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I. Sociality the basis of religion— Its definition. 

II. The connection between religion, aesthetics, and morals. 

III. The inevitable decomposition of all systems of dogmatic religion ; 
the state of " non-religion " toward which the human mind seems to tend 
—The exact sense in which one must understand the non-religion as dis- 
tinguished from the "religion of the future." 

IV. The value and utility, for the time being, of religion ; its ultimate 
insufficiency, ^ 

©act ifirst. 



Importance of the Problem of the Origin of Religion— Universality 
OF Religious Beliefs or Superstitions — Variability of Religions and 
Religious Evolution. 

I. Idealist theory which attributes the origin of religion to a notion of 
- he infinite— Hehotheism of Max Miiller and Von Hartmann— M. Renan's 
Instinct for Divinity. 

II. Theory of a worship of the dead and of spirits— Herbert Spencer- 
Spencer's objections to the theory of the attribution of a soul to natural 

III. Answer to objections— Religious physics sociological in form, and 
the substitution of relations between malevolent or beneficent conscious 
beings for relations between natural forces — Sociomorphism of primitive 
Peoples, 21 



I. Animism or polydemonism— Formation of the dualist conception of 
spirit — Social relations with spirits 

II. Providence and miracles— The evolution of the dualist conception of 



a special providence — The conception of miracles — The supernatural and 
the natural — Scientific explanation and miracles — Social a.nd moral modi- 
fications in the character of man, owing to supposed social relations with a 
special providence — Increasing sentiment of irresponsibility and passivity 
and " absolute dependence." 

III. The creation — Genesis of the notion of creation — The dualistic ele- 
ments in this idea — Monism — Classification of systems of religious meta- 
physics — Criticism of the classification proposed by Von Hartmann — 
Criticism of the classification proposed by Auguste Comte, . . 80 



L The laws which regulate the social relations between gods and men — 
Morality and immorality in primitive religions — Extension of friendly and 
hostile relations to the sphere of the gods — Primitive inability in matters 
of conscience, as in matters of art, to distinguish the great from the 

II. The moral sanction in the society which includes gods and men — 
Patronage — That divine intervention tends always to be conceived after 
the model of human intervention and to sanction it. 

III. Worship and religious rites — Principles of reciprocity and propor- 
tionality in the exchange of services — Sacrifice — Principle of coercion and 
incantation — Principle of habit and its relation to rites — Sorcery — Sacer- 
dotalism — Prophecy — The externals of worship — Dramatization and re- 
ligious aesthetics. 

IV. Subjective worship — Adoration and love ; their psychological 
origin, . 113 

Ipart Secon^. 





\. Narrow dogmatic faith — The credulity of primitive man : First, 
spontaneous faith in the senses and imagination ; Second, faith in the 
testimony of superior men ; Third, faith in the divine word, in revelation, 
and in the sacred texts — The literalness of dogmatic faith — Inevitable 
intolerance of narrow dogmatic faith — Belief in dogma, revelation, salva- 
tion, and damnation all result in intolerance — Modern tolerance. 

II. Broad dogmatic faith — Orthodox Protestantism — Dogmas of orthodox 
Protestantism — Rational consequences of these dogmas — Logical failure 
of orthodox Protestantism. 


III. The dissolution of dogmatic faith in modern society — Reasons that 
render this dissolution inevitable — Comparative influence of the various 
sciences; influence of public instruction, of means of communication, of 
industry even and of commerce, etc. — The disappearance of belief in ora- 
cles and prophecies — Gradual disappearance of the belief in miracles, in 
devils, etc, 136 


I. Substitution of metaphysical symbolism for dogma — Liberal Protes- 
tantism — Comparison with Brahmanism — Substitution of moral symbolism 
for metaphysical symbolism — Moral faith — Kant — Mill — Matthew Ar- 
nold — A literary explanation of the Bible substituted for a literal 

II. Criticism of symbolic faith — Inconsequence of liberal Protestant- 
ism — Is Jesus of a more divine type than other great geniuses? — Does the 
Bible possess a greater authority in matters of morals than any other 
masterpiece of poetry? — Criticism of Matthew Arnold's system — Final 
absorption of religions by morality, ....... 167 


I . The first durable element of religious morality : Respect — Alteration 
of respect by the addition of the notion of the fear of God and divine 

II. Second durable element of religious morality : Love — Alteration of 
this element by the addition of ideas of grace, predestmation, damnation — 
Caducous elements of religious morality — Mysticism — Antagonism of 
divine love and human love — Asceticism — Excesses of asceticism — Espe- 
cially in the religions of the East — Conception of sin in the modern mind. 

III. Subjective worship and prayer — The notion of prayer from the point 
of view of modern science and philosophy — Ecstasy— The survival of 
prayer, 195 



I. Is religious sentiment an innate and imperishable possession of hu- 
manity? — Frequent confusion of a sentiment for religion with a sentiment 
for philosophy and morals — Renan — Max Miiller — Difference between the 
evolution of belief in the individual and the evolution of belief in the 
race — Will the disappearance of faith leave a void behind ? 



II. Will the dissolution of religion result in a dissolution of morality 
among the people ? — Is religion the sole safeguard of social authority and 
public morality ? — Christianity and socialism — Relation between non-re- 
ligion and immorality, according to statistics. 

III. Is Protestantism a necessary tfansition stage between religion and 
free-thought? — Projects for Protestantizing France — Michelet, Quinet, De 
Lavejfiye, Renouvier, and Pillon — Intellectual, moral, and political sui^eri- 
opty of Protestantism — Utopian character of the project — Uselessness, for 

urposes of morals, of substituting one religion for another — Is the pos- 
session of religion a condition sine qua non of superiority in the struggle 
for existence ? — Objections urged against France and the French Revolu- 
tion by Matthew Arnold ; Greece and Judea compared, France and 
Protestant nations compared — Critical examination of Matthew Arnold's 
theory — Cannot free-thought, science, and art evolve their respective 
ideals from within ? 226 


I. Decline of religious education— Defects of this education, in especial 
in Catholic countries — Means of lightening these defects — The priest — 
The possibility of state-action on the priest. 

II. Education provided by the state — Primary instruction — The school- 
master — Secondary and higher instruction — Should the history of re- 
ligion be introduced into the curriculum? 

III. Education at home — Should the father take no part in the religious 
education of his children — Evils of a preliminary religious education to be 
followed by disillusionment — The special question of the immortality of 
the soul : what should be said to children about death, . . . 272 


Are women inherently predisposed toward religion and even toward 
superstition ? — The nature of feminine intelligence — Predominance of the 
imagination — Credulity — Conservatism — Feminine sensibility — Predomi- 
nance of sentiment — Tendency to mysticism — Is the moral sentiment 
among women based upon religion — Influence of religion and of non-reli- 
gion upon modesty and love — Origin of modesty — Love and perpetual 
virginity — M. Renan's paradoxes on the subject of monastic vows — How 
woman's natural proclivities may be turned to account b\^ free-thought — 
Influence exercised by the wife's faith over the husband — Instance of a 
conversion to free-thought 295 




I. Importance of the problem of population — Antagonism between nu- 
merical strength and wealtli — Necessity of numbers for the maintenance 
and progress of the race — Necessity of giving the advantage of numbers to 
the superior races — Problem of population in France— Its relation to the 
religious problem — Are the reasons for the restriction of the number of 
births physiological, moral, or economic ?— Malthusianism in France — The 
true national peril. 

II. Remedies — Is a return to religion possible ?— Religious powerlessness 
and growing tolerance in the matter — The influence that the law might 
exercise upon the causes of small families — Enumeration of these causes — \ 
Reform of the law in regard to filial duty — (Support of parents) — Reform 
of the law of inheritance — Reform of the militar}'- law for the purpose of 
favouring large families and of permitting emigration to the French 

III. Influence of public education : its necessit}' as a substitute for re- i' 
ligious sentiment 315 

Ipart <rbir&. 




I. Is a renovation of religion possible? i. Is a unification of the great re- 
ligions to-day existing possible ? 2. Is the appearance of a new religion to 
be expected? — Future miracles impossible — Religious poetry not to be ex- 
pected — Men of genius capable of sincerely and naively labouring in the 
creating of a new religion not to be expected — Impossibility of adding to 
the original stock of religious ideas — No new cult possible — Last attempts 
at a new cult in America and in France — The Positivist cult — Ethical cul- 
ture — Can socialism renew religion ? — Advantages and defects of socialistic 

* II. Religious anomy and the substitution of doubt for faith — i. Will the 
absence of religion result in scepticism ? Will the number of sceptics in- 
crease with the disappearance of religion ? 2. Substitution of doubt for 
faith — Genuinely religious character of doubt. 

III. Substitution of metaphysical hypothesis for dogma — Difference be- 
tween religious sentiment and instinct for metaphysics — Imperishable v^ 
character of the latter — Sentiment at once of the limits of science and of 
the infinity of our ideal — Spencer's attempted reconciliation of .science and 
religion — Confusion of religion with metaphysics, .... 350 





Social Aspect ok Rei.k;ions — Religious Commvmties and Churches — 
Ideal Tyte of Voluntary Association— Its Diverse Forms. 

I. Associations for in tellectual purpose s — How such associations might 
preserve the most precious elements of religions — Societies for the ad-, 
vancement of science, philosophy, religion — Dangers to avoid — Populariza- 
tion of scientific ideas ; propagandism in the interests of science. 

II. Associations for nio nvl purposes — Tendency of religion in the best 
minds to become one with charity — Pity and charity will survive dogma — 
Role of enthusiasm in moral propagandism — Necessity of hope to sustain 
enthusiasm — Possibility of propagating moral ideas : i. Apart from myths 
and religious dogmas : 2. Apart from any notion of a religious sanction — 
Baudelaire's conception of a criminal and happy hero— Criticism of that 
conception— Worship of the memory of the dead. 

III. Associations for a esthetic purpose,^ — Worship of art and nature — 
Art and poetry will sever their connection with religion and will survive 
it — Necessity of developing the aesthetic sentiment and the worship of art, 
as the religious sentiment becomes more feeble — Poetry, eloquence, 
music ; their role in the future— Final substitution of art for rites — Wor- 
ship of nature — Feeling for nature originally an essential element of the 
religious sentiment — Superiority of a worship of nature over worship of 
human art — Nature is the true temple of the future, .... 391 


Review of the Principal Metaphysical Hypotheses which will 

Replace Dogma. 

I. Introduction — Progress of metaphysical hypotheses — Metaphysical 
hypotheses destined to increasing diversity in details, and increasing 
agreement on essential points — Importance of the moral element in meta- 
physical hypotheses — The part played by conscience in human morality 
will not diminish, as Mr. Spencer says — Sympathetic groups under which 
divers systems of metaphysics will be ranged. 

II. Theism— I. Probable fate of the creation hypothesis — The author of 
the world conceived as a prime mover — Eternity of movement — The au- 
thor of the world conceived as a creator properly so called — Illusion 
involved in the conception of nothing — Criticism of the creation hypothesis 
from the point of view of morals ; the problem of evil and of the responsi- 
bility of the creator — Attempts to save optimism — Hvpothesis of a God 
creating free agents, " workmen "and not " work " — Reciprocal determin- 


ism and the illusion of spontaneity — Immorality of the temptation — 
Hypothesis of the fall, its impossibility — God the tempter — Lucifer and 

God 2. Probable fate of the notion of Providence — H3-potheses to explain 

a special Providence and miracles thus insulScient — Hypothesis of a non- 
omnipotent God proposed by John Stuart Mill — The God of Comtism — 
Religion should be not solely human but cosmic — The fate of the philo- 
sophical idea of God — Rational religion proposed by the neo-Kantians— 
Ultimate transformation of the notion of divinity and of Providence- 
Human Providence and progressive divinity in the world, . . 424 



Review of the Principal Metaphysical Hypotheses which will 
Replace Dogma. — Continued. 

I. Optimistic pantheism— Transformation of transcendent Deism into 
immanent theism and pantheism— Disanthropomorphized God, according 
to :Messrs. Fiske and Spencer— Diverse forms of pantheism — Optimistic 
and intellectualistic pantheism of Spinoza— Objections, Spinoza's fatalism — 
The moral significance that might be lent to pantheism by the introduction 
of some notion of a final cause— Qualities and defects of pantheism— Con- 
ception of unity upon which it is founded— This conception criticised— Its 
possible subjectivity. 

II. Pessimistic pantheism— Pessimistic interpretation of religions in 
Germany— I. Causes of the progress of pessimism in the present epoch — 
Progress of pantheistic metaphysics and of positive science— Penalties in- 
cident to thought and reflection— Mental depression and sense of power- 
lessness, etc. — 2. Is pessimism curable ? — Possible remedies — The labour 
problem and the future of society — Illusions involved in pessimism— Inex- 
actitude of its estimate of pleasures and pains — Quotation from Leopardi — 
Criticism of the practical results of pessimism— Nirvana— An experiment 
in Nirvana — Will pessimistic pantheism be the religion of the future ? 452 


Review of the Principal Metaphysical Hypotheses which will 
Replace Dogma. — Concluded. 

I. Idealism — Different forms of idealism : subjective idealism, objective 
idealism : The whole of existence resolved into a mode of mental exist- 
ence — Value of idealism considered from point of view of the religious 
sentiment — Most specious of contemporary idealisms: Possibility of univer- 
sal progress in the hypothesis of radical spontaneity and of "freedom " — 
Reconciliation between determinism and the conception of freedom — 


Moral idealism as a possible substitute for religious sentiment ; Depend- 
ence of the universe on the principle of goodness. 

II. Materialism— Difficulty in defining absolute materialism : Matter— 
The atom— Nebular hypothesis— Hydrogene— Necessity of supplementing 
materialism by some theory of the origin of life— The latest conception of 
materialism : Conception of infinite divisibility and infinite extensibility. 

III. Monism and the fate of worlds— Current of contemporary systems 
toward monism— Scientific interpretation of monism— The world con- 
ceived monistically as a becoming and as a life — Scientific formulae for 
life — Progress consists in the gradual confusion of these two formulae — 
That the rise of morality and religion can be accounted for without the 
presupposition of any final cause — Metaphysical and moral expectations in 
regard to the destiny of the world and of humanity, it maybe, founded on 
scientific monism— Facts which appear to be inconsistent with these ex- 
pectations—Pessimistic conception of dissolution that is complementary to 
the conception of evolution — Is the immanence of dissolution demon- 
strable ? — Natural devices for the perpetuation of the "fittest" — Role of 
intelligence, of numbers, etc. — Calculation of probabilities— Is eternity a 
parte post a ground of discouragement or of hope— Probable existence of 
thinking beings in other worlds : the planets, possibility of the existence 
of beings superior to man- Survival of the conception of gods— Hypothe- 
sis of intercosmic consciousness and of a universal society. 

IV. Destiny of the human race— The hypothesis of immortality from the 
point of view of monism— Two possible conceptions of immortality— Eter- 
nal or untemporal existence and continuation of life in some superior 
forms— I. Hypothesis of eternal life— its function in antique religions, in 
Platonism, and in the systems of Spinoza, Kant, and Schopenhauer- 
Eternal life and the subsistence of the individual— Distinction made by 
Schopenhauer and various other philosophers between individuality and 
personality— Eternal life problematical and transcendent— Aristocratic 
tendency of the theory of eternal life— Hypothesis of conditional immor- 
tality—Criticism of the hypothesis of conditional immortality ; incompati- 
bility of this notion with that of divine goodness— II. Hypothesis of a 
continuation of the present life and its evolution into some superior form— 
What sort of immortality the theory of evolution permits us to hope for— 
Immortality of one's labours and conduct— True conception of such im- 
mortality—Its relation to the laws of heredity, atavism, natural selection- 
Immortality of the individual— Objections drawn from science— Protesta- 
tions of affection against the annihilation of the person— Resulting anti- 
nomy— III. Modern opposition between the conception oi function and 
the conception of simple substance, in which ancient philosophy endeav- 
ours to find a proof of immortality— Peripatetic theory of Wundt and 
modern philosophers on the nature of the soul— Immortality as a continua- 
tion of function, proved not by the simplicity, but by the complexity of 
consciousness— Relation between complexity and instability— Three 
stages of social evolution— Analogy of conscience with a society, collective 
character of individual consciousness— Conception of progressive immor- 


tality — Last product of evolution and natural selection : (i) No necessary- 
relation between the compositeness and complexity of consciousness and 
its dissolubility : indissoluble compounds in the physical universe— (2) 
Relation between consciousnesses, their possible fusion in a superior con- 
sciousness — Contemporary psychology and the religious notion of the 
interpenetration of souls — Possible evolution of memory and identification 
of it with reality — Palingenesis by force of love — Problematic character of 
those conceptions and of every conception relative to existence, of con- 
sciousness and the relation between existence and consciousness — IV. 
Conception of death appropriate to those who, in the present state of 
evolution, do not believe in the immortality of the individual — Antique 
and modern stoicism — Acceptance of death : element of melancholy and 
of greatness in it — Expansion of self by means of philosophical thought, 
and scientific disinterestedness, to the point of to some extent approving 
one's own annihilation, .......... 477 


I. Sociality the basis of religion — Its detinition. 

II. The connection between religion, aesthetics, and morals. 

III. The inevitable decomposition of all systems of dogmatic 
religion ; the state of " non-religion " toward which the human 
mind seems to tend — The e.xact sense in which one must un- 
derstand the non-religion as distinguished from the " religion of 
the future." 

IV. The value and utility, for the time being, of religion ; its 
ultimate insufficiency. 

I. We shall meet, in the course of this work, many different 
definitions that have at one time or another been given to 
religion. Some were assigned from the point of view of 
physics, others from that of metaphysics, others from that of 
morals, almost none from that of sociology. And yet, upon 
closer scrutiny, the notion of a social bond between man and 
the powers superior to him, but resembling him, is precisely 
the point in which all religious conceptions are at one. Man 
becomes truly religious, in our judgment, only when above the 
human society in which he lives he superimposes in his 
scheme of the world another society, more powerful and 
more cultured, a universal and, so to speak, a cosmic society. 
The sphere of sociality, which is qne_of__the characteri^ticajil. 
humanity, must be enlarged till it reaches to the stars. Soci- 
ality is the firm foundation of the religious sentiment, and 
a religious being might be defined as a being disposed to be 
sociable, not only with all living creatures with whom expe- 
rience makes him acquainted, but also with the creatures of 
thought with whom he peoples the world. 

That religion consists essentially in the establishment of a 

; bond — at first mythical, and subsequently mystic, in the first 

instance between man and the forces of the universe, then 

between man and the universe itself, and ultimately be- 


tween man and the elements of the universe — is distinctly 
the outcome of every study of religion ; but what we wish 
especially here to consider is the precise way in which this 
bond has been conceived. Well (it may appear more clearly 
at the close of this inquiry), the religious bond has been con- 
ceived ex analogia societatis Imniancs : the relations, amicable 
and inimical, of men to each other were employed first for 
the explanation of physical phenomena and natural forces, 
then for the metaphysical explanation of the world, of its 
creation, conservation, and government ; in short, sociological 
laws were universalized, and the state of war or peace which 
existed among men, families, tribes, and nations was conceived 
as existing also among the volitions vhich were fancied to 
exist beneath or beyond the forces of nature. A^iiiythic or 
mystic s ociology, conceived as co ntaining the secret of a 1 1 
things, lies at the basis of all r e ligion s. Religion is not 
sirnply the^xpression of an anthropomorphism — animals and 
fantastic beings of various sorts have played no inconsiderable 
Irole in different cults; it jsjinXmaginaJive extension, a univer- 
sallzation ofall the good or. evil relations which exist among 
[conscious beings, of_war and peace, friendship and enmity, 
'obedience and rebellion, protection and authority, submission, 
.fear, respect, devotion, love : religion is a universal socio- 
hnorpJiisni. Social relations with animals, with the dead, intel- 
lectual and social relations with good and evil genii, with the 
forces of nature, are nothing more nor less than various forms 
of this universal sociology in which religion has sought to find 
the reason of things — of physical phenomena such as thunder, 
storm, sickness, death, as well as of metaphysical relations — 
the origin and destiny of things, and of moral relations — vir- 
tue, vice, law, and sanction. 

If, therefore, we were forced to condense the theory of this 
ibool<~into a single de finition, we sh ould say That religion 
iis the outcome of an effort t o explain al l things — physical, 
imetaphysicaT, and rnoral^^^by analogies drawn from human 
'society, imaginatively and sy mbolically co nsidered. In short 
it^TTa universal sociological hypHQtliesi5> mythical in form. 
~To justify this conception we shall review the various defini- 


tions that have been put forth of the religious sentiment ; we 
shall see that each of them needs completion by the rest, and 
that, too, from the sociological point of view. 

The definition which has perhaps been most widely adopted 
of late years, with divers modifications by Strauss, by 
Pfleiderer, by Lotze, and by M. Reville, is that of Schleier- 
macher. According to him, the essence of religion consists in 
the feeling that we all have of our own absolute dependence. 
The powers in respect to which this dependence is felt we call 
divinities. On the other hand, according to Feuerbach, the 
origin, nay the essence even of religion is desire : if man 
possessed no needs, no desires, he would possess no gods. If 
grief and evil did not exist, says Hartmann later on, there 
would be no religion ; the gods, even the gods of history, are 
no more than the powers to whom man looks for what he does 
not possess, and wants, to whom he looks for relief, for salva- 
tion, for happiness. The respective definitions of Schleier- 
macher and Feuerbach, taken separately, are incomplete ; it is 
at least necessary, as Strauss suggests, to superpose them. 
The religious sentiment is primarily, no doubt, a feeling of 
dependence ; but this feeling of dependence, really to give 
birth to religion, must provoke in one a reaction — a desire of 
deliverance. To feel one's own weakness ; to be conscious of 
limitations of all sorts which bound one's life, and then to 
desire to augment one's power over one's self and over the 
material universe; to enlarge one's sphere of action; to attain 
once more to a comparative independence in face of the 
necessities of every kind which hem one in — such is the course 
of the human mind in the presence of the universe. 

But here an objection occurs: precisely the same course 
seems to be followed by the mind in the establishment of 
science. In a scientific period man feels himself as profoundly 
dependent as in a religious period, and this feeling of depend- 
ence is accompanied by a no less vivid reaction in the one 
case than in the other. The man of science and the believer 
alike aim at enfranchisement, but by different means. Must 
one be content, then, with an external and negative definition, 
and say with M. Darmesteter: " Religion embraces all knowl- 

. 4 introduction: 

edge and all power not scientific " ? ' A knowledge not 
scientific possesses all the attributes of a contradiction in 
terms, and, as for a power not scientific, it is indispensable to 
distinguish it in some positive way from the power which is 
afforded us by science. Well, to keep close to the facts, 
the power of religion is that which we frankly do not possess, 
while the power of science is that which we do possess and 
know that we possess. One might indeed fall back on the. 
distinction between belief and certainty ; but the man of 
science also has his beliefs, his preferences for such and such 
a cosmological hypothesis, which, however, is not a religious 
belief, properly so called. Religious and moral " faith," as 
opposed to scientific " hypothesis," is an ultimate and very 
complete manifestation of the religious sentiment, which we 
shall examine later, though it carries with it no suggestion of 
its primitive origin. 

From the sociological point of view the distinction is plain. 
The religious sentiment begins at the point where mechanical 
determinism seems to offer an opportunity in the world for a 
sort of moral and social reciprocity — a possible exchange of 
sentiments and even of desires, between man and the powers 
of the universe, whatever they may be. That point once 
reached, man no longer conceives it possible to measure the 
consequences of an act — of using an axe, for example, on a 
sacred tree — in the exact terms of mere mechanical reaction ; 
for over and above the simple brute fact of what he has done, 
the sentiment or intention that it indicates must be taken into 
account and the probable effect of that for good or evil upon 
the gods. Religious sentiment is a feeling of dependence, on 
the part of primitive man, in respect to the intelligences, the 
' volitions, with which he has peopled the universe and which 
he believes capable of being affected agreeably or disagreeably 
by his conduct. Religious sentiment is not a feeling of mere 
physical dependence upon the universal frame of things; it is 
more than ^11 a physical dependence, a moral, and in especial, a 
social dependence. This relation of dependence consists really 

' See an account given of the ProUgomhies of M. Albert Reville, by M. Dar- 
mesteter, Revue philosophique, seventh year, vol. i. p. 76. 


of two reciprocal terms: if man is bound by it in some sort 
to the powers of nature, they in turn are bound by it to man ; 
man has more or less of a hold on them, he can offend them 
morally, just he might offend a fellow-man. If man is in the 
hand of the gods, he can in a measure force the hand to open 
or shut. The divanities are in a sense dependent also on man; 
they experience, as the result of his conduct, a measure of 
pleasure or of pain. It is only later that this idea of reciprocal 
dependence becomes metaphysical ; it reaches its ultimate 
development in the concept of the " absolute," and in the 
sentiment of adoration or simple " respect." 

Besides the consciousness of dependence and the correlative 
need of a liberation of some sort from it, we find in the 
religious sentiment the expression of another social need not 
less important ; the need of affection, of tenderness, of love. 
Our sensibility, developed by hereditary instincts of sociality 
and by the force even of our imagination stretching out 
beyond the limits of this world, instinctively seeks for a per- 
son, a commanding figure to lean on, to confide in. When we 
are happy we need to bless some one ; when we are wretched, 
we need some one to complain to, to groan to, even to curse. 
It is hard to resign ourselves to the belief that no one hears 
us, that no one a long way off sympathizes with us, that this 
swarming universe spins in the void. God is the friend with us 
at the first hour and at the last, with us always and in all 
places, even where no other friend can follow, even in death. 
To whom can we speak of those we have loved and lost ? Of 
the people about us, some hardly remember them, others did 
not even know them ; but in this divine and omnipresent 
Being we find the society, which is constantly broken by 
death, once more reunited : /;/ eo vtviinns, in Him we cannot 
die. From this point of view, God, the object of the religious 
sentiment, no longer seems a guardian and master simply. 
He is better than a friend ; He is a father: in the beginning a 
severe father and all-powerful, as very young children imagine 
their fathers to be. Children readily believe that their father 
can do anything, even work miracles : a word from him and 
the world moves : fiat lux, and the day is born ; the distinc- 


tion between evil and good lies in his will ; disobedience to 
him naturally involves punishment. They judge his power by 
their weakness ; and so the primitive race of man felt toward 
God. But later a superior conception arose; as man 
developed he developed his God, endowed him with a more 
generous list of moral attributes ; and this God is ours. We 
feel the need of a smile from Him after a sacrifice, the thought 
of Him sustains us. Woman especially, who is more immature , 
in this respect than man, experiences a greater need of a 
" Father in heaven." When one wishes to deprive us of a godA 
to deliver us from celestial tutelage, we suddenly find ourselves^ 
orphans. One might recognize a profound truth in the great 
symbol of Christ, the God, dying for the enfranchisement of 
human thought. This modern version of the " passion " is 
enacted, it is true, only in the heart, but it is none the less 
agonizing; it stirs one's indignation none the less, it dwells in 
one like the image of a father who is dead. One cares less for 
the promised freedom than for the protection and affection 
that are gone. Carlyle — whimsical, unhappy genius — could eat 
no bread that his wife's own hands, nay his wife's own heart, 
had not prepared ; and we are all like that ; we all have need 
of daily bread kneaded with love and tenderness ; and they 
that have no loving hand from which to look for it, ask it of 
their god, of their ideal, of their dream ; they create for them- 
selves a family in the realm of imagination, they fill out the 
bosom of infinity by the addition of a heart. 

The social need for protection and love was evidently not ]v 
so dominant in primitive times. The tutelary functions 
attributed to divinities were at first confined to the more or 
less vulgar accidents of this life. Later they were more 
especially directed toward one's moral emancipation and 
extended even beyond the tomb. Need of protection and 
affection leads ultimately to considerations on the destiny of 
man and the world ; and thus it is that religion, nearly physical 
in origin, issues in systems of metaphysics. 

II. This book is intimately related to two others that we 
have published on aesthetics and on morals. We believe that 

OF THK ^' y 


the ae sthetic sentiment is identical with "self-conscious life , 
with life that is conscious of its own subjective intensity and 
harmony ; beauty we have saidmay be^defiued as a perception 
or an act that stimulates hfe simultaneously on its three sides — 
se^nsibilTty, intcllifjence, will — and that produces pleasure by 
the immediate ^con^dousn ess of t his_^eneral stinmlation. 
Moral sentimejitj^on_jhe other hand^Js. identical, we bcheve, 
with a consciousness of the powers and possibilities in the 
sphere of practice of a life ideal in intensity and breadth of 
interest. The bulk of these possibilities relates to one's power, 
in some form or other, of serving other people. Finally, 
religious sentiment appears when this consciousness of the., 
social aspect of life js extended t o the totality_of_conscious 
beings, and not only of r eal and livi ng, but also of possible 
and ideal beings. It is, therefore, in the very notion of life, 
and of its various individual or social manifestations, that the 
essential unity of aesthetics with morals and religion is to be 

In the first part of this work we shall trace the origin and 
evolution of sociological mythology. In the succeeding por- 
tions we shall consider whether, if we once set aside the 
mythical or imaginative element which is essential to religion 
and which distinguishes it from philosophy, the sociological 
theory does not offer the most probable, and most compre- 
hensive, metaphysical explanation of the universe." 

' The importance which Auguste Comte attributed to sociology is well known, 
but in his horror of metaphysics the founder of positivism exchided from his 
science everything really universal and cosmic that it contained, in order to reduce 
it to limits exclusively human. Messrs. Spencer and Lilienfeld, Schaeffle and 
Espinas, improving on the sociology of Comte, have extended social laws and have 
shown that every living organism is an embryonic society, and.t'zV^ versa, that every 
society is an organism. A contemporary philosopher goes still further and attributes 
to sociology a certain metaphysical significance. M. Alfred Fouillee says : " Since 
biology and sociology are so closely related, may not the laws that are common to 
them be expected to suggest still more universal laws of nature and thought? Is 
the entire universe anything more than a vast society in process of formation, a 
vast system of conscious and consciously striving atoms which is working itself 
out, and little by little falling into shape ? The laws which govern the group- 
ing of individual atoms in the body are, no doubt, at bottom the same as those 
that govern the grouping of individuals in society ; and the very atoms them- 

8 IN rjiOD UC TION. 

III. It is important that there should be no misunderstand- 
ing in regard to this iion-religion of the future, as contradistin- 
guished from the multitude of religions of the future that 
have been recently expounded. It has seemed to us that 
these various expositions are based on a number of equivoca- 
tions. In the first place religion, properly so-called, has some- 
times been confused with metaphysics, sometimes with morals, 
sometimes with both ; and it is owing to this confusion that 
religion has been conceived to be indestructible. Is it not 
by an abuse of language that Mr. Spencer, for example, gives 
the name of religion to speculations concerning the unknow- 
able and thence readily deduces the conclusion that religion, 
by which he means metaphysics, possesses an impregnable 
stronghold in the human mind ? In the same way many 
other contemporary philosophers, like Herr von Hartmann, 
the theologian of the unconscious, have not resisted the 

selves, which are supposed to be indivisible, are, it may be, diminutive societies. 
If so, social science, the crown of human sciences, may some day give us, in its ulti- 
mate formula, the secret of universal life. . . It is conceivable that the universal 
type of existence of the world may be found in sociology — that the universe may- 
come to be conceived as a society in process of formation ; miscarrying here and 
succeeding there, in its effort to transmute the reign of mechanics into a reign of 
justice, and to substitute fraternity for antagonism. If so, the essential and 
immanent power at the heart of beings, always ready to manifest itself as soon as 
circumstances give it access to the light of consciousness, might be expressed by 
the single word, sociability." (Alfred Fouillee, La Science sociale conteiiiporaine, 
2d edition, introduction and conclusion.) M. Fouillee has not applied this 
theory to religion ; he has noted its suggestiveness in the domain of metaphysics 
and of ethics simply; we believe, and we shall endeavour to show, that it is not less 
suggestive in the domain of religion. 

This book was finished, and in part printed, when there appeared in the Revue 
philospphique M. Lesbazeilles' interesting article on Les bases psychologiques de la 

Although the author's point of view, as the title indicates, is throughout strictly- 
psychological, he has given his attention also to social relations and " conditions of 
collective adaptation," which he regards as prefigured, anticipated, and sanctified by 
religious rites and myths. This, we think, implies some confusion between religion 
and morality. ^Morality deals with collective human life, but religion deals with 
collective life generally, and undertakes at the same time to provide a physical 
and a metaphysical explanation of things. We shall see that in the beginning 
religion was a superstitious physics, in which the forces of nature were regarded 
simply as the expression of some unknown person or person's volitions, and that it 
thus naturally assumed a sociological form. 


temptation of describing for us a religion of the future, 
which resolves itself simply into their own system, whatever 
it may be, of philosophy. Others again, especially among 
liberal Protestants, preserve the name of religion for purely 
rationalistic systems of thought. There is, of course, a sense 
in which one may admit that metaphysics and morals con- 
stitute a religion, or form at least the vanishing point toward 
which religion tends. But, in many books, the " religion of 
the future" is no more than a somewhat hypocritical com- 
promise with some form of positive religion. Under cover 
of the symbolism dear to the Germans, they save in appear- 
ance what they in reality destroy. It is in opposition to 
this species of subterfuge that we have adopted the less 
misleading term of the " Non-religion of the Future." Thus 
we separate ourselves from Voii Hartmann and th e oth ejr_ 
prophets who reveal to us, point by point, the re ligion of the 
fiftieth century. Wh^n one approaches an ob ject of such 
ardent controversy it is better to employ words with exactness. 
Everything, first and last, has been included within the limits 
of philosophy; even the sciences, on the pretext that all 
scientific researches were in the beginning undertaken by 
philosophy; and philosophy, in turn, has been included in 
religion, on the pretext that originally religion embraced 
within its limits the whole of philosophy and of sciei]ce. 
Given a religion of some kind, even that of the Fuegians, 
there is nothing to prevent one from reading into its myths 
the last dictum of modern metaphysics ; by this means a 
religion may apparently continue in existence until there is no 
more left of it than a mere envelope of religious phraseology 
covering and discovering a wholly metaphysical and purely 
philosophical system. Better still, on this method, since 
Christianity is the highest form of religion, all philosophers 
must ultimately become Christians ; and finally, since univer- 
sality and catholicity are the ideal of Christianity, we shall all 
be Catholics before we are aware of it. 

For the investigator who, without denying such analogies as 
may ultimately be found to exist, proposes to take as his point 
of departure the specific differences of religion (which is the 


true mctho^d), every positive and historical religion presents 
three distinctive and e ssential elements: (i) An atte mpt at a 
mythical and no n-scientihc explanation of natural phenomena 
(divine intervention, miracles, efficacious prayers, etc.), or of 
historical facts (incarnation of Jesus Christ or of Buddha, 
revelations, and so forth) ; (2) A system of dogmas, that is to 
say, of symbolic ideas, of imaginative beliefs, forcibly imposed 
upon one's faith as absolute verities, even though they are 
susceptible of no scientific demonstration or philosophical justi- 
fication ; (3) A cult a nd a system of rites , that is to say, of 
more or less immutable practices regarded as possessing a 
marvellous efficacy upon the course of things, a propitiatory 
virtue. A religion without myth, without dogma, without 
cult, without rite is no more than that somewhat Igastard prod- 
uct, " natural religion," which is resolvable into a "system of 
metaphysical hypotheses. By these three different, and really 
organic elements, religion is clearly marked off from philosophy. 

"^ Also, instead of being nowadays what it was at a former period, 
a popular philosophy and popular science, mythical and dog- 

'matic religion tends to become a system of antiscientific and 

antiphilosophical ideas. If this character is not always 
apparent, it is owing to the sort of symbolism of which we 
have spoken, which preserves the name and abandons the ideas 
or adapts them to the progress of the modern mind. 

The elements which distinguish religion from metaphysics 
or from ethics, and which constitutes a positive religion 
properly so-called, are, in our judgment, essentially caducous 
and transitory, and, if so, \ve reject the religion of the future', 
as we should reject an alchemy of the future, or astrology of 
the future. But it does n ot fo l low that non-religion ora-religion 
— which is simply the negation of all dogma, ofal l traditional 
and" supernatural authority, of all revelati on, of all miracle, of 

U' all myth, of all rite erected into a duty — is synonymous with 
impiety, with a contempt for the moral and metaphysical ele- 
ments of ancient faiths. Not in the least ; to be non-religious 
or ai-religious is not to be anti-religi ous. M ore than that, as 
we shall see, the non-religion of the future may well preserve all 
that is pure in the religious sentiment: an admirat^bnjor the 

IN TROD UCriON. 1 1 

cosmos and for the infinite powers which are there displayed ; 
a search for an ideal not only individual, but social, and even 
cosmic, which shall overpass the limits of actual reality. As 
it~ rhay be maintained that modern chemistry is a veritable 
alchemy — but an alchemy shorn of the presuppositions which 
caused its miscarriage — as modern contemporary chemists 
may pronounce a sincere eulogium upon the ancient alchemists 
and their marvellous intuitions; just so it may be afifirmed 
that the true religion, if the word must be preserved, consists 
in no longer maintaining a narrow and superstitious religion. 
The absence of positive and dogmatic religion is, moreover, the 
very form toward which all particular religions tend. In effect 
they strip themselves, little by little (except Catholicism and 
Turkish Mohammedanism), of their sacred character, of their 
antiscientific affirmations; they renounce the oppressive con- 
trol that they have traditionally exercised over the individual 
conscience. The developments of religion and those of civili- 
zation have always proceeded hand in hand ; the develop- 
ments of religion have always proceeded in the line of a 
greater independence of spirit, of a less literal and less narrow 
dogmatism, of a freer speculation. Non-religion, as we here 

understand it, may be consid ered as a higheFdegree" simply of 1 ' 
religion and of civihzation. 

The absence of religion thus conceived is one with a 
reasoned but hypotlietical metaphyslcs7 treating of rnen and 
the universe. One may designate it as religious independence, 
or anomy, or individualism.' It has, moreover, been preached 
in some degree by all religious reformers from Sakia-Mouni 
and Jesus to Luther and Calvin, for they have all of them 
maintained liberty of conscience and respected so much only 
of tradition as, in the then state of contemporary religious 
criticism, they could not help admitting. Catholicism, for 
example, was founded in part by Jesus, but also in part in 
spite of Jesus ; intolerant Anglicanism was founded in part by 
Luther, but also in part in spite of Luther. The non-religious 
man, the man simply without a religion, may therefore admire 
ard sympathize with the great founders of religion, not only 
in that they were thinkers, metaphysicians, moralists, and 

' See pt. 3, chap. ii. 

1 2 n\f TROD UC TION. 

philanthropists, but in that they were reformers of established 
belief, more or less avowed enemies of religious authority, of 
every afifirmation which should be that of a sacred body and 
not of an individual. Every positive religion possesses as one 
of its essential characters that of transmitting itself from one 
generation to another, by virtue of the authority which 
attaches to domestic or national traditions ; its mode of trans- 
mission is thus totally different from that of science and of. 
art. New religions themselves are obliged more often than 
not to present themselves in the guise of simple reforms, in 
the guise of simple returns to the rigour of former teaching 
and precept, to avoid giving too great a shock to the principle 
of authority, but in spite of these disguises every new religion 
has shaken it ; the return to an alleged primitive authority 
has always been a real outleap in the direction of ultimate 
liberty. There exists, then, in the bosom of every gre at 
religion a dissolving f orce ; namely, the veryjorce whicliserved 
in the beginning to constitute it aiid to enable it to triumph 
over its predecessor : the right of private judgment. It is 
upon this force, this right, that one may count for tlie ultimate 
establishment, after the gradual decomposition of every system 
of dogmatic belief, of a final absence of religion.' 

Over and above the confusion between the perpetuity of 
metaphysics and morals and that of positive religion, there is 
another tendency among our contemporaries against which we 
have wished to protest. It is the belief, which many profess, 
in the final unification of existing religions into a religion of 
the future, either a perfected Judaism, or a perfected Chris- 
tianity, or a perfected Buddhism. To this predicted religious 
unity we oppose rather a future pluraTity" of beliefs, a religious 
i n dividualTsm. " A pretension to universahty is, no doubt, 
cHaracteristic oF"every great religion ; but the dogmatic and 
mythological element which constitutes a religion positive is 
. pl^cisely irreconcilable, even under the elastic form of syn- 
bolism, with the very universality to which they aspire. Such 
a universality cannot be realized even in metaphysics ai d 
morals, for the element of insolubility and unknowabilily, 
which cannot be eliminated, will always attract different minis 

' See pt. 3, chap. i. 


in different directions. The notion of a dogma actually- 
catholic, that is universal, or even a belief actually catholic, 
seems to us a belief contrary to the indefinite progress for 
which each of us ought to work according to his strength and 
his opportunities. A thought is not really personal, does not^ 
properly speaking, even exist or possess the right to exist, 
unless it be something more than a mere repetition of the 
thoughts of somebody else. Every eye must have its own . 
point of view, every voice its own accent. The very progress ■ 
of intelligence and of conscience must, like all progress, pro- 
ceed from the homogeneous to the heterogeneous, nor seek for 
an ideal unity except in an increasing variety. Would one 
recognize the absolute power of the savage chief or the Oriental 
monarch in the federative republican government, which, after 
a certain number of centuries, will probably be that of all 
civilized nations? No; and yet humanity will have passed 
from the one to the other by a series of gradations sometimes 
scarcely visible. We believe that humanity will progress in 
the same way generally, from dogmatic religion with preten- 
sions to universality, catholicity, and monarchy — of which the 
most curious type has precisely been achieved in our days 
with the dogma of infallibility — toward that state of indi- 
vidualism and religions, which we consider as the human 
ideal, and which, moreover, does not in the least exclude the 
I possibility of diverse religious associations or federations, nor 
jt of free and continuous progress toward ultimate unity of 
f belief on the most general subjects of human inquiry. 

The day when positive religions shall have disappeared, the 
; spirit of curiosity in matters of cosmology and metaphysics, 
which has been more or less paralyzed by an effort to dwell 
within the unyielding limits of indomitable formula, will be 
more vivacious than ever before. There will be less of faith, 
b ut more of free speculatio n ; less of contemplation, but more 
of reasoning,^ of ha rdy indu c tion, of an active outlcap of 

thought ; the religious dogma will be extinct, but the bes t ele- 
ments of religious life will be propagated, will be augmejited 
in intensity and extent.^ For he alone is religiou s , in thg 


philosophical sense of the word, who searches for, who thinks 
about, who loves the truth. Christ might have said: I came 
not" to bring peace into human thought, but an incessant battle 
of ideas; not repose, but movement and progress of spirit ; 

I not universal dogma, but liberty of belief, which is the first 

Vcondition of growth.' 

IV. To-day, when the very value of religion is increasingly 
called in doubt, it has been defended by sceptics, who support 
it, sometimes in the name of the poetry and beauty of 
religious legend, sometimes in the name of its practical utility. 
There is sometimes a reaction in the modern mind toward 
fiction and away from the reality. The human mind becomes 
weary of regarding itself as a too passively clear mirror in 
which the world throws its image ; and takes pleasure in 
breathing on the glass and obscuring it ; and thence it comes 
that certain refined philosophers raise the question whether 
truth and clearness are advantageous in art, in science, in 
morals, in religion ; and they go the length even of preferring 
religious or philosophical error on aesthetic grounds. For our 
part, we are far from antagonizing poetry, and believe it to be 
excessively beneficial for humanity, but on condition that it be 
not the dupe of its own symbols and do not erect its inten- 
tions into dogmas. At this price, we believe that poetry may 
very often be truer, and better, than certain too narrow^ly 
scientific, or too narrowly practical truths. We shall not take 
ourselves to task for having frequently, in this book, mingled 
poetry and metaphysics. In so doing we preserve, in so far as 
it is legitimate, one of the aspects of every religion, its poetic 
symbolism. Poetry is often more philosophic, not only than 
history, but than abstract philosophy, but on condition of 
being sincere and of making no pretensions to being what it is 

But the partisans of " beneficent error " will object : Why 
endeavour to dissipate poetic illusion and to call things by 
their names ? Are there not for peoples, for men, for children, 
certain useful errors and permissible illusions? ' Surely a great 

•See pt. 3, chaps, i. and ii. 'See pt. 2, chap. iv. 

IN TROD UCriON. 1 5 

number of errors may be considered as having been necessary 
in the history of humanity ; but has not progress precisely 
consisted in restricting the number of these useful errors? 
There have been also organs in the body which have become 
superfluous, and have disappeared or been fundamentally 
transformed ; such, for example, are the muscles which, no 
doubt, served our ancestors to move their ears. There exist 
evidently also, in the human mind, instincts, sentiments, and 
beliefs which have already atrophied and are destined to disap- 
pear or to be transformed. To show the deep roots that 
religion has sent down into the depths of the human mind is 
not to demonstrate the perpetuity of religion, for the human 
mind itself is incessantly changing. "Our fathers," said Fon- 
tenelle, " made the mistake of hoarding up their errors for our 
benefit"; and in effect, before arriving at the truth, a certain 
number of false hypotheses must be tried ; to discover the 
true is in some seiise to have exhausted the possibilities of 
the false. Religions have rendered the human mind this im- 
mense service, they have exhausted a whole class of side- 
issues in science, metaphysics, and ethics ; one must cross the 
marvellous to attain the natural, one must cross direct revela- 
tion and mystical intention to attain to rational induction 
and deduction. All the fantastic and apocalyptical ideas with 
which religion has peopled the human mind once possessed 
their utility, just as the incomplete and often grotesque 
sketches with which the studio of the artist is filled once 
possessed theirs. This straying of the human mind was a sort 
of reconnoitering, this play of imagination was a veritable 
labour, a preliminary labour ; but the products of it must not 
be presented as final. The false and even the absurd have 
always played so great a role in human affairs that it would 
assuredly be dangerous to attempt abruptly to proceed with- 
out them ; transitions are useful, even in passing from dark- 
ness into light, and one needs to become accustomed even to 
the truth. It is for that reason that society has always rested 
in a great measure upon error. To-day this portion of its 
foundation is being withdrawn, and conservatives are sadly 
frightened lest the whole social equilibrium be destroyed ; 

1 6 IN TROD UCriON. 

but we repeat, this diminution of the number of errors is pre- 
cisely what constitutes progress, and in some ^ort defines it. 
Progress in effect is not simply a sensible amelioration of life, 
it is also the achievement of a better intellectual formulation 
of life, it is "a triumph of logic ; to progress is to attain to 
a more complete consciousness of one's self and of the world, 
and by that very fact to a more complete inner consistency of 
one's theory of the world. In the beginning, not only moral 
and religious life, but civil and political life, rested upon the 
grossest errors, on absolute monarchy, divine right, caste, and 
slavery ; all this barbarity possessed a certain utility, but its 
utility precisely consisted in its leading to its own extinction ; 
it served as a means of handing us on to something better. 
What distinguishes the living mechanism from other mechan- 
isms is that the outer springs precisely labour to cause them- 
selves to be superseded ; that the movement once produced is 
perpetual. If we possessed means of projection powerful 
enough to rival those of nature, we might convert a cannon 
ball into an eternal satellite of the earth, without its being neces- 
sary to impart movement to it a second time. A result 
accomplished in nature is accomplished once for all. A step 
forward if it is real and not illusory, and in especial if it is 
completely conscious, renders impossible a step backward. 

In the eighteenth century the attack on religion was directed 
by philosophical" partisans "'df~7r7'?/^rz principles, who were 
persuaded that the instant a faith was proved to Taeabsurd 
that was the end of it. In our days the attack isTed by 
historians who possess an absolute respect for fact, which 
they are inclined to erect into a law, historians who pass a 
learned existence in the midst of absurdity in all its forms, 
and for whom the irrational, instead of condemning a belief 
in which it appears, is often a condition of its duration. 
Therein lies the difference between the attitude of the 
eighteenth century and that of the nineteenth toward religion. 
The eighteenth century hated religion and wished jtojdestroy 
it. The nineteenth century endeavours to understand religion 
and cannot reconcile itself to seeing so charming an object of 
study disappear. The historian's device is, " What has been. 


will be "; he is naturally inclined to model his conception of 
the future on his knowledge of the past. A witness of the 
futility of revolutions, he sometimes forgets that complete 
evolution is possible: an evolution which transforms things to 
their very roots and metamorphoses human beings and their 
beliefs to an extent that renders them unrecognizable.' 

One of the masters of religious criticism, M. Renan, wrote 
to Sainte-Beuve : " No, assuredly I did not wish to detach 
from the old trunk a soul which was not ripe." We, also, are 
not of those who believe in shaking the tree and gathering a 
green and bruised crop ; but if one ought not to make the 
green fruit fall, one may at least take means to hasten its 
ripening upon the branch. The human brain is a transmuta- 
tion of solar heat ; one must dissipate this heat, to become 
once more a ray of the sun. Such an ambition is very gentle, 
is not at all exorbitant, when one remembers how small a 
thing a ray of the sun is and how lost in infinite space ; a 
relatively small portion of these wandering rays, however, has 
sufificed to fashion the earth and all mankind. 

I often meet, near my home, a missionary with a black beard, 
a hard, sharp eye, lit sometimes by a mystic gleam. He 

' " You are occupied with religion," a cultivated unbelie ver writes me. " There 
is then'sonie sucfTtTiing ! So mifc h the better for those who cannot do without it J' 
This witticism precisely sums up the state of mind of a gr eat man^enljghtengd[_ 
Frenchmen : they are profoundly astonished that religion should still be on its legs, 
and out of their astonishment they draw the con viction that it is necessary. T heir 
surprise thereupon become s a respect, almost a reverence. Assuredly positive 
religions still exist and long will exist ; and as long as they exist they will no doubt 
do so for reasons ; but these reasons diminish day by day and the number of 
believers diminishes along with them. Instead of bowing down before the fact as 
before something sacred, one must rather say to one's self that by modifying the 
fact one will modify and suppress the raisoits d'etre of that fact ; by driving 
religions before it, the modern mind demonstrates that they have less and less the 
right to live. That certain people have not as yet learned to do without them is 
true, and as long as they do not learn to do without them religions will for them 
exist ; we have not the least anxiety on that score ; and just in so far as they find 
their certitude in regard to them shaken, they will have proved that their intelli- 
gence is so far enfranchised as to have no further need of an arbitrary rule. 
Similarly for peoples : nothing is more naive than to urge the very necessity of 
transitions as a bar to progress : it is as if one should call attention to the short- 
ness of human steps, and conclude therefrom that movement is impossible ; that man 
stands still like a shell-fish attached to a stone or a fossil buried in a rock. 


seems to maintain a correspondence with the four corners of 
the world ; assuredly he works and works precisely at building 
up what I am endeavouring to pull down. And must our 
opposite strivings therefore be regarded as hostile? Why 
so ? Are we not both brothers and humble collaborators in 
the work of humanity? To convert primitive peoples to 
Christian dogma and to deliver those who have arrived at a 
higher stage of civilization from a positive and dogmatic 
, faith, are two tasks which, far from excluding each other, com- 
' plete each other. Missionaries and freethinkers cultivate 
different plants, in different places, but at bottom both are 
labouring to make the field of humanity more fertile. It is said 
that John Huss, when tied to the stake at Constance, wore a 
smile of supreme joy when he perceived a peasant in the 
crowd, bringing straw from the roof of his hut to light the 
fire: Sancta sunplicitas ! The martyr recognized in this man 
a brother in sincerity ; he was glad to find himself in the 
presence of a disinterested conviction. We are no longer in 
the times of John Huss, of Bruno, of Servetius, of St. Justin, 
or of Socrates ; it constitutes a reason the more for showing 
ourselves tolerant, and sympathetic even, toward those whom 
we regard as being in error, provided that the error be sincere. 
There is an anti-religious f anaticism which is almost as 
danger'oaT; — ar' reTiglous fanaticism ^ E rasmus compares 
humanity to a druhl<en man seated on a horse and lurching 
first to the right and then to the left. The enemies of religion 
have often committed the mistake of despising their adver- 
versaries ; it is the worst of faults. There is a power of 
elasticity in human beliefs which causes their resistance to 
increase in proportion to the compression which is exerted 
upon them. Formerly, when a city was attacked by some 
scourge, the first care of the notable inhabitants, of the chiefs 
of the city, was to order public prayers ; to-day the practical 
means of battling with epidemics and other scourges are bet- 
ter known, but nevertheless, in 1885, when there was cholera 
in Marseilles the municipal council devotedTt? attention almost 
singly to removing the religious mottoes fro m the walls of the 
piTBiic schools ; it is a remarkable exam ple^or~what' one may 


call a counter-superst itio n. Thus the two species of fanaticism, 
religious and anti-religious, may equally distract the timid 
from the employment of scientific means against natural evils; 
an employment which is after all, par excellence, the business 
of man ; these two kinds of fanaticism are paralyso-motors in 
the great body of humanity. 

Among cultivated people there has now and then taken 
place a violent reaction against religious prejudice, and this 
reaction frequently persists till death ; but in a certain number 
of cases this reaction is followed in the course of time by a 
counter-reaction ; it is only, as Spencer has remarked, when 
this counter-reaction has been sufficient, that one may formu- 
late, with anything like completeness, judgments somewhat 
less narrow and more comprehensive upon the question of 
religion. Time makes us generous, enlarges our minds each 
year, as it does the concentric circles in the trunk of a tree. 
Life also pacifies us as death does ; reconciles us with those 
who do not think and feel as we do. When you become 
indignant at some antique, absurd prejudice, remember that it 
has been a travelling companion of humanity for perhaps 
ten thousand years, that it has lent men aid when the ways 
were bad and has been the occasion of many joys, and has 
lived, so to speak, the life of humanity ; one might well find 
a certain element of fraternity in every human thought. 

We do not believe that the readers of this sincere book will 
be able to accuse us of partiality or of injustice, for we have 
not sought to disguise either the good or the evil aspects of 
religion, and have even taken a certain pleasure in setting the 
former in relief. On the other hand, we shall hardly be taxed 
with ignorance of the religious problem which we have 
patiently studied on its every side. We shall perhaps be 
reproached with belonging something too manifestly to the 
country of our birth, with introducing into the solutions here 
offered something of the French excess of logic, of an indispo- 
sition to yield to half measures, of the determination to have 
all or nothing, of the spirit which was unable to stop midway 
with Protestantism and which for the past two centuries has 
been the home of the most ardent free thought in the world. 


VVe reply that if the French mind has a defect, this defect is 
not logic but a certain nimble trenchancy, a certain narrow- 
ness of view which is the reverse of the spirit of logic 
and analysis ; logic, after all, has always the last word here 
below. Concessions to absurdity, or at least to relativity, 
may sometimes be necessary in human affairs — and the French 
Revolutionists were wrong not to recognize it — but such con- 
cessions are always transitory. - Error is not the end and aim 
of the human mind ; if one cannot make up one's account 
with it, if it is useless to disparage it bitterly, it is also unnec- 
essary to venerate it. Minds at once logical and capacious 
are always sure to be followed, provided one gives humanity 
time enough ; and the truth can wait ; it always remains 
young and is certain some day to be recognized. *" Sometimes 
during long night marches soldiers fall asleep without ceasing 
on that account to go forward ; they march on in their dreams 
and do not awaken till they have reached their destination on 
the battlefield. It is thus that ideas advance in the human 
mind ; they are so drowsy that they seem unable to stand 
upright, one discovers their strength and their vitality only by 
the distance they traverse, and finally day breaks and they 
appear on the field and are victorious. 


part jfirst. 





Importance of the Problem of the Origin of Religion — Universality 
OF Religious Beliefs or Superstitions — Variability of Religions and 
Religious Evolution. 

I. Idealist Theory which Attributes the Origin of Religion to a 
Notion of the Infinite — Henotheism of Max Miiller and Von 
Hartniann — M. Kenan's Instinct for Divinity. 

II. Theory of a Worship of the Dead and of Spirits — Herbert 
Spencer — Spencer's Objections to the Theory of the Attribution 
of a Soul to Natural Forces. 

III. Answer to Objections— Religious Physics Sociological in 
Form, and the Substitution of Relations between Malevolent or 
Beneficent Conscious Beings for Relations between Natural 
Forces — Socio-morphism of Primitive Peoples. 

The question of the genesis of religion is more important 

than any other historical inquiry. It involves not only the 

truth or falsity of past events, but the value or 

Importance of ^ . , 

inquiry into the reverse of our ideas and present beliefs. 

genesis of Each of us has something at stake in this in- 

religion. . '^ 

vestigation. The causes which formerly gave 

rise to a belief are still, in the majority of cases, those which 

maintain it in existence in our days, and to take stock of 

these causes is, whether one intends it to be so or not, to pass 

judgment on the belief itself. History, if it should ever be 

complete, would possess here the power of effacing in the 

future what it had failed to justify in the past Perfectly to 



ascertain the origin of religions would be at the same time 
either to condemn them or to fortify and preserve them. 

One point may legitimately be regarded as attained by 
contemporary criticism. After the labours of Herr Roskoff, 

Establish d ^^' l^^viUe, and M. Girard de Rialle, it is impossi- 
fact that every ble to maintain that there exist nowadays on the 
peoprasreiigLs. surface of the earth whole peoples absolutely 
without religion or superstition, which among" 
non-civilized people amount to the same thing.' The reason 
why man is a superstitious or religious being is simply that he 
possesses a high degree of intelligence. Megalithic monu- 
ments (menhirs, cromlechs, dolmens), sepulchres, amulets, are 
trustworthy evidence of the existence of religion in prehistoric 
times ; and those fragments of bone detached from the skull 
and pierced with holes to pass a string through — " cranial 
rounds " — belong, no doubt, to the same category.^ Manifes- 
tations of the religious spirit date back thus to the age of 
polished stone. And to pass from facts to hypotheses it is 
conceivable that at the beginning of the quaternary period, 
perhaps two hundred and fifty thousand years ago, man was 
already feeding upon vague and elementary superstitions, 
though he does not appear to have felt sufficient respect for 
his dead to have dug sepulchres, and although no fetiches 
belonging to that period have been discovered. 

A second point which may be regarded as equally estab- 
lished, and which results in important consequences in the 
matter of method of research, is that religion, 

Established being of natural origin, must have developed 

fact that religion &> . . 

is of natural slowly and in accordance with universal and 
origin. regular laws ; it must have originated in simple 

and vague notions of some sort, accessible to the most primi- 
tive intelligence. And from that starting point it must have 
risen by gradual evolution to the complex and precise concep- 
tions which characterize it to-day. It is in vain for religions 

' Herr Roskoff, Das Religionswesen der rohesten Naturvoelker (Leipzig, 1880) ; 
M. Girard de Rialle, yl/vMc/c^/V fcw/rtr/<f (Paris, 1878); M. Reville, Les religions 
des penples non civilis/s (Paris, 1880). 

'■^ See M. G. De Mortillet, Le pr^historique. Antiquity de l' Aomme (Paris, 1883). 


to believe themselves immutable ; they have all of them been 
borne forward unwittingly by the movement of universal 
evolution. The great Egyptian Sphinx, who has not changed 
her position in the desert these four thousand years, might 
believe herself to be stationary, but she has never ceased for 
an instant to whirl through space, borne along by the earth's 
motion around the sun. 

It remains to determine what these primary notions that 
lay at the bottom of all religions were. And here begins the 
disagreement among the principal authorities on 
theories of its the science of religion. Some of them explam 
origin. ^.j^^ \^\x\\\ of religion by a sort of mysterious 

intuition of supra-sensible verity, by a divination of God ; 
others regard it as an intellectual error, a false hypothesis, 
which was natural, however, and perhaps inevitable to primi- 
tive intelligence. The first look upon religion as an immense 
leap on the part of the human mind over and beyond the 
limits of the physical world in which we are confined, the 
second believe it to be born in the beginning of an inexact 
interpretation of the commonest phenomena of the world, of 
objects of our senses or of our consciousness ; for the first, 
religion is more than science ; for the second, religion is 
pseudo-science. All idealists— Strauss, Renan, Matthew 
Arnold — discover in every religion the germ of their own 
especial form of refined idealism, and bow down before it 
with a respect that might well appear ironical if they did not 
afifirm themselves to be quite sincere ; they see in religions 
generally the noblest and most lasting product of the human 
mind. Their extreme adversaries, on the contrary, see no more 
in the origin of religions than, as Auguste Comte would have 
said, the expression of a gross fetichism. 

It is evident that the problem of the origin of religion, in 
the new form in which it presents itself to-day, is quite as 
grave as ever it was ; formerly the question was 
species^if mu^ whether religion is revealed or natural ; to-day 
sion? the question is whether religion is or is not true — 

whether it is or is not the product of an intellectual error, of a 
sort of inevitable optical illusion which it is the business of 


science to explain and to correct ; whether, in effect, the god 
of mythical and symbolical religion is not simply a magnified 

The positivist theory of religion seemed some years ago 
close upon its ultimate triumph.' Many had accepted it, 
but without having fully perceived all of its con- 
thLVnoCge^r scquenccs. At the present moment it is, on the 
in possession of contrary, strongly contested. New elements, 
have been introduced into the problem and 
the whole question must be gone over again. Max Miiller 
in especial has made what might be almost called a desperate 
effort to make out a case for the objectivity and essential 
rationality of religion, which had both been compromised by 
positivism.^ From a different point of view Herbert Spencer 
also, in his " Sociology," has criticised theories which regard 
fetichism or naturism as the principle of religion. 

According to Max Miiller some notion of divinity, in 
especial in the form of a notion of the infinite, must have 
preceded the conception of God. Gods are 
theor^ ^"^^^"'^ simply subsequent personifications of this great 
innate idea ; our ancestors kneeled in worship 
long before they possessed a name for Him before whom 
they were kneeling. Even at the present day we recognize 
in the last resort the vanity of all the titles of the unknown 
God whom we must adore really in silence. Religion, which is 
responsible for the origin of the gods of history, may there- 
fore well survive them. We say religion ; for in effect, 
according to Max Miiller, all religions amount in the end to 
one, since they may all be traced back through the long 
course of their development to a single original conception, 
that namely of the infinite, which from the very beginning 
was present in the mind of man. This universal conception, 
however, Max Miiller does not regard as in any sense mystical 
or innate, in the old acceptation of that word. He willingly 

'We find it adopted or almost so even by spiritualists, like M.Vacherot, La 
religion, Paris, 1869. 

