two causes of dispute and misunderstanding.
The first is that everybody believes he ought to begin by giving his
own personal and arbitrary definition of miracle, and afterwards
explain by way of deduction why he believes or does not believe in it.
The debate thus turns on a question of terminology--that is to say, on
a vain and barren logomachy.  The second cause is that the defenders of
miracle always keep to abstractions, instead of following their
contradictors on to the ground of criticism of miraculous stories and
placing themselves in presence of the facts which alone make up the
matter of the discussion.  They believe they have gained everything
when they have proved that God, according to the very definition of the
idea that we have of Him, can do everything--which no one denies--while
the problem consists not in knowing what God can do _in abstracto_, but
what He has done _in concreto_, in Nature and in History.  Now, in
order to know what is really done, and whether there are or ever have
been produced phenomena which must be referred to the immediate
intervention, and to a particular volition of God, independently of the
concurrence of second causes, this is evidently something that only the
critical observation of facts, past or present, can teach us.  Every
other method of research and discussion is illusory.

Faithful to our own, we here place ourselves at the historical point of
view.  Convinced that ideas have a history, and are most clearly and
surely defined by their very evolution, we shall confine ourselves to
following and describing that evolution.  We shall seek in the first
place to ascertain the notion of miracle that was current in antiquity;
after that we shall see what became of it in mediæval theology; and
lastly we shall see into what elements it has resolved itself in modern
times, as much at the point of view of science as of piety.  As
religious inspiration, properly speaking, is but a particular miracle,
a miracle of the psychological order, the solution available for the
one will apply to the other.

1. _The Notion of Miracle in Antiquity_

The primitive conception of Nature was animistic.  In everything
_astonishing_, extraordinary, men used to see the action of spirits
like themselves, with whom their religious imagination peopled the
heavens, the earth, the seas.  They lived in miracle.  It would be
easier to enumerate the things that were not than the things that were
to them miraculous.  The word Nature, which has become so familiar and
so indispensable to designate the regular course of things, does not
exist in primitive languages.  One does not meet with it even in the
language of the Old Testament.  This is because the conception it
represents only came into existence later, and by a slow and laborious
process, in the philosophy of the Greeks.  The cosmos, ordered and
harmonious and fixed, is the sublime creation of Hellenic reason.
Elsewhere, no doubt, with experience of life and the daily return of
phenomena, a certain order, the effect of custom, would exist around
man and be established in his mind.  He learned to distinguish between
the habitual course of things and the prodigies which caused him
wonder, fear, or hope, and in which he always saw the effect either of
the favour or the anger of a demon or a god.  His imagination, to which
his ignorance gave free play, and his credulity, which religious terror
held open to all impressions, stories, legends, wrapped his life in an
atmosphere of marvel, gentle or terrible, but incessant.  Eclipses,
earthquakes, thunder, lightning, rainbows, deluges, accidents,
maladies, etc.--these were the work of particular actors, personal,
impassioned like man, hidden behind the scenes.  Add to this the
inventions of sorcerers and priests; ... transport yourself into this
first effervescence of the human faculties, into this luxuriant
vegetation of poetical creation in the early human mind, and you will
have some idea of what, for centuries on centuries, must have been the
mental state of primitive historic humanity.  Such, however, is the
comparative poverty of human conceptions, that, when you come to
catalogue these marvels, you see them reduced to a small number of
miracles which turn up everywhere and again and again among all
peoples.  Their similarity approaches to monotony....  The question for
the moment is not whether these miraculous facts are real or not, but
how the men who have transmitted them to us represented them.  There is
no doubt on this point.  To them they were not simply astonishing facts
that admitted of a natural explanation.  Modern theologians and savants
who seek and find for them explanations of this kind do not perceive
that they contradict themselves, and that to explain miracle in this
way is to destroy it.  No; that which is miraculous in these events--to
the contemporaries of Tarquin in Rome, of Joshua in Palestine, to the
people in our own day--is this, that they are produced, contrary to the
natural course of things, solely by a special intervention of the
divine will.  That is the mark and characteristic of ancient miracle.
Efface it, for any reason whatever, and miracle disappears.  That which
makes it possible is ignorance of Nature and its laws: that which
supports it is the religious belief in the existence of these
supernatural wills and in their unexpected invasion of the succession
of accustomed things.  "Without this belief," as M. Ménégoz remarks,[1]
"the birth of a myth or of a legend could not be explained.  St. Denis,
decapitated, would not have been able to carry his head."  In fact, the
miracles you find in the apocryphal legends are exactly of the same
nature as those which are met with in narratives held to be more

[1] _La notion biblique du miracle_ (Leçon d'ouverture), 1894.

I must add that this notion of miracle is absolutely the same in
Biblical as in profane literature.  In a general way, no doubt, the
supernatural in the history of Israel and in the early days of
Christianity is of a more sober, more profoundly moral and religious
character than it is everywhere else.  But the sacred writers do not
represent miracles differently.  Without exception, they also conceive
of them as a violation, by a particular volition of God, of the
ordinary course of things....  Still, so far from being more striking
or more numerous, miracles and prodigies in the Bible are rarer than
elsewhere, clearer, less fantastic, more under law to conscience and to
common sense.  The worship of one God, invisible, spiritual, in whom
centres the ideal of wisdom, reason, righteousness, conceived by the
prophets, joined to the lack of imagination in the Hebrew race, has
freed the Bible from the luxuriant growths of oriental mythologies and
theogonies, as of the marvellous in the poesy of Greece.  Nothing
purifies the mind like a great moral idea around which all the rest
organises itself.  It is very remarkable that the great prophets,
Isaiah, Amos, Micah, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, work hardly any
miracles.  If prodigy has penetrated into the life of Jesus at two or
three points, the explanation is to be found in the mistakes or the
legendary corruptions for which His biographers are alone responsible,
and which criticism may eliminate without violence.  Prodigy, properly
so called, is quite foreign to the wholly moral conduct of His life,
and to the strictly religious conception of His work.  He did not found
His religion on miracle, but on the light, the consolation, the pardon
and the joy which His gospel, issuing from His holy, loving heart,
brought to broken and repentant souls.  His works proceeded only from
His charity.  Far from wishing to impose belief in His miracles, He
often forbids men to divulge them.  It is to the faith of the afflicted
that He refers their cure.  He turns away from the seductive
invitations of miraculous _Messianism_ as from the distrust or the
curiosity of an incredulous wisdom.  To those who demanded of Him an
indubitable prodigy come from heaven, He answers that no sign shall be
given them save the preaching of repentance by the prophet Jonah.  The
whole temptation in the wilderness is simply a victory of the moral
consciousness over the religion of physical prodigy.  His filial piety
to the Father raised Him above miracle itself and above the dualism
that miracle supposes in Nature and in the divine action.  He discovers
in everything the signs of the presence, the will, the affection, of
His Father.  He accepts them, submits to them, celebrates them, without
preoccupying Himself with the ordinary or the extraordinary manner in
which they may be manifested.  This absolute piety, absolutely pure and
confident, succeeds in realising the unity of the world and the
universal and continuous action of God, quite as well as the dialectic
of a Scotus Eriginus or a Spinoza or a Hegel; for it suppresses still
more radically the old and mortal antithesis of the natural and the
supernatural.  Nature in its expansion and its evolution--what is it
but the very expression of the Will of the Father?  How can you imagine
then that there could ever be conflict in it between the order which
reigns in it and the action of Him by whom that order is maintained day
by day and moment by moment?  If the thought of Jesus was bounded by
the ancient notion of miracle, it must be acknowledged that His piety
was not imprisoned in it, but went beyond it.  Not having come into the
world to teach science, He contented Himself with the opinions He had
inherited with the rest of His people, and which constituted the
science of Nature of His little popular environment, without concerning
Himself as to whether these opinions were erroneous or correct.
Miracle was not then something essentially religious as it is to-day.
Belief in miracles was not a sign of piety.  Everybody shared in it,
men of the world as well as men of God.  Herod believed in them not
less than the apostles.  The Pharisees did not doubt them; they only
denied the miracles of Jesus; they attributed them to Beelzebub.
Christ did not doubt any more than they did that Satan and the demons
wrought as many and perhaps more miracles than the messengers of God.
He did not wish them to believe the doctrine because of the prodigy,
but in the prodigy because of the doctrine.  It will be seen how far
they were at that time from the dualism of our day, and from the
conflict created by scholasticism between science and piety.

When we examine this ancient notion of miracle, especially in the
superior expression it receives in the Bible, we discover in it two
things: it is made up of two judgments of a very different order: of an
intellectual and scientific order, disclosing that which then existed
in point of fact, a _naïf_ and perfect ignorance of the nature and the
laws of things; and of a judgment of a religious order, implying an
absolute confidence in an all-good God who is almighty to respond to
the cry of His children and to deliver them.  These two judgments are
so thoroughly blended in the biblical notion of miracle that orthodox
theologians and irreligious philosophers agree in declaring them to be
inseparable, and they would compel us to choose between a piety hostile
to the elementary results of science, and a science radically hostile
to piety.  The dilemma is specious but false.  To see it vanish it is
only necessary to perceive that these two judgments, not being of the
same nature, cannot be eternally _solidaire_.  The settlement of the
controversy in which Christian thought has been engaged for the last
three centuries will consist in separating them.

      *      *      *      *      *

2. _The Notion of Miracle in the Face of Modern Science and of Piety_

Modern science neither affirms nor denies miracle; it ignores it,
necessarily.  It is, for it, as if it did not exist.

Religious persons, who often look towards science to ascertain what
their faith may hope or fear from it, only consider its results, and as
these are never definitive, but always variable, always being revised,
enlarged, enriched, they secretly indulge the hope that a moment may
come when science, which has not yet welcomed miracle, will welcome it;
that such a fact, supported by such and such testimony, will in the end
conquer its resistances and obtain a place in the category or the
catalogue of scientific facts.  They would quickly lose this illusion,
if, turning away from the net results of science, they would fix their
attention on its processes and methods of investigation.  What is it,
according to science, to know a phenomenon?  It is to place it in a
necessary link of succession, concomitance, and causality with other
phenomena which explain it by analogy.  Suppose a mysterious phenomenon
without analogy and connection with any other; savants brought into its
presence will declare themselves simply in a state of ignorance with
respect to it.  They will say they have not discovered the cause of it,
that they cannot explain it; they will study it on every side a
thousand times if necessary until they have torn out the heart of the
mystery.  Either they will succeed, or on this point there will never
be science made or explanation established.

Savants, it is true, are the first to recognise and to proclaim, in all
domains, the limitations of their knowledge.  The most advanced are the
most modest.  They all have the feeling that their discoveries are but
a beginning, and that the part of Nature they have explored is as
nothing to that of which they are ignorant.  They hold themselves in
readiness to modify the laws they have established, to enlarge their
hypotheses, to make new ones, to record all facts which observation may
supply.  That many facts astonish them and disconcert them, we see
every day.  But mark the attitude of the true savant in face of these
new phenomena.  Does he doubt a single moment that they obey laws,
unknown perhaps, but certain? ... There can only be science of that
which is general and constant.

It is therefore absolutely chimerical to expect of science the
establishment of any miracle whatever....  Miracle, according to the
only tenable definition, and this is the ancient and traditional one,
is a positive intervention of God in the phenomenal order and at a
particular point.  Now science knows only second causes.  How could it
ever seize in the course of these causes the immediate action of the
First Cause?  Is God a phenomenon that the eye of man can ever perceive
in any phenomenal series?  And is not this the reason why science
despairs of ever proving scientifically the existence of God?  It
recognises itself to be impotent to step out of the relative, to
resolve anything outside space and time, and it has removed from its
domain all questions as to origin and aim, because it has no means of
reaching them.

To perceive God and the action of God in the human soul and in the
course of things is the business of the pious heart (Matt. v. 8).  The
affirmation of piety is essentially different from scientific
explanation.  It places us in the subjective and moral order of life,
which no more depends on the order of science than the scientific order
depends on piety.  There cannot be conflict between these two orders,
because they move on different planes and never meet.  Science, which
knows its limits, cannot forbid the act of confidence and adoration of
piety.  Piety, in its turn, conscious of its proper nature, will not
encroach on science; its affirmations can neither enrich, impoverish,
nor embarrass science, for they bear on different points and answer
different ends.  My child is ill; I procure for it the best advice and
the best remedies; but confiding in God's mercy, I beg of Him to spare
me my child, or, in any case, to help me to accept His will.  The child
recovers.  What savant will forbid me to thank my heavenly Father?
Will this be because my thanksgiving will be a denial of the science of
the physician?  Certainly not, for my gratitude will include the fact
of the doctor, the medicine, the care bestowed, the whole series of
second causes that have contributed to the recovery of my child.  Was
not this the piety of Jesus when He taught us to pray: "Our Father
which art in Heaven: Thy will be done: Give us our daily bread"?  Was
He ignorant of the fact that in order to have bread we must sow wheat?
No; but none the less He asked His food from God, because He knew also
that, in the last resort, it is the will of God that makes the
substance and the order of things, that it is He who clothes the lilies
of the field, feeds the fowls of the air, makes His sun to shine upon
the evil and the good, and sends upon the labourer's soil the early and
the latter rain.

Reduced to its religious and moral significance, miracle, for Jesus,
was the answer to prayer, as M. Ménégoz (_pp. cit._ pp. 19-29) has
clearly shown, and this altogether apart from the phenomenal mode in
which the answer was produced.  God only manifests Himself in
extraordinary events in order that we may learn to recognise Him in
ordinary ones.  The child asks, the father grants; but the child does
not trouble himself about the means by which his wishes are gratified.
The pious man adores the ways he cannot comprehend.  This confidence in
the love and justice of God may be accompanied in the mind of the
apostles and of Jesus Himself by imperfect or erroneous scientific
ideas as to the mode of divine action in Nature.  But it is not
_solidaire_, with them, and may easily be detached in order to bring it
into harmony with the views of our present science, as in the mind of
Jesus and the apostles it was in harmony with the science of their
time.  For piety, the laws of Nature which have since then been
revealed to us in their sovereign constancy, become the immediate
expression of the will of God.  The Christian submits to them
instinctively, saying: "Thy will be done."  Which is only saying that
these laws, which are sometimes spoken of with a sort of horror, as of
a blind and brutal fate, become religious and are consecrated in the
eyes of piety by a divine authority.  Why then should not piety offer
to science and its revelations of Nature the same frank and joyous
welcome as that accorded to them by scientists themselves?  The
opposition established by scholasticism between faith and science, is
it not as irreligious as it is irrational, and has it not been one of
the chief causes of the death of theology in the Church and of the
triumph of incredulity in the present age?

While developing themselves on parallel lines, can science and faith
remain isolated?  Man is one, and his scientific activity, like his
religious activity, tends to a synthesis.  The synthesis will be found
in a teleological consideration of the universe.  This universal
teleology, faith predicts it, science labours to realise it.  It can
only be established by this twofold concurrence.  Without faith,
knowledge of the universe is impossible; without phenomenal science all
interpretation of the universe becomes illusory.  Faith, therefore,
must become more and more an act of confidence in God, and the
scientific study of phenomena ever more profound and rigorous.  Of
course the teleological synthesis will never be completed here below,
but it will always find a provisional and satisfying conclusion in the
act of confidence and adoration towards God.

Science is perpetually becoming.  If at times it closes to piety dear
and familiar prospects, it necessarily and constantly opens new ones.
If it takes away its crutches, it gives it wings.  The contemplation of
the harmony of the worlds which moves us religiously is, it seems to
me, worth more to modern thought than the fatidical oracle, or the cry
of the crow that frightened the good old woman of Rome.  The more
science progresses the more it puts into things the order and harmony
of thought.  It can only create a Cosmos more and more intelligible
and, consequently, susceptible of an increasingly religious

At the same time as science instituted its severest methods, it
radically transformed its primary notion of Nature.  This was conceived
by the Cartesian Rationalism as a finished and coherent whole, a system
of identical movements and phenomena which were produced by virtue of
the same springs acting in the same circle (the vortices of Descartes).
The familiar image under which they loved to represent it was that of a
watch, constructed and wound up by the divine artificer once for all.
Now, we see this dogma of the immutability of Nature going to join the
other dogmas of the past.  The theory of the ascensional evolution of
beings, which renders miracle useless, shows Nature to us in the course
of constant transformation and perpetual travail.  Nothing in it is
stable or final.  Everything is preparatory to something else; each
form of life is the preface to a higher form.  What then is the hidden
mystery which ferments in the bosom of this painful nature and
endeavours to expand?

"The more cannot issue from the less," said the schoolmen, and no doubt
in abstract logic they were right.  But reality smiles at logic.  It
shows us everywhere the triumph of the opposite maxim.  Perfection is
at the beginning of nothing.  Cosmic evolution proceeds always from
that which is poorer to that which is richer, from the simple to the
complex, from the homogeneous to the heterogeneous, from dead matter to
living matter, from physical to mental life.  At each stage Nature
surpasses itself by a mysterious creation that resembles a true miracle
in relation to an inferior stage.  What then shall we conclude from
these observations except that in Nature there is a hidden force, an
incommensurable "potential energy," an ever open, never exhausted fount
of apparitions at once magnificent and unexpected?  How can such a
universe escape the teleological interpretation of religious faith?
For the moment, science may accord nothing more to piety; but piety has
no need to ask more from it; for it has already in this way found
safeguarded the three things which the old notion of miracle guaranteed
to it: the real and active presence of God, the answer to prayer, and
liberty to hope.

      *      *      *      *      *

3. _Religious Inspiration_

Passing by the subject of prophecy, which is a species of miracle, and
admits of the same kind of explanation, it may be well to touch upon
the subject of prophetic inspiration.  The ancients represent it as a
veritable state of possession.  The spirit of the god or demon
violently entered into the body of a man or woman, sometimes of an
animal, and made of it an organ the more faithful in proportion as it
was unconscious.  Everybody knows the description given by Virgil of
the Cumaean sybil at the moment of vaticination: "The god, the god, she
cried," etc.  (Aeneid VI. v. 45 et 77.)[2]  It was a sort of frenzy or
sacred delirium in which divine words involuntarily and sometimes
unconsciously proceeded from the mouth of the possessed.  Madmen,
epileptics, idiots, hysterical persons, were regarded almost everywhere
as sacred beings, friends and confidants of superior spirits.  Their
strange malady only seems explicable by the presence in them of one of
these spirits.

[2] Cf. Plato, _Meno. Timaeus_, 45.--Cicero, _De Divin_ 1. 2. 18. 31.
Aristotle, _Problem_, xxx. p. 474.

The same ideas were current among the Hebrews, and are to be found both
in the Old and in the New Testament.  The prophets of Ramah, disciples
of Samuel, and Saul himself, putting themselves by contagion into a
state of delirium and "prophecy," are in a physical and mental state
identical with that of the sybil of Cumae.  The demons in possession of
the man who was healed by Jesus were the first to divine and to salute
His messianic dignity.  The poor woman whom Paul healed at Philippi was
haunted by "a spirit, a Python."  The speakers with tongues at Corinth
were thought by those present to be mad, and those at Jerusalem on the
day of Pentecost looked like drunken men (1 Sam. x. 5-7: Mark i. 24:
Acts xvi. 16-20: 1 Cor. xiv: Acts ii. 13).

All these manifestations, formerly held to be supernatural, are now
recognised as morbid phenomena, of which mental pathology describes the
physiological causes, the natural course, the fatal issue.  Even in
frightful disorders order has been discovered; laws and remedies have
been found for many of these sad afflictions.  Formerly they deified
these demented and tormented souls; in the Middle Ages, and up to the
eighteenth century, they burned them; we pity them and care for them.
This is much the best for all concerned.

Preoccupied with guaranteeing the infallibility of the sacred writings,
the theology of the Fathers, of the scholastic doctors, and of the
Protestant doctors of the seventeenth century, drew from this ancient
notion of religious inspiration a dogmatic theory applicable to the
divine oracles contained in the Bible.  It seemed to them that the more
passive the personal spirit of the writers was, the purer would be the
word of God that they were charged to deliver when it reached us.  At
this point of view, the most faithful organ of God, the one that ought
to inspire us with the greatest confidence, would be Balaam's ass.
"The writer might be stupid," exclaims Gaussen, "but that which came
from his hands would always be the Bible."  Some have gone further by
way of inventing images borrowed from the material order, such as, "the
strings of a lyre," sounding beneath the divine bow, "the quills or
pens of the Holy Spirit," etc., etc.  The theory is familiar.  It was
developed throughout the Middle Ages until they came to say that God
was the author and is alone responsible for the Bible, and for
everything that is found in it; not only for the things and thoughts,
but also for the words and style; not only for each word, but also for
the vowels and the consonants.  It only remained that they should have
added the punctuation, not the least important matter in a connected
discourse.  Unhappily, the punctuation is absent from the oldest

Let us remind ourselves, however, that St. Paul, and Jesus Christ
before him, had deposited the germ of a conception of religious
inspiration more human, more psychological, and, at the same time, more
real.  Paul, who had ecstasies, visions, "tongues," always spoke of
these doubtful privileges with a certain modesty, and that only when he
was constrained to it, as if he had the feeling that there was
something abnormal and morbid in these phenomena.  On the other hand,
he opposes to them a theory of true Christian prophecy conceived as a
forcible, eloquent, irresistible proclamation of the mercy and justice
of God; prophecy on the lips of the apostle, the poet, or the orator,
springing from the assurance given him by the inward witness of the
Holy Spirit that he is in perfect harmony with the divine thought.  The
force of this inspired prophecy comes from the luminous evidence which
springs up within, which warms and kindles up the spirit like an inward
fire.  Under the influence of this illumination the apostle feels his
strength increase tenfold; he rises at a mighty bound above himself.
His faculties are carried to their maximum of energy and power.  So far
from being an inert, passive instrument, his intellect has never been
intenser, richer; his thoughts more clear and more coherent; his words
more fluent, more abundant, more pictorial and expressive; his voice
more firm and resonant; his gestures more imperious.  It is the hour
when he is most himself, when his particular genius has freest play,
when his moral originality is greatest, when he is most certainly the
organ of eternal truth.  Thus understood, religious inspiration does
not differ psychologically from poetic inspiration.  It presents the
same mystery, but it is not more miraculous.  It is not produced like a
trouble violently introduced into the psychical life from without, but
as a really fruitful force, acting from within, in harmony with all the
laws and forces of the mind.

Does not experience establish and piety confirm this?  When does an
Amos, an Isaiah, a Jeremiah, a St. Paul, or a St. John, appear to us as
the most authentic bearer of the word of truth and life, but in their
most eloquent pages, where their personal genius, their faith, their
thought, shine forth most freely?  Religious inspiration is simply the
organic penetration of man by God; but, I repeat, by an interior and
indwelling God, and in such wise that when that penetration is
complete, the man finds himself to be more really and fully himself
than ever.  It is with this mysterious action of the Spirit in the
bosom of humanity as it is with the solar heat upon the plants that
spring up from the soil.  In regions where the heat is greatest and the
other conditions favourable, plants which elsewhere are stunted attain
their richest development and their greatest fecundity.

The inner root of this inspiration is only found in the piety common to
religious men.  It differs from it not in nature, but simply in
intensity and energy.  Prophetic inspiration is piety raised to the
second power.  There is no other mystery in it than the religious
mystery _par excellence_.  That is why this inspiration is essential to
and promotes effectually the progress of the moral and religious life.
They advance together through the ages as we now shall see.



1. _The Social Element in Religion_

Religion is not merely a phenomenon of the individual and inner life:
it is also a social and historical phenomenon.  Psychology lays bare
its root, but history alone reveals its power and range.

This social action of religion springs from its very essence.  The
phrase "communion of souls" is of religious origin and hue.  The thing
expressed by it--one of the most wonderful phenomena of collective
moral life--is never perfectly realised save in religion and by
religion.  An identic faith, a common act of adoration, not merely
brings souls together: it makes them live in each other, blends them
into one soul in which each of them finds itself, multiplied, as it
were, by all the rest.  That is what is properly called "edification,"
by which I mean that feeling of joy, of force, of fulness of life,
produced by the common act of worship in those who sincerely take part
in it.  That is the reason why men of the same religion have no more
imperious need than that of praying and worshipping together.  State
police have always failed to confine growing religious sects within the
sanctuary or the home.  Their members have never been resigned to this
comparatively solitary life; they have braved all interdicts and
persecutions in order to turn it into social life and fraternal

God, it is said, is the place where spirits blend.  In rising towards
Him man of necessity passes beyond the limits of his own individuality.
He feels instinctively that the principle of his being is also the
principle of the life of his brethren; that that which gives him safety
must give it to all.  In the same Religion, souls the most diverse,
being affected in the same manner, become related to each other, and
form a real family, united by closer, stronger bonds than those of
blood.  The religious life is a higher region.  Those who rise into it
feel the barriers fall which hemmed in their existence.  They become
free; they penetrate the souls of their neighbours and feel themselves
to be penetrated by them; and all live one life, which, although it be
larger and almost universal, is none the less very personal and very
intense.  Have you ever been present in a crowd excited and exalted by
religious enthusiasm?  Have you felt the contagion?  Then you can never
forget it.  It is said the early Christians were of one heart and one
soul.  Their community of faith, of hope, of love, went so far as to
make them forget the idea of property and put their goods in common.
In how many monastic orders or mystic sects has not this same need of
equality and unity gone to the point of identity in costume and
deportment, and even of the loss of name and personal individuality?

It is not surprising therefore that religion, capable of creating in
modern times those moral societies called "Churches," should, in all
ages, have been the strongest bond of natural societies, primitive
families, savage tribes, great empires, civilised peoples.  The first
stone of every hearth was a sacred stone.  The first tombstone was a
monument of piety, and burial is an essentially religious ceremony.
Before they were regarded as protectors without, tribal gods were the
internal bonds of the tribe itself.  All the individuals of the tribe
saw in the god a father and an ever present head, so that religion came
to double by this moral kinship their blood relationship.  In this
matter the great civilisations do not differ from the rest.  All have a
religious soul that differentiates and explains them.  It is not merely
morals and philosophy that are affected by religion, but literature,
art, politics, social economy, and in a general way the whole destiny
of men.  The secret of a race is hidden in its religion.  It is there
that the forces of life and resistance to the causes of dissolution are
concentrated....  Let us enter with deep piety therefore on the history
of religion on the earth....  That history is still in embryo.  The
comparative study of religions has arisen within our time; it is still
at its beginnings....  The idea of religious progress is a great and
luminous idea, but it is not possible to apply it to all the details of
history.  Progress has not taken place along a single or continuous
line....  On four or five points the progress is undeniable; it must
suffice to point them out and mark their direction in order that we may
foresee the supreme end to which this faltering and laborious march is

In religions there are differences of degree and differences of kind:
the one mark in the scale of evolution the successive movements of the
religious consciousness in time; the others express the diversity and
simultaneity of religions in space.  The first are explained by
inequalities of moral development; the second by variety of races,
climates, civilisations.  Take, for example, the Hebrew tradition;
follow it in broad outline, and you will note religious forms which
give birth one to another and constitute an historical development--the
religion of the ancient Beni-Israel, prophetism, rabbinical pharisaism,
Christianity, Mohammedanism: there, in a continuous evolution, you have
what may be called differences of degree.  But, on the other hand,
consider the Mongolian or Chinese religions, those of ancient Mexico,
of India, Egypt, or Greece: you have differences of kind which you
cannot classify in a single scale.  And, as some of these peoples have
disappeared, and others been arrested in their growth, and as they have
never marched abreast, it is impossible to compare them or to put into
one category the religious forms which their history presents.  But
some attempt must be made to trace them out.

2. _Progress in the Outward Forms of Religion_

In this universal religious evolution the progress that is most
apparent because most outward is the enlargement of the form of
religion itself, the movement, often interrupted but never stopped,
from the narrowest particularism to the most human universalism....  It
is characteristic of all religion to propagate itself: that is the
implicit affirmation that it is made for all men.  Even when it is
abased to the level of a recipe and of a magical secret that is hidden
with a jealous selfishness, or even from a ferocious patriotism, there
is the avowal that it might be serviceable to others....  But we must
see how this passage from the particular to the universal is effected.

The beginnings of religion are everywhere the same.  The number of
cults at first is almost endless, but they vary very little from each
other.  It is impossible to write the history of barbarous religions,
and it is useless to enumerate them.  Nothing is more monotonous than
the descriptions that have been attempted of them.  Their most
characteristic feature is, that at first they are confined to the
family.  Religion at this stage is a matter of instinct, and
instinctive matters are always uniform.  In mental life, diversity only
appears with reflection and consciousness.

To the domestic and tribal succeeds the national stage of religion.
Political federations are formed, and the religious as well as the
social consciousness of the people is enlarged.  This phenomenon is
seen in Greece in its most interesting form.  The religion of Greece,
as witness the Homeric poems, was a confederation of local cults and
deities, just as Hellas was a federation of previously unconnected

The conquests of Alexander and the extension of the Roman Empire
greatly enlarged the horizon of ancient thought.  The philosophers in
the time of Cicero and Seneca had already risen from the national idea
to that of the human race.  It must not be supposed, however, that the
universal religion sprang from the philosophic or religious syncretism
of the later ages of Graeco-Roman civilisation.  The dissolution of the
national religions had preceded that of political nationalities, and,
so far from creating anything universal, the morbid curiosity of minds
denuded of all national tradition abandoned itself to individual
superstitions the most exotic and monstrous.  Christianity was born,
not in Greece, in the schools, nor in Rome, at the foot of the throne
of the Cæsars, but in a race the narrowest, the most fanatical and
intolerant that ever existed, and in the heart of a Son of Israel whom
no extra-Palestinian influence seems ever to have reached.

Nowhere is a universal religion the fruit of an unconscious evolution,
produced by the action of fatal and external laws.  It presents itself
everywhere as an individual creation, as the free and moral work of a
few elect souls, in whom tradition by a profound crisis is purified and
enlarged.  This was the rôle of Confucius, of Buddha, of Socrates, of
the prophets of Israel, of Mohammed in Arabia.  All of them were
reformers of the religion of their ancestors....  They did not discover
the universal religion outside themselves, but in their consciousness
and personal piety.  Passing through their souls as through a filter,
the traditional religion of their race was gradually clarified and
freed from foreign or material elements, and it was found that, in the
end, the new faith appeared the more human and universal as it had
become more strictly religious, more inward, and more pure....  Not
that all the ancient cults were capable of transformation or all the
prophets equally inspired.  Often the revelation would appear uncertain
or incomplete.  On only one point and in only one consciousness would
it be seen to end in a clear and definitive conclusion.  Progress
implies selection.  As we rise from one stage to another in the history
of religious evolution we see the ranks enlightened and the number
diminished of concurrent religions.  At the lowest stage, the savage
cults are almost innumerable.  The great national or ethnic religions
were much fewer.  Only three are frankly universalist: Buddhism,
Mohammedanism, and Christianity.  And these three are universalist, if
I may so say, in a very unequal degree.

Mohammedanism was far from being an original religion.  The element
which gives to it a higher moral and religious value came to it from
Judaism and Christianity.  Its monotheism, its horror of idolatry, the
comparative purity of its ethics, have no other source, and, without
paradox, it has been possible to represent it as an inferior form of
Christianity accommodated to the needs and to the stature of
semi-civilised Semitic peoples.  But, alongside this Christian
spiritualism it has conserved naturalistic elements, gross remnants of
old Arab cults which, having made its fortune, perhaps, in its early
days, now embarrass it and paralyse it.  Moreover, in spite of its
conquests, it has always remained an Oriental religion with Mecca as
its centre and its head.  If it would survive, it must reform itself;
it must enter into the path of moral and intellectual progress, free
itself from local superstitions, from its gross hopes, its hatred of
the infidel, its doctrine of good works; in other words, it will have
to cast off its old nature, and receive a new effusion of the Christian
spirit.  It can only become universal in so far as it approaches the
moral principle of Christianity, in order, in the end, to become one
with it.

Buddhism has a more profound originality, but it also is afflicted with
an inward dualism which will ruin it.  From the beginning there have
been two Buddhisms: the one an esoteric philosophy for the use of sages
convinced by experience of the vanity of all things, suffering from the
essential evil of existence and aspiring to Nirvana.  It is an
unfruitful mysticism because it is Atheistic.  The other is popular
Buddhism, which sinks and dies into puerile superstitions and into the
grossest polytheism.  From which we may conclude that Buddhism only
becomes universalist when it ceases to be a positive religion, and that
where it still remains a religion it is anything but universalist.