* See Origin and Development of Religion, by F. Max Miiller, M. A. 


adopts the axiom : Nihil in fide quod non antea fuerit in 
sensu.^ But in his opinion some perception of the infinite 
is logically involved in a perception of the finite, and this 
conception of infinity, with its basis at once in sense and 
reason, is the true foundation of religion. Given the five 
senses of a savage. Max Miiller undertakes to make him 
sensible of or at least experience some presentiment of the 
infinite, make him desire it, feel some aspiration toward it. 
Take the sense of sight for example : " Man sees, he sees to 
a certain point ; and then his eyesight breaks down. But 
exactly where his eyesight breaks down there presses upon 
him, whether he likes it or not, the perception of the unlimited 
or the infinite." " It may be said," he adds, " that this is not 
perception in the ordinary sense of the word. No more it is, 
but still less is it mere reasoning." " If it seems too bold 
to say that man actually sees the invisible, let us say that he 
suffers from the invisible, and the invisible is only a special 
name for the infinite." Man not only necessarily divines the 
infinite as existing beyond the limits of the finite, and as it 
were enveloping it ; he perceives it within the limits of the 
finite, and as it were penetrating it; the infinite divisibility of 
matter is manifest to the senses, the fact that science seems 
to demand the existence of an irreducible atom as a necessary 
postulate to the contrary notwithstanding. And what is true 
of space is equally true of time, applies equally to quality 
and quantity. " Beyond, behind, beneath, and within the 
finite, the infinite is always present to our senses. It presses 
upon us, it grows upon us from every side. ' What we call 
finite in space and time, in form and word, is nothing but a 
veil or net which we ourselves have thrown over the infinite." 
And let it not be objected that primitive languages supply no 
means of expressing the idea of infinity, of the beyond, which 
is given in every finite sensation. Do the languages of 
antiquity supply a means of designating the infinite shades 
and variety of colour? Democritus was acquainted with but 
four colours : black, white, red, and yellow. Shall we say, 
therefore, that the ancients did not perceive the blue of 
' Origin and Development of Religion, p. 2IO. 

r V' OF THK ' 



heaven? The sky was as blue for them as it is for us, but 
they had not yet established a conventional designation for 
the sensation it afforded them. And similarly in the case of 
the infinite for the primitive man ; it existed for him although 
he had not as yet invented a name for it. Well, what is this 
infinite, in the last resort, but the object to which every 
religion addresses itself? A religious being is essentially one 
who is not satisfied with such and such a finite sensation ;. 
who looks everywhere for the beyond — looks for it in life, in 
death, in nature, in himself. To be divinely aware of a vague 
somewhat that one cannot quite understand, to feel a venera- 
tion for it and then to endeavour to fit it with a name, to call 
to it stammeringly, these are the beginnings of every system 
of religious worship. The religion of the infinite compre- 
hends and precedes all others, and since the infinite itself is 
given in sensation, it follows that " Religion is simply an- 
other development of sensuous perception, quite as much as 
reason is." ' 

Max Miiller is equally critical in his attitude toward posi- 

tivists, who regard fetichism as the primitive religion, and 

toward the orthodox, who find in monotheism 

poS"pos?tiv- the natural uncorrupted type of religion. In 

ists and orthodox \^\^ opinion, to name a god or gods implies ante- 

monotlieists, ,,, • e ^- r^ii-- 

cedently the possession of a notion ot the divine, 
of the infinite ; gods are simply the different forms, more or 
less imperfect indeed, in which divers peoples have bodied 
forth one and the same idea ; religion is, so to speak, a 
laneuag-e into which men have endeavoured to translate one 
and the same internal aspiration— that of comprehending 
the great unknown ; if man's tongue and intelligence have 
gone astray, if the diversity and inequality of religions are 
comparable to the diversity and inequality of languages, that 
does not necessarily mean that at bottom the veritable prin- 
ciple and object of all these different religions, as of all these 
different languages, are not very nearly the same. According 
to Max Miiller a fetich, in the proper sense of the word 
{factitius), is no more than a symbol which presupposes an 

' Origin of Religion, p. 25. 


idea symbolized ; the idea of God cannot come out of a 
fetich unless it has already been put there. Casual objects, 
such as stones, shells, the tail of a lion, a tangle of hair, or 
any such rubbish, do not possess in themselves a theogonic 
or god-producing character. The phenomena of fetichism, 
therefore, are always historically and psychologically second- 
ary. Religions do not begin in fetichisms, it is truer to say 
that they end in it ; not one of them has shown itself capable 
of maintaining its original purity in connection with fetichism. 
Portuguese Catholics who reproach negroes with the feiti(^os 
were the first (were they not ?) to have their rosaries, their 
crosses, their sacred images, blessed by the priests, before 
their departure from their native land. 

If fetichism, understood as Max Miiller understands it, is 
not the primitive form of religion, if self-conscious mono- 
theism is equally incapable of maintaining its 

Henotheism. , . , . . , ^ ^i ^ ^i 

claim to be so, it is more exact to say that the 

earliest religion, at least in India, consisted in the worship 
of different objects, accepted one after the other as represent- 
ing a god (fz?) and not the unique and sole God {/uovo?). It 
is this that Max Miiller calls by a word invented by him : 
henotheism {si?, svo?, in opposition to /xovo?), or better, 
kathenotheism.' In ordinary polytheism the gods are arranged 
in hierarchies, belong to different ranks ; order reigns in heaven ; 
but in the beginning no such system of subordination could 
have existed. Each god must have seemed in turn the most 
powerful to whoever invoked him ; Indra, Varuna, Agni, Mitra, 
Somah were accustomed to hear the same epithets addressed 
to them; religious anarchy preceded religious monarchy. 
"Among you, O Gods," says Rishi Manu Vaivasvata, " there 
is none that is large, there is none that is small, there is none 
that is old nor young: you are all great indeed." They are 
all but different symbols of the same idea, of an adoration for 
that which overpasses the limits of the human mind, for the 
mysterious infinite whose existence our senses prove by their 
very incapacity of taking cognizance of it. 

' This word has met with success in Germany. Hartmann also adopts a theory of 
henotheism. . 


Max Muller endeavours to trace the evolution of Hindu 

thought from a period long previous to the birth of Buddhism, 

_,, , ,. which was the Protestantism of India. The 

The evolution 

of the Hindu learned philologist sees in the development of 
faith typical. religion in India one of the essential types of 
the development of human religions generally. It may be 
even, he thinks, that the Hindus, who started from as low 
a plane as we, have in some respects reached a more con-, 
siderable height. Let us follow him in this inquiry, which 
has nowhere been conducted more anxiously and indefatigably 
than in the great country which may almost be called the 
home of meditation. Let us take with him a " bird's-eye 
view" of what may be regarded as an epitome of human 

ndvT€? Si S^ecov xoiriovff av^pooTtoi, said Homer. It was 

not within the domain of the wholly tangible that India 

sought for its gods ; understanding by tangible 

Progress from o & ' o y o 

the semi-tangible whatever one can touch on all sides, stones, shells, 
to the intangible. ^^^^^^ gt^. • and Max Muller sees in this fact 

(which, by the way, may be contested) a fresh argument 
against the fetich theory. On the contrary, in the pres- 
ence of his great, snow-capped mountains, of which our 
comparatively level Europe can scarcely afford us even an 
idea, in the presence of his immense beneficent rivers with 
their rumbling cataracts, their eddies, their unknown sources, 
in the presence of the ocean, stretching away beyond the line 
of vision, the Hindu found himself surrounded by things, of 
which he could touch and understand but some inconsiderable 
portion — of which the origin and destiny baffled him. It was 
in the domain of the semi-tangible that India found its semi- 
deities. One step beyond, Hindu thought domesticated 
itself in the region of the intangible, that is to say, in the 
region of things which, though visible, lie entirely beyond our 
reach — the visible heaven, the stars, the sun, the moon, the 
dawn, which were regarded in India, as also elsewhere, as true 
divinities. Add to these thunder, which for the Hindus also 
descends from heaven with a " howl," the wind sometimes so 
terrible, which, however, in the hot days of summer " pours 


honey" upon man, and the rain, sent by the beneficent rain 
god, Indra. Having thus created their deities and peopled 
heaven somewhat at haphazard, the Hindus were not slow to 
distribute them into classes and families — to invent for them a 
necessary background of genealogy. There is a record of 
certain efforts to establish in the Hindu heaven, as in the 
Olympus of the Greeks, a system of government, a supreme 
authority ; in a number of hymns the notion of the one God, 
Creator and Master of the world, is clearly expressed : He is 
" the Father that begat us, the Ruler who knows the laws and 
the worlds, in Him alone all creatures repose." 

But the Hindu mind was destined to rise at a bound 

above Greek polytheism and Hebrew monotheism. It is 

well to see God in nature. There lies still a step 

And from the \ r u 1 • r • 

intangible to the beyond: to Ignore nature. A firm beliet m 

unreal. ^^g reality of this world, in the value of this life, 

enters as an essential element into the belief in a personal 

God, superior to the world and distinct from it, like the Javeh 

of the Hebrews. The distinguishing characteristic of the 

Hindu mind is precisely a certain scepticism in regard to 

the world, a persuasion of the vanity of nature ; so that the 

Hindu god possesses and can possess nothing in common 

with Jupiter or Javeh. He who sees no more in material 

force than a play of the senses, will see no more in the power 

which is supposed to direct that force than a play of the 

imagination ; faith in a Creator shares the fate of faith in a 

creation. It is in vain for Hindu poets to vindicate sraddJid 

faith, for the gods. Indra in especial, the most popular of 

the divinities, to whom the supreme epithet of Visvakarman, 

the maker of all things, is given, is of all others most subject 

to be doubted. "There is no Indra. Who has seen him? 

Whom shall we praise?" (Rig. vii. 89,3.) It is true that 

the poet after these bitter w'ords represents Indra as appearing" 

in person, as in the book of Job. " Here I am, O worshipper! 

behold me here. In might I overcome all creatures." But 

the faith of the poet and of the thinker takes fire but for a 

moment; we enter into a period of doubt which Max Miiller 

designates by the name of adevism and which he carefully 


distinguishes from atheism properly so called. And in effect 
Hindus did not reject the very notion of a god, the Greek 
5£o?; they sought God simply back of and beyond the per- 
sonal and capricious deities that up to that time they had 
adored ; such deities became for them names simply, but 
names of some thing, of some being, unknown. " There is 
only one being, although the poets call him by a thousand 
names." Buddhism itself, which came later and did no more 
than develop tendencies already existing in Brahmanism, 
was not, in Max Muller's judgment, originally atheistic. 
Adevism was no more for India, with some slight exceptions, 
than a period of transition; the Hindu mind passed it as a 
step toward a higher level. And yet what anxiety, what 
incertitude, is expressed in certain hymns which belong, no 
doubt, to this unhappy epoch. The Vedic poets no longer 
glorify the sky nor the dawn, they do not celebrate the powers 
of Indra, nor the wisdom of Visvakarman and Pragapati. They 
move about, as they themselves say, " as if enveloped in mist 
and idle speech." Another says: " My ears vanish, my eyes 
vanish, and the light also which dwells in my heart ; my mind 
with its far off longing leaves me ; what shall I say, and what 
shall I think? . . . Who knows from whence this great 
creation sprang? and whether it is the work of a Creator or 
not? The most High Seer, that is in the highest heaven, he 
knows it, or perchance even he knows not." (Rig. x. 129.) 
There is profoundness in these last words, and how the 
problem of the creation has been probed by the human intel- 
lect since that epoch! The evolution of the ideas ^indicated 
in the passages of the hymns reaches its climax invwhat are^ 
called the Upanishads, the last literary compositions which 
still belong to the Vedic period, where all the philosophy of 
the time is found condensed, and where one catches glimpses of 
the modern doctrine of Schopenhauer and of Von Hartmann. 
After having meditated a long time the Hindu believed him- 
self to have succeeded. Max Muller cites the surprising 
dialogue between Pragapati and Indra, in which the latter ac- 
quires, after a long effort, an acquaintance with the " self hidden 
within the heart," the Atman, what Kant would call " the 


transcendental ego." In the beginning Indra supposed this 
ego to be the visible reflection of his body, covered with its 
splendid raiment, in the water. But no ; for when the body- 
suffers or perishes, Atman would perish. " I see no good in 
this doctrine." Indra then entertained the hypothesis that 
the Atman reveals itself in dreams, when the mind is given 
over to the control of one knows not what invisible power, 
and forgets the pains of life. But no, for in dreams one still 
weeps, still suffers. Or may not the Atman, the supreme ego, 
be simply the man in dreamless sleep, in perfect repose? The 
ideal of repose, forgetfulness, of profound and sweet sleep, has 
always possessed great charm for the Orient. But no, " for he 
who sleeps does not know himself (his self), that he is I, nor does 
he know anything that exists. He is gone to utter annihila- 
tion. I see no good in this doctrine." It is only after passing 
through all these successive stages, that the Hindu mind 
comes at last to formulate what seems to it altogether the 
most profound truth and the supreme ideal. Atman is the 
self, leaving the body and freeing itself from pleasure and 
pain, taking cognizance of its own eternity (Upan. viii. 7-12); 
recognizing the Old, who is difficult to be seen, who has 
entered into darkness. . . It is smaller than small, greater 
than great; hidden in the heart of the creature, (ii. 12, 20.) 
Atman the " highest person," whom the sage finally discovers 
in himself, lies also at the bottom of all other beings than him- 
self. Atman, the subjective ego, is identical with Brahma, the 
objective ego. Brahma is in us, and we are in all things, the 
distinction between individuals vanishes, nature and its gods 
are absorbed in Brahma, and Brahma is " the very ether of 
our hearts." " Thou art it, tat tvam, is the word of life and of 
the whole world." To find one's self in everything, to feel 
the eternity of everything, is the supreme religion ; it is the 
religion of Spinoza. " There is one eternal thinker, thinking 
the non-eternal thoughts ; he, though one, fulfils the desires 
of many. . . Brahma cannot be reached by speech, by mind, or 
by eye. He cannot be apprehended, except by him who says: 
He is." This Brahma in whom everything vanishes as a 
dream, " is a great terror, like a drawn sword "; but he is also 



the highest joy to him who has once found him ; he is the 
appcaser of desire and intelligence. " Those who know him 
become immortal." 

We have at last reached with Max MuUer " the end of 
the long journey which we undertook to trace." We have 

seen the Hindu religion, which is typical of 
Hmdn toler- human religions, develop gradually, endeavour 

to cope with the infinite in its various forms, 
until it attains the height of conceiving it as Brahma, the 
eternal thinker, of whom the world is no more than a transi- 
tory thought. The gods are dead ; sacrifices, rites, observ- 
ances of all sorts are useless ; the sole rite which is appro- 
priate as an offering to the infinite is meditation and detach- 
ment. Do the debris therefore of the earlier stages of the 
faith disappear and the temples fall in dust, and Agni, Indra, 
and all these splendid titles pass into oblivion? Not at all, 
and here, following Max MuUer, we may find in the his- 
tory of the religions of India a lesson for ourselves in toler- 
ance and generosity. The Brahmans understood that, as 
man grows from infancy to old age, the idea of the divine 
must grow in him from the cradle to the grave ; a religion 
which does not live and grow is a dead religion. The 
Hindus accordingly have divided the life of the individual 
into distinct periods — Asramas, as they say ; in the earlier 
Asramas the believer invokes gods, offers sacrifices, puts up 
prayers ; it is only later, when he has accomplished these 
naive duties and tempered his soul by long contact with the 
juvenile aspects of the faith, that in his mature reason he rises 
above the gods, and regards all sacrifices and ceremonies as 
vain forms, and thenceforth finds his cult in the highest 
science which is to him the highest religion, the Vedanta. 
Thus in the life of the individual the various stages of relig- 
ion exist in an harmonious hierarchy. Even in our days in a 
Brahman family one may see the grandfather at the summit 
of the intellectual ladder looking down without disdain upon 
his son, who fulfils each day his sacred duties, and at his 
grandson learning by heart the ancient hymns. All genera- 
tions live in peace, side by side. The different castes, each of 


which follows a system of belief adapted to its degree, do the 
same. All adore, at bottom, the same god, but this god 
takes care to make himself accessible to everyone, to stoop 
for those whose station does not lift them above the earth. 
" It is thus," says Max Miiller, " that every religion, if it is a 
bond of union between the wise and the foolish, the old and 
the young, must be pliant, must be high, and deep, and broad ; 
bearing all things, believing all things, enduring all things." 
Let us be as tolerant as our fathers in India, let us not be 
indignant against the superstitions above which we ourselves 
have risen and which served us in their day as stepping 
stones. Let us learn how to discover the element of good- 
ness and truth in all the creeds of humanity. It may be that 
all human religions, if they could once be freed from the 
legends which drape them, would unite to furnish for the 
cultivated portion of mankind a religion really complete. 
" Who knows but that their very foundation may serve once 
more, like the catacombs, or like the crypts beneath our old 
cathedrals, for those who, to whatever creed they may belong, 
long for something better, purer, older, and truer than what 
they can find in the statutable sacrifices, services, and sermons 
of the days in which their lot on earth has been cast." 

Is this elevated theory exact ? In the first place it seeks 

erroneously to find in Hindu civilization the type of primi- 

„ , . . . tive relig;ion ; more than that, it inverts the order 
Criticism of ^ ' 

MaxMtiUer's of evolution by presupposing at the beginning 
*^^°^^' the existence of complex notions and profound 

symbols which have been misconceived, it holds, by later 
generations only through an inability correctly to interpret 
the language in which they lay embalmed.' The capital 
defect in the theory, however, is that it discovers the origin 
of religion in the vaguest and most modern of metaphysical 

' Max Muller, as is well known, goes the length of believing that the authors 
of the first myths were perfectly conscious that they were speaking in parables ; and 
that subsequent generations misunderstood them, because they personified the fig- 
ures and the names by which the Divine was referred to ; so that mythology 
becomes literally the science of a disease of language. 


ideas, that namely of the infinite. Max Miiller holds that 
this idea is furnished even by the senses; his system presents 
itself to us as an effort at a reconciliation between the sen- 
sualists and the idealists. But the doctrine rests upon a 
confusion. A perception of relativity is one thing, a percep- 
tion of infinity is another; some objects are great, some 
are small, and any object is great or small according to the 
standard of comparison — that is what the senses, or rather 
the memory, informs us of ; and unless the metaphysical 
subtlety of a modern scholar whispers something in their ear, 
that is all they tell us. Max Miiller seems to believe that 
the perception of space supplies us directly with a perception 
of infinity ; but over and above any question of the psycho- 
logical inexactitude of this account, it is irreconcilable with 
the historical facts. The infinity of space is an idea which 
metaphysicians alone, and that too in comparatively late 
time.s, have succeeded in realizing. The horizon is, on the 
face of it, a physical limit. The child fancies that he can go 
close up to the horizon and touch the beginnings of the celes- 
tial dome with his finger ; the ancients conceived the heavens 
as an inverted bowl of hard crystal, sown with luminous 
points.' For us who have been told since we were children 
that the stars are greater than the earth, and are separated 
from us by a distance unimaginably great, the spectacle of 
the heavens by a necessary association gives rise to a feeling 

' Among the most ingenious and least contestable of Max Muller's suggestions, 
we cite the paragraph devoted to the Vedic deity Aditi, one of tlie names of the 
dawn : " You will be as surprised as I certainly was surprised wlien the fact 
first presented itself to me, that there really is a deity in the Veda who is simply 
called the boundless or the infinite, in Sanscrit A-difi. Aditi is derived from diti, 
and the negative particle a. Diti, again, is regularly derived from a root DA 
(dyati), to bind, from which dita, the participle, meaning bound, and diti, a sub- 
stantive, meaning binding and bound. Aditi, therefore, must originally have 
meant without bounds, not chained nor inclosed, boundless, infinite, infini- 

This etymology, on the contrary, seems to us rather to be calculated to show jire- 
cisely that the conception of infinity is not primitive, and that the first time the 
Hindus invoked the dawn under tlie name of Aditi, they were far from possess- 
ing any distinction between finite and infinite. The night was for them a prison- 
house, the return of day was their deliverance. It is well known that they 
represented day as a luminous cow, which moved slowly out of the stable at night 


of the incommensurable and the infinite. There is no reason 
to suppose that anything analogous took place in the mind of 
primitive man when he lifted his eyes on high. Primitive 
man has not the least idea that the power of vision is limited, 
that the vault of heaven is the vault of his incapacity and that 
infinite space stretches beyond ; habitually, primitive man 
locates the end of the world at the extremity of his line of vision, 
which forms on all sides of him a visible and motionless sphere. 
It is difficult for him to understand that heavenly space is 
greater than the visible world. He finds it equally difficult to 
conceive the infinitely little ; the infinite ciivisibility of matter 
©f which, according to Max Miiller, the senses take cogni- 
zance, is a conception which results only from the most 
abstract reasoning. Man's natural belief is that the divisi- 
bility of matter stops at the same point that his power of 
taking cognizance of it does — at the visible atom. 

As to this " suffering from the invisible " of which Max 

Miiller speaks, it is an altogether modern disease, which, 

instead of giving rise to the idea of the infinite, 

"Suffering from is, ou the Contrary, a late product of this notion 

the invisible," a , ■ , •. ir • j i_ r r 1 1 j 

modern malady, ^hicli was itself acquired by force of knowledge 
and of reasoning ; far from marking the point 
from which religions spring, the " suffering from the unknown " 
stamps their insufficiency, is the beginning of their end. 
Primitive man troubles himself little about the infinity of 

and stepped across the fields of heaven and of earth. Sometimes these cows are 
represented as stolen and confined in sombre caverns. Aurora herself is retained 
in the depths of Rita; night threatens to reign without end, but the gods set out 
in search of her, Indra discovers and delivers her, and with her aid, the cows bellowing 
for liberty are discovered in their cavern. It seems to us that for one who enters 
into the spirit of these primitive legends, it is easy to determine the primitive 
sense of Aditi. Aditi is the dawn who, confined one knows not where, succeeds 
at last in breaking bonds and appears radiantly in the open heaven, delivering and 
delivered, breaking the jail in which the hours of darkness have confined the 
world. Aditi is the dawn, freed and giving freedom. And, by an extension of 
meaning, it comes to signify the immortal and imperishable light which no power 
can veil or hide for more than a day. Whereas, Diti signifies what is mortal and 
perishable and prisoned in the bounds of matter. This construction is simple, and 
what is more, is confirmed by the legends to which we have just alluded ; after hav- 
ing advocated it in the Revue philosophique (December, 1879), we find it adopted 
by M. Reville, ProUgomenes h Vhistoire dcs religions, 1 88 1. 


nature and the eternal silence of infinite space ; he constructs 
a world after the model of his own houses and shuts himself 
safely up in it. It is only the visible world that troubles him ; 
he finds in it an object more than sufficient for his utmost 
physical and intellectual activity ; he does not go far afield in 
search of his gods ; he finds them, so to speak, under his hand, 
touches them with his finger, lives in their company. The 
essence of their power over him lies in the fact that they are- 
neighbours of his. To his gross intelligence the greatness of 
the gods is not commensurate with their intrinsic infinity, but 
with their power over him ; if heaven neither lighted him nor 
warmed him with its sun, it would not be the universal father, 
the Dyaush-pita, the Zev?, the Jupiter. We do not mean to 
say with Feuerbach that religion strikes root in gross self- 
interest and brutal egoism simply ; in his relations with the 
gods, as in his relations with his fellows, man is partly selfish, 
partly unselfish : what we maintain is that primitive man is 
not an advanced rationalist of the type of Max IMiiller, that 
the conception of infinity was attained independently of 
religious faith, and, more than that, is in conflict with 
religious faith and will ultimately destroy it. W^hen in the 
progress of human thought the universe is once conceived as 
infinite, it overpasses the gods and unseats them. This hap- 
pened in Greece at the time of Democritus and Epicurus. 
Positive religion deiyands^ a finite, world : primitive people 
did not rear temples to the Infinite in the hopes of domesti- 
cating Him. Max Miiller pronounces a eulogy upon the 
Hindus for their adevism ; was it really to their conception 
of the infinite that they owed their wisdom, and might not 
the idea of infinity alone have quite as well led them to 
atheism ? When or.'e learns to contemplate the world as an 
eternajly lengthening chain of phenomena, one no longer 
hopes, by a futile prayer, to stop or to modify the march 
of such inflexible determinism ; one contents one's self with 
investigating it by science or entering into it in some field 
of action. Religion disappears in science or morality. There 
remains, it is true, a final hypothesis that one may main- 
tain : one may apotheosize the infinite, make over to it, 


after the manner of the Brahmans, of the ancient and modern 
Buddhists, of the Schopenhauers and the Hartmanns, a 
donation of some mysterious unity of essence ;| but if so, 
prayer expires in meditation, in ecstasy, in a monotonous 
rocking of the cradle of thought to the rhythm of the phe- 
nomenal world, and religion becomes a religion of monism.] 
But this religion does not spring in any proper sense from the 
notion of infinity, it, so to speak, hooks on to it rather; it is 
another example of man's need, if not to personify, at least to 
individualize and to unify the infinite — so great is man's need 
to project his individuality by main force, if need be, into the 
world I One is bent on endowing this great material body that 
one calls nature with some sort of a soul, one is bent on con- 
ceiving it in some fashion or other on the model of the human 
organism ; and is not that, too, a species of anthropomorphism ? 
It is only later that human thought, carried away upon 
an endless voyage of discovery analogous to the migration 
. of a primitive people, after having traversed the 

The conception ^ r r ' , , , 

of infinity a scien- length of visible spacc and leaped the bound of 
tific discovery. j^g ^^^,^ intellectual horizon, attains the presence 
of the unfathomable ocean of the infinite. The infinite is for 
the human mind such a discovery as the ocean was for peoples 
who had wandered to its shores from the mountains and the 
plains. Just as for the newborn child the different planes of 
vision are indistinct and equally near; just as it is by the sense 
of touch that one learns little by little to recognize the depth 
of space and to acquire the conception of distance ; just as, so 
to speak, it is with one's own hand that one opens the horizon 
before one ; in the same way to the uncultivated intelligence 
everything seems finite and limited ; and it is only by moving 
forward that it perceives the breadth and depth of its domain. 
It is only to a mind upon the march that the great perspective 
of the infinite is thrown open. At bottom this conception of 
infinity is less due to any direct experience of mere things 
than to a sense of one's own personal activity, to a belief in 
the perpetual progress open to human thought ; action, as 
somebody has said," is the real infinite or at least what appears 
'Alfred Fouillee, La liber U et le d^terminisme, 2e par tie. 



I as such. In this sense it may be admitted that there is in 
every human thought some vague presentiment of infinity, 
for there is a consciousness of a fund of activity which will 
not be exhausted in any given act nor in any given thought; 
to be conscious that one lives is thus in some sort to be 
conscious that one is infinite: illusion or reality, this notion 
forms a part of all our thoughts, turns up in every proposition 
of science but it does not produce science, it is, on the con- ' 
trary, born of it ; it does not produce religion, which is the 
science of primitive ages, but descends from it. The con- 
ception of infinity in many respects resembles the ignorance 
of Socrates, the refined ignorance which was really in disguise 
the last development of intelligence. One of the antiscientific 
traits of existing religions is precisely that they display no 
sufficient sentiment of our ignorance in the presence of the 
unknowable, that the window they have open upon the infinite 
is decidedly too contracted. If, as we have seen, religious 
physics tends little by little to transform itself into a meta- 
physics ; if the gods have retreated from phenomenon to phe- 
nomenon, to the region of the supersensible ; if heaven has 
separated itself from earth, positive religion nevertheless still 
lives in fear of throwing open to human thought a perspective 
really infinite. Its eyes are always fixed upon a more or less 
determinate being, a creator, a unity in which the spirit may 
find repose and safety from the infinite. Religious metaphysics^ 
like religious physics, has remained more or less anthropo- 
morphic, and rests more or less on a foundation of miracle ; 
a foundation, that is to say, which limits and suspends the 
exercise of intelligence. And as the object of adoration, in 
the majority of religions, is anything rather than the infinite, 
in the same way religious faith itself leads to a disposition to 
arrest the march of thought and impose upon it an immutable 
barrier ; it leads to the negation of infinity and of the indefinite 
progress of human research. Stricken by an arrest of develop- 
ment the majority of positive religions settled once for all on 
the first formulae that occurred to them ; they erected them 
linto the practical object of a cult and left the intangible infinite 
unmolested in outer vagueness. 


Over and above the conception of the infinite there is 

another and a similar notion that it is equally impossible to 

discover at the roots of religious thought ; it is 
Conception of , ^ . . , 1 • r 1 • Tr- 

ail all-embracing that of unity in plurality, of totality. This pan- 

Tinity, also mod- theistic, monistic concept Von Hartmann believes 

>ern. -. 

to be the starting-point of all religions. As a 
partial disciple of Hegel and of Schopenhauer, Von Hartmann 
inevitably attributes to humanity and applies to the interpre- 
tation of history the formulae of his dialectic. " Heno- 
theism," he says, " is founded on a recognition of the 
positive identity at bottom of all the divinities of nature ; an 
identity which permits one to adore in the person of every god 
individually, and principally in the person of each of the lead- 
ing gods, absolute divinity, the divine god. It becomes 
therefore a matter of indifference, in some measure, under 
which of its particular aspects one worships Divinity ; when 
Indra is represented imaginatively in the form of a buffalo, the 
right to represent him immediately afterward in the form of 
an eagle, or a falcon, is not for an instant abrogated ; when 
henotheism offers its homage to the supreme deity under the 
name of Indra, god of the tempest, it does not incapacitate 
itself from adoring him a moment afterward under the name 
of Surya, god of the sun ; or of Rudra-Varuna, god of the 
heavens. Henotheism does not owe its origin, therefore, to a 
failure in the association of ideas, and to a chance forget- 
fulness, an incredible lapse of memory on the part of poly- 
theists, when they were addressing their homage to Surya as 
the supreme god, that there were still other gods in existence 
who were adored by other people, and even sometimes by 
themselves." Imagine primitive humanity '' up" in the latest 
developments- of the philosophy of monism, with its symbolism 
and its notion of conceiving diverse powers as metaphorical 
manifestations of the fundamental unity of things ! Even for 
India, the home of pantheistic metaphysics, such a philosophy 
is the reluctant product of a civilization alread}' refined. 
People never take the first steps in thought by means of ab- 
stractions. To conceive divinity in general, and subsequently 
represent it by Indra, Surya, or Rudra-Varuna, as by aspects, 


no one of which exhaust the totality of it — by a sort of Htany 
in which the unity of things appears successively under diverse 
names and forms — implies a subtlety of intelligence and a 
mastery of the henotheistic conception of the universe that is 
one of the latest products of metaphysical speculation. In the 
beginning the form and figure of the god was not distinguished 
from the god himself. The distinction between body and mind 
was one that humanity attained with great difficulty ; and, a. 
fortiori, any notion of a unity of the supreme and world soul, 
existing under a multiplicity of forms, must of necessity have 
made its appearance much later. 

Another and later form of this vague idealism, that Max 

-Miiller and Von Hartmann, and also Strauss, have advocated, is 

presented in the theory of M. Renan concerning 

M. Kenan's reli- ^|^g u rgligious instinct," or the " revelation of the 

gions instinct. ° ^ 

ideal." ^^y religious instinct M. Renan under- 
stands something mysterious and mystical, a heavenly voice in 
one's bosom, a sudden and almost sacred revelation. " The 
construction of a religion," he cries, " is for humanity what the 
construction of a nest is for a bird. A mysterious instinct 
awakens in the heart of a being, who heretofore has lived 
totally unaware of the existence in himself of any such possi- 
bilities. The bird w'hich has never itself laid an egg nor seen 
an egg laid, possesses a secret foreknowledge of the natural 
function which it is going to perform. It lends itself with a 
species of pious and devoted joy to an end which it does not 
understand. The birth of the religious idea in man is some- 
thing quite analogous. Mankind is moving forward unsus- 
pectingly in its allotted course, and suddenly a little period of 
silence comes upon it, a lapse of sensation, and it cries to itself : 
'O God, how strange is the destiny of man! Is it indeed 
true that I exist? What is the world? Am I the sun, and 
does its heat and light feed upon my heart? . . . O Father, I 
see thee beyond the clouds,' and the noise of the outer world 
begins again, and the window, open out upon the infinite, 
closes once more, but, from that moment, a being to all appear- 
ance egoistic will perform inexplicable deeds and will experience 


a need to bow the knee and to adore." This charming passage, 
set off by the unction and the ecstasy of Gerson and Fenelon, 
is a capital instance of the mental attitude of a number of people 
nowadays who are endeavouring to transmute a reverence for 
some tottering religion into a reverence for the religious senti- 
ment. Unhappily, M. Renan's account is purely mythological ; 
primitive man never experienced anything of the kind. M. 
Renan completely confounds the ideas and sentiments which he, 
the historian of religion, the refined thinker, might have experi- 
enced himself, with those which primitive man was really 
subject to. This species of supreme doubt on the matter of 
our own existence and that of the world, this sentiment of the 
strangeness of our destiny, this communion of the soul with 
the totality of nature, this outbreak of refined sensibility, 
excited and tormented by modern life, possesses nothing in 
common with the sentiment of primitive religion, with its 
robust and crude faith reposing upon palpable fact and visible 
miracle. Mysticism, far from explaining the origin of religion, 
marks rather its period, its decomposition. (. A mystic is a 
person, who, feeling vaguely the insufficiency, the void, of a 
positive and finite religion, endeavours to compensate himself 
for the narrowness and poverty of established dogma by super- 
abundance of sentiment.) Mystics, substituting a more or less 
personal sentiment and spontaneous outburst of emotion for 
a faith in authority, have always played the role in history of 
unconscious heretics. Sentimental epochs are epochs of inac- 
tion, of concentration upon one's self, of comparative independ- 
ence of thought. On the contrary, there presided nothing 
sentimental or meditative at the origin of religion, there was a 
stampede simply of a multitude of souls in mortal terror 
or hope, and no such thing as independence of thought ; 
it is less of sentiment properly so-called, than of sensation 
and of action, that religions have been born. Primitive reli- 
gion was not a means of escape out of this world, a port-hole 
into the blue ; the earliest gods were not in the least ethereal, 
they were possessed of solid muscles, of arms capable of deal- 
ing blows. To explain the origin of primitive beliefs by a 
nascent idealism, is to explain them by their precise opposite. 


One becomes an idealist when one is on the point of ceasing 
to beHeve ; after having rejected a multitude of alleged realities 
one consoles one's self by adoring, for a time, the figments of 
one's own imagination ; the spirit of early times is much more 
positive, as the Comtists say. A preoccupation with the 
infinite, a divine vertigo, a sentiment of the abysses of life, are 
wanting to man in early times. The modern mind with its 
intenser vision now and again perceives in nature an endless, 
perspective down which we look with agony ; we feel our- 
selves carried forward to the verge of a chasm ; we are like 
navigators who, in the Antilles, under the intense light of the 
sun, can see the bottom and the depth of the sea and measure 
the gulf above which they hang suspended. But for less en- 
lightened intelligences nature is opaque, vision is limited to 
the surface of things, and one floats upon the rhythm and 
pulse of the sea without asking what lies beneath. 

Before the need for mystical belief can occur to one, one 

must have been reared in an atmosphere of faith, or else in an 

atmosphere of doubt ; and both these states of 

Alatephe- mind are equally unknown to the earlier and 
momenon. , , , • ^ ^ i 

simpler races of humanity. Or, more accurately, 
they are perfectly acquainted with faith, but it is the naive 
faith of eye and ear ; they possess the perfect confidence that 
every sentient being has in his five senses, and in all that 
there is nothing religious properly so-called. I remember the 
astonishment I felt in my infancy when I first saw the words 
doubt and faith ; it was in some verses, and the poet was sing- 
ing, with much eloquence, all the horrors of doubt. I per- 
fectly understood what it was to doubt a fact, or to believe in 
it, but I bothered my head in vain to discover what one 
meant by doubt simply : What was there so terrible about 
being in doubt on matters with which one was insuf^ciently 
acquainted ? The word faith was equally unintelligible to me, 
for I had as yet no conception of believing in anything except 
(what was certain. The case of primitive man is exactly the 
same. He no more experiences a mystical need to believe 
than he experiences a mystical need to get drunk before hav- 
ing tasted wine. Religious sentiment does not make its 



appearance in him suddenly, docs not simply step out on the 
stage. There are no lacunas in the human soul, it is a prey to 
invincible continuity. Such a sentiment must come gradually 
by a slow adaptation of the spirit to the inexact ideas supplied 
to Qife by the senses. Man, imagining himself to live in the 
bosom of a society of gods, inevitably accommodates himself 
to so novel a habitat. Every society, human or divine, creates 
the individual member in its own image ; draft the labourer 
for a soldier, let the villager become a citizen, they acquire of 
necessity new gestures and sentiments which, upon their 
return to their former habitat, they once more in a measure 
lose. The case is inevitably the same for mankind and relig- 
ion. As the most sociable of beings, man is also the most 
readily subject to the influence of those with whom he lives or 
believes himself to live. The gods, whom we create more 
or less in our own image, thereupon, by an inevitable reaction, 
return the compliment. A religious instinct, such as M. 
Reiiat^describes, is in a large part the work of this sort of re- 
action ah,d of education ; if it possesses profound roots in our 
being, the reason is that it was planted in us in our infancy, 
that it speaks to us with the voice of our childhood, and takes 
us bade to our earliest years ; often a word, a thought with 
which we have been struck at some former time, without, 
however, having understood it, unexpectedly reawakens in us, 
reverberates in our memory ; it is but an echo, and it appeals 
to us as if it were a voice. The role played by heredity in the 
formation of one's character has been noticeably exaggerated ; 
the influence of education is at the present day not estimated 
at its full value.' Even among animals, instinct amounts to 
little without education. A bird, no doubt, does not actually 
need to see an egg laid to acquit itself with " devotion " of that 
new function ; but when it is a question of building the nest, 
the case is not so simple : birds reared in a cage, who have 
never seen a nest, are often at a loss what to do ; . instinct 
whispers indeed to them still, but its voice is no longer clear, 
no definite image of the ideal nest presents itself to their eyes. 
Isature's " devotion " is at fault. Add that these instincts, so 

' See the authors Morale anglaise conteinporaitie, ie par tie. 


"mysterious" in M. Rcnan's opinion, act on the individual 
by means of a somewhat gross mechanism, and that it suffices 
to tamper with the mechanism, to excite the instinct or to 
suspend it. To transform, for example, a capon into a setting 
hen, it suffices simply to pluck the feathers off the belly ; it ^len 
squats upon eggs — or upon pebbles — with pleasure. Really 
there is mystery enough in nature without going out of one's 
way to add to it; it is not philosophic to trace everything back to 
instinct, and then presently to regard these instincts as uncon- 
scious intentions, and in these intentions to see the proof of a 
plan, and in this plan the proof of a god. With a logic so 
accommodating as that, M. Kenan might well find in the 
religious instinct a peremptory demonstration of the existence 
of God. 

In our judgment there was, in the beginning, no other 

instinct involved than the instinct of self-preservation, and 

The only in- the instii^^ct of sociality, which is closely allied 

stincts involved the ^o the former. More than that, the intellectual 

instincts of self- , i • i • • ^ • i • j 

preservation and procedure upon which primitive men relied was 
sociaWlity. ,^q other than a simple association by contiguity 

and similarity, together with such reasoning by induction or 
analogy as is inseparably bound up with association. This 
species of intellectual procedure is precisely that which, in its 
highest stages, gives birth to the scientific explanation of 
things. Religion, as we shall show presently, originates as 
science does, in a certain astonishment that an intelligent 
being experiences in the face of certain phenomena and in the 
fears and desires which result therefrom, and in the consequent 
voluntary reaction. 

11. Herbert Spencer, who is almost at the antipodes from 
Max Muller, by a conscious return to euhemerism regards the 
gods simply as heroes transfigured in the memo- 
SpS'agiee in rics of their descendants, reduces religion to an 
rejecting the ancestor worship, and thus implicitly denies that 

ypo esis. ^ presentiment of the divine or of the infinite has 
played any part in its origin. Nevertheless, Max Muller and 
Herbert Spencer, in spite of such divergences, agree in reject- 


ing the theory which attributes the birth of religion to the 
mingled astonishment and fear of an intelligent being in the 
face of certain natural phenomena, and to the need of expla- 
nation and protection that he experiences before what is 
puisant and powerful. 

\Vfe willingly concede to Mr. Spencer that ancestor worship 
has played its part in the genesis of human beliefs ; heroes 
have been deified not only after their death, but 
rel^ingtiUl ^ven in their lifetime. But why rely upon this 
number of single principle for the explanation of so complex 

principes, ^ phenomenon as religion? Why wish to see in 

every detail a realization of it, even when no positive fact 
seems to authorize one's doing so ? Spencer's system, which 
resolves the whole body of our beliefs into one, reminds one 
a little of Genesis, and of the theory that all mankind are 
descended from the first couple, Adam and Eve, after Eve had 
herself been fashioned out of one of Adam's ribs. If it is an 
excellent characteristic of Mr. Spencer's to look for the origin 
of heterogeneous and later belief* in some vague and homo- 
geneous conception, this primitive conception must at least be 
suf^ciently ample to be able fairly to accommodate within its 
own limits the whole body of its successors, and Mr. Spencer 
is somewhat too much inclined to confound the homogeneity 
of a notion with its amplitude ; it is only by a prodigy of arti- 
fice that he succeeds in extracting from his principle a com- 
pletely furnished religious theory of the universe. 

Mr. Spencer endeavours, first, to prove, by three examples, 
that a cult for the dead exists among three tribes of savages 
very low in the scale of civilization and not 
theory wantonly possessed, SO far as has been observed, of any 
clever. Other form of religion ; he thereupon infers 

that a cult for the dead is the earliest form of worship. These 
examples are open to discussion, but even if they were not, it 
in nowise follows that all other forms of religion spring from 
a cult for the dead. Death is, no doubt, so frequent and 
brutal a fact that it early engages the attention of primitive 
peoples; some germ of the notion of burial maybe discovered 
among animals. Ants have frequently been observed, after 


their battles, carrying off the corpses of their soldiers ; but from 
the fact that human intelligence must necessarily have been 
entiacied in one direction, does it follow that it can have been 
en<Ta<jed in no other? For the manufacture of a god Mr. 
Spencer requires first a corpse, second the conception of a 
spiritual double of the corpse, third a belief that this spirit is 
capable of inhabiting, not only the body, that it has just 
quitted, but another body, an inanimate effigy, a bee, a stone, 
etc. What a complication! One knows Mr. Spencer's 
ingenious device for explaining tree-worship; sometimes he 
would have us conceive trees as the resting-places of departed 
souls, who for some reason or other have taken a notion to 
inhabit them; sometimes he would have us rely on a theory 
of misinterpreted legend : a tribe that in former years inhabited 
the forest, a tribe cone from the forest, ultimately believes 
itself to be descended from trees, ultimately believes that its 
ancestors were trees. Really, all that strikes us as particularly 
artificial. A tall tree is venerable in and of itself. A certain 
"sacred horror" is an essential attribute of a dense forest. 
Night and obscurity play a notable part in the genesis of 
religion ; well, a forest is the very incarnation of eternal 
night with its element of the unforeseen, its terrors, the sigh of 
the wind in the branches like a voice, the cry of the wild beast 
which seems sometimes to come from the trees themselves. 
And what intense and silent life in and about a tree, if one but 
studies it closely ! An animal does not observe with sufficient 
attention to see plants grow and the sap rise ; but how 
astonished man must have been when first he remarked that 
the roots of trees make their way even into rock, that their 
trunks break all bonds : that they rise year by year, and are at 
the very beginnings of their maturity at an age when man is 
old I Forest vegetation is alive, but with a life so different 
from ours that it must naturally have filled our ancestors with 
surprise and reverence. Remember, too, that the sap of cer- 
tain trees, when it flows from a wound, is of the colour of 
blood, or of the colour and almost of the taste of milk. 

Similarly, why resort to an ancestor worship to explain 
zoolatry? What is more natural, for example, than the 


universal veneration for the snake? This mysterious creature 
which ghdes away among the shadows, appears, and dis- 
appears, and carries with it power of life and 
Superfluity of i ^i -i /-> • . i r . , , 

effort to explain death? Ur mstead of a serpent, consider the 

zoolatrybyances- Hon, or any Other ferocious animal. He makes 

tor worship. 

his appearance in a country and creates havoc 
among the flocks ; one pursues him, but for some reason or 
other no shot reaches him ; he is invulnerable. He becomes 
increasingly audacious and terrible ; he disappears for weeks 
together, nobody knows where ; he reappears suddenly, 
nobody knows why ; he defies the hunters with the majesty 
that wild beasts sometimes show, in perfect consciousness of 
their power. Behold! a veritable god. 

It is well known that the aborigines worshipped the horses 
wliich the Spaniards imported into America ; according to 
Prescott, they preferred to attribute the invention of firearms 
to the horses rather than to the Spaniards. The fact is 
simply that the Spaniards were men like themselves, and that 
the aborigines took their measure accordingly ; but an 
unknown animal came to them armed with an indefinite 
power. Men adore nothing but what they are comparatively 
ignorant of, and it is for that reason, whatever Mr. Spencer 
may say, that nature, so long imperfectly known, afforded to 
religion a more generous and inexhaustible aliment than 

At bottom what Mr. Spencer regards as the true confirma- 
tion of his doctrine is the relation it bears to the rest of his 
Narrowness and system ; it is for him an example simply of 

insufficiency of a universal law, a consequence of evolution. 

Spencer's formula. \ j ■ i. 1.1 • j i. • . i • ,. 

^ According to this doctrine, everything seems to 

spring from a primordial unity, from a single homogeneous 

belief — the belief in a power more or less vague, exercised by 

the souls of the dead ; this belief, once given, undergoes 

a complete series of integrations and differentiations, and 

ultimately becomes a belief in the regular action of an 

unknown and universal power. Mr. Spencer seems to us to 

be right in pitching upon the one homogeneous belief from 

which all others arise by a process of evolution; but the 


formula of this belief that he presents us with seems to us 
alto<jether too narrow and insufificient. If one wishes to dis- 
cover the idea which dominates both the cult for the dead and 
the cult for the gods, one will find in it a natural persuasion 
that nothing is absolutely and definitively inanimate, that 
everything lives and possesses, therefore, intentions and 
volitions. Man has deified the phenomena of nature, as he has 
immortalized his ancestors, for the sole and only reason that, 
as a living being possessed of a will, the most difficult thing in 
the beginning for him to understand is the invincible deter- 
minism and absolute inertia of the phenomena of the exter- 
nal world. 

The adoration of natural forces, conceived as more or less 
analogous to powerful living beings possessed of volition, has 
been denominated sometimes fetichism, some- 
feticMS.Tom. times naturism. Messrs. Muller and Spencer 
monly a play on are afrreed that fetichism is one of the later 
^°^ ^' forms of religion, and decline to treat it as primi- 

tive. On both sides of this interesting discussion one deside- 
ratum seems to us to be beautifully conspicuous by its absence, 
namely, precision of formula and agreement as to the exact 
sense of terms. The words fetich, atiimate being, i7ianimate 
being, and so forth, seem to us to have given rise to a number 
of misunderstandings, on the part both of those who are 
defending the fetich theory and of those who are attacking 
it. Let us cite some examples : Max Muller has undertaken 
to define the word fetichism ; as was natural for a philologist 
he went in search of an etymology, and he found, relying on 
Tylor, that fetichism (from the Portuguese/<r///V^, derived from 
the Latin factitius, artificial) could not designate anything 
but a superstitious reverence felt or shown for certain knick- 
knacks that possessed no apparent title to any such honour- 
able distinction. The definition of Tylor and of Max Muller 
may be philologically exact; unhappily, none of the philoso- 
phers who have regarded fetichism as the basis of religion 
have ever employed that word in the narrow and rigorous 
sense which Max Muller puts upon it; they understood by 
' See our Morale auglaise conteviporaine, p. 579. 


it, as de Brosses and A. Comte did, the primitive tendency 
to conceive external objects as animated by a life analogous 
to that of man. They comprehended also, under the title of 
fetichism, what Max MCiller distinguishes from it so carefully 
under the names of physiolatry, or the worship rendered to 
natural objects other than gimcracks, and of zoolatry, or the 
worship of animals. The result is that Max Miiller's refuta- 
tions really do not concern the doctrine which they are 
designed to combat, and ov^er against which he sets up his 
own doctrine. Similarly in regard to the definitions of ^I. 
Reville.' To demonstrate that a cult for knick-knacks is not 
the primitive and unique original of all human religions does 
not help us forward ; the problem remains where it was. Let 
us consider, therefore, not the words, but the theory itself of 
the animation of nature, and let us examine the objections 
that have been urged against it. 

According to [Messrs. Spencer and MCiller the savage may 
legitimately be compared to a child who mistakes a well- 
Children and dressed doll for a living being, or who punishes 

even animals dis- a door against which he has stumbled; the 

tiiifiruish, bBtwBBU 

animate and in- savage is not SO naive. The very child is far 

animate. from possessing all the naivete that is ascribed 

to him, in general he perfectly distinguishes between the 
animate and the inanimate ; and when he talks to his play- 
things, and conducts himself before them as if thev were alive 
he is not a dupe of his own words, he is composing a diminu- 
tive drama simply, in which he is an actor; he is making 
poetry and not mythology. " If his doll should step up to him 

'Fetichism, M. Reville also says, is logically a later belief. "A fetich is a 
vulgar object, possessing no value in itself, but which a negro preserves, venerates, 
adores, because he believes that it is the ihuelling place of a spirit. And the choice 
of the said object is not absolutely arbitrary. A fetich possesses this very special 
distinction, that it is the property of the person who adores it. It is in this 
element of individual ownership — ownership by the tribe or the family — that the 
difference clearly appears between the object of a naturist religion, and tiie fetich, 
properly so called. However humble it may be — tree, rock, or rivulet — the first is 
independent, is accessible to all, to strangers as to indigenes, on the sole condition 
that they conform to the exigencies of the ritual or the cult. The sun shines for 
everybody, the mountain is accessible to all who scale its sides, the spring refreshes 
the passer-by, whatever be his tribe ; the very tree which rises in the midst of the 


and bite him, he would be the first person to be astonished."' 
In the same way, a dog plays with a stick — the comedy of 
the chase — he bites it, he tears it into pieces, he warms to 
his game, which is still for him, when all is said, no more than 
a game. Even the famous example of a child's rage at 
inanimate objects against which it has stumbled, an example 
which has done service in the pages of all those who have 
written on religion,^ is seriously damaged by Mr. Spencer; 
according to him, mothers and nurses suggest to the child 
absurd ideas which, but for them, it would not have ; it is 
they, who, if it has hurt itself against an inanimate object, 
affect to be angry; and, to distract its attention from the 
pain, endeavour to excite its anger also. The little comedy 
of the inanimate object is one in which the child displays no 
initiative. In any event the example deals with an ill-observed 
psychological phenomenon, which, for the present, can be 
employed to support no theory whatever. 

Similarly, according to Mr. Spencer, no employment can 

be made of the mistakes committed by a savage in the 

Savages mis- presence of certain complex products of the arts 

taking a watch, -y-)(j ^f civilization; he believes these objects to 

ftp for /iTUTnutf* 

lendsnosup- be alive, but how should he do otherwise? If 
port to fetichism. }^g jg deceived, it is rather due to the degree 
of perfection attained by our art than to any defect in 
his own intelligence. When the indigenes of New Zeal- 
and saw Cook's ship, they took it for a sailing whale. 
Anderson relates that the Bushmen supposed that a carriage 
was an animate being and must be provided with fodder ; the 
complexity of its structure, the symmetry of its parts, its 
moving wheels, naturally suggested no fragment of their own 
experience of inanimate things. Just so the Esquimaux 

desert asks of the traveller some mark of deference, and does not trouble itself 
about his origin. One cannot appropriate a natural object. It is otherwise with 
a fetich. Once adopted by a family, it is in some sort in the service of that 
family and has nothing to do with others." This definition of fetichism is quite 
special, and in no wise concerns primitive fetichism, conceived as an ascription 
of something analogous to the human will in all inanimate things. 

' Spencer, Principles of Sociology. 

* See, among others, M. Vacherot, La religion. 




believed that a music-box and a hand-organ were Hving 
beings. All these errors are in a measure rational, but they 
are errors of a kind that really primitive man would have no 
opportunity to commit. To suppose that he was dominated 
by a natural tendency to assign life to things which were not 
alive, to imagine that he went out of his way to confound 
things which animals of a lesser degree of intelligence per- 
fectly distinguish, is to invert the whole course of evolution. 

There are, in Mr. Spencer's opinion, still other prejudices 

relative to primitive man from which we should free ourselves. 

We believe him to be voluntarily and incessantly 

Primitive man „«„j ^i j •/■-• •i.ix.i / r 

incurious. occupied, as the modern mfant is, with the zvliy of 

things; we fancy him perpetually endeavouring to 
satisfy a restless curiosity. Unhappily, if we are to trust our 
experience of the lower races of man, it appears that the senti- 
ment of curiosity decreases directly as one approaches the 
savage state. To awaken curiosity demands surprise ; Plato 
was correct in regarding astonishment as the beginning of phi- 
losophy. Well, what produces astonishment is an unexpected ) 
breach in the chain of causation ; but for a primitive intelligence | 
which has not yet achieved scientific maturity, there is no such 
thing as natural causation and no such thing as rational sur- 
prise.' The Fuegians, the Australians, show the most complete 
indifference in the presence of matters for them absolutely new 
and essentially surprising. According to Dampier, the Aus- 
tralians whom he took on board paid no attention to any- 
thing in the vessel except what was given them to eat. The 
ven,' mirrors did not succeed in astonishing savages of inferior 
race ; they were amused with them, but evinced neither 
surprise nor curiosity. When Park inquired of the negroes, 
" What becomes of the sun at night ? Is it the same sun 
that rises the next day or another?" — they made him no 
reply and found the question puerile. Spix and Martins 
report, that the minute one begins to question a Brazil Indian 
about his language he shows signs of impatience, complains 
of headache, and proves himself incapable of mental labour. 
Similarly the Abipones, when they find themselves unable to 

' Spencer, Principles of Sociology, 


understand anything at a glance, soon become fatigued and 
cry. " What, after all, does it amount to?" " It seems," Sir 
John Lubbock says, "as if the mind of the savage lives in a 
perpetual come and go of pure feebleness, incapable of fixing 
itself upon anything. He accepts what he sees as an animal 
does ; he adapts himself to the world about him spontane- 
ously ; astonishment, admiration, the very conditions of wor- 
sliip are above him. Accustomed to the regularity of nature 
he patiently awaits the succession of such phenomena as he 
has observed, mechanical habit overbears all intelligence in 

h» » 

In effect, according to Mr. Spencer, all of the observed facts 
upon which the old fetichistic theory was founded are charge- 
able with inexactitude ; they were taken from 

Inexactitude of ^^^ narratives of the earlier travellers, who rarely 

facts on which the ^ 

fetich theory i9 came into contact with any but races already 

founded. debauched and half civilized. Little by little, he 

says, the idea that fetichism is primordial took possession of 
men's minds and, as prepossession constitutes nine-tenths of 
belief, it has rested master of the field almost without a con- 
test ; I myself accepted it, although, as I remember, with a 
vague feeling of discontent. This discontent became positive 
doubt when I was better informed with regard to the ideas of 
the savage. From doubt I passed to negation when I had 
once tabulated the whole body of the facts relating to the 
most deijraded races. 

Mr. Spencer undertakes even to demonstrate a priori the 

falsity of the fetich theory. What, he asks, is a fetich ? An 

inanimate object supposed to contain a being, 

A priori demon- r i • i ■ i j i. i. i 

stration of the of which the senses do not take cognizance ; 
priority of anim- guch a conception is extremely complex, and 
above the reach of primitive minds. The savage 
is so incapable of abstraction that he can neither conceive nor 
express a colour as distinct from some coloured object, a light 
as distinct from some light object — star or fire, an animal 
which shall be neither a dog nor a cow nor a horse ; and he is 
asked to imagine an animate being in the heart of an inani- 
mate thing, an invisible power in the heart of a visible object, 


in effect, a soul ! Nothing less than the conception of a soul, 
in Mr. Spencer's judgment, will serve the fetich hypothesis; ] 
and primitiv^e man certainly could not attain the notion of a 
soul by mere observation of nature. Before projecting this 
complex idea into the heart of things, he must previously 
have constructed it, and as preparation for that, Mr. Spencer 
says, he must have supplied himself with a theory of death, 
and conceived the mind as surviving the body, and therefore 
as separable from the body and as the motive principle of the 
body. It is to his notions on death that man must look for 
any conception of life in inanimate nature. Every fetich is a 
spirit, no spirit can be for a primitive intelligence anything 
else than the spirit of someone who is dead. Necessarily, 
therefore, a cult for the dead, spiritism, must precede fetichism ; 
the latter is no more than an extension, a by-product, of the 

III. Such is the theory of Mr. Spencer. And he would be — 
right if the partisans of primitive fetichism understood by 

c ... 1- fetich, as he does, a material object at the heart of 

Spencer s attack ' ■' _ 

not against a vital which the adorer imagines the existence of a 
^P°*" mysterious agent distinct from this object itself. 

But is this notion of distinctness a necessary part, at 
least in the beginning, of fetichism, or, as one says to-day, 
of naturism ? Imagine a rock which should detach itself 
unexpectedly from the mountain side, and roll down to 
the hut of a savage ; it stops suddenly just as it is on 
the point of crushing his dwelling, it remains there pendent, 
menacing, to all appearance ready at an instant's notice to 
begin rolling again ; the savage fairly trembles at the sight of 
it. Do you believe that he needs really to suppose the 
presence of some foreign agent, of a soul, of an ancestral spirit 
in that stone to regard it as an object of fear and of respect? 
Not at all. It is the rock itself which constitutes his fetich, 
it is to the rock that he bows ; he venerates it precisely 
because he is far from supposing it, as you do, essentially and 
eternally inert and passive ; he ascribes to it possible inten- 

' Mr. Spencer's Principles of Sociology. 


tions, a maleficent or beneficent will. He says to himself: 
" It is asleep to-day, but it was awake yesterday ; yesterday it 
could have killed me, and it did not want to." Let the 
lii;htning strike a savage's hut three times in succession 
within a month, and he will easily recognize that the thunder 
is ill-disposed toward him and, quite without any preliminary 
need of personification in the way of endowing it with a 
departed soul, he will set about adoring the thunder and con- 
juring it not to do him harm. Mr. Spencer does not perceive 
that, at the very beginning of his exposition, he ascribes to 
primitive man a conception of nature analogous to the abstract 
mechanism of Descartes. Such a conception once pre-sup- 
posed, it is plain that to regard an object or a natural phe- 
nomenon as the centre of a cult, some new conception must 
be added to it, and this new conception may well be that of 
a spirit. Mr. Spencer, as he himself admits, looks upon fetich- 
ism as quite analogous to modern spiritualism, which sees in 
turning tables and oscillating chairs the work of disembodied 
souls ; but nothing could be more arbitrary than this analogy. 
It is quite impossible that primitive man should stand in the 
same position that we do in the face of any natural phe- 
nomenon ; as he does not possess the modern metaphysical 
idea of inert matter, he experiences no need to invent an 
indwelling spirit before he can ascribe volition to it. If a 
savage should see a table turn, he would say simply that the 
table was turning, no doubt, because it wanted to turn, and that, 
for him, would be the end of it ; and if by chance it should be 
a matter of interest to him whether the table turned or not, 
it would immediately become a fetich to him. The concep- 
tion of a fetich does not in the least presuppose, as Mr. Spencer 
maintains, the conception of a soul ; there is no such meta- 
physical element in fetichism, and it is precisely on that 
account that this form of religion must have preceded spirit- 
ism, which is always founded on a more or less rudimentary 

For animals and savages, as for very young children, nature 
is absolutely the opposite of what it appears to be nowadays 
to the scholar and the philosopher : for them it is not a cold 


and neuter habitat, in which man alone possesses aims and 

bends everything to the fulfihnent of his wishes ; it is not 

, a physical laboratory full of inert instruments 

for savages and >■ ■' ^ ■' 

children nature a for the scrvlce of man. On the contrary, nature 
■^""^^y* is a society; primitive peojDle see intention in 

everything. Friends or enemies surround them on all sides ; 
the struggle for existence is one long pitched battle with 
imaginary allies against adversaries not infrequently only too 
real. How should they understand that there is a profound 
unity in nature which rigidly excludes from the chain of 
things anything like individuality or independence ? The 
only cause of movement with which they are acquainted is 
desire ; they reckon desire or intention as the cause of every 
movement in nature, as of every movement in their fellow- 
men and in animals ; and the)' conceive that the intentions 
of all of the diverse beings by which they find themselves 
surrounded may be equally modified by prayer and offerings. 
Their conception of nature is at once anthropomorphic and 
sociomorphic, as is subsequently their conception of God. 
Nothing is more natural and inevitable than this fashion of 
modeling the external world on the internal, and the relations 
of things on the relations of men. 

If the word fetichism is too vague to designate this primi- 
tive state of mind anci gives rise to confusion, take another 

word ; if the word pantJielism were not a little 

Panthelisra. , , . ,11,. , 1 • , r 

barbarous it would better express this stage ot 

human intelligence in which one is inclined to ascribe to all the 

phenomena of nature not indeed souls, as distinct from bodies, 

but simply intentions, desires, volitions, as naturally inhering 

in the objects themselves. Y* 

But here we shall perhaps be reminded that, as Mr. Spencer 

says, the distinction between things animate and inanimate 

is quite clear even to the brute, and, a fortiori, to 

English classifi- primitive man ; so that primitive man will not 
cation of things. ^ ' 

attribute desire or volition to a thing which he 

knows to be inanimate — animate, inanimate ; how we do come 

back to the vague ! Under each of these terms the modern 

man ranges a group of ideas absolutely inaccessible to primi- 


tive man and to the lower animals. Personally we deny that 
the distinction between animate and inanimate was present 
in the earliest stages of intellectual evolution. Certainly both 
the animal and the savage recognized a division of the phe- 
nomena of nature into two classes; one is composed of the 
things which are disposed to do them good or evil, the other 
is composed of those which ignore them simply ; that is the 
primitive distinction. As to an acquaintance with animate 
and inanimate they are innocent of anything of the kind ; on* 
this point, as on all others, they confine themselves to the 
grossest sense-experience. Their senses inform them that 
certain objects are beings who are altogether inoffensive, who 
eat nobody and are not themselves good to eat ; one gives 
them no further attention; practically they do not exist. I 
one day asked a peasant woman the name of a small plant. 
She looked at me with frank astonishment and replied, with a 
shake of the head, " Ce nest rien — it is nothing ; it is not good 
to eat I ■' That woman was on a level with primitive man. 
In the eyes of the latter, as in the eye of an animal, one-half 
the phenomena of nature are nothing — they do not count ; one 
scarcely sees them. The fruits on a tree, on the contrary, are 
good to eat. The savage, however, perceives immediately that 
the fruit makes no active resistance, does not cry out w^hen lie 
bites into it ; and he considers it, therefore, as on all accounts 
absolutely indifferent, except that it is good to eat. Rut given 
a fruit that poisons him, he pTorrrptly fears it and venerates it. 
Similarly with animals : stones and vegetation hold equally 
aloof from the carnivora, are practically as distant as the 
moon and the stars. The herbivora, on the contrary, pay no 
attention to anything but vegetation. Natural objects being 
thus parcelled off into two classes, the class of the indifferent 
and inoffensive, and the class of the useful and hurtful, the 
animal soon learns to recognize that in the second class the 
most important objects are those which possess spontaneity 
of movement. But in his eyes — and this is a fact of capital 
importance — spontaneity of movement is not the exclusive 
sign of life, of interior activity ; it is a sign simply of utility, 
or of heightened danger for him. He is wholly preoccupied 


with personal and practical consequences ; he indulges in no 
superfluity of inference in regard to the object itself ; he does 
not speculate. Moreover, a moving object which in nowise 
affects his sensibility rapidly becomes quite as indifferent to 
him as a motionless object. Animals soon become accus- 
tomed to the passage of railway trains : cows browse tran- 
quilly, partridges on the brow of a hill scarcely lift their heads ; 
and why? Because they have recognized in the locomotive 
an inanimate mechanism ? ' Not in the least ; they observe 
simply that the locomotive never goes out of its way to 
damage them. 

This being the primitive conception of the world, we believe 

that the more incapable an uncivilized being is of observing 

and reasoning the more natural it should be for 

Belief that all . , . . , , . ... 

things are ani- him to acquire the conviction that objects which 

mate natural to ^^ ^^.g^. struck him as indifferent are not genu- 


inely inanimate, but are sometimes malevolent 
in their intentions toward him, sometimes benevolent ; that 
they possess in effect over him a quite respectable degree of 
power. In other words the more intelligent an animal or a 
savage becomes, the more superstitious he will be, and thus 
by the very progress of mental evolution the primitive dis- 
tinction of objects into two classes will become dim — the dis- 
tinction of objects into those which are altogether indifferent 
and outside of the society in which one lives, and those which 
are more or less Avorthy of attention, more or less closely in 
practical relations with us. Mental evolution has proceeded, 
believe us, in precisely the opposite direction to that imagined 
by Mr. Spencer. 

Let us speak first of the more intelligent animals, before 

' According to Mr. Spencer, the movement of a train does not appear spontane- 
ous to animals because it is continuous ; and therein lies the ground of their 
exemption from fright. On this reasoning, animals who live in the neiglibourhood 
of stations should display fright at the arrival and departure of trains. Nothing 
of the kind is observable. They are equally incurious in regard to horses harnessed 
to wagons on a high-road. Specufetive disinterestedness is altogether lacking in 
animals and savages ; they live locked in the arms of sensation and desire ; they 
spontaneously draw a circle about their ego, and whatsoever lies beyond lies beyond 
their intelligence. 


passing to man. The more intelligent animals are often 

obliged to give their attention to a class of objects in appear- 

„ . ance indifferent to them and to modify the im- 

Motion a mate- . , 

rial sign of life perfect ideas which they had at first conceived 
'^^ ^^^™' in regard to them. Generally speaking, objects 

of this sort are motionless ; if immobility be not their essential 
distinguishing characteristic, it is at least one of their princi- 
pal distinguishing characteristics. The instinct of self-preser- 
vation in a being inevitably bestirs itself in the presence of 
every movement that looks like a menace. Well, an animal 
is soon obliged to recognize that indifferent objects possess in 
certain circumstances the attribute of spontaneous movement, 
an attribute which is for him so vitally interesting. I remember 
the surprise a kitten once showed when it perceived the dead 
leaves rise in the wind and circulate about it ; at first it ran 
away, and then came back and pursued the leaves, and smelt 
them, and touched them with its paw. Darwin relates that a 
dog was one day lying near an open parasol on the lawn ; the 
parasol moved in the breeze, the dog began to bay, to growl 
furiously, and, every time that the parasol moved again, began 
to growl afresh. Evidently it was a new thing to Darwin's 
dog that such an object as a parasol might change its place 
without the visible intervention of some person ; all the dog's 
classifications were thrown into disorder, he was no longer 
certain whether he must class the parasol with things indiffer- 
ent or with things harmful. He would have experienced an 
analogous impression if he had seen a paralytic patient, 
always theretofore motionless in his armchair, suddenly rise 
and walk. An animal's surprise is still more strong when an 
object regarded as till then indifferent approaches him and 
manifests its activity by an infliction of sudden pain. I wit- 
nessed the astonishment of a cat which, having seen a red-hot 
coal roll out of the stove door, leaped forward to play with it; 
he caught it simultaneously with snout and paw, gave a cry of 
pain, and fled in such fear that it was two days before he 
returned to the house. Mr. Spencer himself cites another 
example which he has observed. The beast was a formidable 
creature, half mastiff, half hound, who was playing with a 


cane ; he was leaping and gambolling, and holding it by the 
ferule end. Suddenly the handle of the cane touched the 
ground and the ferule was pushed forcibly back toward the 
dog's palate. The animal groaned, let the cane fall, and fled 
some distance away ; and there he manifested, it appears, a 
degree of alarm truly comic in a beast apparently so ferocious. 
It was only after many cautious approaches and much hesita- 
tion that he yielded to the temptation of taking hold of the 
cane. Mr. Spencer, who supplies us with this fact, with great 
impartiality concludes from it, as we also do, that it was the 
unusual conduct of the cane which suggested to the dog the 
notion that it was animate ; but he hastens to add that before 
the vague idea of animation thus given rise to in an animal 
could become definite in a man, the intervention of some 
spiritualistic theory would be absolutely necessary. One may 
well ask one's self what spiritualism has to do with the case.' 

One may learn from the preceding example something like 
what animals conceive the inert instruments to be which they 

see us handling and with which we sometimes 
lastruments ~^ 

snpposed to be Strike them. The notion of an instrument, as 
animate by such, is relatively modern and was altogether 

animals. ■' ° 

unknown in the early stages of evolution. An 

instrument, in the eyes of an animal as in the eyes of primitive 
man, is almost a companion and an accomplice ; neither the 
one nor the other possesses any other notion in especial of 
causation than that of a co-operation, mute agreement between 
two associated beings. A lion, which Livingstone shot at and 
did not hit, ran first to bite the stone which the bullet had 
struck; it was only subsequently that he threw himself upon 
the hunter; the ball, the gun, the hunter, were so many dis- 
tinct and separate enemies that he was bent on punishing in 
succession. Similarly, in an ancient list of pains and penalties, 
one finds that the warrior is to lose his hand, the blasphemer 
his tongue, the spy his ears. At this moment my dog is at 
my side ; the whip with which I corrected him this morning 
lies upon a chair ; the dog walks about that chair sniffing the 
air with defiance and respect, and I do not believe he would 

' Principles of Sociology. 


have the courage to touch it, He is aware, however, that 
when the whip hurt him, the circumstances were quite dif- 
ferent, that I was holding that dangerous object in my hand, 
and that I was, in a sense, the first cause of his chastisement. 
Still he is not perfectly reassured, as he would be in the 
presence of an inert object. The impression he seems to have 
got strikes me as comparable to that which a child receives 
from a serpent behind a pane of glass; the child knows per- 
fectly that under the actual circumstances he is safe, but lie • 
cannot help saying to himself, " If the circumstances were 
otherwise ! " ' Recollect that the Australian savage treats the 
white man's gun as a living and powerful being which he 
adores and crowns with flowers and supplicates not to kill him. 
Legend attributes a magic power to the swords of great cap- 
tains, to Joyeuse or to Durandal. In our own days, even, one 
sees combatants spend their force not only against their 

' Add that when an animal or primitive man has recognized that a certain 
object possesses a particular attribute, he often finds it difficult to recognize that 
simply analogous objects possess the same attribute. I was one day making a 
kitten run after a wooden ball as a dog would do ; the ball struck it and hurt it ; 
it cried out and I petted it and then wanted to begin playing once more ; it would 
run willingly even after large stones when I threw them, but obstinately refused to 
run after the ball. So that it evidently conceived that the ball alone possessed the 
attribute of power to injure it ; the kitten looked upon the ball, no doubt, with an 
evil eye, regarded it perhaps as an evil being who was unwilling to play; by a fault 
of generalization the kitten created for itself a sort of fetich which it did not adore 
indeed, but which it feared, and fear is a step toward adoration. 

Mr. Spencer himself admits in savages a certain inaptitude for generalization. 
This opinion, paradoxical as it may seem, is perhaps an important truth. If 
primitive intelligences, as M. Taine among others remarked, are especially prompt 
at noticing the superficial resemblances of things, that fact is not always a mark of 
genuine perspicacity, for the resemblance perceived between two sensations may 
be explicable less as an intelligent generalization than as a sort of confusion of the 
sensations themselves ; if sensations are analogous or indistinct, they may naturally 
be mistaken for each other without any exercise whatsoever of intelligence. 
Thence the comparative insignificance of many examples taken from the case of 
lanfuatre. True generalization seems to consist, more than anything else, in the 
reduction of facts to law ; that is to say, in a conscious alistraction of differences, in 
a conscious recognition of the fundamental determinism which binds things up 
together and which precisely eludes both savages and animals. 

Note finally that tlie majority of animals and of savages, when they have once 
been deceived, are slow to recover from their error, are for a long time distrustful 


enemies but against everything which pertains to them ; it is 
as if something were supposed to have passed from the man 
into everything lie possesses. Nothing is more difficult to \ 
recognize than the profound indifference of nature. 

Mr. Spencer, who denies that the child spontaneously 

strikes the table which has wounded him, is not, however, 

„ , , unaware that a savage — the Indian Tupis, for 

Conduct gener- ^ ^ 

ates beliefs that example — if he has bruised his foot against a 
justify It. stone, leaps against it in fury and bites it like a 

dog. Mr. Spencer sees in such facts a phenomenon wholly 
physical, the need for spending one's rage in violent 
muscular action ; but this very need can but favour the 
birth of a psychological illusion, of which the tenacity will 
be proportionate to the intensity of the sentiment. The 
physical and the moral are too closely bound up together for 
a physical expression of anger not to be accompanied by a 

toward the object which has deceived them. A dog, coming home one evening, 
perceived an empty cask in an unusual place. He was extremely frightened and 
barked for a long time ; it was only by day that he dared approach near the object 
of his alarm, and he examined and moved about it, and finally, like the frog in 
La Fontaine's fable, recognized that the thing was inoffensive. If the cask in 
question had disappeared during the night, the dog would evidently have remem- 
bered it as a redoubtable being seen the evening before in the yard. A monkey, 
which I left in the room with a cardboard sheep one entire day, proved unable to 
the end entirely to satisfy itself that the sheep was inanimate. I believe, however. 
that this persuasion was ultimately achieved, for the monkey began finally to pluck 
the sheep's wool and to treat it something too familiarly. But nature seldom per- 
mits us equally extended tetc-a-(ele with objects that alarm us. 

Messrs. Spencer and Muller will call our attention to the fact, it is true, that 
cardboard sheep, no more than hand-organs or watches, exist in rerum natitra. 
We reply that nature supplies primitive man with things much more astonishing : 
with rocks, and forests which can talk (the echo), with springs of hot water, with 
intermittent fountains. Mr. Fergusson (T';-/?^' and Serpent Worship) relates that 
in India he saw with his own eyes a tree which saluted the rising and setting sun, 
by lifting or lowering its boughs. Temples had formerly been reared in its neigh- 
bourhood. People came from all sides to see the marvellous tree. This tree was 
ail old date-palm, half decayed, which hung above llie road ; in order to pass below 
it, it had been held back by a rope ; but during this operation the fibres which 
composed the trunk were twisted like the threads in a rope. These fibres con- 
tracted toward midday in the heat of the sun ; the tree untwisted and rose. It 
relaxed under the dew at evening and once more bowed down. (See M. Girard de 
Rialle, Mythologie comparee, t. i.) 


moral belief corresponding to the action; if a powerful 
instinct induces us to treat a stone as an enemy, we shall very 
\ really see an enemy in this stone. 

Mr. Romanes made some observations, of the same kind as 

those of Mr. Spencer, upon a very intelligent Skye terrier. This 

terrier, like many other dogs, was accustomed to 

efirente''^^' ^^^V ^^'^^^^ ^"^^^^ bones, throwing them into the air 
and endowing them with an appearance of life, 
for the pleasure of chasing them afterward. Mr. Romanes 
attached a long slender thread to a dried bone which he gave 
the dog to play with. After he had played for some 
time Mr. Romanes chose an opportune moment, when the 
bone had fallen to the ground some distance away, and 
the terrier was approaching it ; he drew the bone gently 
away, by means of the thread attached to it. The attitude of 
the terrier changed entirely. The bone, which he had been 
pretending to regard as living, appeared to him to be really 
so, and his surprise knew no bounds. He approached it ner- 
vously and cautiously, as Mr. Spencer describes in the obser- 
vation which he made ; but the slow motion of the bone 
continued, and the dog became more and more certain that 
the movement could not be explained as resulting from the 
impulsion which he had communicated ; his surprise became 
terror, and he ran away and hid himself under the table, to 
study from a distance the disconcerting spectacle of dried 
bones coming to life again ! 

Another of Mr. Romanes' experiments on the same dog shows 

that the sentiment of the mysterious was, in this animal, quite 

powerful enough to serve as an explanation of 

Soap-bnbbleez- j^j^ conduct. Having taken the terrier into a 

penmeEt. ^ 

carpeted room, Mr. Romanes rolled some soap- 
bubbles which an unsteady draft of air blew about the carpet. 
The dog took a great interest in the matter, and seemed 
unable to decide whether the bubbles were alive or not. At 
first he was very prudent, and followed the bubbles at a dis- 
tance, but as he was encouraged to examine them more 
closely, he approached them with his ears up and his tail 
down, in evident apprehension ; the instant the bubble moved 


he drew back. After a time, however, during which there 
was at least one bubble on the floor, he took courage, and, 
the scientific spirit gaining the upper hand over the sentiment 
of mystery, he became brave enough to draw slowly near one 
of them and to put his paw upon it, not without anxiety. 
Naturally the bubble burst, and his astonishment was vivid in 
the extreme. Mr. Romanes made other bubbles, but could 
not persuade the dog to approach them for a long time. 
After a while, however, he started again in pursuit of one, 
and endeavoured with much caution to put his paw upon it. 
The result was the same as before. After the second 
attempt it was impossible to induce him to make a third, 
and he ultimately ran out of the room and could not be 
coaxed back. The same experiment, tried by Professor Del- 
bceuf on his dog Alouston, gave a still more striking result. 
At the blowing of the fourth bubble, his wrath knew no bounds, 
but he no longer sought to seize it, he contented himself with 
barking at it, in all the accents of rage, until it burst. Pro- 
fessor Delbceuf wished to continue the experiment, and 
attempted to do so, but, to his great regret, was obliged to 
break off because of the frenzy into which the dog had 
worked himself. The moment that Professor Delbceuf laid 
his hand upon the vessel containing the soap-suds, the dog 
was no longer under his control. His condition was evidently 
due. Professor Delbceuf says, to a contradiction between the 
fact and his experience, that everything which is coloured is 
tangible. He was in the presence of the unknown, with all 
its mysteries and menaces; the unknown, which is the source 
of fear and of superstition. 

According to Mr. Romanes the fear that many animals 

have of thunder is due, in some sort, to a sentiment of 

Fear of thunder 'T^vstery. He once possessed a setter, which, he 

in animals due to says, had not heard thunder until it had reached 

sense mys ery. ^j^^ ^^^ ^^ eighteen months, when it almost died 

of fear. He has observed the same phenomenon in other 
animals, in diverse circumstances. The fright of the setter 
in question was so strong that, subsequently, when he heard 
some artillery practice and mistook it for thunder, his aspect 


was positively pitiable, and in the midst of the chase he 
endeavoured to hide himself, or to gain the house. After 
two or three experiences of thunder his horror of cannon 
became greater than ever, so much so that, in spite of his 
love for the chase, it was impossible to coax him out of his 
kennel, so great was his fear that the artillery practice might 
recommence and he be distant from the house. But the 
keeper, who had had a wide experience of dogs, assured Mr.^ 
Romanes that, if the dog were once taken to the battery and 
shown the veritable cause for a noise analogous to that of 
thunder, he would become once more fit for the hunt. Mr. 
Romanes does not doubt that such would have been the case, 
for once, when sacks of apples were being emptied, it made 
a noise in the house like distant thunder; the setter was very 
restless, but when Mr. Romanes took him where the sacks 
were being opened and showed him the real cause of the 
noise, his terror left him, and on his return to the house he 
listened to the low rumbling in perfect quietude. 

When one looks close one is surprised to see how many 

causes would naturally lead one to attribute life, and life of an 

extraordinary and mysterious character, to such 

phenomena tend and such really passive objects. Such causes act 

to seem artificial evidently with greatly additional power upon the 

to primitive man, ^ ... 

savage, the primitive man, the man of the 
quaternary epoch, or upon the anthropoid, as yet undis- 
covered, whose instruments have been found in the tertiary 
period. Common animals, in efYect, are almost lacking in .* 
attention ; from which it results that to produce any durable >» 
mental effect on them, a prolonged repetition of the same » 
sensation is necessary; they must be accustomed to it. More- 
over their crude intelligence takes no impression from evanes* 
cent facts, they are unaquainted with the external world except 
by averages. -Exceptional facts strike them for an instant, 
but presently glance off into oblivion. In this imperfect* 
machine, wear and tear is very rapid and the traces of phe-' 
nomena inevitably blur and become confounded. If animals 
possess a memory for sensations, they lack an intellectual 
memory altogether ; they are capable of surprise, but not of 


remembering a surprise. To produce in them a tenacious 
memory demands a setting of pain or pleasure, and even then, 
if they recollect the sensation they experienced, they readily 
forget the grounds of it. They feel passively, instead of 
observing. From the moment where, with man, the spirit 
of observation enters upon the scene everything is different; 
an exceptional fact, for the same reason that it becomes 
rapidly effaced in an animal intelligence, penetrates the more 
deeply into the memory of a man. Moreover, man's sphere of 
action is much wider than that of any animal, and conse- 
quently the field of his experience is much more vast ; the 
more he modifies, voluntarily, the face of nature, the more 
capable he becomes of recognizing and observing the variations 
which it presents, independently of his interventions. Man 
possesses a notion unknown to animals, the notion oi artificial 
things, of results deliberately attained by self-conscious voli- 
tion. One remembers that fetich comes from factitius, arti- 
ficial. Man, being acquainted with the use of fire, will regard, 
for example, a forest set ablaze by lightning from entirely a differ- 
ent point of view from what any animal could : the animal will 
flee without any other sentiment than that of alarm ; the man 
will naturally suppose the existence of some person who set it 
on fire — who was acting, who was doing on a grand scale what 
he himself sometimes does. Similarly with a boiling spring; 
this phenomenon lies too far beyond the limits of animal intel- 
ligence to be especially striking; but a man. on the other hand, 
who habitually goes to some trouble to provide himself with 
boiling water, infers the existence of some subterranean person 
who is heating water for purposes of his own. All natural 
phenomena tend thus to appear artificial to the eyes of a being 
who has once familiarized himself with the notion of artifice. 
I was present recently among some members of the lower classes 
at the flowing of an intermittent spring ; not one of them was 
inclined to believe the phenomenon a natural one, they regarded 
it as an effect of some mechanism, of some artifice. The same 
belief is evidently common among primitive people, with this 
difference, that artificial, instead of suggesting mechanics, 
implies the notion of a superhuman and marvellous- poa ^ei:. 

^ X^ or TBF ' 



Just as the animal finds the rationale of all things in a notion 
of life and of activity, man tends to find a rationale of all 

Fetichism a things in a conception of art and of scheming 
logical theory to intelligence. For the one, surprising phenomena 
pnmi ive man. ^^^ simply inexplicable conduct; for the other, 
they are the complex effects of deliberative intelligence, 
they are master-pieces. But the notion of activity, far 
from becoming effaced in the progress of evolution, be- 
comes simply more definite and more precise. Given his' 
incomplete experience, primitive man is perfectly logical in 
attributing intelligence and consciousness to nature, he could 
not rationally do otherwise; his mind is imprisoned in a blind 
alley, and superstition is the sole outlet. At a given moment 
in human evolution, superstition was perfectly rational. 

Even in our days, men of science are greatly embarrassed 
by their inability to point out the precise line of demarcation 

«_„. „ . „ between the animate and the inanimate ; and 

beeming imma- 
nence of conscious how should primitive man have grappled with 
life in natnre, ^j^j^ problem? How distinguish, for example, 
between sleep and death during one entire portion of life^, 
during sleep, living bodies lie inert, and why should not 
inert bodies sometimes prove to be alive? At night espe- 
cially, the whole becomes transformed, everything becomes 
animate, a breath of wind sufifices to make everything 
palpitate ; it seems as if all nature awakened after its day's 
sleep; it is the hour when wild beasts go in search of prey, 
and mysterious noises fill the forest. The calmest imagina- 
tion, under such circumstances, yields to a temptation to see 
fantastic objects that are not. One night I was walking on 
the sea-shore, and saw distinctly a gigantic beast moving 
some distance away ; it proved to be a perfectly motionless 
rock, in the midst of others like it, but the waves, which alter- 
nately covered and discovered it in part, lent it, to my eyes, 
some portion of their own mobility. How many things in 
nature borrow thus from some circumstance — from the wind, 
from a more or less uncertain light — an appearance of life ! ' 

' Mr. H. Russell, the explorer of the Pyrenees, remarks the fantastic effects 
produced by the moonlight in the mountains. As the moonlight replaced the 


Even when the eyes themselves would be incapable of self- 
deception, the influence of the foolish terrors so frequent 
among children and beings habituated to savage life would 
count enormously. Emotional susceptibility is the more 
highly developed among savages, in that it forms for them 
frequently a means of safety. And primitive man is much 
more subject than we are to hallucinations of the sort that 
are due to terror, and are not wholly fantastic, but result 
from a fantastic interpretation of some genuine sense stimulus. 
The traveller Park met two negroes on horseback ; they fled 
from him at a gallop in extreme terror, and meeting his fol- 
lowers in the course of their flight reported that they had seen 
him dressed in the floating robes of some redoubtable spirit. 
One of them affirmed that at sight of Park he had felt himself 
enveloped in a breath of cold air from heaven, which was like 
a jet of cold water. Suppress the word spirit in this passage, 
which implies a pre-existing belief in the soul, and you will 
perceive how hallucinations due to terror may well give birth 
to beliefs all the more tenacious for the element of truth they 

Dreams also have played a considerable role in the genesis 
of superstitions, as Epicurus and Lucretius remarked, and the 
labours of Messrs. Tylor and Spencer have 
proved. Primitive language supplies no means 
of saying, " I dreamt that I saw " ; one must say simply, " I 
saw." Well, in the dreams which the savage himself can 
scarcely distinguish from reality, he sees nothing but a per- 
petual series of metamorphoses, of the transformation of men 

previous shadow on the faces and the angles of the rocks, he says, in an account 
of the ascension of the peak of Eriste, they seemed so plainly to move that once 
he mistook one of them for a bear and cocked the revolver at his side. The same 
explorer remarks also the surprising transformations which natural objects undergo 
at nightfall and at daybreak. At dawn, he says, there is a sort of universal shiver 
which seems to animate everything ; the sound of the neighbouring cascade changed 
frequently ; at break of day, after having groaned and thundered alternately, it 
begins to scold. For in the morning in the mountains, he says, sounds gain 
magnitude, they swell, and torrents in especial lift their voices as if angry ; with 
the arrival of the day the air becomes sonorous and sound carries farther. He has 
experienced this, he says, frequently, but does not understand the cause. — Alpine 
Club, 1S87. 


into ferocious beasts, and of ferocious beasts into men ; he 
dreams that he picks up a stone, and that it comes to hfe in 
his hand ; he looks out upon a motionless lake, and it becomes 
suddenly a crawling mass of crocodiles and of serpents.' How 
can Mr. Spencer maintain, after that, that primitive man can 
distinguish with some degree of certainty the animate from 
the inanimate? Not only during dreams, but during wakeful- 
ness, everything suggests to primitive man the notion of 
changes of substance and magic metamorphoses. Eggs', 
which are inanimate, change into birds or insects; dead flesh 
becomes living worms; an efifigy, under the influence of 
memory, seems to live again and to respire.^ 

An animal is not sufficiently master of its sensations to fol- 
low their course throughout their successive modifications ; it 
is not in any proper sense a witness, as man is, of 

Primitive man , , 

iumanizes nature, the progress, of the perpetual movement and 

transformation of all things ; nature is, for it, a 
series of detached pictures of which it does not seize the con- 
trasts. When man, on the contrary, follows attentively the 
more or less slow evolution of things, he perceives the efface- 
ment of every fundamental difference between the animate 
and the inanimate, he observes a process of blind mechanical 
labour, which produces life in objects in appearance quite 
inert. Is there not something rationally profound and 
justifiable in the very naivete with which he interprets nature? 
Poetry is often philosophy in its most penetrating form. 

' Spencer's Sociology. 

"^ Savages imagine that they see the eyes of portraits move. I myself saw 
a cliild of two years old, accustomed to play with engravings, one day in a great 
fright snatch away its grandmother's finger, wliich was resting on the picture of 
a ferocious beast. " Big beast bite grandmamma! " These ideas, which totally 
ignore the profound and definitive difference between animate and inanimate, are 
fixed in the human mind. A man of distinguished education once maintained to 
me quite seriously that certain petrifactive sjirings in tlie Pyrenees possessed the 
power of changing sticks into serpents. For one capable of imagming that 
a bit of wood might thus become a serpent, what difificulty would there be in 
believing that the bit of wood is alive (even a bit of dead wood), that the spring is 
alive (in especial a spring with such marvellous properties), and finally that the 
mountain itself is alive; everything is animate to eyes like that, and possessed of 
magic power. 


Who has not asked himself sometimes if a puissant and hid- 
den spring of life does not circulate unknown to us in the 
high mountains, in the still trees, and in the restless ocean, and 
if mute nature does not live in one long course of meditation 
upon themes unknown to us? And since even nowadays we 
ourselves are full of such vague doubts as that, do we 
imagine that it would be easy to convince one of these primi- 
tive men of his error, when he fancies that he feels the beat- 
ing of what the Germans call the " heart of nature "? After all 
is the primitive man wrong? Everything about us does live, 
nothing is inanimate except in appearance, inertia is a word 
simply; all nature is one universal aspiration, modern science 
alone can measure with some approach to accuracy the activ^- 
ity with which all things are saturated, and show it to us, 
here existent in a state of diffusion, there in a state of con- 
centration, and self-conscious, and make us acquainted with 
the difference between the higher organisms and the lower 
organisms, and between the latter and mechanisms and rudi- 
mentary groupings of bits of matter. For primitive man, to 
whom all these distinctions, all the gradations are impossible, 
there is but one thing evident, and that is that the whole of 
nature lives ; and he naturally conceives this life on the model of 
his own, as accompanied by self-consciousness, by an intelli- 
gence the more astonishing in that it is mysterious. Moreover 
he is a man, and humanizes nature ; he lives in society with 
other men, and conceives all things in terms of social relations 
of friendship or of enmity. 

From the humanization to the divinization there is but one 

step; let us endeavour to make it. Whoever says^^^, means 

.,,.,. a living and powerful being worthy, in some 

And diTiEizes It. .7, r r r r 

especial degree, of fear, of respect, or of grati- 
tude. Primitive man possesses already, let us suppose, some 
notion of life ; he needs now to be supplied with some 
notion of power, which alone is capable of inspiring him with 
reverence, and this notion it does not seem difficult for a 
being to obtain, who sees in all nature an expression of a mani- 
fold conscious life, and who must recognize in certain great 
phenomena the manifestation of a will much more powerful 


than that of any man, and consequently more redoubtable 
and worthy of respect. Here also, however, we encounter 
serious objections from Mr. Spencer and from anthropolo- 
gists like M. Le Bon ; the question becomes more complex. 

According to Mr. Spencer, as we have seen, the most 

important phenomena of nature, and among others the rising 

Natural phe- '^'^^1 the setting of the sun, are precisely those 

nomena quite which must be least striking to primitive man; 

striking enough , . , , . 

to be adored on they Cannot appear to hnn to be extraordinary 
their own account, because they happen every day; so that he 
experiences before them neither surprise nor admiration. 
This argument is very ingenious, but is it not also a 
little sophistical ? If it were pushed to the end it would 
amount simply to the fact that there is nothing surprising 
or unusual in nature, nothing which breaks with the precon- 
ceived association of ideas, nothing which seems to mani- 
fest the sudden intervention of strong or violent powers. The 
fact, however, is quite the contrary ; nature is full of surprises 
and of terrors. The day may be fine ; suddenly the clouds 
gather and the thunder rolls — the fear of thunder felt by animals 
has already been spoken of ; in the mountains especially the 
rumbling, re-echoing, fills them with unspeakable terror. 
Droves of cattle lose all control of themselves and throw them- 
selves headlong down precipices. It is with great dif^culty that 
the herdsman by his presence and exhortations keeps his herd 
in order; probably the beasts see in the herdsman a powerful 
friend, capable of protecting them against this terrible being 
whom the Hindus call the " howler." If animals tremble 
thus before the thunder, it is unlikely that primitive man 
should see nothing in it abnormal and extraordinary. Simi- 
larly with the hurricane, which seems like an enormous 
respiration, as of a universe out of breath. Similarly with the 
tempest: one knows the Basque proverb: "If you want to 
learn to pray, go to sea." Everyone who finds himself in the 
hands of a victorious enemj' is naturally inclined to beg for 
mercy. Let there supervene a sudden calm ; at the moment 
when the tempest was about to break, let the sun reappear 
like a great smiling face, chasing away the cloud with his 


arrow of gold, and will it not seem a benevolent auxiliary ; 
will it not be received with cries of joy and enthusiasm ? 
Nature is incessantly showing us thus some unexpected change 
of scene, producing some theatrical effect which inevitably'' 
suggests some anthropomorphic drama, in which the ele- 
ments and the stars are the actors. How many strange 
things happen in the sky when once the attention is directed 
thither! Eclipses of the moon and of the sun, and the very 
phases of the moon, are abundantly calculated to astonish the 
very savages whom Messrs. Spencer and Muller declare to 
be incapable of astonishment. Note, too, that the simple 
view of the stars at night provokes a lively admiration in any- 
one who is accustomed to sleep under a roof. I remember 
still my surprise, when, as a child, I was awake for the first 
time in the night and lifted my eyes by chance on high and 
perceived the heaven glittering with stars ; it was one of the 
most striking impressions of my life.' 

In effect, earth and sky incessantly furnish mankind with 

' Let us remember in this connection that, according to Wuttke, J. G. Muller, 
and Schultze, a cult for the moon and nocturnal stars must have preceded that of 
the sun, contrary to the weight of opinion heretofore. The moon's phases were 
calculated to take the attention of primitive people, and must early have done so. 
One must, however, in this connection be on one's guard against generalising too 
quickly and believing that the evolution of human thought has in all places fol- 
lowed the same route. Habitats differ too widely for there not to have been in 
the beginning an infinite diversity in the religious conceptions entertained by dif- 
ferent peoples. In Africa, for example, it is evident a priori that the sun does not 
possess all the characteristics of a divinity. It is never desired or regretted, as in a 
northern country; it is, to all appearance at least, rather maleficent than benefi- 
cent; and the Africans adore by preference the moon and stars, the gentle radiance 
of which affords them light without oppressive heat, refreshes and reposes them 
from the fatigues of the day. The moon is considered by them as a male and all- 
powerful being, of which the sun is the female. It is when the new moon arises, 
after its period of absence from the heavens, and begins once more the round of its 
visible phases, that it is received and saluted with an especial demonstration of 
cries and dances. The Congo blacks go the length of seeing in the moon a sym- 
bol of immortality (M. Girard de Rialle, Mythologie compare'e, p. 148). 
America, on the contrary', has been the centre of the worship of the sun. In gen- 
eral it seems that agriculture must of necessity result in the triumph of sun worship 
over moon worship, for the labourer is more dependent upon the sun than the 
hunter or the warrior. According to J. G. Muller, savage and warlike races have 
displayed a preference for the moon. 


new impressions capable of stimulating the most torpid im- 
agination, and of appealing to the whole round of human and 
social sensibilities: fear, respect, gratitude. With these three 
elements it is easy to account for the genesis of the religious 
sentiment.' If. then, our ancestors adored the dawn, we do 
not believe, with Max Muller, that it was because it seemed 
to open the gates of heaven and reveal to them a vision of the 
infinite ; we do not admit, with Mr. Spencer, that a cult for 
the stars is reducible in the last resort to a simple confusion of 
names, and was originally but an off-shoot from ancestor 
worship due originally to the soul of some ancestor, who was 
metaphorically called in his lifetime by the name of the sun 
or of some star. It seems to us that one might quite well wor- 
ship the sun and the stars on their own account, or rather on 
account of the relation they bear to us. 

To sum up, the simplest, the most primitive conception that 
' man can form of nature is to regard it, not as a manifold of 
interdependent phenomena, but as a multitude of 
ummary. ^onscious and voluntary beings, more or less 
independent and endowed with extreme power, capable of 
acting upon each other and upon mankind. Scientific deter- 
minism cannot but be a much later conception, incapable of 
suggesting itself in the early stages of human thought. The 
world once conceived thus as a collection of physically pow- 
erful, voluntary beings, man comes, in the course of time, to 
endow these beings, morally and socially, with qualities ac- 
cording to the manner in which they conduct themselves 
toward him. " The moon is naughty this evening," a 
child said to me ; " it will not show itself." Primitive man 
said also that the hurricane was naughty, the thunder was 
naughty, and so forth, whereas the sun, the moon, the lire, 
when they gave him pleasure, were good and beneficent. 

' As has been remarked, the adoration of natural forces has been observed 
under two forms. It has been addressed sometimes to regular and calm phenom- 
ena (Chaldeans, Egyptians), sometimes to changing and portentous phenomena 
(Jews, Indo-Europeans). It almost always results in the personification of these 


Well, given a world of voluntary beings sometimes good, 
sometimes evil, armed with irresistible power, easy to irritate, 
prompt to take vengeance as man is himself, are they not 
gods? And if primitive man thus possesses gods, does he not 
also possess a religion as the ceremonial which regulates his 
social relations with the gods? To create a religion we need, 
in effect, to add but one idea to those already dealt with — the 
idea that it is possible by such and such conduct, by offerings, 
by supplications, to influence the superior beings with which 
nature is peopled ; but this idea, which seems to us quite 
simple, did not, however, appear before a relatively advanced 
stage of int llectual evolution. A savage animal is scarcely 
acquainted with any other means of influencing other beings 
than biting, growling, and menacing ; if these means fail, he 
counts on flight. A mouse has no hope of influencing a cat 
in any manner whatsoever; once between the cat's paws, it 
knows there is but one resource, to run away ; still the animal 
ultimately, and in especial at the period of courtship, learns 
to recognize the power of caresses and attentions ; it does not, 
however, occur to him to employ these means toward any but 
individuals of the same species. Moreover, the animals must 
be social before the language of manners can attain even a 
very humble degree of development ; the animal confines 
itself generally to caresses with the tongue, with the head, 
with the tail. Evidently, also, such means would be inappro- 
priate in regard to beings which did not possess a hide and 
coat of hair ; an animal would not lick a tree or a stone, even 
if it attributed to them an unwonted degree of power. So 
that even if the brute, as Auguste Comte supposed, really pos- 
sessed fetichistic conceptions more or less vague, it would 
experience a complete inability to manifest its goodwill in 
any manner whatsoever toward its rudimentary fetiches. 

Superstitious fear is one of the elements of religion which, 
after all, is well within the capacity of an animal, but this fear 
cannot in an animal produce even the first steps of an embryo 
cult. An animal is ignorant of the means of touching, of 
captivating, of the infinitely complex language of affection and 
reverence. Comparatively inaccessible to pity himself, he has 


no notion how to act to excite pity in another ; the conception 
of a gift, of an offering, so essential to the relations of men to 
each other and to their gods is, save in rare instances, to it 
unknown. The most primitive cult is always essentially 
a counterfeit of an advanced social state ; an imitation, in an 
imaginary commerce with the gods, of a commerce already 
existing among men united by complex ties. ' Religion implies 
a nascent art of sociabilit3% an elementary acquaintance with 
the springs which regulate the conduct of beings in society \ 
there is a certain rhetoric in prayer, in genuflections and pros- 
trations. Everything of that kind is far beyond the range of 
the lower animals. One may discover among them, however, 
some traces of the process of evolution which man must have 
followed. It is, in especial, under domestication that an ani- 
mal's manners reach their highest development. Their asso- 
ciation with a superior being resembles, more closely than 
anything else in nature, the state in which primitive man 
believed himself to live with his gods. The dog seems at 
times to put up a veritable prayer to the master who is beat- 
ing it, when it crawls at his feet and whimpers. This attitude, 
however, provoked by the fear of a blow, is perhaps in a large 
measure instinctive and not reflectively designed to excite 
pity. The true prayer of the dog consists in licking the hand 
which wounds him ; the story is well known of the dog that 
licked the fingers of his master while the latter was pitilessly 
practising upon him an experiment in vivisection. I myself 
observed an analogous fact in an enormous dog from the 
Pyrenees whose eye I had to cauterize ; he might have crushed 
my hand, and he simply licked it feverishly. It is almost an 
example of religious submission ; the sentiment which is 
observable in embrj-o in the dog is the same as that which in 
its complete development appears in the Psalms and the book 
of Job. The lower animals display such a sentim.ent toward 
no other being but man. As to man himself, he displays it 
only toward his gods, toward an absolute chief or a father. 
Profound, however, as this sentiment is in some animals, their 
expression of it is quite imperfect ; though I remember a case 
in which the action of licking, so habitual with dogs, was 


almost like a human kiss. I was embracing my mother, at the 

door of the house, before leaving for a journey, when my 

Pyrenees dog ran up to us, and, placing his paws upon our 

shoulders literally kissed both of us. From that time on (we 

have tried the experiment) he never sees us embrace each 

other without coming to demand his kiss. 

Another well-known fact, and worthy of remark, is the fol- 

lowinsr: when a doij or even a cat has committed some 

reprehensible act, has eaten the roast or done 

Notion of something clumsy, it comes toward one with 

Compensation, o y 

a thousand little attentions ; in so much that i 
have found myself able to divine when my dog had committed 
a peccadillo simply by observing his unwonted demonstrations 
of friendship. The animal hopes therefore, by force of his 
social graces and attentions, to prevent his master from holding 
a grudge against him, to deprecate the wrath that his culpable 
conduct ought legitimately to arouse, and to awaken in its 
stead some degree of benevolence by his demonstrations of 
submission and affection. This notion of compensation 
becomes later an important element in the religious cult. The 
Neapolitan brigand who dedicates a wax candle to the altar of 
the Virgin ; the mediaeval lord, who, after having killed his next 
of kin, rears a chapel to some saint , the hermit who lacerates 
his chest with his hair shirt in order to avoid the more 
redoubtable pangs of hell, reason precisely after the same 
fashion as my dog , they are endeavouring, like him, to con- 
ciliate their judge, and, to be quite frank, to corrupt him , for 
superstition rests in a great measure upon the belief that it is 
possible to corrupt God. 

The most difficult notion to discover among animals is that 

of the voluntary and conscious gift; the solidarity observed 

among certain insects, for example the ant, which 

Notion ofoon- causes them to hold all their goods in common, 

scions gift. ^ . ^ . 

is something too instinctive and irrenective; a 

veritable gift must address itself to some determinate person, 

and not to an entire society; it must possess a degree of 

spontaneity that excludes any hypothesis of pure instinct ; 

and finally, it must be as far as possible a sign of affection, 


a symbol. And the more symbolic its character, the more 
religious, properly speaking, it will be ; religious offerings are 
more than anything else a symbolic testimony of respect ; 
piety scarcely plays a part in them, one does not in general 
believe that they answer to any real need on the part of the 
gods, one believes that they will be rather accepted by them 
than seized upon with avidity. The notion of a gift, therefore, 
presupposes a certain delicacy artd refinement. Some germ of 
this sentiment, however, we discover precisely in a dog' 
observed by Mr. Spencer. This dog, a very intelligent and 
very valuable spaniel, met one morning, after an absence of 
some hours, a person of whom he was very fond. He ampli- 
fied his ordinary greeting by an addition which was not 
habitual ; he drew back his lips in a sort of smile, and, once 
out of doors, offered other demonstrations of fidelity. As a 
hunter he had been trained to bring game to his master. He 
no doubt regretted that there w^as no game at the moment for 
him to bring as a means of expressing his affection , however 
he rummaged about, and seizing presently a dead leaf, carried 
it to his master with a multitude of caressing gestures.' Evi- 
dently the leaf possessed for the dog no more than a symbolic 
value . he knew that it was his duty to retrieve game, and that 
the action of retrieving gave pleasure to his master, and he 
wished to accomplish this action under his eyes , as to the 
object itself it made little difference ; it was his goodwill that 
he wished to show The dead leaf was a veritable offering, it 
possessed a sort of moral value. 

Thus animals may acquire, by contact with man, a certain 
number of sentiments which enter later into human religion. 
Elements of '^^^ monkey in this respect, as in all others, 
which religion seems much in advance of the other animals, 
within^the r^each Even in the savage state a number of simiae dis- 
of the lower play gestures of supplication to deprecate the 

firing of a gun at them : '^ They possess the 
sentiment of pity, since they ascribe it to others. Who knows 
but that there may be in this mute prayer more of real relig- 

' H. Spencer, Appendix to the Principles of Sociology. 
' Brehm, Revue scientifique, p. 974, 1874. 


ious sentiment than exists sometimes in the psittacism of cer- 
tain believers? Animals in general employ in their relations 
with man the maximum of the means of expression at their 
disposal, and it is not their fault if the means are limited ; they 
seem to consider man as a really royal being, a thing apart in 
nature.' Must one conclude, as is sometimes done, that man 
is a god in the eyes of the rest of the animal kingdom ? Not 
altogether ; the lower animals see man too close ; even in 
an embryonic religion one must not be able to touch God 
with one's finger; in religion as in art, there is an advantage in 
perspective. My dog and I are companions; sometimes he is 
jealous, sometimes he pouts. I am unhappily in no respect, 
in his eyes, on a pedestal. There are, however, evidently 
exceptions, cases in which the master seems to preserve his 
prestige. I believe that under certain circumstances man has 
appeared to some members of the lower animals as endowed 
with a power so extraordinary that he must have awakened 
some vague religious sentiments ; if man is sometimes a god 
to his fellow-men, he may well be so to the lower animals. I 
am aware that in the judgment of certain philosophers, and 
even of certain men of science, religion is the exclusive appan- 
age of the human race, but up to this point we have found in 
primitive religion no more than a certain number of simple 
ideas, not one of which, taken separately, is above the reach of 
the lower animals. Just as industry, art, language, and reason, 
so religion also has its roots in the nebulous and confused con- 
sciousness of the animal. The animal, however, rises to such 
ideas only at moments. He is unable to maintain himself at 
their level, to synthesize them, to reduce them to a system. 
His attention is too mobile for him to regulate his conduct by 
them. Even if an animal were quite as capable of conceiv- 
ing a god as is the lowest of savages, he would remain forever 
incapable of a religious cult. 

We have seen that the birth of religion is not a species of 
theatrical effect in nature, that preparation is being made for 
it among the higher animals, and that man himself achieves it 

' Espinas, Societih animales, p. i8i. 


gradually, and without shock. In this rapid effort to trace the 

genesis of primitive religions, we have found no need to rely 

„ . . . upon the conceptions of the soul, of spirit, of the 

Primitive re- ' * , 

ligion a para- infinite, of a first cause, nor upon any metaphys- 
physics. i^^j sentiment. These ideas are of later date ; 

they are the product of religion, rather than the roots of it- 
The basis of religion was in the beginning quite positive and 
natural ; religion is simply a mythical and sociomorphic 
theory of the physical universe, and it is only at its summit,* 
at an advanced degree of evolution, that it comes into contact 
with metaphysics. Religion lies beyond and at the side of 
science. Superstition, in the strict sense of the word, and 1 
primitive religion were one, and it is not without reason that 
Lucretius compares the two : re!iigio, superstitio. To be pres- 
ent at the birth of religion is to perceive an erroneous scien- 
tific conception, gathering other errors or incomplete verities 
to itself, entering into one body of belief with them, and ulti- 
mately, little by little, subordinating them. The earliest 
religions were systematized and organized superstitions. Be 
it added that in our judgment superstition consists simply in 
an ill-conducted scientific induction, in a mistaken effort of 
human reason ; and we do not wish to be understood as in- 
tending by that the mere play of the imagination ; we do not 
wish to be understood as holding that religion is founded in the 
last resort on a species of recreation of the mind. How often 
the birth of religion has been attributed to an alleged appetite 
for the marvellous, for the extraordinary, which is supposed to 
seize upon young peoples as upon infants ! A singularly arti- 
ficial explanation for a very natural and profound tendency. 
To say the truth, what primitive peoples were in search of 
when they built up their different religions was an explana- 
tion, and the least surprising explanation possible, the explana- 
tion most in harmony with their rude intelligence, the most 
rational explanation. It was infinitely less marvellous for an 
ancient to suppose that the thunder came from the hand of 
Indra or of Jupiter, than to believe it to be the product of a 
certain force called electricity; the myth was for him a much 
more satisfying explanation ; it was the most plausible one 


that he could hit upon, given his intellectual habitat. So that 
if science consists in relating things, Jupiter and Jehovah may 
be regarded as rudimentary scientific conceptions. If they 
are no longer such, the reason is simply that we have discov- 
ered the natural and regular laws which supersede them. 
When a task, so to speak, begins to perform itself, one dis- 
misses the employee who had previously been charged with 
it ; but one should be careful not to say that he was previously 
good for nothing, that he had been stationed there by caprice 
or by favour. If our gods seem nowadays to be purely hon- 
orary, the fact was otherwise at a previous period. Religions 
are not the work of caprice ; they correspond to an invincible 
tendency in man, and sometimes in the lower animals, to try 
to understand what passes before his eyes. Religion is nas- 
cent science, and it was with purely physical problems that it 
at first essayed to grapple. It was a physics a cot^, a para- 
physics, before becoming a science aii dela, a metaphysics. 



I. Animism or polydemonism — Formation of the dualist concep- 

tion of spirit — Social relations with spirits. 

II. Providence and miracles — The evolution of the dualist con- 
ception of a special providence — The conception of miracles — 
The supernatural and the natural — Scientific explanation and 
miracles — Social and moral modifications in the character of 
man owing to supposed social relations with a special provi- 
dence — Increasing sentiment of irresponsibility and passivity 
and " absolute dependence." 

III. The creation — Genesis of the notion of creation — The dual- 
istic elements in this idea — Monism — Classification of systems of 
religious metaphysics — Criticism of the classification proposed 
by Von Hartmann — Criticism of the classification proposed by 
Auguste Comte. 

/. Animism. 

The upshot of the preceding chapter is that every reHgion 

in its beginning consisted of a mistaken system of physics; and 

T „. ^ J between a mistaken system of physics and certain 
Legitimate and _ ■' >■ -^ 

illegitimate meta- forms of metaphysics there is often no difference 
^ ^*^°^" but one of degree simply. Magnify some scien- 

tific error, reduce it to a system, explain heav^en and earth 
by it, and it will be a metaphysics — in the bad sense. What- 
ever one universaHzes — error or truth — acquires metaphys- 
ical significance, and possibly it is more easy to universalize 
in this way the false than the true ; truth possesses always 
a greater concreteness than error, and therefore offers greater 
resistance to arbitrary fashioning. Let a modern man of 
science develop his knowledge as he will, and enlarge the 
circle of known phenomena ; so long as he holds vigorously by 
scientific methods he will never be able to pass at a bound 
from the sphere of phenomena to the sphere of things in 
themselves. The conscientious man of science is prisoned 



within the limits of knowledge, his thought has no outlet. 
Rut let him once break the chain of logic which confines him, 
and behold him free. His false hypothesis grows without 
obstacle or check from reality ; he lands at a bound up to his 
neck in metaphysics. The fact is, one may arrive at a system 
of metaphysics in two ways — incontinently, by a logical solecism 
and an exaggeration of some false premise ad infinitiivi, or 
by following the chain of known truth to the point at which 
it disappears in eternal night, and by endeavouring to peer 
into the darkness by the light of hypothesis : in the first case 
metaphysics is simply a logically developed mistake which 
g.iins in magnitude what it loses in reality, an illegitimate 
negation of science ; in the second case it is a hypothetical 
extension of truth, in some sort a legitimate supplement to 

We are approaching the moment when religious physics 
became transformed into metaphysics ; the period when the 
gods retreated from phenomenon to phenomenon, and took 
refuge ultimately in the supersensible ; the period when 
heaven and earth first became distinct and separate ; although, 
to be quite accurate, the distinguishing characteristic of reli- 
gion even at the present day is an incoherent mixture of 
physics and metaphysics, of anthropomorphic or sociomorphic 
theories in regard to nature and to the supernatural. The 
foundation of every primitive religion is reasoning by analogy, 
that is to say, the vaguest and least sound of logical methods. 
At a later date the mass of naive analogies constituting any 
one religion is criticised and systematized and completed by 
tentative induction or regular deduction. 

Man, as we have seen, begins by creating a natural society, 

including animals, plants, and even minerals, which he endows 

„ , , . with a life similar to his own : he believes himself 

Primitive meta- 
physics a fetich- to be in cornmunication with them in matters of 

istic monism, volition ancff ntention, just as he is in communi- 
cation with other men and animals. But in thus projecting 
something analogous to his own life, to his power of volition 
and of his social relations and responsibilities, into the exist- 


ence of external things, he does not, at first, dream of any 
distinction between the animating principle and the body 
which it animates; he conceives as yet no such distinction 
in his own case. . The earliest stage of religious meta- 
physics, therefore, is not a sort of vague monism relative to the 
divine principle, the indwelling divinity of things, to Ssiov, as 
Messrs. Miiller and Von Hartmann affirm, but a vague monism 
in regard to the soul and body, which at first are conceived as 
one. The whole world is a society of living bodies. 

The conception which is most analogous to the preceding 

is that of distinct and separate souls animating each its body, 

of spirits capable of quitting each its dwelling- 

dudTrcanfmism. pl^ce. It is thi^ that historians of religion mean 

Separate exist- by animism. What is remarkable in this con- 

ence of the soul. ' ^. --^ii-^- i - t^ i.- i.i 

ception IS Its duahstic character. It contams the 

germ of the opposition between soul and body. The dualistic 
conception arises slowly from a number of naive analogies. 
The first are borrowed from the fact of respiration. Does not 
one fairly hear the departure of the breath animating a living 
body, in what one calls the last gasp ? Other analogies are 
borrowed from the physical fact of the shadow cast by the 
sun ; one seems to see the spirit marching side by side with 
the body, and even changing its place when the body is 
motionless. Shadow has played a large role in the para- 
physics of primitive peoples; shadows people the other 
world. In the third place, during sleep it is incontestable, 
on the premises that primitive man has at his disposal, 
that the spirit sometimes makes long journeys, for the sleeper 
often recollects wandering, hunting, or making war in distant 
countries, at a time when his companions are perfectly aware 
that his body has lain motionless. Fainting also seems to be 
a case in which something dwelling in us suddenly leaves and 
presently comes back again. Lethargy is a more striking 
example of the same thing. Visions in delirium, hallucinations 
in madness, or even in dreams, deal wmi beings who are invisible 
to others ; fantastic beings who appear to savages as real as any 
others. Also it is well known that fools and innocents were 
regarded, until modern times, as inspired and sacred. Other 


nervous maladies — hysteria, " possession," somnambulism — add 
their quota of precision to the conception of a spirit animating 
the body, dwelling in it, quitting it more or less at will, 
tormenting it, etc. 

Thus, by degrees, there arises the conception of a subtle 
mode of being eluding touch, and commonly vision even, 
capable of a life independent of the body it inhabits, and more 
powerful than the body. Man comes to believe himself to be 
living in a society with beings other than those who appeal 
directly and grossly to his senses ; he believes himself to be 
living in a society of spirits. 

That is not all. The problem of death early engaged the 

attention of primitive people. They considered it altogether 

as a physical affair; they explained it, as Messrs. 
Ghosts. _ , ^ -^ . ^ .. ,, T • X 1 

Tylor and Spencer (followmg Lucretius) have 

shown, by a number of inductions drawn from observations on 
sleep, lethargy, and dream. A sleeping body awakes, it seems 
to follow that a dead body will awake ; that is the line of 
reasoning. Moreover, the dead come back in dreams, or in the 
demi-hallucinations of the night and of fear. The modern 
conception of pure spirit is an indirect and later consequence 
of a belief in immortality, it is not itself the principle of 
it. A cult for the dead, for the manes, as the Romans said, is 
partly explicable on moral or psychological grounds, as, for 
example, by a prolongation of filial respect and fear, and 
partly on grounds altogether material and gross. A cult for 
the dead rests on a naive theory based on sentiment ; it is semi- 
physical and semi-psychological. The nature of a departed 
soul has been conceived in very different ways. Among the 
Dakota Indians of North America, one's double goes up into 
the air, one's tJiird rejoins the spirits, one's fourth and last soul 
stays by the body ; an instance of a very complicated theory 
formed out of elements altogether primitive. In general, the 
belief is that the souls of the dead go to join ancestral souls in 
another world, which is commonly a distant land from which the 
tribe has migrated in former times — affording an example of 
a social tie which survives death. The Greeks and Romans 
believed that, if the body was deprived of sepulture, its 


shadow could not penetrate into its proper place of abode ; 
it remained on earth and haunted the living — a remnant of 
former beliefs in the necessity of sepulture and the mainte- 
nance of friendly relations with the society of the dead.' 

The dead were to be conciliated by the same means as the 

living, by supplications and gifts. The gifts were the same as 

. , . , those which are acceptable to the living — food, 

Analogies be- ^ t-w i 

tween ghosts and amis, costumes, horses, servants. In Dahomey, 
living people. ^^.j^^^^ ^ ,.j,^g dies, a hundred of his soldiers are- 
immolated on his tomb as a body guard. Much the same 
thing was done among the Incas of Peru. At Bali all the 
women of the harem are immolated upon the grave of the 
defunct sultan. In Homer, Achilles slaughtered his Trojan 
prisoners on the funeral pyre of Patroclus, together with the 
horses and the dogs of his dead friend. The Fiji islanders 
used to immolate a man at the foot of each pillar in the home 
of a chief, as a guard for the edifice. In our days, spirits are 
still so numerous, in the eyes of certain people, that an Arab, 
for example, when he throws a stone, breathes an apology to 
such spirits as he may strike.' The universe is populated by 
anthropomorphic societies. 

It was to spirits that the care of one's vengeances was con- 
fided. According to Tylor, two Brahmans, believing that 
„ „ a man had robbed them of fifty rupees, took 

Care of ven- _ j r ^ 

geance committed their own mother and, with her consent, cut off 
*° ^ °^*^' her head in order that her shadow might torment 

and pursue the robber till death. Among the Alfourous of 
Moluccas children are buried alive up to the neck, and left 
there under the scorching sun with their mouths full of 
pepper and salt, so that, dying in an agony of thirst, their 
souls may go in a state of fury in search of the enemy 
against whom they have been sent. It is always some 
social exigency, some hatred, some vengeance, some pun- 
ishment, that leads one to enter into commerce with 

' See the author's Morale d' Epicure (Des idees antiques stir la mart) 3d edi- 
tion, p. 105. 

' See Le Bon, L' Homme et les Soci^th, t. ii. 


In effect, all historical treatises unite to show that animism 

or polydemonism has at one time or other been universal. , It 

immediately succeeded fetichism or concrete 

ummary. naturism, the primitive belief, in which animating 

soul and animated body were not distinguished. 

A belief in separately existing spirits, or spiritism, as Mr. 
Spencer calls it, which contains the germ of the belief in revis- 
itants from the other world, constitutes the primitive origin 
of the more refined metaphysical system called spiritualism. 
This last system, founded also upon the notion of the funda- 
mental duality of man, and of every living being, leads to the 
notion of a society of spirits. 

Let us now consider the inherent necessity under which 
animism lies of developing into theism. 

//. Providence and Miracles. 

From the notion of a spirit to that of a divinity is but one 

step. It suffices to conceive the spirit as sufficiently powerful 

, ^ , and redoubtable to reduce us in some considera- 
From ghosts to c ■ • 

divinity a single ble measure to a state of dependence. Spirits, 
^^®P' manes, gods, subsist in the beginning on an indis- 

tinct sentiment of terror. The instant that spirits can separate 
themselves from the body and perform mysterious actions of 
which we are incapable, they begin to be divine ; it is for this 
reason that death may change a man into a species of god. 

Spirits are not only powerful, however ; they are also clair- 
voyant, prevoyant — they are acquainted with things that lie 
T, , , » beyond our knowledge. ]\Iore than that, they 

Development of -' ° •' 

notion of special are benevolent or hostile; they are related to us 
providence, j^^ various social or antisocial ways. Here we 

have the elements of the notion of divine providence. The 
second semi-metaphysical idea, which lies in germ at the 
bottom of every religion, is, therefore, this of perspicacious 
spirits, of favouring or unfavouring deities, of providences. 
" This being is well or ill disposed toward me ; he may work 
me good or harm." Such is the first naive formulation of 
the theory of divine providence. One must not expect to 


find, in the beginning, the notion of a general, directing intelli- 
gence, but simply that of a social tie between particular volun- 
tary, well-disposed or ill-disposed beings. The notion of 
providence, like all other religious notions, was at first a 
superstition. A savage, on his way to some undertaking, 
meets a serpent and succeeds in his enterprise ; it was the 
serpent that brought him luck: behold a providential acci- 
dent I Gamblers at the present time are quite as superstitious. 
The fetich theory of providence still subsists, in the belief ih 
medals, scapularies, and so forth.' Observation inevitably 
results in the perception of causal relations among phe- 
nomena ; the trouble is, simply, that to the primitive mind 
every coincidence appears to be a cause ; post hoc, ergo propter 
hoc. Any object that is a party to any such coincidence is 
a lucky object, good to have in one's power, a portable provi- 

' A belief in relics, pushed so far by the earlier Christians and by so many 
Catholics to-day, is, too, a sort of faith in fetiches or amulets. From the earliest 
period of Christianity the faithful were accustomed to go to the Holy Land to 
obtain water from the Jordan, and gather dust from the soil that the feet of Christ 
had trod, and to break pieces from the true cross, which St. Paulin of Nole says, 
" possesses in all its parts a vital force in so much that although its wood be every 
day clipped off by innumerable pilgrims, it remains intact." Relics are supposed 
not only to cure the body, but the soul of those who touch them : Gregory sent to 
a barbarous king the chains that had served to manacle the apostle Paul ; assuring 
him that the same chains which had manacled the body of the saint could deliver 
the heart from sin. 

This superstition for relics, common in the Middle Ages, was held in ail its 
naivete by Bishop Gregory of Tours. He relates that one day when he was suffer- 
ing from a pain in the temples, a touch from the hangings about the tomb of St. 
Martin cured him. He repeated the experiment three times with equal success. 
Once, he tells, he was attacked by a mortal dysentery ; he drank a glass of water 
in which he had dissolved a pinch of dust scraped up on the tomb of the saint, and 
his health was restored. One day a bone stuck in his throat, he began praying and 
groaning, and kneeled before the tomb ; he stretched out his hand and touched the 
hangings and the bone disappeared. " I do not know," he says, "what became 
of it, for I neither threw it up nor felt it pass downward into my stomach." At 
another time his tongue became swollen and tumefied ; he licked the railing of the 
tomb of St. Martin and his tongue became of its natural size. St. Martin's relics 
go the length even of curing toothache. " Oh, ineffable theriac ! " cries Gregory 
of Tours, " ineffable pigment ! admirable antidote ! celestial purge ! superior to all 
the drugs of the faculty ! sweeter than aromatics, stronger than all unguents 
together ! Thou cleanest the stomach like scammony, the lungs like hyssop ; thou 
purgest the head like pyrethrig." 


dence, so to speak. Thus there arises the notion of a destiny, 
a bias in phenomena toward good or evil, which imposes itself 
upon the previously existing conception of nature as animated 
or peopled by spirits. The post hoc, ergo propter hoc — that is 
to say, the belief in the influence of phenomena immediately 
preceding or concomitant to the main event, and in the influ- 
ence of a present action upon some future event — is the germ 
of superstitions both in regard to providence and to destiny. 
And out of the idea of destiny, of fortune, of necessity, grows 
in process of time the scientific notion of determinism and 
universal reciprocity. 

Little by little, by the growth of experience, man achieves 
the conception of an orderly subordination among the dif- 
ferent voluntary beings with whom he peoples 

Systematic ^ _ . ... 

subordmation the earth, a sort of unification of special provi- 

among the gods, fences, a more or less regular organization of 
the world. Responsibility for current events retreats from 
cause to cause into the distance, from powerful being to still 
more powerful being ; primitive man still insists on believing 
that every event is still the sign, the expression of a volition. 
Once more his faith is dualistic : he conceives the world as 
dependent upon the will of some one or more superior beings 
who direct it, or suspend at need the ordinary course of things. 
It is at this stage in the evolution of religion that the con- 
ception of miracles appears. The notion of miracles is at first 
very vague in primitive religions ; the period at 
Development of ^^.j^j^j^ ^j^j^ ^q^^q^ begins to become definite 

oelief la miracle. ° 

marks the initiation of a further step in the 

development of religion. If, in effect, the marvellous has in 
all times formed a necessary element in the constitution, it 
did not possess in the beginning the same character as now- 
adays ; it was not so definitely distinguished from the natural 
order of things. Human intelligence had not yet distinguished 
scientific determinism and supernaturalism. A natural phe- 
nomenon ! The bare idea is almost modern ; that is to say, the 
idea of a phenomenon subject to immutable laws, bound up 
together with the whole body of other phenomena and form- 
ing with them a single unit. What a complex conception, 


and how far above the reach of primitive intelligence ! 'What 
we call a miracle is a natural phenomenon to a savage, he sees 
miracles every hour ; properly speaking, he sees nothing else 
but miracles, that is to say, surprising events. Primitive man, in 
effect, takes no notice of what does not surprise him (surprise, 
it has been said, is the father of science), and one of the imme- 
diate characteristics, in his opinion, of what surprises him, is 
that it is intentional.' That it should be so no more shocks 
him, than a paradox shocks a philosopher. The savage is 
not acquainted with the laws of nature, he has no notion of 
their being universal to prevent his admitting exceptions to 
them. A miracle is simply to him a sign of a power like his 
own, acting by methods unknown to him and producing effects 
above the limits of his own capacity. ', Are such effects infinitely 
above his capacity ? No such notion enters into the question ; 
it suffices that they be above it at all to make him bow down 
and adore. 

The belief in miracles, so anti-scientific nowadays, marks 
a considerable progress in the intellectual evolution. It 
amounts, in effect, to a limitation of divine 
of intellectual intervention to a small number of extraordinary 
progress. phenomena. A conception of universal deter- 

minism is, in fact, beginning to make its appearance. The 
belief in dualism, in the separation between spirit and 
body, becoming constantly more marked, ends in the belief 
in distinct and separate powers. 

Belief in a power miraculously distributing good and evil, 

in a Providence, is the most vital element in religion. 

ConceptioBof The most important act in every religion, in- 

God as Providence deed, is propitiation and entreaty; well, this act 

more essential . -ii'^ji j/-^j ii^j. 

than that of Him IS not Simply directed toward God as such, but 
as First Cause. toward God as a presiding divinity, a power 
capable of favouring or disfavouring us. And the great 
Oriental religions have reached their present state of per- 

' Etymologically, miracle signifies simply surprising. The Hindus do not even 
possess a special word for a supernatural event ; miracle and spectacle in their 
language are one. The supernatural, that is to say, is for them simply an object of 
contemplation and admiration, an event which stands out prominently from the 
general monotony which attracts the eye. 


fection without any special effort to make the notion of 
God precise, without specially insisting upon any of his distin- 
guishing attributes except such as are subsidiary to this 
notion of a Providence awarding good and evil ; and popular 
fancy hastens to ascribe the accomplishment of this distri- 
bution to genii, to good and evil spirits; it need go no 
further, it need not penetrate to the Great Being, to the 
infinite, so to speak, to the noumenon, and to the abyss which, 
in effect, is to it a comparative matter of indifference. Even 
in religions of Christian origin — in especial, in Catholicism, 
and the Greek Church — God is not always addressed directly ; 
saints, angels, the Virgin, the Son, the Holy Spirit, are much 
more frequently invoked as mediators. There is something 
vague, and obscure, and terrible, in God the Father ; He is the '^> 
creator of heaven and hell, the great and somewhat ambigu- 
ous principle of goodness, and, in some dim way, of evil. One 
may see in Him the germ of an indirect personification of 
nature, which is so indifferent to man, so hard, so inflexible. 
Christ, on the contrary, is the personification of the best ele- 
ments of humanity. The responsibility for ferocious laws, 
maledictions, eternal punishments, is laid upon the shoulders 
of the Old Testament Deity hidden behind His cloud, revealed 
only in the lightning and the thunder, reigning by terror, and 
demanding the life even of His Son as an expiatory sacrifice. 
At bottom, the real God adored by the Christians is Jesus, 
that is to say, a mediating Providence whose function is to 
soften down the asperities of natural law, a Providence who 
distributes nothing but good and happiness, whereas nature 
distributes good and evil with equal indifference. It is Jesus 
we invoke, and it is to the personification of Providence rather 
than to that of the first cause of the world that humanity has 
kneeled these two thousand years. 