With Christianity it is altogether different.  The terms "universal
religion" and "Christian religion" coincide so exactly that if a form
of Christianity is not universalist on any side, on that particular
side it ceases to be Christian.  In fact there cannot here be either
division or esoterism, nor consequently limitation or narrowness.  We
are here in the absolute freedom of spirit.  Christ did not propound
the theory of the unity of the human race; but He did something quite
different and much better: He gave us the gospel.  Between His gospel
and the humanitarian philosophy there is all the difference that there
is between abstraction and life, between idea and love.  All men enter
into the kingdom of God by the same door, and that door cannot be shut
by any one; for it is the door of humility, of confidence, of
self-renunciation, of the higher righteousness fulfilling itself by
fraternal charity.  Rank in that kingdom is determined by the measure
of devotedness.  The greatest is the one that humbles himself the most,
and the only way of being master is to serve.  In the religion of Jesus
there is nothing religious but that which is authentically moral, and
nothing moral in human life that is not truly religious.  The perfect
religion coincides with the absolute morality, and this naturally
extends to and is obligatory on all mankind.  Jesus not only proclaimed
the only God, or even the God who is spirit, whose worship could not
thenceforth be confined to anything material or particular in time and
space: He showed us the Father who loves all His children with an equal
affection, and desires to dwell in the humblest as well as in the
highest consciousness.  This divine Fatherhood, in proportion as it is
realised in our hearts, produces in them human brotherhood.  The
religious and the human ideals here join, no more to be separated.
Having begun in the animal man, with the grossest form of religion,
humanity finds itself completed in the perfect religion.

3. _Progress in Representations of the Divine_

To represent the divine, man has never had any but the resources which
are in himself.  These representations have varied therefore with the
general progress of experience and of thought....  From beginning to
end the evolution of religious images and notions is based on the idea
of spirit.  It is in this idea that the resemblance and the kinship of
man to his God is based; only by this can there be understanding,
converse, harmony between them.  Primitive religions, doubtless, are
neither spiritualist nor materialist; they are animistic.  A simple
animism gives to men their first conceptions.  The child projects the
life which animates him; he endows the things around him with a
personality similar to his own.  For him there is nothing dead or
inert; the world is peopled with living beings with which he contends,
and talks, and is angry, to which he gives his love and his caresses.
Do not let us smile too much at this simplicity.  The latest steps of
philosophy are rejoining our earliest thoughts.  We are coming to see
that in sum we know nothing but ourselves, that our science is but the
projection of our consciousness without, and that it is solely on this
condition that the world becomes intelligible to us.  Man never
worships anything purely material, anything that cannot hear and answer
him.  When he perceives that the object of his worship is inanimate, he
thinks his god has deserted him, and he sets himself to pursue him.  He
usually finds him and retains him under other names and forms.  By
faith in ghosts, and by the memory of his dreams, he has learnt to
double himself, and to oppose his will to his thought, his interior ego
to his body, which he calls his house.  He may easily quit this for
another.  Nothing is more ancient than the idea of the transmigration
of souls.  But at the same time he doubles the being of his gods; he
distinguishes between the god and the object in which he habitually
resides.  This is the period at which _idolatry_ begins.  It will only
be completed when the spirit-god has broken the bonds which bind him to
its visible prison and its material image; when He shall speak who says
that "God is a Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in
spirit and in truth."  From that moment, mythology transforms itself
into theology, and external rites into inward piety.

Necessarily polytheistic in its origins, religion tended nevertheless
towards monotheism.  The subordination which disciplined the heads of
the tribes on earth also ranged the divinities under the authority of a
supreme head.  Force at first gave this supremacy.  Zeus was the king
of gods and men because he was stronger than all of them put together.
This is the natural order of ideas.  Force first imposed itself on
weakness; then intelligence conquered force; lastly, justice and love,
which is the supreme form and flower of righteousness, obtain supremacy
over intelligence itself.  The highest and the chiefest is no longer
the strongest, or the wisest, but the best.  In becoming moral, man has
moralised his gods, who, in their turn, becoming models and
authorities, have greatly helped to moralise the race.

It is very surprising that this evolution in the direction of moral
monotheism did not complete itself in the Indo-European family.  But
the fact is that that family encountered an invincible barrier in the
very nature of its primitive mythology.  The Greek and Hindu
philosophers, no doubt, pushed the notion of God to that of His
spirituality and unity, but they did not succeed in transforming the
religion of their race.  Their rational criticism had power to
dissolve, but not to change.  Their monotheism remained always an
object of speculation more or less esoteric.  When, in the second and
third centuries of our era, in competition with Christianity,
Graeco-Roman polytheism endeavoured to reach a sort of monotheism, it
could only return to the most glorious mythus of its infancy, to the
worship of the Sun, and raise it to supremacy among the symbols of
their faith.

The transition from polytheism to monotheism was only made in Palestine
and in the tradition of the Hebrews.  There were two reasons for this,
both of which bear witness to the divine vocation of that people: its
religious predispositions and the powerful action of its prophets, of
those men of God raised up in it from Moses to Christ.  The desert is
not monotheistic, as M. Renan was pleased at first to say, nor are
nomads, shepherds, or freebooters nearer to the only God than sedentary
and agricultural peoples.  But, owing to the special turn of mind of
the Hebrew family, its primitive polytheism, of which the plural,
_elohim_, still reminds us, had an abstract character, and was reduced
to a sort of anonymous plurality from which no divine genealogy could
spring.  All these elementary spirits, these _elohim_ of the air, the
earth, the waters, were so similar to each other that the thought of
the Semite never succeeded in discerning and discriminating them.  They
entered into one another, and ended by forming a sort of collective and
abstract power, analagous to that which is represented in our language
by the word "divinity."  Add to this that, by the idea of holiness,
Jehovah, the national _elohim_, was equally separated from Nature, and
that, gradually divested of all corporeal form, He was predestined to
become the God of conscience, the invisible Creator of all things, the
Judge and the rewarder of all human actions.

Neither these original predispositions, however, nor these general
causes, account for the marvellous progress of the religion of Israel.
The faith of the prophets is a creation of the moral order; it is the
work of individual consciousnesses, of the religious heroes whom the
divine Spirit raised up in succession for more than a thousand years.
We shall explain elsewhere this heroic and age-long struggle of the
prophets of Jehovah against the customs, the tendencies, and even the
temperament of their people.  Suffice it here to indicate the constant
direction of their efforts, the precision and the fixedness of their
ideal, the power of the common inspiration that animated them, the
vigorous and vivacious feeling in each one of them that makes their
work divine and carries them beyond their individual thoughts and
hopes.  Like us they laboured on an infinitely vaster plane than they

But their conception of a divine ideal of righteousness still left God
outside the consciousness.  The image of His sanctity awakened in their
souls the sense of sin and raised a tragic conflict between the human
will enslaved by evil and the essentially inflexible law of God.  God
and man were found to be more profoundly separated by this moral
antithesis of righteousness and sin than they had before been by the
antithesis of strength and feebleness.  How was this hostility to
cease?  A supreme revelation is about to respond to this cry of
distress.  God will become internal to the consciousness; He will
manifest Himself, in man himself, as the principle of justification and
salvation.  He who was called _El, Allah_, the Mighty God, in
patriarchal days,--He who from the times of Moses had been named
_Jehovah_, the living God, the vigilant guardian of the Covenant,--will
reveal Himself as the Father in the filial consciousness of Jesus
Christ.  The revelation of love comes to crown the revelation of force
and righteousness.  God desires to dwell in human souls.  The Heavenly
Father lives within the Son of Man, and the dogma of the God-Man,
interpreted by the piety of each Christian, not by the subtle
metaphysics of the doctors and the schools, becomes the central and
distinguishing dogma of Christianity.  Do not spoil its religious
meaning, leave the mystery intact, see what is wrapped up in it: the
sin of man effaced, the ancient conflicts ended, harmony restored, the
whole moral and spiritual life enrooted in the eternal life of God, the
Divine Life shed abroad in the heart of man.  Try to comprehend this
consummation of the religious unity of the Divine and the human sought
for, cried for, in the dim desire of consciousness, and you will also
comprehend that, at this point of view, as at all the others, the
precedent religious evolution found its _raison d'être_ and its final
aim in the soul and in the work of Christ.  The orphaned human soul and
the distant unknown God are re-united and embraced in filial love, to
be no more divided or estranged.

4. _The History of Prayer_

The living expression of the relations of man to his God, prayer is the
very soul of religion.  It brings to God the miseries of man, and
brings back to man the communion and the help of God.  Nothing better
reveals the worth and moral dignity of a religion than the kind of
prayer it puts into the lips of its adherents.  Now, progress is more
apparent here than anywhere else.  The savage beats his fetish when it
is not complacent enough.  The Christian in his greatest distresses
repeats the prayer of Jesus in the Garden: "Father, not my will, but
Thine be done!"  What a long road man has travelled between these two
extreme points of religion!

At the outset, prayer would seem to have had nothing religious in it
except the vague trust which men placed in its efficiency.  It was
almost everywhere conceived and practised as a sort of constraint put
by the worshipper on the will that he wished to master.  There were
mysterious syllables, which, pronounced correctly, would produce an
irresistible effect.  To the voice were added rites and ceremonies,
_i.e._ gestures menacing or wheedling, whose object was to move the god
and bind his will to that of man.  Primitive stories and legends are
full of this idea.  Out of it sprang magic, sorcery, necromancy.

With the supernatural beings around him man does as with other
neighbours.  He seeks to induce them to help him, and that by the
self-same means.  There is very little respect in these primary
relations.  Ruse, violence, seduction by bribes or threats,--these are
the forms of that strange supplication.  It is human selfishness
addressing itself naïvely to the selfishness of the gods.  Regular
contracts are made between these two egoisms, each of which arms itself
against the other with the _Do ut des_.  The god who fails in his
promise deserves to be chastised, and privations, and even blows, do
not fail to follow and punish his felony.

Sacrifice at first was merely a form of prayer.  Man never approaches
his superior or his master with empty hands.  To secure his favour or
appease his wrath he brings the offerings he believes to be the most
agreeable.  The gods, like mortals, _e.g._, have need of nourishment.
For them, therefore, are reserved the first-fruits of the human repast;
libations, presents of honey and fine flour, the most luscious fruits,
the most delicious viands.  What difficulty man has had in believing in
the goodness of his gods!  He saw the effects of their anger in the
evils which befell him, and if good fortune came to him he felt obliged
to offer a sacrifice to turn aside the jealousy of higher powers.  Was
a god supposed to have been offended?  They trembled for years beneath
the strokes of his wrath; they offered in expiatory sacrifices all
possible equivalents; they invented penances, humiliations, tortures,
without being sure that the divine vengeance ever was appeased.  These
are universal religious phenomena.

The religious is so different from the moral sense that, at the outset,
it exists by itself, and expresses itself in the most selfish and
ferocious manner.  How many crimes have been committed in the name of
religion! with what baseness and sordidness has it not been sincerely
connected!  But here also we must note the new revelation made in the
souls of prophets and of sages in order to raise the religion of
naturalism to morality.  Confucius, Buddha, the prophets of Israel, the
philosophers of Greece, came simultaneously to feel that the true
relation of man to God must be a moral relation, that righteousness is
the only link which binds earth to heaven, that sacred words, rites,
interested offerings, outward compensations, can do nothing, and mean
nothing, the moment the religious man rises above the law of Nature and
enters upon the higher life of the spirit.  If God be righteous, there
is only one means henceforth of putting one's self into harmony and
peace with Him--to become like Him.  Thus religion and morality were
destined to approach each other and to penetrate each other more and
more, until the perfect religion should be recognised by this sign: the
highest piety under the form of the ideal morality.  At bottom,
Christianity has no other principle, and it is for this reason more
than for any other that it is not only the highest form of religion,
but the universal and final religion.  "The absolute religion" and "the
absolute moral life" are identical terms.  The ancient dualism is
surmounted in the unity of Christian consciousness.  It is not
surprising, therefore, that prayer should, in its turn, be transformed,
and that, having at first been the most violently interested act of
life, it should come in the end to be a pure act of trust and
self-abandonment, of disinterestedness the most religious and complete.
Is there need of many words for a child to make its father understand?
It is the heathen, says Jesus, who make many prayers.  The Father knows
your needs before you ask Him.  It is a mark of unbelief to be anxious
about food and raiment and the future.  The essential thing is not to
multiply petitions, but to live near Him and feel Him ever near.  Is He
not Almighty and all-good?  Does He not love you better than you love
yourselves?  Does He not make all things work together for the good of
His children?  If trials come, or dangers threaten, what ought we to
do?  Submit to God, as Jesus did.  What is such prayer as His but the
defeat of egoism and the perfect liberation of the individual spirit in
the feeling of its plenary union with God?

Such was the prayer of Jesus.  It did not consist in an outward flow of
words, but in a constant, silent state of soul which made Him say in
turning towards His Father: "I know that Thou hearest me always."
Confidence increases with renunciation.  Admirable progress of
religion!  Sublime reversal of rôles!  At the beginning the ambition of
the pious man was to bend the Divine will to his own; at the end his
peace, his happiness, is to subordinate his wishes and desires to the
will of a Father who knows how to be gracious, righteous, perfect!

There is another aspect of this progress.  In all religions there is a
double gamut of feeling: the one, which rules in primitive religions,
and whose dominant note is fear and sadness; the other, which prevails
in the end, in which the dominant note is confidence and joy.  It is a
natural effect of the progressive victory of the religious
consciousness gradually surmounting the contradictions in the midst of
which it is born and developed.  At the outset, man, alone and
defenceless, finds no fewer enemies in heaven than on earth.  He feels
as if surrounded by hostile and mysterious powers before which he
cringes in fear, awaiting their decisions with respect to him.  But
everything changes when there rises within his soul the luminous dawn
of the moral revelation of God.  With the darkness, vanish all the
frightful phantoms of the night.  In the God whom he adores he sees his
own interior law glorified and become henceforth the supreme law of
things.  That law of righteousness is, at bottom, a law of love.
Nothing can trouble me any more except the sense of my own
failure--that is, of my own sin, which alone can separate me from the
very principle of righteousness and life.  But, see, justice manifests
itself as justifying grace!  God gives it as He gives life to those who
thirst for it.  Reconciliation is complete.  The orphan has found his
Father; the Father, His child.  The sinner, trembling, begins his
prayer, prostrated; he ends it upright, with the confidence and freedom
of a child that feels itself at home within the Father's house.  The
Gospel bids us to rejoice; it makes of joy an obligation, while
distrust and sadness are the marks of selfishness and unbelief.

5. _Conclusion_

Such has been the course of religion through the centuries of human
history, and amid the complex and confused development of particular
faiths.  The progress has not been on a straight line and by successive
additions, as in the scientific sphere.  Religious evolution is more
like the evolution of art, in which the experience of the past is only
fruitful when translated by a higher inspiration and a mightier
creative force.  There are periods of recrudescence of the religious
sentiment in which the passions of a past that seemed to have been
abolished are revived.  These are the times of superstition.  There are
also periods of religious inertia, when the soul seems to empty itself
of its eternal content, and divert itself into a frivolous activity and
a superficial wisdom.  These are the ages of incredulity.  Lastly,
there are epochs of crisis and confusion, in which mingle religious
traditions the most diverse, and currents of thought the most contrary.
We must pass over all these accidents and vicissitudes.  In the
religious evolution of humanity there is a sequence, an order, a
progress which, in spite of all interruptions and reactions, manifest
themselves as soon as we rise high enough to embrace it in its vast

      *      *      *      *      *

A few years ago there assembled in Chicago what the Americans called
the Parliament of Religions.  The official representatives of all the
principal religions of the new world and the old met together under a
common feeling of religious brotherhood.  They did not discuss the
value of their rites or dogmas; their object was to approach each
other, to edify each other, and, for the first time in the world's
history, to present the spectacle of a universal religious communion.
When it came to the point, three things became clear: first, the common
name under which they were able to call upon God--the Father; secondly,
the Lord's Prayer was adopted and recited by all; thirdly, Christ
Himself, apart from all theological definition, was unanimously
recognised and venerated as the Master and Initiator of the higher
religious life.

In my own consciousness, this practical demonstration is completed.  I
can hardly help being religious; but if I am seriously to be religious
I can only be so under the Christian form.  I can hardly help praying;
but if I desire to pray, if moral anguish or intellectual doubt
constrain me to seek some form of prayer that I can use in all
sincerity, I never find but these words: "Our Father which art in
heaven."  Lastly, I may disdain the inner life of the soul, and divert
myself from it by the distractions of science, art, and social life;
but if, wearied by the world of pleasure or of toil, I wish to find my
soul again and live a deeper life, I can accept no other guide and
master than Jesus Christ, because, in Him alone, optimism is without
frivolity, and seriousness without despair.





To understand Christianity we should need to see clearly and in one
view the link which connects it with the religious evolution of
mankind, the living originality by which it is distinguished, the
succession and the character of the forms it has assumed.  Such are the
three points which we shall take up in turn.  We must begin with its

There is never a complete break in the chain of history.  Every
phenomenon arises in its place and at its time.  It has its
antecedents, which prepare it and _condition_ it.  However new
Christianity may have been, it is no exception to the rule.  It springs
from the tradition of Israel by an evident affiliation.  The old
theology did not dissimulate this kinship of origin; it rather
exaggerated it.  The Christian Church made the Bible of the Jews the
first part of its own.  The writings of the prophets were placed in the
sacred volume before those of the apostles, as if to intimate that the
one could not be understood without the other.  _Novum Testamentum in
Vetere latet; Vetus in Novo patet_.  At bottom, this old adage of the
schoolmen is true.  It is an excellent rule of biblical exegesis to
trace the primary Christian ideas to their Hebraic root, and to regard
as foreign and adventitious those which are not attached to it.  If
there is nothing essential in the New Testament the germ of which is
not to be found in the Old, there is nothing truly fruitful in the Old
which has not passed into the New.  Such is the historical sequence and
connection that we must respect and follow.  The study of the religion
of Israel is the natural introduction to the study of Christianity.
The only point to be considered here is how the one was preparatory to
the other.[1]

[1] Two non-essential sections have here been omitted, one on _The
Sacred History_, the other on _The Nation_.--Trans.

1. _Prophetism_

The miracle of the history of Israel is Prophetism.  In this is to be
found the incomparable force by which the religious evolution we may
trace in its annals was effected.

But first let me explain what I understand by this word evolution, and
let me eliminate from it the fatalistic sense too often given to it.
If by evolution you mean a necessary and unconscious process, a
mechanical and continuous movement, which, without either effort or
danger, causes light to spring out of darkness, good from evil, and
raises a people or a race from a lower to a higher form of life, you
incur the reproach of confounding the laws of the moral world with
those of the physical order; you will be condemned to falsify history
in general and to understand nothing of the history of Israel in
particular.  In the moral and religious progress which constitutes the
singular originality of that history, there is nothing facile, nothing
that can be logically deduced from the natural predispositions of the
nation.  No doubt the prophets were the children of the nation and
intimately connected with it; but the inspiration which breathes in
them, raises them and animates them, is something entirely different
from the ethnic genius of their race.  The contrast is so great that it
amounts to contradiction.  The race, in Israel, as in Moab, or among
the Edomites or Philistines, had its interpreters and prophets.  But
these were not the prophets of conscience.  They flatter the people;
they do not elevate them.  They are found to be false prophets.  The
others, the witnesses for the righteous, holy God, only brought
Hebraism to the consciousness of its religious vocation by a sæcular
and painful struggle against hereditary idolatry and immorality.  This
was not a collective evolution, but an essentially individualist
reform; it was a moral creation continually interrupted and
compromised; it was a work of faith and will.  Each prophet enters into
the conflict and utters his cry of battle and reform as if he were
alone, responsible only to the God who has sent him, and yet all of
them succeed each other and pursue the same design, because they are
all obedient to the same identic inspiration.  They fight against all;
against the multitude that cannot break away from custom and from
prejudice; against the priests who have always from the beginning made
of the priesthood a _métier_ and of oracles a merchandise; against
kings whose vanity, whose crimes, and whose exactions they denounce;
against the great and rich oppressors of the weak and poor.  They speak
in the name of Jehovah, because Jehovah speaks in their consciousness.
That is the origin of the prophetic spirit.  It is a divine ferment
which, perpetuating itself, becoming clearer, stronger, from generation
to generation, gradually raises and transmutes the heavy mass of
primitive Semitism.  No, this is not the work of time and Nature,
unless you see God at work in time, and, beneath this word Nature, by
the side of realised and manifested forces you perceive the hidden and
immeasurable virtualities which ferment in it and carry it beyond
itself into the higher life of liberty and love.  In the apparition of
these prophets, in the energy of their faith, in the boldness of their
words, there is a positive revelation of a new world, the revelation of
a religious ideal which, after divesting itself, in the gospel of
Christ, of every national element, will naturally become the faith and
consolation of humanity.

      *      *      *      *      *

The education of the people of God had been a long and laborious work;
besides the preaching of the prophets, it had needed repeated
catastrophes in which the nationality of Israel had perished, as if the
spirit could not free itself save by the annihilation of the matter
that had from the outset grossly closed it in.  When in the age of
Cyrus we see the poor remnants of Benjamin and Judah return from
Babylon, they are no longer a people; they are already almost a Church.
The religious Law is now fixed.  It enshrines the life, the ideas, the
ethics and the ritual, the minute practices and precautions, which will
for ever separate the Jew from all the other nations, and maintain him
in a state of legal purity and high morality in the midst of universal
corruption.  It is the beginning of Pharisaism.  In it the spirit of
prophetic piety deteriorates, hardens, freezes.  Nevertheless, when we
think of the progress that had been accomplished, when we think of the
distance that separates this rigid monotheism and this rigorous law
from the old hard, cruel, sometimes impure Semitic cults, the prophets'
work in Israel will appear to us in its immense proportions and
immortal worth.

2. _The Dawn of the Gospel_

But Prophetism was not to end in the Talmud.  The Isaiahs and Jeremiahs
were to have other heirs and successors than the Pharisees and the sons
of the Synagogue.  Prophetism had in it the promise and the germ of a
higher and more human religion.  The prophets had accents which their
immediate successors in history seem never to have heard.  They
attacked nothing with more vehemence than formalistic piety or
practical religion divorced from righteousness.  Listen to Amos, as he
makes Jehovah utter words like these: "I hate, I despise your feast
days," etc.  (Amos v. 21 _et seq._); or to Isaiah on the same theme in
his first chapter.  Hosea declares that heart-piety and mercy are
better than sacrifices.  Jeremiah predicts the time when God will make
a new Covenant with His people, and write His laws in their hearts,
instead of on tables of stone.  Or think of Elijah in the cave of
Horeb.  Fatigued with fighting, almost in despair, the terrible
adversary of Baal, who had just had 450 of the priests of Baal put to
death, has retired to the mountains and is asleep in a cave.  You know
the narrative (1 Kings xix. 9-13).  The still small voice!  Is there in
all the Bible a finer image containing a profounder thought?  What is
this supreme revelation of the God of Israel but an apparition by
anticipation of the God of the Gospel?  And the still, small voice,
"the sound of gentle stillness," what is it but the first faint accents
of the gracious, tender words: "Come unto Me, all ye that labour and
are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you, and
learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest
unto your souls.  For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light" (Matt.
xi. 28-30).

Beneath the breathings of this creative inspiration the religion of
legal righteousness and rigorous retributions is softened into the
religion of love.  The God who punishes becomes the God who pardons and
restores.  Beneath the tears of the poor, the vanquished, the afflicted
in Israel the gospel of divine compassion germinated and sprang up.
What tones of tenderness are heard in the later prophets, the prophets
of consolation, properly so called.  "Comfort ye, comfort ye My people.
Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem.  Say unto her that her warfare is
accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned."  Read the chapter through
(Is. xl.), and the forty-second and the sixty-sixth, and Psalms xxiii.
and ciii.  Such words as these announce and prepare the way for the
great religious revolution called by Jesus the New Covenant.  The
relations between God and the human soul are in course of being
changed.  From the beginning, a pact existed between Jehovah and His
people; a compact expressed and guaranteed in a Law on which depended
the destiny of the nation and of the individual.  The Covenant has
become more inward and profound.  To the law of strict remunerations is
now joined a bond of love.  Between God and His people the relations
are those of Husband and wife.  The wife has proved unfaithful to Him
who had loved her, who had found her poor and naked in the desert, and
had been desirous to enrich her.  She has followed other gods.
Jehovah, by the mouth of His messengers, covers her with reproaches, in
order to excite her to repentance; but He has learnt to pity, and, in
the end, He pardons.  The more the nation's miseries are multiplied,
the more its tears flow on the soil of alien lands, the more His heart
is melted in Him and the tenderer become His words.  "Can a woman
forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the
son of her womb? yea, she may forget, yet will not I forget thee" (Is.
xlix. 15).

The idea beneath these words is the Christian idea.  God loves His
people with a boundless love.  His mercy extends infinitely beyond the
sins of the children of men.  In the consciousness of the great unknown
prophet whom we call the second Isaiah, we see sketched, five centuries
beforehand, the drama of repentance and forgiveness, which Jesus, in
profounder and yet simpler words, sums up for all mankind in the
Parable of the Prodigal Son.

The long period of affliction and of misery between the Captivity and
the Advent of the Christ is like a time of painful gestation, during
which, in the bosom of the Hebraic tradition, fecundated by the spirit
of the prophets, was prepared in obscurity the gospel of the Beatitudes
and of the Parables.  What a revolution!  The ancient theocratic law
promised to the righteous length of days and great abundance of
material goods.  The friends of Job regarded him as criminal because
they saw him in adversity.  The problem of human destiny appeared to
the later prophets as less simple and more tragic.  "Why do the wicked
prosper?" is the question ever on their lips.  "Why do the righteous
suffer?"  This spectacle has become so constant that the correlation of
the words has been reversed.  "Rich and wicked" in the Psalmists, and
in the second Isaiah, are equivalent terms.  "Poor and afflicted" are
synonymous with "the righteous" and "the friends of God."  Riches and
high looks are the signs of malediction; humility, poverty,
persecution, tears, are the marks of piety and the pledges of divine
affection.  It was at this time that the words were born that edified
the early Christians: "God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the
humble."  Gather together in a common hope this family of little ones,
of the defeated and unhappy ones whose hearts were crushed and whose
eyes were filled with tears, and you have the true people of God, the
heirs of all the promises, the "little flock" to whom it is the
Father's pleasure to give the kingdom.  It was from their ranks that
was to come the "Man of Sorrows," who should be scourged and put to
death for the sins of His people.  The religion of suffering is born.
For the suffering of "the Servant of Jehovah," in whom is no iniquity,
cannot be the chastisement of His own crimes; it will henceforth be
accepted as the necessary part that fraternal solidarity imposes on the
best for the redemption of the rest.  A tender, fragile flower, a bud
as yet scarce opened in the writings of the prophets, this thought will
expand into the Gospel and become the religion of mankind.

Pity joined to a severe ideal of righteousness in the notion of God;
morality introduced into religion by the subordination of rites to
rectitude of heart and will; hope of a future of peace and happiness by
the realisation of righteousness: these are the three great ideas
bequeathed by Prophetism to the Gospel.  This heritage is a rich and
lovely one, but it must not be over-estimated or misunderstood.  We are
still a long way off the Gospel.  The thought of the prophets did not
go beyond the narrow limits of a national Messianism; it remained
Jewish, not only by its forms and symbols, but also by the religious
privilege which is to guard the people of Israel in the future as in
the past.  The destiny of humanity is still bound up with the destiny
of Jerusalem, and the triumph of the Jews implies the partial or total
defeat and subjection of the Gentiles in the days of the Messiah and
after they are admitted into the kingdom of God.  The saints of Israel
are the children of the household; the heathen may enter, and even
share in the felicity which fills them, but only as servants and

It should also be noted that, in the theology of the prophets, the
object of Jehovah's love is not the individual as a moral being, but
the chosen people.  Only the nation counts in the eyes of the Eternal.
In its deliverance and triumph the citizens find salvation....  There
is something great and thrilling in this Messianic doctrine.  It
elevated the soul of a people and of a religion to the point of the
sublime.  It is something to have given hope to a defeated people and a
dying world.  In this doctrine also we may note this admirable trait:
this national triumph is identified with the advent of righteousness to
all the earth.  Nor have the hopes of Israel been belied.  The dream of
the prophets was realised in ways of which they did not think, but in a
manner not less marvellous.  The descendants of Japhet lodge to-day
beneath the tents of the children of Shem, and our eyes may see the day
approaching when the ancient promise made to Abraham and his seed shall
be fulfilled, and all the families of the earth be blessed in Him.

Between the religion of the prophets and the religion of Jesus,
however, there is one more barrier to be broken down.  In the "Kingdom
of God," the idea of the nation must give place to the idea of
humanity.  The universal God must be represented as the immanent God,
as present in every human soul.  His seat and temple could not be in
Jerusalem or in Palestine; it could only be in pure and humble hearts.
A supreme crisis was necessary.  The Hebrew nation must perish in order
to free the human conscience from its Jewish yoke.  A divine flower had
been formed in the heart of Prophetism; but it would have been a barren
ornament, had there not been deposited in its calix a living and a
fruitful germ.  The transformation of the piety of the prophets into a
purely moral creation and a Covenant really new with God, this was the
work of Jesus Christ.  That is why Jesus is "He that should come," He
whom the prophets half unconsciously desired, He in whom, to the profit
of all mankind, was completed the religious development of Israel.  Its
whole history ends in Jesus.  Apart from Him the inspiration of the
prophets dies into rabbinical Talmudism or wanders into the vagaries
and delirium of the apocalypses.  After giving birth to the Gospel,
Judaism dries up and withers like a tree that has borne its fruit and
whose season is past.



1. _The Problem_

We come at last to Christianity.  What is its principle or essence?
This question must be answered or we cannot judge of it aright.

Now, during the eighteen centuries of its history, Christianity has
taken so many and such various forms, it has received so many
developments in every sense, it has become a thing so rich and
luxuriant, that it is far from easy to discover beneath this thick
growth of institutions, dogmas, ceremonies, and devotions the tap-root
of the tree from which it all has sprung, and from which it still
derives its nutriment.  It would be next to useless to interrogate the
Churches.  They would each answer according to their official
theologies and Confessions of Faith.  This, they would say, is the
essence of Christianity.  The Catholics would say it is the institution
and infallible authority of the Church, because everything rests on
this first foundation, and because no one can be in Christian truth who
is outside the Church.  The Protestants would not be agreed: one would
propose the dogma of Justification by Faith; another the authority of
Scripture; a third the metaphysical divinity and the eternal
pre-existence of Jesus Christ, under the pretext that they could not
conceive the possibility of the subsistence of Christianity without
these dogmas.  In entering on this examination we enter on an
interminable dispute.

The problem, happily, is simplified for the historian and the
psychologist.  In asking what is the principle of Christianity, what do
we wish to know?  Simply what it is that makes a Christian a Christian.
We desire to ascertain what is the inward element, present in the soul,
which compensates, at need, for the absence or defect of all the rest,
and which, being wanting, cannot be supplied or compensated for by
anything else.  In short, we want to get at the religious experience
which determines and marks out the consciousness of all Christians,
which makes them members of one moral family, and which makes them to
be recognised as such in spite of differences of times and place, of
language and of culture, of rites and even of beliefs.  To seize this
common feature there is no need of polemics; all we need is a little
history and psychology.

In history, Christianity offers itself to us as the term and crown of
the religious evolution of humanity.  In the consciousness of the
Christian it is something more; it there reveals itself as the perfect
religion.  How must we understand this perfection?  Is it the
perfection of a complete system of supernatural knowledge, of a
religious science which would have been strange to former generations,
and which was shared by Christians alone?  In no wise.  If there are
enlightened Christians, there are many who are very ignorant.  And yet
they are all Christians by one and the same principle, which is
entirely independent of degrees of culture.  No Christian will maintain
that his knowledge is perfect.  They all agree with St. Paul that at
present it is very imperfect.  We see divine things dimly.  What, then,
do they affirm who say with so much assurance that Christianity is the
perfect religion?  They affirm that, religion not being an idea but a
relation to God, the perfect religion is the perfect realisation of
their relation to God and of God's relation to them.  And this is not,
on their part, a theoretical speculation; it is the immediate and
practical result of their inward experience.  They feel that their
religious need is entirely satisfied, that God has entered with them,
and they with Him, into a relation so intimate and so happy that, in
the matter of practical religion, not only can they imagine nothing,
but that they can desire nothing above it or beyond.  They simply set
themselves to realise more fully and more effectually in themselves
this supreme relation, this piety whose principle is immanent to
themselves; they know that in it they have the germ of perfect
spiritual development and eternal life.  This is why they affirm
without the slightest doubt that Christianity is the ideal and perfect
religion, the definitive religion of humanity.

Such is the first affirmation of the Christian consciousness.  Here is
the second.

This perfect relation between God and my soul, this supreme religious
good, this kind of piety which constitutes my joy and strength, which
enlightens, renovates, sustains my whole inner life, does not date from
myself, and I well know that it is not my own virtue that has created
it.  Nor can I refer the origin of it to my parents, although I may
perhaps have received it through them or through my teachers; nor to my
Church, although I still remain its catechumen; for parents, teachers,
churches, will acknowledge, with myself, that they have only
transmitted that which they themselves received.  Remounting thus the
living chain of Christian experiences, I reach a first experience, a
creative and inaugural experience, which has made possible and
engendered all the rest.  That experience was realised in the
consciousness of Jesus Christ.  I affirm, then, not only that Christ
was the author of Christianity, but that the first germ of it was
formed in His inner life, and that in that life, first of all, that
divine revelation was made which, repeating and multiplying itself, has
enlightened and quickened all mankind.  Christianity is therefore not
only the ideal, but an historical religion, inseparably connected not
only with the maxims of morality and with the doctrines of Jesus, but
with His person itself, and with the permanent action of the new spirit
which animated Him, and which lives from generation to generation in
His disciples.

These are the two affirmations, equally immediate and equally
essential, of every Christian consciousness.  Now, the whole
theological problem is how to reconcile the two.  How can that which is
ideal and perfect be realised in history?  How can that which is
historical be held to be ideal and eternal?  Does it not seem as if
these attributes were contradictory and exclusive of each other, and
that Christianity could not become an ideal religion without severing
all its links with a particular history, or that if it would remain an
historical religion it must renounce all pretensions to absolute
perfection?  On the other hand, these two attributes, are they not
equally necessary to it?  How can it subsist if it obeys the formal and
summary logic which summons us to choose between them?  Will it be
anything more than a speculative philosophy if cut off from its
historic tradition?  Will it continue to inspire me with confidence,
will it place me in security, if it ceases to appear to me to be the
perfect and definitive religion?

Theology, from the beginning, has had no other task; at all events, it
has had no task more arduous or pressing than that of reconciling these
two data.  There have always been two tendencies amongst theologians
corresponding to two families of minds: the _Idealist_ tendency--that
of Origen and his emulators, which puts the emphasis en ideas and
constructs a religious metaphysic or gnosis, which of necessity
rationalises dogma, and for which history is but a temporary envelope,
a sort of external and sensible illustration; and the _Realist_
tendency, represented by the genius of Tertullian, which, obeying an
opposite instinct, materialises ideas, gives an anthropomorphic body to
everything, even to God, deifies phenomena, and changes contingent
history into an eternal metaphysic.  From these two tendencies,
perpetual and parallel, have issued the two solutions given by
Rationalism and by Orthodoxy to the problem as to the essence of

The first finds that essence in a few simple truths of reason or of
consciousness, which are of all time and all lands, and which impose
themselves on every man by their own natural evidence.  Jesus of
Nazareth was the preacher and the martyr of these truths; but it is
clear that His personality is no more essential to Christianity than
that of Plato is to his philosophy.  Only, mind, in thus severing
itself from Christ the Christian Religion ceases to be positive and
becomes an abstract and dead doctrine; it loses its religious pith and

Orthodoxy, whether Catholic or Protestant, avoids this reef but strikes
upon another.  In making of Christ the Second Person of the Eternal
Trinity, the Son of the Father, consubstantial and equal, it removes
Him from history and transports Him into metaphysics.  But thus to
deify history is also in a fashion to destroy it.  The dogma annuls the
limited, contingent, and human character of the appearance of Jesus of
Nazareth.  His life loses all reality.  We have no longer a man before
our eyes, although the Church, theoretically, maintains the humanity of
Christ alongside His divinity.  This fatally absorbs everything.  We
have only a deity walking in the midst of His contemporaries, hidden
beneath a human figure.  The traditional Christology has been so
incurably Docetic that it has been practically impossible, from this
point of view, to write a serious Life of Jesus without falling into
the heresy at once modern and semi-pagan of _Kenosis_, the theory
according to which the pre-existent and eternal deity commits suicide
by incarnating Himself in order gradually to be re-born and find
Himself God again at the end of His human life.  Can this strait be
crossed?  Is there a passage between Scylla and Charybdis?  Not so long
as you cling to the intellectualist conception which forms the error
common to both Rationalism and Orthodoxy, and ensures their final
failure.  If the essence of Christianity lies in the revelation of
natural truths or supernatural dogmas, the problem is insoluble.  All
Apologetics will inevitably dash themselves to pieces against the
insurmountable contradiction that they will soon encounter.  Strauss's
argumentation, which the philosophers do not cease to repeat, and which
the theologians pretend not to hear, springs into one's mind.  So far
from weakening it, the historical studies of the past half century have
only added sharpness to its edge.  "The idea does not pour all its
riches into a single individual.  The Absolute does not descend into
history.  It is against all analogy that the fulness of perfection
should be met with at the outset of any evolution whatsoever; those who
place it at the origin of Christianity are victims of the same illusion
as the ancients, who placed the Golden Age at the beginning of human

Before going further it may be convenient to estimate the strength and
weakness of this famous dilemma, and to inquire how we may escape from
it.  The traditional theology succumbs to it.  But this only proves
that that theology needs reforming.  Let us place ourselves at a
different point of view, and examine for a moment the idea of
perfection which serves as the premise to Strauss's reasoning.  When he
speaks of the total or plenary perfection which cannot be found in the
first link of an historical chain, he doubtless means a quantitative
perfection--that is to say, a complete collection of virtues, merits,
and faculties the numerical addition of which makes the notion entire.
Now, from this point of view, Strauss's observation is incontestable.
Neither the perfection of science comprising all scientific
discoveries, nor the perfection of civilisation embracing all the
progress and all the forms of human life, are ever found or could be
found at the beginning or at any given moment in the course of history.
One individual, however great, could not exhaust the life or labour of
the species so as to render evolution useless.  But have you noticed
that this idea of perfection is contradictory, and therefore
chimerical?  Under the category of quantity or of extension there could
be no real perfection either for the individual or for the species.  No
sooner is anything that can be counted or measured conceived than the
mind instantly conceives something greater.  There is no such thing as
perfect number.  Here therefore it is needful to make an essential
distinction.  We must distinguish between the quantity and the quality,
or rather, the intensity, of being.  Now, between the degrees of both
these things there is not the slightest relation, nor consequently any
common measure.  And that which is true in the one becomes false in the
other.  Take a cubic metre of stone, multiply it by a thousand or a
million, you will still have the same stone--that is to say, there is
not more true reality in a million cubic metres of stone than there is
in one.  But let a bit of moss spring up in a fissure in that stone; in
that bit of living moss there is more being, or, if you will, being of
a higher quality than that of a whole mass of rocks.  Still, do not
forget that it needed a germ to produce it, and that this germ was a
sort of positive perfection in relation to all inorganic matter, whose
last end is life.  This is why we may boldly say that evolution is not
the cause of anything; that no development ever gives more than what is
hidden in the new germ which engenders it; that a hundred thousand
imbeciles do not make a man of genius, and that if man descended from a
monkey all the monkeys in creation put together do not make up one
human consciousness.  From this synthetic point of view, it will no
longer seem contradictory, but natural, and in full accordance with the
analogies of history, that we should meet in the person of the Founder
of Christianity that perfect relation to God, that perfection of piety
which every Christian still experiences within himself, and which he
declares he has drawn from communion with Him.

Lastly, let us fortify ourselves, and finish this brief statement of
this somewhat novel view with Pascal's pregnant words.  There are, he
says, three orders of greatness.  From all bodies put together you
could not extract one thought, if there were not first a mind to
conceive it.  From all thoughts you could not draw a single movement of
charity, if there were not there a heart to produce and feel it So far
from needing to manifest themselves by the same attributes, these
various kinds of greatness are absolutely independent of each other and
even incommensurable.  That which makes one shine forth would diminish
or obscure the others.  Alexander came with a pomp which dazzled the
eyes and astonished the imaginations of mere carnal men.  Archimedes
had no need of the pomp of Alexander in order to impress the minds of
men; his greatness, purely intellectual, was of an altogether different
order.  And, so, the Christ did not come with the _éclat_ of Alexander
or Archimedes.  His greatness is of another order still.  It is in fact
so different that neither the glory of the conqueror nor the potency of
genius would add anything to it, and that it had need, the better to
shine forth to all, to appear in lowliness and humiliation.  Therefore
He was humble, patient, gentle, holy towards God, merciful towards man,
terrible to all the hosts of darkness.  Without sin, without external
goods, without the productions of science, He was in His own order.
Oh, with what pomp, with what transcendent magnificence, did He appear
to the eyes of the heart that discerns true wisdom!

2. _The Christian Principle_

We must therefore come to the religious consciousness of Jesus Christ
as to the fountainhead from which the Christian stream has flowed.  It
is certain that we shall find in it the principle and essence of
Christianity itself, for it would be too paradoxical to maintain that
the Master alone was excluded from the benefit of the religion that He
has bequeathed to all His disciples.  No; we may affirm in all security
that the principle of Christianity was at first the very principle of
the consciousness of Christ.  To determine the one will be to define
the other.

What we call the religious consciousness of a man is the feeling of the
relation in which he stands, and wills to stand, to the universal
principle on which he knows himself to depend, and with the universe in
which he sees himself to be a part of one great whole.  If then we
would know exactly what was the essential element in the consciousness
of Jesus, what was the distinctive characteristic of His piety, we must
ask in what relation did He feel Himself to stand towards God and
towards the universe.  The answer will be neither difficult nor
uncertain.  If there are matters on which the true thought of the
Master remains obscure, nothing shines out with more evidence and
continuity through all His teaching and His life than the religious
attitude of His soul towards God and man.

He felt Himself to be in a filial relation towards God, and He felt
that God was in a paternal relation towards Him.  The name of Father
that He gives to God continually, exclusively, uniquely; the name of
Son that He takes to Himself; the nature of His adoration; the form of
His prayer; the motive of His devoted obedience even unto death; the
way in which He works His cures, hails His first successes, accepts the
apparent failure of His work, and explains the incredulity of His
people,--all announce, manifest, and confirm that intimate relation,
that communion and union of spirit, by which a father prolongs his life
in the life of his child, and the child feels himself to live by the
life of his father.  This was clearly the essential element in His
consciousness, the distinctive and original feature of His piety; it is
also the principle and essence of Christianity.

That which we observe in the consciousness of Jesus we find in the
experience of all Christians.  They are Christians exactly in
proportion as the filial piety of Jesus is reproduced in them.  They
are recognised by this unique but sufficient sign, by the confidence
with which they call God their Father, abandoning themselves to His
love for all that regards their present or future destiny, and living a
life of self-renunciation and of devotion to the good of others.  All
whose inner life has been raised from the region of selfishness and
pride to the higher realm of love and life in God,--who have found in
that profound conversion, together with the pardon and oblivion of
their past, the germ of a higher life,--of the perfect, and, by
consequence, eternal life, are the true religious posterity of Christ;
they reproduce His spirit, continue His work, and are as dependent upon
Him and as like Him religiously as are the descendants of an ancestor
whose blood and whose life have not ceased for an instant to flow in
their veins.

This feeling, filial in regard to God, fraternal in regard to man, is
that which makes a Christian, and consequently it is the common trait
of all Christians.  It should be added that this principle of
Christianity admirably corresponds to the two fundamental affirmations
of the Christian consciousness already established.  The contradiction
that appeared to us so menacing is thus resolved and reconciled.  On
the one hand, Christianity, by this filial union with God, is seen to
be the ideal and perfect religion; on the other, it appears as a real
fact in the consciousness of Jesus Christ, so that this religious
reality comes to us with the imperative character of the ideal.
Through prejudice men may neglect religion, but if they desire to have
one they can neither desire nor imagine a relation at once closer and
more moral, more sacred and more joyous, freer and more trustful, than
that which was inaugurated in the filial consciousness of Jesus Christ.
What can they have in the shape of life superior to the life of perfect
and reciprocal affection,--God giving Himself to man and realising in
him His paternity, man giving himself to God without fear, and
realising in Him his humanity?  Is not religious evolution accomplished
when these two terms, God and man, opposed to each other at the origin
of conscious life on earth, interpenetrate each other till they reach
the moral unity of love, in which God becomes interior to man and lives
in him, in which man becomes interior to God and finds in God the full
expansion of his being?  Christianity is therefore the absolute and
final religion of mankind.

At the same time, this filial piety in the person of Jesus and His
followers is an observable phenomenon; so that the ideally perfect
religion has manifested itself from the beginning as an historical and
positive religion.  It is not an abstract ideal, a theoretical
doctrine, floating above humanity, but a principle and a tradition of
new life, an inexhaustibly fruitful germ inserted in human life to
raise it, not in idea but in fact, to a higher form.  That which the
first human consciousness was on earth, separating itself from its
maternal animality, and bringing with it the kingdom of man, the
initiative consciousness of Christ, issuing from the bosom of antique
humanity, has been, and it has founded on our humble planet the kingdom
of God, the kingdom, _i.e._, of free, pure spirit, of righteousness and
love.  We are no longer therefore in face of a rational doctrine or a
speculative view, but of a positive force, of a power of life with
which no one can break (I do not say in form and from without, but in
fact and in the inner man) without at the same time breaking with the
higher life of spirit as well as with all hope and joy, and health of

      *      *      *      *      *

3. _The Gospel of Jesus_

The Christian principle appears in its simple and naked form, in the
form of feeling and of inspiration, in the soul of Jesus.  It is
described, explained, expanded, in His Gospel.  The Gospel in fact is
merely the popular translation and the immediate application of the
principle of the piety of Jesus in the social _milieu_ in which He
lived.  Everything springs from His filial consciousness as a natural
and wonderful efflorescence: His messianic vocation, His twofold
ministry of preaching and healing, His deeds and His discourses, His
ethics and His doctrine, the absolute gift of Himself in life and
death.  We must place ourselves at this luminous centre if we would see
the rest dart forth like rays.  In it is found the inner, living unity
of His teaching and His destination.  He promulgates no law or dogma;
He founds no official institution.  His intention is quite different:
He wishes, before everything else, to awaken the moral life, to rouse
the soul from its inertia, to break its chains, to lighten its burden,
to make it active, free, and fruitful.  He regards His work as finished
when He has communicated His life, His piety, to a few poor
consciousnesses that He found asleep and dead.  Never man spake like
this man, because never had man less concern about what we call
"orthodoxy"--that is, about abstract and accurate formulas.  He prefers
the language of the people to the language of the schools; He makes use
of images, parables, paradoxes, of current and traditional ideas, of
every form of expression which, taken literally, is the most inadequate
in the world, but which, on the other hand, is the most living and
stimulating.  Each of His sentences or parables is enclosed in a hard
shell that has to be broken before you can get at the kernel.  Jesus
wished to force His hearers to interpret His words, because He called
them to an inward, personal, autonomous activity, because He wished to
put an end to the religion of the letter and of rites, and to found the
religion of the spirit.  Even now, he that does not give himself to
this labour of interpretation and assimilation in reading the
Gospel,--he who does not penetrate through the letter and the form to
the inspiration and the inmost consciousness of the Master,--cannot
understand or profit by His teaching.  He who does not collaborate with
Him while listening to Him, who does not pierce through His words to
His soul, will come away empty.  He only gives to those who have, or at
least desire to have.  He only leads the seeker to the truth.  He only
pardons those who repent, or comforts those who mourn, or fills the
hungerers and the thirsters after righteousness.

Such is the character of His Gospel.  We cannot here set forth its
contents; we can only note the religious attitude of Jesus with regard
to things and men, to Nature and Society.

At peace with God, Jesus found Himself at peace with the universe.  The
idea of Nature, that formidable screen erected between ourselves and
God, destroying hope and quenching prayer, did not exist for Him.
Nature--that was the Will of His Father.  He submitted to it with
confidence and joy, whereas we submit to it with desperate resignation.
He did not feel Himself to be an orphan or an exile in the world; He
conducted Himself in it with ease and in security, not as a slave, but
as a son in the house which the Father filled with His presence.  It is
the Father that directs all things; He makes His sun to shine upon the
evil and the good; He watches over the sparrows; He clothes the lilies
of the field; He gives life and food, the body and raiment; He notices
the work we have to do, the trials we must bear.  He never leaves us to
ourselves.  His spirit vivifies and fortifies our own.  He is at the
origin of our life and at the end.  We are ever in the Father's hands.

The outlook of Jesus, it is true, is not our own.  He shared the
outlook of His race and time....  But His filial piety did not depend
upon His knowledge of the universe.  The amount of culture does not
count in this order of feelings.  Irreligion was not less easy or less
frequent then than now, and if His outlook on the universe was
narrower, it must not be imagined that it was less full of scandalous
fatalities, of moral difficulties, of rude shocks to piety and faith.
The world of the apocalypses, which was the world in which Jesus had to
live and act, was not less full of mysteries and terrors than our own.
His filial piety alone gave Him the means and strength by which to
overcome them.  The duty of man, He considered, was to change his heart
rather than to change the order of things, _i.e._ the will of God.
There is no trace of sorcery or magic or the appetite for miracles in
the prayer He taught to His disciples.  At bottom it amounts to this:
"Our Father, let Thy will be done!"  His heart-obedience was composed
half of childlike confidence, half of heroic renunciation.  In face of
His trials He submitted without weakness and without complaint, and in
face of death He breathed the prayer of faith, the only one that still
remains to us: "Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit."

In face of the universe and its laws the individual ego is necessarily
called on to submit and to renounce itself.  The only matter of
importance is to know upon what altar we shall make this sacrifice.
Those who offer it on the altar of that blind divinity, "the nature of
things," remain still unconsoled.  Those who, with Jesus, make it in
the arms of the Heavenly Father, accomplish it with strength and joy.
From the awakening of consciousness to its highest point of
development, man carries within him this radical contradiction: he
feels that there is a mortal conflict between the idea that he
gradually forms of the world and the idea he forms of himself.  The ego
wishes to conquer and does actually conquer the world; it even goes
beyond it by thought; but the world has its revenge; it dominates the
ego, it crushes it beneath the weight of its invincible laws, and it
swallows it up,--itself, its efforts, its works, its thought,--like an
ephemeral nonentity.  Jesus felt this opposition; He suffered from this
conflict.  He resolved the antithesis by a third term, in which was
realised the other two: the notion of the Father, whose beneficent will
is equally sovereign in man and in the universe.  And it is this happy
solution of the enigma of life that still renders the religion of Jesus
the religion of hope.

Amongst men, in the midst of society, Jesus felt other relations and
new obligations formed in His heart.  His filial piety became a
fraternal piety.  The first commandment, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy
God with all thine heart," necessarily gave birth to the second: "And
thy neighbour as thyself."  The Father who lives in me lives equally in
my neighbour; He loves him as much as He loves me.  I ought therefore
to love Him in my neighbour as well as in myself.  This paternal
presence of God in all human souls creates in them not only a link but
a substantial and moral unity which makes them members of one body,
whatever may be the external and contingent differences which separate
them.  From the Fatherhood in heaven flows the brotherhood on earth.
From a relation of righteousness and love towards God springs a similar
relation between men.

In thus defining the religious connection of Jesus with His brethren I
am afraid of weakening it.  For Him it was not a matter of theory; for
He never constructed any theory or formulated any doctrine of human
fraternity; it was with Him a passionate sentiment, a deep-felt
solidarity and kinship, a true family life, in which this Elder
Brother's heart reverberated on the one hand with the love and pity of
the Father, and, on the other, with the miseries and distresses of His
brethren.  In His parables Jesus does not say "The Father" simply; He
habitually says "the father of the family," "the head of the house."
It is because the father does not exist without his children, and
because humanity, on earth at least, is the family, by means of which
the paternity of God is realised.

But in the society of men Jesus encountered sin with all its effects in
the shape of moral deformity and physical suffering.  From the contact
of His filial piety with this enormous human misery sprang a twofold
appeal: the voice of His Father in His soul, the plaint of His brethren
all around; and to this double cry the answer was--His ministry of
relief, of consolation, and salvation: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon
Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He
hath sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovering of
sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to
proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord" (Luke iv. 18, 19, R.V.).

It all flows from the same source.  It was not only individuals who
needed to be healed and saved.  The family of God was not less broken
down, oppressed, disorganised, by all the powers of evil, a prey to
hatred, selfish ambition, intestine wars.  Would it not be necessary
here also to effect a work of restoration, to reconstruct this family
so highly-favoured of the Father for the salvation of the world, to
inaugurate the kingdom of God announced by so many of the prophets, and
expected so impatiently by all pious souls and all the victims of
unrighteousness?  This was His messianic vocation.  But how would this
victory of the Messiah be realised?  Would it be the work of Divine
power, flashing forth and executing its pitiless reprisals?  Since the
paternal heart of God had been opened and poured into His own, Jesus
had perceived another law and another force, the law and force of love,
which triumphs by self-sacrifice.  Soon there arose in His
consciousness a new image of the Messiah, that of the Servant of
Jehovah, bearing the sins and miseries of His people, bruised,
humiliated, dying to procure them life and healing.  It was the gospel
of the Cross.  The further He advanced in this emptying of self, and in
this work of love and pain, the larger and more luminous became the
revelation of the Father in His soul.  When at last He had the clear
and perfect consciousness that He had no longer any will to do but the
will of God, no other plan to follow than His mysterious designs, no
other cause to serve and to defend but His, He did not doubt the final
victory; His faith shone forth triumphantly, appropriating to itself,
to express itself in perfect freedom, the boldest promises of the
Ancient Testament and of the contemporary apocalyptic seers.  By His
union with the Father, the heir of the past felt Himself master of the
future.  On the throne of immolated love He has founded a kingdom that
will never end.  Such is the inner secret of His hope, such the moral
and religious meaning of His prophecies of speedy victory, and of His
return upon the clouds of heaven.

Jesus was fond of saying that a wise man knew how to bring forth from
the treasury of his heart things new and old.  It was in this way that
He accomplished the most radical of religious revolutions while seeming
only to fulfil the law and the prophets.  What was there then that was
so new and potent in the least of His discourses?  The treasure of His
filial consciousness.  The inner inspiration springing up in them
incessantly gives to every detail of His teaching, the oldest words,
the most familiar metaphors, a meaning altogether new, a reach and
bearing infinite.  His speech confines itself to the antithesis that
had become traditional with all the prophets, of man's weakness and
God's strength, of sin and pardon, of repentance and confidence, of
sickness and healing, of humility and exaltation.  But He had a way of
looking at them, and even of making them spring out of each other, that
entirely renovated them.  "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs
is the kingdom of heaven!  Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall
be comforted!  Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after
righteousness, for they shall be filled!"  To press thus and to
stimulate the sense of need, of misery and sin, so far that it changes
into its opposite; to draw riches out of poverty, comfort out of
sorrow, victorious strength from weakness; to find in sorrow for sin
the germ of saintly life and in hunger and thirst the very source of
satisfaction; to make every human soul thus pass through this inward
drama of repentance and conversion in which it is regenerated and
renewed,--such is the unique but admirable and all potent mystery of
the Gospel.

Christ did not construct a theory of man, of his moral life, any more
than He constructed a theory with respect to God and the universe.  He
was content to place Himself at the centre of the human consciousness,
and to dig down to the source of life.  He takes man as he is in all
climates and in all conditions.  He does not declare him to be
radically impotent for good, but neither does He flatter him by veiling
his natural misery.  He knows him to be ardent and feeble, full of
needs and of illusions, capable of conversion, subject to all passions,
the victim of all slaveries.  He treats him as diseased, which is the
truth, and He does not think He can make him find the principle of a
serious cure, save in the very sense of his malady.  So far from
blunting the edge of the moral law, He sharpens it as one sharpens a
dissecting knife in order the better to pierce the living flesh and
penetrate to the very joints and marrow; He infinitely enhances the
demands of the traditional ideal; from the outward act He descends to
the inward feeling; He makes lust equal to adultery, and anger or
hatred to murder itself.  He tells His disciples to love their enemies,
to pray for those who persecute them, to answer violence by gentleness,
and injuries by love.  He speaks thus not to weaken the vigour of
righteousness, but because He sees in love and gentleness a higher
righteousness and the sole means of securing the final triumph of good
over evil.  That is why the righteousness of His friends exceeds the
righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees.  It is no longer dictated
by an outward letter, but it has, for soul, the very spirit of the
Father, and, for inward rule, the ideal the Master has lit up in the
conscience: "Be ye perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect."

This morality would easily become ascetic and appear impossible if it
were not blended with an opposite element which renders it human and
fruitful without either lowering or destroying it.  That element is
mercy and forgiveness; it is pure, unconditional grace which in misery
makes room for hope, and in repentance opens the door to faith and to
the work of faith.  These two elements, inexorable law and
unconditional grace, are so intimately blended in the Gospel of Christ
that the Gospel only subsists in its originality and with its power by
their perfect fusion and reciprocal and constant action.  Without the
inflexible rigours of the moral ideal, repentance would not be
possible--at least it would never be profound enough to produce the
renovation of the heart; but, without faith in the divine mercy,
repentance itself, changing into despair, would be barren and
ineffectual.  These two elements of the Christian life are as fruitful
by their union as they are impotent and liable to degeneration when
isolated or opposed.  What does Christian law become without the
sentiment of love, without the impulse of mercy, but a sort of moral
Stoicism, rigid and severe?  And what would be the doctrine of grace
apart from the sacred obligation of the law but the theory of a
mischievous indulgence or a Pagan mysticism?  To decompose the Gospel
salt is to destroy its savour.

      *      *      *      *      *

4. _A Necessary Distinction_

At the close of this long meditation, one thing seems to me very clear,
the necessity, or rather the obligation under which I stand henceforth
of distinguishing between the purely moral essence of Christianity and
all its historical expressions or realisations, even the highest and
most faithful of them.  If religion is an inward life, a real and felt
relation between God and man, and if Christianity is that life carried
to a higher degree, it is certain that religion in general, and
Christianity in particular, must have the two characteristics of all
living things.  Life is a force, ideal in its essence, real in its
manifestations.  It can only manifest itself in the organisms that it
creates and animates.  But, while incarnating itself in its works, it
does not exhaust itself or remain imprisoned in any of them.  Jesus was
well aware of this when He compared His gospel to the leaven which
raises the dough and to the seed which germinates in the soil into
which it falls.

This necessary distinction will neither be made nor admitted by
everybody.  Many who concede it in theory deny it in practice.
Protestants smile at the Catholics, who identify Christianity with the
Church.  But while admitting and making the distinction, when it comes
to particular churches and particular systems of dogmas, they resist
and protest in their turn, if it becomes necessary to apply it to the
Bible, and to distinguish between the Word and its human and historical

Should we go further still?  May we, ought we in all fidelity to apply
the distinction to the Gospel of Christ itself and to the primitive
form in which it has come down to us?  Most of those who have
accompanied us thus far will now recoil and leave us.  They will employ
against us the very same arguments which appear to them so pitiful when
used with respect to the Church and to the Bible.  For my part, I
cannot comprehend this fear of the freedom left to criticism.  It seems
to me impossible to deny that in the teaching of Jesus there are parts
which are uncertain, things which have been either badly understood or
badly reported, an oriental and contingent form which needs to be
translated into our modern languages.  Who does not see that neither in
His language nor in His thought is there anything absolute?  Both of
them are constantly determined by the generally received ideas of His
time, the state of mind of His interlocutors; and unless you desire to
deny that Jesus was a man of His age and of His race, how can you
abstract Him from His environment and attribute to Him ideas which have
neither date nor place?  I have already compared Christianity to an oak
which has lived and grown for eighteen centuries, and the Gospel to the
acorn from which it sprang.  But in that acorn itself, as in the tree,
it is manifest that there are two things: a principle of life, and some
matter borrowed from the Hebraic soil, with which the creating
principle was obliged to amalgamate itself in order to enter into
history and to become fruitful.  The characteristic of life is to
render possible and to institute the constant exchange of the materials
with which it builds up its works.  When this exchange has ceased, life
has disappeared.  If the Gospel of Jesus were something fixed and
finished like a code of laws or a collection of formulas, it would no
longer be a power of life.  His words defy the centuries and never
wither; they are truly eternal, because they leave free and do not
imprison in a rigid and immutable letter the spirit of life which
animates them.

Arrived at this point of view, I see the relations between Christianity
and historical criticism change completely, and find myself once more
in the greatest religious security.  Criticism will always be a just
cause of alarm to those who elevate any historical and contingent form
whatever into the absolute, for the excellent reason that an historical
phenomenon, being always conditioned, can never have the
characteristics of the absolute.  But criticism can do nothing against
the Christian principle, which, brought back to the consciousness,
always disengages itself from the relative and fleeting expressions in
which it has clothed itself by the way.  Criticism makes it to appear
again in its ideal purity and eternal worth.  Far from being injurious,
it becomes necessary to it.  It is not doubtful that the teaching and
the work of Christ, having been preserved in the simple oral tradition
for half a century, have not been transmitted to us without some
corruptions and some legendary elements.  What then does historical
criticism, with all its rigour, do?  Nothing but purify this uncertain
tradition, remove the veils, set forth more certainly the authentic
soul of Christ, and, consequently, place the Christian principle in its
surest, clearest light.

What has been said of the Master's teaching is still more true of that
of His disciples.  The Christian plants have all sprung from the same
seed; but they vary according to the soil in which they grow.  They are
all of the same species, but in that species there are innumerable
varieties.  How could the external result possibly have been the same
whether the divine seed fell into the heart of a simple fisherman of
Galilee, or a rabbi of genius, or a thinker brought up in the school of
Alexandria?  Could you possibly have the same Church, the same
theology, the same ritual in Arabia and in Greece, among a savage race
and in the university circles of Germany, at Rome or in England, in the
Middle Ages in a feudal society, and in our democracies in a time of
emancipated reason and free government?

And here it will be convenient to pause and reflect a moment on that
wonderful variety in the historical forms of Christianity, none of
which are perfect and none contemptible.  A superficial examination may
draw from this spectacle a lesson of indifference; a more conscientious
and attentive study finds in it an opposite lesson, the lesson of an
ever-pressing obligation on both individuals and churches never to
repose in a deceitful satisfaction, but to progress unceasingly; for
Christianity is nothing if it is not in us at once an ideal which is
never reached and an inner force which ever urges us beyond ourselves.

5. _The Corruptions of the Christian Principle_

The differences which separate the historical forms of Christianity
are, like those of religion in general, of two kinds: there are
differences of kind and differences of degree.  The differences of kind
are those which arise from diversity of races, languages,
civilisations, temperaments, genius.  The differences of degree are
those connected with the very intensity and purity of the Christian
faith and life.  Churches and peoples are diversified at once by their
constitution and by their degree of culture and of moral life.  It goes
without saying that these two classes of differences are not
juxtaposed; they are mixed incessantly and complicated endlessly.  It
remains none the less true that they provoke and legitimate two sorts
of judgment.  The first are accepted with tolerance and sympathy, since
it would not be reasonable to blame a man for the colour of his skin.
But the second may and should be discussed and analysed, for they imply
intellectual errors or moral defects, the corruption or the weakness of
the Christian principle, and they can only be corrected and remedied by
discussion and criticism.

The Christian seed is never sown in a neutral and empty soil.  No soul,
no social state, is a _tabula rasa_.  The place is always occupied by
anterior traditions of ideas, rites, or customs, by institutions in
possession.  Christianity cannot therefore root itself anywhere without
entering into conflict with the regnant powers, without giving battle
to prejudices, manners, and superstitions which naturally resist, and
which, when conquered, spring up again in other forms in the victorious
religion.  Take the Ebionite Christianity of the first centuries: what
is it but a mixture, a compromise between Jewish and Christian
elements?  What shall we say of the Catholic Church after Constantine?
Is it not true that, in the religious transformation at that time
effected, there was a double and mutual conversion, and that it is hard
to say whether the pagan world was more modified by Christianity or
Christianity more deeply penetrated and invaded by the manners and the
religion that it was supposed to replace?

In this order the most striking victories are never complete.  Even
after the most radical conversion, the old man survives, at least by
its roots, in the new man.  The Pharisee long survived in St. Paul
after he became an Apostle of Christ.  The same in human societies:
political or moral revolutions never abolish the past.  After those
great battles in which passions and interests have often as much weight
as noble ideas and generous sentiments, there is always established a
sort of equilibrium by mutual concessions and spontaneous alliances
between the vanquished and the victorious tendencies.  Hence come what
we have named the corruptions of the Christian principle in the course
of historical Christianity, for which alone should be reserved the name
of heresies.

It must not be imagined, however, that these corruptions or heresies,
against which it is the duty of Christian criticism ceaselessly to
protest, are arbitrary things, or that their number is unlimited.  On
the contrary, they fall, and must necessarily fall, into two
categories.  The cause of the corruptions of the Christian principle in
social life can only be found in the previous tradition, in one of the
moral and religious tendencies that Christianity aspires to conquer and
replace.  Now, these tendencies may be reduced to two: the tendencies
of the religions of Nature, or Pagan; and the tendency of the legal, or
Jewish, religion.  Closely examine all that has disfigured or that
still disfigures historical Christianity, and you will see that each of
these corruptions is connected, by its character, with a Jewish or a
Pagan root.  The Gospel as the religion of free spirit and pure
morality has never had, and could never have had, any other enemies
than Judaism or Paganism, ever ready to spring up in its bosom and
transform it either into the religion of Nature or into the religion of
the Law.

Christianity, for example, in its pure essence, implies the
absoluteness of God--that is to say, His perfect spirituality and His
perfect independence.  Hence, worship in spirit and in truth, the only
worship that can be universal, the only one that corresponds to the
Christian idea of God.  Therefore every tendency, even in Christianity
itself, to shut up God in a phenomenal form, to bind Him to something
material, local, or temporary, to blend the Creator with the creature,
or to fill up the gap between them by a hierarchy of divine beings
which, under pretext of serving us as intermediaries, interrupt our
free and immediate communion with the Father, is, properly speaking, a
resurrection of Paganism, and a return to idolatry.  Paganism and
idolatry, of which we pretend to have so much horror, are simply the
localisation and materialisation, more or less conscious, of the divine
spirit and of divine grace, whatever may be the visible organ to which
you bind them, or on which you make their action to depend,--Pope of
Rome or Pythoness of Delphi, images of gods or images of virgin and of
saints, sacramental liturgies, the deification of a church, a
priesthood, or a book.