A belief in miracles and in a Providence comes, in the course 
of its development, into sharper and sharper conflict with a 
belief in the order of nature. Man gives himself up to an 
exclusive preoccupation with what he supposes to be the means 
of ameliorating his destiny and that of his fellows: providen- 
tial interference with the course of nature, sacrifice, and prayer 


are his great means of action on the world. He lives in 

the supernatural. There exists always, in the early stages of 

every religion, a certain sentiment of evil, of 
Increasing oppo- „ . • , , ,- 

sition between suttermg, ot terror; and to correct it the believer 

notion of Provi- takes refuge in miracles. Providence is thus the 
denoe and science. ... 

primitive means of progress, and man's first hope 

lay in the superhuman. 

Fear of evil, and belief that it can be cured by divine inter- 
vention, were the origin of prayer. A positive religion, even 

_ ,. , ., . in our days, can scarcely rest content with the 
Practical evil of . -^ ■' 

ijeiief in Provi- Conception of a God who simply sits at a dis- 
^^^'^'^' tance and watches the march of a worKl which 

he regulated, once for all, at the beginning of time. He 
must absolutely show himself from time to time in our 
midst, we must feel the proximity of his hand ready to 
sustain us, he must be able to suspend the course of nature 
to our profit. Piety requires the stimulus of a belief in the 
immediate and present possibility of miracles, in their past 
existence, in their present existence even, and in one's power 
of invoking them by prayer. Thus the believer opposes to the 
conception of ordinary determinism, as the regulating prin- 
ciple of the external world, a faith in a being capable at any 
moment of tampering with it ; and he counts upon this 
power being exercised, he counts upon invoking it, he puts 
his hope in supernatural means not less than in natural means, 
and sometimes even to the neglect of the latter. 


As Littre remarked, the mind may behave in three ways in 
regard to miracles : adore them, reject them as a mystifica- 
tion, or explain them by natural means. Primi- 
fraTds^°^^' ''°* tive times. Antiquity, and the Middle Ages adored 
miracles; the eighteenth century rejected them 
as impostures and made game of them. It was then that the 
theory, that the founders of religion were impostors simply, 
was generally prevalent. One of the most necessary and most 
serious incidents in the human drama was simply mistaken 
for a bit of comedy. It was forgotten that men do not devote 
a whole lifetime to falsehood ; the theory of imposture was a 

V* OP T 

UNIVEjrisiTY j) 

psychological as well as historical error. A man — even an 
actor or a politician — is always sincere on some side or other; 
at some period or other a man inevitably says what he thinks, 
even if only by mistake. Even certain palinodes, provoked 
by self-interest, are explicable by an unconscious deviation, 
under the influence of some passion, rather than by an 
altogether conscious and brazen determination to deceive ; 
and even when one lies with all one's heart, one inevitably 
believes, or soon comes to believe, some part of one's own 
falsehood. The reproach of hypocrisy, of comedy and false- 
hood, has been uttered a hundred times in the course of his- 
tory, and it has usually been a mistake. In the eighteenth 
century the same men who prepared and achieved the French 
Revolution were fond of accusing the prophets and Apostles, 
the revolutionists of an early date, of insincerity and fraud. 
To-day such an accusation can no longer be sustained against 
the sacred books, and the men of the eighteenth century are 
themselves accused of hypocrisy. For M. Taine, for 
example, almost all the leaders of the French Revolution lie 
under the reproach of insincerity, and the very people who 
sustained them were not, in his judgment, moved by the 
ideas which they proclaimed, but by the grossest self-interest. 
The fact is, there are always two points of view from which 
historic events may be regarded : that of personal inter- 
ests, which come to the surface as seldom as possible, and 
that of the general and generous ideas which, on the contrary, 
are complacently given prominence in public speeches and 
writings. If it is useful for the historian to divine the inter- 
ested motives which contributed to the production of a his- 
torical event, it is irrational to refuse to lend some measure of 
credence to the higher motives which justified it and which 
may well have lent their influence to that of self-interest. 
The human heart is not a one-stringed instrument. The 
.revolutionists had faith in the Revolution, in the rights which 
they were vindicating, in equality and fraternity ; they even 
believed, sometimes, in their own disinterestedness, as the 
Protestants believed in the Reformation, as Christ and the 
prophets believed in their own inspiration ; as even in our 


days, by a belated superstition, the Pope believes in his own 
infallibility. There is in every faith some element of the 
naivete which a child shows in its little semi-conscious hypoc- 
risies, in its caresses which mask a demand and its smiles 
which are the efflorescence of satisfied desire. But without a 
certain element of genuineness, a certain element of real naivet6 
in the faith of the believers, no religion could exist, no revolu- 
tion would be achieved, no important change would be pro- 
duced in the life of humanity. Intellectual affirmation and 
action are always proportionate : to act is to believe and to 
believe is to act. 

In our days, miracles are beginning to be scientifically 
explained. They are phenomena simply; frequently they 
But illusions, '^^'ei'^ witnessed and described in good faith, but 
with insufificient knowledge. Everyone is ac- 
quainted, for example, with the biblical miracle according 
to which Isaiah " brought again the shadows of the degrees, 
which was gone down in the sun dial of Ahaz, ten degrees 
backward "; indeed the miracle has been reproduced. ' Mr. 
Guillemin ' demonstrates by geometrical reasonings that, by 
inclining the dial slightly toward the horizon, the shadow 
may be made gradually to creep a certain distance backward. 
In the same way, the successive appearances of Jesus after 
his burial have been paralleled by a recent event in the 
United States : a criminal, at whose execution all his fellow- 
prisoners were present, appeared to all of them successively 
the next day, or the day after. The latter is a remark- 
able instance of collective hallucination, which shows that a 
group of individuals living in, so to speak, the same emotional 
habitat may well be struck at the same time by the same 
vision, without there being, on their part, either conscious or 
unconscious fraud or collusion. A third miracle, of an alto- 
gether different kind, has also been scientifically explained : I 
mean the colouring of the fleece of the flocks of Laban and of 
Jacob ; the effect was obtained by a process well-known to the 
Egyptians, and mentioned by Pliny. Matthew Arnold believes 
that the miraculous cures also are not pure legend simply, 

' Actes de la Societe helvet. des sc. nat., August, 1877. 


that they bear witness to the great influence of mind over 
matter. Jesus really did exorcise devils, that is to say, the 
mad passions which howled about him. And thus may be 
understood in their true sense the words : " What does it matter 
whether I say, Thy sins are forgiven thee ! or whether I say 
Arise and walk?" and again : " Thou art made whole; sin no 
more, lest a worse thing befall thee." Jesus himself must 
have known, as Socrates and Empedocles did, though even in 
a more extraordinary degree, that he possessed a moral and 
physical power, a virtue, which he himself did not understand 
and which seemed to him a divine gift. He knew himself to 
be morally and symbolically the healer of the deaf, the blind, 
the paralytic, a physician of souls ; and the cures that he 
wrought in cases of hysteria, more or less temporary but real, 
forced him to attribute to himself a superhuman power over 
the body also. 

The science of the nervous system, which dates almost 

entirely from our days, may be taken as a perpetual running 

commentary on the history of miracles. Perhaps 

Usually expli- ^ , , . , 1 1 r 1 

cable by the ^ lull quarter of the marvellous facts observed 
science of ner- ^nd revered by humanity fall into place within 

vons phenomena. , . e ^ • 

the hmits of this new science. A physician, or 
observer, in the midst of his subjects is like a prophet ; those 
who surround him are incessantly obliged to recognize in him 
an occult power, which he himself does not understand ; 
physician and patient, observer and observed, live equally in 
the realm of the extraordinary. The facts of partial insensi- 
bility, of catalepsy followed by a reawakening like a rising 
from the dead, of mental suggestion taking place even at a 
distance, all these facts, which are well known, and are each 
day becoming more and more explicable, are even for us at 
the present moment on the confines of the miraculous ; they 
are detaching themselves, under our very eyes, from the 
sphere of religion, and falling within the compass of science. 
The observer who notices for the lirst time that he can trans- 
mit an almost compulsive command by a look, by a pressure 
of the hand, and even, it appears nowadays, by a simple ten- 
sion of his will, must experience a species of surprise, even of 


fright, of almost religious disquietude at finding himself armed 
with such a power. He must begin to understand that the 
mythical and mystical interpretation of such facts is an affair 
of delicate discrimination, that lay beyond the stretch of 
primitive intelligence. 

Even the miracles which do not belong simply to the less 
explicable phenomena of the nervous system tend increas- 
_. , , ingly to appear to the historian as havjng been 

recondite knowl- possessed of some foundation in fact. All that' 
*'^®' was subjective in them is the element of the 

marvellous and the providential. The miracles really were 
produced, but in the human heart ;^jand instead, in any 
proper sense, of engendering faith they proceeded from it 
and are explicable by it. An English missionary ' who 
made a journey in Siberia relates that at the moment of 
his arrival at Irkutsk a fire was consuming three-fourths 
of the town ; a chapel, however, had been spared and 
the Russian clergy saw in this fact a miracle; the English 
missionary explained it very simply by the observation 
that the rest of the town had been built up of wood, and 
that the chapel was of brick. But the missionary, who 
denies anything like providential intervention in the above 
mentioned case, admits providential intervention the same 
day in regard to another point ; for he relates that but for 
one of his horses having run away he would have arrived 
too soon at Irkutsk, and would have had his baggage burned 
in the fire, and offers thanks to God because his horse had 
been inspired to break the traces. The same natural causes 
which suffice, according to this excellent gentleman, to 
explain why the Russian church was spared, suffice no longer 
when the luggage of an Anglican missionary, the special 
prote'gi^, is involved. Every believer is inclined thus to inter- 
pret miraculously the mercies that have been shown to him. 
From the height of a stall or the pulpit of a church one sees 
the events of this world at a particular angle ; from the stall 
or pulpit of another church one sees them at another angle, 

' Through Siberia, by Henry Lansdell, with illustrations and maps ; London, 


and for purposes of scientific verity the events must be 
looked down upon from the stalls and pulpits of every church 
— unless one rejects churches altogether. 

Religions create miracles by the very need that they them- 

y selves feel for them, they create them as evidence in their own 

support; miracles enter as a necessary element 

Miracles essen- j^^^^ ^j^^ process of mental evolution which engen- 
tial to religion, ^ ° 

ders religion. The distinguishing mark of the 

word of God is that it alters the order of natural phenomena. 

Mohammedanism alone made its way in the world without 

the assistance of visible and gross evidence in its favour, 

appealing not to the eyes but to the spirit, as Pascal would 

say; and in this respect it may perhaps claim an intellectual 

elevation that Judaism and Christianity cannot. But if 

Mohammed refused tne gift of miracles, with a good faith 

that Moses seems not to havx2 possessed, his disciples hastened 

to force it upon him, and have supplied his life and death 

with an appropriate setting of marvellous legend. Ground 

of belief must be had ; the messtnger of God must present 

some visible sign by which he may be recognized. 

It is evident that divine providence or protection must have 

been conceived in the beginning as quite special, and not as 

acting by general laws. The course of the world 

Prevalence of 

belief in special was one continual series of divine interventions 
providence. j,^ ^j-^g natural order of things, and in the affairs of 

men ; divinities lived in the midst of mankind, in the midst of 
the family, in the midst of the tribe. This result may be 
explained as due to the very character of primitive humanity. 
Primitive man, who is the most credulous, is evidently also the 
least responsible of mankind; incapable of governing himself, 
he is always willing to abandon himself to the management of 
somebody else ; in every circumstance of life he needs to share 
some part of his burden. If a misfortune happens to him, he 
• relies on anybody or anything rather than on himself. This 
characteristic, w^hich has been remarked in a number of races 
of mankind, is especially visible in infants and in infant 
peoples. They lack patience to follow without skipping a 
link in the chain of cause and effect ; they do not understand 


how any human action can produce any great effect, and 
are, in general, much astonished at the disproportion which 
exists between effects and their causes — a disproportion 
which is only explicable in their eyes by the intervention of 
some foreign cause. Hence the need, so remarkable in feeble 
minds, to discover some other than the real explanation for a 
phenomenon ; the real explanation is never, in their eyes, 
truly sufficient. For a vanquished soldier, the defeat is never 
sufficiently explained by scientific grounds ; for example, by his' 
own cowardice, by the ill-management of the men on the field, 
by the ignorance of the leaders ; before the explanation is 
complete the notion of treason must always be added. Just 
so, if one of the lower classes has an attack of indigestion, he 
will not admit that he has eaten too much ; he will complain 
of the quality of the food, and perhaps even suggest that 
somebody has tried to poison him. In the Middle Ages, when 
there was pestilence, it was the fault of the Jews ; at Naples 
the people beat the images of the saints when the harvest is 
not good. All these facts are explicable in the same way; an 
uncultivated mind cannot bring itself to accept a result which 
is disagreeable to it, cannot resign itself to having been unex- 
pectedly disconcerted by the mere brute course of things, to 
say with Turenne, when he was asked how he lost a battle : 
" By my own fault." The notion of a special providence 
allies itself with his natural disposition ; it permits man to 
wash his hands of all responsibility, no matter what happens. 
A result which it would be too much trouble to foresee, and 
to obtain by mere natural means, can always be demanded at 
the hand of Providence ; one waits for it instead of working 
for it ; and if one is deceived in one's expectations one lays the 
blame on the Deity. In the Bible, kings are never guilty 
except toward God, their incapacity is simply impiety ; but it 
is always easier to be pious than to be capable. 

At the same time that the naive irresponsibility of primitive 
people thus accommodates itself to the providential govern- 
ment of the world, it accommodates itself no less to the des- 
potic government of a monarch or of an aristocracy. The 
principle of despotism is at bottom identical with that of a 


supernatural, external providence ; the latter also demands a 
certain renunciation or abdication in the direction of events. 
One lets one's self go, one confides one's self to 
dence umeJ"'"''' someone else, and by this means one winks at the 
people for abso- cruellest of frauds, the defraudment of one's own 

lute monarchy, ,. . , ... 11^ • • ' 

volition ; another wills and determines in one s 
stead. One limits one's self to desiring and hoping, and prayers 
and supplications take the place of action and of work. One 
floats with the stream in a state of relaxation ; if things turn 
ill there is always someone for one to blame, to curse, or to 
wheedle ; if, on the contrary, things turn out well, one's heart 
overflows with benedictions, not to mention that one secretly 
attributes some part (man is so made) of the result obtained to 
one's self. Instead of saying, " I determined that it should be 
so," one says, " I asked, I prayed for it." It is so easy to 
believe that one is helping to manage the state, or govern the 
earth, when one has murmured two words into the ear of a 
king or a god— when, like the fly in the fable, one has simply 
buzzed an instant about the great rolling wheel of the world. 
Propitiatory prayer possesses a power which is great in propor- 
tion to its vagueness ; it seems to be able to do everything 
precisely because it cannot ever do anything in especial. It 
exalts man in his own eyes because it enables him to obtain 
the maximum of effect with the minimum of effort. What 
a penchant the people have always felt for destiny and 
men of destiny! How every appeal to the people, in 
behalf of men of destiny, has in all times succeeded in 
taking the suffrage of the masses ! A sentiment of sub- 
mission to the decrees of Providence, who is destiny per- 
sonified, has been the excuse of every form of indolence, 
of every cowardly adherence to custom. And if one car- 
ries it to its logical conclusion, to what else does the indo- 
"lent sophism of the Orientals amount ? It is true that the 
precept, " Heaven will aid thee," is habitually corrected by 
the precept, " Aid thyself." But efficiency to aid one's self 
demands initiative, and audacity, and a spirit of revolt against 
an unwelcome course of things ; efficiently to aid one's self one 
must not say, " God's will be done," but " My will be done "; 


one must be a rebel in the midst of the passive multitude, a 
sort of Prometheus or Satan. It is difificult to say to one, 
" Whatever happens, whatever exists, is what it is, by the irre- 
sistible and special will of God," and nevertheless to add, 
" Do not submit to the accomplished facts." In the Middle 
Ages men consoled themselves in the midst of tyranny and 
poverty by thinking that it was God himself who was oppress- 
ing them, and dared not rise against their masters for fear 
they might be rising really against God. To preserve social 
injustice it had to be apotheosized. What was really no more 
than a human right had to be made divine. 

The sentiment of personal initiative, like that of personal 
responsibility, is quite modern and incapable of being devel- 

B 1 . ... oped in the atmosphere of bigotry and narrow- 
Personal initia- ^ ^ to J 

tive a defiance of ness in which man has long lived with his gods, 
ego s. -p^ g^y ^Q one's self, " I can undertake something 

new ; I shall have the audacity to introduce a change into the 
world; to make an advance ; in the combat against brute nature 
I shall shoot the first arrow, without waiting, like the soldier 
of antiquity, till the auspices have been consulted " — would 
have looked like an enormity to men of former times; to 
men who did not take a step without consulting their gods 
and carrying their images before them to show the way. 
Personal initiative was, on the face of it, a direct offence 
against Providence, an encroachment on His rights ; to strike 
the rock as Moses did, before having received the order to 
do so from God, would have been to expose one's self to His 
wrath. The world was the private property of the Most High. 
It was not permitted to a man to employ the forces of nature 
without special leave ; man was in the position of a child, who 
is not allowed to play with the fire ; except that the reason 
for prohibiting the child is not the same — we do not prohibit 
children from playing with the fire because we are "jealous" 
of them. The jealousy of the gods is a conception which has 
survived till the present day, although it is incessantly retreat- 
ing before the progress made by human initiative. Machinery, 
the product of modern times, is the most powerful enemy that 
the notion of a Providence has ever had to wrestle with. One 


knows how the innocent winnowing machine was cursed by 
the priests, and looked upon with an eye of hatred by the 
peasants, because it imprisoned and employed in the service of 
man an essentially providential force — that of the wind. But 
malediction was useless, the wind could not refuse to winnow 
the wheat ; the machine vanquished the gods. There, as 
everywhere, human initiative carried the day. Science found 
itself in direct opposition to the special intervention of Provi- 
dence, and appropriated and subdued the forces of nature to 
an end, in appearance, not divine but natural. A man of 
science is a disturbing element in nature, and science an anti- 

Before the earliest developments of science, primitive 

man found himself, as a result of his imagination, in a state 

of domesticity in the world, analogous to that 

Man practically i • i , i i i • i r i i .l • 

a domestic animal to which he had hunseli reduced certam 

in the house of animals ; and this state exerted a profound in- 

the gods : result- . 

ing enfeeblement fiuence upon the character of such anmials, 

of character. deprived them of certain capacities and endowed 

them, in turn, with others. Some of them — certain birds, for 
example — -become under domestication almost incapable of 
finding and providing themselves with their necessary food. 
More intelligent animals like the dog, who might in a case 
of absolute necessity rely upon himself for indispensables, con- 
tract nevertheless a habit of subjection to man which creates 
a corresponding need : my dog is not at ease except when he 
knows that I am near ; if anything causes me to go away, he 
is restless and nervous ; in the presence of danger he runs 
between my legs, instead of taking refuge in flight, which 
would be the primitive instinct. Thus every animal which 
knows itself to be watched and protected in the details of its 
life by a superior being, necessarily loses its primitive inde- 
pendence, and if its primitive independence should be once 
more restored, it would be unhappy, would experience an 
ill-defined fear, a vague sentiment of enfeeblement. Just so 
in the case of primitive and uncultivated man : once he is 
habituated to the protection of the gods, this protection 
becomes for him a veritable need ; if he is deprived of it, he 


falls into a state of inexpressible discomfiture and inquietude. 
Add tiiat, in this case, he will soon provide himself with a 
substitute ; to escape from the intolerable solitude which 
doubt creates within him, he will take refuge in his gods or his 
fetiches, under the influence of a sentiment identical with 
that which sends the dog to take refuge between the legs of 
his master. To attain some idea of the force of such a senti- 
ment among primitive human beings, one must remember 
that the surveillance of the gods is much more extended and' 
more scrupulous even than that of man over domestic ani- 
mals, or of a master over his slaves. Primitive man feels his 
god or his genii at his side at every step, in all the circum- 
stances of life ; he is accustomed to being never alone, to the 
presence of someone by him keeping step with him ; he 
believes that every word that he says and every act that he 
does is witnessed and judged. No domestic animal is accus- 
tomed to so high a degree of subjection ; he knows perfectly 
that our protection is not always efficacious and that we are 
sometimes mistaken about him, that we caress him when he 
ought to be punished, etc. Cats, for instance, know that man 
cannot see in the dark : one evening a white cat made ready 
to commit an abominable misdemeanour within two steps of 
me, not suspecting that its colour would betray it to an attent- 
ive eye, even in the obscurity. Primitive men sometimes 
practised an analogous cunning in regard to their gods; they 
did not yet believe in the complete sovereignty, in the abso- 
lute ubiquity, of Providence. But by a process of logical 
development, Providence is ultimately believed to extend to 
everything, to envelop one's whole life ; the fear of God 
becomes to man a perpetual prohibition against his passions, a 
hope in God's aid his perpetual recourse. Religion and 
science possess this much in common, that they result in 
enveloping us equally in a network of necessities; but what 
distinguishes science is that it makes us acquainted with the 
real order and causes of phenomena, and by that fact permits 
us to modify that order at will ; by showing us the fact and 
nature of our dependence, science supplies us with the means 
of conquering a comparative independence. In religion, on the 


contrary, the mythical and miraculous element introduces an 
unforeseen factor, the divine will, a special providence, into the 
midst of events, and by that fact deceives one as to the true 
means of modifying the real course of things. The instant 
one believes one's self to be dependent upon Jupiter or Allah, 
one ascribes a greater efficacy to propitiation than to action ; 
and it follows that the greater one perceives one's dependence 
to be the more completely one believes one's self to be with- 
out defence against it ; the more complete the submission is to 
God, the more complete one's resulting submission becomes to 
the established fact. The feeling of an imaginary dependence 
upon supernatural beings thus increases the general depend- 
ence of man in relation to nature. Thus understood, the 
notion of a special providence, of a divine tutelage, has 
resulted in the protracted maintenance of the human soul in a 
state of genuine minority; and this state of minority, in its 
turn, has rendered the existence and surveillance of divine pro- 
tectors a necessity. When, therefore, the believer refuses an 
offer of emancipation from the dependence which he has 
voluntarily accepted, the reason is that he feels a vague senti- 
ment of his own insuf^ciency, of his irremediably belated 
coming of age ; he is a child, who does not dare stray far 
from the paternal roof; he does not possess the courage to 
walk alone. The child who should show a precocious inde- 
pendence, and should early learn to go its own road, would 
not improbably become simply dissipated ; his precocity might 
well be depravity in disguise. Similarly in history, the 
irreligious, the sceptics, the atheists, have been frequently 
spoiled children, precocious in the bad sense ; their freedom 
of spirit was only a high form of mischief. The human race, 
like the individual, long needed surveillance and tutelage; so 
long as it experienced this need it leaned inevitably upon a 
belief in a providence external to itself and to the universe, 
capable of interfering in the course of things, and of modify- 
ing the general laws of nature by particular acts of volition. 
Subsequently, by the progress of science. Providence has been 
deprived day by day of some of its special and miraculous 
powers, of its supernatural prerogatives. By the evolution of 


human thought piety has been transformed; it tends to-day to 
regard as an object of fiHal affection what was formerly an 
object of terror, of deprecation, of propitiation. Science, 
enveloping Providence in a network of inflexible laws, is day 
by day reducing it to a state of immobility and, so to speak, 
paralyzing it. Providence is becoming like an old man whom 
age has rendered incapable of movement — who but for our aid 
could not raise a hand or foot, who lives with our assistance, 
and who, nevertheless, is only the more beloved, as if his' 
existence became to us more precious in proportion to its 

///. Creation. 

After the notion of Providence one must deal, in running 

through the metaphysical principles of religion, with the 

notion of a creator, which has acquired in our 

Conception of . , i . • , i • i . r 

creation dual- days an importance that it did not possess for- 

istic. merly. This conception, like that of the soul 

and of a special providence, presented itself originally under 
the form of dualism. Man conceived in the beginning a god 
as fashioning a world more or less independent of himself, out 
of some pre-existing material. It was only later that this 
crude dualism was refined into the notion of creation <f;ir nihilo, 
which represented the traditional duality as produced by 
a primitive unity — God, who had at first existed alone, created 
out of nothing a world distinct and separate from himself. 

The following conversation, of which I can guarantee the 
authenticity, affords an example of naive metaphysic. The 
two interlocutors were a little peasant girl, four 
ofcrertLn™ years old, who had always lived in the country, 

natural. ^.^^ ^ young girl from town, the daughter of the 

owner of the farm. They had gone out into the garden 
where a number of flowers had opened that morning; the 
little peasant girl admired them enthusiastically, and address- 
ing her companion, for whom she had long entertained a spe- 
cies of cult : " It is you, mistress, is it not," she cried, " who 
makes these flowers?" This interrogation did not embody 
an incipient speculation in a sphere of physics; the child sim- 


ply attributed an unknown power to a visible and palpable 
being. Her mistress replied laughingly, " No, not I. I 
haven't the power." "Who does it then?" the child asked. 
One perceives the persistence, in primitive intelligences, of the 
impulse to explain things by the direct action of somebody's 
volition, the impulse to place somebody behind every event. 
"It is God," replied the elder girl. "And where is God? 
Have you ever seen Him ? " No doubt the little peasant, who 
regarded the city as a very surprising place, supposed one 
might meet God there, face to face, and God did not, as yet, 
represent to her anything supra-physical. But how admirably 
disposed she was for the reception of a more or less illegiti- 
mate metaphysic ! " I have never seen God," replied her mis- 
tress, "and nobody has ever seen Him. He lives in heaven, 
and at the same time lives among us; He sees us and hears 
us; it is He who made the flowers, who made you and me, 
and everything that exists." I shall not report the child's re- 
plies, for I believe that she was too much astonished really to 
say anything. She was in a situation such as a savage finds 
himself in when a missionary comes and talks with him about 
God, the supreme being, creator of all things, a spirit existing 
without a body. Savages sometimes refuse to understand, 
and point to their heads and declare that they suffer ; some- 
times they believe that one is making fun of them, and even 
among our children there is a good deal of persistent and 
mute astonishment, which wears off slowly with the lapse of 
time. What is striking in the little conversation reported 
above, is the way in which the metaphysical myth neces- 
sarily rises out of the scientific error. An inexact induction 
first gives rise to the notion of a human being acting by means 
to us unknown and mysterious; this notion, once obtained, 
fastens upon the body of such and such an individual, the ob- 
ject antecedently of especial veneration ; from this individual 
it retreats in course of time to another more distant, from 
country to town, from earth to heaven, from visible heaven to 
the invisible essence of things, the omnipresent substratum of 
the world. Simultaneously with this retrograde movement, 
the being endowed with marvellous powers becomes increas- 


ingly vague and abstract. The human intelligence, in devel- 
oping its conception of the supernatural being, employs what 
theologians call the negative niethod, which consists in ab- 
stracting one known attribute after another. If men and 
races of men have always followed this procedure, it is less 
because of any refinement of thought on their part than in 
obedience to the pressure of an external necessity. Directly 
as man becomes acquainted with nature, he sees all traces of 
his god fly before him ; he is like a miner who, thinking that' 
he recognizes the presence of gold in the soil beneath his feet, 
begins to dig, and finding nothing, cannot make up his mind 
to believe that the earth contains no treasure ; he sinks his 
shafts deeper and deeper in an eternal hopefulness. Just so,, 
instead of breaking with his gods, man exiles them to a greater 
and greater distance as he advances in knowledge. What 
nature excludes tends to take on a metaphysical character ; 
every error which persists in spite of the progress of experi- 
ence takes refuge in heaven, in some sphere more and more 
completely inaccessible. Thus the somewhat gross origins of 
religions are not irreconcilable with the refined speculations 
incident to their period of development. Human intelligence, 
once launched into infinite space, inevitably describes a wider 
and wider orbit about reality. A mythical religion is not a 
completely rational and rt'/r/crz construction ; it always rests 
upon alleged experience, upon observations and analogies, 
which are tainted with error; it is, therefore, {tAs^ a posteriori, 
and therein lies the explanation of the invincible and increas- 
ing divergence between myth and verity. 

In the beginning men conceived God rather as an orderer of 

the universe, as a workman fashioning a pre-existing matter, than 

„ , . , as a creator ; we find this notion still predomi- 

as orderer rather nant among the Greeks. Its genesis was prob- 

than as creator. 11 ,1 • <- n wj\ 

ably something as follows: Whoever supposes 

the existence of God regards the world as an instrument in 

His hands; God employs the thunder, the wind, the stars for 

purposes of his own, as man employs his arrows and his 

hatchet. Does it not naturally result from that conception 

that God fashions these marvellous instruments just as man 


fashions his arrows and hatchet ? If the little peasant girl, of 
whom we spoke above, had not seen her father repair or make 
his tools, make a fire, make bread, till the soil, she would 
never have asked who made the flowers in the garden. The 
child's first tvhy involves the following reasoning : Somebody 
has acted on this thing as I myself have acted on such and 
such another thing ; who, then, in the present case is it ? The 
abstract notion of causality is a consequence of the practical 
development of our own causality ; the greater the number 
of things that one can make one's self, the greater one's aston- 
ishment at seeing things done by other people with greater 
rapidity or on a larger scale. The more bound down one is 
one's self, to the employment of tedious artifice, the more one 
admires what is produced suddenly by a power which is ap- 
parently extraordinary. So that the notion of a miracle thus 
more naturally arose from one's experience of the practical 
arts, than, so to speak, from brute experience, and for the rest 
contained no element which was contradictory to the naive 
science of the earliest observers. Every question presupposes 
a certain kind and amount of action on the part of the ques- 
tioner ; one does not demand the cause of an event until one 
has one's self been the conscious cause of such and such 
another event. If man possessed no influence in the world, 
he would not ask himself who made the world. The^jna son 's 
trowel and carpenter's saw have played a considerable part in 
the development of religious metaphysics. 

Remark, also, how easy it is, even at the present day, to con- 
found the word make with the word create, which indeed did 

„ . , not exist in primitive times. How should one 
Notion of crea- ^ r 1 • r 

tion ex nihilo of distinguish precisely what one fashions from 

empirical origin. ^^,j^^^ ^^^^ Creates? There is a certain element of 

creation in fashioning; and this element sometimes positively 
assumes a magical character, seems to rise ex nihilo. What a 
marvel, for example, is a spark of fire obtained from stone or 
wood ! The Hindus see in it the symbol of generation. In 
fire the earliest races of men laid their fingers on the miracu- 
lous. In appearance the pebble one strikes or the dried 
wood one rubs to produce a spark is not itself consumed ; it 


gives without loss, it creates. The first man who discov- 
ered the secret of producing fire seemed to have introduced 
something genuinely new into the v/orld, to have ravished 
the power of creation from the gods. In general, what 
distinguishes the artist, properly so called, from the simple 
workman is the feeling that he possesses a power which he 
does not understand, that he produces in some sense more 
than he aims at, that he is lifted above himself ; genius is not 
fully conscious, as simple talent is, of its resources ; it contains' 
an element of the unforeseen, a force which is not calculable in 
advance, a creative power ; and therein lies the secret of the 
true artist's personal pride. Even in a matter of purely physi- 
cal power a superexcitation of the nervous system may place 
at one's disposal an amount of muscular energy one did not 
suppose one possessed : the athlete, no more than the thinker, 
at such times knows the limits of his own strength and the 
marvels of which he is capable. Each of us possesses thus, 
during certain hours of his existence, the consciousness of a 
more or less creative power, of the direct production of some- 
thing out of nothing. One feels that one has produced by 
force of will a result that one's intelligence cani.ot wholly 
account for, that one cannot rationally explain. Therein lies 
the foundation and in a measure the justification of a belief 
in miracles, in the extraordinary power of certain men, and, 
in the last analysis, in a power of creating. This indefinite 
power that man sometimes feels well up within him, he natu- 
rally ascribes to his gods. Since he conceives them as acting 
upon the world in a manner analogous to himself, he con- 
ceives them as capable of giving rise to new elements in the 
world ; and this notion of creative power once introduced 
continuously develops till the day when it leads one, from 
induction to induction, to the belief that the entire world is 
the work of a divinity, that the earth and the stars have been 
fashioned and created by a supernatural volition. If man can 
strike fire out of a stone, why might not God strike a sun out 
of the firmament? The conception of a creator, which seems 
at first a remote consequence from a chain of abstract reason- 
ing, is thus one of the innumerable manifestations of anthro- 


pomorphism ; one of the ideas which, at least originally, seems 
to have been rather paraphysical than metaphysical. It rests 
at bottom upon an ignorance of the possible transformation 
and actual equivalents of forces, owing to which every appar- 
ent creation is resolvable into a substantial equivalence and 
every apparent miracle into an exemplification of immutable 

To sum up, the creative power once ascribed to God is in 
our opinion an extension of the notion of special Providence, 
which itself is of empirical origin. When theo- 
ummary. logians nowadays begin by establishing the crea- 
tion, in order therefrom to deduce a special Providence, they are 
precisely inverting the order of things as they appeared in the 
beginning. It is only through the continually increasing pre- 
occupation of abstract thought and metaphysical speculation 
with the question of the first cause, that the idea of a creative 
deity has acquired thus a sort of preponderance, and consti- 
tutes in our day an essential element in religion. Dualism, as 
we have seen, is of the essence of this notion ; dualism is the 
principal form under which the union of souls and bodies, the 
relation of a special providence to natural laws, the relation 
of creator to created has been conceived. The notion, how- 
ever, of a supreme unity running through all things has been 
caught more or less vague glimpses of, from remote times 
down to the present day. And it is on this notion that pan- 
theistic and monistic religions, principally those of India, are 
based. Brahmanism and Buddhism tend to what has been 
called " absolute illusionism " for the benefit of a unity in which 
the supreme being takes for us the form of non-existence. 

The temptation is natural systematically to class diverse 
systems of religious metaphysics and to represent them as 
Dangers of evolving, one after the other in a regular order, con- 

effort to classify formable to a more or less determinate scheme ; 
reSsleta- but one must be on one's guard here against two 
physics. things : first, the seduction of a system, with the 

metaphysical abstractions to which it leads; second, the 
pretense of finding everywhere a regular progress constantly 
headed toward religious unity. Religious philosophers have 


erred in both these respects; Hegel, for example, yielded to 
the temptation of imposing upon the history of religion his 
monotonous trilogy, of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. In Von 
Hartmann the Hegelian spirit, influenced by Schopenhauer, 
still survives. We have seen Von Hartmann borrowing from 
Max Miiller the abstract conception of a divinity at once 
unified and multiple, a species of primitive synthesis out of 
which historical religions were to arise by a process of dif- 
ferentiation: out of henotheism, as out of matter still void' 
and without form, was to arise polytheism, and then by a 
process of degenerescence was to arise polydemonism or 
animism, and finally fetichism.' This order of development, 
as we have seen, is contrary to matter of fact. 

Fetichism, understood simply as the ascription of life to 
natural objects, is primitive. Animism, or the conception of 
indwelling spirit, arises subsequently. Polytheism, or the 
worship of a certain number of analogous objects, such as the 
trees of a forest, implies some distinction between the deity 
and the forest, whereas fetichism limits itself strictly to the 
animation of each particular tree, and finally henotheism, or 

' " Henotheism," says Von Hartmann, " rests upon a contradiction. Man goes 
forth in search of divinity, and finds gods. He addresses each of tliese divinities 
in succession in the hope tliat he may be the divinity sought for, and confers upon 
him a multitude of predicates which call in question the divinity of the other gods. 
Obliged, however, as he is to look to different gods for the fulfilment of his 
respective demands he is unable to remain faithful to any one of them ; he changes 
his object of adoration repeatedly and each time acts t(j\vard the god he is address- 
ing as if he were god par excellence, without indeed himself observing at the time 
that he is denying the supreme divinity of any god by attributing it in turn to each 
of them. What renders the origin of religion possible is that this contradiction is 
not at first remarked ; a persistent failure to recognize such a contradiction would 
not be possible in the midst of the progress of civilization, except in the case of an 
extreme intensity of religious sentiment, which shields all religious subjects from 
rational criticism. Such intensity of religious sentiment neither exists in all places 
nor at all times, and a spirit of intellectual criticism, operating intermittently, suffices 
in the long run to render the point of view of henotheism untenable. Two ways 
of avoiding the contradiction in question offer themselves. One may maintain the 
unity of God at the exjiense of the jilurality, or, on the contrary, plurality of God at 
the expense of the unity. The first way leads to abstract monism, the second to 
polytheism ; and out of polytheism, by a process of degeneration, arise polydemon- 
ism or animism and then fetichism." 


the vague conception of an indwelling divinity in all things, 
is ulterior and derivative. Monistic pantheism or monism lies 
but one step beyond. 

Remark also that Von Hartmann, who endeavours to prove 

that a vague monism is the primitive form of religion, regards 

^ . „ the Vedas as a fair example of the earliest form 

Logically pos- ^ 

terior often his- of natural religion, traces of which remain more 
torically prior. ^^ j^^^ distinctly manifest in all mythologies. 
But this is positively to forget that for an anthropologist the 
Vedas are quite modern compositions, and that Hindu 
literature belongs to a period of high refinement and civiliza- 
tion. Monistic metaphysics may be the ultimate goal toward 
which all religions tend, but it is at least not the point of 
departure. Finally, Von Hartmann endeavours to establish 
the fact of a certain logical order in religious development, 
a progress. This progress does not exist in history nor any- 
where outside of the abstract system constructed by Von 
Hartmann ; it is dialectic, not historic. The divers religious 
points of view have often coincided in history ; and sometimes 
a logically superior point of view has even preceded an 

Another classification, not less open to suspicion than that 
of Von Hartmann, is the celebrated Comtist progression from 
, . .„ fetichism to polytheism and from polytheism to 
cation logical, not monism. In this classification the framework no 
psychological, longer consists of metaphysical abstractions, but 
of numbers. But numbers also possess their artificial and 
superficial side ; they do not express the most fundamental 
aspects of religion. In the first place, it is a matter of extreme 
difficulty to perceive any radical difference between naturistic 
fetichism and polytheism. Multiplicity of divinities is a char- 
acteristic common to both. The sole difference that Comte 
was able to establish is that in polytheism a whole class of 
objects, for example all the trees of a forest, or a whole class 
of phenomena, as lightning and storm, is represented by 
one divinity. But this species of abstraction and generaliza- 
tion is much less important, much more exterior and purely 
logical, than the psychological and metaphysical progression 


from a grossly unitarian and concrete naturism to a dualistic 
animism. This latter line of development is in the direction 
of naturalistic and spiritualistic metaphysics, which possess a 
deeper significance than a system of mathematical enumera- 
tion and logical generalization. The passage from polytheism 
to monotheism is also conceived by Comte somewhat too 
mathematically. Polytheism early resulted in a certain 
hierarchy and subordination of the whole body of individual 
deities to some one powerful god : Jupiter, Fate, etc. On the- 
other hand, monotheism has always provided some place for 
secondary divinities — angels, devils, spirits of every kind, to 
say nothing of the trinitarian conception of the Godhead 
itself. Mathematical terms, in this connection, obscure pro- 
found problems which belong really to metaphysics and to 

From the point of view of metaphysics the great question 

is that of the relation which exists between the divinity and 

the world and mankind ; a relation of imma- 

The real classi- j^gj^^^g q^ of transcendence, of duality or of unity, 
fication. •' . 

We have seen that, from this point of view, 
religions have passed from an extremely vague primitive 
immanence to a relation of transcendence and of separation, 
ultimately to return, sometimes with comparative rapidity (as 
in India), sometimes very slowly (as among Christian nations), 
to the notion of an immanent God in whom we live and move 
and have our being. 

Along with this difference of conception there necessarily 
goes a corresponding difference in the parts ascribed respec- 
tively to determinism and natural law, and to the 
cISnTof"" arbitrary will of the deity or deities. That is to 
determmistic con- g^y, the conflict between religion and science, 
ception. ^^ what will one day become such, exists 

implicitly in the earliest conceptions of the world. In the 
beginning, to be sure, there being no such thing as science 
properly so called, no conflict is apparent; one explains what- 
ever one chooses as the product of an arbitrary will, then little 
by little the regularity, the determinism, the orderliness of 
certain phenomena are remarked. Divinities cease to be 


absolute princes, and become more or less constitutional 
sovereigns. Therein lies the law of religious evolution, which 
is much more significant than the law promulgated by Comte ; 
humanity tends progressively to restrict the number of the 
phenomena with the natural course of which the gods are 
supposed to interfere ; the sphere of natural law tends pro- 
gressively to become more and more nearly all-comprehensive. 
The Catholic nowadays no longer believes that a goddess 
brings his crops to maturity or that a particular god launches 
a thunder-bolt, though he is still profoundly inclined to imag- 
ine that God blesses his fields or punishes him by destroying 
his house by a flash of lightning ; arbitrary power tends to 
be concentrated in a single being placed on a height above 
nature. At a still further stage in the course of evolution, 
the will of this being is conceived as expressed in the laws of 
nature themselves without allowing for the existence of 
miraculous exceptions ; Providence, the Divinity, becomes 
inunanent in the scientific ordering and determinism of the 
world. In this respect the Hindus and the Stoics are far 
in advance of the Catholics. 

The absorption of the respective worships of a number of 

deities into the worship of one deity has been an incidental 

consequence of the progress of science. Hu- 

Unification of . , , rr ■ i . • . j r 

creeds incidental manity began by offermg up a multitude of 

to that encroach- special services to a multitude of special gods, 
ment. ...... 

If one were to believe certain linguists, it is true, 

natural objects — the sun, fire, the moon— were at first adored 
as impersonal entities ; their subsequent personification being 
due to a too literal interpretation of figurative impressions 
habitually employed to designate them, such as Zev's, the 
brilliant. Certain myths, no doubt, did spring from this source : 
nomina, niimina ; but humanity does not usually progress from 
the general to the particular. Primitive religion, on the con- 
trary, was at first subdivided or rather simply divided into cults 
of all sorts ; it was only later that simplifications and generaliza- 
tions arose. The passage from fetichism to polytheism and 
to monotheism was simply the consequence of a progressively 
scientific conception of the world ; of the progressive absorp- 


tion of the several transcendent powers into a single power 

immanent in the laws of the u.iiverse. 

More important still than tliis metaphysical and scientific 

evolution of religion is the sociological and moral evolution. 

What is really important in a religious theory 
Development of . , ,, • i i ^- r ^i 

sociological and '■'' ^^ss the conceiveu relation of the primary 

moral sides of substance to its manifestations in the universe, 
religion. , , ., -i i i • i i 

than the attributes ascribed to this substance and 
to the inhabitants of the universe. In other words, what sort' 
of a society does the universe constitute? What sort of social 
relation more or less moral between the various members are 
derivable from the fundamental tie which binds them to the 
principle which is immanent in all of them .'' That is the great 
problem for which the others simply constitute a preparation. 
The problem is to interpret the true foundation of beings and 
of being, independently of numerical, logical, and even meta- 
physical relations. Well, such an interpretation cannot be 
other than psychological and moral. Psychologically, power 
was the first and essential attribute of divinity, and this power 
was conceived as redoubtable. Intelligence, knowledge, fore- 
knowledge, were only at a later period ascribed to the gods. 
And finally, divine morality, under the twofold aspects of jus- 
tice and goodness, is a very late conception indeed. We shall 
see it develop side by side with the development of the sys- 
tems of practical morals that are incident to religion. 



I. The laws which regulate the social relations between gods and 
men — Morality and immorality in primitive religions — Extension 
of friendly and hostile relations to the sphere of the gods — 
Primitive inability in matters of conscience, as in matters of art, 
to distinguish the great from the monstrous. 

n. The moral sanction in the society which includes gods and 
men — Patronage — That divine intervention tends always to be 
conceived after the model of human intervention and to sanc- 
tion it. 

III. Worship and religious rites — Principles of reciprocity and pro- 
portionality in the exchange of services — Sacrifice — Principle of 
coercion and incantation — Principle of habit and its relation 
to rites — Sorcery — Sacerdotalism — Prophecy — The externals of 
worship — Dramatization and religious aesthetics. 

IV. Subjective worship — Adoration and love ; their psychological 

/. The laws wliicJi regulate the social relations betweeii gods 
and men. 

We are today inclined to see everywhere a very intimate 
relation between religion and morals, since Kant recognized in 
ethics the aim and sole foundation of the con- 
morals not ception of God. In the beginning nothing of the 

originally sort existed. It is plain from the preceding 

related. . 

chapters that religion was at first a pliysical 

explanation of events, and above all of events in their relation 
to the interests of mankind, by a theory of causes acting for 
ends of their own after the manner of the human will ; an 
explanation, that is to say, by causes at once ef^cient and 
final ; and theology is the development of a primitive teleol- 
ogy. Man imagined himself to be living in society with 
beneficent or maleficent beings, at first visible and tangible, 
then progressively invisible and separate from the objects 



they inhabited. Therein, as we have said, lay the first step of 
reHgion. ReHgion was in the beginning nothing more than 
an imaginative extension of human society; the explanation 
of things by a theory of volitions analogous to the volitions 
by means of which man himself acts on the world, but of 
another order, of a higher degree of power. Well, these voli- 
tions are sometimes good, sometimes evil, sometimes friendly, 
sometimes hostile : friendship and hatred are the two catego- 
ries under which man inevitably classified the superior powers 
with whom he believed himself to be in relations. Morality 
was in no sense one of the distinguishing characteristics of 
these powers; man was quite as naturally inclined to attribute 
to them wickedness as goodness, or rather he felt vaguely 
that the rules of conduct by which he was himself bound 
were not necessarily those by which these beings, at once 
analogous to men and so different from them, were themselves 
bound. Also in his relations with the gods, with the powers 
of nature, man in nowise believed that the rules of mere 
human society, of the family, of the tribe, of the nation, were 
always and in every respect applicable. Thence it came that 
to render the gods propitious, man had recourse to practices 
which he would have blamed in mere human morals: human 
sacrifices, anthropophagy, sacrifices of virginity, etc' 

If one stops to recollect that moral laws are in a great 
measure the expression of the very necessities of human life, 

and that the generality of certain rules is due to 
Religion mucn .,, ... ri-r i.\ 

less moral than the uniformity of the conditions ot lite on tne 
society. surface of the globe, one will understand why it 

was that one's relations to the gods, that is to say to creatures 
of the imagination, were not dominated so directly as one's 

' It has been remarked that peoples who for centuries have renounced anthro- 
pophagy have long persisted in human sacrifices : that thousands of women 
in certain sanctuaries have offered the painful sacrifices of their chastity to gods of 
a furious sensuality. The gods of paganism are dissolute, arbitrary, vindictive, 
pitiless, and still their adorers rise little by little to a conception of moral purity, of 
clemency, and of justice. Javeh is vindictive and ferocious, and yet it is in the 
midst of his people that the religion par excellence of benignity and forgiveness 
took its rise. Also the real morality of men was never proportionate to the fre- 
quently fanatic intensity of their religious sentiments. See M. Reville {FroUgo- 
ntkties, p. 281). 


relations to one's fellow-mcn by the exigencies of practical life, 
but were regulated by much more variable and fantastic laws 
containing often a visible germ of immorality. The divine^ 
society was an imaginary extension of human society, not anj 
imaginative perfection of it. It was physical fear, timor, and 
not moral reverence, which gave being to the first gods. The 
human imagination, labouring thus under the empire of fear, 
naturally gave birth to a prodigy more often than to an ideal. 
For the primitive conscience, as for primitive art, the dis- 
tinction between the great and the monstrous was by no 
means sufficiently marked. The germ of immorality, there- \ 
fore, not less than of morality lies at the root of every religion. 
Once more, it would be an error to believe that religions are 
immoral in that they are anthropomorphic, or sociomorphic ; 
rather the contrary is true, they are not moral except in so 
far as they are sociomorphic. Mutilation, for example, cruelty, 
obscenity are foreign to the conceptions which dominate 
human conduct. One may verify in every religion what is 
observed in Christianity, that the truly moral God is pre- \ 
. cisely the man-God, Jesus, whereas God the Father, who 
pitilessly sacrifices his own son, is anti-human and immoral, 
precisely in that he is superhuman. 

In effect we find our fundamental proposition confirmed 
afresh : religion is a sociology conceived as a physical, meta- 
physical, and moral explanation of 'all things ; it 

Summary. . ' , . r , , , , 

IS the reduction of all natural, and even super- 
natural forces to a human type, and the reduction of their 
relations to social relations. Also the progress of religion has 
been exactly parallel to the progress in social evolution, 
which has itself been dominated by the progress of subjective 
morals and con-science. -The gods were at first divided into 
two classes: the beneficent and the maleficent, who ulti- 
mately came to be recognized as respectively virtuous and 
wicked. Then these two classes were absorbed into their 
respective chiefs, into Ormuzd and Ahriman, into God and 
Satan, into a principle of good and a principle of evil. Thus 
by a fresh dualism spirits themselves were separated and ranged 
into classes, as the spirit itself had previously been separated 

X^ OF THI' r 




from the body. Finally the principle of goodness subsisted 
victoriously under the name of God. He became the personi- 
fication of the moral law and the moral sanction, the sove- 
reign legislator and judge, in a word, the living law of uni- 
versal society, as a king is the living law in a human society. 
To-day God tends to be identified with the human conscience 
purified ad infinitum, and adequate with the universe. For 
these last and most subtle representations of the religious 
sentiment, God is no more than a symbol of the moral and 
the ideal. One may see in this evolution of religious ideas 
the gradual triumph of sociomorphism, since it is character- 
ized by an extension to the universe at large of social relations 
which are incessantly progressing toward perfection among 

//. The moral sanction in the society which includes gods and 

To the personification of the law, religious morals inevitably 

joined that of the sanction which plays so capital a role in 

every human society. The celestial government 

The gods inevi- , , , • .- c ^\ \ 

tably become pro- has always been a projection ot the human gov- 

tectors of social ernment, with a penalty at first terrible and sub- 
sequently softened. To say the truth, the theory 
of a sanction is the systematization of that of a providence. 
The distinguishing characteristic of a providence is that it 
awards or recompenses, insomuch that one may bring down 
upon one's self or avoid its anger, by such and such conduct. ' 
Well, the instant a man admits that a divine power is govern- 
ing him, this power will inevitably appear to him to be exer- 
cising a control over his conduct, and, as it were, sanctioning 
it. This control will at first be exercised only in regard to the 
personal relations of the individual, with his god and his gods. 
But the individual will soon recognize that if the gods take an 
interest in him they may well take an interest also in the other 
members of the tribe, provided that these last know how to 
render them propitious; and to injure the other worshippers 
of a god would be indirectly to injure the god himself, and 
provoke his anger. All the members of a tribe therefore find 


themselves protected against each other by their association 
with the gods, religion lends support to social justice, and who- 
ever violates social justice expects the gods to punish him. 
This expectation also must have been confirmed by the facts, 
for if antisocial and unjust conduct had habitually prevailed 
among men, social life would have been impossible. Injustice 
must then always on an average have carried its sanction with 
it, and this sanction must have appeared to be the direct work 
of the gods, passing judgment from on high on the social 
•conduct of their clients, as Roman patrons did, seated beneath 
the columns of the atrium. 

As religions intermingled and grew in extent, the clientage 
of a god, at first extended to the members of a single tribe, 
passed beyond its bounds. Men, of no matter 
iuftke."^^'""''"' what origin, might become citizens of the celes- 
tial city, of the superhuman association which 
took charge of each of its members, so that the divine sanction 
tended increasingly to become confounded with the moral 
sanction, and one understood that God protected justice not 
only within the bosom of a tribe, but everywhere within the 
limits of humanity. 

While in the matter of the sanction the sociomorphic con- 
ception of the world tended thus to become a moral conception, 
morality itself must have tended, in order to 
totlrtttSs eke out its own insufficiency, to ally itself with 

loaded on the side religion. Human society, powerless to make it- 

«f rectitude. ir i -11 t -^ l 

self always respected by every one of its members, 

inevitably invoked the aid of the society of superior beings 
which enveloped it on all sides. Man being essentially a 
social animal, tJHiov -KokniKov, could not be resigned in the pres- 
ence of the success of antisocial conduct, and whenever it 
seemed that such conduct had succeeded humanly, the very 
nature of mankind tended to make it turn toward the super- 
human to demand a reparation and a compensation. If the 
bees should suddenly see their hives destroyed before their 
eyes without there being any hope of ever reconstructing 
them, their whole being would be shaken, and they would in- 
stinctively await for an intervention of some kind, which should 


re-establish an order as immutable and sacred for them as that 
of the stars is for us. Man, by virtue of the moral nature with 
which heredity has furnished him, is thus inclined to believe 
that wickedness ought not to have the last word in the uni- 
verse ; the triumph of evil and of injustice always stirs his 
indignation. This species of indignation is observable in 
infants almost before they can talk, and numerous traces of it 
may be found even among animals. The logical result of this _ 
instinctive protest against evil is a refusal to believe in its 
definitive triumph.' 

Man, in whose eyes the society in which the gods live cor- 
responds so closely to human society, must almost inevitably 
imagine the existence among them of antisocial 

Results m vie- ...... i r- e 

tory being given bcings, of Ahnmans and batans, protectors ot 
in heaven to prin- g^Q jj^ heaven and on earth, but it is natural that 

ciple of light. 

he should give the victory in the end to the 

" principle of good " over the " principle of evil." Of all 
things it is the most repugnant to him to believe that the uni- 
verse is fundamentally indifferent to the distinction between 
good and evil ; a divinity may be irascible, capricious, and even 
intermittently wicked, but man cannot understand an impassible 
and cold nature. 

The most powerful of the gods had thus served to reconcile 
force and justice, a barbarous justice appropriate to the spirit 
of primitive man. 

Gods legiti- , 1 • 1 r • r i 1 

mated by alliance 1 hrough the idea of sanction grafted thus 

with the moral upon that of providence, religion assumes a really 
forces of society. ^ . ^ ^ 

systematic character, and becomes attached to the 
very fibres of the human heart. As instruments of goodness in 
the universe, the gods, or at least the sovereign gods, serve to 
confirm human morality; they become in some sort the life of 
morality. Their existence is no longer simply a physical fact; 
it is a physical fact, morally justified by a social instinct which 
relies upon it as its main safeguard. Henceforth the power of 
the gods is legitimate. A divine king, like a human king, 
requires a certain mystic consecration ; it is religion which 

'See the author's Esqxiisse aune morale (I.,iii.) ; Besoin psychologiqtte d'lme 


consecrates human kings, it is morality which consecrates the 
king of the gods. 

The notion of a divine intervention to trim the balance of 
the social order, to punish and to recompense, was at first 
Importance of altogether foreign to the belief in a continuation 
conception of of life after death ; it became allied to this belief 
LTautiSf much later. Even among a people so advanced 
of religion. ^s the Hebrews in matters of religious evolution, 

reward and punishment beyond this life played no role, 
and yet there has scarcely ever been a people who be- 
lieved more heartily in the will of God as directing the life 
of mankind ; but in their eyes God achieved his victory in this 
life; they possessed no need for an immortality as a means of 
redressine the moral balance of the world.' It was only later, 
when the critical sense had attained a higher development, that 
it was recognized that the sanction did not always come in 
this life ; the chastisement of the culpable, the hoped-for 
recompense of the virtuous, gradually retreated from the 
present world into a distant future. Hell and heaven were 
thrown open to correct the manifest imperfections of this life. 
The notion of immortality thus assumed an extraordinary 
importance, insomuch that it seemed as if modern life would 
be destroyed if it were deprived of this belief, which former 
times had, however, succeeded in doing without. At bottom a 
clear and reflective conception of a life after death, in which 
one is rewarded or punished for one's life here, is a very com- 
plex and remote deduction from the notion of sanction. 

' The question whether the Hebrews believed in the immortality of the soul has 
long been discussed, and M. Renan has been reproached with his negative attitude 
in the matter ; but M. Renan never denied the existence, among the Hebrews, of a 
belief in a sojourn for the shadows or manes of the dead ; the whole question was 
whether the Hebrews believed in a system of reward and punishment after 
■death, and M. Renan was right in maintaining that any such notion is foreign to 
primitive Judaism. It is equally foreign to primitive Hellenism. Though the 
living endeavoured to conciliate the dead, they did not envy their fate which, even 
in the case of the just, was worse than the fate of the living. " Seek not to con- 
sole me for death, noble Ulysses." Achilles says, when he arrives in Tartarus. " I 
would rather be a hired labourer and till a poor man's field than reign over all the 
regions of the dead." (See Morale d' Epicure, 3d ed.; Des id^es antiques sur la 


The religious sanction, being fundamentally an extension of 

human social relations to the life of the gods, successively 

assumed the three forms of human penalty. At 
Religious sane- . . . . 

tion at first con- ni'st it was only vengeance, as in the case of the 

ceived as a lower animals and of savage man. It is evil ren- 

vengeance. ° 

dered in return for evil. The sentiment of ven- 
geance has subsisted, and still subsists, in the bosom of every 
religion which admits a divine sanction ; vengeance is confided 
to God, and becomes only the more terrible. " Do not avenge * 
yourselves," St. Paul says, " but rather give place unto wrath: 
for it is written, Vengeance is mine ; I will repay, saith the 
Lord. Therefore, if thine enemy hunger, feed him ; if he 
thirst, give him to drink : for in so doing thou shalt heap coals 
of fire on his head." " Our patience," St. Cyprian wrote, 
" comes from our certainty that we shall be avenged ; it heaps 
coals of fire upon the heads of our enemies. The day on 
which the Most High shall number the faithful shall see the 
culpable in Gehenna, and our persecutors shall be consumed in 
eternal fire ! What a spectacle for my transports, my admira- 
tion, and my laughter ! " And by way of a refinement, one 
of the martyrs at Carthage told the pagans to look him well 
in the face so that they might recognize him on the day of 
judgment at the right hand of the Father, while they were 
being precipitated into eternal flame.* 

The notion of vengeance, as it becomes more subtle and 
passes, so to speak, from the domain of passion into that 

of intelligence is transformed into the notion of 
en as an expiation, which is exclusively religious, although 

spiritualistic philosophers believe that it contains 
moral and rational elements. Expiation is a sort of naive 
compensation by which one fancies one may counterbalance 
moral evil by accepting physical evil along with it. Expiation 
is a penalty which possesses no utility in the way of benefiting 
the culprit or those who might follow his example ; it is 
neither corrective nor preventive ; it is an alleged satisfaction 
of the law, the re-establishment of an apparent symmetry for 
the delight of pure intelligence, a public prosecution pure and 

' The most orthodox theologians, of course, mean by fire a veritable flame. 


simple. In a singular passage in the Pensecs chr^tiennes, 
Father Bouhours has clearly and innocently set in relief the 
inutility of religious expiation: "Penitence of the damned, 
thou art rigorous, and how useless; could the anger of God go 
further than to punish pleasure so brief by torments which 
shall never end ? When a damned soul shall have shed tears 
enou"h to fill all the rivers of the world, even if he should 
only have shed one a century, he will be no farther ahead 
after so many millions of years ; he will only have begun 
to suffer, and even when he shall have recommenced as 
often as there are grains of sand upon the shores of the sea, he 
shall even then have done nothing." The highest degree of 
the notion of expiation is in effect this of eternal damnation. 
In this theory of the penalty of damnation, and the pains 
of fire without end, one recognizes the barbarism of former 
time and the torments inflicted on the vanquished by the 
vanquisher, on the rebel by the chief of the tribe. A sort of 
atavism attaches even to the religion of love in this perpetual 
inheritance of hatred, of the customs of a savage period 
erected into an eternal and divine institution. 

///. Worship and religions rites. 

The cult, which, so to speak, is no more than the religion 

become visible and tangible, is, like the religion itself, simply 

_,, ,, the apotheosis of a certain social relation : the 

The oult an ex- J:^ 

pressionofsup- exchange of services between men living in 
ElTgland society. Man, who believes himself to receive 
men. benefits from the gods, feels himself obliged to 

give something in exchange. He conceives a sort of reciproc- 
ity of action as appropriate between God and man, a possible 
return in good or evil conduct ; man possesses a certain hold 
on his God, he is capable of procuring Him a certain satis- 
faction or causing Him a certain pain, and God will reply a 
hundred fold in kind — pain for pain, pleasure for pleasure. 

One knows how gross the external forms of worship in the 
beginning were. They simply consisted in a practical applica- 
tion of the social economy : the gods were given to eat and 


drink ; an altar was a butcher's stall or the stall of a wine 
merchant, and the cult was a veritable commerce between 
heaven and earth — a sort of a market, in which 
day/°'^^^'^ °" "^^" offered lambs or sheep and received in ex- 
change riches and health. In our days, the cult is 
refined ; the exchange has become more and more symbolic, 
the gift is simply an expression of moral homage, for which 
the worshipper expects no immediate return ; still the princi- 
ple of the cult is always the same, one believes that an act on 
man's part possesses a direct influence on the will of God, and 
this act consists in offerings or prayers fixed on beforehand. 

Another principle of primitive cult is proportionality. One 
can expect no more from another than a proportionate return ; 
Governed bv ^°^ three times before him, and he will be better 
the law of the disposed toward you than if you bow but once; 
"^" ^ ' offer him a beef, and he will be more grateful 

than if you offer an ^g<g. Accordingly, to an uncultivated 
and superstitious mind, it follows that quantity and number 
should regulate our relations with the gods as they regulate 
our relations with our fellow-men ; multiply your prayers, and 
you will multiply your chances of favours ; three Paternosters 
go farther than one, a dozen candles will produce a much 
greater effect than a single candle. A prayer that you go 
to a temple to say in public, a cantique chanted in a sonorous 
voice, will attract more attention than a silent demand formu- 
lated at the bottom of one's heart. Similarly, if one wishes 
to obtain rain or sun for the crops, it is into the fields that 
one must go to offer up one's prayer, in a motley file of chant- 
ing worshippers ; it is always serviceable to point one's finger 
at what one wants, and to make the demand in person. The 
better to stimulate the memory of one's idol primitive man 
was accustomed to drive a nail into him, and the custom still 
survives in Brittany in the form of thrusting pins into the 
bodies of the saints. Out of sight, out of mind, holds good 
both of gods and saints. To simple minds it would be con- 
trary to the law of proportionate exchange for a simple 
thought, a silent prayer, to receive such favour in the eyes of 
the gods as an overt act. 


Every religion insists upon some quite determinate ex- 
terior form of worship, a precise manifestation, a creed ; it 
endeavours to incorporate itself into a certain 
Embodied in number of rites and customs, which are numerous 

fixed forms, . 

and inviolable in proportion as the religion is 
primitive. The universality of an external form of worship in 
the different religions of the world is the consequence and the 
most striking proof of their sociomorphic origin. Man has 
always believed that he might be useful and agreeable to his 
gods so long as he has conceived them as analogous to himself 
and to his neighbours. 