Take another example: Christianity is not only the liberty of God; it
is also His holiness; it is pure morality placed above all the
instincts of nature; it is, finally, the unity of morality and
religion.  Hence, all that tends to break this unity, every blow at the
divine law, every attempt to cultivate religious emotion apart from
conscience, all magic and mystagogy, æsthetic piety, religious
romanticism, Christianity à la Chateaubriand, sensuous
mysticism,--these essays, so numerous in our day, at philosophic or at
literary gnosis, these new religions without repentance or conversion,
all these cults without any element of moral sanctification--these are
so many corruptions of the Christian principle, and consequences more
or less immediate of the Paganism always latent in the human heart.

By the side of this Pagan is the Judaising heresy.  Christianity is not
only moral law and intransigeant holiness; it is also unconditional
love, grace, mercy, the inward action of the Spirit of God in the
spirit of man in order to produce in it that which He desires to find,
and to realise that which His law commands; it is everything that
scandalised Pharisaism in the teaching and conduct of Jesus in regard
to the sinful and the lost: pardon without reproach, rehabilitation and
salvation through repentance and affection, the sincere impulse of the
heart that has been raised above external works; the very opposite of
legal compacts, meritorious and atoning virtue, formalist religion and
ritual piety.  All that tends to separate the Father from the child;
that places the liberty and virtue of man outside and apart from God as
having some merit in His sight; all Pelagianism, every theory of
salvation by works, every condition laid down to divine grace except
faith to receive it: adhesion to a doctrinal formula, sacramental
usages, priestly absolution, outward mortification, asceticism whether
monkish or puritanical, which divides morality and, in the name of a
fantastic sanctity, introduces dualism into the work of God,--all this
should be called by its right name; it should be taken for what it
really is--a relapse into the legal and formalist spirit of Jewish

Finally, I see on what condition Christianity may remain faithful to
itself while realising itself in history.  It is only by an incessant
struggle of the Christian principle against all the elements of the
past which find, alas, in human propensities, and in the inertia of the
multitude, a complicity so constant and effectual.  So far from
religious indifference being permissible, critical action and Christian
prayer become, in every church and every life, permanent duties.  I now
understand the paradox of Christ: "I am not come to send peace on the
earth, but a sword."  For the Christian principle, in fact, war is
life.  To cease to fight is to succumb; it is to allow yourself to be
submerged by the rising tide of human superstitions; it is to die.  Who
does not see the danger of allowing Christianity to become absorbed in
one church form, Christian truth in one formula, the Christian
principle in one of its particular realisations?  All these contingent
expressions, being imperfect, must be reformed sooner or later.  How
can they be unless the spirit of Christianity disengages itself without
ceasing and floats above them as an ideal?  For eighteen centuries a
river of life has flowed through human history.  Break down the
barriers which fanaticism and superstition are always setting up
athwart its course.  If the waters cease to flow they stagnate, and
corrupt and poison the very land it was their mission to fertilise.



1. _The Evolution of the Christian Principle_

The distinction between the Christian principle and its successive
realisations renders it easy to resolve the question, formerly so much
debated, as to the perfectibility of Christianity.  It is perfect
piety, plenary union with God, consequently the absolute and definitive
Religion.  But, regarded in its historical evolution, not only is it
perfectible, but it must ceaselessly progress, since, for it, to
progress is to realise itself.  The germ could not be perfected in its
essence, as germ and ideal type of the tree that it potentially
contains.  But the tree itself only comes into existence by the
development of the germ.  No reform, no progress, no perfecting, could
raise Christianity above itself--that is to say, above its principle;
for these reforms and this progress only bring it into closer
conformity with that principle--that is, make it more Christian.  On
the other hand, the principle itself must enter into evolution in
history in order to manifest its originality and its force, to realise
in individual and social life, in the realm of thought and in the realm
of action, in a word in the whole of civilisation, all its virtualities
and all its consequences.  Jesus saw this when He spoke the Parable of
the Mustard Seed (Matt. xiii. 31-32).

This distinction has another advantage.  It alone permits the Christian
thinker to be equitable in his judgments in regard to all religious
forms, to place himself at a truly historical point of view, and to
reconcile, without weakness and without violence, what is due to truth
and what to charity.  Every sincere endeavour to express or to realise
Christianity in a system or in a church becomes respectable so soon as
you know how to discover in it, under formulas however strange and
practices however gross, some effects of the Christian principle or
some signs of its presence.  If disdain and contempt are not
permissible with regard to any type of Christianity however different
from our own, neither is illusion to be tolerated with regard to our
own church or to our personal piety.  Perfection is nowhere to be
found.  Each community may repeat, and the larger, older, and more
numerous it becomes the more will it need to repeat, the words of the
Apostle Paul: "Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended," etc.
(Phil. iii. 13, 14).  The habit we have got into of putting all the
truth on our side and all error on the side of others, of thus opposing
light and darkness, not only falsifies the judgment; it sours the heart
and poisons piety, it dries up the feeling of fraternity, and is the
perpetual sign of individual or collective vanity.  Let each examine
himself, let him judge his church without complacence in the light and
spirit of Christ; he will soon attain to more humility and truth.  He
will never identify any particular church or its dogma with
Christianity itself.  However pure its teaching, however generous its
deeds, he will reckon that this is, after all, but a commencement of
Christianity, a mere nothing compared with what the Christian principle
should have accomplished in the world in eighteen centuries.

Such is the feeling with which we should approach the history of
Christianity.  The field is vast; the vegetation in it is infinite; we
must content ourselves with incompleteness.  Being neither able nor
desirous to say everything, I have been obliged to seek a commanding
point of view from which it would be possible to take in that history
in its entirety, and to take a bird's-eye view of the course it has
followed.  Faithful to this idea, namely, that the Christian principle
is like leaven or a seed thrown into a gross, heavy mass of anterior
traditions which it was meant gradually to raise and to transform, it
is this struggle and this progress that I desire especially to
describe.  I shall endeavour to show how Christianity, always borrowing
its forms from the environment in which it realises itself, after
enduring them for a time, subsequently frees itself from and triumphs
over the inferior and temporary elements which fetter it, and manifests
from age to age a greater independence and a purer and higher
spirituality.  This progress is slow, obscure, oft interrupted,
hindered by reactions or by moments of arrest; none the less striking,
however, does it appear when, rising above these secondary
complications, one measures the distance between the points of
departure and arrival.  Not only has Christianity never been better
understood than in our own day, but never were civilisation or the soul
of humanity taken in their entirety more fundamentally Christian.  When
one follows the history of Christianity from this higher point of view,
one sees that it has passed through three very distinct phases and
assumed three essentially different forms: the Jewish or Messianic, the
Graeco-Roman or Catholic, the Protestant or modern, form.  Let us see
how it has passed from the one to the other.

2. _Jewish, or Messianic Christianity_

The first of these periods is usually omitted or suppressed.  Being
unable to admit that Catholicism is not the work of Christ and the
apostles, or that the Church has varied its dogma or its institutions,
Catholic theologians naïvely imagine that the first Christian
communities of Jerusalem and Antioch resembled those of Rome, Milan,
and Lyons in the fourth century; that Peter was the first of the popes
and exercised for five-and-twenty years the supreme pontificate; that
the apostles appointed bishops everywhere as their successors and the
heirs of their power.  In this way the history of Christianity became,
in the Catholic tradition, a tissue of legends.

The theologians of Protestantism arrived by another road at an
analagous conclusion.  Under the influence of the dogma of the verbal
inspiration of the New Testament, they were led to make of apostolic
Christianity an ideal and abstract type which all the ages ought to
force themselves to imitate and reproduce.  And, as they profess to
have returned to this type both in regard to ideas and to institutions
and morals, they have made of this apostolic period the first chapter
of the history of Protestantism, just as the Catholics have made of it
the first chapter of the history of Catholicism.  In both cases, it
loses all distinct physiognomy and all reality.

By dissipating these prejudices, historical criticism has completely
resuscitated that first form of Christianity.  It is no longer possible
to confound it with any other.  It had its contrasts, its passions, its
storms.  Neither Jesus nor the apostles lived in the ideal or in
paradisiacal peace.  They quarrelled and were divided in the Church of
Jerusalem as in our own.  The subjects of the quarrels were different,
but they did not consider them less grave than those which vex and
trouble us.  Peter, James, and Paul were not less divided in the first
century over the question of circumcision and of the relations between
Jews and Gentiles, than were Luther, Zwingle, and Calvin in the
sixteenth over the doctrine of the Lord's Supper.  From both camps,
then as now, they sent forth pamphlets and anathemas.  There were two
opposite parties.  There were the stubborn holders of tradition and its
authority, and there were the innovators, or the partisans, sometimes
as rash as they, of liberty of faith and individual inspiration; and
between the two there were the men of conciliation and the golden mean
who were preoccupied especially in preventing schisms and arranging
truces and treaties of peace, to be followed in their turn by new
crises and fresh storms.

In this first form of Christianity, as in all that have followed it,
there was a certain dualism, a mixture of heterogeneous and soon
hostile elements.  The struggle was bound to arise between the
Christian principle and Jewish tradition.  The new seed sown in that
ancient soil could not germinate without rising in it and in places
breaking up the thick hard crust.  In the books of the New Testament
that have preserved to us the picture of that first and powerful
germination, side by side with the principle to which belongs the
future we necessarily find old things which are on the way to death.
It will be seen what an error they commit and what a wrong they do
themselves who, misconceiving this historical complexity, sanctify and
deify both these opposite elements, and place on the same level the
eternally fruitful grain, and the chaff to-day dried up and utterly
inert, a mere remnant of the Jewish stalk that bore it.

Conceived in this religious matrix of Judaism, the Christian principle,
if I may so speak, could only take in it a body essentially Jewish in
structure, substance, colour.  I only speak, of course, of the body of
this primitive Christianity, not of its soul, which, as I have shown,
was altogether new.  Now, its body was Jewish on two sides and in two
aspects: by the persistence of the authority of the Law of Moses, and
the practical observance of its precepts, from which the disciples of
Jesus did not dream of detaching themselves; and, secondly, by the
apocalyptic Messianism which dominated Jewish thought from the time of
the Maccabees, and with which the first Christians were perhaps more
imbued and more possessed than all the rest of their people.

Faith in the evangel of Jesus, full and joyful communion with the
Father, habits of Jewish devotion, Messianic hopes,--all this formed,
in the consciousness of the first disciples, a mixture of various
elements and of things of very unequal value.  These elements, in
gradually revealing their disparate nature, could not fail to enter
into contradiction and to engender conflicts in the very heart of
apostolic Christianity.  It was these contradictions and conflicts
which set Christian thought in movement, and produced the life and
progress of that early age, so that one may always rightly consider it
as a creative and classic epoch, and hold it up as a normal example to
the churches of all time; on condition, however, that it be not
considered as an immutable mass of eternal verities, but taken in its
natural movement, in its constant effort of progressive enfranchisement
with regard to the past, in its heroic ascent towards religious forms
and ideas, freer, more human, more conformed to the universal
character, to the spirituality, and to the pure morality of the
religion of Jesus.

"What, then," it will be said, "did not the Christ set His disciples
free at the outset from all the errors and superstitions of the past?
Did He not at once give them perfect dogmas, a completed form of
worship, an immutable and completed system of ethics?"  No; Jesus did
nothing of the kind.  So far from formally and systematically
criticising the traditional religion of His people, so far from making
_ex cathedra_ that selection which the vulgar looked for, Jesus
expressly refused it, as a method essentially false and irreligious.
He did not wish to abolish anything by mere authority; He preferred
rather to confirm the tradition in its totality, of which He was the
heir and not the executioner.  "Think not that I am come to destroy the
Law or the Prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil" (Matt. v.

His method was quite different.  It was the method of the sower to whom
He loved to compare Himself.  In the furrow made by His word in the
ancient soil of Judaism, He quietly and gently deposited new germs.  In
the traditional and theocratic notions of His race He placed contents
altogether different drawn from His own religious experience, and from
the sense of His filial relation to the Father.  He then left time to
do its work, to develop one after another the consequences of the
principles He had planted in human souls.  He sowed, and He and others
reap from age to age the harvest He has sown.

Consider His attitude towards the Law of Moses.  Not a jot or tittle of
it is to fail or be neglected.  He strengthens it rather than relaxes
its claims; He deepens it, carries it inward, makes it infinitely more
spiritual and searching.  He gathers it up into two great commandments,
and constrains the Law itself, if I may so speak, to surpass itself and
transform itself into pure evangelical morality.  That is what He meant
by declaring that His work would be the fulfilment of the Law.  Nothing
was less violent; but nothing, at bottom, was more revolutionary....
It is easy now to see the consequences of this method; history has
revealed them.  But those who heard the words of Jesus could not
perceive these consequences.  They had no idea probably that the day
would come when to be faithful to the Master they would be obliged to
break with Moses.  They did not suddenly break with Judaism.  Indeed,
they had found in their new faith new motives for fervour and
exactitude in their Mosaic piety.  The first Christians in Jerusalem
were honoured of all the people because of their assiduity in the
Temple worship and for their exemplary devotion.  They are therefore
not enfranchised yet; they will have to free themselves from Judaism in
the school of events into which they will be led by the Spirit of Jesus
that is with them and dwells in them.  The Christian principle will
have to reconquer its independence of the Judaism which dominates and
hems them in on every side.  This will be the work of more than a
century of conflict and controversy.  All Christians will not enter
into the movement with the same decision; they will not march abreast
on the path of liberty.  Many will be stupid and turn back.  Progress
would not have been made if the Divine Spirit that had raised up Jesus
had not raised up valiant men like Stephen, Saul of Tarsus, Barnabas,
the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, and that of the Fourth
Gospel, to carry on the struggle against the bondage of Judaism and
carry it to complete victory.  When you pass from the one to the other,
from the discourse of Stephen to the Epistle to the Galatians, from the
Epistle to the Romans to the Johannean theology, you clearly see the
march of progress.  At the end of the first century Christianity is so
independent of national and traditional Judaism that the one treats the
other, without any further scruple, as an alien and hostile religion.

More adhesive still to the Christian principle, less easy to strip off,
was the second Jewish wrappage, apocalyptic Messianism.  Jesus had so
thoroughly consecrated it by calling Himself the Messiah and by
inaugurating the kingdom of God, that His Gospel might be named a
"Christian Messianism."  In His discourses He seems to have confirmed
it still more expressly than the Law of Moses.  No doubt He proceeded
in both cases alike.  In all the theocratic notions which constituted
this popular Messianism, He lodged a new content, a religious and moral
element which must, in the long run, make them burst their trammels and
elevate Messianism above itself.  But He did not bring to it any
negative and abstract criticism, any more than He did to the divers
parts of the Mosaic tradition; He never said either that it must be
abandoned or that it must be retained; He deposited in it the new
principle; but He left in it many obscurities, abandoning to time and
to the force of things the care of drawing forth the consequences and
clearing up confusions.

For His own part He wished simply to maintain intact beneath these
apocalyptic forms the principle and the inspiration of His inward
piety.  It was in accordance with these that He interpreted the popular
beliefs, adapting them with a perfect sovereignty to the moral aim and
nature of His work.  As with the Mosaic Law, so with Messianism; He is
its Master, not its slave.  He uses it, but does not abandon Himself to
it.  These hopes never trouble the clearness of His religious vision;
they do not take away His self-possession, or alter the direction,
always exclusively moral, of His acts.  He accepts the title of
Messiah, but only after substituting the idea of the suffering and
humiliated for the national and triumphant Messiah.  If He preaches the
kingdom of God, He takes care to explain the conditions and the true
goods of the kingdom--humility, repentance, childlike confidence,
righteousness, disinterested love, the joy of serving God and man.  He
leaves to men of the flesh the pomp and splendour which dazzle the eyes
of the flesh.  He admires the grandeur of John the Baptist more than
that of Herod.  The kingdom of God will not come with ostentation.  It
will begin like an unseen seed that a man puts into the ground.

At the outset of His work Jesus encountered a mysterious temptation.
This was the conflict of His consciousness with the seductions of the
popular Messianism.  He triumphed over it with difficulty; but
thenceforth He was always on His guard in that direction.  Is it not
remarkable that this very temptation returned to Him through the mouth
of Peter?  Jesus treats as Satan the first of His apostles, and refers
to the devil in person and the prince of darkness suggestions of this
nature which tend to make Him deviate from the road marked out by the
inspiration of His heart.  He avoids the title Messiah until the day
when He is able to join with it the image of the Cross.  He disdains
the title, "Son of David," preferring to all others that of "Son of
Man," a title that was not open to the same mistakes.  On this road of
renunciation He must sacrifice not only His ease, His joys, and His
repose, but also, at each step, some of the beliefs of Israel, and some
of the glories of the Messiah.  He never hesitates.  His people reject
Him, and He turns to His Father and says to Him: "Even so, Father, for
so it seemed good in Thy sight."  He agonises in Gethsemane, the
Messiah agonises in Him, and He prays thus: "Father, not My will, but
Thine be done."

Hence comes His freedom of spirit, the elevation of His view in the
interpretation of events, as also His pious and trustful reserve in
face of the enigmas and obscurities that His glance cannot penetrate.
John the Baptist is beheaded in prison: singular destiny for that
formidable Elijah who was to inaugurate by thunder and lightning the
Messianic era, the dream of all patriots!  Is Jesus offended by it?
Does He hesitate to declare that John at that very moment is "the Elias
which was for to come"?  What a defiance to the oracles of the popular
Messianism!  When the sons of Zebedee desire Him to reserve for them
the foremost places in His future kingdom, He merely speaks to them of
the baptism of martyrdom, and teaches them that they must leave such
things at the disposal of the Father.  No doubt, He never contradicts
apocalyptic predictions; on the contrary He applies to Himself all the
promises of glory and of triumph; but always in subjection to the
Father's will.  Asked as to the date of the Messiah's advent, He
answers that He does not know, that they must observe the blossoms on
the fig-tree and the signs of the times around Himself; that they must
watch and pray, possess their souls in patience, and abandon to the
Father the decisions of which He keeps the impenetrable secret.

I speak of freedom of interpretation and of pious reserve, not of
hypocritical and sceptical accommodation.  We cannot doubt that Jesus
accepted at the outset, and shared, at bottom, the Messianic beliefs in
which He had been trained like all the children of His race.  That His
disciples, in reporting His discourses on this point, exaggerated and
materialised them, need not be denied.  But, on the other hand you can
hardly explain the unanimity of the earliest Christian tradition in
expecting His return upon the clouds if Jesus had professed entirely
opposite ideas.  After all, is there anything more astonishing in His
sharing on this matter the hopes of His time than in the fact of His
having explained certain mysterious maladies as His contemporaries did
by demoniacal possession, or of His attributing Psalm cx., as did
certain of the rabbis, to King David; to the first Isaiah the work of
the second, and to Moses the redaction of the Pentateuch?  These
current and traditional ideas, however, which came to Him, not from
heaven, but from His race and His environment, never succeeded in
corrupting the immutable purity of His inner piety or in falsifying the
divine inspirations of His heart.  Whenever there was contradiction
between the Messianic beliefs or the Law of Moses, on the one hand, and
the consciousness of Jesus, on the other, it was not the latter but the
former that gave way and were transformed.

The disciples were not so free as the Master.  Their faith remained a
long time bound to these hopes of the future.  Why had they left all
and followed Him but because He had appeared to them to be the bearer
and the depository of the divine promises?  His death, which seemed to
belie their beliefs, only served to give them another turn.  They
corrected prophecy.  Instead of one Advent of the Messiah they imagined
two, the first in humiliation, the second in glory.  The one having
been realised, they expected the other with a more ardent confidence.
No one doubted it was near.  The apostle Paul lived in this hope as
well as the author of the _Apocalypse_, the compilers of the synoptic
gospels, and the editors of "The Teaching of the Apostles."  The time
is short: the Master comes: _Maranatha_.  This was the watchword of all
the early Christians.  This faith in the imminent return of Christ and
of the end of the world dominates all the thoughts as well as the
feelings of the apostles: it determines and colours their Christology,
their theory of Redemption, their ethics, their idea of salvation, so
that to expound their writings and estimate the worth of their
reasonings, the historian must always read them and explain them in
this light.  It is for this reason that their Christianity merits the
name of Messianic, and could not be, in this Jewish form, an absolute
_norm_ for all the ages.

The disciples of Jesus, however, found themselves in a school in which
they could not perpetually mistake the lessons.  The Christian
principle had appeared to be at one with Messianism; it was something
altogether different and could not continue for ever to be mixed up
with it.  Under the contradiction of events and the action of the
spirit of Jesus, they soon began to see the dawn of a process of
spiritualisation in their apocalyptic beliefs.  This progress is
manifest in the letters of St. Paul when read in their order and with
attention.  In the first, he hopes before he dies to witness the advent
of the Lord.  But, from the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, the
image of death and martyrdom begins to interpose itself between his
faith and that glorious ideal, which evermore seems to recede into the
future.  It never entirely disappears, but this preoccupation with the
return of Jesus diminishes and occupies a smaller space in his later
epistles.  On the contrary, the work of Jesus, considered in the past
and in its redemptive efficacy, the Christian life conceived as a life
of faith and love, as an imitation of Jesus Christ and an inheriting of
His Spirit, receive ever-increasing developments.  Insensibly, the
centre of gravity of apostolic Christianity changes; from the
hypnotising contemplation of the Messianic future, it passes to the
sanctifying meditation on the passion of Christ, on His teaching, and
redeeming work.  This is best seen in the Epistle to the Hebrews, and
in the Fourth Gospel, in which the Jewish Messiah is transformed into
the eternal _Logos_, the light of all men here below, and the principle
of the universal religion.

The work of emancipation that men alone could not accomplish, God
Himself achieved.  The conquests of the Church in the Empire, and
especially the double and irreparable ruin of Jerusalem and the Jewish
nation under Titus and under Hadrian, opened on the future other
prospects.  The world continued.  It was necessary to settle down and
live in it.  Montanism was merely a last outburst of fever.  By the end
of the second century, Jewish Messianism was so nearly dead that its
obstinate adherents were regarded as heretics by the Church at large.
Organised into a hierarchy, the Church substituted itself resolutely
for the ancient people of Israel, and represented itself as heir to the
ancient promises.  The advent of the kingdom of God becomes the advent
and the victory of the Catholic Church over all the other powers of
earth.  The Messianic Theocracy is transformed into a Church Theocracy.
Messianism gives place to Catholicism.

3. _Catholic Christianity_

Transplanted from the poor and arid soil of Hebraism into the rich and
fruitful loam of Graeco-Roman civilisation, the Christian plant was
sure to grow apace and be transformed.  Catholicism is as much Pagan as
Apostolic Messianism was Jewish--from the same causes, and according to
the same law.  More Greek in the East, more Roman in the West, it bears
always and everywhere the traces of its origin.  Study successively all
the features of the Catholic Church, and you will find on each of them
this indelible mark.

The dogmas of the Councils and the theology of the Fathers, who does
not see at the first glance their true character?  Who does not see
that the material is Greek in form, in colour, in every fibre of its
tissue?  Whence came those terms and notions, of which Hebraism knew
nothing, but which the theologians of all the schools will henceforth
bandy to and fro--those abstract concepts, substance and hypostasis,
nature and person, essence and accident, matter and form?  Whence came
the science of the Fathers of the Church, their exegesis, their
history, their logic, their psychology, and that lofty metaphysic which
has so completely transformed the Prophetic into a Platonic firmament?
All this came from Athens, Ephesus, Samos, and Miletus, _viâ_
Alexandria and Rome.  The Justins, the Athenagorases, the Clements and
the Basils, Athanasius even more than Arius, Jerome as well as
Augustine, had been nourished from their childhood on Greek and Latin
literature.  They had read Plato, Heraclitus, Zeno, Philo, Cicero,
Posidonius, and Seneca as much and more perhaps than the Old Testament.
What is there astonishing in the fact that their theology should have
followed step by step the theology of neo-Platonism until this latter,
for Augustine, should have become the true introduction to the Gospel,
and that in the Middle Ages the names of Plato and Aristotle should
have been invested with an authority not less than those of Isaiah, St.
Paul, and St. John?

Or shall we pass to the constitution of the Church?  What is that but
the exact counterpart of the constitution of the Roman Empire: the
parish modelling itself on the municipality, the diocese on the
province, the metropolitan regions on the great prefectures, and, at
the top of the pyramid, the bishop of Rome and the papacy, whose ideal
dream is simply, in the religious order, the universal and absolute
monarchy of which the Cæsars had first set the pattern?  Or would you
consider the moral life and the type of piety?  It is true that at the
outset, and so long as the persecutions continued, there is a great
contrast between Jewish or Christian morals and manners and those of
Roman or Greek society.  But, with time, the contrast is singularly
attenuated.  If the Church conquered the world, the world had its
revenge within the Church.  What is that monkish asceticism imposing
celibacy on the clergy, exalting virginity, multiplying pious works of
merit, and replacing, by factitious and sterile duties, the duties
dictated by nature and essential to society,--what are all these but
survivals of a dualism and the imitation of an ideal which, come from
the East, seduced the feverish imagination of an expiring world?  The
monks, the anchorites and their theology of impotent celibates, did
they save Egypt, Syria, and Byzantium?

During this time, what did worship, adoration, religion, properly
speaking, become?  Between earth and heaven there reappeared the whole
ancient hierarchy of gods and demi-gods, of heroes, nymphs, and
goddesses, replaced by the Virgin Mother, angels, demons, saints.  Each
town, each parish, every fountain, had its patron or its patroness, its
tutelary guardian, to whom they addressed themselves more familiarly
than to God in order to obtain temporal blessings and the grace for
every day.  The saints have their specialities like the minor deities
of former times.  Some cured fevers, some diseases of the skin.  This
one had charge of travellers, that of harvests, a third of articles
that had been lost, a fourth of needed heirs in families in danger of
decay.  With this mythology, all the superstitions were revived, down
to the grossest fetichism: pilgrimages, chaplets, litanies, the
veneration of images, signs of the cross, rites and sacraments
conceived after the manner of the ancient mysteries.  And all this is
done with a sort of unconsciousness, very gradually, and as the effect
of a zeal that was supposed to be Christian.  The heads of the Church
recommend missionaries not to destroy the temples of the false gods,
but to consecrate them to the true one, and to replace their images by
images of the saints, and the rites of the old cults by similar
ceremonies.  Names and etiquettes were thus changed, but not the things
themselves.  At Rome, beneath the basilica of St. Peter, a superb
statue was erected to the Prince of the Apostles.  This was formerly a
statue of Jupiter.  Its great toe has been worn down by the kisses of
the faithful.  Before Christianity, they kissed the foot of the master
of the gods; now they kiss the foot of Peter.  Is the cult of a
different order and the devotion of a higher quality?

These, however, are but the forms of Catholicism; let us go deeper and
try to reach its generating principle.  This principle should be found
in the central dogma of the Catholic system, that in it which commands
and regulates all the parts, which constitutes its unity and strength.
To designate this central dogma is not difficult.  The catechism
teaches us that it is the dogma of the Church, of its infallibility and
traditional continuity, of its divine origin and supernatural powers.
Protestants affirm that they belong to the Church because they belong
to Christ.  Catholics reverse the terms: no one is in communion with
Christ, no one really belongs to Him, unless he belongs to the Church.
Thus faith in the Church and submission to the Church are put into the
forefront and remain the one thing needful and essential.  One is a
Catholic by the fact of his implicit acceptance of the sovereign
authority of the Church; one ceases to be a Catholic when that
submission ceases.  From which it is easy to conclude that the
principle of Catholicism is the realisation of the Christian
principle--that is to say, of the reign of God and of Christ, in the
form of a visible institution, an organised social body, an external
power, exercising itself by means of that which is the very soul of the
institution--a priesthood endowed with supernatural functions and

The immediate consequence of this first principle was the rupture of
the organic union realised in the Gospel of Christ between the
religious element and the moral element.  Nothing is more striking in
the Sermon on the Mount and in all the Parables of Jesus, nothing
better attests the superiority of Christianity to anterior cults,
nothing proves with greater force and clearness that it is the perfect
and definitive Religion, than that mutual penetration, that fusion,
that identification, in a word, of religion and morality, till then
separate and often opposed to each other.  The Christ did not desire in
religion anything that was not in morality, or in morality anything
that was not religious.  Thus did He bring back piety from without, and
made of it the inner inspiration which penetrates and transforms the
whole life, a hidden flame, a ferment acting from the centre to the
surface, the soul in the body, ever invisible and everywhere present.
He thus founded the absolute autonomy of the religious and of the moral
life which no longer are divided, but appear simply as the two sides of
consciousness; the one interior and turned towards God, the other
exterior and turned towards the world.  In creating in us the sense of
our sonship to God, Jesus did not admit the intervention of any
external authority between the Father and the child.  The universal
priesthood, with which, by His spirit, He invests the least of His
disciples, excludes in principle all supernatural priesthood.  "Call no
man master on earth, for one is your Master in heaven; and all ye are
brethren."  The children must have free access to the Father.

But, from the moment the Christian principle, instead of entering as
divine inspiration into the consciousness, sets itself up as a visible
institution in society, it is evident that this organic union is
broken, and the autonomy of the individual consciousness compromised.
The religious element affirms itself on its own account, and imposes
itself from without on the mind of the faithful as a divine authority.
The ancient dualism, which the Gospel surmounted, reappears in a
profounder form; it brings in its train a universal
supernaturalism--that is to say, a mechanical conception of the
relations between God and the world.  Instead of a penetration we have
a superposition of two elements.  The clergy separates itself from the
laity and superposes itself upon it as the necessary intermediary
between earth and heaven.  Religious society, constituted under the
form of a government, superposes itself upon the civil society that it
desires to rule; grace superposes itself upon nature, acting on it from
above in the sacraments; the morality of the Church, in so far as it is
a supernatural morality, superposes itself upon the natural morality of
conscience; revelation upon reason; divine dogmas upon human science;
the spiritual power of the priest upon the temporal power of the family
and of the State.  Everywhere, within and without, the division breaks
out, and you see arise in man and in society an intestine struggle
which will never end; for these two original forces that it brings into
conflict, religion and nature, are equally powerful and eternal.

Catholicism began, then, in the Church of the second century when,
under the unconscious action of tradition and of pagan habits, the need
was felt of objectivising and materialising the Christian principle in
an external fact, of imprisoning the kingdom of God in a visible
institution, the immanent revelation of the Holy Spirit in the
decisions and acts of a priesthood.  This tendency, once born, would be
irresistible.  Ideal and transcendent as it was at first, the Christian
principle would become ever more external and political.  Absorbing all
Christianity, and holding in its hands all the graces of God, the
Church would naturally present itself to the world as the permanent
mediator and the grand magician.  It was its part to effect the
salvation of sinners, and, for this, it would need, like the ancient
priests, to offer daily to God an agreeable oblation, an expiatory
sacrifice of infinite value to atone for the infinite sins of the
world.  Thus the Church transformed the commemoration of the death of
Christ into a _real_ renewal of the sacrifice on Calvary; the Holy
Supper became the mass; the fraternal table was turned into an altar;
the elder or presbyter was changed into a priest and pontiff, and the
bread of the communion into a divine victim.  The dogma of
transubstantiation was bound to follow; to the materialisation of
Christianity in the Church corresponds the materialisation of God in
the host.

By virtue of the same principle, Christian piety becomes devotion,
_i.e._ a ritual and meritorious practice, as in the ancient cults.  But
we must not be unjust and attribute something to Catholicism that it
condemns.  It does not say that external practice is sufficient; the
Church esteems it vain and even culpable unless accompanied by the
affections and the will.

      *      *      *      *      *

The first and principal act of piety is submission to the Church.  Its
dogmas may be irrational, contradictory; its commandments may seem
arbitrary, foreign to the natural conscience, sometimes in
contradiction with it; no matter.

Reason, conscience, all must abdicate, and all submit....  In the
Church, the Christian state must always be a state of minority, for the
tutelage that it accepts will never cease.  And the authority of the
Church, being on this point sovereign and indefectible, could not
remain invisible and indeterminate.  An imperious logic pushed it from
the first to incarnate itself in its organs, more and more apparent and
simplified.  First it was lodged in individual bishops, then in
councils, until the Pope when speaking _ex cathedra_ became the sole
authority.  In 1870 the Council of the Vatican, by promulgating the
dogma of Papal infallibility, drew the irresistible conclusion from the
premises laid down in previous centuries.  The evolution of Catholicism
was completed.  The transformation of Christianity into a sacerdotal
theocracy was achieved.  The first is realised and exhausted in the
second, and the distinction we established, when speaking of the
essence of Christianity, between the Christian principle and its
historical realisations, is not merely effaced; it no longer has any

From which follow two consequences which every day become more clear
and patent.  The first is that the Catholic Church, notwithstanding the
desires of Leo XIII., is fatally condemned to be intolerant and
intransigeant towards all others.  The second is that it is
contradictory to expect any reform in that Church, or even to speak of
it; for the Church could not admit the necessity of reform without
renouncing all its pretentions.  A river never turns back to its
source.  Catholicism can only exist by struggling for supremacy.  It
must be all or nothing.