Add that to the notion of seducing the gods that of con- 
straining is soon joined. To the conception of an exchange 

^^. , of services is soon joined that of a species of 

Which soon •' ^ 

came to be con- coercion excrcised in some vague manner by the 
ceived as coercive, intermediation of some friendly god or even by 
some simple magic formula which has once succeeded, once 
procured the object demanded ! Formulae consecrated by 
custom appear to be equally binding on gods and men. Accord- 
ingly the cult, at first more or less loose, more or less arbitrary, 
ultimately becomes minutely regulated ; ultimately becomes 
what one knows as a rite. A rite, at its lowest, is simply the 
result of a tendency to repeat indefinitely an act which, at 
some time or other, has seemed to render a god or a fetich 
propitious. After propitiation comes mechanical custom. 
Religion, as Pascal well said, is to a large extent habit. Rites 
are born of the need to perform again and again the same act, 
under the same circumstances ; a need which is the foundation 
of custom, and without which all life would be impossible. 
Moreover, there is something sacred in every habit whatsoever, 
and every act, whatever it may be, tends to become a habit 
and by that fact to become respectable, to be in some sort 
self-consecrated. Rites, therefore, strike root in the very 
foundations of our being ; the need for rites manifests itself 
very early in the life of the child. Children not only imitate 
other peop!e and themselves, repeat other people and them- 
selves, but exact a scrupulous precision in these repetitions ; 


in general they do not distinguish the end from the means by 
which, and the circumstances under which, it is pursued ; they 
do not yet possess a sufficiently exercised intelligence to under- 
stand that the same line of action may lead to the same result 
in different ways and under different circumstances. I once 
observed a child of from eighteen months to two years old : 
if I got up from my armchair and paraded about the room for 
its amusement, and stopped, it was necessary before beginning 
once more that I should return to my seat ; the child's pleasure* 
was much diminished if the repetition was not exact. The 
child was accustomed to be fed by a number of people indif- 
ferently ; still if I had given it some one thing — milk to drink, 
for example — a number of times, it was no longer satisfied to 
receive milk from anybody else, and insisted that the same 
person should always give it the same thing. If, on leaving the 
house, I took another cane than my own, the child would take 
it away from me to put it back where it belonged. It was 
unwilling that one should wear one's hat in the house or go 
bare-headed out of doors. And finally, I saw it achieve a 
veritable bit of ceremonial on its own account. It had been 
accustomed to be told to call a domestic at the top of the 
servants' stairway ; one day the domestic was in the room 
when the child was told to call her ; the child looked at her, 
turned about, went to the top of the stairway where it usually 
called her, and there only shouted out her name. All the con- 
duct of life, in effect the most important as the most insignifi- 
cant, is classified in a child's head, rigorously defined, and 
modelled on the type of the first act of that kind that has 
caught its attention, without the child's ever being able to dis- 
tinguish the object of an act from its form. This confusion 
between purpose and form exists in a no less striking degree 
among savages and primitive peoples, and it is upon this very 
confusion that the sacred character of religious rites is 

The trouble that is apparent in a child or an uncultivated 
man in the presence of whatever deranges his established 
association of ideas, has been explained by a pure and simple 
horror of novelty. Lombroso has even coined a word to 


designate this psychological state ; he has called it viisoneism. 

But let us not confound two quite distinct things, a honor of 

Primitive man a breach of custom andahorror of novelty; there 

possesses a repng- ^j-e new perceptions, and habits that may be added 

nance not to nov- , 1 , , 1 <• 1 1 ■ 4. • 

eltybuttoa to the whole body of already existing percep- 

breach of custom, tions and habits without deranging them much 
or at all ; and against these neither the savage nor the child 
rebels. Though the child never wearies of listening to the 
same tale and becomes irritated the moment one alters its least 
detail, it will listen no less passionately to a new tale ; and 
new toys and new walks delight it. The same taste for 
novelty is observable among savages, just in so far as it can be 
gratified without disturbing their preconceived ideas. Primitive 
man is like the miser who will not part with any of his acquired 
treasure, but asks nothing better than to increase it. He is 
naturally curious, but he has no desire to push his curiosity to 
the point of contradicting what he knows already or believes 
he knows. And in a measure he is right, he is simply obeying 
the powerful instinct of intellectual self-preservation ; his 
intelligence is not sufficiently supple constantly to knit and 
unknit the associations of ideas which experience has estab- 
lished in him. A black, out of an attachment for Livingstone, 
wished to accompany him to Europe ; a few days on the 
steamer drove him insane. It is, therefore, in obedience to a 
certain branch of the instinct of self-preservation that primitive 
peoples are so conservative in their customs and rites ; but 
they show themselves no less willing to appropriate the 
customs and rites of other people whenever they can do so 
without abandoning their own. The Romans ultimately came 
to accept the cult of all the peoples in the world without, how- 
ever, any abandonment of their national cult ; and fetes, which 
are properly survivals of paganism, subsist even at the present 
day ; one acquires superstition, and customs, much more easily 
than one loses them. 

The power of example contributes also to lend an additional 
stability to the public cult; an individual becomes hardened 
in a practice which he finds universal in the society in 
which he lives. Thence comes the importance of public 


worship ; the practice of pubHc worship makes those who ab- 
stain from it conspicuous. Public worship is a 7>iva voce poll. 
Everyone sits in judgment upon you, all of your 

Worship in . , in 

public confirms acquaintances become your accusers, and all 
cilt- men who worship God are your enemies. Not 

to think as everybody else does is comprehensible — but 
not to act as everybody else does ! To wish to break away 
from the servitude of action which, once established, tends to 
perpetuate itself! In the end the machine bends; one' 
becomes brutalized. Even among people of superior minds the 
force of habit is incredible. In the hours of doubt, in his 
youth, M. Renan wrote to his adviser : " I recite the Psalms ; 
I could pass hours and hours, if I but followed my own incli- 
nation, in the churches. . . I experience lively returns of devo- 
tion. . . At times I am simultaneously both Catholic and 
rationalist ! When one cuts loose from such beliefs, beliefs 
which have become a second nature to one, it seems as if 
one has severed one's self from one's whole past. One has in 
some sense lived them, and one is attached to them as to one's 
own life ; to abandon them is to resolve to die to one's self. 
It seems as if one's entire strength had come from them and 
that one will be as feeble as a child when one has lost them ; 
they are to one what Samson's hair was to him. Happily 
they will grow again." 

Priesthood is a consequence of the establishment of rites. 

The priest is the man supposed to be most capable of influenc- 

Priesthooda '"^ ^^^^ divinity by a minute and learned observa- 

consequence of tion of the sacred rites. Rites, in effect, the 
established rites. . . ^ , i • ■ i i_ 

moment they become complicated by an accu- 
mulation of diverse customs lie beyond the knowledge and 
power of the ordinary man ; it requires a special education to 
talk to the gods in the complex language which alone they 
understand, in the formulae which coerce their wills. Who- 
ever possesses this imagination is a species of magician or 
sorcerer; and the priesthood arose out of sorcery, of which it 
was simply the regular organization.' 

' " Sorcery, in the beginning purely individual and fantastic," says M. Reville, 
"gradually develops into sacerdotalism and by that change, having become a perma- 


The externals of worship remain to-day, in special in the 

Catholic and Greek religions, a collection of traditional, inflexi- 

Tendencyof ^^^ formulae, which could not be trusted to 

priest to become a produce their effect if a word or a gesture in 

sacred person. ,1 1 j ^ • 

tncni were changed ; certain ceremonies are 
really veritable traditional forms of incantation. Rites 
resemble the invisible bonds in which Faust held the Devil ; 
but it is God himself in this case that is enchanted, charmed, 
and overpowered. At bottom the belief which makes the 
Chinese priest turn his praying machine, the belief which 
makes the devotee tell her beads, the belief which makes the 
priest thumb his breviary or say salaried masses for unknown 
peoples, which in the Midi makes rich people pay beggars to 
mumble prayers before their doors, all rest upon one and the 
same principle : they all rest on a faith in a power of the rite, 
of the traditional formula in and of itself, no matter who 
pronounces it. The ef¥icacity of the interested prayers does 
not seem to depend solely on the legitimacy of what one 
demands but on the form employed in demanding them ; and 
this form has been determined at bottom by experience ; the 
majority of devotees perform minute experiments on the 
comparative virtue of individual prayers, masses, offerings, 
pilgrimages, miraculous waters, etc. ; they amass the result of 
their observations and transmit them to their children. The 
invocation of certain privileged Madonnas, such as the 
Madonna at Lourdes, is even to-day a vestige of primitive 
sorcery. The priest inherits all these naive experiments as to 
tlie conditions appropriate to induce a miracle, and he 
systematizes them. Priests being men picked for their 
capability in the function which was regarded as the most 
useful of all others for the preservation of society, necessarily 
came to constitute a really superior caste and to be person- 
ally in some sense the object of the cult which they adminis- 

nent public institution, sacerdotal sorcery becomes systematic, develops a ritual 
which becomes traditional, imposes upon those who aspire to the honour of conduct- 
ing the conditions of initiation, proof of efficiency, a novitiate, receives privileges, 
defends them if they are attacked, endeavours to augment them. This is the his- 
tory of all sacerdotal institutions, which are certainly descended from a ca]iricious, 
fantastic, disorderly, practice of sorcery in previous ages." 


tered. The perfect type of sacerdotal privilege is hereditary 
priesthood as it existed in ancient Judaism, as it still exists 
in India; every Brahman is born a priest and needs no 
special education. The thirty-seven great priests of Vishnu 
in Gujerat are honoured even to-day as the visible incarnation 
of Vishnu.' 

Historically the priest has always found a rival, sometimes 

an adversary, in the prophet, from Buddha to Isaiah and 

, , . , Jesus. The prophet is not a priest bound to a 

Antagonism be- -^ r r r 

tween priest and sanctuary and slave to a tradition, but an 
prophet. individual. " Prophecy," says M. Albert Reville, 

"is to religion what lyrism is to poetry." The prophet and 
the lyric poet, in effect, both speak in the name of their own 
inspiration. The prophet is often a revolutionist, the priest 
is essentially a conservative ; the one represents innovation, 
the other custom. 

Exterior forms of worship and rites allying themselves with 
refined and elevated sentiments have in all religions taken on 

a symbolic and expressive character that they did 
mentincult, not possess in the practice of primitive sorcery; 

they have become aesthetic and by that fact 
rendered durable. For whoever looks upon the most ancient 
religious ceremonies with the eye of an artist, they con- 
sist in the reproduction, nowadays too mechanically and 
unconsciously, of a work of art which once was not without its 
significance and its beauty. They are nowadays like a hand- 
organ playing admirable compositions by some old master. 
Pfleiderer, in his " Philosophy of Religion," has shown that the 
dominant element in the externals of worship is dramatic, the 
dramatization of some mythological or legendary scenes. It 
is especially among the Aryans that this element predomi- 

' It is an iionour for which one pays dear to be permitted to consecrate to them 
one's soul, one's body, or the soul and body of one's wife. One pays five rupees 
for the privilege of contemplating them, twenty for the privilege of touching them, 
thirteen for the privilege of being whipped by them, seventeen for the privilege of 
eating betel that tliey have chewed, nineteen for the privilege of drinking the 
water in which they have bathed, thirty-five for the privilege of washing their 
great toes, forty-two for the privilege of rubbing them with perfumed oil, and from 
one hundred to two hundred for tasting in their company the essence of delight. 


nates ; the Aryans are especially susceptible to the charm of 
great epics and dramas. The Semites are lyric rather, and 
thence arises the importance of prophecy among them ; 
although the lyric element was also represented among the 
Greek poets and Pythonesses. The dramatic element, on the 
contrary, is visible in certain symbolic ceremonies of Chris- 
tianity and Judaism. The Mass was formerly a veritable 
drama of the Passion in which the spectators also took part ; 
the half pagan, half Christian processions that still subsist 
to-day possess for the crowd something of the attractiveness 
of the opera. The Communion is a dramatization of the 
Lord's Supper. Catholicism especially is distinguished by 
the possession of dramatic and sesthetic (too often gross) ele- 
ments, which explain, not less than historical reasons, its 
victory over Protestantism among the nations of southern 
Europe, which are more artistic than those of the north, and 
more sensually artistic. The aesthetic superiority of a religion 
is not to be disdained by the thinker. It is the aesthetic 
element in every rite which, as we shall see, is its most re- 
spectable characteristic. Moreover, religious sentiment and 
aesthetic sentiment have always gone hand in hand ; and this 
union has been one of the most important factors in the 
development of the aesthetic sentiment ; it is thus that dramas 
and epics dealt in the beginning with gods and demi-gods 
rather than with men ; the earliest romances were religious 
legends; the first odes were sacred chants and songs. Music 
and religion have always been allied. But in the end, the 
aesthetic element becomes feeble and is replaced, as religion 
loses its vitality, by a species of mechanical routine. In the 
East, even more than among us, this phenomenon is manifest, 
the whole tendency there is toward monotonous and inter- 
minable ceremonials. The Parsees, the representatives of the 
oldest existing religion, pass six hours a day in prayer. And 
according to the Indian Mirror the following is a descrip- 
tion of the festival of the Lord, a part of the cult of 
Brahmaism, the altogether modern and wholly deistical 
religion founded by Ram Mohun Roy and Keshub : "At 
precisely six o'clock a hymn was intoned in chorus in the 


upper gallery of the mandir to announce the day's solemnity. 
Others followed to the accompaniment of the harmonium, and 
thus, after a succession of hymns, the sacred office was reached, 
which, counting in the sermon, lasted from seven to ten o'clock. 
A part of the congregation then retired to take some rest, but 
those who remained intoned the vedi to demand of the 
minister explanations in regard to several points of his ser- 
mon. At noon, the assembly having convened, four pundits 
came out successively and recited Sanskrit texts. At one 
o'clock the minister gave a conference." Then came the 
exposition of a number of philosophical and religious theses, 
delivered by their respective authors. Hymns, meditations,, 
and prayers in common lasted till nearly seven o'clock, when 
the initiation of seven new Brahmaists was celebrated. This 
ceremony, including a sermon, lasted not less than two hours, 
and the assembly, which, if one may believe the reporter, did 
not show any sign of fatigue after these fifteen hours of con- 
tinuous devotion, separated with a hymn to the effect that it 
had not yet had enough : " The heart wishes not to return 

IV. Subjective worship — Adoration and love. 

Subjective worship has grown out of, and been a refinement 

upon, the external cult, which in the beginning was in the 

eyes of mankind much the more important of the 

ship a^refiTement t^^^- To the incantation, to the material offering, 

on public and ex- to the sacrifices of the victims succeeded subjec- 
ternal worship. . , , ... re • r ^ 

tive prayer and the subjective ottering ot love, 
and the subjective sacrifice of egoistic passion. To external 
homage, to evidences of fear and respect by which one was 
supposed to recognize the superior power of the gods, as one 
bows down in recognition of the superior power of kings, suc- 
ceeded a mental adoration, in which a god is recognized as all- 
powerful but also as all-beneficent. The mental bowing down of 
the entire soul before God is the last refinement of ritual ; and 
ritual itself in the higher religions comes to be the simple sign 
and symbol of this adoration.' Thus the primitive sociomor- 

' Among the Hindus, Tapas, that is to say fire, the ardour of devotion, and of 
voluntary renouncement, signified in the beginning simply the incantation intended 


phic character of the cult becomes progressively more subtle : 

the semi-material society, consisting of gods and men, becomes 

a wholly moral society, composed of men and the principle of 

goodness, which still continues to be represented as a person, 

as a master, as a father, as a king. 

The highest form of subjective worship is love of God, in 

which all the duties of religious morality may be regarded as 

Th 1 fad summed up. Adoration contains in it a vitiating 

an outlet for the element of rcspect for power ; love is a more in- 
surplus of human ^jj^^^^ ^^^^^^ /^j^g j^^g ^f ^^^ jg ^ p^j.^j^j ^^^^j_ 

festation of the need to love which exists in every 
human being. This need is so great that it cannot always find 
satisfaction in real life ; it tends therefore to stretch beyond, 
and not finding upon earth an object which completely suf^ces 
for it, it seeks one in heaven. The love of God appears thus 
to be an expression of the superabundance of the love of man. 
Our heart sometimes feels too big for the world and seeks to 
overpass its limits. Let us not forget, for the rest, that the 
world has been strangely contracted by religious ignorance, 
intolerance, and prejudice ; the sphere left open to the need 
of loving was formerly a very narrow one : it is not astonishing 
that the latter should have stretched out its arms toward a 
celestial and supernatural being. 

The same thing happens when human affections are ship- 
wrecked in us, lose their object, no longer find anything to 

which they can attach themselves. In France, as 
isolation, feeble- ^'^ England and America, the habitual devotion 

ness, and misfor- of spinsters has long since been observed, though 
tune. . f • • 1 • , ... r 

It often comcides with a certam pmmg away or 
the heart. In our times a virtuous unmarried woman is, so to 
speak, predestined to devotion ; divine love is for her (on an 
average, of course) a necessary compensation. Remark also 
that old men are generally more inclined to devotion than 
young. There are. no doubt, a number of reasons for it: the 
approach of death, the enfeeblement of the body and of the 

to constrain the Devas to obedience, and to deprive them of a part of their power. 
Out of a crude concej^tion has grown an extremely refined one. See Manuel 
de r Histoire des religions, par C. P. Tiele, p. 19 (translated by Maurice Vernes). 


intelligence, the increasing need for a support, etc.; but 
there exists also a more profound reason. The old man, 
always more isolated than the young, and deprived of the 
excitations of the sexual instinct, possesses a smaller outlet 
for his instinct for affection and for love. Thus there accumu- 
lates in him an amount of treasure which he is free to apply 
as to him seems best ; well, the service of God is that which 
demands least effort, which is most appropriate to the 
natural indolence of the old, to their preoccupation with 
themselves ; they become therefore devotees, partly out of 
egoism, partly out of a need for some disinterested occupa- 
tion. A grain of incense burns in every heart, and when the 
perfume of it can no longer be given to the earth we let it 
mount to heaven. Note also that the loss of beloved beings, 
misfortunes of every sort, and irreparable infirmities all provoke 
an expansion of the heart toward God. In the Middle Ages 
unhappiness was frequently one of the most important factors 
of piety; when a great and unmerited misfortune happened 
to a man, the chances were that he would enter the Church or 
else become an atheist ; it depended often on his strength of 
jTiind, his habits, and his education. When one strikes an 
animal it is equally possible that it may bite one or crouch 
at one's feet. Every time the heart is violently bruised there 
comes an inevitable reaction ; we must reply from within to 
the blows from without, and this reply is sometimes revolt and 
sometimes adoration. The feeble, the disinherited, the suffer- 
ing, all those to whom misfortune has not left strength 
enough for rebellion, have but one resource : the sweet and 
consoling humility of divine love. Whoever does not love, or 
is not loved completely and sufficiently, on earth will always 
turn toward heaven : the proposition is as regular as the 
parallelogram of forces. 

Just as we have seen in an error of the senses one of the 

objective principles of religious physics, so perhaps may we 

p ft- ^^^ ^" "^ perversion of love one of the most 

icism a perversion essential subjective principles of mysticism. It 

of love. .^ ^^ j^^^ ^^^^^ ^j^j^ unction, this penetrating 

sweetness which makes the mystic tremble to the marrow of 


his bones, is to be explained. Profound love, e\en the most 
terrestrial, tends to envelop the object with respect and ven- 
eration ; an effect which is due to a number of causes, and 
among others to the psychological law according to which 
desire magnifies the desired object. To love is always a little 
to adore. If it is a human being that is the object of the 
love, the divinization incidental to it will be confined within 
certain limits, but if the love stretch up from the earth into 
heaven, it may command the full powers of the imagination ; 
the soul, seeking at a distance for some vague object to which 
to attach itself, will go out in mystic outbursts of emotion 
and ecstasy. The soul will personify its ideal, will supply it 
with figure and speech : its ideal will be Jesus with Mary 
Magdalene at his feet, or the Virgin weeping at the foot of 
the cross, or Moses in the midst of the clouds, or the child 
Buddha before whom the statues of the gods rose and made 
obeisance. Thus mystical religions are formed of great 
images and passionate sentiments and the heart of man, the 
very life blood of which they turn to their profit. What 
appears often to be the most intellectual of tastes is only love 
in disguise. The most earthly love is often a religion in its 
earliest stages. Henri Beyle, visiting the salt-mines at 
Salzburg, found in a shaft a branch covered with incomparable 
diamonds scintillating in the light. It was a dead timber on 
which the salt had crystallized; in the timber thus trans- 
formed Beyle saw the symbol of what happens in every loving 
heart ; every object one finds there has taken on an extraordi- 
nary brilliancy, a marvellous beauty. He calls this phe- 
nomenon crystallization ; we should prefer to call it divinization. 
Love always divinizes its object ; partially and provisionally 
when this object is placed upon earth and close to one's eyes, 
but definitively when this object is lost in the distance of 
heaven. Our gods are like those mysterious beings who 
spring, in legend, from a drop of generous blood or a loving 
tear let fall upon the earth ; it is with our own substance that 
we nourish them ; their beauty, their goodness come out of 
our love, and if we love them as we do, the reason is that we 
must love something; must lift up to the four corners of the 


horizon, even if they be deaf, a supreme appeal. This out- 
come of love and religious sentiment is most visible in exalted 
minds, both in the Middle Ages and in our own days. The 
true element of originality in Christian literature is that one 
there finds, for the first time, a sincere and warm accent of 
love, scarcely divined, here and there, by the great spirits 
of antiquity, by Sappho and Lucretius. In a page of St. 
Augustine one finds the expression of a franker and more 
profound ardour than in all the elegant affectations of Horace 
or the languors of Tibullus. Nothing in pagan antiquity is 
comparable to the chapter in the " Imitation" on love. The 
passion, confined and held in check, mounts to heights till 
then unknown, like a dammed river ; but it is no less genu- 
inely itself. What shall we say of the visionary mystics of 
the people like St. Theresa, and Chantal, and Guyon? 
Among them piety, in its most exaggerated form, verges upon 
the madness of love. St. Theresa might have been a 
courtesan of genius equally as well as a saint. Physiologists 
and physicians have often observed, in our days, analogous 
pathological cases, in which the religious effusion is simply, so 
to speak, a case of mistake in identity.' 

In Christianity the conception of Jesus, the beautiful, gentle 

young man, the Holy Spirit incarnate in the purest and most 

ideal form, favours more directly than any corre- 

Worship of . . ..... , . 

Christ to a con- spondmg conception m any rival religion this 
siderable extent a particular perversion of love. Christianity is the 

perversion of love. '^ '■ 

most anthropomorphic belief in existence, for it 
is the one of all others which, after having conceived the most 
elevated idea of God, abases it, without degrading it, to the most 
human of human conditions. By a much more refined, much 
more profound paganism than the paganism of antiquity, 
the Christian religion has succeeded in making God the object 
of an ardent love, without ceasing to make Him an object of 
respect. By a myth much more seductive and poetic even than 
that of Psyche, we see God, the true God, descended upon earth 
in the form of a blond and smiling young man; we hear him 
speak low in the ear of Mary Magdalene at the fall of evening; 

' Ribot, de rHMditt', 364 ; Moreau de Tours, Psych, morbide, 259. 


and then this vision suddenly disappears and we see in the 
gathering shadow two mutilated arms extended toward us, 
and a heart which bleeds for humanity. In this legend all the 
powers of the imagination are called in play, all the fibres of 
the heart are moved ; it is an accomplished work of art. What 
is there astonishing in the fact that Christ has been and is still 
the great seducer of souls ? In the ears of a young girl his 
name appeals at once to all her instincts, even to the maternal 
instinct, for Jesus is often represented as a child with the 
dimpled, rosy cheeks which the Greeks ascribed to Eros. The 
heart of the woman is thus besieged on all sides at once : her 
waverine and timid imagination wanders from the cherub to 
the youth, and from the youth to the pale figure, with the 
bowed head, upon the cross. It is possible that from the birth 
of Christianity down to the present day there has not been 
one single woman of an exalted piety whose heart has not first 
beat for her God, for Jesus, for the most lovable and loving 
type that the human mind has ever conceived. 

Side by side with its somewhat sentimental element the 
love of God contains a moral element, which is progressively 
detaching itself with the march of ideas. God 
inSwrGod, being the very principle of goodness, the per- 
Bonification of the moral ideal, the love of God 
ultimately becomes a moral love properly so called, the love of 
virtue, of sanctity at its height. The subjective act of charity 
thus becomes the religious act par excellence, in which 
morality and subjective worship are identified ; good works 
and the externals of worship are simply a translation into the 
outer world of the moral consciousness. At the same time, in 
the highest speculations of philosophic theology, charity has 
been conceived as embracing simultaneously all beings in the 
divine love, and by consequence as beginning to realize the 
sort of perfect society in which " all exist in all and all in every 
part.'" The social and moral character of religion thus attains 
its highest degree of perfection and God appears as a sort of 
mystic realization of the universal society, sub specie ceterm. 

part Secon^. 





I. Narrow dogmatic faith — The credulity of primitive man : 
First, spontaneous faith in the senses and imagination ; Second, 
faith in the testimony of superior men ; Third, faith in the 
divine word, in revelation, and in the sacred texts — The literal- 
ness of dogmatic faith — Inevitable intolerance of narrow dog- 
matic faith — Belief in dogma, revelation, salvation, and damnation 
all result in intolerance — Modern tolerance. 

II. Broad dogmatic faith — Orthodox Protestantism — Dogmas of 
orthodox Protestantism — Rational consequences of these dog- 
mas — Logical failure of orthodox Protestantism. 

III. The dissolution of dogmatic faith in modern society — 
Reasons that render this dissolution inevitable — Comparative 
influence of the various sciences; influence of public instruction, 
of means of communication, of industry even and of commerce, 
etc. — The disappearance of belief in oracles and prophecies — 
Gradual disappearance of the belief in miracles, in devils, etc. 

/. Narroiv dogviatic faitJi. 

If faith has not varied especially in and of itself as a mode 
of feeling, the objects with which it is concerned have differed 
from generation to generation. Hence the various forms 
of doctrine which we shall pass in review as showing the evolu- 
tion and dissolution of faith. 

In primitive religions, faith was altogether experimental 
and physical ; it was not opposed to scientific belief, which, to 
Primitive faith ^^^ ^^''^ truth, did not exist. It was a credulity 
more properly a rather than a faith; and religious faith, in our 
"^'^^^' day, is still a credulity, an obligatory credulity, 

primarily in the authority of superior men, secondarily in 
that of God himself. 



The origin of religious faith has been attributed solely to 

an appetite for the marvellous and the extraordinary ; but we 

„ , ,. . , have already shown that religions do everything 
Subordination of •' ..... 

the marvellous in in their power to regulate the imagination even \w 

primitive faith. ^j^^ ^,^^^, ^^^ ^f Stimulating it, and to bring the 

unknown to the touchstone of the known. The marvellous 
must aid in making something at least apparently comprehen- 
sible ; with marvel for marvel's sake religion holds no com- 
merce. So much so, that primitive people have sought in 
religion, less to multiply the marvellous, in the modern sense 
of the word, than partially to suppress it ; they have been in 
search of an e.xplanation of some sort. An explanation by 
superior powers, by spirits, by occult virtues, seemed clearer 
to them than an explanation by scientific law. 

For the rest, any explanation once given, primitive man 

never dreamed of disputing it, he was essentially a " man of 

faith." The delicate shades of thought we desig- 

Rationale of ..... , ii-i-^ •lm"*. 

primitive man's nate as verisimilitude, probability, possibility, were 
faith in the mar- ^g little known to primitive man as to children. 
The voluntary suspension of judgment that we call 
doubt indicates an extremely advanced state of mind. With 
children and savages, to conceive and to believe are one ; they 
know nothing about reserving their approbation, or mistrusting 
their own intelligence or that of others. A certain humility, 
which young minds do not possess, is necessary before one can 
say: That may be true but also it may not, or in other words, 
I don't know. And also one must have patience to verify 
with care what one believes, and patience is courage of the 
most difificult kind. Finally, man always feels the need to 
declare that what is attractive, what satisfies his mind, is real: 
when one tells an interesting story to a child, he says, " It is 
true, is it not?" If, on the contrary, it is a sad story he will 
cry out : " That is not true I " A man of the people to whom 
one should demonstrate, with the evidence in one's hand, that a 
thing he thought true was false, would reply with a shake of the 
head, " If it is not true, it ought to be." All primitive people 
were like that. In a memorandum on The Development 
of Language and Intelligence among Children, E. Egger char- 


acterized this state of mind as " rebellion against the notion 
of doubt and even that of simple probability." Felix, a child 
of five and one-half years, took a lively interest in sacred history, 
but he could not understand why all the lacunae had not been 
filled in, or why doubtful points should be marked as such. 
" The actual state of his mind," adds E. Egger, "corresponds 
in a manner to that of the Greek mind during the period 
when the effort was made painfully to set in order the 
chaos of ancient legend." Two years later the same child ' 
received a present of a collection of stories. He found in the 
preface that the author gave the stories out as true ; he asked 
nothing further, and was promptly astonished to find anybody 
else in doubt. " His trustfulness displayed no disposition to 
go behind the letter of his text, in especial as the stories 
sounded to him sufficiently probable." In my own experience 
with children, I have noticed that nothing irritates them like 
uncertainty; a thing must be true or false, and generally they 
prefer that it should be true. For the rest, a child does not 
know the limits of his own power, and still less that of others ; 
and too, he has no clear sense of the marvellous and the 
improbable. A child saw a horse galloping by one day, and 
said to me seriously, " I could run as fast as that." Thus 
again the little peasant girl, of whom we spoke above, asked 
her mistress why she might not have made the flowers in the 
garden. A sense of the possible is lacking in primitive intelli- 
gences : because you seem to a child or a savage to be able to 
do more things than he, he readily comes to believe that you 
can do everything; so that what we call miracles seem to 
primitive people simply the visible and necessary sign of 
superior power; so much so, indeed, that to them a man of 
mark ought to be able to perform miracles ; they expect 
them from him as their due, and become indignant if they are 
not forthcoming, as a child is indignant when one does not 
help him carry a burden that is too heavy for his strength. 
The Hebrews precisely expected Moses to perform miracles 
and, so to speak, obliged him to do them. The people believe 
in their great men. and the belief in miracles is but a corollary 
from their general confidence. 

V^' OF THfi ^>' 

DOGMATIC FAITH. ^ v ■i^Jn oJ.-i. j^q 

Moreover, faith reaches a height among primilwe^TTationa 

that it never does among cultivated intelligences : they 

believe immeasurably things that it is out of 

Absoluteness of jj ^^^.^sure to believe at all; the happy inter 
primitive faith. i r y 

utriunque is as lacking in the belief itself as in 

the thing believed. Mr. Spencer, in his " Sociology," cites the 
example of a young woman who attributed to a certain amulet 
the magical virtue of preserving her against injuries. She 
thought herself as invulnerable as Achilles. The chief of the 
tribe, astonished that so precious an amulet should exist, and 
wishing no doubt to acquire it, asked to have its virtues veri- 
fied before his eyes. The woman was brought to him, a 
warrior prepared his hatchet, and in perfect confidence she 
put out her arm. The blow fell and the woman uttered a cry 
of astonishment not less than of pain as her hand fell to the 
ground. Who in our day has such absolute faith ? Very few 
amone us would risk his life, or even his hand, to maintain 
such and such a dogma. This woman belonged to the race of 
martyrs ; her intense credulity bordered on heroism. 

Man's natural confidence in his fellow-men, especially when 
there is no very evident reason why the latter should mislead 

„ . . , . him, is the origin of the credence we give to the 
Confusion of sin- ' ^ _ ° . 

cerity with verity testimony and authority of those who claim to 
by primitive man. be inspired ; which all seemed very human and 
natural in the beginning, and only later came to be regarded 
as supernatural. This spontaneous disposition to believe 
is an elementary instinct which plays a large role in re- 
ligious sociomorphism. Suspicious as primitive man is when 
his material interests are at stake, in all other matters he 
is apt to be credulous to a fault. Moreover, he scarcely 
knows what one means by error, and does not distinguish it 
from deception ; he puts trust in his own judgment and in that 
of other people. When you te.l him something extraordinary, 
his first thought is that you are making sport of him ; he is 
less inclined to believe that you have deceived yourself, that 
you have reasoned falsely; sincerity and verity are confused 
in his mind. It has taken all the experience of modern life to 
make clear to us the difference between these two things : to 


induce us to verify tlie affirmations even of those wliose 
characters we esteem most highly ; to contradict, without 
offending, those who are dearest to us. Primitive man never 
distinguished his belief in the "law" from his faith in the 
" prophets." Those whom he esteemed and admired seemed 
to him of necessity to know the facts. Add that man is 
always inclined to make much of anything that is a material 
fact, of anything that appeals to his eyes and to his ears. 
The sacred word, and the sacred writings that embody it, are 
to him not merely indications, hut proof s of what they affirm. 
I overheard it given in a church one day as an incontestable 
proof that Moses conversed with the Lord that Mt. Sinai is 
still in existence; that is the sort of argument that is success- 
ful with the people. Livingstone says that the negroes 
listened and believed from the moment he showed them the 
Bible and told them that the celestial Father had written His 
will on the pages of that book ; they touched the pages and 
believed at once. 

In effect, blind confidence in a word, in a sign — precipi- 
tate induction from which one infers from the reality of 
the sign to the reality of the thing signified : a 

Inference from ° -' o o 

reality of the sign second induction to the effect that any doctrine 
Si;;1i?nldt\e relatively elevated, from the social and moral 
essence of faith point of view, and put forth by men one respects, 
in revelation. .^ probably true, even if it be in many points 
irrational — these are the principal elements of the primitive faith 
in revelation. And this faith, in all its crudity, exists at the 
present day. It wins its way through the eyes and ears ; therein 
lies its power. It is much less mystical than we are inclined to 
fancy; it is incarnate in its monuments, its temples, its books ; it 
walks about and breathes in the person of its priests, its saints, its 
gods; we cannot look about us without realizing its existence 
^n one form or another. It has been of great service to 
human thought, in spite of its pitfalls, thus to have been able 
to express itself, to fashion objects in its own image, to pene- 
trate marble and stone, to provide that it shall itself be borne 
back in upon us from without. How can one doubt what is 
visible and tangible ? 


Faith in testimony and authority leads to faith in sacred 

texts and in the very letter of these texts. This is what one 

means by literal faith. It exists still in our day, 
Results m ..... 

"credo quia among many civilized people. It constitutes the 

ineptum." basis of the Catholicism of the masses. "In order 

to silence restless spirits," said the council of Trent, " it is 
decreed that no one may, in the interpretation of the 
Scriptures, . . . deviate from the construction sanctioned by 
the Church, to seek for a supposedly more exact rendering." 
Faith lies thus in a renunciation of thought, an abdication of 
liberty; imposes upon itself a rule not of logic but of morals, 
and subjects itself to dogmas as to immutable principles. It 
restricts intelligence beforehand to precise limits, and imposes 
a p-eneral direction on it, with instructions not to swerve 
from it. It is at this point that faith comes really to be 
opposed to scientific belief for which in the beginning it was 
a substitute. According to the council of the Vatican, those 
who have faith do not believe " because of the intrinsic truth 
of the things revealed," but " because of the divine authority 
that revealed them." If you reason with a person of that 
stamp, he will listen, understand, and follow you — but only to 
a certain point ; there he stops, and nothing in the world can 
make him go beyond. Or rather from that point he v/ill 
declare himself inexpugnable, and will assure you that you have 
absolutely no hold on him ; and in effect, no scientific or phil- 
osophical reason could turn him from his belief, since he places 
the object of his faith in a sphere superior to reason, and 
makes his faith an affair of " conscience." Nothing can force 
a man to think rightly when he does not propose rectitude 
of thought to himself as a supreme aim, and nothing can 
obliee him to follow the dictates of reason to the bitter end, if 
he believes that the instant he calls certain dogmas and certain 
authorities in question he is committing a sin. Thus, faith 
gives a certain sacred and inviolable character to what it 
sanctions, — converts it into a sacred ark that one may not touch 
without sacrilege or danger, neither may one look at it too 
closely nor touch it with one's fingers, even to lend it support 
now and then when it seems ready to fall. Free-thought and 


science never consider a thing as true except provisionally, and 
so long as it is not seriously doubted by someone. Dogmatic 
faith, on the contrary, affirms as true not only the things that 
are uncontested, but those which, according to it, are conclu- 
sively presumed, and therefore above discussion. It follows 
that, if reasons for belief diminish, faith must be none the less 
strong. It was this that Pascal endeavoured to demonstrate. 
In effect, the less a belief seems rational to our finite minds, 
the more merit there is in lending credence to " divine 
authority." It would be too simple to believe no more than 
what one sees or what sounds probable to one ; to affirm the 
improbable, to believe in what seems incredible, is much more 
meritorious. Our courage rises in proportion as our intelli- 
gence becomes humble ; the more absurd one is the greater 
one is — credo quia ineptuvi ; the more difficult the task, the 
greater the merit. The strength of our faith is estimated, in 
the mysticism of Pascal, by the weakness of its " reasons." 
The ideal, on this theory, would be to possess no more than 
the metaphysical minimum of reason for belief, the weakest 
conceivable of motives, a mere nothing; that is to say, one 
should be attached to the supreme object of one's faith by the 
slenderest of bonds. The Albigensian priests, the parfaits, 
wear a simple white cord around their waists as an emblem of 
their vow; all mankind wears this cord, and it is in reality 
more solid and often heavier than any chain. 

Scepticism tends toward a complete intellectual indifference 
w^ith regard to all things ; dogmatic faith produces a partial 

indifference, an indifference limited to certain 
telleaua^l rest" points, determined once for all ; it is no longer 
incident to anxious on these heads, but rests and delights in 

established dogma. The sceptic and the man of 
faith abandon themselves thus to a more or less extensive 
abstinence from thought. Religious faith is a determination 
to suspend the flight of the imagination, to limit the sphere of 
thought. We all know the Oriental legend that the world is 
held up by an elephant, which stands on a tortoise, which floats 
on a sea of milk. The believer must always refrain from ask- 
ing what supports the sea of milk ? He must never notice a 


point of which there is no explanation; he must constantly 
repeat to himself the abortive incomplete idea that has 
been given him without daring to recognize that it is 
incomplete. In a street through which I pass every day, a 
blackbird whistles the same melodic phrase ; the phrase is 
incomplete, ends abruptly, and for years I have heard him lift 
his voice, deliver himself of his truncated song, and stop with 
a satisfied air, with no need to complete his musical fragment, 
which I never hear without a feeling of impatience. It is thus 
with the true believer ; accustomed as he is in the most 
important questions to dwell within the limits of the custom- 
ary, without any curiosity about the beyond, he sings his 
monotonous little note without dreaming that it lacks any- 
thing — that his phrase is as clipped as his wings are, and that 
the narrow world of his belief is not the universe. 

The people who still hold to this kind of faith represent the 

antique world endeavouring to perpetuate itself without a 

compromise in the bosom of the new world, the 

Wilful blindness ^^q^Jj^ q{ modern society. The barbarian does not 

of faith, •' f . 1 

wish to yield to the progress of ideas and of 

manners ; if such people formed the majority of the nation 
they would constitute the greatest danger to human reason, 
to science, and to truth. Literal faith, in effect, makes naked 
truth a subject of pudicity; one does not dare to look it in the 
face or lift the sacred veil that hides its beauty ; you find your- 
self in the midst of a conspiracy, mysterious beings surround 
you, putting their hands before your eyes and a finger on your 
lips. Dogma holds you, possesses you, masters you in spite 
of yourself ; it is fixed in your heart and petrified in your 
intelligence : it is not without reason that faith has been com- 
pared to an anchor that has caught on the bottom and checked 
the vessel in its course, while the open and free ocean stretches 
beyond as far as the eye can reach. And who shall break the 
anchor from his heart ? When you shake it loose in one 
place, faith settles to its hold somewhere else ; you have a 
thousand weak points at which it attacks you. You can com- 
pletely abandon a philosophical doctrine ; but you cannot 
break away absolutely from a collection of beliefs in which 


blind and literal faith has borne sway ; there is always some- 
thing left ; you will carry the scars and marks from it as slaves 
who are freed still carry on their flesh the signs of their servi- 
tude. You are branded in the heart, you shall feel the effects 
of it always ; you shall have moments of dread and shudder- 
ing, of mystic enthusiasm, of distrust of reason, of need to 
represent things as being other than they really are, to see 
what is not, and not to see what is. The fiction that was 
early forced upon your soul shall often seem to you sweeter 
than the sound and rugged truth, you need to know ; you 
shall hate yourself for the sin of knowledge. 

There is a story of a Brahman who was talking with a Euro- 
pean of his religion, and among other dogmas mentioned the 
scrupulous respect due to animals. " The law," 
Intolerance ^^j^ j^^ u ^^^ ^j^j forbids one's doing evil, vol- 

incident to faith, ' -^ fa ' 

untarily, to the smallest creature even for the 
purpose of supplying one's self with food, it even bids one walk 
with extraordinary circumspection with one's eyes down, that 
one may avoid stepping on the humblest ant." Without trying 
to refute this naive faith the European handed the speaker a 
microscope. The Brahman looked through the instrument and 
saw on everything about him, on the fruits that he was 
about to eat, in the beverage that he was about to drink, 
everywhere that he might put his hand or foot, the move- 
ment of a multitude of little animals of whose existence he 
had never dreamed ; creatures that he had totally left out of 
account. He was stupefied and handed the microscope back 
to the European. " I give it to you," the latter said. The 
Brahman with a movement of joy took it and threw it on the 
ground, and broke it, and departed satisfied ; as if by that 
stroke he had destroyed the truth and saved his faith. 
Happily, in our day, one may without great loss destroy an 
optical or physical instrument, it can be replaced ; but what is 
to become of an intelligence in the hands of the fanatical 
believer? Would he not crush it, in case of need, as the instru- 
ment of glass was crushed, and sacrifice it the more gaily 
that a more limpid gleam of truth might well filter through 


it? In India we have an example of the philosophical doc- 
trine, very inoffensive in appearance and upheld, with various 
modifications, by great thinkers, of the transmigration of 
souls, becoming a religious dogma, producing as a direct 
result intolerance, contempt of science, and all the usual 
effects of blind dogmatism. Dogmatic and absolute faith in 
its every form t'ends to check thought ; thence springs its 
intolerance — a consequence that may well be insisted on. 

Intolerance is only an outward realization of the tyranny 
exercised within by dogmatic faith. Belief in a revelation, 

which all religion rests upon, is the very opposite 
And even logic- ° ^ a- 

aUyresulting of progressive discovery; the instant one affirms 

^°°'^*' that the first exists, the latter becomes useless, 

dangerous, and ends in being condemned. Intolerance, first 
theoretic, then practical, is the legitimate offspring of absolute 
faith of every kind. In all revealed religion doctrine first 
appears in the form of dogma, then of dogmatic and cate- 
gorical commandment. There have always been things that 
must be believed, and practices that must be observed, under 
pain of perdition. The sphere of dogmas and sacred rites 
may be widened or narrowed, the discipline may be loose or 
so strict that it extends to the very items of one's diet; but 
there is always at least a minimum of dogma that is absolute 
and of practice that is rigidly obligator}-, without which no 
truly religious church could exist. And this is not all. 
Theological sanction is bv its very nature always in extremes ; 
it presents one with no mean between absolute good and abso- 
lute evil, both conceived as eternal. And this being 
granted, how should believers, who are dominated by an 
exclusive preoccupation with an ardent and profound faith, 
hesitate to employ constraint in case of need when the 
matter at stake is so great— is of absolute and eternal good 
or of absolute and eternal evil ? For them the only value of 
free-will lies in its use — in its use toward its proper object, 
which is the fulfilment of the divine will. In the presence of 
an eternity of penalties to be avoided, everything seems per- 
missible ; any means seems good provided it be successful. 
Possessed of that implicit certitude which is inseparable from an 


absolute and explicit faith, what really enthusiastic soul would 
hold back before the employment of force? Accordingly, as a 
matter of fact, every religion which is at once new and powerful 
is intolerant. The appearance of tolerance marks a decline of 
faith ; a religion which allows for the existence of another 
is a religion in decay. One cannot believe anything " with all 
one's heart " without a sentiment of pity and even of horror 
for those who believe differently. If I were absolutely certain 
of possessing the supreme and ultimate verity, should I hesi- 
tate to turn the world upside-down to make it prevail ? One 
puts blinkers on a horse to keep him from seeing to the right 
or left ; he looks straight ahead and runs forward under the whip 
with the hardiness and vigour of ignorance; it is in the same 
fashion that the partisans of an absolute dogma move through 
life. " Every positive religion, every immutable form," says 
Benjamin Constant, " leads directly to intolerance, providing 
one reasons logically." 

The reply to Benjamin Constant is that it is one thing to 

believe that one knows the way to salvation and another thing 

to force others to walk in that way. The priest 

Use of force as , . , , ... ^ , , 

justifiable in a looks upon himselt as the physician ot the soul; 

priest as in a ^-q wish to minister by violence to an ailing soul, 
physician. ,, . 

" is quite as if," it has been said, " the physician of 

the body for greater certainty should take the precaution of 
having his patient condemned to death or to hard labor in 
case of disobedience to his prescriptions."' Assuredly it 
would involve a contradiction in terms for the physician of 
the body to wish to bring it to death ; but it in nowise involves 
a contradiction for the physician of the soul to wish to put con- 
straint upon the body. The objection falls of its own weight. 
For the rest, let us not deceive ourselves; if the physicians of 
the body leave their patients free, it is sometimes that they 
cannot help so doing, simply; in certain grave cases they 
insist on having the patient under their control in a hospital, 
which is, after all, a sort of prison. If a European physician had 
to prescribe for one of those American Indians, whose habit 
it is in an attack of smallpox, when the fever reaches forty 

' M. Franck, Des rapports de la religion et de I'EJat. 


degrees, to plunge into the water to refresh themselves, the 
first thing he would do would be to strap his patient to his 
cot. And every physician would like really to be able to pro- 
ceed after the same fashion, even in Europe, even at the 
present day, with people like Gambetta, Mirabeau, and many 
others less illustrious, who kill themselves by negligence. 

Besides, one must not reason as if the believer could isolate 
himself and act only for himself. For example, to a Catholic 

what is the meaning of absolute liberty of choice 
peSedXtty. i" education ? It means the right of parents to 

damn their children. Is this right thus permis- 
sible in their eyes ? There are books calculated to destroy faith ; 
books bv Voltaire, or Strauss, or Renan ; books which, if 
circulated, result in our losing our souls, "a thing far more 
grave than the death of the body," as Theodore de Beze said, 
after St. Augustine. Can a nation truly penetrated by a Chris- 
tian charity allow such books to be circulated on the pretext 
of liberty of conscience ? No ; one must before all else deliver 
the very will from the bonds of heresy and error ; it is on this 
condition only that it can be free. Moreover, one must prevent 
the corrupt conscience from corrupting others. We see plainly 
that charitable intolerance is justified from an exclusively 
theological point of view. It rests on logical reasonings of 
which the point of departure alone is vicious.' 

' It is easy to understand the high ecclesiastical authorities in the Catholic 
Church, who maintain as an article of faith the right to repress error. Recollect 
the well-known pages in which St. Augustine speaks of what good effects he had 
observed to result from the employment of constraint in religious matters. "A 
great many of those who have been brought back into the Church by force confess 
themselves to be greatly rejoiced at having been delivered from their former errors, 
who, however, by I know not what force of custom, would never have thought of 
changing for the better if the fear of the law had not put them in mind of the truth. 
Good precepts and wholesome fear must go together so that not only the light of 
truth may drive away the gloom of error, but that charity may break the bonds 
of bad custom, so that we may rejoice over the salvation of the many. . . It is 
written : ' Bid them to enter in.' . . God Himself did not spare his son, but 
delivered Him for our sake to the executioners." Schiller makes the great inquisitor 
\Vi Don Carlos say the same thing. See St. Augustine, Epist. cxiii. 17,5— St. 
Paul, Ephes., vi. 5, 6, 9. Lastly, recollect also the reasoned decision of the doctors 
and councils. "Human government," said St. Thomas, " is derived from (/2t7«<i' 
government and should imitate it. Now although God is all-powerful and infinitely 


In Older to understand how legitimate religious intolerance 

appears from its own point of view, we must remember with 

what perfect calm we forbid and punish acts that 

Aud a half-caste ^j.g jjjj.g^^ J Qj^^j.^ to the actual Conditions of 
public spirit. ■' ■' 

our social life (for example, the public outrage of 

good morals, etc.). Now we know that all religion superposes 
another society upon the actual one ; it conceives men's life 
as enveloped and bounded by the life of the gods ; it must 
therefore seek to maintain the conditions of this super- 
natural society with not less energy than we employ to main- 
tain our human society, and the conditions of this superior 
society lead to the multiplication of all the prohibitive rules 
that we have previously imposed on our existence with our fel- 
lows; imaginary walls cannot avoid being added to the walls 
and ditches already impeding circulation on the earth's surface : 
if we live with the gods, we must expect to be jostled by them, 
and curbed in their name. This state of things cannot disap- 
pear entirely until we cease to believe we are co-members of a 
society with the gods, until we see them transmuted into 

good, He nevertheless permits in the universe that He has made the existence of evils 
which He could prevent ; He permits them for fear that in suppressing them more 
than equivalent goods might be suppressed incidentally along with them and greater 
evils provoked in their stead. The same is true in human government ; rulers 
naturally tolerate certain evils for fear of putting an obstacle in the tvay of certain 
goods, or of causing greater evils, as St. Augustine said in the treatise on Order. 
It is thus that infidels, though they sin in their rites, may be tolerated, either 
because of some good coming fro>n them, or to avoid some evil. The Jews observe 
their rites, in which formerly the truth of the faith that we hold was prefigured ; 
the result is advantageous in this, that we have the testimony of our enemies in favour 
of our faith, and that the object of our faith is, so to speak, shown in a reflected image. 
As for the worship of the other unbelievers, which is opposed in every way to truth 
and is entirely useless, it jvoiild merit no tolerance if it were not to avoid some evil, 
such as the scandal or the trouble which jnight result from the suppression of this 
worship ; or again as an impediment to the salvation of those who, under cover of this 
species of tolerance, come little by little into the faith. It is for that reason that the 
Church has occasionally tolerated even the worship of heretics, and heathens, when 
the number of infidels was great." {Summa theol., 2a; q. x, a. 11.) One readily 
perceives the nature of tolerance in that sense. It does not in the least recognize the 
right of those who are the object of it : if it does not maltreat them, it is simply to 
avoid a greater evil, or rather because its power is too small, and tlie number of 
infidels is too large. 

A professor of theology at the Sorbonne has recently contested the charge of 


simple ideals. Ideals never necessitate the exclusiveness and 

intolerance that realities do. 

On the whole, one must distinguish two kinds of virtue on 

which religion has influence. The first are the virtues that 

may be called positive and active, of the heart 

highly intellect- and of instinct, like charity and generosity; at 
^*^" all times and in all countries they have existed 

among men ; religion exalts them, and to Christianity the 
honour is due of having developed them to their highest 
degree. The second category includes the purely intellect- 
ual virtues, whose operation consists rather in checking and 
confining than in extending the sphere of one's activity — the 
virtues of self-possession, of abstinence, and of tolerance, 
which are quite modern really and the result of science, which 
has brought about a clearer knowledge of its own limitations 
even. Tolerance is a very complex virtue, much more 
intellectual than charity; it is a virtue of the head rather than 
of the heart ; the proof of it is that charity and intolerance 
are often found together, forming an alliance rather than 
opposing each other. When tolerance is not philosophical 

Catholic intolerance. (M. Alfred Fouillee had just spoken of it in his Social Science.) 
He did so for reasons that may be cited as further proof. " Neither to-day, nor 
ever, in any epoch of its history, has the Catholic Church intended to impose acceptance 
of the truth by violence. All great theologians have taught that the act of faith is a 
voluntary act, which presupposes an illumination of the mind ; but they have also 
taught that constraint may favour this illumination, and iti especial may preserve 
others from a bad example, from a contagious darkness. The Christian Church 
has had no need of the sword to evangelize the nations ; if it has shed blood in its 
triumph, it has been its own." Has it, then, not shed the blood of others ? If one 
counts all the murders committed by intolerance in the name of absolute dogma, 
in every country in the world ; if one could measure all the bloodshed ; if one 
could gather together all the dead bodies — would the pile not mount higher than 
the spires of the cathedrals and the domes of the temples, where man still goes, with 
unalterable fervour, to invoke and bless the " God of Love " ? Faith in a God who 
talks and acts, who has a history of His own, His Bible, His prophet and His priest, 
will always end by being intolerant. By adoring a jealous and vengeful God, one 
becomes in the end His accomplice. One tacitly approves all tlie crimes com- 
mitted in His name and often (if one believes the Holy Scriptures) commanded by 
Him. One endeavours to forget these things when they are too stained with blood 
and filth. The monuments of such bloody scenes have been razed, and the places 
to which the strongest memories are attached have been purified and transformed: 
the partisans of certain dogmas need to wash their hearts also in lustral water. 


ami wliolly reasoned, it takes on the aspect of a simple good- 
humour that greatly resembles moral weakness./ Really to 
demonstrate the greatness of tolerance, one musf put to the 
front the objective reasons drawn from the relativity of 
human knowledge and not the subjective reasons drawn from 
our own hearts.' Up to the present time tolerance has been 
founded on respect for the person and the will of another: 
"It is necessary," it is said, "for man to be free — free to 
deceive himself and to do evil, if need be ; " and nothing i§ 
truer, but there is another source of tolerance which is more 
substantial and tends to gain ground more and more rapidly 
as dogmatic faith disappears. This source is distrust of human 
thought and conscience, which are not free not to deceive 
themselves, and to which every article of absolute faith 
must necessarily be also an article of error. So that, at the 
present day, tolerance is no longer a virtue, but simply an 
affair of the intelligence ; the further one goes, the more one 
sees that one does not in the least understand ; the more one 
sees that the beliefs of one's neighbour are a complement to 
one's own, that no one of us can be right alone, to the exclu- 
sion of all others. By the mere development of the intelligence 
which makes us aware of the infinite variety of the world and 
the impossibility of any one solution of eternal problems, 
each individual opinion comes to have a value in our eyes: it 
is nothing more nor less than a bit of evidence bearing on the 
theory of the universe, and it goes without the saying that no 
one item of evidence can be made the basis of a definitive 
judgment, a dogmatic conclusion, without appeal. 

//. Broad dogviatie faith. 

" The aim of most men," as an English writer says, " is to 

pass through life with as little expenditure of thought as 

possible : " but what is to become of those who 
Conflict between , . , ,,-.,, i • i i t- 

intelligence and thmk, and of mtellectual men m general r* Even 
dogmatism, without suspccting it, one will ultimately allow 

an interpretation more or less broad of the texts to which one 
has seemed to cling in a narrow and literal faith. There is 
almost no such thing as a perfectly orthodox believer. 

' See A. Fouillee, Systhnes de morale coiiicmpoyains. 


Heresy enters by one door or another, and strange to. say 
it is that precise fact that keeps traditional faith aUve in 
face of the progress of science. An absolute and immutably 
literal faith would be too offensive to last long. Orthodoxy 
either kills the nations in which it entirely stifles freedom of 
thought or it kills faith in itself. Intelligence can never stand 
still : it is a light that moves, like that cast by the sun on 
the dripping oars as the boat is being lustily rowed along. 

The partisans of literal interpretation and authority seem 
sooner or later to accept two irrational hypotheses instead 

of one ; it is not enough for them that there 
doSyStional, ^^^ve been certain revelations from on high, they 

insist that the very terms in which the divine 
thought is incorporated shall be divine, sacred, and immutable, 
and of an absolute exactitude. They divinize human lan- 
guage. They never think of the dififlculties that someone 
might feel who was not a god but simply a Descartes, a 
Newton, or a Leibnitz, to express his great thoughts in an 
unformed and half-savage tongue. Genius is always superior 
to the language that it makes use of, and the words themselves 
are responsible for many of the errors in its thoughts ; and a 
" divine inspiration," brought down to the level of our lan- 
guage, would be perhaps more embarrassed than an even purely 
human inspiration. Nothing therefore can be stranger, to 
those who examine the matter calmly, than to see civilized 
nations seeking for a complete expression of the divine 
thought in the literatures of ancient peoples and semi-barba- 
rous nations, whose language and intelligence were infinitely 
inferior to ours ; their god, talking and dictating, would 
nowadays hardly be given a certificate of competency in a 
primary examination. It is the grossest anthropomorphism 
to conceive a divinity not in the type of an ideal man but 
in the type of a barbarous man. Also, it is not simply that a 
literal faith (the primitive form of all revealed faith) ulti- 
mately appears to be entirely irrational ; it is that this 
characteristic becomes constantly more marked, for the reason 
that faith stands still, or tries to stand still, while humanity 
marches on. 


But for a certain number of heresies born and circulated 
among them, but for a constant stream of fresh thought, 

people holding by a literal religion would be a 
teilectual^lndiffer- ^'^/^'^ nwrtiiuiH in history, a little " like the faith- 
ence or death. ful Tibetians of Dalai-lama," as Von Hartmann 
says. Literal religions cannot last and perpetuate themselves 
except by a series of compromises. There are ahvays in the 
minds of the sincere and intelligent believer periods of ad- 
vancement and of reaction, steps forward followed by a 
recoil. Confessors know these sudden changes well, and are 
prepared to deal with them and keep them within certain 
limits. They themselves are subject to such changes ; how 
many of them have thought they believed and been suspected 
of heresy ! If we could see into the bottom of their minds 
what reconciliations should we not perceive, what secret ac- 
commodations and compliances ! There is in every one of us 
something that protests against literal faith, and if this protes- 
tation is not explicit, it is often none the less real. No one 
can hope to read more exactly than he who reads between the 
lines. When one venerates and admires everything, it is gen- 
erally what one simply does not understand. Very many 
minds positively like vagueness and accommodate themselves 
to it, they believe in gross and arrange the details to suit 
themselves ; sometimes even, after accepting a thing as a whole, 
they eliminate one by one all its parts. Generally speaking, 
those who aspire to literal faith nowadays are divisible into 
three classes: the indifferent, the blind, and unconscious 

The Protestantism of Luther and Calvin was a compromise 
replacing a despotism ; it was a broad faith, although it is at 

the same time intolerant and orthodox ; for there 

Protestantism . i • i , 

andiibertyof are certain things even m Protestantism which do 
conscience. j^^^ admit of compromise ; it contains dogmas 

that it is impious to reject, and which, to the free-thinker, seem 
scarcely less contrary to calm reason than the dogmas of 
Catholicicm ; it contains a system of metaphysical or historical 
theses regarded not as merely human, but as divine. The 
most desirable thing in a religion that is to be progressive is 


that the sacred texts should be ambiguous ; and the text of 
the Bible is not ambiguous enough. How are we to doubt, 
for example, the divinity of Christ's mission ? How doubt the 
miracles? A belief in the divinity of Christ, and the genuine- 
ness of the miracles, are the very foundation of the Christian 
religion ; Luther was obliged to accept them, and in our day 
even they bear down with their full weight on orthodox Prot- 
estantism. So that what seemed at first a generous concession 
to liberty of thought amounts in the end to little. The circle 
one moves about in is so contracted ! Protestants, too, are 
fettered ; the chain is simply longer and more flexible. Prot- 
estantism has rendered services of great importance to law 
and to liberty of conscience ; but alongside of the concessions 
to liberty that it enforced, it contains dogmas from which the 
use of " charitable constraint " may logically be deduced. 
These dogmas which are essential to true Protestantism are : 
original sin, conceived as even more radical than it appears in 
Catholicism, and as destructive of freedom of the will ; the 
redemption, which recognizes the death of God the Son as 
necessary to redeem man from the vindictiveness of God the 
Father ; predestination in all its rigour ; grace and election in 
their most fatalistic and mystical form ; and last and most im- 
portant, an eternity of suffering without purgatory! If all 
these dogmas are simply philosophical myths. Christian is a 
purely verbal title, and one might as well call one's self a heathen, 
for all the myths of Jupiter, Saturn, Ceres, Proserpine, and 
the " divinities of Samothrace," are also susceptible of becom- 
ing symbols of higher metaphysics; we refer the reader to 
Jamblicus and Schelling. We must thus assume that orthodox 
Protestants believe in hell, redemption, and grace ; and if so, 
the consequences that we have deduced from these 
become inevitable. Also Luther, Calvin, Theodore de Beze, 
have preached and practised intolerance for the same reasons 
as did the Catholics. They claimed the right of private judg- 
ment for themselves alone, and only in so far as they felt need 
of it ; they never raised it to the level of an orthodox doctrine. 
Calvin burned Servetius, and the Puritans in America in 1692 
punished witchcraft with death. 


If Protestantism has in the long run served the cause of Hb- 
erty of conscience, the reason is simply that every heresy is 
J, , an instance of liberty and of that enfranchisement 

serves liberty of which brings in its train a series of additional 
conscience. heresies. In other words, heresy is the victory of 

doubt over faith. By doubt Protestantism serves the cause 
of liberty ; by faith it would cease to serve it and would men- 
ace it — if it were logical. But the characteristic of certain 
minds is precisely to come to a halt halfway between freedom' 
and liberty, between faith and reason, between the past and 
the future. 

Over and above the dogmas admitted in common, the true 
Protestant demands further some fixed objective expression 

of his belief: he attempts — he also — to incorpo- 

Protestantism ^.^. ^ . , . ^ ^ -. 

a mark of logical ^^^^ ^^ ^^ ^ certam number ot customs and rites 

feebleness in those which Create the need they satisfy and inces- 
■who bold it. ,.,,,.- , . , . , , 

santly give fresh lite to a taith incessantly on the 

point of a decline ; he demands temples, priests, a ceremonial. 
In the item of ceremonial as well as in the item of dogmas, 
orthodox Protestants nowadays feel themselves to be much 
superior to Catholics ; and they have really rejected a con- 
siderable number of naive beliefs and of useless rites not infre- 
quently borrowed from paganism. You should hear an 
excited Protestant, in a discussion with a Catholic, speak of 
the Mass, that degrading superstition in which " the most 
material and barbarous interpretation possible " is put upon 
the words of Christ — He tJiat eateth me shall live by vie. But 
does not this same Protestant admit with the Catholic the 
miracle of the redemption, of Christ sacrificing himself to 
save mankind ? If you admit one miracle, what reason is 
there to stop with that or any succeeding miracle ? " Once 
more in this order of ideas," says Mr. Matthew Arnold, " and 
what can be more natural and beautiful than to imagine this 
miracle every day repeated, Christ offered in thousands of 
places, everywhere the believer enabled to enact the work of 
redemption and unite himself with the Body whose sacrifice 
saves him." A beautiful conception, you acknowledge, for a 


legend, but you refuse to put faith in it on the ground that it 
shocks your reason; very good, but you reject in the same breath 
all the rest of the irrationalities that are part and parcel of 
Christianity. If Christ sacrificed himself for the human race, 
why should not he sacrifice himself for me ? if he came to a world 
that did not call him, why should he not come to me who call 
upon him and pray to him ? if God once took on a form of 
flesh and blood, if He once inhabited a human body, why find 
it strange that He should be present in my flesh and blood ? 
You want miracles, on condition that you are not to see 
them; what is the meaning of such false modesty? When 
one believes a thing, one must live in the heart of this belief, 
one must see it and feel it everywhere ; when one possesses a 
god, it is in order that he may walk and breathe on earth. 
He whom we adore must not be relegated to a corner of the 
heavens, or forbidden to appear in our midst ; and they must 
not be made sport of, who see him, and feel him, and touch 
him. Free-thinkers may laugh, if they have the courage, at 
the priest who believes that God is present in the Host that 
he holds in his hands, and present in the temple when he of- 
ficiates. They may laugh at the .peasant children who believe 
that Saints or the Virgin present themselves before them to 
listen to their wants, but a true believer cannot do otherwise 
than take all this seriously. Protestants take baptism very seri- 
ously, and think it absolutely necessary to salvation. Luther 
certainly believed in the devil ; he saw him everywhere, in 
storms, in fires, in the tumult that his passage along the streets 
often excited, in the interruptions that occurred in his sermons ; 
he challenged, and threatened all devils, "were they as number- 
less as the tiles of the roofs." One day he even exorcised the 
Evil One, who had been vociferating in the person of the audi- 
ence, so efificiently that the sermon, which opened in the 
midst of the greatest disturbance, was finished in peace ; the 
devil had been frightened. Why, then, do orthodox Prot- 
estants, especially in our day, so genuinely wish to stop arbi- 
trarily short in their faith ? Why believe that God or the 
devil appeared to men two thousand years ago, and at no 
time since ? Why believe in the Gospel cures and not in the 


naive legends that are related of the Communion, or in the 
miracles at Lourdes? All things hold together in a faith, and 
if you propose outraging human reason, why not do it thor- 
oughly? As Mr. Matthew Arnold observes, the orthodox 
Protestant doctrine, in admitting that the Son of God could 
substitute himself as an expiatory victim for man, condemned 
for the fault of Adam, — in other words that he could suffer for 
a crime that he had not committed for men who had not com- 
mitted it either, — is only to accept the following passage liter- 
ally and rudely: " The son of man is come to give his life as 
a ransom unto many." From the moment that one holds lit- 
erally to a single text, why not do the same in regard to 
others? In introducing a certain share of liberty into their 
faith, the Protestants have also introduced a spirit of inconse- 
quence ; this is its characteristic and its defect. Someone 
said to me once : " If I should try to believe everything, 
I should end by believing nothing." This was Luther's reason- 
ing ; he wished to make some allowances for enlightenment ; he 
hoped to preserve the faith by minimizing it. But the limits are 
artificial. Only listen to Pascal, who possesses the French 
talent for logic, and is at the same time a mathematician, mak- 
ing ligrht of Protestantism. " How I detest such nonsense! " 
he cries : that is, not to believe in the Eucharist, etc. " If the 
Gospel is true, if Jesus Christ is God, what difificulty is there in 
all that?" Nobody saw more clearly than Pascal the things 
that, as he says, are" unjust " in certain Christian dogmas, that 
are " shocking," are " far-fetched," the " absurdities "; he saw it 
all and accepted it all. He accepted everything or nothing. 
When one makes a bargain with faith, one does not pick and 
choose ; one takes all and gives all. It was Pascal who said that 
atheism was a sign of strength of mind, but a strength dis- 
played in one direction only. One might turn that round and 
say that Catholicism implies strength of mind, at least on one 
point. Protestantism, though of a higher order in the evolu- 
tion of belief, remains to-day a mark of a certain weak- 
ness of mind in those who, having made the first step toward 
freedom of thought, rest there ; it is a halt midway. At 
bottom, however, the two rival orthodoxies, over which nowa- 


days civilized nations disi)ute, are equally astonishing to those 
who have passed beyond them. 