At the same time, things are not so simple as our systems.  The logic
of ideas does not exhaust the reality of life.  Behind abstract
principles there are pious souls....  In Catholicism there has always
been a latent Protestantism, by which I mean a protest, mute or spoken,
direct or indirect, of the Christian principle against the oppressions
of external and tyrannical authority....  Without the continuous
presence of the Christian spirit in the Catholic Church, the
Reformation would have been impossible.  Without the triumph of the
sacerdotal spirit it would have been unnecessary.  Protestantism sprang
out of Catholicism because it was virtually contained in it.

4. _Protestant Christianity_

It is strangely to mistake the nature of the Protestant Reformation of
the sixteenth century to see in it a sort of semi-rationalism, the
inconsistent exercise of free examination, or the revolutionary
introduction of a foreign philosophical principle into the warp and
woof of Christianity.  You have only to read the biography of the
Reformers and to make a slight analysis of their soul to form an
entirely different idea of their work.  The first and almost the only
question which preoccupies and troubles them is an exclusively
religious and practical question: "What must we do in order to be
justified before God?  How may we attain to peace of soul and to the
assurance of pardon and of life eternal?"  To find this peace, this
pardon and salvation, which the Church could not procure for them, they
determined to turn back and quench their thirst at the primitive
sources of the Gospel.  They went back to the original documents
because they were persuaded that Christianity had been corrupted in the
course of centuries; they wished to have it in its purity.  Their whole
reformation was to consist in this restoration of primitive truth.

But history never recommences.  This return to the past and this
re-reading of the Bible were accompanied by a religious experience and
an act of consciousness which made of their enterprise something
essentially new and original, and which rendered it immeasurably
fruitful.  It is unnecessary to seek elsewhere than in psychological
experience the germ of Protestantism.  It was in the humble cell of a
convent at Erfurt and in the soul of a poor monk that the drama was
first enacted from which sprang the revolution that has changed the
face of the world.

Luther entered the convent with a faith in the authority of the Church
and in the efficacy of its rites as serious and entire as that of any
monk.  "If it was possible," he said afterwards, "to reach Heaven by
monkery, I was resolved to reach it by that road."  For years he shrank
from nothing that might render God propitious; he multiplied his acts
of devotion and his works of penance.  There is a striking analogy
between the experiences of Luther under the monachal régime and those
of Saul of Tarsus under the discipline of the Pharisaic Law.  The
_dénoûment_ was the same.  For the second time, the system of pious
works was found powerless to appease a conscience which roused against
itself the rigour of its own ideal.  This struggle against an external
law could only exasperate the sense of sin to the point of despair.
Paul and Luther, in precisely the same manner, experienced the inward
emptiness and radical worthlessness of the religious system in which
they had been trained.  The more they had tried to realise it in its
perfection, the more had they found it wanting.  Catholicism,
considered as a means of salvation, was rejected by the religious and
moral consciousness of Luther, before it was condemned by exegesis and
by reasoning.  To reach this sentence without appeal the Saxon monk had
but to maintain inflexible the demands of the divine law and to
measure, without illusion, the abyss that separated him from God, and
that no human works could fill.  It was in this way that he found
himself shut up to the essence of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; he found
the peace that fled from him in the pure and simple acceptance of the
glad tidings of the paternal love of God, in the confidence that He
gives gratuitously that which man can never conquer for himself,
namely, the remission of sins and the certitude of eternal life.  What
then is faith?  Is it still intellectual adhesion to dogmas or
submission to an external authority?  No.  It is an act of confidence,
the act of a childlike heart, which finds with joy the Father whom it
knew not, and Whom, without presumption, it is happy henceforth to hold
with both its hands.  That is what Luther found in Paul's great words:
"The just shall live by faith."  In this radical transformation of the
notion of faith restored to its evangelical meaning is to be found the
principle of the greatest religious revolution effected in the world
since the preaching of Jesus.

Let us therefore here set forth the radical opposition between the
Catholic principle and the Protestant principle in order that we may
thoroughly understand the internecine war that was henceforth to be
waged between them.  In vain will eminent men in both camps, with the
most generous and conciliatory intentions, arise and endeavour to find
some middle ground, and effect a pacific reunion of the two halves of
Christendom.  All compromises, all diplomatic negotiations, will fail,
because each of the two principles can only subsist by the negation of
the other.  Having attained to salvation, to full communion with God,
independently of and in collision with the authority and the discipline
of the sacerdotal Church, how could Luther recognise them any longer as
divine and submit to them with sincerity and confidence?  The ancient
edifice had been the more thoroughly ruined, inasmuch as it had become
useless and had been replaced.  The originality of Luther consisted in
this: his religious enfranchisement sprang from his own piety, and he
founded his freedom on his sense of sonship, on the sense he had of his
quality and titles as a child and heir of God.  How could such a
consciousness submit itself to the yoke again without denying itself?
Catholicism, on the other hand, cannot be less intransigeant.  To
recognise in any degree whatever that it is possible to a Christian to
enjoy pardon and the sense of the divine fatherhood apart from its
dogmas and its priesthood, would not this be to abdicate all its
pretensions, and to transform itself to the point of destruction?

No doubt, in actual life, this opposition is attenuated by the fact
that in all Catholicism there is a latent Protestantism, and in all
Protestantism a latent Catholicism.  Between Port-Royal and Geneva,
between Bossuet and Leibniz, between Leo XIII. and the Anglican Church,
the distance seems but little.  It is an illusion.  Like two
electricities of the same name, no sooner do they come into contact
than they repel each other and separate more widely than before.  In
Catholicism Christianity tends to realise itself as a theocratic
institution; it becomes an external law, a supernatural power, which,
from without, imposes itself on individuals and on peoples.  In
Protestantism, on the contrary, Christianity is brought back from the
exterior to the interior; it plants itself in the soul as a principle
of subjective inspiration which, acting organically on individual and
social life, transforms it and elevates it progressively without
denaturalising and doing violence to it.  Protestant subjectivity
becomes spontaneity and liberty, just as necessarily as Catholic
objectivity becomes supernaturalism and clerical tyranny.  The
religious element is no longer separated from the moral element; it no
longer asserts itself as a truth or a morality superior to human truth
and human morality.  The intensity of the religious life is no longer
measured by the number or the fervour of pious works or ritual
practices, but by the sincerity and elevation of the life of the
spirit.  All asceticism is radically suppressed.  Science is set free
along with conscience; the political life of the peoples, as well as
the inner life of the Christian.  Man escapes from tutelage, and in all
departments comes into possession of himself, into the full and free
development of his being, into his majority.

This subjective character of a religion strictly moral stamps itself
with energy on all the specific doctrines of Protestantism.  It would
be superfluous to dwell upon the doctrine of justification by faith;
its subjective character is evident.  No doubt the term justification
has a legal colour and awakens the idea of a tribunal.  But it must not
be forgotten that this tribunal is nothing but the inner court where
man and God meet each other face to face, where man is accused by his
own conscience, and where the sentence which absolves him is the inward
witness of the Holy Spirit, heard by him alone.

The doctrine of the sovereign authority of Scripture in matters of
faith might seem at first sight to set up an external authority.  And
it is very true that certain Protestants have often understood it in
the Catholic sense, and have employed it to exercise some violence on
their own conscience or on the conscience of their brethren.  But they
never succeed for long; they soon fall into a too flagrant
contradiction.  The authority of the Bible is never separated in
Protestantism from the right of the individual to interpret it freely,
and from the personal duty of assimilating the truths he discovers in
it.  What therefore are those Protestants doing who attempt to set up a
confession of faith as absolute and obligatory truth but imposing on
their brethren their own subjective interpretation, and, consequently,
denying to others the right which they exercise themselves?  Nor let it
be forgotten, on the other hand, that the obligation laid on each
Christian to read the Bible and draw from it his faith is a perpetual
and fruitful appeal to the energy of thought and to the autonomy of the
inner life.  The authority of Scripture, so far from being a menace to
Christian liberty, is its invincible rampart.  Not only has the
Protestant Christian in the name of the Bible triumphed over eighteen
centuries of tradition, but it is the Bible, an appeal to the Bible
ever better understood, which has saved Protestant theology from
scholasticism, which has prevented it from congealing in a confession
of faith, and which, leaving the principle of the Gospel in an ideal
transcendence in relation to all its historical expressions or
realisations, has maintained, and still maintains, the spirit of reform
in the Churches of the Reformation.

The doctrines of grace and of predestination, which are at the centre
of Calvinism, have no other meaning.  Souls religiously inert see in
these doctrines nothing but an abuse of blind power, a sort of divine
_fatum_, breaking every spring in the human soul.  Nothing appears to
be more oppressive or more immoral.  But this is only an appearance.
There is really no predestination for irreligious souls.  This doctrine
is but the expression of the inner basis of all true piety, which is
nothing if it is not the sense, the feeling, of the presence and the
sovereign and continuous action of God in each soul and in all the
universe.  No other sentiment gives so much spring and vigour to the
human will, nothing raises it to such a height or makes it so
invincible to all assaults from within and without.  "If God be for us,
who can be against us?" etc. (Rom. viii. 31-39).  How is it that the
Calvinistic Puritans of New England were the founders of modern
liberty, and the Jesuits, those admirable theorisers on freewill, the
precursors of all the servitudes?  It is with predestination as it is
with religion itself.  Conceived as exterior to the life of the soul,
it gives birth, no doubt, to a crushing despotism; conceived as an
inward inspiration, sustaining the initiative and even the liberty of
the individual, it becomes, in the Christian soul, the source of a
force which nothing can break or subdue.

But the point at which the antithesis between Protestantism and
Catholicism becomes most patent is the doctrine of the natural
priesthood of all Christians as opposed to that of the supernatural
priesthood of a privileged clergy.  The free and perpetual communion of
believing souls with the Father is the foundation of the independence
of each and of the fraternal equality of all.  The tap-root of
clericalism is cut.  The individual is a priest before the interior
altar of his conscience; the father is a priest in his household; the
citizen, if so he wills, in the city.

The Catholic notion of dogma vanishes with all the rest.  To speak of
an immutable and infallible dogma, in Protestantism, is nonsense; that
is to say, if we accept the dictionary definition of dogma--the
promulgation by the Church of an absolute formula.  The decision of a
Church cannot have more authority than that Church itself.  Now, no
Protestant Church holds itself, or can hold itself without denying
itself, to be infallible.  How then could it communicate to its
definitions an infallibility that it did not itself possess?
Protestant confessions of faith are always conditioned in time, and can
never be definitive; they are always revisable, consequently they are
always liable to criticism and to reform.  Thus ceases the
solidification of traditional dogma.  The old ice melts beneath the
breath of knowledge and of piety.  The river takes again its natural
course, and evolution, under the control of a perpetual criticism,
becomes the law of religious thought, as of all other human activities.

From these observations and analyses (necessarily abridged) the true
nature of Protestantism will have become sufficiently clear.  It is not
a dogma set up in the face of another dogma, a Church in competition
with a rival Church, a purified Catholicism opposed to a traditional
Catholicism.  It is more and better than a doctrine, it is a method;
more and better than a better Church, it is a new form of piety; it is
a different spirit, creating a new world and inaugurating for religious
souls a new régime.  It is equally evident that Protestantism cannot be
imprisoned in any definitive form.  It leads to variety of formulas,
rites, and associations as necessarily as the Catholic principle leads
to unity.  No limit can be set to its development.  Always interior,
invisible, ideal, the religious principle that it represents
accompanies the life and activity of the spirit into all the paths that
man may pursue and in all the progress he may make.  Nothing human is
alien to it; nor is it alien to anything that is human.  It solves the
problem of liberty and authority as it is solved by free and ordered
governments; it does not suppress either of the terms, but conciliates
them by reducing authority to its pedagogic _rôle_, and by making the
Christian spirit the soul and inner rule of liberty.

By very reason of its superiority, and of the conditions of general
culture that it presupposes, this form of Christianity could only
appear after all the others.  The spirit can only become self-conscious
by distinguishing itself from the body in which at first it seems as if
diffused, and by opposing to it an energetic moral protest.  "That is
not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterwards
that which is spiritual" (1 Cor. xv. 46.  Cf. Gal. iv. 1-5).  This
divine plan, which the apostle discovered in the ancient history of
humanity, is repeated in the history of Christianity.  The Messianic
form corresponds to infancy, to that brief, happy age in which the
impatient imagination nourishes itself on dreams and illusions which
the experience of life soon dissipates without killing or even
enfeebling the immortal hope at the heart of it.  The Catholic form,
which succeeds it, endures longer and corresponds to the age of
adolescence, in which education is painfully prosecuted, and it demands
a strict external discipline and masters whose authority must not be
questioned or discussed.  It was in this way that Catholic discipline
and authority conducted the slow, laborious education of the pagan and
barbarian world up to the sixteenth century.

But a moment must arrive when the work of education had succeeded, when
the leading strings essential to childhood began to be a bondage and a
hindrance.  The pedagogic mission of the Church, like that of the
family itself, had its limit and its term in the very function it
fulfilled.  That function was to make adult Christians and free men,
not men without rule, but Christians having in themselves, in their
conscience and their inner life, the supreme rule of their thought and
conduct.  This new age of autonomy, of firm possession of self, and of
internal self-government, is that which Protestantism represents, and
it could only commence in modern times--that is to say, with that
general movement which, since the end of the Middle Ages, is leading
humanity to an ever completer enfranchisement, and rendering it more
universally and more individually responsible for its destinies.

It may be remarked that by this evolution, and under its Protestant
form, the Christian principle was only returning to its pure essence
and its primitive expression.  It could only recognise itself, take
cognisance of its true nature, separate itself from that which was not
itself; it could only disencumber itself of every material, temporary,
or local element, of all by which it had become surcharged in the
course of ages, and which was neither religious nor moral, by
remounting to its source, and by renewing its strength, through
reflection and criticism, at its original springs.  That is why
Protestantism has taken the form of this return to the past, for in it
Christianity does not surpass itself; it simply tries to know itself
better and to become more faithful to its principle.  In the
consciousness of Christ, what did we find was the essence of the
perfect and eternal piety?  Nothing more than moral repentance,
confidence in the love of the Father and the filial sense of His
immediate, active presence in the heart: the indestructible foundation
of our liberty, of our moral dignity, of our security, in face of the
enigmas of the universe and the mysteries of death.  Is it not to this
eternal gospel that we must always return?  To finish its course and
complete its work, will humanity ever discover another viaticum that
will better renew its courage and its hope?

5. _Conclusion_

Here I must stop.  At the outset I spoke of a personal confession, and
it seems to me as if it were nearly complete.  In sketching the broad
outlines of the religious history of humanity, I have had but one
object; I have wished to show the men of my generation why I remain
religious, Christian, and Protestant.  I am religious because I am a
man and do not desire to be less than human, and because humanity, in
me and in my race, commences and completes itself in religion and by
religion.  I am Christian because I cannot be religious in any other
way, and because Christianity is the perfect and supreme form of
religion in this world.  Lastly, I am Protestant, not from any
confessional zeal, nor from racial attachment to the family of
Huguenots, although I thank God daily that I was born in that family,
but because in Protestantism alone can I enjoy the heritage of
Christ--that is to say, because in it I can be a Christian without
placing my conscience under any external yoke, and because I can
fortify myself in communion with and in adoration of an immanent Deity
by consecrating to Him the activity of my intellect, the natural
affections of my heart, and find in this moral consecration the free
expansion and development of my whole being.

Under this new form, divested of the swaddling-clothes by which at
first it was bound, Christianity always seems to me to be best as it
is, a spiritual and eternal principle, which brings peace to the soul,
and which alone can give harmony and unity to the world.  Nothing can
contradict it except evil and error; everything serves and strengthens
it.  It is this principle which to my eyes manifests itself with
ever-growing clearness in that heroic love of Science which, in our
time, has created so many marvels and made so many martyrs; this it is
which reveals itself to me in the works of all the great artists, in
that ideal of beauty which enraptures them and brings such generous
tears into our eyes; it is this which I honour and bless in the efforts
of men who interest themselves in the future of humanity, and who in
the political direction of their country or in the work of social
education seek and find some means of raising and ameliorating the
condition of the people: I salute it in the illustrious apostles of all
great causes and in the obscure workers at all humble tasks, from the
mother who teaches her children to join their hands and bend their
knees before the Father in Heaven, to the preacher and the missionary
who faithfully distribute to the hungry soul the bread of the Gospel,
from the sister of charity who devotes her life to the solace of the
sick and suffering, to the thinker who fathoms the mysteries of the
heart and of the universe in order that he may shed on the paths of
erring humanity some rays of light and joy.

Amid the twilight that envelopes us you predict the threatening night;
I see the day that is about to dawn with a new century.  Where you see
nothing but discords, conflicts, and confusion, I see a concourse of
forces which, coming from all points of the horizon, are still ignorant
of each other, and, because ignorant, conflicting, but which, by these
very conflicts and collisions, are labouring together in the common
work of elevation and salvation: the mysterious work whose nature
Christ defined in His Gospel, and whose motive-power he created by
breathing into the human heart His own fraternal love.  Since then
there has been a secret inquietude at the heart of all egoisms, a
sentence of condemnation on the brow of all abuses and all tyrannies.
The modern world can never settle down again into repose, or fall
asleep in evil and in slavery; it has had a vision it cannot forget; it
has been touched with a flame that cannot be quenched.  Many who are
often the best collaborators in this work of redemption know not whence
it comes and whither it tends; they even blaspheme the Christ who
inspires it and the God who maintains it.  They know not what they do,
nor what they say: in their ignorance they calumniate that which is
best both in their life and in themselves.





1. _Definition_

Dogma, in the strictest sense, is one or more doctrinal propositions
which, in a religious society, and as the result of the decisions of
the competent authority, have become the object of faith, and the rule
of belief and practice.

It would not be enough to say that a religious society has dogmas as a
political society has laws.  For the first, it is a much greater
necessity.  Moral societies not only need to be governed; they need to
define themselves and to explain their _raison d'être_.  Now, they can
only do this in their dogma.

Dogma therefore is a phenomenon of social life.  One cannot conceive
either dogma without a Church, or a Church without dogma.  The two
notions are correlative and inseparable.

There are three elements in dogma: a religious element, which springs
from piety; an intellectual or philosophic element, which supposes
reflection and discussion; and an element of authority, which comes
from the Church.  Dogma is a doctrine of which the Church has made a

All the peoples of antiquity believed that their legislation came from
heaven.  In like manner all the Churches have believed, and many of
them still believe, that their dogmas, in their official form, have
been directly given to them by God Himself.  The history of evolution,
political and religious, has dissipated these illusions.  Every law of
righteousness and truth should, doubtless, be referred to the
mysterious action of the Divine Spirit which works incessantly in the
spirits of men; but, in its historical form, it bears, nevertheless,
the stamp of the contingent conditions in which it is born.  The genius
of a people is nowhere more manifest than in its constitution and its
laws, nor the soul and the original inspiration of a Church than in its
dogmatic creations.  The work always bears the moral impress of the

It follows that a Church cannot claim for its dogma more authority than
it possesses itself.  Only a Church which is infallible can issue
immutable dogmas.  When Protestantism sets up such a pretension, it
falls into a radical contradiction with its own principle, and that
contradiction ruins all attempts of this kind.

In Catholicism the theory of the immutability of dogmas is opposed to
history; in Protestantism it is opposed to logic.  In both cases the
affirmation is shown to be illusory.  It is with dogmas, so long as
they are alive, as it is with all living things; they are in a
perpetual state of transformation.  They only become immutable when
they are dead, and they begin to die when they cease to be studied for
their own sakes--that is, to be discussed.

Dogma, therefore, which serves as a law and visible bond to the Church,
is neither the principle nor the foundation of religion.  It is not
primitive; it never appears until late in the history of religious
evolution.  "There were poets and orators," says Voltaire, "before
there was a grammar and a rhetoric."  Man chanted before he reasoned.
Everywhere the prophet preceded the rabbi, and religion theology.  It
may be said, no doubt, that dogma is in religion, since it comes out of
it; but it is in it as the fruits of Autumn are in the blossoms of
Spring.  Dogmas and fruits, in order to form and ripen, need long
summers and much sunshine.  The best way to describe their nature will
be to trace their genesis.

2. _The Genesis of Dogma_

Dogma has its tap-root in religion.  In every positive Religion there
is an internal and an external element, a soul and a body.  The soul is
inward piety, the movement of adoration and of prayer, the divine
sensibility of the heart; the body consists of external forms, of rites
and dogmas, institutions and codes.  Life consists in the organic union
of these two elements.  Without the soul, religion is but an empty
form, a mere corpse.  Without the body, which is the expression and the
instrument of the soul, religion is indiscernible, unconscious, and

Which of these two elements is primitive and generative?  The answer is
not doubtful.  Modern psychology has learnt it in a manner never to be
forgotten from Schleiermacher, Benjamin Constant, and Alexander Vinet.
The principle of all religion is in piety, just as the principle of
language is in thought, although it is not possible now to conceive of
them as being separate.  Consider a moment.  That religion which time
and custom have transformed, perhaps, into a mechanical round of
ceremonies, or into a system of abstractions and metaphysical theories,
what was it at first?  Trace it to its source, and you will find that
these cold blocks of lava once came burning hot from an interior fire.

But this is the parting of the ways.  This is the point at which
religious minds separate into widely different groups.

Regarding religion as a saving institution in the form of a visible
organised Church maintained by God and provided with all the means of
grace, Catholicism was bound to end in a sort of mechanical psychology,
and to explain the sentiment of piety as the inward effect of the
outward and supernatural institution.  This is done by Bellarmine and
de Bonald, the most consistent of the Catholic theologians.
Protestantism, on the contrary, which makes of the faith of the heart,
of the immediate and personal relation of the soul to God, the very
principle of justification, and of all religious life, was bound none
the less logically to end, by analysis, in a more profound psychology,
and to refer to an inward principle all the forms and manifestations of
religion.  Religious history thus becomes homogeneous, and runs
parallel with that of all the other activities of the human mind.

None the less, this subjectivity of the religious principle frightens
many good men.  Persons devoted to practice, and unconsciously
dominated by the habits and necessities of ecclesiastical government
and religious teaching, hesitate to enter upon a road so naturally
opened.  As, from generation to generation, religion has been taught
and propagated externally by the Church, the family, or special agents,
it is impossible for them to imagine that it was not always so, and not
to trace back to God Himself that chain or tradition of external
instruction.  In which they are certainly right.  Their only error, but
it is a grave one, is to represent God as an ordinary teacher, the
first of a series, who once acted, like the rest of them, upon His
pupils from without; whereas God works in all souls, acts and teaches
without ceasing through all human masters, and is present throughout
the whole religious education of humanity.

Who does not see that to represent things otherwise is to remain in the
crudest and least religious of anthropomorphisms?  At bottom, these men
are afraid of losing revelation, which they rightly judge to be
inseparable from the very idea of religion.  They object that piety and
the awakening of the religious sentiment must have an objective cause,
and that that cause can only be a revelation of God Himself.  Nothing
is more true; but this revelation which is effected without, in the
events of Nature or of History, is only known within, in and by the
human consciousness.  This inward inspiration alone enables religious
men to interpret Nature and History religiously.  Now, this
interpretation is made by their intellect and according to the laws and
conditions which regulate it.  The religious phenomenon therefore has
not two moments only, the objective revelation as a cause and the
subjective piety as an effect; it has three, which always follow each
other in the same order: the inner revelation of God, which produces
the subjective piety of man, which, in its turn, engenders the
historical religious forms, rites, formularies of faith, sacred books,
social creations, which we can know and describe as external facts.  It
will be seen what an error they commit, what a mistake they make, who
identify the third term with the first, suppressing the second, which
is the necessary link and forms the transition between the other two.
Whoever will fathom this little problem in psychology, and reflect upon
it with a little attention, will see that all religious revelation of
God must necessarily pass through human subjectivity before arriving at
historical objectivity.

      *      *      *      *      *

Passing now from the intellectual interpretation to the intellectual
expression of religion, and noting the successive stages through which
it must necessarily advance towards dogma, I remark once more that
man's first language is that of the imagination.  The imagination of
the child or of the savage animates, dramatises, and transfigures
everything.  It spontaneously engenders vivid and poetic images.  At
the beginning, religion, consisting chiefly of emotions, presentiments,
movements of the heart, clothed itself in mythologic forms....  But the
age of individual reflection comes.  The image tends to change into the
idea.  Men interpret, define, translate it.  The religious myth is
replaced by the religious doctrine.  These are at first entirely
personal interpretations.  Nevertheless, these opinions desire to
propagate themselves, to become general, and, as they are imperfect and
diverse, they engender conflicts which threaten to become schisms.
Myths, appealing to the imagination merely, and only professing to
translate the common emotion, draw souls together and fuse them into a
real unity; individual reason, private exegesis, inevitably separates
them.  But the consciousness of the community, thus menaced, naturally
reacts by the instincts of conservation.  There is therefore a struggle
between the two, and out of this conflict dogma is born.

A new element must intervene.  There must be a Church.  Now, all
religions do not form churches.  The phenomenon is only produced in the
universalist and moral religions.  Strictly speaking, there is no
Church except in Christianity; and no dogmas save Christian dogmas.  In
ancient societies, where religion was confounded either with the State,
or with the nationality, the religious unity was maintained and
guaranteed by the same means as the political unity.  There were no
dogmas, because dogmas were of no use.  As much may be said of Hebraism
and of Islam: in them there were rites, external signs and seals, which
sufficed to weld and to maintain the religious bond.

Dogma only arises when the religious society, distinguishing itself
from the civil, becomes a moral society, recruiting itself by voluntary
adherents.  This society, like every other, gives to itself what it
needs in order to live, to defend itself, and propagate itself.
Doctrine necessarily becomes for it an essential thing; for in its
doctrine it expresses its soul, its mission, its faith.  It is
necessary also that it should carry its doctrine to a degree at once of
generality and precision high enough to embrace and to translate all
the moments of its religious experience and to eliminate all alien and
hostile elements.  Controversy springs up and threatens to rend it.
The Church then chooses and formulates a definition of the point
contested: it enacts it as the adequate expression of its faith, and
sanctions it with all its objective authority: dogma is born.  From
that moment also the two correlative notions of _orthodoxy_ and
_heresy_ are formed.  Orthodoxy is official and collective doctrine;
heresy is individual doctrine or interpretation....  By and by symbols
or confessions of faith are formed, and these become the standards of
faith and practice in the various churches that adopt them.

This long evolution is fully justified in the eyes of reason.  It is a
movement of the mind as legitimate as it is necessary.  The germ must
become a tree, the child grow to manhood, the image be transformed into
the idea, and poetry give place to prose.  It is possible to be
mistaken as to the nature, origin, and value of dogma, but not as to
its necessity.  The Church may make a different use of it in the
future, but it will not be able to dispense with it, for the doctrinal
form of religion answers to an imperative need of the epoch of
intellectual growth at which we have arrived.  No one can either
reverse or arrest its development....

The word dogma is anterior to Catholicism.  It had two senses in Greek
antiquity: a political and authoritarian sense, designating the decrees
of popular assemblies and of kings; this is the meaning which dominates
and characterises the Catholic notion of dogma.  But the word had also
in the schools of Greece an essentially philosophical and doctrinal
meaning; it designated the characteristic doctrine of each school.  The
Protestant Churches have inherited this latter sense of the word: it is
in perfect harmony with the spirit and the principle of Protestantism.
Dogma, in the Protestant sense, means the doctrinal type generally
received in a Church, and publicly expressed in its liturgy, its
catechisms, its official teaching, and especially in its Confession of

[1] Originally the word dogma signified a command, a precept, and not a
truth (Luke ii. 1, and the Septuagint of Dan. ii. 13; vi. 8; Esther
iii. 9; 2 Maccab. x. 8, etc.).  Ignatius of Antioch still uses the word
in this sense.  It is not until towards the time of Athanasius or of
Augustine that it begins to be used of the doctrinal decisions of the
Fathers, the Councils, and the Pope.  (Cf. also Acts xv. 28, 29.  This
is afterwards called a dogma, the only time it is used in the N.T. with
reference to a decision of the Church.)

3.  The Religious Value of Dogma

The intolerance of Catholic dogmatism has had consequences so
revolting, and, in Protestantism, wherever this dogmatism has revived,
it has given rise to conflicts so sterile and so lamentable, that
certain minds have gone so far as to deny the utility of dogma in the
largest sense of the word, and have wished to suppress all doctrinal
definition of the Christian Faith.  To call dogma either divine in
itself or evil in itself is to go to an unwarrantable extreme.  In
religious development, whether individual or social, it has an organic
place that cannot be taken away from it, and a practical importance
that cannot be contested.

Religious faith is a phenomenon of consciousness.  God Himself is its
author and its cause; but it has for psychological factors all the
elements of consciousness--feeling, volition, idea.  It must never be
forgotten that these verbal distinctions are pure abstractions; that
these elements co-exist, and are enveloped and implicated with each
other in the unity of the ego.  In the living reality there has never
existed feeling which did not carry within it some embryo of an idea
and translate itself into some voluntary movement....  As it is
impossible for thought not to manifest itself organically by gesture or
language, so it is impossible for religion not to express itself in
rites and doctrines.

No doubt, in the first period of physical life, sensation dominates,
and at the _début_ of religious life, feeling and imagination.  But as
science springs from sensation, so religious doctrine springs from
piety.  To say that "Christianity is a life, therefore it is not a
doctrine" is to reason very badly.  We should rather say, "Christianity
is a life and therefore it engenders doctrine;" for man cannot live his
life without thinking it.  The two things are not hostile; they go
together.  In apostolic times the greatest of missionaries was the
greatest of theologians.  St. Augustine at the end of the old world,
Calvin, Luther, Zwingle, at the beginning of the modern world, followed
the example of St. Paul.  When the sap of piety fails, theology
withers.  Protestant scholasticism corresponds to a decline of
religious life.  Spencer, by re-opening the springs of piety, renewed
the streams of theology.  Without Pietism Germany would have had no
Schleiermacher; without the religious revival at the beginning of this
century we should have had neither Samuel Vincent nor Alexander Vinet.

If the life of a Church be compared to that of a plant, doctrine holds
in it the place of the seed.  Like the seed, doctrine is the last to be
formed; it crowns and closes the annual cycle of vegetation; but it is
necessary that it should form and ripen; for it carries within it the
power of life and the germ of a new development.  A Church without
dogmas would be a sterile plant.  But let not the partisans of dogmatic
immutability triumph: let them pursue the comparison to the end:
"Except a grain of wheat fall into the ground and _die_," said Jesus,
"it bears no fruit."  To be fruitful, dogma must be decomposed--that is
to say, it must mix itself unceasingly with the evolution of human
thought and die in it; it is the condition of perpetual resurrection.

Without being either absolute, or perfect in itself, then, dogma is
absolutely necessary to the propagation and edification of the
religious life.  The Church has a pedagogic mission that could not be
fulfilled without it.  It bears souls, nourishes them and brings them
up.  Its rôle is that of a mother.  In that educative mission, we may
add, the mother finds the principle and aim of her authority, the
reason and the limit of her tutelage.  In this sense, dogma is never
without authority.  But this same pedagogic authority is neither
absolute nor eternal; it has a double limit, in the nature of the
pupil's soul, which it ought to respect, and in the end it would
attain, the making of free men, adult Christians, sons of God in the
image of Christ and in immediate relationship to the Father.  If dogma
is the heritage of the past transmitted by the Church, it is the
children's duty first to receive it, and then to add to its value by
continually reforming it, since that is the only way to keep it alive
and to render it truly useful and fruitful in the moral development of
humanity.  It is therefore to this idea of necessary dogma, but of
dogma necessarily historical and changing, that we must henceforth
accustom ourselves; and we shall most easily habituate ourselves to it
by tracing its evolution in the past.



1. _Three Prejudices_

I here encounter three prejudices which are, I think, the most
inveterate in the world.  The first is that dogmas are immutable; the
second, that they die fatally the moment they are touched by criticism;
the third, that they form the essence of religion, which rises or falls
with them.  I wish to show that dogmas have neither this pretended
immobility nor this delicate fragility; that they live by an inner life
extraordinarily resistant and fecund, and that the criticism of dogmas,
so far from injuring the Christian religion, frees it from the chains
of the past and permits it to manifest its marvellous gift of
rejuvenescence and adaptation to circumstances.

The proof that dogmas are not immutable lies in the fact that they have
a history.  That history is as full of conflicts, controversies,
revolutions, as the history of philosophy....  One Church has said of
its dogmas what a Jesuit General said of his Order: _sint ut sunt aut
non sint_!  It is an illusion.  Momentarily arrested at one point, the
movement begins again at another.  In one half of Christendom, and
certainly the most living half, criticism of dogma has never ceased
since the sixteenth century.  Even in the bosom of the Catholic Church,
its most skilful advocates, the Moehlers and the Newmans, unable to
deny that Catholicism is not to-day what it was in the first centuries,
have made this strange concession to history; they have applied to
dogmas the theory of development.  At Paris in 1682 the dogma of the
infallibility of the Bishop of Rome would have been condemned as an
error.  Since 1870 the orthodoxy of 1682 has become the gravest of
heresies.  There is no fiction more evident than that of the
immutability of dogmas, whether in the Catholic or in the Protestant
Churches.  Like all other manifestations of life, they have an
evolution as natural as it is inevitable.  The proof that dogmas are
not religion, and that criticism does not kill them but transforms
them, will appear in what I now proceed to say.