///. The dissolution of dogmatic faith in modern society. 

Can a dogmatic faith, whether narrow or broad, indefinitely 

coexist with modern science ? We think not. Science consists 

. , . ^ of two portions : the constructive and the destruc- 

Dogmatic faitn 

distanced by tive. The constructive portion is already far 


enough advanced, in modern society, to provide 
for certain desiderata which dogma undertook formerly to 
supply. We have to-day, for example, more extended and 
detailed information about the genesis of the world than is 
found in the Bible. We are attaining by degrees a certain 
number of facts relating to the affiliation of species. And all 
the celestial or terrestial phenomena which strike the eye are 
already completely explained. The definitive ivhy has not 
been given, no doubt ; we even ask ourselves if there is one. 
But the Junv has already been in a great part dealt with. 
Let us not forget that religions in the beginning took the 
place of physics ; that physical theories constituted for a 
long time an essential and preponderant part of them. Now- 
adays physics and religion have been distinguished, and 
religion has lost by the separation a large part of its power, 
which has passed over to science. 

The dissolvent and destructive aspect of science is not less 

important. The first to present it in high relief were the 

physical sciences and astronomy. All the 

And under- ancient superstitions about the trembling of the 

mined. ^ ° 

earth, eclipses, etc., which were a constant 
occasion of religious exaltation, are destroyed, or nearly so, 
even among the populace. Geology has overturned with a 
single stroke the traditions of most religions. Physics has 
done away with miracles. The same almost may be said of 
meteorology, which is so recent and has such a brilliant future. 
God is still to a man of the people too often the sender of 
rain and good weather, the Indra of the Hindus. A priest 
told me the other day, in the best faith in the world, that the 



prayers of his parishioners had brought the country three days 
of sunshine. In a religious town if rain falls the day of a 
religious procession, and stops shortly before the time of 
setting out, the people unhesitatingly believe that a miracle 
has been performed. Sailors, who depend so entirely on 
atmospheric perturbations, are more inclined to superstition. 
The minute the weather can be more or less accurately fore- 
told and guarded against, all these superstitions are doomed. 
It is thus that fear of thunder is rapidly subsiding at the' 
present day; this fear formed an important factor in the 
formation of the ancient religions. By inventing the lightning- 
rod, Franklin did more to destroy superstition than the most 
active propaganda could have done. 

As M. Renan has remarked, we might even in our day 

demonstrate scientifically the non-existence of miraculous 

interference in the affairs of this world and the 

Experiment in jnef^ficiency of requests to God to modify the 

miracles. •' ^ ■' 

natural course of things ; one might, for example, 
minister to patients according to the same methods, in two 
adjoining rooms of a hospital ; for the one set of patients 
a priest might pray, and one might see whether the prayer 
would appreciably modify the means of recovery. The result 
of this sort of experiment on the existence of a special provi- 
dence is moreover easy to foretell, and it is doubtful whether 
any educated priest would lend himself to it. 

The sciences of physiology and psychology have explained 
to us in a natural way a multitude of phenomena of the 

_ ,. . , nervous system which we were forced until 

Religion and ■' 

physiology and recently to attribute to the marvellous, or to 
psyc ogy. trickery, or to divine influence, or to the devil. 

Finally, history is attacking not only the object of religion, 
but religions themselves, by displaying all the sinuosities and 

uncertainties of the thought that constructed 
history.^"" ^° them; the primitive contradictions, corrected for 

better or for worse at some later period, the 
genesis of the precisest dogmas by the gradual juxtaposition 
of vague and heterogeneous ideas. Religious criticism, the 
elements of which will sooner or later find their way into 


elementary instruction, is the most terrible weapon that could 
be used against religious dogmatism ; it has produced and will 
produce its effect in Protestant countries, where theology 
passionately engages the multitude. Religious faith tends to 
give place to curiosity about religion ; we understand more 
readily the things we do not so absolutely believe, and we can 
be more disinterestedly interested in the things that no longer 
fill us with a sacred horror. But the explanation of positive 
religion seemed destined to be absolutely the opposite of its 
justification : to write the history of religions is to write 
a damaeins' criticism of them. When one endeavours to come 
to close quarters with their foundation in reality, one finds 
it retire before one little by little and ultimately disappear 
like the place where the rainbow rests upon the earth : one 
believes that one has discovered in religion a bond between 
heaven and earth, a pledge of alliance and hope; it is an 
optical illusion which science at once corrects and explains. 

Primary instruction, which is sometimes made, nowadays, 

a subject of ridicule, is also an altogether recent institution of 

„ ,. , , which in former times there scarcely existed a 

Religion under- 
mined by primary trace, and which profoundly modifies all of the 

instruction. terms of every social and religious problem. 

The modicum of elementary instruction that the modern 

schoolboy possesses, in especial if one adds some few notions 

of religious history, would alone suffice to put him on his 

guard against a great many forms of superstition. Formerly 

it was the custom for a Roman soldier to embrace the religion 

of any, and of every country, in which he was stationed for a 

considerable space of time ; on his return home he would set 

up an altar to the distant gods that he had made his own •. 

Sabazius, Adonis, the goddess of Syria, or Asiatic Bellona, 

the Jupiter of Baalbec, or the Jupiter of Doliche. To-day our 

soldiers and mariners bring back from their travels little more 

than an incredulous tolerance, a gently disrespectful smile in 

relation to gods in general. 

The perfecti on of means of communication is also on e_of 

the great obstacle s to the maintenance of a dogmatic faith ; 

nothing belters a belief like the abyss of a deep valley or the 


meanderings of an unnavigable river. The last . surviving 
believers in the religions of antiquity were the peasants — pagani; 

whence the word pagan. But to-day the coun- 
fection of the ^"' ^''y ^^ being thrown open, mountains are being 
means of com- pierced, the perpetually increasing activity in the 

movement of things and of people results in the 
circulation of ideas, in a lowering of the pretensions of the 
faith, and this levelling down must inevitably continue step by 
step with the progress of science. In all times it has beert 
observed that the effect of travelling alters one's beliefs. 
To-day one travels standing still : the intellectual horizon 
changes for one, whether one will or not. Men like Papins, 
Watts, Stephenson, have done as much for the propagation of 
free-thought as the boldest of philosophers. Even in our days 
the piercing of the Isthmus of Suez will probably have done 
more for the enlightenment of the Hindus than the con- 
scientious efforts of Ram Mohun Roy or of Keshub. 

AmoiU^ the causes which will tend in the future to elim inate 
th e dogma of a special providence, let us note the devel op- 

ment of t he arts — even the art of commerce and 

veiopmeJt^Jfctm- Q^Jj^j^'^^' y' ^^^^^ ^^ ^^^^^ ^" ^^^ ^^^"y beginnin gs. 
merceand Merch ants and wor k men, equally, hav e learned 

industry, , --s-r— ;~ ~ ^ . : . ,-. 

al ready to re ly-up on no one but their own i n d i- 
vidual selves, to rely each upon his own initiative, his pers onal 
ingeTiuTty'y~ITe'T<nows that to work is to pray, not in th e sense 
that his labour possesses s ome sort of mystical value but be- 
cause its value is real and within his reach ; and he acquires by 
that very fact a vivid and increasing sense of responsibility. 
Compare, for instance, the life of a pointsman (that of a working- 
man) with the life of a soldier, and you will see that the conduct 
of the first is of necessity reflective, and develops in him a sense 
of responsibility, whereas the second — accustomed to march 
he knows not where, to obey, he knows not why, to vanquish 
or be vanquished he knows not how — lives among circum- 
stances which naturally inspire in him a conception of irresponsi- 
bility, of divine chance, or of hazard. Moreover, when ever 
industry does not treat th e workm anjike^a machine bul_f.QXces 
him^ to acFconsciously and withj-eflecti-oii,-it&-natuxal effect is 


to enfranchise the mind. And the same thing is true of com- 
merce ; aFthough in coninicrce a more important role is played, 
by mere lying in wait — mere passivityj^ the merchant waits 
for a purchaser, and his coming or not coming depends upon 
something else. The superstitions of commerce, however, will 
grow feebler as the functions of personal initiative and activity 
become more extensive. Thirty years ago in a very religious 
town there existed a number of small merchants who looked 
upon it as a matter of duty not to examine their account book 
till the end of the year: it would be, they said, a distrust 
of God to ascertain too often whether they were losing or 
gaining; it would bring bad luck; the less attention you pay 
to your income the greater it grows. Add that, thanks to 
this sort of reasoning, which for the rest was not altogether 
without a certain naive logic, the merchants spoken of did not 
do an especially brilliant business. In modern commerce 
the " positive " spirit — restless intelligence and calculation 
outstripping chance — tends to become the true and sole 
element of success ; as to the risks which, in spite of every 
precaution, still remain, they are covered by insurance. 

Insurance, then^is a co nception alt oge ther modern, whos e 
operation is_t o^ substitute th e direct action of man for the 
And by the intervention of God in private affairs, and whic h^ 
practice of iiisu- looks to the recompense for a mi sfortune 
before it has happened. It is probable that 
insurance, which dates only some few years back and is 
spreading rapidly, will be applied some day to almost every 
form of accident to which man is liable, will be adapted to 
every circumstance of life, will accompany us everywhere, 
will envelop us in a protecting net ; and agriculture and 
navigation, and those pursuits generally in which human 
initiative plays the smallest part, in which one must dance 
attendance upon the special benediction of heaven and ulti- 
mate success is always contingent, will become increasingh' 
independent and free. It is possible that the notion of a 
special providence will some day be completely eliminated 
from the sphere of economics ; everything that in any manner 
whatsoever is capable of being estimated in terms of money 


will be covered by an insurance, shielded from accident, made 

independent of divine favour. 

There remains the purely personal sphere, the physical and 

moral accidents which may befall us, the maladies that may 

. , , come upon ourselves and those who belong to 

And the prog- ^ , , . 

ress of medical US. That is the sphere in which the majority of 

knowledge, ^^^^^^ f^^j their will most feeble, their perspicacity 

most at fault. Listen to a member of the lower classes on the 
subject of physiology or medicine, and you will understand 
how deep is the abasement of their intelligence in this matter; 
and often, indeed, even men of a more extended education 
are possessed of no more knowledge than they on such points. 
Speaking generally, our ignorance of hygiene and the most 
elementary notions of medicine is such that we are helpless in 
the presence of physical evil ; and it is because of this help- 
lessness, at the very spot precisely where we most need 
help, that we seek for an outlet for an embarrassed volition 
and a restless hope and find it in a petition addressed to 
God. Many people never think of praying except when ill, 
or when they see persons dear to them ill. As always, so 
here, a sense of an absolute dependence provokes a return of 
religious sentiment. Just in proportion as instruction spreads, 
just in proportion as the natural sciences become of service, 
we feel ourselves armed with a certain power, even in the face 
of physical accident. In more than usually pious families, 
the physician scarcely assumed formerly any other character 
than that of an instrument of special providence; one had 
confidence in him, less on the score of his talent than of his 
sanctity ; that confidence was absolute ; one washed one's 
hands of all responsibility, as primitive people do in the pres- 
ence of the sorcerers and " priest physicians." Nowadays, 
however, the physician is beginning to be looked upon as a 
man like another, who must rely upon himself, who receives 
no inspiration from on high, and who must, in consequence, 
be chosen with care, and aided and sustained in his task. It 
is understood that the remedies employed by him are inno- 
cent of mystery, that their operation is uniform, that the 
matter is altogether one of intelligence in their use ; and 


instead of putting one's self, like so much brute matter, into 
the pln'sician's hands, one does one's best to co-operate 
Avith him. When we hear someone calling for help and 
are free to run to him, does it ever occur to us nowadays 
to fall upon our knees? No; we should even consider a 
passive prayer as an indirect form of homicide. The epoch 
is past when Ambroise Pare could say modestly: " I poulticed 
him, God cured him." The fact is, God does not cure those 
whom the physician does not poultice properly. The prog- 
ress of natural science will result really in a sort of preventive 
insurance, no longer confined wholly to the sphere of eco- 
nomics ; and we shall be able some day to insure ourselves, 
not simply against the economical consequences of such and 
such an accident, but against the accident itself ; we shall fore- 
see it and avoid it, as we not infrequently nowadays foresee 
and avoid poverty. And finally, in respect even to unavoid- 
able evils, it will occur to no one to rely upon anything but 
human science and human effort. 

Owing to the causes above enumerated, how far we have 

travelled since the time of the ancients and the Middle Ages! 

Progress in mat- •^^'^ ^he first place we no longer lend credence to 

ters of belief since oracles or to predictions. The law at least no 

heathen antiquity , 1 1 1 r 1 1 • 

and the Middle longer goes the length of lendmg credence to 
^^^' them, and even punishes those who endeavour 

to speculate upon a naivete of their more innocent neigbours. 
Soothsayers at the present day are no longer lodged in 
Temples. And in no case are philosophers and higher per- 
sonages among their clients. We are far from the time when 
Socrates and his disciples made a pilgrimage to consult the 
oracle, when the gods spoke, and gave advice, and regulated the 
conduct of men, and took the place of attorneys, of physicians, 
of judges, and decided upon peace and war. If it had been 
affirmed to a pagan that the day would come when man would 
find the oracle at Delphi a superfluity, he would have been as 
frankly surprised as a Christian is to-day when he hears it 
afifirmed that cathedrals, priests, and religious ceremonies will 
some day become a superfluity. 

The role which prophecies played in the religion of the 


Hebrews is well known. In the Middle Ages certain 

prophecies, such as that of the millennium, were publicly and 

miserably put to the proof. Since that time 
Tendency to- ^ ^ ■ , r f 

ward simplicity dogmatic religion, in the fear ot compromismg 

and uniformity. Jtsclf, has stood aloof from oracles and prophecies, 
preferring increase of security to extent of influence. Thus 
by degrees authoritative religion has come to renounce its sway 
over one of the most important portions of human life, which 
it pretended formerly to possess a knowledge of, and to regu- 
late — the future. It contents itself to-day with the present. 
Its predictions, ever vaguer and more vague, nowadays bear 
only on the period beyond the grave ; it contents itself with 
promising heaven to the faithful — which the Catholic religion 
indeed goes the length of in some measure securing for them 
by absolution. And one may recognize in the confessional a 
certain substitute for the divination of former times. The 
hand of the priest opens or shuts the door of heaven for the 
believer kneeling in the shadow of the confessional ; he wields 
a power in some respects greater than that of the Pythoness 
who might determine with a word the fate of battles. Con- 
fession itself, however, has disappeared in the stronger and 
younger offshoots of Christianity. In orthodox Protestantism 
one is one's self the judge of one's own future, and possesses no 
other clew to one's destiny than the dictum of one's own con- 
science, with all its uncertainty upon its head. Owing to this 
transformation dogmatic faith in the word of a priest or a 
prophet tends to become a simple reliance on the voice of 
conscience, which becomes ever less and less authoritative, 
ever more and more feeble in the face of doubt. Faith in 
oracles and in the visible finger of Providence in this world 
has become to-day simply a somewhat hesitating reliance upon 
an inner oracle and an together transcendental Providence. 
This is one of the items in respect to which religious evolution 
may be considered as already something like complete, and 
religious individualism as on the point of replacing obedience 
to the priest, and the negation of the marvellous as substituted 
for antique superstition. 

The strength of the belief in a personal God has been in all 


times proportionate to the strength of the behef in a devil — 

we have just seen an illustration of it in the case of Luther. 

„,...-, In effect these two beliefs are correlatives; they 

Belief in God •' 

falls with belief are the opposite faces of one and the same anthro- 
m devils. pomorphism. Well, in our days, belief in the 

devil is incontestably becoming feebler; and thisenfeeblement 
is even especially characteristic of the present epoch ; there 
has at no other time been anything to equal it. There is not 
an educated person to be found in whom the notion of a devil 
does not excite a smile. That, believe me, is a sign of the 
times, a manifest proof of the decline of dogmatic religion. 
Wherever the power of dogmatic religion by an exception to 
the general course of things has retained its vitality, and re- 
tained it, as in America, even to the point of giving birth to 
new dogmas, the fear of the devil has subsisted in its entirety; 
wherever, as in more enlightened regions than America, this 
fear no longer exists except as a symbol or a myth, the inten- 
sity and the fecundity of the religious sentiment decline 
inevitably in the same degree. The fate of Javeh is bound up 
with that of Lucifer ; angels and devils go hand in hand, as in 
some fantastic mediaeval dance. The day when Satan and his l- 
followers shall be definitively vanquished and annihilated in 
the minds of the people, the celestial powers will not have 
loner to live. 


To sum up, in all these relations, dogmatic faith — and in 

especial, such as is narrow, authoritative, intolerant, and at 

enmity with a spirit of science — seems on every 

Results, 1 . , ,- ■ ■[ \. 

account destined to disappear, or to survive, it at 

all, among a small number of believers. Every doctrine, no 

matter how moral or how elevating, seems to us nowadays to 

lose these attributes and to become degraded from the moment 

it proposes to impose itself upon the human mind as a dogma. 

Dogma happily — that crystallization of faith — is an unstable 

compound ; like certain complex crystals, it is apt to explode, 

under a concentrated ray of light, into dust. INIodern criticism 

supplies the ray. If Catholicism, in pursuit of religious unity, 

logically results in the doctrine of infallibility, modern criticism 


in the course of its establishment of the relativity of human 
knowledge and of the essential fallibility of intelligence in 
general, tends toward religious individualism and toward the 
dissolution of every universal or "Catholic" dogma. And 
on that score orthodox Protestantism is itself menaced with 
ruin, for it also has preserved in its dogmas an element of 
Catholicity, and by that very fact of intolerance, if not prac- 
tical and civil, at least theoretical and religious. 



I. Substitution of metaphysical symbolism for dogma — Liberal 
Frotestaiuism — Com[)arison with Brahmanism — Substitution of 
moral symbolism for metaphysical symbolism — Moral faith — 
Kant — Mill — Matthew Arnold — A literary explanation of the 
Bible substituted for a literal explanation. 

II. Criticism of symbolic faith — Inconsequence of liberal Protes- 
tanism — Is Jesus of a more divine type than other great geni- 
uses — Does the Bible possess a greater authority in matters of 
morals than any other masterpiece of poetry — Criticism of 
Matthew Arnold's system — Final absorption of religions by 

Every illogical position being in its nature unstable, the 

very inconsequence of a religion obliges it to a perpetual 

evolution in the direction of an ultimate non-re- 
Inevitable tend- ... .... , . 111 

ency of religion ^'giori) wliicli it approaches incessantly by almost 

toward non- insensible steps. The Protestant knows nothing 


of the ordeal of a Catholic obliged to accept every- 
thing or to reject everything ; he knows nothing of prodigious 
revolutions and subjective coups cVetat ; he possesses instinc- 
tively the art of transition, his credo is elastic. There are so 
many different creeds, each a little more thorough-going than 
the last, that he may pass through, that he has time to habitu- 
ate his spirit to the truth before being obliged to profess it in 
its simplicity. Protestantism is the only religion, in the Occi- 
dent at least, in which it is possible for one to become an atheist 
unawares and without having done one's self the shadow of a 
violence in the process : the subjective theism of Mr. Moncure 
Conway, for example, or any such ultra-liberal Unitarian is 
so near a neighbour to ideal atheism that really the two cannot 
be told apart, and yet the Unitarians, who as a matter of fact 
are often simply free-thinkers, hold, so to speak, that they still 



believe. The truth is that an affectionate faith long retains 
its charm, even after one is persuaded that it is an error and 
dead in one ; one caresses the lifeless illusions and cannot 
bring one's self altogether to abandon them, as in the land of 
the Slavs it is the custom to kiss the pale face of the dead in 
the open coffin before throwing upon it the handful of earth 
which severs definitely the last visible bonds of love. 

Long before Christianity, other great religions, Brahmanism 
and Buddhism, which are much more comprehensive and less* 
arrested in their development, followed the course 

Exemplified in - , . , i • i i • ^ r • ^ ^ 

the case of O' cvolution by which a literal faith comes to be 

Brahmanism transformed into a symbolic faith. They have been 

and Buddhism, -i i • i • i i • i 

reconciled successively with one metaphysical sys- 
tem after another — a process which has been inevitably carried 
forward with a fresh impulse under the English rule. To-day 
Sumangala, the Buddhist high-priest of Colombo, interprets 
in a symbolic sense the at once profound and naive doctrine 
of the transmigration ; he pretends to reject miracles. Other en- 
lightened Buddhists freely accept modern doctrines, from those 
of Darwin to those of Spencer. On the other hand, in the bosom 
of Hinduism there has grown up a really new and wholly 
theistical religion, that of the Brahmaists.' Ram Mohum Roy 
founded, at the beginning of the century, a very deeply sym- 
bolical and wide-spread faith ; his successors have gone the 
length, with Debendra Nath Tagore, of denying the authen- 
ticity even of the very texts which they were in the beginning 
most concerned to interpret mystically. This last step was 
taken suddenly, under circumstances which it is worth while 
to detail, because they sum up in a few characteristic strokes 
the universal history of religious thought. It happened about 
1S47. '^^^^ disciples of Ram Mohum Roy, the Brahmaists, 
had been for a long time engaged in a discussion about the 
Vedas, and, quite as in the case of our liberal Protestants, 
had been giving especial prominence to texts in which they 
imagined they found an unmistakable af^rmation of the unity of 
the Godhead ; and they rid themselves of all concern with 
the passages that seemingly contradicted this notion by deny- 
' M. Goblet d'Alviella, Evolution religieuse contemporaine. 


ing their authenticity. Ultimately, somewhat alarmed at 
their own progress, they sent four Pundits to Benares to col- 
late the sacred texts : it was in Benares that, according to the 
tradition, the only so-called complete and authentic manuscript 
was preserved. During the two years that the labour of the 
Pundits covered, the Hindus waited for the truth in the 
same spirit that the Hebrews had done at the foot of Sinai. 
Finally the authentic version, or what purported to be such, 
was brought to them ; and they possessed the definitive 
formula of revelation. Their disappointment was great, and 
they took the matter into their own hands, realizing at one 
blow the revolution which the liberal Protestants are pursuing 
gradually in the bosom of Christianity : they rejected defini- 
tively the Vedas and the antique religion of the Brahmans, 
and proclaimed in its stead a theistical religion, which rests in 
no sense whatsoever upon revelation. The new faith must in 
time develop, not without heresy and schism, but its adherents 
constitute to-day in India an important element in progress. 

In our days very estimable persons have essayed to push 

Christianity also into a new path. In according the right of 

Preservation of interpretation to private individuals, Luther gave 

the letter while them the right of clothing their own individual 

tampering with 1 , • , , r ^ 

the spirit of the thoughts in the language of the antique dogmas 
^^^^^' and the texts of the sacred books. Insomuch 

that by a singular revolution, the " Word," which was considered 
in the beginning as the faithful expression of the divine 
thought, has tended to become for each of us the expression of 
our own personal thought. The sense of the words depending 
really upon ourselves, the most barbarous language can be 
made at a pinch to serve us for the conveyance of the noblest 
ideas. By this ingenious expedient texts become flexible, 
dogmas become acclimated more or less to the intellectual 
atmosphere in which they are placed, and the barbarism of the 
sacred books becomes disguised. By virtue of living with 
the people of God we civilize them, we lend them our ideas, 
inoculate them with our aspirations, everyone interprets the 
Bible to suit himself, and the result is that the commentary 
ultimately overgrows and half obscures the text itself; we no 


longer read with undimmed vision — we look through a medium 

which disguises everything that is hideous, and lends a fresh 

beauty to everything that is beautiful. At bottom the veritable 

sacred Word is no longer the one which God pronounced and 

sent forth reverberating, eternally the same, down the centuries ; 

it is the one which we pronounce or rather whisper — for is it 

not the sense which one puts upon it that constitutes the real 

value of an utterance? and it is we who determine the sense. 

The Divine Spirit has passed into the believer and, at certain 

times at least, the true God would seem to be one's own 

thought. This attempt at a reconciliation between religion 

and free-thought is a masterpiece of tact. Religion seems 

always to lag a little behind, but free-thought by exercise of a 

little ingenuity always find means, in the end, of helping it 

forward. The progress of the two consists of a series of 

arrangements, compromises, something like what takes place 

between a conservative Senate and a progressive Chamber of 

Deputies, honestly in search of a modus vivendi. 

By a procedure which Luther would never have dared to 

emulate Protestants have taken the liberty of employing on 

essential dogmas this power of symbolical inter- 
Extension of • 1 • 1 T 1 1 r r 

symbolic interpre- pretation which Luthcr reserved for texts of a 

tation to essential secondary importance. The most essential of 

dogmas, that upon which all others depend, is 

the dogma of revelation. If, since Luther's time, an orthodox 
Protestant feels himself at liberty to discuss at his ease 
whether the sense of the sacred Word is really this, that, or 
the other, he never for an instant questions whether the Word 
itself is really sacred in effect, or whether it really possesses 
any meaning that can properly be called divine. When he 
holds the Bible he has no doubt but that he has his hand 
upon the truth ; he has only to discover it beneath the words 
in which it is contained, has only to dig for it in the sacred 
Book as a labourer might dig in a field in search of a buried 
treasure. But is it then quite certain that the treasure is 
really there, that the truth lies ready-made somewhere be- 
tween the covers of the Book ? That is the question which 
the liberal Protestant is asking himself, and he has already 


taken possession of Germany, of England, of the United 
States, and possesses even in France a large number of 
representatives. Previous to his advent all Christians were at 
one in the belief that the sacred Word really exists somewhere ; 
at the present day this belief itself tends to become symbolic. 
No doubt there was in Jesus a certain element of divinit}-, but 
is there not in all of us, in one sense or another, a certain ele- 
ment of divinity ? "Why should we be surprised," writes a 
liberal clergyman, " at finding Jesus a mystery, when we arc all 
of us ourselves a mystery ? " According to the new Protestants 
there is no longer any reason for taking anything at its face 
value, not even what has hitherto been considered as the spirit 
of Christianity. For the most logical of them, the Bible is 
scarcely more than a book like another; custom has conse- 
crated it; one may find God in it if one seeks Him there, 
because one may find God anywhere and put Mim there, if by 
chance Hebe really not there already. The divine halo has 
dropped from Christ's head, or rather he shares it with all the 
angels and all the saints. He has lost his celestial purity or 
rather we share it with him, all of us ; for is not original sin 
also a symbol, and are we not all of us born innocent sons of 
God? The miracles are but fresh symbols which represent, 
grossly and visibly, the subjective power of faith. We are no 
longer to look for orders directly from God ; God no longer 
talks to us by a single voice, but by all the voices of the 
universe, and it is in the midst of the great concert of nature 
that we must seize and distinguish the veritable Word. All 
is symbolic except God, who is the eternal truth. 

Well, and why stop at God ? Liberty of thought, which has 
been incessantly turning and adapting dogma to its progress, 

has it in its power to make a step beyond. 
concfpt'InVfVo^d' Immutable faith is hemmed in by a circle which 

is daily shrinking. For the liberal Protestant this 
contraction has reached its extreme, and centre and circum- 
ference are one and the process is continuing. Why should 
not God Himself be a symbol ? What is this mysterious Being, 
after all, but a popular personification of the divine or even 
of ideal humanity ; in a word, of morality ? 


Thus a purely moral symbolism comes in process of time 

to be substituted for a metaphysical symbolism. We are 

The result prac- close upon the Kantian conception of a religion 

tically a religion of duty, resting upon a simple postulate or even 

of morals. Per- . i 

ceived to be so in a Simple generalization of human conduct, to 
Germany. ^\^^ effect that morality and happiness are in the 

last resort in harmony. A faith in morals, thus understood, 
has been adopted by many Germans as the basis of religious 
faith. Hegelians have converted religion into a moral sym-' 
bolism. Strauss defines morality as the " harmonization " of 
man with his species, and defines religion as the harmoni- 
zation of man with the universe ; and these definitions, which 
seem at first sight to imply a difference in extent and a certain 
opposition between morality and religion, aim in reality at 
showing their ultimate unity ; the ideal of the species and the 
purpose of the universe are one, and if by chance they should 
be distinct, it would be the more universal ideal that morality 
itself would command us to follow. Von Hartmann, also, 
in spite of his mystical tendencies, concludes that there is no 
religion possible except one which will consecrate the moral 
autonomy of the individual, his salvation by his own effort 
and not by that of somebody else (autosoterism as distin- 
guished from heterosoterism). From which it follows that, in 
Von Hartmann's opinion, the essence of religious adoration 
and gratitude should be one's respect for the essential and 
impersonal element in one's self ; in other words, piety is, 
properly speaking, no more than a form of morality and of 
absolute renouncement. 

In France, as is well known, M. Renouvier follows Kant 

and bases religion upon morality. M. Renan also makes of 

religion a little more than an ideal morality : 

Also in a Abnegation, devotion, sacrifice of the real to the 

ideal, such," he says, "is the very essence of 

religion." And elsewhere : " What is the state but egoism 

organized? what is religion but devotion organized?" M. 

Renan forgets, however, that a purely egoistic state, that is 

to say a purely immoral state, could not continue to exist. 

It would be more accurate to say that the state is justice 


organized ; and since justice and devotion are in principle the 
same, it follows that the state as well as religion rests ulti- 
mately upon morality: morality is the very foundation of 
social life. 

In England, also, the same process of the transformation of 

a religious faith into a purely moral faith may be observed. 

Kant through the intermediation of Coleridge 

Also m ^ £ Hamilton has exercised a great influence 

England. ° 

upon English thought and upon the course of 
this transformation. Coleridge brought down the Kingdom 
of God from Heaven and domesticated it upon earth ; the 
reign of God for him, as for Kant, became that of morality. 
For John Stuart Mill, whose point of approach was widely dif- 
ferent from that of Coleridge, the outcome of the study of 
religions was the same — that their essential value has always 
consisted in the moral precepts they inculcate ; the good that 
they have done should be attributed rather to the stimulus 
they have given to the moral sentiment than to the religious 
sentiment properly so called. And it is to be added, Mill 
says, that the moral principles furnished by religions labour 
under this double disability, that (i) they are tainted with 
selfishness, and operate upon the individual by promises or 
menaces relating to the life to come without entirely detach- 
ing him from a preoccupation with his own interest, and, (2) 
they produce a certain intellectual apathy, and even an aber- 
ration of the moral sense, in that they attribute to an abso- 
lutely perfect being the creation of a world so imperfect as 
our own, and thus in a certain measure cloak evil itself in 
divinity. Nobody could adore such a god willingly without 
having undergone a preliminary process of degeneration. 
The true religion of the future, according to John Stuart Mill, 
will be an elevated moral doctrine, going beyond an egoistic 
utilitarianism and encouraging us to pursue the good of 
humanity in general ; nay, even of sentient beings in general. 
This conception of a religion of humanity, which is not with- 
out analogy to the Positivist conception, might be reconciled, 
John Stuart Mill adds, with the belief in a divine power — a 
principle of goodness present in the universe. A faith in God 


is immoral only when it supposes God to be omnipotent, 
since it, in that case, charges him with responsibility for exist- 
ing evil. A good god can exist only on condition that he is 
less than omnipotent, that he encounters in nature, nay in 
human nature, obstacles which hinder him from effecting the 
good that he desires. Once conceive God thus, and the formula 
of duty reads simply: Help God; work with Him for the 
production of what is good, lend Him the concurrence that He 
really needs since He is not omnipotent. Labour also with all 
great men— all men like Socrates, Moses, Marcus Aurelius, 
Washington — do as they do, all that you can and ought to do. 
This disinterested collaboration on the part of all men with 
each other and with the principle of goodness, in whatsoever 
manner that principle may be conceived or personified, will 
be, in John Stuart Mill's judgment, the ultimate religion. 
And it is evidently no more than a magnified system of mo- 
rality, erected into a universal law for the world. What is it 
that we call the divine, except this that is the best in our- 
selves ? " God is good," cried Feuerbach, " signifies : good- 
ness is divine; God is just signifies: justice is divine." In- 
stead of saying : there have been divine agonies, divine deaths, 
one has said, God has suffered, God has died. " God is the 
apotheosis of the heart of man." ' 

An analogous thesis is maintained with great cleverness in a 

book which caused considerable stir in England : Mr. Matthew 

„ ^ , Arnold's " Literature and Dogma." The author, 

Matthew Ar- ° 

Hold's " Literature in common with religious critics generally, remarks 

and Dogma." ^j^^ growing tension that nowadays exists between 
science and dogma. " An inevitable revolution, of which we 
all recognize the beginnings and signs, but which has already 
spread, perhaps, farther than most of us think, is befalling the 
religion in which we have been brought up." Mr. Arnold is 
right. At no former period have unbelievers appeared to 
have so strong a hold in right reason ; the old arguments 

' Mr. Seeley, in his work entitled N'atural Religion (1882), takes pains to estab- 
lish that of the three elements which compose the religious idea — the love of truth 
or science, the sentiment of beauty or art, the notion of duty or morals — it is the 
last only that can to-day be reconciled with Christianity. 


against providence, miracles, and final causes, that the Epicu- 
reans brought into prominence, seem as nothing beside the 
arguments furnished in our days by the Laplaces and the La- 
marcks, and quite recently by Darwin, the " evictor of mira- 
cles," in Strauss' phrase. One of the sacred prophets whom 
Mr. Arnold is fond of quoting once said : " Behold, the days 
come, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of 
bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the 
Lord : and they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the 
north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek 
the word of the Lord, and shall not find it." The time pre- 
dicted by the prophet Mr. Arnold might well recognize as 
our own ; might it not with truth be said of the present that 
it lacks the word of the Eternal, or soon will lack it ? A new 
spirit animates our generation ; not only are we in doubt 
whether the Eternal ever did speak or ever does speak to man, 
but many of us believe in the existence of no other eternity 
than that of a universe of mute and unfeeling matter which 
keeps its own secret except as against those who have the wit 
to find it out. There are of course, even to-day, some few 
faithful servants in the houses of the Lord ; but the Master 
seems to have departed for the far countries of the past, to which 
memory alone has access. In Russia in the older seigniorial 
estates, a disc of iron is fastened to the wall of the mansion 
of the lord of the soil ; and when he returns from a journey, the 
first night he passes in his dominion, some follower runs to 
. the disc of iron and in the silence of the night beats upon 
the metal to announce his vigilance and the presence of the 
master. Who will awaken nowadays the voice of the bells in 
the church-steeples to announce the return to His temple of 
the living God, and the vigilance of the faithful? To-day the 
sound of the church-bells is as melancholy as a cry in the 
void ; they tell of the deserted house of God, of the absence of 
the lord of the soil, they sound the knell of the believers. And 
is there nothing that can be done to domesticate religion once 
more in the heart of man ? There is but one means : to see in 
God no more than a symbol of what exists always at the bot- 
tom of the human heart— morality. And it is to this expedi- 


cut that Matthew Arnold also turns his attention. But he is 
not content with a purely philosophic system of morals, he 
aims at the preservation of religion, and in especial of the 
Christian religion ; and to that end he brings forward a new 
method of interpretation, the literary and aesthetic method, 
the purpose of which is to glean from the sacred texts what- 
ever they may contain of moral beauty, in the hope that it 
may incidentally prove to contain also what is true. It aims at 
reconstructing the primitive notions of Christianity, in whatso- 
ever they possessed of vagueness, of indecision, and at the 
same time of profundity, and to set them in opposition over 
against the gross precision of popular views. In matters of 
metaphysic or religion there is nothing more absurd than an 
excessive precision ; the truth in such matters is not to be 
rounded in an epigram. Epigram can at best serve, not as a 
definition, but as a suggestion of the infinities that it really 
does not circumscribe. And just as the verity in such matters 
overpasses the measure of language, so it overpasses the per- 
sonalities and the figures which humanity has chosen as repre- 
sentative of it. When an idea is powerfully conceived, it tends 
to become definite, to take unto itself a visage, a voice ; our 
ears seem to hear and our eyes to see what our hearts feel. 
"Man never knows," said Goethe, "how anthropomorphic 
he is." What is there so surprising in the fact that humanity 
has personified that which in all climes claimed its allegiance 
— the idea of goodness and of justice? The Eternal, the eter- 
nally Just, the Omnipotent who squares reality with justice, He 
who parcels out evil and good, the Being who weighs all actions, 
who does all things by weight and measure, or rather who 
is Himself weight and measure — tJiat is the God of the Jewish 
people, the Javeh of adult Judaism, as He ultimately appears 
in the mist of the unknown. In our days He has become 
transmuted into a simple moral conception, which, having for- 
cibly taken possession of the human mind, has at last clothed 
itself in a mystical form — has become personified by alliance 
with a crowd of superstitions that the " false science of theo- 
logians " regards as inseparable from it and from which a more 
delicately discriminating interpretation— an interpretation more 


literary and less literal — should set it free. God having be- 
come one with the moral law, a further step may be taken ; 
one may regard Christ who immolated Himself to save the 
world as a moral symbol of self-sacrifice, as the sublime t}-pe 
in which we find united all the suffering of human life and all 
the ideal grandeur of morality. In His figure the human and 
the divine are reconciled. He was a man, for He suffered, 
but His devotion was so great that He was a god. And what 
then is that Heaven which is reserved for those who follow 
Christ and walk in the path of self-sacrifice? It is moral per- 
fection. Hell is the symbol of that depth of corruption to 
which, by hypothesis, they will fall who, by a persistent choice 
of evil, ultimately lose all notion even of goodness. The ter- 
restrial paradise is a charming symbol for the primitive inno- 
cence of the child : he has done as yet no evil, he has done 
as yet no good ; his earliest disobedience is his first sin ; when 
desire is awakened in him for the first time, his will has been 
conquered, he has fallen, but this fall is precisely the condition 
of his being set upon his feet again, of his redemption by the 
moral law ; behold him condemned to labour, to the hard labour 
of man upon himself, to the struggle of self-mastery ; without 
that contest to strengthen him he would never see the god de- 
scend in him, Christ the Saviour, the moral ideal. Thus it is 
in the evolution of the human conscience that a key to human 
symbolism must be found.' Of them must be said what the 
philosopher Sallust said of religious legends generally in his 
treatise " On the Gods and the World ": Such things have 
never happened, but they are eternally true. Religion is the 
morality of the people; it shows to them, realized and divinized, 
the higher types of conduct which they should force them- 
selves to imitate here below; the dreams with which it peoples 
the skies are dreams of justice, of equality of goods, of fra- 
ternity : Heaven pays for earth. Let us then no longer employ 
the names of God, of Christ, of the Resurrection except as sym- 
bols, vague as hope itself. Then, according to Mr. Matthew 
Arnold, and those who maintain the same thesis, we shall be- 

' Besides Mr. Matthew Arnold, consult M. L. Menard, Sources dndognie Chretien 
{Critique religieuse, Janvier, 1879). 


gin to love these symbols, our faith will find a resting place in 
the religion which before seemed to be but a tissue of gross 
absurdities. Beneath dogma, which is but the surface, we 
shall find the moral law, which is the substance. This law, it is 
true, has in religion become concrete ; it has, so to speak, 
taken on colour and form. That, however, is simply owing to 
the fact that people are poets ; they think in images or not at 
all. You can only attract their attention by pointing your finger 
at something. After all, what harm is there in the fact that 
the apostles, opening the blue ether, showed the gaping 
nations of the earth the thrones of gold and seraphim and 
white wings, and the kneeling multitude of the elect ? This 
spectacle fascinated the Middle Age, and at times, when we 
shut our eyes, we seem to see it still. This poetry, spread upon 
the surface of the moral law, lends it an attractiveness that it 
did not possess in its bare austerity. Sacrifice becomes less dif- 
ficult when it presents itself crowned with a halo. The early 
Christians were not fond of representing Christ as bleeding 
under the crown of thorns, but as transfigured and triumphant ; 
they preferred to keep his agony in the background. Such 
pictures as ornament our Churches would have filled them 
with horror ; their young faith would have been shaken by the 
image of the " agony upon the cross," which caused Goethe 
also a sort of a repugnance. When they represented the cross 
it was no longer burdened with the God, and they took care 
even to cover it with flowers and ornaments of every kind. 
You may see it in the rude figures, the designs and sculptures 
found in the catacombs. To hide the cross beneath an arm- 
ful of flowers is precisely the marvel realized by religion. And 
when religions are regarded from this point of view, all ground 
vanishes for looking with disdain upon the legends which con- 
stitute the material of popular faith. They become compre- 
hensible, they become lovable, one feels one's self enveloped in 
an " infinite tenderness " for this spontaneous product of naive 
thought in quest of goodness, in pursuit of the ideal, for these 
fairy-tales of human morality, profounder and sweeter than 
all other fairy-tales. It was necessary that religious poetry 
should prepare the earth long beforehand for the coming of 


the mysterious ideal ; should embellish the place where it was 
to descend, as the mother of the Sleeping Beauty, seeing the 
eyes of her daughter grow heavy with the sleep of a hundred 
years, placed with confidence at the side of the bed the em- 
broidered cushion, on which the enamoured prince would one 
day kneel to reawaken her with a kiss. 

We have come a long way in all this from the servile inter- 
pretation of the blind leaders who fasten upon particular texts 

and lose sight of their subject as a whole. If one 
reUgions'tobe approaches a picture too near, the perspective 
regarded his- disappears and all the colours lose their proper 

value ; one must stand back a certain distance 
and see it in a favourable light: and then alone the richness of 
the colours and the unity of the work appear. Religions 
must be looked upon in the same way. If the spectator stands 
sufficiently above them and aloof from them, he loses all 
prejudice, all hostility, in respect to them; their sacred books 
come even in time to merit in his eyes the name of sacred, 
and he finds in them, Mr. Arnold says, a providential " secret," 
which is the "secret of Jesus." Why not recognize, adds Mr. 
Arnold, that the Bible is an inspired book, dictated by the 
Holy Spirit? After all, everything that is spontaneous is 
more or less divine, providential ; whatever springs from the 
very sources of human thought is infinitely venerable. The 
Bible is a unique book, corresponding to a peculiar state of 
mind, and it can no more be made over or corrected than a 
work of Phidias or Praxiteles. In spite of its moral lapses 
and its frequent disaccord with the conscience of our epoch, it 
is a necessary complement of Christianity; it manifests the 
spirit of Christian society, it represents the tradition of it, and 
attaches the beliefs of the present to those of the past.' The 
Bible and the dogmas of the Church, having been formerly 
the point of departure for religious belief, have come nowa- 
days, no doubt, in the face of modern faith, to be in need of 
justification ; and this justification they will obtain ; to be 
understood is itself to be forgiven. 

If the New Testament contains at all a more or less reflect- 

'.See M. L. Menard, ibid. {Crit. relig., 1879.) 


ivc moral theory, it is assuredly that of love. Charity, or 

rather affectionate justice (charity is always justice, absolutely 

The moral doc- considered), such is the "secret " of Jesus. The 

trine of the New New Testament may then be considered, accord- 
Testament the . , . . r T\ T A T . 1 A 11 

main Strength mg to the Opinion of J\lr. Matthew Arnold, as 
of Christianity. before all else a treatise on symbolical morality. 
The actual superiority of the New Testament, as compared with 
Paganism and with pagan philosophy, is a moral superiority ; 
therein lay the secret of its success. There is no theology in' 
the New Testament unless it be the Jewish theology, and the 
Jewish theology had proved itself incapable of the conquest 
of the world. The power of the New Testament lay in its 
morality, and it is its morality which even in our times survives 
still, more or less transformed by modern progress. And it is 
upon the morality of the New Testament that modern Chris- 
tian societies must of necessity lean, it is in the morality of the 
New Testament that they will find their true strength ; the 
morality of the New Testament is the principal argument that 
they can invoke in proof of the legitimacy of religion itself 
and, so to speak, of God. 

Mr. Matthew Arnold and the group of liberal critics, who, 
like him, are inspired by the spirit of the age {Zeitgeist), 

T . , ^ seem thus to have guided faith to the ultimate 
Logical out- ° 

come of Matthew point beyond which nothing remains but to 
Arnold's position. ^^^^^ definitively with the past and its texts 

and dogmas. 

Religious thought in these pages is bound by the slenderest 
threads to religious symbolism. At bottom, if one looks close, 
liberal Christians suppress religion, properly so called, and 
substitute a religious morality in its stead. The believer of 
other times affirmed the existence of God first, and then made 
His will the rule of conduct ; the liberal believer of our day 
af^rms the existence, first of all, of the moral law, and cloaks 
it in divinity afterward. He, like Matthew Arnold, treats 
with Javeh on equal terms, and speaks to Him almost as 
follows: "Art Thou a person? I do not know. Hast Thou 
had prophets, a Messiah ? I no longer believe so. Hast Thou 
created me? I doubt it. Dost Thou watch over me — me in 


especial — dost Thou perform miracles ? I deny it. But there 
is one thing, and one alone, in which I do believe, and that is 
in my own conception of morality ; and if Thou art willing to 
become a surety for that and to bend the reality into harmony 
with my ideal, we will make a treaty of alliance ; and by the 
affirmation of my existence as a moral being, I will affirm Thine 
into the bargain." We are far away from the antique Javch, 
the Power, with whom no bargain could be made ; the jealous 
God, who Avished man's every thought to point toward Him 
alone, and who would make no treaty with His people unless 
He could precisely dictate the terms. 

The more distinguished German, English, and American 
clergymen thrust theology so far into the background for 

Practical atten ^^^^ purpose of forwarding practical morality 
nation of Christian that one may apply to all of them the words 
^^ ' of an American periodical, the NortJi American 

Revierv : that a pagan, desirous of making himself acquainted 
with the doctrines of Christianity, might frequent our most 
fashionable churches for an entire year and not hear one 
word about the torments of hell or the wrath of an in- 
censed God. As to the fall of man and the expiatory agony 
of Christ, just so much would be said as to fall short of giving 
umbrage to the most fanatical believer of the theory of evolu- 
tion. Listening and observing for himself, he would reach 
the conclusion that the way to salvation lies in confessing one's 
belief in certain abstract doctrines, beaten out as thin as possi- 
ble by the clergyman and by the believer, in frequenting 
assiduously the church and extra-religious meetings, in droj)- 
ping an obolus every Sunday into the contribution box, and 
in imitating the attitudes of his neighbours. All the terms of 
theology are so loosely employed that all those are considered 
Christians whose character has been formed by Christian civ- 
ilization, all those who have not remained total strangers to 
the current of ideas set up in the Occident b}^ Jesus and Paul. 
It was an American clergyman who had abandoned the narrow 
■dogmas of Calvin ' that, after having employed a long life in 
becoming more and more liberal, discovered, in his seventieth 
year, this large formula for his faith : " Nobody ought to be 

' Mr. Ilciirv Waid Beecher. 


regarded as an infidel who sees in justice the great creed of 
human Hfe, and who aims at an increasingly complete subjec- 
tion of his will to his moral sense." 

II. What is the possible value and the possible duration of 
this moral and metaphysical symbolism to which it is being 
attempted to reduce religion ? 

Let us speak first of the liberal Protestants. Liberal Prot- 
estantism, which resolves the very dogmas of its creed into 
mere symbols, stands no doubt in the scale of 

Logical hollow- . , , , . , , , 

ness of the position progress m about the same relation to orthodox 
of the liberal Protestantism as the latter does in relation to 

p ytrt 4- g Q + o Ti +g 

Catholicism. But far as it seems in advance of 
them from the point of view of morals and society, it is inferior 
to them in logic. Catholicism has been irreverently called a 
perfectly embalmed corpse, a Christian mummy, in an admi- 
rable state of preservation beneath the cold embroidered 
chasubles and surplices which envelop it ; Luther's Protes- 
tantism tears the body to shreds, liberal Protestantism reduces 
it to dust. To preserve Christianity while suppressing Christ 
the son, or at least the messenger of God, is an undertaking of 
which they alone will be capable who are little disposed to 
make much of what is known as logic. Whoever does not 
believe in Revelation ought frankly to confess himself a phi- 
losopher, and to hold the Bible and the New Testament as lit- 
tle authoritative as the dialogues of Plato, or the treatises of 
Aristotle, or the Vedas, or the Talmud. Liberal Protestants, as 
Herr von Hartmann, one of their bitterest adversaries, remarks, 
seize upon the whole body of modern ideas and label them 
Christianity. The process is not very consistent. If you are 
absolutely determined to rally round a flag, let it at least be 
your own. But the liberal Protestants wish, and honestly, to 
be and to remain Protestants ; in Germany, they obstinately 
remain in the United Evangelical Church of Prussia, where 
they about as truly belong as a sparrow does in the nest of a 
swallow. Herr von Hartmann, whose zeal against them is un- 
flagging, compares them to a man whose house is riven in many 
places and going to ruin, and who perceives and does all that 
in him lies-still further to shatter it, and continues, nevertheless, 


tranquilly to sleep in it and even to call in passers-by and offer 
them board and lodgin<;. Or again — always according to Herr 
von Hartmann — they are like a man who should seat himself 
in perfect confidence upon a chair after having first sawed 
through all four legs of it. Strauss had already said : "The 
instant that Jesus is regarded as no more than a man, one has 
no longer any right to pray to him, to retain him as the centre 
of a cult, to preach the whole year through on him, on his 
actions, on his adventures and maxims ; in especial, if the more 
important of his adventures and actions have been recog- 
nized as fabulous, and if his maxims are demonstrably incom- 
patible with our present views on human life and the world." 
To understand what is peculiar in the majority of liberal 
communions which always stop halfway, it is necessary to ob- 
serve that they are generally the work of ecclesiastics who 
have broken with the dominant church, and that they preserve 
to the end some suggestion of their former belief ; they can no 
more think, except in the terms of the formulse of some dogma, 
than we can speak in the words of a language with which we 
are unacquainted ; and even when they endeavour to acquire 
a new language they speak it always with an accent which 
betrays their nationality. For the rest they feel instinctively 
that the name of Christ lends them a certain authority, and 
they find it impossible to abandon their profession and its 
emoluments. In Germany, and even in France, over and above 
the liberal Protestants, who in the latter place are few in num- 
ber, former Catholics have sought to abandon orthodox 
Catholicism, but they have not dared to abandon Christianity. 
The case of Father Hyacinthe ' is sufficiently well known. It 
is in vain for those who are born Christians to try their hand 
at losfic, and to make an effort to rid themselves of their faith. 
They make one think, in spite of one's self, of a fly caught in a 

' Dr. Jiinqua, whose name almost became celebrated a few years ago, also tried 
to found a church, the Church of Liberty ; those who entered were at liberty to 
believe almost anything they liked, not even the atheist, properly so called, being 
excluded. The church in question was to have been purely symbolic : baptism it 
was to recognize as the symbol of initiation into Christian civilization ; confirmation 
as the symbol of an enrolment among the soldiers of Liberty ; and theeucharist, that 
is to say a religious love feast, as the symbol of the brotherhood of man. It is to 


spider-web, who has freed one wing and one leg, and only- 

Let us endeavour, however, to enter more intimately into the 
thoughts of those who may be called the Neo-Christians, and 

let us seek for the element of truth, if such there 
Neo-Christianity. , , , . , •,••,!,• , ■ 

be, that their much-criticised doctrme contains. 
If Jesus is only a man, they say, he is at least the most 
extraordinary of men ; at one bound, by an intuition at once 
natural and divine, he discovered the supreme truth neces- • 
sary to the life of humanity ; he is in advance of all times^ 
he spoke not only for his own people, nor for his own century, 
nor even for a score of centuries ; his voice rolled beyond the 
restricted circle of his auditors, and the twelve apostles, 
beyond the people of Judea prostrate before him, to us in 
whose ears it sounds the eternal truth ; and it finds us even 
still attentive, listening, trying to understand it, incapable of 
finding a substitute for it. " In Jesus," writes Pastor Bost in 
his work on " Le Protestantisme liberal," " the mingling of the 
human and the divine was accomplished in proportions not 
seen elsewhere. His relation to God is the normal and typical 
relation of humanity to the Creator. . . Jesus stands forever 
as the model." Professor Herman Schultz in a conference in 
Gottingen, some years ago, also expressed the same idea, that 
Jesus is really the Messiah, properly so called, in the sense that 
the Jews attached to that word. He did found the kingdom 
of God, not it is true by marvellous exploits like those of 
Moses or of Elias, but by an exploit surpassing theirs, by the 
sacrifice of love, by the voluntary gift of himself. The apos- 
tles and Christians in general did not believe in Jesus because 
of the miracles he performed : they accepted his miracles owing 
to their previous faith in him, a faith the true foundation of 
which lay in Christ's moral superiority, and that subsists still 

be added that these sacraments were not obligatory and that the members might 
abstain from them entirely if they chose. Still, they would be members of a com- 
munion. Their faith would be designated by a common name, they would be in 
relations with a priest who would comment in their presence on texts of the New 
Testament, and would talk of Christ if he and they believed in Him. The church 
of Dr. Junqua might easily have succeeded in England with Mr. Moncure Conway 
and the secularists. 


even if one deny the miracles. Professor Schultz concludes, 
against Strauss and M. Renan, that "a belief in Christ is 
wholly independent of the results of a historical criticism of his 
life." Every one of the actions attributed to Jesus may be 
mythical, but there remain to us his words and his thoughts, 
which find in us an eternal echo. There are things which one 
discovers once for all, and whosoever has found love has made 
a discovery that is not illusory nor of brief duration. Is it not 
just that men should group themselves about him, range them- 
selves under his name ? He himself loves to call himself the 
Son of Man ; it is under this title that humanity should revere 
him. It is not destruction but reconstruction that is the out-- 
come of contemporary biblical exegesis, one of the representa- 
tives of English Unitarianism, the Rev. A. Armstrong, 
said in 1883. It adds to our love of Jesus to recognize in him 
a brother and to see in the marvellous legends associated with 
him no more than the symbol of a love more naive than ours, 
that namely of his disciples. Proof by miracle is but the ulti- 
mate form of a temptation from which humanity should escape. 
In the symbolic story of the temptation in the desert, Satan 
says : " Command that these stones be made bread ; " he 
urged Christ to be guilty of a miracle, of the .prestidigitation 
which the ancient prophets had employed so frequently to 
strike the imagination of the people. But Jesus refused. And 
on another occasion he said to the people indignantly: If 
you did not see prodigies and miracles you do not believe, 
and to the Pharisees : " Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face 
of the sky and of the earth, . . . and why even of your- 
selves judge ye not what is right ? " It is by the testimony of 
our own souls, say the Neo-Christians ; it is by our own individ- 
ual conscience, our own individual reason, that we shall find 
justice in the word of Christ, and that we shall revere it ; and 
this word is not true because it is divine, it is divine because it 
is true. 

Thus understood, liberal Protestantism is a doctrine that 
merits discussion; only it is sadly in lack of any distinguishing 
characteristic especially to mark it off from the numerous 
philosophical sects which, in the course of history, have gath- 


ered about the opinions of some man and endeavoured to iden- 
tify his teacliinj^s with the truth and to lend to them an au- 
thority more than human. Pythagoras was for 
historic^ crhT-^ ^^'^ disciples what Jesus is to the hberal Protestant. 

cism and liberal The traditional respect also of the Epicureans for 
Protestantism. ,, . , . ,, , , 

their master is well known, the sort of worship 

they rendered him, the authority that they lent to his words.' 
Pythagoras brought to light a great idea, that of the harmony 
which governs the physical and moral universe ; Epicurus, * 
another, that of the happiness which is the true aim of rational 
conduct, the measure of goodness, and even of truth ; and by 
their disciples these two great ideas came to be looked upon 
not as parts of the truth but as truth itself in its entirety ; they 
saw no ground for further search. In the same way, in our 
own times, the Positivists see in Auguste Comte not a profound 
thinker simply, but one who has laid his finger, so to speak, on 
the definitive verity, one who has traversed at a dash the whole 
domain of intelligence and traced out once for all its limits. 
It is rigorously exact to say that Auguste Comte is a sort of 
Christ for bigoted Positivists — a Christ a trifle too recent, who 
did not have the happiness of dying on the cross. Each of 
these sects reposes on the following belief : Before Pythagoras, 
Epicurus, or Comte, nobody had seen the truth ; after them 
nobody will ever see it more clearly. Such a creed implicitly 
denies: i. Historical continuity, the inevitable result of which 
is that the man of genius is always more or less the expression 
of his century and that the honour of his discoveries is not due 
wholly to himself; 2. Human evolution, the inevitable result 
of which is that the man of genius cannot be the expression of 
all the centuries to come — that his point of view must neces- 
sarily be some day passed by — that the truth discovered by 
him is not the whole truth but simply a stage in the infinite 
progress of the human mind. A dens dixit is comprehensible, 
or if not comprehensible at least conceivable; but to resusci- 
tate in favour of some mere human being, were it Jesus himself, 
the magister dixit of the Middle Ages, is a bit of an anachron- 

' See the author's work on la Morale cT Epicure et ses rapports avec les doctrines 
contemporaines, p. i86. 


ism. Geometers have always held Euclid in the highest 
respect, but each of them has done his best to contribute some 
new theorem to the body of doctrine that he left behind ; and 
is the rule for moral truth not the same as that for mathemati- 
cal truth ? Is it within the compass of one man's powers to 
know and to utter all that there is to be known ? Is an autoc- 
racy the only form of government in the sphere of mind ? Lib- 
eral Protestants speak to us of the " secret of Jesus "; but there 
are many secrets in this world, and each of us carries his own ; 
and who shall utter the secret of secrets, the last word, the 
supreme verity ? Nobody in particular, probably ; truth is the 
product of a prodigious co-operation, at which all peoples and 
all generations must work. The horizon of truth can neither 
be taken in at a single glance nor contracted ; to perceive the 
whole of it one must move forward incessantly, and at every 
step a new perspective is laid bare. For humanity, to live is 
to learn ; and before any individual human being can tell us 
the great secret, he must have lived the life of humanity, the 
lives of all existing beings and even of all existing things, 
which seem scarcely to deserve the name of beings ; he must 
have concentrated in himself the universe. There can there- 
fore properly be no religion centred about a man. A man, be 
he Jesus himself, cannot attach the human spirit to himself as 
to a fixed point. Liberal Protestants think that they have seen 
the last of the Strausses and Renans and their destructive 
criticism, because they have admitted once for all that Jesus 
was not a god, but criticism will object to them that the non- 
supernatural Messiah that they cherish is himself a pure fig- 
ment of the imagination. According to the rationalistic 
exegesis, the doctrine of Christ, like his life, belongs more or 
less to the domain of legend. Jesus never so much as con- 
<:eived an idea of the redemption — the very conception that is 
which lies at the root of Christianity; he never so much as 
conceived an idea of the Trinity. If one may rely upon works 
which stand perhaps shoulder to shoulder with that of Strauss — 
the works of F. A. Mullcr, of Professor Weiss, of M. Havet— 
Jesus was a Jew with the spiritual limitations of a Jew. His 
dominant idea was that the end of the world was at hand and 


that on a new-created earth would soon be realized the national 
kini^dom looked for by the Jews in the form of an altogether 
terrestrial theocracy. The end of the world being near, it was 
naturally not worth while to set up an establishment on earth 
for the short time that it was still to exist ; one's entire busi- 
ness was properly with penitence and the amendment of one's 
conduct, in order not to be devoured by fire at the day of 
judgment and excluded from the kingdom to be founded on 
the new-created earth. Moreover, Jesus preached neglect of- 
the state, of the administration of justice, of the family, of 
labour and of property ; in effect, of all the essential elements 
of social life. Evangelical morality itself presents to the 
critics of this school little more than a disorderly mixture of 
the precepts of Moses on disinterested love with the doctrine 
of Hillel more or less well founded on enlightened self-interest. 
The original element in the New Testament consisted less in 
the logical coherence of its teachings than in a certain unction 
in the language employed, in a persuasive eloquence which 
often took the place of reasoning. All that Christ said others 
had said before him, but not with the same accent. In effect, 
German historical criticism at once professes the greatest 
admiration for the numerous founders of Christianity and 
leads its followers a long way from the ideal man conceived by 
the Neo-Christians as being the man-God whom primitive 
Christians adored. There exists accordingly no more reason 
to attribute an element of revelation or of sacred authority to 
the Mew Testament than to the Vedas or to any other reli- 
gious book. If Christianity is a symbolic faith, the myths of 
India may quite as well be adopted as a basis of symbolism 
as the myths of the Bible. And contemporary Brahmaists 
with their eclecticism, confused and mystic as it often is, must 
be regarded as even nearer to the truth than the liberal Prot- 
estants who still look for shelter and salvation nowhere but 
under the diminishing shadow of the cross. 

Abandoning, then, all effort to attribute a sacred authority 
to the sacred books and to the Christian tradition, may one 
ascribe to them at least a superior moral authority? Do they 


lend themselves in any especial degree to such a purely- 
aesthetic and moral symbolism as that suggested by Mr. 
Arnold ? 