2. _The Two Elements in Dogma; and its Historical Evolution_

Dogma is the language spoken by faith.  In it there are two elements: a
mystical and practical element, the properly religious element; this is
the living and fruitful principle of dogma: then there is an
intellectual or theoretical element, a judgment of mind, a
philosophical proposition serving at once as an envelope and as an
expression of religion.

Now, it is not an arbitrary relation which unites and amalgamates these
two elements in dogma; it is an organic and necessary relation.  Go
back for a moment to the origin of religious phenomena, and to the
formation of the first and simplest doctrinal formulas.  In presence of
one of the great spectacles of Nature, man, feeling his weakness and
dependence with respect to the mysterious power revealed in it,
trembled with fear and hope.  This is primitive religious emotion.  But
this emotion necessarily implies, for thought, a relation between the
subject which experiences it and the object that has caused it.  Now,
thought, once awakened, will necessarily translate this relation into
an intellectual judgment.  Thus, wishing to express this relation, the
believer will exclaim, _e.g._ "God is great!" marking the infinite
disproportion between his being and the universal being which made him
tremble.[1]  He obeys the same necessity which makes him ordinarily
express his thought in language.  Religious emotion then is transformed
in the mind into the notion of a relation, _i.e._ into an intellectual
notion which becomes the expressive image or representation of the
emotion.  But the notion and the emotion are essentially different in
nature.  In expressing it, and thanks to the imagination, the notion
may renew or fortify the emotion, and dogma may awaken piety; but the
two must not be confounded.  The notion is like an algebraic expression
which ideally represents a given quantity, but it is not the quantity
itself.  This must be clearly kept in mind if we are to avoid the most
disastrous confusions.  In religion and in dogma the intellectual
element is simply the expression or envelope of the religious

[1] It might be supposed that I make of this elementary experience the
primary root whence all dogmas, including the Christian, have sprung by
a process of evolution.  Nothing of the kind.  This is but a particular
example.  The revelation of Nature is the principle of the dogmas of
the Religions of Nature.  Christianity has behind it another revelation
and other experiences: the revelation of God and of a higher life, in
the historical appearance of Jesus Christ.  Let a man morally prepared
to hear the Gospel begin to follow Him, listen to His words, penetrate
His soul, comprehend His death, and he will cry out: "God is Love!" as
the spectator of Nature was supposed to exclaim: "God is great!"  And
this new proposition, translating a new  religious relation, will, in
its turn, become the principle of all Christian dogmas.

The intellectual will therefore be the variable element in dogma.  It
is the matter united to the germ, and it is ceaselessly transformed by
the very effect of the movement of life.  The reason of this is simple.
We said just now that a religious emotion, like every other, translates
itself into a notion which fixes the relation of the subject to the
object, implied in the emotion itself.  But what will this notion be?
With what materials, with what concepts, will the religious man
construct it?  Clearly with those at his disposal.  His religious
formula will depend on his state of intellectual culture.  A child, he
will think and speak religiously as a child.  Religious reason and
language have followed the same steps as the general reason....

I am well aware that many Christians imagine that God has revealed to
us dogmas in the Bible, and that they will accuse me of denying
revelation.  God forbid!  We believe with all our soul in Divine
Revelation and in its particular action in the souls of prophets and
apostles, and especially in Jesus Christ.  Only, the question is
whether the revelation of God has consisted of doctrines and dogmatic
formulas.  No.  God does nothing needless, and since these doctrines
and formulas can be and have been conceived by human intelligence, He
has left to it the care of elaborating them.  God, entering into
commerce and contact with a human soul, has produced in him a certain
religious experience whence, afterwards, by reflection, the dogma has
sprung.  That therefore which constitutes revelation, that which ought
to be the norm of our life, is the creative and fruitful religious
experience which first arose in the souls of the prophets, of Christ,
and of His apostles.  We may be tranquil.  So long as this experience
shall be renewed in Christian souls, Christian dogmas may be modified,
but they will never die.  But why should we retain dogmas which, in the
nature of things, must always be imperfect?  Why not have religion pure
and simple without dogmas?  What would happen if we listened to this
cry for pure unmixed religion?  By suppressing Christian dogma you
would suppress Christianity; by discarding all religious doctrine you
would destroy religion.  How many great and eternal things there are
which never exist, for us, in a pure and isolated state!  All the
forces of Nature are in this case.  Thought, in order to exist, must
incarnate itself in language.  Words cannot be identified with thought,
but they are necessary to it.  The hero in the romance, who was said to
be unable to think without speaking was not so ridiculous as was once
supposed, for that hero is everybody.  The soul only reveals itself to
us by the body to which it is united.  Who has ever seen life apart
from living matter?  It is the same with the religious life and the
doctrines and rites in which it manifests itself.  A religious life
which did not express itself would neither know itself nor communicate
itself.  It is therefore perfectly irrational to talk of a religion
without dogma and without worship.  Orthodoxy is a thousand times right
as against rationalism or mysticism, when it proclaims the necessity
for a Church of formulating its faith into a doctrine, without which
religious consciousnesses remain confused and undiscernible.

The mistake that orthodoxy sometimes makes is in denying or desiring to
arrest the constant metamorphosis to which dogma, like all living
things, is subject.  So long as they are alive, dogmas have the faculty
of changing and evolving.  How is their evolution effected?  The
analogy between dogma and language will help us to the answer.  A
language is modified in three ways: (1) By disuse, _i.e._ by the
disappearance of words whose contents have vanished; (2) by
intussusception, _i.e._ by the faculty which words have, without
changing their form, of acquiring new significations; (3) by the
renaissance of old or the creation of new words, _i.e._ by neologisms.

Nothing is easier than to establish these three kinds of variations in
the history of dogmas.  Some religious formulas perish from disuse;
others acquire a new content; while still others are themselves
renewed.  Many doctrines that were once alive and prevalent are seldom
heard of now; they gradually passed out of use.  There is hardly a
dogma dating from the seventeenth or the sixteenth century that has now
the same signification that it had at the beginning.  The new wine that
has been put into them has modified the old skins.  There are limits,
however, to the elasticity of words and formulas.  There comes a moment
when the new wine bursts the old skins, and when the Church has to
construct other vessels to receive it.  In this way neologisms spring
up in languages, and new dogmas in theology.  In the sixteenth century
the dogmas of Justification by Faith and of the universal priesthood
were resuscitated with a new energy.  The verses of Horace, on which I
might appear to have been commenting, are eternally true:

  Ut silvæ foliis pronos mutantur in annos,
  *     *     *     *     *
  Multa renascentur quæ jam cecidere cadentque
  Quæ nunc sunt in honore, vocabula...
  *     *     *     *     *

The evolution of dogma is possible; why is it necessary?  Simply
because the material of which it is composed is in a state of constant
flux and evolution....  We do not mean to say that everything in the
old formulas should be condemned.  There are to be found in them many
great and excellent ideas which still retain their truth and power.  We
simply say that there is nothing absolute in them, nothing that may be
imposed by authority on Christian thought.  It is always with notions
borrowed from current science and philosophy that the Church constructs
her dogmas.  But science and philosophy are continually evolving and
carrying dogma in their train.  Everything changes, even our manner of
thinking.  Why do certain things appear absurd or grotesque in the
imaginations of the past?  Because we have lost the faculty for
comprehending them.  It is as impossible for us to think in Greek as to
speak in Greek.  Since the end of the Middle Ages two or three
intellectual revolutions have occurred which have profoundly separated
us from antiquity and changed the inner and the outer world in which we
live.  It will suffice to recall them in a few words in order to deepen
our sense of the decadence of Græco-Roman dogmatic Christianity, and of
the necessity incumbent upon us to reform and renovate it, if only we
are strong enough to answer to the call of God.

3. _The Crisis of Dogma_

The first of these revolutions was a religious one.  Our specific
consciousness as Protestant Christians dates from the Reformation.
Now, the Evangelical Reformation of the sixteenth century was the
rupture of the tradition of the Church, of which the Dogmatics of the
great Councils was the framework and the centre.  In breaking the
authority of the Church, the Reformers broke up the basis on which
those ancient dogmas had been built.  In appealing to the Word of God
against traditional doctrines, they at least called in question the
Dogmatics of the Councils.  After protesting against all the
infiltrations of pagan manners and superstitions into the morals of the
Church, into its organisation and its hierarchy into its worship and
its rites, why should they regard as sacrosanct the ancient philosophy
which had entered into the construction of its dogmas?

On the other hand, the Reformation renewed the Christian consciousness
by its fundamental doctrine of Justification by Faith.  Until then
salvation had come through adhesion to the Symbols of the Church and
obedience to its commands.  Justification by Faith (and faith here
means the trust of the heart) freed the Christian from the tutelage of
the priesthood and the bondage of Symbols.  To maintain that you can
only be saved by believing certain theological doctrines, is the same
as to say that you can only be saved by doing certain works; it is to
add to or to substitute for faith some other condition of salvation.
The second principle of the Reformation therefore also shook the
ancient edifice; in Dogmatics it substituted the internal principle of
Christian experience for the external principle of authority; it made
of Christianity a moral life and no longer a metaphysic.  Is it not
right and necessary to give the new principles of the Reformation a new
theological expression?  This process has been going on ever since the
sixteenth century and can never cease.

The Reformation displaced the centre of the Christian consciousness.
At the same time there began a scientific revolution which displaced
the centre of the universe.  I speak of that which is connected with
the names of Copernicus and Kepler, and which was continued by such men
as Galileo, Newton, and Laplace.  Modern astronomy, geology, biology,
etc., have completely changed the outlines and the horizon of our
philosophy, and rendered for ever impossible the popular cosmogonies
which, until then, had reigned supreme.  And who does not see the
bearing of this revolution on our views of Scripture, on its
cosmography in particular, and on many of its minor teachings?  The
traditional doctrines of creation have been greatly modified, as also
the doctrines as to the origin of evil, suffering, and death.  These
discoveries, it is said, have ruined religion, and are destroying
Christian faith.  Not so.  What is being destroyed is the débris of an
ancient philosophy.  But they do compel us, absolutely, if we would
remain in touch with the thought of our age, to modify the formulas by
which the Church has hitherto believed that she might render an account
of the origin and evolution of the universe.

A third intellectual evolution has been effected in our own time by the
advent of the Historical Method.  This has completely upset the
traditional view of the history of mankind.  Floods of new light have
been poured upon the prehistoric and historic races of man.  Modern
criticism and exegesis have given us an entirely new view of the origin
and contents of many parts of the Old and New Testaments.  In every
department of knowledge the historic method has made the point of view
of evolution possible and victorious.  It is in vain to oppose it, for
it is the law of life.  Those who cling to the doctrine of dogmatic
immutability, whether in the Catholic or the Protestant Churches, are
exactly in the position of the Romish cardinals who covered Galileo
with anathemas and protested energetically against the rotation of the
earth.  Neither their protests nor their anathemas prevented the earth
from turning round, and the cardinals along with it.  In Protestantism,
a resistance so blind would be the grossest of inconsistencies.
Dogmatic revision is always alive, both in principle and in fact, in
the Churches of the Reformation: in principle, because all Confessions
of Faith are relative, and subordinate to the Word of God; in fact,
because the spirit of research, of criticism, and free discussion has
never ceased to breathe in Protestant Theology, and breathes to-day
more ardently than ever.  The work will therefore be completed; I am
sure of it.  We may lack the faith and courage to carry it on, but,
failing us, God will not fail to raise up other fellow-workers with
Himself in this great enterprise.  Christianity cannot perish; it has
never failed to adapt itself to the state of mind of ages past; in the
future, it will find and make new forms in which to express and
propagate itself, forms adapted to the coming times....

"One day, the monk Sarapion, a man of deep piety and ardent zeal, was
told by the priest Paphnutius and the deacon Photinus that God, in
whose image man had been created, was a purely spiritual being, without
body, without external figure, without sensible organs.  Serapion was
convinced by the ascendancy of Catholic tradition and by the arguments
that had been employed.  The assistants rose to render thanks to God
for having rescued so holy a man from the wicked heresy of the
anthropomorphists.  But, in the midst of their devotions, the unhappy
old man, feeling the image of the God to whom he had been accustomed to
pray vanishing from his heart, was deeply moved, and bursting into sobs
and tears, he threw himself upon the ground, and cried out: 'Woe is me!
Unhappy man!  They have taken away my God.  I have no one now to cling
to and invoke.'"[2]

[2] J. Cassanius, abb. Massil.: Collatio, X. c. III.

Touching image of our own experience and of the experience of humanity!
We are always making to ourselves some idol or other.  It is very
difficult for us to realise that God is spirit: we attach ourselves
therefore to some fetish of human fabrication.  And then, when science
comes and takes it away from us, we are troubled and perplexed, as if
they had taken from us God Himself.  The study of dogmas and their
evolution, were it wider spread, would relieve us of our illusions and
calm our inquietude.  It would teach us that our religious life depends
on our faith alone, and that the God Who is its source and end is
independent of all theory or representation, because He is infinitely
above all human conceptions, and because, in order never to be
separated from Him, it suffices that we worship Him in spirit and in



1. _The Mixed Character of Dogmatics_

We have shown the necessity of a free criticism of dogmas.  This
criticism, if it is religious, will at the same time be positive; it
will tend not to destroy, but to distinguish, in each dogma, that which
is truly religious and permanent from that which is philosophical and
fleeting.  Such is the object of the discipline that, in the schools,
is called _Dogmatics_, or the Science of Dogmas.  It remains to define
its task and to point out the resources which it has at its disposal.
Both points are connected with its relation to the Church and to
Philosophy.  The science of dogmas has always necessarily followed the
life of the one and the vicissitudes of the other.

In the religious experiences of the Church it finds the material that
it elaborates; from philosophy it borrows the methods according to
which it treats this material and the form in which it organises it.
This science is, therefore, a mixed science: positive and practical in
its object, speculative and theoretical in its procedure, it seeks to
connect the religious and moral experience with the rest of the
experience of humanity, and to effect the synthesis claimed, in order
to their full vigour, by the scientific order of thought and by the
moral order of practical life.

This intermediate position of our science, between the Church and
philosophy, constitutes its independence and its originality.  If, as
in Catholicism, it were absolutely subjected to the authority of the
Church, and were limited to receiving, without critical examination,
its successive decisions and traditions, it would be confounded with
the history of dogmas, and would be merely a survival of scholasticism.
On the other hand, if it did not start from the data furnished by
history and by the personal and collective experience of piety,--if it
did not study the Christian life in its objectivity and in its historic
continuity, but abandoned itself to purely subjective and general
speculations--it would be fatally confounded with philosophy.  It
escapes this double peril, first, by taking as its object the study of
the doctrinal tradition of the Church, tracing it back to its
generative principle, following it in its successive forms and
necessary evolution; and, secondly, by freely applying to this
objective material the principles and rules of a truly rational method,
a method that may be avowed as such by philosophers.  It thus
constitutes the philosophy of religion in general and of Christianity
in particular, setting itself to connect the consciousness of the
Church with the general consciousness of humanity, and establishing or
maintaining between them communications equally profitable to both.

It follows that our discipline, in studying the tradition of the
Church, is independent of philosophy.  On the other hand, the fact that
it borrows its methods and processes from philosophy, renders it
independent with regard to the Church.  Its freedom springs from its
twofold subjection.  Such a little principality, placed between two
great rival Powers without whose help it could not live, maintains its
independence of them both by virtue of their very rivalry, and may
become an arbiter, an element of pacification and good understanding,
between forces which are only hostile because they either do not know
or do not understand each other.  Thus the science of dogmas will be
free, pacific, fruitful, on condition that it does not break its
connection on either hand, but remains in close communication with the
two sources of its life, without which it would be liable either to die
of inanition for want of food, or of impotence for lack of liberty.

2. _The Science of Dogmas and the Church_

A religious society cannot dispense either with doctrines or doctrinal
teaching.  The more moral it is in its character, the more it needs a
dogmatic symbol which defines it and explains its _raison d'être_.  It
will have its teachers as well as its pastors and missionaries.  The
apostle Paul compares the Church to an organism in which each member
has its necessary function, according to the special gift it has
received.  "God," says he, "gave some, apostles; some, prophets; some,
teachers" (1 Cor. xii. 28; Rom. xii. 6-8.  "Teaching of the Apostles,"
13 and 15).  In passing through different lips the Gospel takes
different forms.  It creates divers types of doctrine, divers schools
or parties (1 Cor. i. 10-14).  It is necessary to instruct the
ignorant, to refute heretics, to heal schisms, to administer reproofs,
to correct the interpretation of texts.  This could only be done by
means of discussion, reasoning, exegesis, speculation.  It was not an
effort of pure science, but of practical science, in the interest of
the Church itself, with a view to its inner edification and to the
continuous reform of its worship and its faith.  The labour of
dogmatics thus sprang up spontaneously in the bosom of the Church
itself, and it has continued its work, not from without, but from
within, through an office which is an essential ministry, an organ of
the Church.  It could not be done well in any other way....

A religious society, by the very fact that it endures, creates a
doctrinal tradition, and this tradition soon assumes a divine character
and tends to become an absolute authority.  This is the effect of a
psychological illusion characteristic of the religious consciousness so
long as reflection does not put it on its guard against itself.  The
object of our faith being divine, we ingenuously transport this quality
into the formula by which it has been transmitted to us, and we hold
this formula to be divine before we have learnt to distinguish between
the essence of faith and its historical manifestations, between the
religious substance of the doctrine and its traditional expression.
Add to the prestige of the past the necessity of educating the new
generations.  Every Christian begins as a catechumen, and, in certain
respects, he is and ought to be a learner all his life, for he cannot
fail to see that the collective consciousness is always richer and more
stable than his own.  But, if the aim of Christian education is to
produce adult Christians--that is, Christians who, having received the
Holy Spirit, have entered into a direct and permanent relation to the
common Father, and into personal and living piety, they possess an
inward rule of conduct, and along with this a principle of free
judgment.  As St. Paul says, our tutelage ends when we have attained to
our majority.  The spiritual man judges all, but is judged of none.  He
becomes independent of the authority under which he has grown up, as
the full-grown man becomes free from the mother who has borne and
nourished him.  He will, doubtless, always gratefully welcome the
tradition of the past; but he feels within himself a higher principle
which gives him the right to amend and the power to increase, in some
degree, the inheritance he has received from his fathers.  No one is
either a man or a Christian on any other condition.

The solution of the problem named above is to be found in these
considerations.  A tradition which desires to be absolute, which
misunderstands and stifles individual inspiration, is not only an
usurper--it also fails in its mission, which is to make adult
Christians, Christians who are inwardly inspired and autonomous.  It is
like those tyrannical mothers who, if they could, would keep their sons
in a perpetual minority.  On the other hand, the children, even when
they have attained their majority, should not despise their parents and
disdain the counsels of experience and of age.  Individual inspiration
is apt to lead to self-sufficiency and sectarianism; it loses sight of
the link of solidarity which unites the generations, and the social
continuity in which alone progress is made in the religious life, as in
the life of civilisation.  The first defect, the tyrannical usurpation
of tradition, predominates in the Catholic Church; the opposite defect,
that of the intransigeance of individual convictions and of Illuminism,
is the plague of Protestant communities.  The truth would be found in a
middle course, and in the organisation of a traditional Church stable
enough to receive and keep the heritage of the past, large and flexible
enough to permit in it the legitimate expansion of the Christian
consciousness and the acquisition of new treasure.

To this ideal, Catholicism cannot resign itself without succumbing to
death.  Protestantism aspires to it without reaching it; and yet
nothing is more really in the logic of its principle.  No Protestant
Church professes to be infallible.  Its most solemn Confessions of
Faith have only a provisional value.  The spirit of reform breathes in
it without truce, continually.  The principal task of the community, as
of the individual, is to amend itself, to advance in knowledge and in
virtue.  A Church which should exclude this spirit of reform would
cease to be a Protestant Church.  And, of course, the duty of reform
implies the legitimacy of criticism, of an appeal to the Gospel better
understood, of a constant effort to bring the real up to the ideal.
The only matter of importance is to decide aright on the principle or
criterion according to which this criticism shall be made.

Shall it be another dogma?  No; not even if it be called a fundamental
one such as the authority of Scripture.  For this very dogma,
formulated by tradition, is therefore human and contingent, and is open
to criticism like all the rest.  With what then, or in the name of
what, shall dogma be criticised?  Shall we, with Rationalism, take a
moral or philosophical axiom as the criterion?  We should then violate
the autonomy of the religious consciousness; we should denaturalise
religion itself, by subjecting it to an external rule; and Dogmatics,
basing its fabric on an alien principle, would produce a hybrid
structure that would be rejected by believers and philosophers with
equal disdain.

The principle of criticism of Christian dogmas can only be the
principle of Christianity itself, which is anterior to all dogmas, and
which it is the aim of dogmas to manifest and to apply.  Now the
principle of Christianity is not a theoretical doctrine: it is a
religious experience--the experience of Christ and His disciples
through the centuries.  It is the Gospel of salvation by the faith of
the heart, the revelation of a moral relation, of a new relation, of a
filial relation, created and realised between the man who is sinful and
lost, and the Father who calls and pardons him.  Such is the initial
germ from which the whole Christian development has sprung, and by
which consequently that development should and can be judged.

This generative principle of the life and of all the dogmas of the
Church being laid down, and the distinction established between the
ideal principle and its successive realisations, all of them
necessarily incomplete, the criticism of dogmas will be effected
automatically, without violence, and with fruit.  It will be enough to
tell the story of the genesis and evolution of each of them.  It will
then be seen what contingent and perishing elements have entered into
it in the course of history.  Christianity is an organism whose soul is
immortal, but whose body is renewed unceasingly by the fact that its
materials are in constant movement, and that they are gathered from the
various environments through which it has to pass.  The philosophical
notions which have served it as a temporary expression, and which are
doubly dead to-day, either because civilisation has advanced, or
because they were without vital connection with the initial Christian
experience, fall from the tree like withered leaves or lifeless
branches.  As to the others, in which the sap still rises from the
mother root, they will be seen to be transformed, to grow and flower
from year to year under the same salubrious breath of criticism.  Our
discipline, religiously faithful to the principle of Christian piety,
may often find itself in conflict with the administrative powers of the
Church, but never really with the Church itself.

3. _The Science of Dogmas and Philosophy_

If less burning, the problem of the relations of dogmatics to
philosophy is perhaps more difficult to solve than the problem just
discussed.  It has given rise to quite as many controversies.  The
danger is twofold.  On the one hand, there is the pretension of
scholasticism, the attempt to absorb philosophy in theology and make it
subservient.  It is still the pretension of a certain simple Protestant
orthodoxy, for which there is no philosophy outside the Christian
faith.  At the other extreme is the attempt of rationalism to include
the Christian religion in general ethics and philosophy.  In the first
case it is dogmatics which absorbs philosophy; in the second it is
philosophy which absorbs dogmatics.  But, in both cases, the
specifically religious phenomena are lost sight of, the original
character of Christian piety is misconceived, and theology, no longer
having any special domain, succumbs and vanishes.  It is the merit of
the Reformation of Luther, in the sixteenth, and of the thought of
Schleiermacher and Vinet in the nineteenth century, to have brought out
and rendered manifest, among all other psychological phenomena, the
character _sui generis_ of Christian faith and life, and thus to have
assigned to theology an object of study, eminent no doubt, but very
special and very circumscribed.  A task was thus marked out for
theology widely different from that of philosophy--a task which
consists, not in explaining everything in heaven and earth, but, more
modestly and usefully, in giving an account of the religious experience
of the Christian Church.  Saved at once from scholasticism and
rationalism, dogmatic theology may therefore build itself up in its own
domain by the side of the other sciences without menacing or fearing
any of them.

Its relations to philosophy will become clear if we call to mind a very
simple distinction.  Philosophy to-day comprises two parts very
different in nature: a study of the thinking subject, or, as it is
sometimes called, a critique of reason, or a theory of knowledge; in
the second place, a doctrine on the essence and the necessary relations
of beings, a metaphysic, or a theory of the universe.

It is easy to see that all the positive sciences are differently
related to these two parts of philosophy.  None of them, for instance,
can dispense with the first, with the criticism of our faculty of
knowing and of our means of reasoning, under penalty of mistaking the
worth of its own hypotheses, and even the regularity of its processes.
It is clear that a physicist cannot dispense with correct syllogisms or
with vigilance against illusions of the senses and other errors of
method.  But, on the other hand, no savant would accept the yoke of any
metaphysic whatever which should come to him _à priori_ to dictate to
him its conclusions.  Upon indications of this nature he desires to
form hypotheses and make new experiments; but, as a savant, he will
never pronounce before that supreme and decisive consultation of facts.

It is exactly the same with the relations of dogmatics to philosophy.
It will have recourse to it for all that regards the theory of
knowledge in general and the theory of religious knowledge in
particular.  Like every other science it needs to ascertain the scope
of its instrument in order that it may be under no illusion as to the
worth of the work it accomplishes.  But also, like every other science,
it has the right and the duty to challenge and neglect all general
metaphysic which, flowing from another principle than that of the
Christian religion, would dictate to it articles of faith or rules of

Let it not be said that every theory of knowledge soon begets a
metaphysic in its own image.  We know theories which deny the very
possibility of metaphysics, and it is a question whether a truly
Christian dogmatic accommodates itself to it better than any other
theory.  It may be maintained in fact that the act of faith which is
the expression of the conservating energy of the ego and the principle
of all religion is accomplished all the more freely when there is no
knowledge, properly speaking, there to hinder it.  A common prejudice
requires that we should have metaphysics as a support to religion.  It
is on religion, on the contrary, that metaphysics and ethics rest.  Man
did not become religious when he heard that there were gods; he only
had the idea of God and believed in Him because he was religious.
Mystery was the natural cradle of piety.  Faith is much less an
acquisition of knowledge than a means of salvation and a source of
strength and life.  It is one thing to speculate on the universal
problem; it is another to place one's self by the heart in a living
relation of trust, of fear, or of love to the mysterious Being on whom
all other beings depend.  Religion may possibly be under the necessity
of ending in a metaphysic, but a metaphysic does not necessarily end in
religion, for there are some kinds of metaphysic which either exclude
religion or render it impossible.

A theory of religion, dogmatics can have no other starting point than
religious phenomena themselves.  From this concrete and experimental
principle, from this state of soul produced by the immediate feeling of
a necessary relation to God, the entire system should spring and
develop.  What is not in religious experience should find no place in
religious science, and should be banished from it.

It would only be to its detriment, then, that the science of dogmas
should throw away its liberty by espousing beforehand metaphysical
theses or the final conclusions of any philosophy whatsoever.  These
theses, springing from another source than religion, have no right, in
that religion, to become articles of faith.  Rational truths not born
of religious feeling would be in dogmatics so many dead weights and
heterogeneous elements, which would lead to the greatest incoherence.
To build up a professedly revealed theology on a professedly natural
one is to construct a system without either unity or profound
connection.  Such a dualism of principles is as intolerable to science
as to piety.  Instead of dogmatics subordinating itself to metaphysics,
metaphysics ought to include dogmatics as well as the results of all
the other sciences.

It is altogether different with the criticism of our means of knowing.
In every order of science it is mere levity of mind to commence or to
conclude researches a little general without having first determined
the precise conditions of real knowledge.  The absence of a
philosophical critique of this nature explains why savants, so rigorous
in their special studies, show a philosophical _naïvety_ so great in
the conclusions that they draw from them, and so readily crown their
discoveries by a pseudo-metaphysic that they impose upon the multitude
with all the authority and prestige of science.  More than any others,
theologians are guilty of this abuse when they wish to make their
science the sum of universal knowledge.  They would be more soundly
religious were they more modest and more reserved.  An excellent means
of putting ourselves on our guard against this illusion and its
deplorable consequences will be to institute, without further delay, a
rigorous criticism of religious knowledge.  This task, I believe, has
never been seriously attempted in France.  It is, however, as
indispensable to the right conduct of the mind as it is fitted
radically to cure us of our dogmatic pride and to inspire us with
tolerance and humility.  This will be the object of the following



He who says consciousness says science, or at least, the beginning of
science.  Consciousness implies a representation.  In other words, no
modification of the ego becomes conscious except by awakening in the
mind a representative image of the object that has produced it and of
the relation of that object to the ego.  All our sensations and all our
feelings are accompanied by images.  The religious sentiment does not
attain to the light of consciousness in any other way.  It is because
it is a state or conscious movement of the soul that it becomes, it
also, a principle of knowledge.

No kind of mental life begins with clear and abstract ideas.  An idea
is derived from an image, and, in order to produce the image, an
external or an internal impression is necessary.  It is true that the
idea or the image has, in its turn, the mysterious power of reproducing
and renewing the sensation or the feeling from which it sprang.  On
this is based the art of teaching and the power of tradition.  But this
must not be allowed to produce in us the illusion that originally the
idea preceded the sensation.  The development of the mental life of
children is proof of the contrary.  We only know that by which we or
our kind have been in some degree affected.  Our ideas are simply the
algebraic notation of our impressions and movements.  That which is
outside our life is outside our view.  Without the external sensations
which represent the action of the world on the ego, we should have no
knowledge of the world.  Without the subjective reaction of the ego
against that action of the world, a reaction which manifests itself in
the moral, æsthetic, and religious life of the soul, we should have no
moral or religious idea, no notion of the good or the beautiful.  All
our metaphysical ideas come from that source.

It remains, of course, to inquire what is the worth of ideas of this
order.  It is the particularly complex and delicate question that we
here approach.  There is no serious philosophy to-day that does not
start with a theory of knowledge.  Religious knowledge cannot escape by
any special privilege.  The criticism of it is all the more necessary,
because illusion, in this matter, is so easy, and because it clothes
itself in a sacred character.  The theologian who undertakes the
scientific treatment of dogmas without first measuring the scope of the
instrument he employs, and estimating the worth of the materials he
uses, knows not what he is doing.

1. _Obsolete Theories of Knowledge_

Formerly three explanations of our knowledge prevailed in philosophy:
the hypothesis of a primitive revelation; the idealist theory; and the
sensualist theory.

The first was revived three quarters of a century ago by de Bonald and
Joseph de Maistre.  It no longer needs to be refuted.  According to
this hypothesis, our ideas came to us, not from within, from the
naturally productive force of the mind, but from without, by way of
supernatural communication.  This communication from God consisted at
the outset in the gift to man of a perfect language.  The exact word
brought with it the right idea.  "Man," said de Bonald, "thought his
speech before speaking his thought."  If errors have crept in and
reigned among men, it is because they were not able to preserve without
corruption the sacred deposit of that primitive language and
philosophy.  Is it necessary to show how thoroughly this theory is
contradicted by psychology and history?  It is said that in certain
countries there still exists a Botany, according to which the Great
Spirit, having created the trees of the forest, comes in the night each
Spring to stick the leaves and blossoms on the branches.  The immediate
communication of right ideas and supernatural virtues to man in his
infancy implies a contradiction; it forces us to imagine in him
thoughts prior to the action of his intellect and virtues previous to
the action of his will.  Lastly, it is to misconceive the nature of the
mind to make of it something passive and inert.  The mind is the
thinking and willing force--that is to say, a force productive of
thoughts and volitions.  If it is not this, it is nothing.  We must
affirm, no doubt, that God creates this force and directs its
evolution, but it is a contradiction to say at once that He creates it
and that it is unproductive.  It cannot exist without being productive.
It is of its very essence to produce.  Mind is only mind in so far as
it is a force that produces thought and volition.

The aim of this hypothesis, moreover, was to found the divine authority
of an infallible tradition by making it go back to the earliest times.
These revealed ideas, by the very fact that they are the ideas of God,
have an absolute and eternal value.  Man finds them guaranteed in the
religious caste, to which the deposit has been confided, and which has
preserved them intact.  Thus arose the idea of an infallible authority.
So they say.  But the idea of dogmatic authority never appears in early
times; it is of very late date; it is elaborated very slowly, according
to a psychological law that we have already discovered.  Everywhere,
and in the traditions of all religions and Churches, it appears after
all other doctrines as the keystone which closes and binds together the
arch.  It is an ultimate dogma logically derived from other dogmas, and
afterwards used as a warrant for them.  Such was the dogma of Papal
Infallibility promulgated at the Vatican Council of 1870; such, in
Protestantism, was the dogma of Biblical infallibility, completed by
the theologians of the seventeenth century.  To base the value of
religious notions on a supernatural authority, with a view to rendering
them indisputable, is a vicious circle; the authority, it is evident,
is the product of these notions themselves.  All systems of authority
end by shutting themselves up in this circle and perishing in it.

The idealist theory of the origin of ideas is but the philosophical
form of the preceding one.  It also is an endeavour to trace back our
general ideas to the divine understanding as their primary source.
Pure ideas, type-ideas, according to Plato, constitute the intelligible
Cosmos of which material phenomena are but the unreal and ephemeral
shadows.  Clearly to conceive these divine ideas is to reach the
transcendent reality of things--it is to possess true knowledge.  From
Platonism to the realism of scholasticism, from this to the geometry of
Spinoza and the dialectic of Hegel, the form of the theory has varied
constantly; the substance of it has remained the same.  Hegel always
said: "The rational is the real," and, for him, as for Plato, absolute
knowledge resolved itself into perfect logic.

Psychology has long since dispelled the scientific illusion of
idealism.  We do not wish to recall the pitiful failure of all the
attempts formerly made, and even in our own times, to deduce _à priori_
the laws of the physical world.  Everywhere, in this domain, the method
of observation has superseded the deductive method.  The reason of it
is simple.  An idea, however lofty, can only give out what it contains,
_i.e._ other ideas.  We know very well that our ideas are in our mind,
but they are only in it in the state of ideas.  How do we know that the
objects which they represent exist outside ourselves?  Only by logic
can we pass from the idea of a thing to the external reality of that
thing.  Experience is necessary.  Without it our ideas are empty forms.
One may conjure with them for ever without ever reaching anything
objective.  They are shells without kernels.  Pure idealism, so far
from furnishing a solid theory of knowledge, ends in scepticism, _i.e._
in the negation of knowledge.

The excesses and failures of idealist theories of knowledge have always
given rise in history to the opposite theory of sensualist nominalism,
according to which our ideas are simply transformed sensations.
Unhappily, sensualism, in laying down this axiom, never explained the
nature and still less the cause of that marvellous transformation.
"There is nothing in the understanding," said Locke, "that was not
previously in the senses."  To which Leibniz rightly replied: "Except
the understanding itself;" that is to say, the force which from
sensation draws knowledge.  By suppressing this ideal principle, you
remove from science all element of necessity--that is to say, all
general worth.  With Hume, the sensualist theory, so far from giving an
account of knowledge, ended in pure phenomenalism, _i.e._ once more, in
scepticism.  It is, in fact, with isolated sensation as with pure idea;
you may press it as much as you will, you will never get out of it
anything but what it contains--that is to say, contingencies without
any connection between each other.  Materialism is still more
embarrassed to furnish any theory whatever of knowledge, for it does
not even succeed in explaining sensation.  Between a mechanical
movement and a phenomenon of consciousness there is an impassable
abyss.  One of the most evident marks of the inferiority of the
philosophy of French positivism is that it has not even approached this
problem of knowledge, and that it has been able to constitute itself
without any other than the popular psychology.

2. _The Kantian Theory of Knowledge_

Thinkers may to-day be divided into two classes: those who date from
before Kant, and those who have received the initiation and, so to
speak, the philosophical baptism of his critique.  These two classes of
minds will always have much ado to understand each other.  The first
are dogmatists or Pyrrhonists.  The second no longer comprehend either
dogmatism or Pyrrhonism.  For them, the point of view has been
displaced.  Thanks to Kant, we judge both our knowledge and our faculty
of knowing; we give an account to ourselves of the conditions in which
it performs its functions, of the forms which determine it, and of the
limits that it cannot pass.  Kant compared, without exaggeration, the
revolution which he effected in philosophy to that which the discovery
of Copernicus effected in the system of the world.  In philosophy also
the sun has ceased to move round the earth, and the ancient illusion
has been vanquished and dispersed.  The idea and the reality no longer
coincide; they are disjoined.  The intelligible no doubt is real; but
it is not certain that all the real is intelligible.  Reality appears
to us now as surpassing not only our knowledge, but our means of
knowing.  The religious notion of mystery has entered into
consciousness.  Man has attained to intellectual humility.  Like his
body, his mind is a mean between the infinitely great and the
infinitely little, between nothing and everything.  The deductive
philosophy of the unity and necessary and continuous unfolding of an
eternal substance, gives place to the philosophy of observation, which
will be found to be that of the antinomies whose permanent conflict
produces the ascensional progress of the world and of life.

To make Kantism end in scepticism shows a lack of intelligence.  His
system enables us, on the contrary, to form the _scientific_ theory of
science.  The truth is to be found neither in dogmatism nor in
Pyrrhonism, both of which Pascal combated with equal vigour.  In modern
science there is a certitude invincible to the subtlest Pyrrhonism; but
there is also in it a sense of the limits of our knowing faculty and of
the relative character of our most solid constructions which forbids
man ever to be puffed up to the point of believing himself to be God.
To be in this mean is to be in the truth.  The same critique which
establishes the validity of human knowledge lays down the limits beyond
which it cannot go.  We have come to know ourselves better, and that is
the mark of all true progress in philosophy.  _Know thyself_ is always
its first rule and its final fruit.

The Kantian theory of knowledge, while satisfying the mind, at the same
time sets forth the essential antinomies whose normal play constitutes
the very life of the ego and explains its multiple manifestations.

There are two elements in all knowledge: an _à posteriori_ element
which comes from experience, and an _à priori_ element which comes from
the thinking subject.  The first is the _matter_ of knowledge; the
second is the _form_.  Separate, these two elements are unproductive.
With the first alone we have but a reality not known; with the second
alone we have but a knowing without reality.  Their union renders them
mutually fruitful by organising the data of experience into the
necessary forms of thought.  The principle of causation, _e.g._, is not
in things; it is in the mind, and it is the mind which spontaneously
connects all phenomena.  Science, at bottom, consists in nothing but
the causal connection of things.  Where the chain breaks, positive
knowledge ends.  This clear sense of ignorance on points on which we
really are ignorant is still a part of science and one of its principal
forces, for it proves that it knows itself very well, and also knows
the conditions apart from which it no longer exists.  But, whether
triumphant or held in check, positive science can neither renounce its
task and method nor modify their nature.  It can only seek to complete,
or rather to lengthen, the chain of phenomena.  The success of this
ever-identical effort, an effort always in the same direction, is what
is called its conquests and its progress.  It follows that the
irresistible tendency of science will be to extend over the whole of
the phenomena the ever-tighter network of an invincible necessity.
Determinism is its last word.

On the other hand, the ego which knows is an acting ego.  Its thought
itself, properly speaking, and this display of science, are only one of
the forms of its inner activity.  It wills, and it must will.  If the
world acts on it by sensation, it acts incessantly on the world by its
volitions.  And let it not be said that the will simply represents a
mechanical reaction of the ego, exactly equivalent to the action of the
external world upon it,--that it is a simple transformation of
energy,--for this is not true.  Without here raising the question of
liberty, it is certain that I do not give back in will simply what I
have received under the form of sensation.  I deliberate on the motives
which urge me to act; I choose between them; I feel myself under
obligation; I feel that I should will the good.  It is impossible to
conceive of moral action without the idea of end.  I conceive it,
therefore, under a different form from that of mechanical action.
Responsibility and obligation are not less the necessary forms of will
than logical necessity is the necessary form of thought.  But soon
there arises in man the most tragical of conflicts.  Scientific
determinism renders moral activity unintelligible, and moral activity
comes into collision with the determinism of science.  If mechanical
determinism be absolutely true, my will is null; I am simply an
automaton.  If my responsibility is real, if my personal energy is not
an illusion, there is in the world something besides matter, and, for
man, there are other than mechanical laws.  Thus divided in myself, I
ought not to practise what I know, and I cannot do what I ought.  I
remain floating between a science which is not moral and a morality
that I feel to be unscientific.  My intellect destroys my will.  As the
one develops the other dies.  The better I know the laws of the world
the less reason I have for living and acting.  My morality, at each
act, gives the lie to my science, and my science, at each affirmation,
refutes my morality.  Such is the deep malady, the spiritual misery, of
the best of our contemporaries.  They feel that, with them, vital
energy is in inverse proportion to the extent and penetration of
thought.  It is then that they declare that pessimism, a radical
pessimism, is the truth; that existence, will, desire, are the chief
evils, and that the supreme effort of science should be to cure us of
them by delivering us from all our illusions; after which, in its turn,
it will be extinguished itself, like a flame that has consumed the food
on which it fed.

Still, the conscious subject is one.  You cannot proclaim it vain
without at the same time proclaiming the vanity of its ideas as well as
of its efforts.  The ruin of morality draws after it the ruin of
science.  Moreover, the conflict of which we speak is different from a
theoretical contradiction whose solution may be indefinitely postponed.
The conflict is practical; it is of the vital not of the intellectual
order.  It is an internal dissolution of the being itself, a struggle
between its elementary faculties, in which the mind is weakened,
droops, and dies.

The solution, therefore, if there be one, can only be a practical one,
a solution springing from the will.  What is needed is to give the mind
confidence in itself.  It is necessary to increase the energy of its
inner life in order that it may find the strength to believe and to
affirm in face of the universe the sovereignty of spirit.  This is the
same as saying that the solution of the conflict is religion; not an
external religion, doubtless, in whose hands the thought and will of
man should abdicate--that would in no wise re-establish their inner and
living harmony--but an inward religion, an activity of spirit which
grasps in itself the supremacy of the universal spirit, and by an act
of intimate confidence, an instinctive impulse of the being ready to
perish, affirms to itself its own dignity, and makes to spring up out
of its own substance the irresistible religion of spirit.  Thus the
conflict of the theoretic reason and the practical reason eternally
engenders religion in the heart of man.  Let us show more clearly still
this necessary genesis of religion.

In observing, in reasoning, in generalising, I arrive at a certain
knowledge of that which surrounds me; this knowledge of external
objects forms within me the contents of what I call my knowledge of the
world.  On the other hand, in acting, in living, in exercising my will,
is formed what I call my knowledge of myself.  Consciousness of self,
and consciousness of the world, condition and determine each other, and
cannot exist without each other.  But, at the same time, they enter
into mortal conflict.  The ego desires to master the world, and the
world, in the end, devours the ego.  Thought triumphs over Nature and
contemns it; Nature takes its revenge and swallows up thought in its
abyss.  The consciousness of self wishes to bring over to itself the
knowledge of the world; and this absorbs and devours the consciousness
of self.  The synthesis and reconciliation can only be found in the
consciousness of something superior to self and the world on which both
of them absolutely depend.  This synthetic and pacificatory
consciousness is the consciousness of universal and sovereign Being; it
is the sense of the presence of God.  To escape from his distress, man
has never had any but this means of salvation.  The savage has recourse
to it, according to his degree of intellectual life, when, under terror
of the phenomena of Nature, and of ever-threatening death, he calls to
his aid the obscure power of his gods.  The philosopher, nourished on
speculation, and arrived at the dualistic and divided consciousness of
the disciples of Kant, obeys the same instinctive impulse and the same
vital necessity when he seeks in the notion of God the conciliation of
the conflict which he feels between the ego and the world, between pure
reason and the practical reason.  He needs a universal Being on whom he
feels himself to depend, and on whom he may equally make to depend the
whole universe.  In uniting himself to Him, he affirms and confirms his
own life; he feels God to be active and present, in his thought under
the form of logical law, in his will under the form of moral law.  He
is saved by faith in the interior God, in whom is realised the unity of
his being.  It is therefore true to say that the human mind cannot
believe in itself without believing in God, and that, on the other
hand, it cannot believe in God without finding Him within itself.

That is a _salto mortale_, some superficial spirits will say,
astonished at an apparent deduction which thus makes the religious
activity of the ego spring from the depths of its own distress and
despair.  To which we respond: it is, on the contrary, a _salto
vitale_, the instinctive and at the same time reflective act which
moves the mind to affirm to itself the absolute value of spirit.
Considered at this first psychological moment of its birth, the
religious faith of spirit in itself and in its sovereignty is only the
higher form, and, as it were, the prolongation of the instinct of
conservation which reigns in all Nature.  The mind, crushed beneath the
weight of things, stands up and triumphs in the feeling of the eternal
dignity of spirit.

Inward religion, sacred instinct of life, divine, immortal force which
necessarily appears at the first movement of spirit, how they
misunderstand thee who only see in thee the slavery of man!  On the
contrary, it is thou alone that breakest all the chains that Nature
binds on him, that savest him from death and from extinction, and that
openest out to his beneficent activity an infinite career by
associating him with the work of God: it is thou that renderest his
spontaneity creative, that renewest his forces, and that, plunging him
into the fountain whence he issued, maintainest in him an eternal youth!

This issue to the conflict of our faculties is exclusively of the
practical order; it is an act of trust, not a demonstration; an
affirmation which presupposes, not scientific proofs, but an act of
moral energy.  This act must be performed, or we must die.  There is no
constraint except the desire to live, but this is irresistible, if not
for each individual in particular, at least for mankind in general.
The individual may commit suicide; humanity desires to live, and its
life is a perpetual act of faith.

Nevertheless, this practical solution implies the possibility and the
hope of a theoretical one; and this in two ways: in the first place,
psychologically, because the ego of pure reason is also that of the
practical reason and feels itself to be one and the same knowing and
acting subject; then, speculatively, because in believing in the
sovereignty of spirit in ourselves and in the world we affirm that man
and the world have in spirit the principle and the aim of their being.
In God present in us, are reconciled, at least in hope, the ego and the
world.  This religious faith of spirit in itself permits us to
anticipate the future solution, and to affirm that at the summit of
their complete development, and in their entire perfection, science and
the moral life will rejoin and penetrate each other.  Mathematicians
tell us that two parallel lines meet in infinity.  So in God are
reconciled the pure reason and the practical reason, which here seem to
us to develop themselves on parallel lines without ever being able to
meet and to unite.  Let us never forget that we spring out of
nothingness, or, if you will, out of unconsciousness, and that we
slowly emerge into the light of consciousness.  Man is in course of
being made spirit.  If it be well considered, it will be seen that this
irreducible antithesis that fills us with despair is the very condition
of our spiritual development.  The mind only disengages itself from the
bonds of its mother, Nature, by an incessant struggle.  Struggle means
opposition and victory.  Experience demonstrates that nothing
spiritualises, deepens, or purifies morality more than the
contradictions of science; and finally, that nothing helps science more
than a high and disinterested morality.  These two sisters, enemies in
appearance, are twins, and they are seen to grow and triumph together
by the exercise they give to each other through their constant

      *      *      *      *      *

3. _The Two Orders of Knowledge_

... The ego can only be conscious of itself and of its modifications.
That which does not touch it in any way remains unknown.  Now, the
modifications of the ego may be reduced to two groups.  The one comes
to it from without, representing the action of things upon it; these
are sensations.  The other springs up within, representing the action
of the ego on things, its spontaneous energy, its volitions, and its
acts.  Thence come the two constituent elements of every consciousness,
the distinction between object and subject, the ego and the non-ego,
thought and the object of thought.  We call _objective_ every idea or
quality that it is possible to refer to the object alone, independently
of the action or disposition of the subject.  We call _subjective_ all
knowledge implying identity of subject and object, all discipline
bearing on the rules of the spontaneous activity of the ego, since
without that activity the rules which should direct it would not exist.
In the first case we are conscious of a distinction and even of a
radical opposition between the object and the subject of knowledge; in
the second, we are conscious of their fundamental identity in this
sense, that the thinking and willing subject presents itself to itself
as an object of thought and study.  In order that the two orders of
knowledge, engendered by this duality of origin, may be brought into
logical unity, it is necessary either that the subject should enter
into the object, that the ego should be absorbed by the non-ego, so
that the laws of the non-ego should become the laws of the ego--and
that would be materialism; or that the object should enter into the
subject so that the laws of the subject should become the law of
things--and that would be idealism.  Outside these two systems, equally
violent and absolute, the two orders of knowledge are irreducible,
because in us the consciousness of the ego and the consciousness of the
world are at present in conflict.  Morality is neither reconciled to
science, nor science to morality.  In their _rapprochement_,
progressive to infinity, a hiatus always subsists.

One would be greatly deceived if he reduced this difference to the
ordinary opposition between the physical and the spiritual, between
external and internal phenomena.  Sensation, the foundation and the
starting point of the objective order of knowledge, is just as internal
as volition.  On the other hand, man is a part of what we call Nature;
and, as such, he is the theatre of a crowd of internal and external
phenomena which, so far as that is possible, should be observed,
described, explained, by the principle of causality, like all the other
phenomena of the physical order.  For example, the mechanism of memory
and that of logic, the correlation between mental activities and the
physiological modifications of the cerebro-spinal system, the laws of
association of ideas, the stable forms of the human understanding, all
that psychology that is now called "scientific psychology," rightfully
enters into the domain of the sciences of Nature.  It is a province
that may be explored like all the others.  The psychological
observations made in it are objective not less than those of
physiology, for the reason that the phenomena that are observed, while
occurring in the ego, are nevertheless produced in it without the
voluntary intervention of the ego, and even without its express
consent.  Moreover, they do not imply or provoke on the part of the ego
any moral judgment properly so called.

On the other hand, take the sciences of Nature which deal with the
objects most widely removed from man, with astronomy or geology,
_e.g._; no longer consider the bare external results; consider rather
that spiritual force which we call thought, and which has the virtue of
producing these sciences; what are they but the external revelation of
the creative and organising energy of the thinking subject, the
revelation of spirit to spirit?  The work, seen from this subjective
side, serves simply to set forth the worth of the worker.  You speak
then of the ordinary savant or of the intellectual genius, of the good
or bad scientific workman.  The philosophy of science becomes a
necessarily subjective discipline.  "Science," in fact, is simply an
abstraction.  In the reality there are only minds more or less
ignorant, conscious, at each step, of their strength and of their
impotence, of their defeats and victories,--minds condemned to a
perpetual effort to struggle out of the night from which they slowly
mount.  When you think of this most disinterested side of the
scientific life you ask yourself what is the basis, in the last resort,
of this confidence of mind in itself--the foundation of all the rest.
You see clearly that this activity of pure intellect demands, like all
other human activity, attention, forgetfulness of self, a heroism, in
short, going to the point of contempt of common enjoyments, and of the
sacrifice of life itself.  You have then left the domain of the
sciences of Nature and have entered the realms of spirit, and there
rise around you the problems which form the object of the moral

Such is the intimate complexity of the two orders of knowledge that a
persevering reflection discovers them to be everywhere mingled, and it
is with difficulty that they are disentangled.  All knowledge is an
aggregate (_ensemble_) of judgments; but the judgments which constitute
physical knowledge and those that constitute moral science are not of
the same nature.  The first are judgments of _existence_, bearing
solely on the causality, the succession, the distribution of phenomena,
_i.e._ on the relations of objects to each other, apart from the
subject.  The basis on which they rest is sensation, and, as sensation
has for necessary forms time and space, time and space will also be the
forms and limits of these judgments.  Forming homogeneous quantities,
time and space give the notion of figure and of number, so that
mathematics is the foundation and the necessary framework of all the
physical sciences.  They rise above this abstract science of the forms
of sensibility in the order of their complexity, and form a hierarchy
from rational mechanics to sociology, of which Comte and so many others
vainly endeavour to make a simple social mechanics.  The destiny of
this universal objective science is to progress for ever without ever
being completed; for it is of the same nature as number--that is to
say, essentially indefinite and imperfect.  It not only finds an
inexhaustible subject of study in the external world; it encounters a
mystery impenetrable to its methods and analyses in the very subject
that creates it, and which, in creating it, remains outside the
mechanism it sets in motion.

In fact, when the thinking subject considers itself, or considers
things in relation to itself, it brings to bear upon itself and them a
second series of judgments of an altogether different character.  It
estimates them and it estimates itself according to a _norm_ which is
in itself.  It declares them to be good or bad, beautiful or ugly, rich
or poor in life, harmonious or discordant.  In other words, it is no
longer the idea of number--it is the category of _the good_ which
becomes the necessary form of these new judgments, which, for this
reason, are called judgments of _estimation_ or of dignity, and it is
clear that between these two kinds of judgments there is no common
measure.  They can no more encounter each other than two balls rolled
on different planes.

Will it be said that the judgments founded on the concept of _the good_
are insignificant and worthless because neither man nor the good of man
can be the measure of things?  If this remark is useful for abating
human pride and preventing childish illusions, it does not efface the
primordial distinction between good and evil inherent to the human
mind, nor would one wish to deduce from it the vanity of all morality,
and the equal worth of all the manifestations of life.  The proof,
moreover, that the rule of _the good_ is above man is that it judges
and condemns him pitilessly; it is that consciousness, independently of
the painful or agreeable sensations that it receives from things,
establishes between them a fitness (_convenance_), a hierarchy, and
constitutes the harmonious unity of the universe itself in the supreme
idea of the sovereign good.  If the legitimacy of the confidence which
the conscience has in its rule is to be contested, I do not see why we
should not contest that of the confidence of pure thought in itself.
Then everything crumbles to pieces, both science and conscience, in the
same abyss.

In reality, the good, the beautiful, the relations of fitness and of
harmony, are so many principles of knowledge, which progress, like
physical knowledge, by the culture of the mind.  The form of the moral
judgments is universal, and identical in every man; it is this form
alone which constitutes man as a moral being; but the contents of this
form vary unceasingly in history, according to times and places.
Everywhere and always man has sought the good, but he has not always
placed it in the same things; he has formed different ideas of it, and
these ideas have become more and more noble and pure in proportion as
his life itself has been ennobled and purified.  That is why there is a
history of morality, of religion, of æsthetics, as there is a history
of the natural sciences, although progress in these two classes has
been of an opposite nature and accomplished according to different
laws.  However this may be, we may conclude that if mathematics, by the
concept of number, the abstract form of sensation, is the mould and
framework of the sciences of Nature, ethics, by _the categorical
imperative_, the abstract form of the activity of spirit, is the
foundation of the moral sciences, which are as diverse as the various
activities of the ego, each having special rules and criteria, no
doubt, but always falling under the common form of obligation.

Distinct and often in conflict, these two orders of knowledge are none
the less _solidaire_; they are always developed by their action the one
upon the other, and tend to a higher unity, the need for which gives
rise to attempts, renewed from age to age, at a metaphysical synthesis.
If you take the disciplines as taught in the schools to-day, you will
find that they are almost all mixed sciences such as history, social
economy, politics, philosophy, etc.  So soon as the savant rises above
the simple description of phenomena, and wishes to organise his cosmos
by formulating the unity and harmony of it, he necessarily borrows this
principle of organisation and of harmony from the experience of his
subjective life.  On the contrary, religion, art, morality, can only be
realised in the conditions prescribed to them by science properly so
called, and the last problem always propounded to human thought at each
stage of its development is the conciliation of the _moral idea_
acquired by the exercise of the will, and the _scientific idea_
furnished by its experience of the world.

There is no question, then, of separating the two orders of knowledge,
but of referring each of them to its true source, and preventing a
confusion which, mixing everything up, renders everything uncertain.
It is impossible in good psychology to trace to one centre the
divergent manifestations of our spiritual life, and to drive the moral
into the physical or the physical into the moral.  Our spiritual life
is like an ellipse with two centres of light: on the one side, the
centre of _receptive life_, where all the sensations received are
elaborated into phenomenal knowledge; on the other, the centre of
_active life_, at which are concentrated all the revelations of the
mind's own inner energy.  The line of the ellipse described by the
relation and the distance of these two centres is the approximate but
never perfect synthesis of the two kinds of data which thus arrive in
consciousness.  He who does not distinguish these two centres, and
transforms the ellipse into a circumference with equal rays and an
unique centre, necessarily remains in chaos and old night.

From these general considerations is naturally deduced the specific
character of religious knowledge, its inward nature and its range.

4. _The Subjectivity of Religious Knowledge_

The first contrast that we have seen to arise between the knowledge of
Nature and religious knowledge is that the first is _objective_, and
that the second can never pass out of _subjectivity_.  This does not
mean that the second is less certain, but that it is of another order,
and is produced in another way and with other characteristics.

In one sense, the knowledge of Nature is subjective, for it depends on
our mental constitution, and on the laws of our knowing faculty.  But
religious and moral knowledge is subjective in a different manner and
for a deeper reason.  The object of scientific knowledge is always
outside the ego, and it is in knowing it as an object outside the ego
that the objectivity of that knowledge consists.  But the object of
religious or moral knowledge--God, the Good, the Beautiful--these are
not phenomena that may be grasped outside the ego and independently of
it.  God only reveals Himself in and by piety; the Good, in the
consciousness of the good man; the Beautiful, in the creative activity
of the artist.  This is only saying that the object of these kinds of
knowledge is immanent in the subject himself, and only reveals itself
by the personal activity of that subject.  Absolutely eliminate the
religious and moral subject, or rather take from him all personal
activity, and you suppress, for him, the object of morality and

Let us take up again that striking antithesis of the two orders of
knowledge.  What is at once the basis and the sign of the objectivity
of the natural sciences?

One may theoretically ask whether the world of science, the world that
_appears_ to us, is exactly the real world, existing outside of us.  It
is thus that in the philosophy of Kant the famous question as to _the
thing in itself_ is stated.  But it is equally certain that in the name
of that philosophy this question ought logically to be discarded.  One
is astonished that the author of the _Critique of Pure Reason_ did not
immediately close that door opened to scientific scepticism.  After his
critique, in fact, it is evident that that substratum which some are
forced to imagine as a support to phenomena--that the indeterminate and
indeterminable substance that they represent beneath the forms and
qualities of things,--is both a non-being and nonsense.  _Das Ding an
sich ist ein Unding_.  (The thing in itself is an unthing.)  It is a
remnant of ancient metaphysics which ought to be eliminated from modern
philosophy.  In allowing it to introduce itself into our theory of
knowledge, it overturns it as would a heterogeneous element.  He that
persists in distinguishing between the thing in itself and the
phenomenal thing will never be able to give an account of the
objectivity of the sciences of Nature, and of the kind of certitude
that belongs to them.

That which appears to us from without is not doubtless all the reality
of the world; but it is a real world.  By his calculations, Leverrier
came first to suspect the existence of a large planet as yet
unperceived; then he came to measure its volume, to trace its orbit,
and finally to mark its place at a given time.  He said to his brother
astronomers: "Look there!" and the planet appeared at the end of their

How explain, moreover, without this reality of science, the power that
science gives to man over Nature?  His power, is it not always exactly
in proportion to his knowledge?

In what then does this objectivity of science consist if it is not
founded on the pretended knowledge of the thing in itself?  In the
necessary link that scientific thought establishes between phenomena.
This necessity does not come from experience, for it is something
ideal, which our mind adds to all experience.  But, as we can only
think according to these necessary laws, we necessarily objectivise in
all scientific study.  We thus affirm, of necessity, the fundamental
unity of the laws of thought and the laws of phenomena.  Experience
always confirms this immediate affirmation.  Now this necessity, it is
objectivity itself; it is the only noumenon that we are authorised to
seek behind phenomena in Nature, and behind the manifestations of pure
reason in spirit.

The first effect of this objective necessity is to eliminate from the
work of science the feelings and the subjective will of the ego.  A
thinking and acting subject is no doubt necessary in making science;
but the characteristic of science is to see what it studies apart from
the subject, apart even from the psychical phenomena that it observes
in the ego itself.  Posited outside the ego, the laws that it
promulgates appear to us therefore independent of it.  This elimination
of the subject from the conclusions of science thus becomes the sign
and the measure of their objectivity.  Where the elimination is
complete, as in astronomy and physics, the objectivity is entire.  On
the contrary, history, _e.g._ where the elimination can never be
absolute, always tends towards objectivity, but never reaches it.

It is altogether otherwise with religious knowledge.  With it we enter
at once into the subjective order--that is to say, into an order of
psychological facts, of determinations and internal dispositions of the
subject itself, the succession of which constitutes his personal life.
To eliminate the ego would not here be possible; for this would be both
to eliminate the materials and to dry up the living spring of
knowledge.  An ancient illusion pretended that we know God, as we know
the phenomena of Nature, and that the religious life springs from that
objective knowledge as by a sort of practical application.  The very
opposite is true.  God is not a phenomenon that we may observe apart
from ourselves, or a truth demonstrable by logical reasoning.  He who
does not feel Him inside his heart will never find Him outside.  The
object of religious knowledge only reveals itself in the subject, by
the religious phenomena themselves.  It is with the religious
consciousness as with the moral consciousness.  In this the subject
feels obliged, and this obligation itself constitutes the revelation of
the moral object which obliges us.  There is no good known outside
that.  The same in religion: we never become conscious of our piety
without--at the same time that we feel religiously moved--perceiving,
more or less obscurely, in that very emotion the object and the cause
of religion, _i.e._ God.

Observe the natural and spontaneous movement of piety: a soul feels
itself to be trusting, that it is established in peace and light; is it
strong, humble, resigned, obedient?  It immediately attributes its
strength, its faith, its humility, its obedience, to the action of the
Divine Spirit within itself.  Anne Doubourg, dying at the stake, prayed
thus: "O God, Do not abandon me lest I should fall off from Thee."  The
prophet of Israel said: "Turn me, O Lord, and I shall be turned."  And
the father in the Gospels cried: "Lord, I believe; help Thou mine
unbelief."  To feel thus in our personal and empirical activity the
action and the presence of the Spirit of God within our own spirit, is
the mystery, but it is also the source, of religion.

It will be seen how much religious knowledge and the science of Nature
differ by their very origin.  The one is the theory of the receptive
and logical life of the ego; the other is the theory of its active and
spontaneous life.  As both the receptive and the active life are one,
however, the two orders of knowledge are neither isolated nor
independent.  But they must never be confounded.  Their results will
always remain heterogeneous; they are not of the same order, and cannot
supply the place of each other.  If you were to admit, _e.g._, that
philosophers may succeed (as they have often been believed to do) in
establishing a veritable objective science of God, and if they were
thus to know God in Himself and apart from the religious ego, that
scientific knowledge of God, even if it were possible, would not be
religious knowledge; for to know God religiously is to know Him in His
relation to us--that is to say, in our consciousness, in so far as He
is present in it and determines it towards piety.  This is the sense in
which it is permissible to maintain that religion is as independent of
metaphysics as it is of cosmology.  It is the same with the knowledge
of the world.  To know the world as an astronomer or a physicist is not
to know it religiously.  To know it religiously is, while taking it as
it is, and in no wise contradicting the scientific laws according to
which it is governed, to determine its value in relation to the life of
spirit; it is to estimate it according as it is a means, a hindrance,
or a menace, to the progress of that life.  In the same way, to know
ourselves religiously is not to construct scientific psychology; but
that psychology being once constructed, and properly constructed, it is
to realise ourselves in our relation both to God and to the world,
forcing ourselves to surmount the contradictions from which we suffer,
in order that we may attain to unity and peace of mind.  Thus, not only
can religious knowledge never cast off its subjective character; it is
in reality nothing but that very subjectivity of piety considered in
its action and in its legitimate development.

The inner nature of these two orders of knowledge having been defined,
it becomes evident that each of them is valid in its own domain, and
that they cannot legitimately encroach upon each other.  To try to
establish by religious faith the reality of any phenomenon whatsoever,
of which experimental science or intellectual criticism are the sole
judges; or to wish to formulate by means of objective science a moral
judgment which springs from the subjective consciousness--these are two
equivalent encroachments and abuses.  Experimental science has the
right to forbid the religious consciousness to do violence to it; but
the religious consciousness has an equal right to restrict science to
its true limits.  We must prevent confusion if we would put an end to
the conflicts between them.  To enclose God in any phenomenal form is,
properly speaking, superstition or _idolatry_; to confine or dissipate
the soul in external phenomenism, and to deny the seriousness and value
of its religious and moral activity, is _infidelity_, properly so

Truths of the religious and moral order are known by a subjective act
of what Pascal calls _the heart_.  Science can know nothing about them,
for they are not in its order.  In the same way the phenomena of Nature
are only known and measured by observation and calculation.  Neither
the heart nor religious faith can decide with respect to them.  Each
order has its certitude.  We must not say that in the one the certitude
is greater than in the other.  Science is not more sure of its object
than moral or religious faith is of its own; but it is sure in a
different way.  Scientific certitude has at its basis intellectual
evidence.  Religious certitude has for its foundation the feeling of
subjective life, or moral evidence.  The first gives satisfaction to
the intellect; the second gives to the whole soul the sense of order
re-established, of health regained, of force and peace.  It is the
happy feeling of deliverance, the inward assurance of "salvation."

It is not surprising, lastly, that these two kinds of knowledge or of
certitude should spring up and propagate themselves by different means.
Objective science transmits itself by objective demonstration.  The
subjective life of the savant has nothing to do with it.  To convince
us of the reality of his discoveries, an astronomer does not need to be
a good man.  On the contrary, a fundamentally immoral man will always
be a detestable professor of ethics.  Religion is only propagated by
religious men.  It may also be added that, in religious knowledge, the
intellectual demonstration or the idea has no value except in so far as
it serves as the expression and the vehicle of the personal life of the
subject.  This is the secret and the mystery of eloquence.  The _si vis
me flere, dolendum_, is true in all the moral disciplines, as much and
more than in æsthetics.  One gains nothing by attempting to demonstrate
objectively the existence of God.  That demonstration is ineffective
towards those who have no piety; for those who have, it is superfluous.
The true religious propaganda is effected by inward contagion.  _Ex
vivo vivus nascitur_.  Accuracy in theology is much less important in
religion than warmth of piety.  Pitiful arguments have in all ages been
followed by admirable conversions.  Those who are scandalised at this
have not yet penetrated into the essence of religious faith.