A purely moral symbolism may be regarded from either of 
two points of view: the concrete, which is that of history ; or 
Futility of Mr. ^^^^ abstract, which is that of philosophy. Ilis- 
Arnold's method torically nothing could be more inexact than Mr. 
rt™nt7his- Arnold's method, which essentially consists in 
torical criticism, making a present of the most refined conceptions 
of our epoch to primitive peoples. It gives us to understand, 
for example, that the Javeh of the Hebrews was not regarded 
as a perfectly definite person, a transcendent power altogether 
distinct and separate from the world and manifesting himself 
by acts of capricious volition, a king of the skies, a lord of 
battles, bestowing on his people victory or defeat, abundance 
or famine, sickness or health. It suffices to read one page of 
the Bible or the New Testament to convince one's self that a 
doubt as to the personal existence of Javeh never for an 
instant crossed the Hebrew mind. So be it, Mr. Arnold will 
say, but Javeh was in their eyes no more, after all, than the 
personification of justice, because they believed powerfully in 
justice. It would be more exact to say that the Hebrews 
had not as yet a very philosophic notion of justice ; that they 
conceived it as an order received from without, a command 
which it would be dangerous to disobey, a hostile will forcibly 
imposed upon one's own. Nothing could be more natural in 
the sequel than to personify such a will. But is that precisely 
what we understand nowadays by justice; and does it not 
really seem to Mr. Arnold himself that he is playing on 
words, when he endeavours to make us believe all that? Fear 
of the Lord is not justice. There are matters that one cannot 
express in the form of legend when one has once really con- 
ceived them— matters the true poetry of which consists in 
their very purity, in their simplicity. To personify justice, to 
represent it as external to ourselves under the form of a 
menacing power, is not to possess a " high idea " of it ; is not 
in the least, as Mr. Arnold phrases it, to be aglow with it, 
illuminated by it ; it is, on the contrary, not yet really to have 


formed a conception of justice. What Mr. Arnold regards a5 
the sublimcst expression of an altogether modern moral senti- 
ment is, on the ctjntrary, a partial negation of it. Mr. Arnold's 
aim, as he says, is a " literary " criticism ; but the literary 
method consists in resetting the great works of human genius 
in the circumstances among which they were conceived ; in dis- 
covering in them the spirit of the age in which tliey were 
written, and not of the present age. If we endeavour to inter- 
pret history by the light of modern ideas we shall never, 
understand a jot of it. Mr. Arnold is pleasantly satirical at 
the expense of those who find in the Bible allusions to con- 
temporary events, to such and such a modern custom, to such 
and such a dogma unknown to primitive times. A com- 
mentator, he says, finds a prediction of the flight to Egypt in 
the prophecy of Isaiah : " The Lord rideth upon a swift cloud 
and shall come into Egypt "; this light cloud being the body 
of Jesus born of a virgin. Another, more fantastic, perceives 
in the words: "Woe unto them that draw up iniquity with 
cords of vanity " — a malediction of God against church bells. 
That assuredly is a singular method of interpreting the sacred 
texts, but at bottom it is no more logical to look in the 
sacred texts for modern ideas, good or evil, than to search them 
for the announcement of such and such a distant event or for 
a commentary on such and such a trait of contemporary man- 
ners. Really to practise the literary method — and the scien- 
tific method at the same time — 'One must a little forget one's self, 
one's nation, one's century ; one must live the life of past 
times — must become a Greek when one reads Homer, a 
Hebrew when one reads the Bible, and not desire that Racine 
should be a Shakespeare, nor Boccaccio a St. Benedict, 
nor Jesus a free-thinker, nor Isaiah an Epictetus or a Kant. 
All things and all ideas are appropriate in their own times 
and circumstances. Gothic cathedrals are magnificent, 
our small houses to-day are very comfortable; there is no 
reason why we should not admire the one and inhabit the 
other ; the only thing that is really inexcusable is to be 
absolutely unwilling that cathedrals should be what alone, 
they are. 


Considered not from the point of view of history but purely 

from that of philosophy, Mr. Arnold's doctrine is much more 

attractive, for its aim is precisely to enable us to 

Philosophical , . .... ... 

insufficiency of uiscover our owu idcas in the ancient books as 

Mr. Arnold's jj-j ^ mirror. Nothing could be better, but are we 

position. . .... -1 T^ ,, , 

really in want 01 this mirror.'' Do we really need 

to rediscover our modern conceptions embodied in the form 
of myth and more or less distorted in the process? Do we 
really need voluntarily to go back to the state of mind of 
primitive peoples? Do we really need to dwell upon the 
somewhat narrow conception that they possessed of justice 
and of morality before we shall be capable of conceiving a 
justice more generous in its proportions and a morality more 
worthy of its name? Would it not be much the same sort of 
thing as for one who was teaching children physics to begin 
by seriously inculcating the classic theory of nature's abhor- 
ence of a vacuum, of immobility of the earth, etc.? The 
authors of the Talmud in their naive faith said that Javeh, 
filled with veneration for the book which he had himself 
dictated, would devote the first three hours of every day to a 
study of the sacred law. The most orthodox Jews do not 
to-day oblige their God to this recurrent period of meditation ; 
might not one without danger permit mankind a somewhat 
similar economy of time? Mr. Arnold, whose mind moves so 
easily, although with so plentiful a lack of directness and of 
losfic, criticises somewhere or other those who feel a need 
of a foundation of fable for their faith, a foundation of super- 
natural intervention and marvellous legend, and he says that 
many religious men resemble readers of romances or smokers 
of opium ; the reality becomes insipid to them, although it is 
really more grand than the fantastic world of opium and 
romance. Mr. Arnold does not perceive that, if the reality 
is, as he says, the greatest and most beautiful of things, we 
have no further need of the legend of Christianity, not even 
interpreted as he interprets it : the real world, and by the 
real world I understand the moral not less than the physical 
universe, should prove abundantly sufficient for us. Ithuriel, 
Mr. Arnold says, has punctured miracles with his spear ; and 


did he not at the same stroke puncture symbolism? We pre- 
fer to see truth naked rather than tricked out in parti- 
coloured vestments; to clothe truth is to degrade it. Mr. 
Arnold compares a too absolute faith to intoxication ; one 
might willingly compare Mr. Arnold to Socrates, who could 
drain off more than any other guest at the table without 
becoming intoxicated. Not to become intoxicated was, for the 
Greeks, one of the prerogatives of the sage. With this reser- 
vation they permitted him to drink, but in our days the sages- 
make small use of the permission ; they admire Socrates with- 
out imitating him, and find that sobriety is still the best means 
of keeping one's head. One might say as much to Matthew- 
Arnold. The Bible with its scenes of massacre, of rape, and 
of divine vengeance is in his judgment bread for the soul ; the 
soul can no more do without it than we can ourselves do with- 
out eating. The reply is that he has himself proved it to be a 
dangerous form of nourishment, and that it is sometimes better 
to fast than to eat poison. 

For the rest, if one persists in seeking in the sacred books 
of by-gone ages for the expression of primitive morality, it is 
Buddhism more "ot in the Bible, but rather in the Hindu books 
deeply symbolic that a literary or philosophical interpretation will 
ris lam y, ^^^j ^|^g most extraordinary example of moral 
symbolism. The entire world appears to the Buddhist as the 
realization of the moral law, since in his opinion beings take 
rank in the universe according to their virtues or vices, mount 
or descend on the ladder of life according to their moral eleva- 
tion or abasement. Buddhism is in certain respects an effort 
to find in morals a theory of the universe. 

In spite of the partial lapses from logical consistency that 

have been here pointed out in the theory of moral symbolism, 

_, , , there is one conclusion that is logically insisted 
Dependence of , , i> j 

religion upon on in the books just examined, and in especial 
morality. jyj^.^ Arnold's book, namely: that the solidest 

support of every religion is a more or less imperfect system of 
morals ; that the power of Christianity, as of Buddhism, has lain 
in its moral injunctions, and that if one suppressed this moral 

SYMBOLIC AND MORAL FA /^'^S^^ £ikli0g^^^a >^-^9.1 

injunction there would nothing remain of the two great " uni- 
versal " religions brought forth by human intelligence. Reli- 
gion serves, so to speak, as an envelope for morality ; it protects 
morality against the period of its ultimate development and 
efflorescence, but when once moral beliefs have gained strength 
enough they tend to protrude from this envelope, like a flower 

'bursting out of the bud. Some years ago what was at that 
time called Independent Morality was much discussed ; the 

.defenders of religion maintained that the fate of morality is 
intimately bound up with it — that if morality were separated 
from religion it must decline. They were perhaps right in 
pointing out the intimate connection between morality and 
religion, but they were mistaken in maintaining that it is the 
former that is dependent ; it would be truer to say the precise 
opposite, that it is religion that depends upon morality, that 
the latter is the principal and the former the subordinate. 
The Ecclesiast says somewhere, " He hath set the world in 
their heart." It is for that reason that man should first look 
into his own heart, and should first of all believe in himself. 
Religious faith might more or less logically issue out of moral 
faith, but could not produce the moral faith, and if it should 
go counter to the moral faith it would condemn itself. The 
religious spirit cannot therefore accommodate itself to the 
new order of things except by abandoning, in the first place, 
all the dogmas of a l.beral faith, and then all the symbols of a 
more enlightened faith and holding fast by the fundamental 
principle which constitutes the life of religion and dominates 
its historical evolution ; that is to say, the moral sentiment of 
Protestantism in spite of all its contradictions has really intro- 
duced into the world a new principle ; it is this, that conscience 
is its own judge, that individual initiative should be substi- 
tuted for objective authority.' Such a principle includes as a 

' Toward the end of his life Luther felt an increasing discouragement and dis- 
quietude on the subject of the reform inaugurated by him: " It is by severe laws 
and by superstition," he wrote with bitterness, "that the world desires to be 
guided. If I could reconcile it with my conscience I would labour that the Pope 
with all his abominations might become once more our master." Responsibility to 
one's own conscience was indeed Luther's fundamental idea — the idea which justifies 
the Reformation in the eyes of history, as formerly in the eyes of its own author. 


logical consequence not only the suppression of real dogmas 
and of mysteries, but also that of precise and determinate 
symbols; of everything, in a word, which proposes to impose 
itself upon the conscience as a ready-made truth. Protestant- 
ism unwittingly contained in its own bosom the germ of the 
negation of every positive religion that does not address itself 
exclusively and directly to private judgment, to the moral* 
sense of the individual. In our days no one is willing to 
believe simply what he is told to believe ; he must accept it* 
independently : he believes that the danger of private judg- 
ment is only apparent, and that in the intellectual world, as in 
the world of civil liberty, it is out of liberty that all authority 
worthy of respect takes its rise. The revolution which tends 
thus to replace a religious faith, founded on the authority of 
texts and symbols, by a moral faith founded upon the right of 
private judgment recalls the revolution accomplished three 
centuries ago by Descartes, who substituted evidence and 
reasoning for authority. Humanity is increasingly anxious to 
reason out its own beliefs, to see with its own eyes. The truth 
is no longer exclusively locked up in temples ; it addresses itself 
to everybody, communicates with everybody, gives everybody 
the right to act. In the cult of scientific truth everyone, as 
in the early days of Christianity, is capable of ofificiating in his 
turn ; there are no seats reserved in the sanctuary, there is no 
jealous God, or rather the temples of truth are those which 
each of us rears in his own heart — temples which are no more 
truly Christian than Hebrew or Buddhist. The absorption 
of religion into morality is one with the dissolution of all posi- 
tive and determinate religion, of all traditional symbolism and 
of all dogmatism. Faith, said Heraclitus profoundly, is a 
sacred malady, lepa vo'o-os. For us moderns it is no longer a 
sacred malady, and it is one from which all of us wish to be 
delivered and cured. 



I. The first durable element of religious morality : Respect — Alter- 
ation of respect by tlie addition of the notion of the fear of God 
and divine vengeance. 

II. Second durable element of religious morality: Love — Altera- 
tion of this element by the addition of ideas of grace, predestina- 
tion, damnation — Caducous elements of religious moralit^r — 
Mysticism— Antagonism of divine love and human love — Asceti- 
cism—Excesses of asceticism— Especially in the religions of the 
East — Conception of sin in the modern mind. 

in. Subjective worship and prayer— The notion of prayer from the 
point of view of modern science and philosophy— Ecstasy — The 
survival of prayer. 

Having traced the dissolution of dogma and religious syni- 
bolisin it is appropriate to consider the fate of that system of 
religious morality which rests upon dogma and upon faith. 
There are in religious morality some durable elements and 
some caducous ones which stand out in sharper and sharper 
opposition in the course of the progress of human society. 
The two stable elements of religious morality which will 
occupy us first are respect and love ; these are the elements 
indeed of every system of morality, those which are in no- 
wise related to mysticism or symbolism, and which tend pro- 
gressively to part company with them. 

I. Kant regarded respect or reverence as the moral senti- 
ment par excellence ; the moral law, in his opinion, was a law 
of reverence and not of love, and therein lay its 
elementTbve pretensions to universality : for if it had been a 
over that of re- j^w of love, there would have been a difficulty 
^^^°" in imposing it upon all reasonable beings. I can 

insist on your respecting me but not on your loving me. In 
the sphere of society Kant is right : the law cannot provide 



that men shall love each other, but only that they shall re- 
spect each other's rights. But is the same thing true in the 
sphere of pure morality — have not the two great " universal " 
religions, Buddhism and Christianity, been right in regarding 
love as the controlling principle in ethics? Respect is no 
more than the beginnings of ideal morality ; in the atti- 
tude of respect the soul feels itself restricted, held in check, 
embarrassed. And what in effect essentially is respect, but the 
ability to violate a right on the one hand and on the other a. 
right to go inviolable ? Well, there is another sentiment which 
does away with the very possibility of violence and which 
therefore is even purer than respect, that is to say love, and 
Christianity has so understood it. Be it remarked also that 
respect is necessarily implied in a properly understood moral 
love ; love is superior to respect not because it suppresses it 
but because it completes it. Genuine love inevitably presents 
itself under the form of respect, but this conception of respect, 
abstractly taken, is an empty form without content ; and can 
be filled with love alone. What one respects in the dignity 
of another person is — is it not ? — a personal power held in cheeky 
a sort of moral autonomy. It is possible to conceive a cold 
hard respect that is not absolutely free from some suggestion 
of mechanical necessity. What one loves, on the contrary, in 
the dignity of another person is the element in his character 
which beckons and welcomes one. Is it possible to con- 
ceive a cold love ? Respect is a species of check, love is an 
outleap of emotion ; respect is the act by which will meets 
will ; in love there is no sense of opposition, of calculation, of 
hesitation ; one gives one's self simply and entirely. 

Let it not therefore be made a reproach to Christianity that 
it sees in love the very principle of relationship between 

reasonable beings, the v^ery principle of the moral 
The mistake of , .... -n i • i 11 

Christianity. law and ot justice. raul saj-swith reason that he 

who loves others fulfils the law. In effect, the 
commandments: thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt 
not kill, thou shalt not covet, and the rest, were summed up in : 
thou shalt lov^e thy neighbor as thyself. The defect of Chris- 
tianity — a defect from -.vhich Buddhism is free — is that the 


love of men is there conceived as disappearing, in the last 
analysis, in the love of God. Man is not beloved except in 
God and for God, and human society as a whole possesses no 
foundation nor rule of life except in the relationship of men 
to God. Well, if the love of man for man, properly under- 
stood, actually implies respect for rectitude, the same thing 
cannot be said with the same degree of emphasis for the love 
of man for God, and in God's sight. The conception of 
a society founded on the love of God contains the seeds oi- 
theocratic government with all its abuses. 

Moreover, if in Christian morality love of man resolves itself, 
in the last resort, into love of God, love of God is always 
adulterated with fear; the Old Testament insists upon it with 
positive complacency. The fear of the Lord plays an impor- 
tant role in the celestial sanction, and justice also, which is 
essential to Christianity, and which more or less definitely 
antagonizes and sometimes even paralyzes it. It is thus that, 
after having traced the sentiment of respect itself and of 
justice to a foundation in love, Christianity suddenly reinstates 
the former, re-endows it with precedence and that under its 
most primitive and savage form — the form of fear in man and 
vengeance in God. 

This sanction, we have seen, is a special form of the notion 
of a Providence. Those who believe in a special Providence dis- 
Respectforthe tributing good and evil admit, in the last resort, 
■welfare of sentient that this distribution takes place in conformity 
thrfssenc^^o'/'^^ with the conduct of the receivers and the senti- 
morality. ments of approval or disapproval that that con- 

duct inspires in the divinity. The idea of a Providence, in the 
natural course of its development, becomes therefore one with 
the notion of distributive justice, and this latter, on the other 
hand, becomes one with the idea of divine sanction. The idea 
of divine sanction has been conceived up to this point as one 
of the essential elements of morality, and it seems, at first glance, 
that religion and morality here coincide, that their respective 
needs here unite, or rather that morality reaches completeness 
only by the aid of religion. The notion of distributive justice 
naturally involves the notion of a celestial distributor, but we 


have seen in a preceding work that the notion of a sanction 
properly so called, and the notion of a divine penal code, have 
in reality no essential connection with morality ; that on the 
contrary they possess a character of immorality and irrational- 
ity ; and that thus the religion of the vulgar in no respect coin- 
cides with the highest morality, but that, on the contrary, the 
very fundamental idea of the religion of the vulgar is opposed 
to morality.' The founders of religion believe that the most 
sacred law is the law of the strongest ; but the idea of force' 
logically resolves itself into the relation between power on the 
one hand and resistance on the other, and physical force is 
always, in the sphere of morals, a confession of weakness. The 
sunnmim bomim therefore can contain no suggestion of force 
of this especial kind. If human law, if civil law be condemned 
to rely upon a backing of physical force, it is therein precisely 
that it lies under the reproach of being merely civil and human. 
The case stands otherwise with the moral law, which is immu- 
table, eternal, and in some sort inviolable ; and in the presence 
of an inviolable law one can in no sense assume an attitude 
even of suppressed violence. Force is powerless against the 
moral law, and the moral law has therefore no need on its own 
/ side of a show of force. The sole sanction of which the moral 
law stands in need, the author has said elsewhere, as against 
the man who supposes himself to have abrogated it, is and 
oug-ht to be the mere fact of its continued existence face to 
face with him, rising up before him ever anew, as the giant 
Hercules believed himself to have vanquished rose ever 
stronger to his embrace. To possess the attribute of eternity in 
the face of violence is the only revenge that goodness personi- 
fied or not, under the figure of a god, can permit itself as 
against those who violate it." In human societies one of the 

' See the author's Esqtdsse d'jtne morale sans obligation ni sanction, p. 188, etc. 

■^ " If God had consciously created the human will of such essential perversity as 
to find its natural expression in thwarting Him, He would be impotent in the face 
of it ; could only show Himself compassionate ; could only regret His own act in 
creating it. His duty would not be to punish mankind but to the utmost possible 
degree to lighten their sufferings, to show Himself gentle and good directly in pro- 
portion to this evil ; and the damned, if they were truly incurable, would be in 
greater need of the joys of heaven than the elect themselves. Either the sinner can 


distinguishing traits of high civiHzation is slowness to take 
offence ; with the progress of knowledge one finds less and less 
ground for indignation in the conduct of one's fellow-men. 
When the being involved \:= by definition the very personifica- 
tion of love the idea of offence becomes ridiculous ; it is impos- 
sible for any philosophic mind to admit the bare conception 
of offending God, or of drawing down upon one, in the Biblical 
phrase, his anger or his vengeance. Fear of an external sanc- 
tion, or of any sanction other than that of conscience, is there- 
fore an element that the progress of the modern mind tends 
to exclude from morality. It is in vain for the Bible to say 
that fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom ; morality 
does not truly begin until fear ceases to exist, fear being, as 
Kant said, pathological, not moral. Fear of hell may have 
possessed in former times a certain social utility, but it is 
essentially a stranger in modern society, and, a fortiori, will be 
in the society of the future. Moreover, respect for the happi- 
ness of people in general is becoming less and less adulterated 
by any admixture of fear. This respect, mingled with love and 
even engendered by love, is coming to be an altogether moral, 

be reclaimed ; and in that event hell would be nothing more than an immense school, 
an immense house of correction for preparing the culpable with the utmost possible 
rapidity for heaven ; or the sinner is incorrigible, is analogous to an incurable 
maniac (which is absurd), and then he is eternally to be pitied and a supreme Good- 
ness would endeavour to compensate him for his misery by every imaginable means 
by showering upon him every bliss that he was capable of enjoying. Turn it as one 
will, the dogma of hell stands thus in direct opposition to the truth. 

" For the rest, by the very act of damning a soul, that is to say shutting it out 
forever from His presence, or, in terms less mystical, excluding it forever from a 
knowledge of the truth, would not God in turn be shutting Himself out from the 
soul, limiting His own power, and so to speak in some measure damning Himself 
also ? The penalty of the damnation would fall in part on Him who inflicted it. As 
to the physical torment of which theologians speak, interpreted metaphorically, it 
becomes even more inadmissible. Instead of damning mankind God ought eternally 
to gather about Him those who have strayed from Him ; it is for the culpable above 
all others that, as Michel Angelo said, God opened wide his arms upon the cross. 
We represent Him as looking down upon the sinning multitude from too great a 
height for them ever to be anything to Him but the incarnation of misfortune. 
Well, just in so far as they are unfortunate must they not logically be the especial 
favourites of divine goodness?" — Esquisse d' une morale sans obligation ni sanction, 
p. 189. 


and an altogether philosophic sentiment, purified of anything 
in the nature of mysticism, and in the best sense religious. 

II. Having seen how readily the notion of respect became 

corrupt in Christianity, let us consider the fate of the notion 

of love. If the importance which it gave to this 

Unstable eqni- ... ,-. ^ ,i i, • r i r /^u • i.- 

librium of the principle Constitutes the chief honour of Lhristi- 
Christian notion anitv is not the God of the Christians, neverthe- 

of absolute love. •' ..... 

less, conceived in a manner mconsistent with the 
very essence of His being ? The God of Christianity, or at least . 
of orthodox Christianity, is a conception of absolute love which 
involves a contradiction and the destruction of all true frater- 
nity. For the love affirmed to be absolute is in fact limited, 
since it has to do with a world that is marred by evil, meta- 
physical, sensible, moral. The love is not even universal, since 
it is conceived as an especial grace more or less arbitrarily be- 
stowed or withheld, according to the dogma of predestination. 
The doctrine of grace, round which theology has played with 
such excess of subtlety, completes the highest principle of 
morality, the principle of love by the addition of the grossest 
notion of anthropomorphism : that of favour. God is always 
conceived on the model of absolute kings who accord favour 
and disfavour capriciously ; one of the most vulgar of socio- 
morphic relations being chosen, as one perceives, as the true 
analogue of God's relation to His creatures. The two ele- 
ments of the notion of grace are antagonistic to each other. 
Absolute love is in its nature universal, favouritism is in its 
nature particular. There are, according to theology, a cer- 
tain number of beings who are excluded from universal love; 
the sentence of damnation is in its very essence such an exclu- 
sion. Thus understood, divine charity is incompatible with 
true fraternity, with true charity ; for true charity God does 
not possess — sets us no example of it. If we believe that God 
hates and damns, it will be in vain for Him to forbid personal 
vengeance. We shall inevitably espouse His hatreds, and the 
very principle of vengeance will find its support and its high- 
est realization in Him. When St. Paul said: "Let thyself 
not conquer by the instrumentality of evil, but overcome evil 
by goodness," the precept was admirable. Unhappily God 


was the first to violate it, to decline to overcome evil by good. 
Do as 1 bid thee and not as I myself do is the very spirit 
of Christian teachings. Is it not in the midst of a sort of 
hymn to charity and forgiveness that the characteristic phrase 
of St. Paul occurs : " If thine enemy have hunger give him 
to eat and thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head." Thus 
the apparent forgiveness becomes transmuted into a refined 
form of vengeance, which the divine sanction serves only to 
make more terrible, and which, under the cloak of benefits, 
nay even of caresses, pours upon the head of one's enemy an 
avenging flame; one's very charity sets the torch to the fires of 
hell. This indelible stain of barbarism on the page of love, 
this atavistic animal instinct of vengeance ascribed to God, 
shows the dangerous side of the theological element intro- 
duced into the morality of love. 

Another danger to which a religion founded upon a divine 
love is subject is mysticism; a sentiment destined to an in- 
creasing antagonism with the modern mind and 
Conflict between 1,1 r 1 ■ 1 1 • 

divine and human condemned, therefore, ultimately to disappear. 
l°^«' The heart of man, in spite of its fertility in giving 

birth to passions of all sorts, has nevertheless always concen- 
trated itself upon a small number of objects which find their own 
level. God and the world are two antagonists between which 
our sensibility is portioned out. One or the other of them in- 
evitably receives the greater share. In all times religious sects 
have felt a possible opposition between absolute love of God 
and love of man. In a number of religions God has shown 
himself jealous of the affection devoted to others, and thus in 
a sense stolen from Him. He was not content with the super- 
fluity of the human heart. He was bent on appropriating the 
soul in its entirety. Among the Hindus, as we know, the 
very essence of supreme piety lies in detachment from 
the world, in a life of solitude in the midst of great forests, in 
the rejection of all earthly affection, in a mystical indifference 
in regard to all mortal things. In the western world, when 
Christianity had made its way, this thirst of solitude, this 
home-sickness for the desert seized once more upon the soul, 
and thousands of men fled the faces of their fellows, quitting 


their families and their homes, renouncing all other love but 
that of God, feeling themselves more intimately in His pres- 
ence when they were distant from all beings else but Him. 
The whole of the Middle Ages were tormented by this antag- 
onism between divine and human love. In the end, with the 
immense majority of men, human love carried the day. It 
could not be otherwise ; the very Church could not preach 
complete detachment for everybody under pain of having no- 
body to preach to. But among scrupulous and strenuous • 
souls the opposition between divine and human love mani- 
fested itself in all the circumstances of life. One remembers 
Mme. Perier's account of Pascal. She was surprised at times 
that her brother repulsed her, became suddenly cold to her, 
turned away from her when she approached to soothe him 
in his pain ; she began to think he did not love her, she 
complained of it to her sister, but it was in vain to try to 
undeceive her. Finally the enigma was explained on the very 
day of Pascal's death by Domat, one of his friends. Mme. 
Perier learned that in Pascal's opinion the most innocent and 
fraternal friendship is a fault for which one habitually fails to 
take one's self sufificiently to task, because one underestimates 
its magnitude. " By fomenting and suffering these attach- 
ments to grow up, one is giving to someone else some por- 
tion of what belongs to God alone; one is in a manner robbing 
Him of what is to Him the most precious thing in all the 
world." It would be impossible better to express the mysti- 
cal antagonism between divine and human love. This princi- 
ple occupied so prominent a place in the foreground of Pascal's 
mind that, the more readily to keep it always before him, he 
wrote with his own hand upon a piece of paper : " It is unjust 
in me to permit anyone ,to form an attachment for me, how- 
ever voluntarily, and with whatever pleasure they may do it. 
In the long run I should deceive them, for I belong to nobody 
but to God, and have not the wherewithal to satisfy a human 
affection. . . I should therefore be culpable, if I should 
allow anyone to love me, if I should attract people toward me. 
. . . They should pass their lives and employ their effort in 
pleasing and searching for God." The instant God is con- 

DissoLurioy of religious morality. 203 

ceived as a person and not as a simple ideal, there inevitably 
arises in souls tinged with mysticism, a rivalry between His 
claims and those of other persons. How can the Absolute 
admit any human being to a share of what essentially is His? 
He must dwell in as absolute a solitude at the bottom of 
man's heart as on the height of heaven. 

The rivalry between divine and human love perceived by 
the Jansenists, as by many of the early Christians and by mys- 
tics generally, exists even to-day for a large num- 

Exists at the j^^j. q£ men. In certain religious houses any 

present day. ^ 

excessively affectionate demonstration toward 
their parents is forbidden to children, and a fraternal or filial 
kiss is made the basis of a case of conscience. If Protestant 
education and custom are not at one on this point with Cath- 
olic education and custom, the reason is that Protestantism, as 
has already been observed, has no talent for ultimate logical 
consequences. Catholicism, on the contrary, holds logic in 
scrupulous respect. To cite but one example: is not the inter- 
diction of marriage in the case of the clergy a logical deduc- 
tion from the conception of a religion which is founded on the 
theory of the fall of man, and whose purpose in the w^orld is 
essentially anti-carnal ? Love for a woman is too absorbing, 
too exclusive, to coexist in the heart of a priest, side by side 
with an undiminished love for God. Of all the sentiments of 
the soul, love is the one which fills it most nearly to the limit 
of its capacity. It is, in this respect, in diametric opposition to 
the theological sentiment which consists in the recognition of 
a sort of subjective void and personal insufficiency. Two 
lovers are of all the world the beings who are most sufficient 
unto themselves, they are of all the world those who experi- 
ence least the need of God. Well, for mystics, love that is not 
given to God is love wasted. The lightest veil is enough to 
screen them once and forever from the " intelligible sun." It 
is of the very essence of such a God to be relegated to some 
region above the world, exiled in a manner from the soul 
of man ; there are regions of love in which He does not exist 
ard never will exist. He calls me, and if I do not turn my 
face in His direction precisely, I lose Him. 


The absolute detachment of the mystic leads to another 

consequence which is equally in opposition to modern tenden- 

Conflict between *^'^^ ' ^^ treats, that is to say, as an absolute zero 

mysticism and a being who has at least the value of unit)', to 

egoism. ^^.-j. . j.j^^ ^^^^ j^ J ^^^^ ^^ ^j^^ welfare of all 

sentient beings indiscriminatingly, I aim also in some measure 
at my own, who am one of them ; and moreover, it is for my 
own that I can labour to best advantage. This ego counts 
for something in this world, it is a unit in tlie sum. The pure- 
love inculcated by mysticism, on the contrary, lets the ego go 
for nothing, after the manner of the muleteer, who, in reckon- 
ing his mules, always forgot to count the one he was sitting 
on ; the missing mule never turned up except when he dis- 
mounted, so that he ultimately resolved to go forward on foot. 
The transcendent and chimerical morality of mysticism might 
be compared to a purely humanitarian theory of politics ; it is 
indeed even more abstract. Patriotism, no doubt, leans upon 
a delusion wdien it regards one's native country as the centre 
of the world, but does not humanitarianism lean not upon one 
but upon a whole series of illusions? In the item of illusions 
here below one must put up with the least false and most use- 
ful. Well, it is probably not wholly without utility that each 
nation in the universe should act for itself; if each should 
attempt to act exclusively for the universe as a whole and for 
the love of the whole, either it would not act at all or it would 
conceive the future of the universe practically on the model of 
its own future and would commit an uninterrupted succession 
of mistakes. Very frequently in this world unconscious and 
indirect collaboration is more efficacious than that which is 
conscious and direct. Men often do more for the best aims 
of humanity by directing their attention in a spirit of rivalry 
toward needs comparatively immediate but which for that 
very reason stimulate their efforts and their hopes, than by 
uniting for the attainment of an object so distant that it dis- 
courages them. In morals and politics one has not only to 
hit upon the best means of combining the forces of humanity, 
but also upon what is the best means of exciting human effort ; 
and on that score there is something to be said even for the 


love of the parish in winch one is born. One's parish is at least 
a definite object: one knows where it is, one cannot lose one's 
way, one may entertain a hope, nay even a certitude, of reach- 
in"- it, and hope and certitude are great allies. And the same 
is true of self-love and love for those with whom one identifies 
one's self. It is precisely this that mysticism ignores and by 
that means puts itself in opposition to the scientific spirit. 
For mysticism there is no compromise possible between the 
fact and its ideal which denies the fact. Logically mysticism 
oueht to address its efforts toward total annihilation, much 
after the manner of the followers of Schopenhauer and of Hart- 
mann. It would be better for the world to go off in smoke, 
so to speak ; to become sublimated like the corpses which the 
worshippers of the sun used to expose to its rays, to be con- 
verted, as far as possible, into vapour. 

Excess destroys itself. If pleasure ends in disgust, mysti- 
cism possesses also its seamy side in a certain disenchantment 

with God himself, in a certain home-sickness 
h^7^1in^°*^ °^ for unknown joys, in that sadness peculiar to the 

cloister for which Christians were obliged to 
invent a new name, in the Latin language, to designate — acedia. 
When in the Middle Ages all one's preoccupations and affections 
were turned toward heaven, human tenderness was impoverished 
to precisely that extent. The intellectual and moral evolution 
of our days has moved in a contrary direction ; love of God is 
on the decline. Love of mankind, on the contrary, and love of 
living beings in general, is on the increase. A sort of substitu- 
tion of the one for the other is taking place. Does it not seem 
as if earth's turn had come, and that much of the force previously 
spent in futile adoration, devoted toward the clouds, is being 
more and more practically employed in the service of humanity? 
Formerly, ideas of human fraternity and loving equality 
were promoted in especial by the Christians. The explanation 

is simple : God was conceived by them as an 

Love of man to actual father, a ^enitor ; men seemed to the 
take its place. 7, , r ■•, ^ • 

early Christians all of one family, having a com- 

mon ancestor. So that divine love and human love were 

regarded by them as inseparably bound up with each other. It 


is to be added that Christianity, which made its way into the 
world through the lower classes of society, had everything to 
gain by giving prominence to notions of fraternity and equality ; 
it was by this means among others that it conciliated the 
masses, who were for a long time its main support. But from 
the moment it found itself able to rely upon the higher classes 
of society, how quickly it changed its language is well known, 
and at the present moment the position of Christianity is 
precisely opposite to that which it occupied in the ancieirt 
world. Ardent advocates of the ideas of fraternity are often ad- 
versaries of religion, are often free-thinkers, sometimes decided 
atheists. The system of thought which founded the love of 
men for each other' upon a community of origin is almost 
universally rejected. Social doctrines, which in former times 
were so often based upon the element of socialism in the New 
Testament, are nowadays being formed and inculcated in 
complete independence of religious faith and 'often in positive 
antagonism to any religious faith whatever. Religion some- 
times presents itself as an additional obstacle, simply, to the 
brotherhood of man, in that it creates more stubborn divisions 
among them than differences of class or even of language. 
By an inevitable evolution religion has to-day come to repre- 
sent among certain nations the spirit of caste and intolerance, 
and consequently of jealousy and enmity, whereas non-religion 
has come to be the recognized champion of social equality, of 
tolerance, and of fraternity. Behind God, rightly or wrongly, 
as behind their natural defender, the partisans of the old order 
of things, of privilege and hereditary enmities, have ranged 
themselves; in the breast of the faithful a mystical love for 
God corresponds to-day as in other days to an anathema and 
malediction on mankind. It was long ago remarked that those 
whose blessing is most fluent can also show themselves at 
need the most fluent to curse ; the most mystical are the most 
violent. Nothing can equal the violence of the gentle Jesus 
himself when he is speaking of the Pharisees, whose doctrines 
possessed so close an analogy to his own. Whoever believes 
himself to have felt the breath of God upon his forehead 
becomes bitter and obstinate in his relations with mere men ; 


he is no longer one of them. So that the notion of the divine, 
of the superhuman tends toward that of the antinatural and 

The aim of progress in modern societies is to domesticate 
peace within their limits as well as without, to suppress mysti- / 

cism, and to concentrate upon the real universe, 1 
f ^^^^°^°^*°^ present or to come, the whole body of our affec- ' 

tions ; to bind our hearts together in so intimate 
a union that they shall be sufficient untO themselves and unto 
each other, and that the human world, magnified by the eyes I 
of love, may gather to itself the totality of things. In the first 
place the love of family, which scarcely existed at all in ancient 
times, and which in the Middle Ages was almost entirely ab- 
sorbed by the conception of authority and of subordination, can 
scarcely be said to have acquired before our days a consider- 
ble hold on human life. . It is only since the eighteenth cen- 
tury and the spread of the theory of equality that the father 
of a family, in especial in France, has ceased to consider him- 
self as a sort of irresponsible sovereign, and begun to treat his * 
wife in some sort as his equal and to exercise over his children 
no more than the minimum of possible authority. Whenever 
women shall receive an education almost equivalent to that 
given to men, the moral equality between them and men will 
have been consecrated, and as love is always more complete 
and more durable between beings who consider each other as 
morally equal, it follows that the love of family will increase, 
will draw to itself a greater proportion of the desires and 
aspirations of the individual. In positive opposition to 
relig-ion, which has undertaken to combat the love of woman 
by restraining it within narrow limits, the love of woman has 
attained little by little an intensity that it never possessed in 
ancient times: it suffices to read our poets to become con- 
vinced of it, and it will continue to increase with the intel- 
lectual development of women, which will make a closer 
and more complete union between men and women possible 
than exists at present. The association of man and woman 
being capable thus of becoming in a manner a sort of intel- 
lectual association and fellowship, it will result in a fertility of 


a new species : love will no longer act upon the intelligence 
solely as the most powerful of stimulants, it will contribute 
positive elements hitherto unknown. It is impossible to 
predict the sort of work that the combined labour of man and 
woman will produce when they possess a preparation for it 
that will be practically upon both sides equal. Some hint of 
what one means may be gathered from examples actually 
under one's eyes. In the present century men and women of 
talent are tending to come into closer relations with each' 
other; and I might cite the names of Michelet and Mme. 
Michelet, of John Stuart Mill and his wife, of Lewes and 
George Eliot, and other names besides. But not to give an 
undue prominence to great names like these, which are after 
all exceptions in the human race, it is not too much to assert 
that from the very top of the social ladder to the bottom the 
family tends increasingly to become a unity, a more and more 
perfect organism in which man will one day find scope for all 
of his powers and capabilities. The importance of the family 
increases, as that of the city and of the despotic tutelage of 
the state decreases. This importance, which is almost non- 
existent in purely military societies (of which Lacedaemon 
may serve as the accomplished exemplar), becomes greater and 
greater in free and industrial societies such as those of the 
future, and thus there opens a new field for human activity 
and sensibility. The love of men and women for each other 
and of both for their children, heightened by the growing 
sentiment of equality, is destined in the author's judgment to 
create a new and non-mystical sort of religion, the worship of 
the family. If a cult for the gods of the hearth was one of 
the earliest religions, perhaps it will also be actually the last : 
the family hearth possesses in and of itself an element of 
sacredness, of religion, since it binds together as about a 
common centre beings so diverse in origin and sex. And 
thus the modern family, founded on the law of equality, seems 
by its very spirit, and by the sentiments which it excites, to be 
in growing opposition to religious mysticism. The true type 
of the priest, whatever Protestantism may say, is the solitary 
man, the missionary here below, devoted body and soul to 


God ; whereas the type of the practical philosopher and the 
modern sage is a loving, thinking, labouring man, devoted to 
those who are dear to him. 

A similar antagonism may be seen between the sentiment of 
mysticism and of allegriance to the state. The citizen who 


And love of 

knows that the fate of his country lies in his 
arms, who loves his country with an active and 
sincere love, is a worshipper in a social religion. 
Great politicians have almost always been large and liberal 
minds. The ancient republics were comparatively non-religious 
for their time ; the disappearance of monarchy coincides in 
general, in the history of mankind, with enfeeblement of 
faith. When everybody shall feel himself as equally and 
truly a citizen as anybody else, and shall be able to devote 
himself with an equal love to the good of the state, there will 
no longer be so great a store of unemployed activity, of sur- 
plus sensibility lying ready to the hand of mysticism. For 
the rest, let us magnify a little the sphere of human activity ; 
not only the family and the state are nowadays demanding an 
increasingly large share of one's attention and affection, but 
the human race itself is coming to be each day more and 
more intimately present to the mind of each of us. We find 
it more and more difificult even in thought to isolate ourselves, 
to become absorbed either in ourselves, or in God. The 
human world has become infinitely more human than for- 
merly ; all the bounds which separated men from each other 
(religion, language, nationality, race) are regarded already by 
superior men as artificial. The human race itself is coming to 
be recognized as a part only of the animal kingdom, the entire 
world claims the attention of science, offers itself to our love 
and opens for the devotees of mysticism the perspective of a 
species of universal fraternity. Just in so far as the universe 
thus grows larger, it becomes less and less insufificient in our eyes ; 
and this surplus of love, which formerly mounted toward heaven 
in search of some transcendent resting place, finds ample room 
upon the surface of the earth and of heavenly bodies not 
unknown to astronomy. If the mystical tendency of the 
human mind be not destined completely to disappear, if it 


possesses any element of permanency, it will at least change its 
direction, and indeed, little by little is changing it. Christians 
were in no sense wrong in finding society in ancient times too 
narrow and the ancient world too cabined and confined under 
its dome of crystal ; the very reason for the existence of 
Christianity lay in tiiis vicious conception of society and of 
nature. To-day the one thing needful is to magnify the 
world till it shall satisfy the needs of man ; until an equilibrium 
be established between the universe and the human heart. 
The aim of science is not to extinguish the need to love 
which constitutes so considerable an element of the religious 
sentiment, but to supply that need with an actually existing 
object ; its function is not to put a check upon the outleap of 
human affection but to justify it. 

And remark, also, that if the love of a personal God mystic- 
ally conceived tends to become dim in modern societies, the 
^ ^, , . same is not true of the love of an ideal God con- 

Bnt the love of _ 

a personal God ceived as the practical type o^ conduct. The 

guTshedfn'aUtliis '^^^^ ^od, in effect, in no sense exists in opposi- j 
fromlove ofthe tion to the world, He surpasses it simply; He is 
at bottom identical with the progress of human 
thought which, with its point of departure in. brute fact, out- 
strips the actual and foresees and prepares the way for per- 
petual progress. In human life the real and the ideal are 
harmonized, for life as a whole both is and becomes. Who- 
ever says life, says evolution ; and evolution is the Jacob's 
ladder resting both on heaven and on earth ; at the base of it 
we are brutes, at the summit of it we are gods, so that 
religious sentiment cannot be said so much to be in opposition 
to science and philosophy as to complete them ; or rather, it is 
at bottom identical with the spirit that animates them. We 
have spoken of religion as science, — in its beginnings as uncon- 
scious science ; in the same way science may be called religion 
headed back toward reality; headed, that is to say in the nor- 
mal direction. Religion says to the human race : Bind your- 
selves together into a single whole ; science shows the human 
race that all mankind are inevitably parts of a single whole al- 
ready, and the teaching of the two is practically one. 


In effect there is taking place a certain substitution in our 

affections ; we are coming to love God in man, the future in 

the present, the ideal in the real. The man of 

Summary. ... . , , /^ . r ^1 

evolution is precisely the man-God of Christianity. 
And this love of the ideal harmonized with the love of hu- 
manity, instead of finding its vent in vain contemplation and 
ecstasy, will fill the limbs with energy. We shall love God all 
the more that He will be, so to speak, the work of our own 
hands. And if there be really at the bottom of the human 
heart some indestructible element of mystic^m, it will be em- 
ployed as an important factor in the service of evolution ; our 
heart will go out to our ideas, and we shall adore them in pro- 
portion as we shall realize them. Religion having become the 
purest of all things — pure love of the ideal — will at the same 
time have become the realest and in appearance the humblest 
of all things — labour. 

The natural and practical complement of mysticism 
is asceticism ; and asceticism is another of the elements 
of religious morality that are becoming daily 
ascetidsm.™ ^^ feebler in the presence of the modern spirit. 
Austerity is of two kinds, the one quite mysti- 
cal in origin, despising art, beauty, science ; the other founded 
on a certain moral stoicism, a certain respect for one's self. 
, ^. . . The latter is in no sense ascetic, it is composed 

Asceticism in ' ^ 

the good and the for the most part of the very love for science and 
art, but it is the highest art only that it loves, and 
science for science's sake that it pursues. The excess of auster- 
ity, to whi(?li religions have so often led, bears the same relation 
to virtue that avarice does to economy. Austerity alone does 
not constitute a merit or an element of superiority. Life may 
be much more gentle, more social, better on many accounts 
among a people of loose manners like the ancient Greeks, 
than among a people who regard existence as hard and dry, 
and who make it so by the brutality of their faith and ignore 
the lightening of the burden of life that lies in smiles and tears. 
One would rather live with prodigals than with misers. Ava- 
rice, however, which may be regarded in the life of a people or 


of a family as a state of transition, is economically and morally 
superior to prodigality. The same may be said of excessive 
rigour. E.xcessive rigour and avarice are defects which are 
rendered tolerable by their consequences, which impoverish 
life in order subsequently, with a freer hand, to enrich it. It 
is better for the race if not always so for the individual to be 
economical to excess than to dissipate its resources intemper- 
ately. An impulse held in check gathers force. Austerity, 
like avarice, is a means of defence and of protection, a weapon.- 
Conquerors have often in the course of history been the sons 
of misers who have amassed treasure and blood for their bene- 
fit. From time to time it is good to regard one's self as an 
enemy, and to live and sleep in a coat of mail. For the rest, 
there are temperaments that can be held in check by nothing 
lighter than bars of iron, that find no mean between pure water 
and pure alcohol ; between a bed of roses and a crown of 
thorns ; between moral law and military discipline ; between 
a moralist and a corporal. Still, one must not represent such 
a state of mind at least as ideal. The ascetic hates himself ; 
but one must hate nobody, not even one's self; one must un- 
derstand all things and regulate them. Hatred of self springs 
from feebleness of will ; w^hoever is gifted with self-control 
need not hate himself. Instead of giving one's self a bad name 
one's duty is to make one's self worthy of a better. There 
may well be a certain legitimate element of rigour, of inner 
discipline, in every system of morality ; but this discipline 
should be reasonable, rationally directed toward an end which 
explains and justifies it: one's business is not to break the 
body but to fashion it, to bend it. The savant, for example, 
should aim to develop his brain, to refine his nervous system, 
to reduce his circulatory and nutritive system to their lowest 
terms. You may call that asceticism if you like, but it is a 
fertile, a useful asceticism ; it is at bottom a moral hygiene 
simply — which ought to be made a part of physical hygiene. 
A surgeon knows that he must lead a severe and continent 
life, or his hand will lose its cunning. The very condition of 
his being able to aid other people is that he in a measure 
suffer privation himself ; he must choose. And to make this 


choice he experiences no need of a religious injunction, he re- 
quires only the voice of conscience. It suffices for him to 
know enough of moral hygiene to foresee the distant results 
of his conduct and to possess a sufficient measure of firmness 
to be self-consistent. It is after this fashion that, in plotting 
out one's life according to scientific laws, one may regulate it, 
may render it almost as hard as that of the most self-denying 
monk. Every profession that is freely chosen is in the nature 
of a self-imposed discipline. As to the choice of no profes- 
sion, as to voluntary idleness — that is in and of itself immoral 
and necessarily leads to immorality, whatever may be the reli- 
gion that one holds. 

The ultimate consequence of excessive rigourism is morbid 

preoccupation with sin : an obsession which, with the fear i 

. ^. , of the millennium, is one of the greatest of the 

Asceticism re- ° j 

suits in a preoccu- futile tortures that have afflicted humanity. It I 
pationwit sin. j^ ^^ dangerous for man to magnify his vices as 
his virtues ; to believe one's self a monster possesses no 
greater exemption from evil consequences than to believe one's 
self perfect. Sin in itself, and philosophically considered, 
is a conception difficult to reconcile with the modern idea of 
scientific determinism, which, when it has explained everything, 
goes far, if not toward justifying everything, at least toward 
pardoning everything. Neither the pangs nor the vanity of 
sin are permissible to us nowadays when we are hardly cer- 
tain really that our own sins belong to us. Temptation comes 
to us in the guise of the reawaking of an hereditary appetite, \ 
handed down to us not only from the first man, but from the ' 
ancestors of the first man, or more accurately from life itself, 
from the universe, from the God who is immanent in the 
world or who transcends it, and has created it ; it is not the 
devil that tempts us, it is God. Like Jacob, of whom we 
were speaking a moment ago, we must vanquish God, must 
subject life to thought, must give the victory to the higher 
forms of life, as against the lower. If we are wounded in this 
struggle, if we are branded with the mark of sin, if we mount 
haltingly up the steps of goodness, we ought not to be immeas- 
urably terrified : the essential thing is to go upward. Temp- 


tation is not in and of itself a blot, it may be even an emblem 
of nobility so long as one does not yield to it. Our first 
fathers were not subject to temptation, properly so called, 
because they yielded to all their desires, because they made 
no struggle against them. Sin or moral evil is explicable : 
first by the antagonism between instinct and reflection ; 
second, by the antagonism between egoistic instincts and 
altruistic instincts. This double antagonism between instinct 
and conscious purpose, between egoism and altruism, is a* 
necessary incident of self-knowledge and a condition of 
progress : to know one's self is to be aware more or less 
uneasily of a manifold, and succession of inconsistent desires 
of which the moving equilibrium constitutes life itself ; self- 
knowledge, and knowledge in general, is the equivalent of 
temptation. Life is in some sort always sin, for one cannot 
eat, one cannot even breathe without some measure of 
affirmation of low and egoistic instincts. Moreover ascetic- 
ism logically leads nowhere, to negation of life ; the most 
thorough-going ascetics are the Yoghis of India, who attain 
the point of living without air or food and of going down 
alive into the tomb.' And in believing himself thus to 
have realized absolute renunciation, what the ascetic actually 
realized is complete and perfect egoism, for the last drops 
of vegetative life which flow in his veins circulate for him 
alone and not a shiver of his heart is directed beyond himself; 
by impoverishing and annihilating his life, he has suppressed 
the generosity that fulness of life produced ; in his endeavour 
to kill sin he has slaughtered charity. The real moral and 

' The fact has been verified by the English authorities and has been commented 
on by the physiologist W. Preyer {Uher die Erforschimg des Lebens, Jena, and 
Samrnlung physiologischer Abhandlungen). Yoghis who have attained the highest 
degree of perfection, and are insensible to cold and to heat and have contracted, by 
a series of experiments, the habit of breathing almost not at all, have been buried 
alive and resuscitated at the end of some weeks. When they were reawakened a 
heightening of the temperature was noticed as in the case of the reawaking of 
hibernating mammals, and it is indeed to the phenomena of hibernation that this 
strange voluntary suspension of animation most closely approaches — this mystical 
return to a life merely vegetative, this absorption in the bosom of the uncon- 
scious, where the Yoghis hopes to find God. As a preliminary discipline the 


religious ideal does not consist in denying one's self every- 
thing in order to deny one's self what is sinful. There is 
nothing absolutely evil in us, except excess ; when we apply 
the knife to our hearts, we should have but one aim, the 
one which the gardener has in view in pruning trees, to 
increase our real power. Our manifold desires should all be 
satisfied at one time or another ; we should take example from 
the mother who forces herself to eat that she may watch 
to the end at the bedside of her dying child. Whoever pur- 
poses to live for others besides himself, will find no time to 
sulk ; for w^hoever possesses a heart sufficientl}^ great no func- 
tion in life is impure. Every moral rule should be a recon- 
ciliation between egoism and altruism, original sin and ideal 
sanctity ; and to accomplish this reconciliation it suf^ces to 
show that each of our manifold and mutually exclusive 
desires, if carried to the extreme, contradicts itself ; that our 
desires need each other, that when nature endeavours to rise 
above herself she inevitably falls headlong. To govern one's 
self means to reconcile all parties. Ormuzd and Ahriman, 
spirit and nature, are not so hostile to each other as seems to 
be believed, and either of them indeed is powerless without 
the other. They are two gods whose origin is the same, they 
are immortal, and for immortals some means of accommoda- 
tion must be found. Complete and unremunerated sacrifice 
never can be adopted as a rule of life ; never can be more than 
a sublime conception, a spark in some individual existence, 
consuming the fuel it feeds upon and then disappearing 
and leaving behind, face to face, the two great principles, 

Yoghis diminishes little by little the quantity of air and light necessarj' to his life ; 
he lives in a cell which is lit and ventilated by no more than a single cliink ; he 
minimizes all movement in order to mimimize the necessity of respiration; he ioes 
not speak except to repeat to himself twelve thousand times a day the mystic 
name of Om ; he remains for hours together motionless as a statue. He prac- 
tises breathing over again and again the same body of air, and the longer the 
period between inspiration and expiration, the greater his sanctity ! Finally he 
carefully seals all the openings of his body with wax and cotton and closes *he 
opening of the throat with the tongue, which certain incisions permit him to fold 
over backward, and finally falls into a lethargy in wiiich the movements of respira- 
tion may be suspended without the thread of life positively being severed. 


a conscious reconciliation of which constitutes the moral 

The very nature of the conceptions confirms what we have 
just said respecting temptation and sin. Directly or indi- 
rectly, every idea is a suggestion, an incitement to 

Eesnlts a priori ■" •' °° . 

from the nature of action; it tends even to take exclusive possession 
^^^^^' of us, to become a fixed idea, to employ us as a 

means to its own end, to realize itself often in spite of us; 
but as our thought embraces all things in the universe, high 
and low, we are incessantly solicited to act in opposite direc- 
tions ; temptation, from this point of view, is simply the law of 
thought, and the law of sensibility. And ascetics and priests 
have endeavoured as a means of struggling against temptation 
to confine human thought, to prevent it from playing freely 
about the things of this world. But the things of this world 
are precisely those which are always present, which solicit us 
most strongly and constantly. And the greater our effort to 
exclude them from the mind, the greater their power over us. 
There is nothing one sees more clearly than what one resolves 
not to look at ; there is nothing that makes the heart beat so 
quickly as what one resolves not to love. The cure for tempta- 
tion, so persistently demanded by essentially religious people^ 
is not restriction of thought but enlargement of thought. The 
visible world cannot be hidden, it is folly to attempt it, but it 
can be magnified indefinitely. Incessant discoveries may be 
made in it and the peril of certain points of view counteracted 
by the novelty and attractiveness of certain others, and the 
known universe lost sight of in the abyss of the unknown. 
Thought bears its own antidote — a science sufficiently great 
is more trustworthy than innocence ; a boundless curiosity is 
the cure for all petty curiosities. An eye which reaches the 
stars will not aim long at a low mark ; it is protected by its 
command of space and light, for light is purifying. By mak- 
ing temptation infinite one makes it salutary and in the best 
sense divine. Asceticism, and the artificial maturity that 
comes of a dissolute life, often amount to the same thing. One 
must keep one's youth and memory green, and one's heart 
open. " I was not a man before years of manhood," said 


Marcus Aurelius. Both asceticism and debauchery make men 
precociously old, we.iii them from love and enthusiasm for the 
things of this world. The island of Cythere and the desert of 
Thebes are alike deserts. To remain young long, to remain 
a child even in the spontaneity and affectionateness of one's 
heart, to preserve not in externals, but in " internals," some- 
thing of lightness and gaiety is the best means of dominating 
life ; for what is more powerful than youth ? One must neither 
stiffen one's self, nor bristle up against life, nor cowardly aban- 
don one's self to it ; one must take it as it is, that is to say, 
according to the popular maxim, "as it comes," and welcome 
it with an infant's smile without any other care than to maintain 
one's possession of one's self, in order that one may possess all 

III. Morality and religion are inseparable in all historical 
faiths, and the essential act of subjective worship, the 

fundamental rite commanded by religious 

morality, is prayer. 
To analyze prayer into all its component elements would 
be very difficult and far from simple. Prayer may be an 

almost mechanical accomplishment of the rite. 
Kinds of prayer j ^j^bbling of vain words, and as such it is 

despicable even from the point of view of 
religion. It may be an egoistic demand, and as such it is 
mean, simply. It may be an act of naive faith in beliefs more 
or less popular and irrational, and on this score its value is so 
slight that it may be neglected. But it may be also the 
disinterested outpouring of a soul which believes itself to be 
in some fashion or other serving someone else, acting upon 
the world by the ardour of its faith, conferring a gift, an offer- 
ing, devoting something of itself to someone else. Therein 
lies the grandeur of prayer: it is then no more than one of 
the forms of charity and the love of mankind. But suppose 
it should be demonstrated that this especial form of charity 
is illusory, does one imagine that the very principle of charity 
itself will by that fact receive a check ? 

Many arguments have been urged in favour_of__£rayer, but 

1^ OF TBF '^ 




the majority of them are quite external and superficial. 
Prayer, it has been said, as being a demand on a special 

Superficiality of P^ovidence, is sovereignly consoling; it is one of 
most pleas in its the sweetest of the satisfactions incident to reli. 

® ^ ■ gious faith. One who had been converted to free- 

thought said to me recently, " There is but one thing in my 
former faith that I regret, and that is that I can no longer 
pray for you and imagine that I am serving you." Assuredly 
it is sad to lose a faith which consoled one ; but suppose that . 
someone believed himself to possess the fairy-wand and to be 
able to save the world. Some fine morning he finds himself 
undeceived, he finds himself alone in the world with no power 
at his disposal more mysterious than that of his ten fingers 
and his brain. He cannot but regret his imaginary power, but 
he will labour nevertheless to acquire a real power and the 
loss of his illusions will but serve as a stimulus to his will. 
It is always dangerous to believe that one possesses a power 
that one has not, for it hinders one in some degree from 
knowing and exercising those that one has. The men of 
former times, the times of absolute monarchy, who had 
access to the ear of princes, possessed a power analogous to 
that which the believers on their knees in temples still believe 
themselves to possess; this power, in the case of kings, their 
confidential ministers have lost as the result of purely terres- 
trial revolutions; and have they thereby been diminished in 
their dignity as moral beings? No, a man is morally greater 
as a citizen than as a courtier; one is greater as the result of 
what one does one's self only, or attempts to do, and not as 
the result of what one endeavours to obtain from a master. 

Will the individual never be able to do without prayers 

conceived as a constant communication w^ith God, as a daily 

confession, a faith in Him and before Him ? He 

Arguments for . .... , , 

its utility equally Will probably not renounce it until he is capable 

S°°J^°' ^''™^^^' of existing without it. Arguments to prove the 
confession. ... . 

practical utility of prayer, conceived as a direct 
communication with one's living ideal, would all hold equally 
good in favour of Catholic confession before the priest as a 
realization of the moral ideal. Nevertheless, when Protestants 



supressed the confession they gave a fresh development to 
moral austerity : the morality of Protestant peoples, which is 
defended only by the voice of conscience, is not inferior to 
that of Catholic peoples.' Is it any more necessary for the 
purpose of ascertaining one's faults and curing them to kneel 
before a personified and anthropomorphic God than before a 
priest beneath the roof of a church ? Experience alone can 
decide, and a number of men seem already successfully to have 
tried the experiment. The scrutiny of a philosophical con- 
science has been proved to be sufficient. 

Finally it has been said that prayer, even conceived as 
destitute of objective effect, nevertheless justifies itself by the 

comfort it affords ; one has attempted to argue 
jectivereUef ^^ " ^^ ^^^ favour on purely subjective grounds, but 

prayer runs the risk precisely of losing its power 
as a consoler the instant one ceases to believe in its objective 
efficiency. If nobody hears us, who will continue to offer up 
petitions simply to ease the burden of his own heart? If the 
orator is uplifted by the sympathy of the assembly which 
listens to him, does it follow that he will experience the same 
effect if he deliver his oration in the void with the knowledge 
that his thought, his word, his emotion, are lost, and spend 
themselves in space ? 

If prayer is really to be its own reward, it must not consist 
of a demand addressed to some Being exterior to one's self, it 

must be a subjective act of love, what Christianity 
ity° he durable" calls an act of charity. Charity is the eternal 
element ia prayer, element in prayer. To ask for something for 
one's self is a thing difficult to justify ; to ask for something 
for someone else is at least a beginning of disinterested con- 
duct. " How much longer thy prayers grow, grandmama, day 
by day! " " The number of those for whom I pray increases 
day by day." Over and above this element of charity, prayer 
contains a certain beauty — a beauty which will not disappear 
with the disappearance of the superstitions which have clustered 
about it. The moral beauty of prayer is intimately bound up 
with certain profound human sentiments: one prays for 

' See below chapter iv. 


somebody whom one loves ; one prays out of pity or of affec- 
tion ; one prays in despair, in hope, in gratitude ; so that the 
most elevated of human sentiments sometimes ally them- 
selves with prayer and colour it. This tension of one's whole 
being at such times finds its way out upon the visage, and 
transfigures it with the intense expression that certain painters 
have loved to catch and to perpetuate.' What is most beauti- 
ful and probably also what is best in prayer is, more than all 
else, the human and moral element in it. If there is thus an 
essential charity in genuine prayer, charity of the lips is not 
enough, that of the heart and hands must be added to it, and 
that is to say in the last resort action must be substituted 
for it. 

Prayer for love and charity tends increasingly to find vent 
in action: a verification of this fact may be found in history. 

Formerly, in a moment of distress, a pagan 
Increasing ten- i i i .1 1 . 1 r 

dencyforsnch woman would have thought only of appeasing 

prayer to express the anger of the Gods by some blood sacrifice, 
itself in action, i ^1 1 r • , r 1 

by the murder 01 some mnocent member of the 

larger mammals ; in the Middle Ages she would have made a 

vow or founded a chapel — things still vain and powerless to 

alleviate the misery of this world ; in our days she would 

think rather, if she were a person of some elevation of spirit, 

of giving money in charity, of founding an establishment for 

the instruction of the poor or the care of the infirm. One sees 

in that fact the march of progress in religious ideas ; the time 

will come when such actions will no longer be accomplished 

for a directly interested end but as a sort of exchange with 

the divinity, a traf^c of kindness ; they will constitute a 

recognized part of public worship, the essence of worship will 

be charity. Pascal asks, somewhere, why God has bestowed 

praj'er upon man, why God has commanded man to pray; 

and he replies profoundly enough : " To give him the dignity 

of seeing himself as a cause " ; but if he w^ho demands benefits 

by prayer possessed formerly the dignity of being, in his own 

' This, however, is exceptional ; in church, during the services, the majority of the 
faces remain inexpressive, for the reason that prayer with the majority of the faithful 
is almost always mechanical. 


right, a cause, how much greater is the dignity of him who by 
the exercise of his own moral will procures the object of his 
desire ? And if to be the cause of one's own well-being be thus 
the essence of prayer, of that which brings man nearest to 
God, of that which lifts man nearest to His. level— may one not 
say that the most disinterested, the most sacred, the most 
human, the most divine of prayers is moral conduct? In 
Pascal's opinion, it is true, moral conduct presupposes two 
terms, duty and power, and man cannot always do what he 
should ; but one must break with the antique opposition 
established by Christianity, between the sentiment of duty and 
the practical powerlessness of a man shorn of all adventitious 
aid — shorn of grace. In reality the sentiment of duty is, in 
and of itself, the first vague consciousness of a power existent 
in us, of a force which tends to achieve its own realization.' 
Consciousness of his power for good and of the power of the 
ideal unite in man, for this ideal is no more than the projection, 
the objectification. of the highest power within, the form that 
that power takes in reflective intelligence. Every volition is 
at bottom no more than a capability of some sort in labour, 
an action in the stage of germination : the will to do good, if it 
is conscious of its own power, has no need to await the prompt- 
ing of external grace ; it is itself its own grace ; by the very 
fact of its birth it becomes efficacious ; by the very fact of wish- 
ins:, nature creates. Pascal conceived the moral end, which 
duty places before us, too much after the manner of a physical 
and external object, that one might be able to look upon but 
not to attain. " One directs one's looks on high," says he, in his 
" Pensees," " but one rests upon the sand and the earth will slip 
from under one, and one shall fall with one's eyes on heaven." 
But might not one respond that the heaven of which Pascal 
is here speaking, the heaven we carry in our own bosoms, is 
something quite different from the heaven which we perceive 
spread out above our heads? Must it not here be said that to 
see is to touch and to possess; that a sight of the moral end 
renders possible a progress toward it ; that the resting point 
one finds in the moral will, the most invincible of all the forms 

' See on this point our Esquisse J'utie morale sans obligation, p. 27. 


of volition, will not give way beneath one, and that one cannot 
fall, in one's progress toward goodness and that in this sense 
to lift one's eyes toward heaven is already to have set one's 
feet on the way thither." 

There remains one more aspect under which prayer may be 
considered. It may be regarded as a species of spiritual eleva- 
tion, a communication with the universe or with 
for^pJiyer^""" God.' Prayer has in all times been glorified as 
a means of uplifting the whole being to a plane, 
that it otherwise would have been unable to attain. The best 
of us, as Amiel said not long since, find complete development 
and self-knowledge in prayer alone. 