For want of this clear and frank separation between our two orders of
knowledge, one sees, on the one hand, philosophers pretending to
transform ethics and philosophy into objective science, and, on the
other, savants naïvely giving forth their objective science as a
metaphysic and as a solution of the enigma of life.  Two illusions, in
whose train everything is mixed up and founded.  Objective ethics are
everything you could wish--except ethics.  You might as well speak of a
round square.  When an objective science transforms itself into
metaphysics, it ceases to be science and becomes subjective philosophy.
This goes without saying.

And yet, in distinguishing the two orders we must not isolate them, nor
above all must we lose sight of their solidarity, their close
connection, and correspondence.  The subject is one, and has a clear
consciousness of his unity; that is why he always tends towards a
synthesis.  Phenomenal science cannot complete itself without borrowing
from the subjective consciousness of the ego the ideas of unity, of
plan, and of harmony.  On the other hand, the moral and religious
consciousness, in order to express itself, needs to borrow from
phenomenal science the data which it uses, and, consequently, it should
always avoid contradicting them.  Thus we tend towards the synthetic
harmony of a continuous effort and of an indefectible faith; but we
discard none the less resolutely the philosophy of logical unity.  We
obstinately refuse to admit that the subjective order can ever be
deduced, by way of consequence and application, from the objective
order of knowledge: that is the error of materialistic Pantheism; and,
_vice versâ_, that the objective order of phenomenal science can or
ought to be deduced from the religious or moral order: that is the
opposite error of all the dogmatisms.  The mental cannot be simply
reduced to the physical, or the physical entirely to the mental.  We
must respect the fruitful antinomies of life from which the necessary
progress springs.  The tendency towards harmony is there, not the
harmony itself.  This is the reward promised, the aim proposed, to
effort.  Our philosophy ought to regard the spiritual life in its
becoming--that is to say, in its growth and in its conflicts, without
wishing, like all idealist and materialist speculations, to make of the
actual and transient moment the eternal metaphysical reality.

5. _Teleology_

Subjective in essence and origin, religious knowledge is _teleological_
in its procedure, and this second characteristic springs from the first.

Teleology is the form of all organic life and of all conscious
activity.  Now, what is moral knowledge but the theory of the conscious
life of spirit?

Without the principle of causation, phenomena, in science, would not be
connected; without the idea of end, or principle of direction,
biological and psychical facts could not be organised--that is to say,

Mechanism and teleology: these then are the two new terms for the
antithesis formed by the knowledge of Nature and religious knowledge.
But it is a prejudice to believe that the one form of explanation
excludes the other or renders it superfluous.  We have examples to the
contrary not only in the machines constructed by man, but also in all
living organisms, in which, according to Claude Bernard, the _directive
idea_ of life is realised in an absolute determinism.

The mechanical explanation of phenomena and the determinism of science
only become exclusive of teleology when they are transformed into
metaphysical materialism--that is to say, when it is affirmed, _à
priori_, and by a subjective act, that there is nothing in the universe
but matter and the movements of matter.  But then, it is clear that
materialism, which believes itself to be scientific, becomes a
philosophy, and like all other philosophies it falls under the
jurisdiction not only of the objective science of the world, but of the
consciousness of the ego.

The ideas of cause and end spring from one and the same source.  The
idea of cause awakens in us because the ego, as soon as it knows
itself, has the clear sense of being the author of its acts; it has
this sense by that of the very effort that it has made.  But, at the
same time, it knows that it made that effort with a view to an end
which attracted it.  Cause and end, therefore, are the two aspects of
the same conscious act.  The one is the backward glance of the
consciousness; the other is its forward look.  As we only know the
world by reflecting it in the mirror of our consciousness, it follows
that the two categories of cause and end impose themselves on our
understanding with an equal necessity.

There is another consequence of this psychological observation.  The
consciousness of the ego is one; neither the idea of cause nor the idea
of end, by itself, would suffice to explain the whole universe to me.
It is easy to see at a glance that the objective science of phenomena
is not and never can be completed.  The chain into which it introduces
each particular phenomenon as a new link is indefinitely lengthened by
scientific progress, in time and space, but without the power to hang
on anywhere.  Outside space and time, the principle of causation only
engenders insoluble antinomies.  Besides, to explain one phenomenon by
another is to explain it by a cause which itself needs explanation.
The mechanical reason of things is therefore never a sufficient reason.
It is an indefinite series of insufficient particular reasons.  The
network of science, however fine and firm it be, does not cover, and
cannot cover all reality.  The Cosmos that science builds is like the
globe; it floats in immensity.  "Where, O Lord, goes the earth through
the heavens?"

To this question teleology alone responds.  But every teleological
affirmation respecting the universe is a religious affirmation.
Science, studying only accomplished facts, never establishes anything
but phenomena and their antecedent or concomitant conditions.  Once the
phenomenon is integrated in the causal series, the task of science is
accomplished.  To ask it to go further is to ask it to go beyond its
limits and to denaturalise itself.  You can only put teleology into the
universe by affirming the sovereignty of spirit.  To say that there is
reason, that there is thought, in things--that they move towards an end
or realise an order, a harmony, a good: this is to say that matter is
subordinate to spirit.  Now, to affirm this sovereignty of spirit is to
commit that act of initial religious faith of which I spoke at the
beginning; it is to feel in one's self and in the world something
besides matter, the mysterious energy of spirit.  This act of
faith--legitimate because inevitable--belongs to the subjective order
of religious life, not to the objective order of science.  Teleology
and the theory of final causes have been compromised because their
specific character has been mistaken; they have sometimes been
assimilated to, and sometimes substituted for, mechanical causes in the
explanation of phenomena.  For an unknown scientific explanation has
been substituted an appeal to a supernatural intention or volition of
God.  The savants rightly protested against this.  God, who is the
final reason of everything, is the scientific explanation of nothing.
The object of science is to search for second causes; where these do
not appear there is no science.  It is faith which replaces it.  To say
that God created the world, or that the world tends toward the
sovereign good, is not to advance positive science a single step.  On
the other hand, to explain the phenomena of rain, or thunder, or the
fall of bodies, is to dissipate some mythological conceptions; but it
is not to suppress the religious affirmation of spirit that the
mechanism of the universe has an end, and that the laws of gravitation
and the material forces serve some purpose of which they are ignorant,
and which is of more value than themselves.

Between the discoveries of science and the postulates of the religious
and moral life there is always necessarily formed a synthesis which is
destroyed at each step, but which rises again higher and larger than
before.  Mechanism itself, in order to be intelligible, calls for
teleology.  The text of the material world awaits the interpretation
that spirit gives of it.  By its discoveries positive science
establishes the text.  Without this rigorous establishment of the text,
the exegesis of consciousness remains a phantasy.  But, without that
exegesis, the text itself signifies nothing; it is almost as if it did
not exist.

There is another reason, a practical reason, which makes of teleology
the very essence of the religious consciousness.  We must never lose
sight of the fact that what we seek in and by religion is the key to
the enigma of life.  The enigma of the universe only torments us, at
the religious point of view, because we believe that in this is the
secret of that.  We are embarked in the vessel, and we see clearly
enough that our destiny depends upon its own.  That is why religious
faith, perfectly indifferent to the architecture and to the ways and
means of the construction of the vessel, regards above all the
direction in which the sails are set, and seeks to discover the route
which is being followed.  Has it a compass?  And is there some one at
the helm?

In other words, the religious instinct is the pressing need that spirit
has to guarantee itself against the perpetual menaces of Nature.  Faith
judges everything from the point of view of the sovereign good, and the
sovereign good, for spirit, can only be the final and complete
expansion of the life of the spirit.  Therefore, in every religious
notion there will never, at bottom, be anything but a teleological
judgment.  It is not the essence of things--it is their reciprocal
value and their hierarchy which interest religious faith.  In the
religious notion of God it is not the metaphysical nature--it is the
will of God in regard to men--which is of most concern; and in the
religious notion of the world it is not the mechanical cause of
phenomena--it is to know which way the world is going, and whether it
has any other end to serve than as the theatre and the organ of spirit.
What does faith itself desire to say when it defines God as the Eternal
and Almighty Spirit, except that man needs to affirm that his own
individual spirit does not depend on any but a spiritual power like
himself?  It is true that to determine this final cause of the world is
also to determine its first cause.  It is the same thing in other
terms; and indeed it is to make metaphysics in the etymological sense
of the word.  The important point is to know that this decisive step
beyond the chain of visible phenomena, whether it be taken by the
philosopher or the theologian, is always an act of subjective life, an
affirmation of spirit, an act of faith, and not a demonstration of

6. _Symbolism_

Thirdly, and lastly, religious knowledge is _symbolical_.  All the
notions it forms and organises, from the first metaphor created by
religious feeling to the most abstract theological speculation, are
necessarily inadequate to their object.  They are never equivalent, as
in the case of the exact sciences.

The reason is easy to discover.  The object of religion is
transcendent; it is not a phenomenon.  Now, in order to express that
object, our imagination has nothing at its disposal but phenomenal
images, and our understanding, logical categories, which do not go
beyond space and time.  Religious knowledge is therefore obliged to
express the invisible by the visible, the eternal by the temporary,
spiritual realities by sensible images.  It can only speak in parables.
The theory of religious knowledge requires for its completion a theory
of symbols and symbolism.

What is a symbol?  To express the invisible and spiritual by the
sensible and material--such is its principal characteristic and its
essential function.  It is a living organism, in which we must
distinguish between appearance and substance.  It is a soul in a body.
The body is the manifestation of the soul, although it is not like it;
it makes the soul active and present.  The most perfect example of
symbolism, in this respect, is found in language and writing--two
incarnations of thought.  Neither the characters formed by my pen, nor
the sound made by the air in my larynx, have a positive resemblance to
my thought.  But these letters and sounds become signs to those who
have the key to them.  They express the intangible thought; they make
it present and living in the minds of those who read or hear.

This is still truer of the creations of art.  They also are mere
symbols.  Art might be defined as the effort to enshrine the ideal in
the real, and by a material form to express the inexpressible.  This is
clearly taught by the word _poesy_, which means creation.  The works of
great artists really live; for they have a soul, a rich and intense
life, which the material form at once conceals and reveals.  From
architecture to music there is not an art that is not symbolical.
Ethics, religion, all the disciplines relating to the subjective life
of spirit, have only this means of expression.  It is their peculiarity
to become exterior and objective, and to dominate the external things
that science studies.  Symbols, much better than science, attest the
victory and the royalty of spirit.  If science reveals Nature, symbols
make of Nature, of its transformations and its laws, the glorified
image of the inner life of spirit.

Born in the artist's soul, of the subjective activity of his ego, the
symbol addresses itself much less to the pure intellect than to the
inner life and to the emotions of those who contemplate it.  It awakes
and sets in motion the subjective activity of the ego; it has produced
its whole effect when it has produced in us the emotions, the
transport, the enthusiasm, the faith, that the poet himself experienced
in engendering it.  Such is the source and the explanation of "the
magic of art," of eloquence, of religious inspiration.  All the
creators of living symbols pour their soul into our soul, their life
into our life.  They subjugate and ravish us.  By symbols, much better
than by scientific notions, the community and fraternity of spirits is
realised, and the fusion of souls into a collective consciousness
effected; a consciousness which includes all individual minds and tunes
them into harmony; the consciousness of a nation, of a church, of
humanity.  It is not science that rules the world--it is symbols.

Inferior to the exact ideas of science in logical clearness, symbolic
forms are superior to them in power and reach.  Science is forcibly
arrested at the surface of things, at the appearances continually
arising in the universe.  In it is found neither the principle of
energy, nor, consequently, the secret of life, or the key to our
destiny.  You seek the meaning and the end of your action; you ask for
some sufficient reason for living; do you not feel that it is
contradictory to address yourself to the science of phenomena, seeing
that, from the strictly scientific point of view, phenomena have not in
themselves their own _raison d'être_?  That which you seek is beyond
phenomena, and it is symbols alone that can, not make you comprehend
it, but reveal it to you.

Since Nature may become and does become, in art and in religion, the
constant symbol of the inner life of spirit and of its normal
development,--since it is susceptible of this perpetual and glorious
transfiguration by spirit,--it is impossible not to admit the inner
correspondence of the laws of Nature and the laws of conscious life,
and to believe in their deep unity.  It is, in fact, secret and
powerful analogies which rule and inspire symbolical creations.  Art
and religion are more than conventions; they are revelations of that
which is hidden at once in spirit and in Nature, of the principle of
Being itself, of the absolute energy which is manifested, parallelly,
in the unfolding of the physical universe and of the moral universe.
All things cover some mystery; phenomena are simply veils.  That is
why, by their very destination, they become symbols.

The idea of symbol and the idea of mystery are correlative.  Who says
symbol says at the same time occultation and revelation.  In becoming
present and even sensible, the living verity still remains veiled.  The
same image that reveals it to the heart remains for the intellect an
impassable barrier.  One may say of it what the poet says of the sense
of the infinite, for, at bottom, it is the same thing.  "We are
restless because we see it but can never comprehend it."

This inquietude is soothed by a clear knowledge of the cause from which
it springs.  Symbols are the only language suited to religion.  We need
to know that which we adore; for no one adores that of which he has no
perception; but it is not less necessary that we should not comprehend
it, for one does not adore that which he comprehends too clearly,
because to comprehend is to dominate.  Such is the twofold and
contradictory condition of piety, to which symbols seem to be made
expressly in order to respond.  Piety has never had any other language.

In considerations of this kind might be found the explanation of the
bond which in the beginning unites religion and art.  But we must
confine ourselves to our special topic, and proceed to inquire what it
is that constitutes the life and power of religious symbols.

It would be an illusion to believe that a religious symbol represents
God in Himself, and that its value, therefore, depends on the
exactitude with which it represents Him.  The true content of the
symbol is entirely subjective: it is the conscious relation of the
subject to God, or rather, it is the way he feels himself affected by
God.  Thus when the Psalmist exclaims: "The Lord is my rock"; or "God
is a devouring fire"; when the Christ teaches us to say, "Our
Father,"--these are not scientific, and in this case metaphysical,
definitions of God.  What these images simply translate is the relation
of absolute confidence, of awe, of filial love, which, by His
mysterious action, the Spirit of God creates in revealing Himself in
the spirit of man.  From these divers feelings spring spontaneously the
strong and simple images which translate them, and which, if these
subjective experiences are eliminated, have no content and no truth.

From this point of view we may see in what religious inspiration
psychologically consists.  Neither its aim nor its effect is to
communicate to men exact, objective, ready-made ideas on that which by
its nature is unknowable under the scientific mode; but it consists in
an enrichment and exaltation of the inner life of its subject; it sets
in motion his inward religious activity, since it is in that that God
reveals Himself; it excites new feelings, constituting new concrete
relations of God to man, and by the fact of this creative activity it
spontaneously engenders new images and new symbols, of which the real
content is precisely this revelation of the God-spirit in the inner
life of the spirit of man.

The greatest initiators in the religious order have been the greatest
creators of symbols.  Prophecy, in the Biblical sense of the word, has
never given divine revelation except in the form of images.  And whence
spring these images but from the exaltation of the religious life of
the prophet which spontaneously expresses itself without?  Every other
conception of inspiration is anti-psychological.

To the question, Whence come the life and power of symbols? we reply:
From the primitive organic unity of the sentiment of piety, and of the
image which translates it first to consciousness.  It is the organic
unity of soul and body.  The greater the creative force that engenders
the symbol, the stronger is this unity.  It constitutes its truth
because it constitutes its life.  For a symbol, to be living it
suffices that it should be sincere, that the feeling should not be
separate from the image, nor the image from the feeling.  To this cry
of confidence in God, "The Lord is my rock," there is no objection, so
long as this confidence is really felt, although a rock is a very poor
image of God.  It follows that the value of a symbol must not be
measured by the nature of the image employed, but by the moral value,
in the scale of feeling, of the relation in which it places us to God.
It is the moral value of this relation which alone makes the intrinsic
value of a religion, and which permits us to assign to it its true
place in the development of humanity.

The time comes, however, when the image detaches itself from the
feeling that produced it, and when it fixes itself as such in the
memory.  In considering it in itself, reflection transforms the image
into an idea more or less abstract, and takes this idea for a
representation of the object of religion.  But then arises the original
discrepancy that we noted at the outset between the object of religion,
which is transcendent, and the nature of the phenomenal image by which
we attempt to represent it.  Hence there is a latent contradiction in
every symbolic idea.  To get rid of this contradiction the
understanding is obliged to eliminate from these ideas the sensible
element which remains in them and renders them inadequate to their

By progressive generalisation and abstraction, reasoning attenuates the
primitive metaphor; it wears it down as on a grindstone.  But, when the
metaphorical element has disappeared, the notion itself vanishes in so
far as it is a positive notion.  There are mysterious lamps which only
burn under an alabaster globe.  You may thin away the solid envelope to
make it more transparent.  But mind you do not break it; for the flame
inside will then go out and leave you in the dark.

So with all our general ideas of the object of religion.  When every
metaphorical element is eliminated from them, they become simply
negative, contradictory, and lose all real content.  Such are our pure
ideas of the infinite and the absolute.  If you would give them a
positive character, you must put into them some element of positive
experience.  This is what is done when it is said that God is the
ultimate energy of things, that He is the creative cause of everything,
that He is Justice, that He is Spirit, a Judge, a Father.

Born of the primitive symbols of religion, all our religious ideas will
therefore necessarily keep their symbolical character to the end.  As
is the seed, so is the plant.  Dogmatics itself will never be for the
religious soul anything but a higher symbolism--that is to say, a form
which, without the inward presence of active and living faith, would be
worthless.  If dogmas may sustain and produce faith, it is still more
true that, at the outset, it is faith which produces dogmas and
afterwards revives them.

Many good men withstand these conclusions from a rigorous analysis of
religious knowledge and of its psychological genesis.  Supposing you
are right, they say, and that the mental constitution of our spiritual
nature confines religious thought to symbolic forms, cannot a
supernatural revelation enable us to pass beyond these limits and bring
to us religious ideas adequate to their object, and consequently of a
pure and absolute truth?  This seems to us a very strange desire--that
a revelation of God should be effected apart from the conditions of
knowledge--that is to say, apart from the forms under which alone it
can be accessible to us.  Do they not see that the very idea of
revelation soon becomes contradictory?  If God wished to make us a gift
that we could receive, must He not have suited the form of it to that
of our mind?  Must He not have availed Himself of our ideas and of our
language in order to explain to us the nature of His benefits?  Now, it
is certain that our ideas, as soon as they are transported outside
space and time, contradict and destroy themselves, and that we are
reduced to the necessity of conceiving and expressing things invisible
and eternal by images actual and terrestrial.  If God, in speaking to
us of His mysteries, used other than these human means, we should not
understand Him at all, so that the revelation would no longer be a
revelation.  And is it not for this reason that when God has desired to
reveal Himself to men He has never employed any but men as His organs,
and that He whom we name His Son never spoke except in images and
parables of the things of the kingdom of God?

No one in fact was fonder and more intelligently fond of this
symbolical form than the Christ; He never wished to employ any other.
This preference did not arise, as is supposed, merely from the fact
that He found it a happy means of popularity to adapt Himself to all
minds.  He also knew that no language was more natural or more
conformed to the moral exigencies of piety.  He saw in it an
institution ordained by God Himself.  And it is the truth.  The Parable
addresses itself, not to the pure understanding, but to the active
faculty of the ego, to "the heart."  It appeals to our subjective life;
it awakens the religious need before satisfying it.  The soul which
hears it meditates, and experiences the living content that it
contains.  On the contrary, the soul that is inert and dead finds
nothing in the symbol and receives nothing from it even theoretically,
so that it is literally true that the symbolic form, a shining
revelation unto some, remains a dull and empty letter for others.  It
is from this point of view alone that it is possible to understand that
other saying of Jesus, so paradoxical to common sense, so rich and just
to the eyes of experience and of faith: "To him that hath shall be
given; from him that hath not shall be taken away that which he hath."
The gift of God comes only to the felt need and the active desire of

7. _Conclusion_

The conclusion from all that has now been said is that religious
knowledge is subject to the law of transformation which regulates all
the manifestations of human life and thought.

As there is disproportion and disparity between the object of religion
and its means of expression, it will always be possible and necessary
to distinguish, in all its creations, between the form and the
substance, the body and the soul.  Religious symbolism will therefore
always be very variable _de facto_, but subject, _de jure_, to new

This variability, however, is not unlimited.  It is necessarily
confined within limits which, while not easy to define theoretically,
are none the less precise and fixed; for the great religious creations
are organisms, and every organism carries in itself, determined by its
own nature, the exact capacity of its metamorphoses.

In every living organism, in fact, there is a principle of stability
and a principle of movement.  The identity of a human being persists
through all the modifications, internal and external, which he
undergoes.  So with the language of a people; and so with every
historical religion.  Its fundamental and regulative principle is the
relation it establishes between the soul and God.  The form or external
realisation of this principle depends, no doubt, on the race, the
geographical environment, the historical period.  It will vary
therefore with these circumstances.  But the religious type or organic
principle remaining the same, this religion will appear the same
throughout the incessant movement of its dogmas, rites, and symbols.
This is the very condition of its life.  Forms which cannot bend,
symbols whose fresh and living interpretation is exhausted, a rigid
body that no longer assimilates or eliminates any external element,
represent a state of sterility and death, to be followed by a speedy

Pious men are right in clinging obstinately to the stability of their
principle of piety, but they ought to cling as tenaciously to the
renewal of forms and ideas in their religion; for this is the only
proof that their treasure has kept its value, and their religious
principle its organising virtue.  The life of a religion is measured by
this power of adaptation and renovation.  If Christianity is the
universal and eternal religion, it is because its virtuality in this
respect is infinite.

      *      *      *      *      *

Before I close, let me try to prevent two misunderstandings.  In saying
that in dogmas we must distinguish the religious substance and the
intellectual form, I do not mean that we either can or ought to isolate
them from each other, or that we can ever hope to have them separately.
Piety is only conscious for us and discernible by others when incarnate
in its expression or intellectual image.  A religion without doctrine,
a piety without thought, a feeling without expression, these are things
essentially contradictory.  It is as vain to wish to seize pure piety,
as in philosophy it is to seek to define "the thing in itself."  When
we speak of the inward religious fact, then, of pious experience, we do
not speak of a bare experience; we speak of a psychological phenomenon,
of a precise and, consequently, formulated experience.

In the second place, for religious science, it is not a question of
isolated experience, of the experience of a single individual.  The
material would be too precarious, and the field of observation too
limited.  The question refers to the individual life in its continuity,
and to the life of the religious society considered in its historical

A social and universal as much and even more than it is an individual
fact, it is in the social life of the species, in organised religious
societies, in their institutions, their common worship, their liturgy,
their rules of faith and discipline, that religion objectively realises
its fundamental principle, manifests its inner soul, and develops all
its power.  It is only as a social manifestation that it can become an
object of scientific study, and that it has need of explanation.
Moreover, a religious life which remains hidden in the individual
consciousness, which does not communicate itself, which does not create
any spiritual solidarity, any fraternity of soul, is as if it were not;
it is a mere film of feeling, an ephemeral poetic flower, which has no
more effect on the individual himself than it has on the human race.

From these considerations springs a method.  The dogmatic treatment of
religious knowledge will have for its subject the tradition of the
religious society as it is fixed, conserved, and developed in its
historic monuments.  It will consider that tradition from the symbolic
point of view, as the objective revelation of the inner life of the
Church, and of its piety.  The tradition will then appear not as
something dead and immutable, but as a power continuing in ourselves.
To grasp this soul in its fruitful continuity and in the perpetual
renewal of the external organism; to comprehend them in their living
unity; to tell the story of the genesis of dogmas and their endless
metamorphoses as a constant and necessary incarnation of the principle
that is manifested in them; to follow this uninterrupted chain in
history, and prolong it into our own life,--such is the method, at once
critical and positive, conservative and progressive, firm in piety and
always deferential to science, which critical symbolism enables us to
apply to all religious creations.

The error of that form of religious knowledge called _Orthodoxy_ is
that of forgetting the historically and psychologically conditioned
character of all doctrines, and of desiring to raise into the absolute
that which is born in time, and which must necessarily modify itself in
order to live in time.  Impotent to arrest the current of ideas and the
movement of minds, it can only establish its rule by political
measures, by regulations enacted and applied like civil laws--decisions
of popes, bishops, or synods, trials for heresy, dogmatic tribunals.
Orthodoxy has lost the sense of the symbolical character of Confessions
of Faith, which, however, it still names symbols.  Its misfortune and
its failing is to be anti-historical.

The error of _Rationalism_, at once the brother and the enemy of
orthodoxy, is of the same nature, but it is produced in an opposite
sense.  It does not lose sight of the imperfect and precarious
character of traditional dogmas and symbols; it exaggerates it; but it
loses sight of their specifically religious contents.  Orthodoxy is
mistaken as to the nature of the body of religion; rationalism as to
the nature of its soul.  Beneath the old traditional ideas it seeks for
other ideas, moral or rational ideas, freer from sensible elements, and
less contradictory, which it mistakes for the essence of religion.  It
replaces dogmas by other dogmas which it believes to be more simple,
and which it regards as absolute truth.  But in giving to religion a
rational or doctrinal content, it empties it of its real content, of
specific religious experience; it kills faith, which no longer having
an object of its own, no longer has a _raison d'être_.  It has less
liking than orthodoxy for symbolism and for religious creations; it is
radically impossible for it to comprehend, and consequently to
interpret, them.  The chief vice and the misfortune of rationalism is
to be anti-religious.

The theory of _Critical Symbolism_, whose broad outlines we have
traced, will bring us out of this old antithesis.  It shows to us the
kind of truth and the legitimacy possessed by symbolical ideas, without
ignoring the psychological and historical determinism which rules their
form and their appearance.  It must not be imagined that, from this
point of view, everything becomes fluid and inconstant in
religion--that nothing in it can be fixed or permanent.  In the
progress of his life, man is destined to realise his spiritual nature,
to attain to what St. Paul calls "the stature of Christ," in which the
religious and moral ideal is realised.  This moral stature is a
reality, the highest of all realities.  We tend towards it without
ceasing, and the value of each moment of our inner life is measured by
the progress that it marks towards that supreme end.  For this inner
life there is a norm which imposes itself on the consciousness with an
imperative necessity, and, consequently, there may be religious symbols
which are normal and normative in relation to others.  These are the
symbols which represent with perfect simplicity and fitness either this
ideal end of the Christian life or some of the necessary moments
through which the soul passes on the way to it.  There are symbols, in
a word, such as that of the Heavenly Father, the Kingdom of God, the
New Birth, the Effusion of the Holy Spirit, so intimately bound up with
our religious life, with its origin, its progress, or its end, which
one cannot conceive as disappearing, so long as the spiritual life of
humanity exists.  All the exclusively religious words of Christ which
bear directly on the consciousness are of this number.  And it is of
them that He was able to say without being contradicted by the ages:
"Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away."

On the other hand, it is no less impossible to ignore the distinction
we have made in symbol between substance and form.  Now, this
distinction opens the door to criticism.  The most conservative of
Christians confess that men may adhere to a doctrine without having
appropriated its religious content; that they may be orthodox without
being pious.  They therefore make it the duty of every member of the
Church to assimilate the contents of the symbol.  But how can the duty
of personal assimilation be imposed without the right arising to
critically interpret the transmitted forms?  Is it not a psychological
necessity for each believer to bring his inner religious consciousness
into harmony with his general culture?  What if these syntheses and
conciliations are necessarily unstable and precarious because of the
constant development of life and knowledge?  When a man is walking his
equilibrium is destroyed and re-established at each step.  It is the
very condition of walking.

Symbolism, which thus makes peace in the individual, may also effect it
in religious societies.  In Catholicism the unity of the Church is only
maintained by a central infallible authority and by political means.
That authority creates peace by imposing silence.  Dogmas only subsist
because no one concerns himself with them.  Can Protestant communities
maintain their unity by the same method?  The Catholic method ruins
Protestant communities, inevitably, by causing schisms frequent in
proportion as their life and thought become intense.  The theory of
symbolism offers them a more honourable issue.  It permits them to
combine veneration for traditional symbols with perfect independence of
spirit by leaving to believers, on their own responsibility, the right
to assimilate them and adapt them to their experiences.  They will
attach themselves to tradition with all the more sincerity and zeal as
each one is able to find in it that of which his religious faith has
need.  It will be a help and not a yoke.  Men will love it; they will
defend it as the link between the generations, as a family heritage, as
the place where souls of every race and age, and stage of scientific
culture, meet and mingle and commune.



Before laying down the pen, I ought perhaps to reply to one or two

The first reproach that has been addressed to me is contained in the
words, "Naturalistic Evolutionism."  A conception more or less
materialistic of the universe is thus attributed to me, according to
which, like Herbert Spencer, I should explain all things by the single
law of evolution, and end sooner or later by reducing the laws of the
moral world to the laws of the physical world, since I make of the
first a simple transformation of the second.  Need I say that this is
the very opposite of my thought?  It is true that I like to use the
word evolution, and to consider all phenomena in their natural
succession.  But this is not a metaphysical doctrine; it is a process
of study, a method which consists in these two essential rules: to
observe each fact as it presents itself; and to observe it in its
order, _i.e._ in the conditions in which it presents itself, because a
fact only possesses its truth and value in that order and succession.
On our planet, moral life emerges slowly and painfully out of organic
life.  Must we therefore conclude that there is no more in the one than
in the other, and that they are of equal value?  Certainly not.  Both
these series of phenomena must be placed in their relations and
connections; but the method which makes them known to me gives me no
more right to confound them than to separate them, to ignore their
differences than to forget their analogies.  It shows me, on the
contrary, that there is advance, _real_ progress from the one to the
other; that the first in date has its end in the second; that there is
a sort of living and continuous creation, each stage and degree of
which reveals new riches and new glories.  This is so thoroughly the
oasis of my religious philosophy that there would be more ground or, at
all events, more excuse for accusing me of denying the reality of the
world than the continuous action of the Divine Creator.

It is true that the one reproach has not saved me from the other.  Both
have been addressed to me by persons who have not taken the trouble to
reconcile them.  The accusation of Pantheism, contradictory as it may
seem, has been added to that of Naturalistic Evolutionism.  I have been
made to appear the blind and docile disciple of an idealism more or
less Hegelian, which would annihilate the reality of second causes in
order to contemplate in the universe the flux and transformation of a
first cause or substance, of which one might either say that it is
everything or that it is nothing.  But here, again, they lose sight of
the character of the method that I follow.  It leads me to discover in
my consciousness the mysterious and real co-existence of a particular
cause, which is myself, and of a universal cause, which is God.  That,
I repeat, is a mystery impenetrable to analysis, but undeniable by any
man who examines himself and enters into the ultimate basis of his
life.  It is the mystery out of which religion springs by an invincible
necessity.  Now, as this mystery is posited by me at the very outset of
my researches, and maintained to the end, how can they legitimately
reproach me with sacrificing either of the two terms which constitute
it to the other--the first effect of which would be to dissipate and
make impossible my theory of the psychological origin of religion?  "In
me," said Charles Secretan, "lives some one greater than me"--a
mysterious guest whose universal and eternal action I feel beneath the
variable phenomena of my empirical activity, to Whom, when I am good,
confiding, humble, brave, I always attribute my goodness, my faith, my
courage, my humility, as to Him I attribute my whole life.

I cannot comprehend the co-existence of the finite and the infinite;
but this duality is everywhere.  I observe that in the physical as in
the moral world there is, in each phenomenon, a latent force, a sort of
potential energy, which raises it and urges it beyond itself.  Nature
is perpetually becoming, that is to say, in perpetual travail.  It is
not true that there is nothing new under the sun, and that the future
must simply repeat the past.  Creation is not yet completed.  "My
Father worketh hitherto," said Jesus.  "It doth not yet appear what we
shall be."  But the little that I perceive of the Divine work
demonstrates to me that it is progressive, that it raises and enriches
life at every step, and that this progress accounts exactly for the
essential antinomies amid which my reason loses itself and my heart
adores.  To wish to reduce everything to unity is to turn the kingdom
of life into the domain of death.  For my part, I have long since
renounced what is justly called "the philosophy of identity," that
abstract dialectic which, throwing all things back to their point of
logical departure, renders perfectly incomprehensible and superfluous
the ephemeral development which they have in our consciousness and in
history.  The painful contradictions observed by Pascal in our moral
life, and the insoluble antinomies in our thought unveiled by Kant,
always seem to me to go nearer to the bottom of things than the
ontological deductions of Plato, Spinoza, and Hegel.

      *      *      *      *      *

In this book I have hardly noted any but facts that have been verified
in myself and by myself.  It is true that I suppose that every
reflective reader is capable of finding them and tracing them out in
his own personal experience.  Those who are able and wishful to re-read
my book in themselves, and thus verify my analyses, may perhaps draw
some profit from it.  Those who read me otherwise will not only lose
their time and pains--they will misunderstand at every step the meaning
of my phrases and the direction of my ideas.  Beneath my reasonings or
my images they will put other ideas and other intentions than mine, and
they may afterwards, with an apparent good conscience, deduce from them
the most terrible consequences....  Philosophical language lends itself
to all and permits all; and the mischief of it is that it would be
useless to desire to prevent these quarrels.  New explanations only
give rise to new misunderstandings, and simply serve to perpetuate a
dispute without interest and without fruit.  We can only repeat the
saying of the ancient sages of Arabia: _Magna est veritas et


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