One must be on one's guard against a multitude of illusions 

in this connection, and must carefully distinguish between two 

Distinction be- ^^^^ different things: religious ecstasy and philo- 

tween religious sophical meditation. One of the consequences 

ecstasy andphilo- c r j i i j [ ^\. 

sophical medita- ^^ o^r profounder knowledge of the nervous 
tion. system is an increasing contempt for ecstasy and 

for all of those states of nervous intoxication 'or even of intel- 
lectual intoxication which were formerly regarded by the multi- 
tude, and sometimes even by philosophers, as superhuman, 
and truly divine. Religious ecstasy, so called, may be a phe- 
nomenon so purely physical that it suffices to ^pply a bit of 
volatile oil of cherry laurel to induce it in certain subjects, and 
to fill them with ecstatic beatitude, and make them pray and 
weep and kneel. Such was the fact in the case of a hysteric 
patient, a hardened courtesan of Jewish origin ; it sufificed 
even to induce in her definite visions, even such as that of the 
girl with golden hair in the blue robe starred with gold.^ The 
intoxication indulged in by the followers of Dionysius in 
Greece, like that indulged in by hasheesh-eaters, was no more 
than a violent means of inducing ecstasy and of entering into 

' " Oh, God " said Diderot, at the end of his Interpretation de la nature, " I do 
not know if Thou existest, but I shall bear myself as if Thou sawest into my soul ; I 
shall act as if I felt myself in Thy presence ... I ask nothing of Thee in this 
world, for the course of things is necessary in and of its own nature, if Thou dost 
not exist, and necessary if Thou dost, by Thy decree." 

' Report of MM. Bourru and Burot au Congrh scientifique de Grenoble, 
August i8, 1885. 


communication with the supernatural world.' In India, ^ and 
among the Christians, fasting is practised to attain the same 
end, namely a nervous excitation of the nervous systems. The 
macerations of the anchorite were, says Wundt, a solitary 
orgie, in the course of which monks and nuns ardently pressed 
in their arms fantastic images of the Virgin and the Saviour. 
According to a legend of Krishnaism, the Queen Udayapura, 
Mira Bai, being pressed to abjure her God, threw herself at 
the feet of the statue of Krishna and made this prayer : " I 
have quitted for thee my love, my possessions, my crown ; I 
come to thee, oh, my refuge ! Take me." The statue listened 
motionless ; suddenly it opened and Mira disappeared inside 
of it. To vanish thus into the bosom of one's God is — is it 
not ? — the perfect ideal of the highest human religions. All of 
them have proposed it to man, as a prime object of desire, to 
die in God ; all of them have seen the higher life as a form of 
ecstasy; whereas the fact is that, in a state of ecstasy, one 
descends on the contrary to a lower and a vegetative plane of 
existence, and that this apparent fusion with God is no more 
than a return to a primitive inertia, to a mineral impassibility, to 
a statuesque petrifaction. One may believe one's self uplifted 
in a state of ecstasy, and mistake for an exaltation of thought 
what is in reality no more than a sterile nervous excitement. 
The trouble is that there is no means of measuring the real 
force and extent of thought. Under normal circumstances 
the only means that exist are action ; one who does not act is 
inevitably inclined to exaggerate the value of his thought. 
Amiel himself did not escape from this danger. Fancied 

' A defender of the use of hasheesh scientifically employed, M. Giraud, who 
conceives that it is possible to induce ecstasy at will, and to regulate it by medical 
doses, writes us with enthusiasm : " A bit of hasheesh dispenses with painful 
mystical expedients to induce ecstasy. There is no further need of asceticism ; the 
result is an intoxication, but a sacred intoxication, which is nothing else than an 
excess of activity in the higher centres." We believe that every sort of drunken- 
ness, far from possessing a sacred character, will constitute for ever and always, in 
the eyes of science, a morbid state, in no sense enviable from any rational point of 
view, by an individual in normal health ; the constant employment of stimulants 
will exhaust the nervous system and throw it out of order, as the daily employment 
of nux vomica will, in the long run, destroy the power of a Ijealthy stomach. 

' See above what we have already said in regard to the Yoghis and asceticism. 


superiority disappears the moment a thought seeks expression 
of whatsoever kind. The dream that is told becomes absurd ; 
the ecstasy in which one retains complete control of one's 
mind, in which one endeavours to take stock of the confused 
emotions one experiences, vanishes before us and leaves 
behind no more than a fatigue, a certain subjective obscurity, 
like a winter twilight, which precipitates a frost upon the 
window-panes that intercepts the last rays of the sun. My 
most beautiful verses will never be written, the poet says : " Of 
my work, the better part lies buried in myself.'" That is an 
illusion by which dream seems always superior to reality ; an 
illusion of the same sort as that which makes us attach so much 
value to certain hours of religious exaltation. The truth is 
that the poet's best verses are those which he has written with 
his own hand, his best thought is that which has possessed 
vitality enough to find its formula and its music ; the whole of 
him lies in his poetry. And we also, we are in our actions, in 
our words, in the glance of an eye or the accent of a word, in 
a gesture, in the palm of a hand open in charity. To exist is to 
act, and a thought which is incapable of expression is an abor- 
tion which has never really been alive and has never merited 
to live. In the same way the true God is also the one w^ho 
can be domesticated in one's own heart, who does not fly the 
face of reflective consciousness, who does not show himself in 
dreams alone, whom one does not invoke as a phantom or a 
demon. Our ideal ought not to be some passing and fantas- 
tic apparition, but a positive creation of our spirit; we must be 
able to contemplate it without destroying it, to feed our eyes 
upon it as upon a reality. For the rest this ideal of goodness 
and of perfection, persisting as it does in the face of inner 
scrutiny, has no need of an objective existence m some sort 
material, to produce its proper effect upon the spirit. The 
profoundest love subsists for those who have been, as well as 
for those who are, and reaches out into the future as well as 
into the present. Nay, it even in a manner outstretches the 
measure of existence and develops a power of divining and 
loving the ideal that shall some day be. Maternal love is a 
model now as always for all moral beings, in that it does not 

' M. SuUy-Prudhomme. ' 


await the birth of its object before making the first steps in its 

service. Long before ti:e child is born the mother forms an 

image of it in her fancy, and loves it and gives herself to it in 


For a truly elevated spirit the hours consecrated to the, 

formation of its ideal will always be precious hours of patient 

attention and meditation, not only upon what 

The highest ^^^ knows or does not know, but upon what one 
form of prayer, ^ 

hopes and will attempt ; upon the ideal seeking 

for birth through one's instrumentality, and leaning upon 
one's heart. The highest form of prayer is thought. Every 
form of philosophic meditation possesses, like prayer, an ele- 
ment of consolation, not directly, for it may well deal with the 
saddest of realities, but indirectly because it enlarges the 
heart. Every aperture broken open upon the infinite braces 
us like a current in the open air. Our personal sorrows are 
lost in the immensity of the infinite, as the waters of the earth 
are lost in the immensity of the sea. 

As for those who are not capable of thinking for themselves, 
of standing spiritually on their own feet ; it will always be 
good for them to retrace the thoughts which appear to 
them to be the highest and the noblest product of the human 
mind. |On this account the Protestant custom of reading and 
of meditating on the Bible is, in principle, excellent ; the book 
however is ill-chosen. ' But it is good that man should 
habituate himself to read or to re-read a certain number of 
times a day, or a week, something else than a newspaper or a 
novel ; that he should turn now and then to some serious sub- 
ject of meditation and dwell on it. Perhaps the day will come 
when every one independently will compose a Bible of his own ; 
will select from among the works of the greatest human 
thinkers the passages which especially appeal to him, and will 
read them and re-read and assimilate them. To read a serious 
and high-minded book is to deal at first hand with the greatest 
of human thoughts; to admire is to pray, and it is a form of 
prayer that is within the power of all of us. 




I. Is religious sentiment an innate and imperishable possession of 
humanity ? — Frequent confusion of a sentiment for religion with 
a sentiment for philosophy and morals — Renan — Max Muller — 
Difference between the evolution of belief in the individual and 
the evolution of belief in the race — Will the disappearance of faith 
leave a void behind ? 

II. Will the dissolution of religion result in a dissolution of moral- 
ity among the people ? — Is religion the sole safeguard of social 
authority and public morality ? — Christianity and socialism — 
Relation between non-religion and immorality, according to 

III. Is Protestantism a necessary transition stage between religion 
and free-thought? — Projects for ProtestantizingFrance — Michelet, 
Quinet, De Laveleye, Renouvier, and Pillon — Intellectual, moral, 
and political superiority of Protestantism — Utopian character of 
the project — Uselessness, for purposes of morals, of substituting 
one religion for another — Is the possession of religion a condi- 
tion sine qua non of superiority in the struggle for existence } — 
Objections urged against France and the French Revolution by 
Matthew Arnold ; Greece and Judea compared, France and 
Protestant nations compared — Critical examination of Matthew 
Arnold's theoiy — Cannot free-thought, science, and art evolve 
their respective ideals from within ? 

We have seen the dissolution which menaces rehgious 
dogmatism, and even rehgious morahty, in modern societies. 
And from the very fact of such dissolution certain more or less 
disturbing social problems arise. Is it really a perilous thing, 
this gradual enfeeblement of what has so long served as the 
basis of social and domestic virtue? Certain people delight in 
subjecting nine-tenths of the human race to a sort of ostracism. 
They declare in advance that the people, and all women and 
children, are incapable of rising to a conception which it is 



recognized that a lar<^e number of men have attained. The 
mass of the people, it is said, and women and children, must be 
appealed to on the side of the imagination ; only, one must 
take care to choose the least dangerous form of appeal pos- 
sible, for fear of injuring those whom one means to serve. Let 
us consider to what extent this incapacity of the people, of 
women and children, for philosophy is capable of demonstra- 
tion. It is the more necessary in this book, in that it is the 
sociological aspect of religion that is here the subject of 

/. Is religious sentiment an innate and imperishable posses- 
sion of humanity / 

In our days, be it remarked, religious sentiment has found 

defenders among those who, like Kenan, Taine, and so many 

others, are most firmly convinced of the absurd- 
Tendency to 1101 \ 
regard religious ities of the dogmas themselves, bo long as such 

beliefs as neces- j^^^j^ occuDv a purely intellectual point of view — 

sary m propor- r j i. j 

tion to their that is to say, their real point of view — the whole of 

absurdity, ^j^^ contents of religion, all the dogmas, all the 

rites appear to them to be so many astounding errors, a vast sys- 
tem of unconscious, mutual deception ; but the instant, on the 
contrary, they regard religion from the point of view of sensi- 
bility — that is to say, from the point of view of the masses — 
everything becomes justifiable in their eyes ; everything that 
they would attack without scruple as a bit of reasoning becomes 
sacred to them as a bit of sentiment, and by a strange optical 
illusion the absurdity of religious beliefs becomes an additional 
proof of their necessity ; the greater the abyss which separates 
them from the intelligence of the masses, the greater their fear 
of having this abyss filled up. They do not for themselves 
feel the need of religious beliefs, but on this very account they 
regard them as indispensable for other people. They say, 
" How many irrational beliefs the people do have that we get 
along very well without ! " And they conclude, therefore, 
" These beliefs must be extremely necessary to the existence 
of social life and must correspond to.a real need, in order thus 


firmly to have implanted themselves in the Hfe of the 
masses." ' 

Frequently, along with this belief in the omnipotence of the 
religious sentiment, there goes a certain contempt for those 

F th ht ^^^^° ^'^^ ^'^^ victims of it ; they are the serfs of 
for an intellectual thought, they must remain attached to the soil, 
aristocracy. bound witliin the limits of their own narrow 

horizon. The aristocracy of science is the most jealous of 
aristocracies, and a certain number of our contemporary men 
of science are bent on carrying their coat of mail in their brain. 
They profess toward the mass of the people a somewhat con- 
temptuous charity, and propose to leave it undisturbed in 
its beliefs, immersed in prejudice as being the sole habitat 
in which it is capable of existing. For the rest, they some- 
times envy the people its eternal ignorance, platonically of 
course. The bird no doubt possesses vague regrets, vague 
desires, when he perceives from on high a worm trailing 
tranquilly through the dew, oblivious of heaven ; but the 
bird, as a matter of fact, is always careful to retain his 
wings, and our superior men of science do the same. In their 
judgment, certain superior minds are capable of enfranchising 
themselves from religion, without evil results following ; the 
mass of the people cannot. It is necessary to reserve freedom 

' Moreover when one has passed one's life, or even many years, in any study 
whatsoever, one is inclined extremely to exaggerate the importance of this study. 
Greek professors believe that Greek is necessary to the best interests o. humanity. 
When any question arises of drawing up a curriculum, if the professors of the several 
studies are interrogated, each wishes to see his own especial branch of science in the 
first rank. I remember that after I myself had been making Latin verses for some 
years I would have ranged myself voluntarily among the defenders of Latin verse. 
Whenever anyone makes an especial study of some v/ork of genius, that of an in- 
dividual, or a fortiori that of a people — Plato, Aristotle or Kant, the Vedas or the 
Bible, this work tends to become in his eyes the very centre of human thought ; the 
book of which one makes a special study tends to become the book. A priest 
looks upon the whole of human life as an affair of faith simply ; knowledge to a 
priest means simply a knowledge of the Fathers of the Church. It is not astonishing 
that even nieniljers of the laity, who have made religion the principal object of 
their studies, should be inclined to magnify its importance for humanity, or that 
the historian of religious thought should regard it as including the whole of human 
life, and as acquiring, even independently of any notion of revelation, a sort of 
inviolable character. 


of conscience and free-thought for a certain select few ; the 
intellectual aristocracy should defend itself by a fortified camp. 
Just as the ancient Roman people demanded bread and 
spectacles, so modern people demand temples, and to give 
them temples is sometimes the sole means of making them 
forget that they have not enough bread. The mass of 
humanity must, as a mere necessity of existence, adore a god, 
and not simply god in general, but a certain God whose com- 
mandments are to be found in a pocket Bible. A sacred book, 
that is what is necessary. We are reminded of Mr. Spencer's 
saying, that the superstition of the present day is the supersti- 
tion of the printed page ; we believe that some mystical virtue 
inheres in the four and twenty letters of the alphabet. When 
a child asks questions concerning the birth of his younger 
brother, he is told that one found him under a bush in the 
garden ; and the child is content. The mass of the people is a 
big child simply, and must be dealt with after the same fashion. 
When the mass of the people asks questions about the origin 
of the world, hand it the Bible — it will there see that the world 
was made by a determinate Being, who carefully adjusted its 
parts to each other ; it will learn the precise amount of time 
that was consumed in the work ; seven days, neither more nor 
less ; and it needs learn nothing further. Its mind is walled in 
by a good solid barrier which it is forbidden to overleap even 
by a look — the wall of faith. Its brain is carefully sealed, the 
sutures become firm with age, and there is nothing to do but 
to begin the same thing over again with the next generation. 
Is it then true that religion is thus, for the mass of mankind, 
either a necessary good or a necessary evil, rooted in the 
human heart ? 

The belief that the religious sentiment is innate and per- 
petual rests upon a confusion of the religious sentiment with the 
CoEfQsion of re- need that exists in mankind for philosophy and 
ligious sentiment morality ; and, however closely bound up together 

with need for .> ' ' - it. 

philosophy and philosophy and morality and religion may be, they 
morality. ^^^ jj^ themselves distinct and separate, and tend 

progressively to become more and more manifestly so. 


In the first place, how universal soever the religious senti- 
ment may appear to be, it must be admitted that it is not 

innate. Persons who have passed their childhood 
Religious senti- ...,,, 

ment not innate, Without any communication with other human 

beings, owing to some corporal defect, display no 

signs of the possession of religious ideas. Dr. Kitto, in his 

book on the loss of the senses, cites the case of an American 

woman who was congenitally deaf and dumb, and who later, 

after she was capable of communicating with the people about ' 

her, was found not to possess the slightest notion of a divinity. 

The Rev. Samuel Smith, after twenty-three years intercourse 

with deaf mutes, says that, education apart, they possess no 

notion of a divinity. Lubbock and Baker cite a great number 

of examples of savages who are in the same case. According 

to the conclusions set forth above, in the beginning religions 

did not spring ready-made out of the human heart : they 

were imposed on man from without, they reached him through 

his eyes and through his ears; they contained no element of 

mysticism — in their first steps. Those who derive mysticism 

from an innate religious sentiment reason a little after the 

manner of those who in politics should derive royalty from 

some supposed innate respect for a royal race. Such a respect 

is the work of time, of custom, of the sympathetic tendencies 

of a body of men long trained in some one direction ; there is 

contained in it no single primitive element, and yet the power 

of the sentiment of loyalty to a royal race is considerable. 

The Revolution showed as much, in the wars of the Vendee. 

But this power wears out some day or other, the cult for 

royalty disappears with the disappearance of royalty itself; 

other habits are formed, creating other sentiments, and the 

spectator is surprised to see that a people which was royalist 

under monarchy becomes republican under republicanism. 

The reign of sensibility over intelligence is not perpetual ; 

sooner or later, the position of the two must be reversed ; 

there is an intellectual habitat to which we must as inevitably 

adapt ourselves as to our physical habitat. The perpetuity 

of the religious sentiment depends upon its legitimacy. Born, 

as it is, of certain beliefs and certain customs, its fate is one 


with theirs. So long as a belief is not completely compro- 
mised and dissolved, the sentiment attaching to it may no 
doubt possess the power of preserving it, for sentiment always 
plays the role of protector and preserver. The human soul in 
this respect is analogous to society. Religious or political 
sentiments resemble iron braces buried in some wall menaced 
with ruin ; they bind together the disjointed stones, and may 
well sustain the edifice for some time longer than, but for them, 
it would have stood ; but let the wall once be undermined, so 
that it begins to give way, and they will fall with it. No better 
method could be employed for securing the complete and 
absolute extinction of a dogma or an institution than to main- 
tain it till the last possible instant ; its fall under such circum- 
stances becomes a veritable annihilation. There are periods in 
history when to preserve is not to save but definitely to ruin. 

The perpetuity of religion has therefore in nowise been 

demonstrated. From the fact that religions always have 

existed it cannot be concluded that they always 

Post hoc ergo jjj exist; by ratiocination like that one might 

propter hoc. ' -^ ° 

indeed achieve singular consequences. Human- 
ity has always, in all times and places, associated certain 
events with others which chanced to accompany them ; post 
hoc ergo propter hoc is a universal sophism and the principle of 
all superstition. It is the basis of the belief that thirteen 
must not sit down at table, that one must be careful not to 
spill the salt, etc. Certain beliefs of this kind, such as that 
Friday is an unlucky day, are so widespread that they sufifice 
sensibly to affect the average of travellers arriving in Paris on 
that day of the week by train and omnibus; a number of 
Parisians are averse to beginning a journey on Friday, or to 
attending to business that can be postponed ; and it must be 
remembered that the intelligence of Parisians, at least of the 
men, stands high in the scale. What can one conclude from 
that if not that superstition is tenacious of life in the bosom 
of humanity and will long be so? Let us reason, then, in 
regard to superstition as in regard to mythological religion. 
Must we not admit that the need of superstition is innate in 
man, that it is part of his nature, that his life would really be 


incomplete if he ceased to believe that the breaking of a 
mirror is a sign that someone will die? Let us therefore set 
about finding some viodus vivendi with superstition ; let us 
combat superstitions which are harmful not by exposing their 
irrationality but by substituting in their stead superstitions 
which are contrary to them and inoffensive. Let us declare that 
there are political superstitions and instruct women and chil- 
dren in them ; let us inoculate, for example, feeble minds 
with that ingenious Mohammedan aphorism, that the duration . 
of one's life is determined in advance and that the coward gains 
absolutely nothing by fleeing from the field of battle ; if he 
was fated to die, he will die on his own doorstep. Does not 
that strike one as a useful belief for an army to hold and more 
inoffensive than a great many religious beliefs ? Perhaps it 
even contains an element of truth. 

One might go far along that path and discover a number of 

necessary or at least useful illusions, a number of " indestruct- 

That religions ible " beliefs. "It is," says M. Renan, "more 

beliefs have been difficult to hinder mankind's believing than to 

nseM no reason . . .. ^ • 1 • • t 1 

forretaining mduce it to believe. Certainly it is. In other 

*^^°^' words, it is more difificult to instruct than to 

deceive. If it were not so, what merit would there be in the 
communication of knowledge? Knowledge is always more 
complex than prejudice. A knowledge sufificiently complete 
to put one on one's guard against lapses of judgment 
demands years of patience. Happily, humanity has long^ 
centuries before it, long centuries and treasures of persever- 
ance ; for there is no creature more persevering than man and 
no man more obstinate than the savant. But it may be 
said that religious myths, being better adapted than pure 
knowledge to popular intelligence, possess after all the 
advantage of symbolizing a portion of the truth ; and that on 
this score one may permit them to the vulgar. It is as if one 
should say that the " vulgar" should be permitted to believe 
that the sun moves round the earth because the common 
man is incapable of conceiving, with accuracy, the infinite 
complexity of the motion of the stars. But every theory,, 
every attempted explanation, however crude it may be, is \\\ 



some degree a symbol of the trutli. It is symbolic of the 
truth to say that nature experiences a horror of a vacuum, that 
the blood lies motionless in the arteries, that the line of vision 
runs from the eye to the object, instead of from the object to 
the eye. All these primitive theories are incomplete formula- 
tions of the reality, more or less popular efforts to " render " it ; 
they rest upon visible facts not yet correctly interpreted by a 
completer scientific knowledge ; and does that constitute a 
reason for respecting all these symbols, and for condemning 
the popular intelligence to fatten upon them? Primitive and 
mythical explanations served in the past to build up the truth ; 
they ought not nowadays to be employed to obscure it. When 
a scaffolding has served its purpose in aiding one to erect an 
edifice, one tears it down. If certain tales are good to amuse 
children with, one at least should be careful that they are not 
taken too seriously. Let us not take outworn dogmas too 
seriously, let us not regard them with excessive complacency 
and tenderness; if they are still legitimately objects of admi- 
ration to us when we reset them among the circumstances to 
which they owed their birth, they cease to be so the instant 
one endeavours to perpetuate them among the circumstances 
of modern life where they are quite out of place. 

Like M. Renan, Mr. Max MuUer almost sees an example to 

be followed in the castes established by the Hindus among 

Preliminary ac- the minds, as among the classes of the people, in 

quisition of false- ^hg regular periods or asramas through which 

hood not necessary , ... , • , n- -it „^ 

to recognition of they oblige the Hitelligence successively to pass, 
truth, ii-, j-j-je hierarchy of religions with which they 

burden the spirit of the faithful. For them traditional error 
is sacred and venerable ; it serves as a preparation for the 
truth ; one must place a bandage on the eyes of the neophyte 
in order to be able to take it off again afterward. The ten- 
dencies of the modern mind are precisely the opposite ; it 
likes to supply the present generation at once, and without 
superfluous preliminary, with the whole body of truth 
acquired by the generations which have passed away, without 
false respect or false courtesy for the errors it replaces ; it is 
not enough that the light should filter into the mind through 


some secret rift, the doors and windows must be thrown wide 
open. Tlie modern mind fails to see in what respect a dehb- 
erate effort to inculcate absurdity in a portion of the com- 
nuiiiity can serve to secure rectitude of judgment in the 
remaining portions ; or in what respect it is necessary to build 
a liousc of truth upon a foundation of falsehood ; or to run 
down the part of the hill that we have already climbed, as a 
preparation for climbing higher. 

I f the religious sentiment should disappear, it may be objected,. 

it would leave a void which it would be impossible to fill, and 

humanity's horror of a vacuum is even greater 

Transfomatioii than nature's. Humanity, therefore, would satisfy 

of faith mevitaole. •' ' ' _ ^ 

somehow or other, even with absurdities, that eter- 
nal need of believing of which we have spoken above. The 
instant one religion is destroyed another takes its place ; it will 
be always so from age to age, because the religious sentiment, 
will always exist as a continuing need for some object of wor-l 
ship which it will create and re-create in spite of all the ratio- 
cination in the world. No victory over nature can be lasting; 
no permanent need in the human breast can be long silenced. 
There are periods in human life when faith is as imperious as 
love ; one experiences a hunger to embrace something, to give 
one's self — even to a figment of the imagination ; one is a victim 
to a fever of faith. Sometimes this mood lasts throughout one's 
whole life, sometimes it lasts some days only or some hours; 
there are cases in which it does not present itself till late, and 
even very late, in life. And the priest has taken note of all 
these vicissitudes ; he is always there, patient, waiting tranquilly 
for the moment when the symptoms shall appear, and the sleep- 
ing sentiment shall awaken and become masterful ; he has the 
Host ready, he has great temples reverberating with sacred 
prayers, where man may come to kneel, and breathe in the 
spirit of God, and arise strengthened. The reply is that it is 
a mistake to regard all humanity as typified in the person of 
the recently disabused believer. It has often been made a 
subject of reproach to free-thinkers that they endeavour to 
destroy without replacing, but one cannot destroy a religion 
in the breasts of a people. At some certain moment in its his- 


tory it falls of its own weight, with the disappearance of the 
pretended evidences on which it was resting; it does not, 
properly speaking, die ; it ceases simply — becomes extinct. 
It will cease definitely when it shall have become useless, and J 
there is no obligation to replace what is no longer necessary, | 
Among the masses, intelligence is never far in advance of tra- 
dition ; one never adopts a new idea until one has by degrees 
become accustomed to it. It all takes place without violence, 
or at least without lasting violence ; the crisis passes, the 
wound closes quickly, and leaves no trace behind ; the fore- 
head of the masses bears no scar. Progress lies in wait for the 
moment of least resistance, of least pain. Even revolutions 
do not succeed except in so far as they are purely beneficial, 
as they constitute a universally advantageous evolution. For 
the rest, there is no such thing as a revolution, or a cataclysm, 
properly so called, in human belief. Each generation adds a 
doubt to those which existed before in the minds of their 
parents, and thus faith falls away bit by bit, like the banks of a 
river worn by the stream ; the sentiments which were bound 
up with the belief go with it, but they are incessantly replaced 
by others, a new wave sweeps forward to fill the void, and the 
human soul profits by its losses and grows larger, like the bed 
of a river. The adaptation of a people to its environment is 
a beneficent law. It has often been said, and justly, that there 
is food for the soul as well as food for the body ; and the 
analogy may be pursued by remarking that it is difficult to 
induce a people to change its national diet. For centuries 
the inhabitants of Brittany have lived upon imperfectly 
cooked buckwheat cakes, as they live by their simple faith and 
infantine superstitions. It may. however, be affirmed, a priori, 
that the day will come when the reign of the buckwheat cake 
in Brittany will be at an end, or at least will be shared by 
other, and better prepared, and more nourishing foods; it is 
equally rational to affirm that the faith of Brittany will some 
day come to an end, that the somewhat feeble minds of the 
inhabitants will sooner or later seek nourishment in solider 
ideas and beliefs, and that the whole of their intellectual life 
will, by degrees, be transformed and renewed. 


It is only those wlio have been reared in a faith, and then 
disabused of it, that preserve, along with their primitive senti- 
ments, a certain home-sickness for a belief to cor- 

The disenchant- . 

ment that accom- respond to these sentiments. 1 he reason is that 
pamesit they have been violently hastened in their passat^e 

temporary, "^ . •' r- o 

from belief to incredulity. The story of the pass- 
ing disenchantment with life, which the recent disbeliever 
experiences, has often been told. " I felt horribly exiled,'^ 
M. Renan once said, in speaking of the moral crisis through 
which he himself had passed. "The fish in Lake Baikal have 
taken thousands of years, it is said, to transform themselves 
from salt-water to fresh-water fish. I had to achieve my own 
transformation in the course of some weeks. Catholicism 
surrounds the whole of life like an enchanted circle with so 
much magic that, when one is deprived of it, everything seems 
insipid and melancholy ; the universe looked to me like a desert. 
If Christianity was not true, everything else seemed to me to be 
indifferent, frivolous, scarce worthy of attention; the world 
looked mediocre, morally impoverished to me. The world 
seemed to me to be in its dotage and decadence ; I felt lost in 
a nation of pigmies." This pain incident to metamorphosis, 
this sort of despair at renouncing everything that one has 
believed and loved up to that time, is not peculiar to the Chris- 
tian who has fallen away from Christianity ; it exists in diverse 
degrees, as M. Renan well knew, whenever a love of any sort 
comes to an end in us. For him who, for example, has placed 
his whole life in the love of a woman and feels himself betrayed 
by her, life seems not less disenchanted than for the believer 
who sees himself abandoned by his God. Even simple intel- 
lectual errors may produce an analogous sentiment. Archi- 
medes no doubt would have felt his life crumble away beneath 
him, if he had discovered irremediable lacunae in his chain of 
theorems. The more intimately a god has been personified 
and humanized, the more intimately he comes to be beloved, 
and the greater must be the wound he leaves behind when he 
deserts the heart. But even though this wound be in certain 
instances incurable, that fact constitutes no argument in sup- 
port of the religion of the masses, for an illegitimate and 


unjustifiable love may cause as much suffering when one is 
deprived of it as a legitimate love. The bitterness of truth, 
lies less in truth itself than in the resistance offered to it byl 
intrenched and established error. It is not the world which' 
is desert when deprived of the god of our dreams, it is our 
own heart ; and we have ourselves to blame if we have filled 
our hearts with nothing better than dreams. For the rest, in 
the majority of cases, the void, the sense of loss which a 
religion leaves behind, is not lasting ; one adapts one's self to 
one's new moral environment, one becomes happy again ; no 
doubt not in the same manner — one is never happy twice in the 
same manner — but in a manner less primitive, less infantine, 
more stable. M. Renan is an example of it. His transmuta- 
tion into a fresh-water fish was achieved in reality tranquilly 
enough ; it is doubtful whether he ever dreams now of the salt- 
water stretches of the Bible, and nobody has ever declared so 
forcibly that he is happy. One might almost make it a matter 
of reproach to him, and suggest that the profoundest happi- 
ness is sometimes not so precisely aware of itself. If every 
absolute faith is a little naive, one is not absolutely without 
naivete when one is too confident of one's own happiness. 

To the surprise and to the disenchantment which a former 
Christian experiences in the presence of scientific truth may 

be opposed the even more profound astonishment 
cheapness ofre- which thosc who have been exclusively nourished 
ligious specula- q^ science experience in the presence of religious 

doema. The man of science can understand 
relieious dog-mas, for he can follow the course of their birth 
and development century by century ; but he experiences, 
in his effort to adapt himself to this narrow environment, 
something of the difficulty that he might feel in an effort to 
enter a Liliputian fairy palace. The world of religion— with 
the ridiculous importance which it ascribes to the earth as the 
centre of the universe, with the palpable moral errors that the 
Bible contains, with its whole body of legend, which is affect- 
ing only to those who believe in them, with its superannuated 
rites — all seems so poor, so powerless to symbolize the infinite, 
that the man of science is inclined to see in these infantine 


dreams the repugnant and despicable side rather than the ele- 
vated and attractive side. Livingstone says that one day, after 
having preached the Gospel to a new tribe, he was taking a walk 
in the neighbouring fields when he heard near him, behind a 
bush, a strange noise like a convulsive cough ; he there found 
a young negro who had been taken by an irresistible desire to 
laugh by the account of the Biblical legends, and had hidden 
himself there out of respect for Livingstone, and in the 
shadow of the bush was writhing with laughter and unable t9 
rei)ly to the questions of the worthy pastor. Certainly the 
surprising legends of religion can give rise to no such outburst 
of gaiety as this in one who has spent his life among the 
facts of science and the reasoned theories of philosophy. He 
feels rather a certain bitterness, such as one feels generally in 
the presence of human feebleness, for man feels something of 
the same solidarity in the presence of human error as in the 
presence of human suffering. If the eighteenth century 
ridiculed superstition, if the human mind was then " dancing," 
as Voltaire said, " in chains," it is the distinction of our epoch 
more accurately to have estimated the weight of those 
chains; and in truth, when one examines coolly the poverty 
of the popular attempts that have been made to represent the 
world and the ideal of mankind, one feels less inclination to 
laugh than to weep. 

But, however that may be, the evolution of human belief 

must not be judged by the painful revolutions of individual 

. T . ,, belief; in humanity such transformations are 

InevitaDle ex- ■' 1 • r 

tinction of fanat- subject to regular laws. The very explosions of 
^''^^™' the religious sentiment, explosions even of fanat- 

icism, which still occur and have so often occurred in the 
course of religious degeneration, enter as an integral part into 
the formula of the very process of degeneration itself. After 
having been so long one of the most ardent interests of 
humanity, religious faith must, of necessity, be slow in cooling. 
Every human interest resembles those stars which are 
gradually declining at once in light and heat, and which 
from time to time present a solid exterior and then, as the 
result of some inner disturbance, burst through their outer 


rind and become once more brilliant to a degree that they 
had not rivalled for hundreds of centuries ; but this very bril- 
liancy is itself an expenditure of light and heat, a phase sim- 
ply of the process of cooling. The star hardens once more on 
its surface, and, after every fresh cataclysm and illumination, it 
becomes less brilliant and dies in its efforts to revive. A spec- 
tator who should be watching it from a sufficient height might 
even find a certain comfort in the triumphs of the very spirit 
of fanaticism and reaction which result in a prolonged subse- 
quent cnfeeblement and a more rapid approach toward final 
extinction. Just as haste is sometimes more deliberate than, 
deliberation, so a violent effort to reanimate the past sometimes' 
results in hastening its death. You cannot heat a cold star 
from the outside. 

//. Will the dissolution of religion result in a dissolution of 
morality among the people ? 

The general enfeeblement of the religious instinct will set 
free, for employment in social progress, an immense amount 
of force hitherto set aside for the service of mysticism ; but it 
may well be asked also whether there are not a number of 
forces hurtful to society, and hitherto held in check or annulled 
by the religious instinct, which upon its disappearance will be 
given free play. 

" Christianity," Guizot said, " is a necessity for mankind ; it is 

a school of reverence." No doubt ; but less so perhaps than 

Hindu religions, which go the length of propos- 
One must respect . , ,, .... r i-i-^ i. 

what is respect- mg the absolute division of mankind into castes 

able only. ^g ^^ object for reverence ; however contrary it 

may be to the natural sentiments of mankind and the 
operation of social laws. Assuredly no society can sub- 
sist if its members neither respect nor reverence what is 
respectable and venerable ; respect is decidedly an indispensa- 
ble element in national life ; the fact is one which we too 
easily forget in France ; but society is barred from progress if 
one respects what is not respectable, and progress is a condi 
tion of life for a society. Tell me what you respect, and I will 



tell you what you are. The progress of human reverence for 
objects ever higher and more high is symbolic of all other 
kinds of progress achieved by the human mind. 

But for religion, say the Guizot school, the property-ques- f 
tion would sweep away the masses of the people ; it is the , 

Christianity Churcli which holds them in check. If there is 
qmte the opposite ^ property-question, let us not seek to ignore it; 

01 3, C16I6UC6 

against comma- let US labour sincerely and actively at its solution. 
^'^™' Qui tro7npe-t-on ici? Is God simply a means of- 

saving the capitalist ? More than that, the property-question 
is not one which is more intimately bound up to-day wiih 
religion than with free-thought. Christianity, which implic- 
itly contains w ithin it the principles o f communism, is itself 
responsible for s preading ideas among the people which have 
inevitably g erminated in the course of the g reat int ellectual 
germmation which distinguishes the present epoch. M. de 
Lavele ye. one of the d£ ferLd£xs_Qlliberal Christianity, confesses / 
as much. It was well known that among the first Christians 

all property was neld in common, and that communism was 
the immediate consequence of baptism.' " We hold every-" 
\ thing in common except our women," Tertullian and St. 
J ustin say ; " we share everything." ^ It is well known with what 
vehemence the Fathers of the Church have attacked the ri^ht 
of private property. " The earth," says St. Ambrose, " was 
given to the rich and poor in common. Why, oh, ye rich ! 
should ye arrogate to yourselves alone the ownership of it?" 
" Nature created rights in common, usurpation has created 
private rights." " Wealth is always the product of robbery," 
says St. Jerome. " The rich man is a robber," says St. Basil. 
" Iniquity is the basis of private property," says St. Clement. 
" The rich man is a brigand," says St. Chrysoslom. Bossuet 
himself cries, in a sermon on the distribution of the necessities 
of life: "The murmurs of the poor are just: why this ine- 
quality of condition ? " And, in the sermon on the eminent 
dignity of the poor: "The politics of Jesus are directly 
opposed to those of this century." And finally Pascal, sum- 

' Acts ii. 44, 45 ; iv. 32, sqq. 

' Tertull. Apolog. c. 39, Justin., Apolog. I, 14. 


ming up in an illustration all the socialistic ideas which com- 
pose the bulk of Christian doctrine : " ' That dog is mine,' 
say these poor children ; ' that place there is my place in the 
sun.' Behold the beginning and the type of the usurpation 
of the earth." When " these poor children " are men, they do 
not always view the usurpation of the earth with resignation ; 
from the Middle Ages down they have, from time to time, 
risen in revolt and there have been resulting massacres. Men 
like Pastoureaux and Jacques in France and Watt Tyler in 
England, the anabaptists and John of Leyden in Germany, 
are examples of what we mean. But, these great explosions 
of popular clamour once at an end, the Christian priest had 
always at his disposal, to subdue the crowd, a robust doctrine 
of compensation in heaven for one's sufferings on earth ; all 
the beatitudes are summed up in " Blessed are the poor, for 
they shall see God." In our days, owing to the progress of 
the natural sciences, anything like certitude on the subject of 
compensation in heaven has disappeared ; even the Christian, 
less sure of Paradise, aspires to see the justice and compensa- 
tions of heaven realized in this world. The most durable 
element in Christianity is, therefore, less the check that it 
imposes upon the masses than the contempt for the established'^ 
order with which it inspires them. Religion is nowadays 
obliged to call in social science to aid it in its struggle against 
socialism. The true principle of private property as of social 
authority cannot be religious ; it lies essentially in the senti- 
ment of the rights of other people and in an increasingly 
scientific acquaintance with the conditions of social and 
political life. 

But is not religion a safeguard of popular morality ? It is ^ 
tru e that immorality and crime are habitually conceiv ed as 

T, ,. . , associated with non-religion, and as product s of it . 
Religion not — '=' * r — 

necessary to Criminologists, however, h ave demonstrated tha t 

morality. n o "pToposTtJon "could bc less tenable. If one 

considers the mass o f the delinquents in any country, one wil l 
find that irreligion amon g them is an exception, and a rare 
exception. In unusually religi ous countries like En gland 
derinquenTs are not less numerous, and the average of belief 


among them is hi<^her; the greater number, Mayhew says, pro- 
fess to believe in the Bible. In France, where non-religion is 
so common, it is natural that it should also be common among 
the criminal classes, but it is far from being the rule ; it is 
most frequent among the leaders, the organizers of crime, 
those, in effect, who rise above the mass of their fellows, like 
Mandrin in the last century, La Pommerais, Lacenaire. If 
sociologists find themselves obliged to attribute a positive 
antisocial bias to certain criminals, it is not surprising that, 
they should recognize in a number of them an amount of 
instruction and a degree of talent amply suf^cient to disem- 
barrass them of the superstitious beliefs of the multitude, 
which are shared by their companions in crime. Neither their 
talents nor their culture have sufficed absolutely to check 
their evil disposition, but certainly they have not been respon- 
sible for it. Criminologists cite a number of facts which go 
to prove that the most minute and sincere practice of religion 
may go along with the greatest crimes. Despine relates that 
Bourse had scarcely finished a robbery and a homicide, 
before he went to kneel and take part in a church service. G., 
a courtesan, as she set fire to her lover's house, cried : " God 
and the ever blessed Virgin do the rest ! " The wife of Parency, 
while her husband was killing an old man as a preliminary to 
robbery, was praying God for her husband's success. It is well 
known how religious the Marquise of Brinvilliers was; her 
very condemnation was facilitated by the fact of her having 
written with her own hands a secret confession of her sins 
in which she made mention, along with parricides, fratricides, 
arsons, and poisonings without number, of the list of the num- 
ber of times that she had been remiss or negligent in con- 
fession.' Religion is no more responsible for all these crimes 

' It must not be believed that even prostitutes, who as a class are so closely 
allied to criminals, are wholly non-religious. A case is cited of a number of 
prostitutes who subscribed the money to have one of their companions, who was on 
the point of death, removed from a house of ill-fame to some place where the 
priest might visit her ; others subscribed money for a great number of masses 
to be said for the soul of a companion who was dead. At all events prostitutes are 
quite superstitious, and their religion swarms with strange and ridiculous beliefs. 

In Italy criminals are usually religious. Quite recently the Tozzi family of 



than non-religion is; the higher elements of both are equally 
debarred of entrance into th e brain o f a cri mina l. Although 
the nioral sense and religious sentiment are in origin distinct, 
they act and react incessantly upon each other. It may be 
announced, as a law, that no one whose moral sense is obliter- 
ated can be capable of experiencing genuine religious senti- 
ment in all its purity, though such a person may well be more 
than usually apt to attach a value to the superstitious forms 
of a cult. The religious sentiment, at its height, always rests^ 
upon a refined moral sense, although, when religious sentiment.' 
goes further and becomes fanaticism, it may react on and debase' 
the moral sense. On a person who is deficient in moral sense, 
religion produces no effects but such as are evil — fanaticism, 
formalism, and hypocrisy — because it is of necessity ill-com- 
prehended and misconstrued. 

Catholic countries often supply an unusually high percent- 
age of criminals, because Catholic countries are more ignorant 
than Protestant countries. In Italy, for example, as many as 
sixteen out of every hundred deaths in the Papal States and 
Southern Italy, have at times been deaths by violence, whereas 

butchers, after having killed and dismembered a young man, sold his blood, 
mixed with sheep's blood, in their shop, and went none the less to perform their 
devotions to the Madonna, and to kiss the statue of the Virgin. The Caruso band, 
Lombroso says, habitually placed sacred images in the caves and w'oods in 
which they lived, and burned candles before them. Verzeni, who strangled three 
women, was an assiduous frequenter of the church and the confessional, and he 
came of a family which was not only religious but bigoted. The companions of 
La Gala, who were imprisoned at Pisa, obstinately refused to take food on 
Friday during Lent, and when the keeper tried to persuade them to do so, they 
replied, "Do you think we have been excommunicated?" Masini, with his 
band, met three countrymen and among them a priest ; he slowly sawed open the 
throat of one of them with an ill-sharpened knife, and then, with his hands still 
bloody, obliged the priest to give him the consecrated Host. Giovani Mio and Fon- 
tana went to confession before going out to commit a murder. A young Neapolitan 
parricide, covered with amulets, confessed to Lombroso that he had invoked the 
aid of the Madonna de la Chaine in the accomplishment of his horrible crime. 
" And that she really helped me I conclude from this, that at the first blow of the 
stick my father fell dead, although I am myself personally weak." Another mur- 
derer, a woman, before killing her husband, fell on her knees and prayed to the 
blessed Virgin to give her the strength to accomplish her crime. Still another 
announced his acceptance of a line of action devised by his companion in these 
words, " I will come, and I will do that with which God has inspired thee." 


in Liguria and Piedmont only two or three out of every 

hundred are deaths by violence. The populati on of Paris is 

not, on the whole, more immor al than that o f any 

Iraorance, not ^~-; : — f=: r- t—. \ 7^ r ~ , . 

Catholicism, re- otjier great Europeaji city, althoug h it is d is- 
sponsible for tinctly less TeTigT'ous ; what a difTerence, for exam- 

ple, between London and Paris I Tiic churches, 
temples, and synagogues in Paris would not hold one-tenth of 
the population, and, as they are half empty in time of services, 
a statistician may with some show of reason conclude that 
only about a twentieth of the population fulfil their religious 
duties. Whereas Paris contains only 169 places of worship, 
London, in 1882, possessed 1231 — without counting the reli- 
gious assemblies which regularly gather in the parks, the 
public squares, and even under the railway viaducts. 

But should not the crimes of the Commune and those of the 
French Revolution be set down to non-religion ? One might, 

, with more show of truth, render religion responsi- 
Non-religion not ° ^ 

responsible for ble for the massacres of St. Bartholomew and of 
French Eevoiu- j Dragonnades, for, in the wars of the Hugue- 

tion and the Com- & ' ' o 

mune. nots, of the Vaudois, of the Albigenses, the issue 

was a religious issue, whereas in the case of the Commune the 
issue was wholly a social one ; religion was only very indirectly 
involved in it. The analogy for the Commune is to be found 
in the wars concerning the agrarian laws of ancient Rome, or in 
contemporary strikes which are so often accompanied by blood- 
shed, or in any of the brutal uprisings of the labourer or the 
peasant against the capitalist or the owner of the soil. Be it 
remarked, moreover, that in all these and the like contests the 
stronger party — the representative of society and, it is alleged, 
of religion — commits, in the name of repression, violences com- 
parable to and sometimes less excusable than those with which 
they charge the party of disorder. 

What demoralizes races and peoples is not so much the 
downfall of religion as the luxury and idleness of the few and 
jthe discontented poverty of the many. In society demor- 
alization begins at the two extremes, top and bottom. The 
law of labour is open to two species of revolt ; the revolt of the 
discontented working man who curses the law of labour even 


while he obeys it, and the revolt of the idle noble, or man of 
fortune, who ignores it simply. The richest classes in soi irty 
are often those whose lives show a minimum _of_ 
laWssake. devotioii^f disintercslcdness^of true moral (JLva- 
tion. For a fashionable woman, for example, the 
duties of life too frequently consist' iiT an uiittroken round of 
trifles ; she is utterly ignorant of what it means to take pains. 
To bear a child or two (to exceed the number of three, one of 
them has said, is the height of immorality), to have a nurse to 
take care of them, to be faithful to one's husband, at least within 
the limits of coquetry — behold the whole duty of woman! Too 
frequently, in the upper classes, duty comes to be conceived 
simply as a matter of abstinence, of not being as nasty or as 
wicked as one might. Temptations to do evil increase in 
number as one mounts in the social scale, whereas what one 
may call temptations to do good decrease in number. 
/Fortune enables one to hire a substitute, so to speak, in all 
[the duties of life— in caring for the sick, in nursing children, 
in rearing them, and so forth ; the rich are not obliged t© pay, 
as the saying is, with their person— /^j^r de la personne ! 
Wealth too often produces a species of personal avarice, of 
miserliness of one's self, a restriction of moral and physical 
activity, an impoverishment of the individual and of the race. 
The shopkeeping class constitute the least immoral section 
of the rich, and that because they preserve their habits of 
work ; but they are constantly affected by the example of the 
higher classes, who take a pride in being useless. The remnant 
of morality, which exists among the middle class, is partly due 
to the love of money ; money does, in effect, possess one 
advantage, that it must in general be worked for. Nobles and 
business men love money but in different ways. Young men 
of good family love it as a means of expense and of prodigality, 
people in a small way of business love it for its own sake, and 
out of avarice. Avarice is a powerful safeguard for the 
remnants of morality in a people. It coincides, in almost all 
its results, with a disinterested love of labour; it exercises no 
evil influence except in the matter of marriage, where the 
question of the girl's portion becomes paramount, and in the 


matter of children, of which it tends to restrict the number. 
All things considered, as between prodigality and avarice, the 
moralist is obliged to cast his vote for the latter on the ground 
that it is not favourable to debauchery, and does not therefore 
tend to dissolve society ; both are maladies which benumb 
and may destroy one, but the former is contagious and is 
transmitted by contact. We may add that love of expense 
rarely serves to encourage regular labour: it produces, rather, 
an appetite for gambling and even for robbery ; clever strokes 
on the stock-exchange amount, in certain cases, to robbery 
pure and simple. Thence arises a secondary demoralizing 
influence. Prodigals are necessarily attracted to the more or 
less shaky forms of financial speculation, by which, absolutely 
without labour properly so called, more money can be amassed 
than by labour; the miser, on the contrary, will hesitate, will 
prefer effort to risk, and his effort \\\\\ be more beneficial to 
society. In effect, the only thing that can maintain society in 
a healthy state is that love of labour for its own sake which is 
so rarely met with, and which one must endeavour to develop ; 
but this love of intellectual and physical labour is in nowise 
bound up with religion ; it is bound up with a certain broad 
culture of the mind and heart which render idleness insup- 

Similarly with the other moral and social virtues which are 

alleged to be inseparable from religion. In all times humanity 

^ ,. . ^, has found a certain average of vice, as of virtue. 

Religion the ° ' ' 

creature of cir- necessary. Religions themselves have always 

cumstance, been obliged to give way before certain preva- 

lent habits and passions. If we had been living at the time of 
the Reformation, we should have heard Catholic priests main- 
taining, with all the seriousness in the world, that, but for 
Catholic dogmas and the authority of the Pope, society would 
dissolve and perish. Happily experience has proved that 
these dogmas and that authority are not indispensable to social 
life ; the conscience of mankind has attained its majority and no 
longer needs the services of a guardian. The day will come, 
no doubt, when Frenchmen will no more feel an inclination 
to enter into a house of stone and invoke God to the sound of 


a hymn than an EngHsliman or a German experiences to-day 
an inclination to kneel before a priest and confess to him. 

///. Is Protestantism a necessary traiisition stage between 
religion and free-thought ? 

Over and above free-thinkers, properly so called, there exists 

in every country a class of men who understand perfectly the 

defects in the relijrions in force about them, but 

Dependence 01 ° 

Catholicism on have not the power of mind necessary to lift 
P°'^"" them above revealed dogma generally, and every 

form of external cult and rite. They begin accordingly to 
dabble in the religions of neighbouring peoples. A religion 
which is not in force in one's immediate neighbourhood 
always possesses the advantage of being seen from a distance. 
At a distance its faults are scarcely distinguishable, and the 
imagination freely endows it with all excellent qualities. 
How many things and persons gain thus by aloofness ! When 
one has seen one's ideal, it is sometimes good not to approach 
it too near if one is to preserve one's reverence for it. A num- 
ber of Englishmen, indignant at the aridity of the hard and 
blind fanaticism of the extreme Protestants, cast envious 
glances across the Channel, where a religion seems to reign that 
is more friendly to art, — at once more aesthetic and more 
mystical, capable of affording a completer satisfaction to cer- 
tain human needs. Among those who are thus favourable to 
a properly understood Catholicism may be cited Matthew 
Arnold and Cardinal Newman ; and one might even add the 
Queen of England herself. In France, as might be expected, 
quite the opposite disposition obtains. Wearied of the 
Catholic Church and of its intolerance, we should gladly 
escape its dominion : compared with the objections against 
Catholicism which assail our eyes, the objections against 
Protestantism appear to us as trifling. And the same notion 
has occurred simultaneously to a number of distinguished 
Frenchmen : why should France remain Catholic, at least in 
name ? Why should not France adopt the religion of the 
more robust people who have recently vanquished her ; the 


religion of Germany, of England, of the United States, of all 
the young, strong, and active nations ? Why not begin again 
the labour interrupted by the massacre of St. Bartholomew and 
the Edict of Nantes ? Even if one should not succeed in 
converting the masses, it would suf^ce, according to the par- 
tisans of Protestantism, to propagate the new religion among 
the elite of the population very sensibly to modify the general 
course of our government, of our national spirit, even of our 
laws. The laws regulating the relations of Church and State . 
would promptly be corrected ; they would be reconstructed so 
as to offer protection to the development of the Protestant 
religion, as they at this moment do in a thousand ways to the 
outworn religion of Catholicism. Ultimately Protestantism 
would be declared to be the national religion of France ; the 
religion, in other words, toward which she ought to endeavour 
to move, and which constitutes her real ideal, her sole hope of 
the future, the sole means open to Latin nations to escape 
death, and to outlive, in some sense, themselves. Add that, in 
the judgment of the authors of this hypothesis, the Protestant 
religion, once fairly entered in the lists against Catholicism, 
must inevitably and speedily win the day ; the iron pot would 
make short work of the earthen pot. The partisans of Protes- 
tantism invoke history in support of their conclusions; Prot- 
estantism was vanquished among us by force, and not by 
persuasion ; its defeat is therefore not definitive. Wherever 
Catholicism has not employed violence, persecution, and crime 
to maintain itself, it has always succumbed; its only tenable 
argument has been to put its opponents to death ; to-day this 
comfortable method of backing the syllogism by the sword is 
out of date, and Catholicism is condemned the instant it is 
attacked. It contains, moreover, an essential and irremediable 
vice, auricular confession. By the confessional it excites the 
open or secret hostility of every husband and every father, 
who sees the priest interposing between him and his wife, 
between him and his children. The confessor is a super- 
numerary in every family ; a member who has neither the same 
interests nor the same ideas, and who, nevertheless, is perfectly 
informed of everything the other members do, and can, in a 


thousand ways, oppose their projects, and, at the moment 
when they least expect it, bar their path. When one takes 
into consideration the mute state of war which so often exists 
between the married man and the CathoHc priest ; when one 
analyzes the other causes of dissolution which are working in 
Catholicism ; when one considers, for example, that the dogma 
of infallibility is simply inacceptable to anyone whose con- 
science is not absolutely distorted, one must admit that the 
project of Protestantizing France, how strange soever it may 
seem at first glance, is worthy of serious attention. 

It is not astonishing that it should have won to its side a 
number of partisans, and should have provoked a certain intel- 
lectual fermentation. Michelet and Ouinet were 

Proposal to "^ 

Protestantize desirous that France should become Protestant, at 
France. least transitorily! In 1843, during a journey to 

Geneva, Michelet discussed with some clergymen the means 
of accelerating the progress of Protestantism in France and of 
creating a really national church. Two men, whose names are 
known to all those who have laboured in philosophy or in 
social science, MM. Renouvier and De Laveleye, are among 
the promoters of this movement. Convinced free-thinkers, 
like M. Louis Menard, acquiesce in it, making use of the names 
of Turgot and Quinet ; and ]\I. Pillon also has sustained the 
project. Many Protestant ministers have turned the whole of 
their activity in this channel, have founded journals and written 
for the reviews ; pamphlets, works often remarkable in their 
kind, have been composed and circulated. Protestants are 
more disposed than Catholics to propagandism, because their 
faith is more personal. They feel that in a number of provinces 
they form an important nucleus which may grow in time 
like a snowball. A number of villages, of Yonne, la Marne, 
I'Aude, etc., have already been converted ; in spite of all the 
obstacles raised by the civil and religious authorities, in spite 
of vexations and annoyances of every sort, the neophytes have 
finally succeeded in establishing a Protestant pastor among 
them. Materially considered, these results are small ; their con- 
sequences, however, may some day be of great importance. 
One never suspects how many people there are ready to listen 


and to believe ; how many people there are ready to preach 
aiul to convert. It need not be a matter of surprise, some day 
or other, to see Protestant clergymen fairly rise out of the soil 
and overrun our country districts. The Catholic clergy, who 
present an almost unbroken front of incapacity, will scarcely 
be able to hold their own against a new and ardent adversary. 
The most serious opposition to Protestantism in France is 
not to be looked for from the Catholics, but from the free- 
thinkers. It is in the name of free-thought that. 

Contrary to the . _ ° 

tendency of we shall Consider the following question : Ought 

renc istory. France really to accept as its ideal any religion 
whatsoever, even though it be superior to the one professedly 
in possession at the present day? Is not the acceptance of 
any religion as an ideal precisely contrary to the whole move- 
ment of the French mind since the Revolution ? 

It has been said that, if the French Revolution was put down 
before it had produced all of the results which were expected 

T, V -D 1 of it, the reason was that it was undertaken, not 
French Revom- ' _ ' 

tion still being in the name of a liberal religion, but in antago- 
accompis e . nism to all religion. The nation rose as a body 
against Catholicism, but it had nothing to offer in its stead; 
it was an effort in the void and resulted necessarily in a fall. 
To address such a reproach to the Revolution, is precisely to 
fail to recognize its distinguishing peculiarity. Theretofore 
religion had usually been involved in the political discussions of 
men ; the English Revolution, for example, was in part religious. 
And when an uprising was, as it happened, wholly religious, 
its purpose was to pulldown one cult and set up another; the 
aid of a new God had to be called in to expel the old ; but 
for Jesus or some other unknown divinity, Jupiter would still 
have been enthroned on Olympus. Also the result of these 
religious revolutions was easy to predict ; at the end of a cer- 
tain number of years some new cult was bound to carry the 
day, to intrench itself, and to become quite as intolerant as its 
predecessor; and the revolution was achieved — that is to say, 
everything was practically in the same state that it was before. 
A determinate end, close at hand, had been pursued and 
attained ; a little chapter in the history of the universe had 



been written, and one was ready to close it with a period and 
to say that was all. Wiiat drives the historian to despair in 
the case of the French Revolution, is precisely the impossibility 
of writing a peroration, of reaching a final stop, of saying, 
■" That is all." The great fermentation persists, and passes on 
from generation to generation. "The French Revolution has 
come to nothing," it is said ; but the reason is perhaps simply 
that it has not miscarried. The French Revolution is still in 
its earliest stages ; if we are still unable to say where it is lead- 
ing us, we may at least afifirm with confidence that it is leading 
us somewhere. It is precisely the incertitude and the remote- 
ness of their aim that constitute the nobility of certain enter- 
prises ; if one wants something very big, one must be resigned 
to want something a little vague. One must be resigned also 
to a settled discontent with everything that is offered one as a 
substitute for the fleeing ideal that constitutes one's aim. 
Never to be satisfied — behold a comparatively unknown state 
of mind in many parts of the world ! Some thousands of years 
ago there were a number of revolutions in China, which brought 
forth results so precise and so incontestable that they have 
come down in a state of absolute preservation to the present day. 
Is China the ideal of those who wish a people to achieve once 
for all a state of satisfaction, of stable equilibrium, of estab- 
lished environment, of unalterable outline and form? Certainly 
the bent of the French mind is precisely the opposite of that of 
the Chinese. Horror of routine, of tradition, of the established 
fact in the face of reason, is an attribute that we possess to a 
fault. To carry reason into politics, into law, into religion 
was precisely the aim of the French Revolution. It is no 
easy thing, it is even futile, to attempt to introduce simultane- 
ously logic and light into everything; one makes mistakes, 
one reasons ill, one has one's days of weakness, one succumbs 
to concordats and empires. In spite, however, of so many 
temporary divergences from the straight path, it is already 
easy to recognize the direction toward which the Revolution 
tends, and to affirm that this direction is not religious. The 
French Revolution affords an example, for the first time in the 
world, of a liberal movement disassociated from religion. To 


wish, with Ouinct, that the Revolution should become Protestant 
is simply not to understand it. Republican in the sphere of 
politics, the Revolution tends to enfranchise man, in the sphere 
of thought also, from every species of religious domination, 
and of uniform and irrational dogmatic belief. The Revolu- 
tion did not achieve this end at the first attempt; it was guilty 
even of imitating the intolerance of the Catholics ; therein lay 
its prime fault, its great crime ; we suffer from it still. But 
the remedy does not consist in adopting a new religion, which, 
would simply be a disguised return to the past. 

Let us examine, however, the substantial apology for Prot- 
estantism, presented by M. de Laveleye. He maintains the 

superiority of Protestantism principally in regard 
PrttttaSr' to three points : i. It is favourable to education ;1 

2. It is favourable to political and religious 
liberty; 3. It does not possess a celibate clergy living out- 
side of the family, and even outside of the country. Let us 
pass these different points in review. In Protestantism the 
need of instruction, and therefore of a knowledge of how to 
read, is inevitable, for the reason that, as has been often 
remarked, the reformed religion is founded on the interpreta- 
tion of a book, the Bible. The Catholic religion, on the con- 
trary, rests upon the sacraments and certain practices, such as 
the confession, and the Mass, which presuppose no knowl- 
edge of reading. Luther's first and last word was, " God com- 
mands you to educate your children." In the eyes of the 
Catholic priest an ability to read is not, so far as religion is 
concerned, an unqualified advantage, it exposes the possessor 
to certain dangers, it is a path that may lead to heresy. The 
organization of popular instruction dates from the Reforma- 
tion. The consequence is that Protestant countries are far 
in advance of Catholic countries in the matter of popular 
instruction." Wherever popular instruction attains its height, 

' In Saxony, Denmark, Sweden, Prussia, Scotland (not England), illiteracy is at 
a minimum. Even in the most favoured Catholic countries, such as France and 
Belgium, at least a third of the population are illiterate. In this comparison race 
goes for nothing ; Switzerland proves as much ; purely Latin but also Protestant 
cantons Neuchatcl, Vaux, and Geneva are on a level with the Germanic cantons of 
Zurich and Bern, and are superior to such as Tessin, Valais, and Lucerne. 


labour will be directed with more intelligence, and the 
economic situation will be better ; Protestantism therefore 
gives rise to a superiority not only in instruction, but in com- 
merce and industry, in order and in cleanliness.' 

Similarly in civil and political matters, Protestants have 

always been partisans of self-government, of liberty, of local 

autonomy, and of decentralization. Side by side 

X rotcstftiitisni 

favours self-gov- with the advance of the Reformation in Switzer- 
ernment, ^^^^^^ j^^ Holland, in England and America there 

went a dissemination of the principles of liberty which later 
became the articles of faith of the French Revolution. Cal- 
vinists, notably, have always been inclined to an ideal of 
liberty and equality which has rightfully rendered them 
objects of suspicion to the French monarchy ; they realized 

' In Switzerland the cantons of Neuchatel, Vaux, and Geneva are strikingly in 
advance of Lucerne, Valais, and the forest cantons ; they are not only superior in 
matters of education, but in matters of industry, of commerce, and of wealth ; and 
their artistic and literary activity is greater. " In the United States," says De 
Tocqueville, " the majority of the Catholics are poor." In Canada the larger order 
of business interests, manufacturing, commerce, the principal shops in the cities, 
are in the hands of Protestants. M. Audiganne, in his studies on the labouring 
population in France, remarks on the superiority of the Protestants in respect 
to industry, and his testimony is the less suspicious because he does not attribute 
that superiority to Protestantism. " The majority of the labourers in Nimes, notably 
the silk-v.-eavers, are Catholics, while the captains of industry and of commerce, 
the capitalists in a word, belong to the Reformed religion." " When a family has 
split into two branches, one of which has clung to the faith of its fathers, while the 
other has become Protestant, one almost always remarks in the former a progressive 
financial embarassment, and in the other an increasing wealth." " At Mazamet, the 
Elbceuf of the south of France, all the captains of industry with one exception are 
Protestants, while the great majority of the labourers are Catholics. And Catholic 
working men are, as a class, much less well educated than Protestant working men." 
Before the revocation of the Edict of Nantes members of the Reformed church had 
taken the lead in all branches of labour, and the Catholics, who found themselves 
unable to maintain a competition with them, had the practice of a number of different 
industries in which the latter excelled forbidden them by a series of edicts beginning 
with the year 1662. After their expulsion from France the Huguenots carried into 
England, into Prussia, into Holland, their spirit of enterprise and of economy ; and 
enriched the districts in which they settled. The Germans owe some portion 
of their progress to Huguenot exiles. Refugees from the Revocation introduced 
different industries into England, among others the silk industry ; and it was 
certain disciples of Calvin who civilized Scotland. (See M. de Laveleye De 
I'avenir des peuples catholiques.) 


this ideal only beyond the seas in the American Constitution, 
which may be regarded, in some sort, as the product of Cal- 
vinistic ideas. As early as the year 1633 an American, Roger 
Williams, proclaimed universal liberty, and liberty of con- 
science in particular ; he proclaimed the complete equality of 
all modes of religious worship before the law, and on these 
principles founded the democracy of Rhode Island and the 
town of Providence. The United States, with the local auton- 
omy and decentralization whicli characterize its government, 
still forms the type of the Protestant state. In such a state 
the widest liberty exists only, to say the truth, within the 
limit of Christianity: the founders of the American Constitu- 
tion scarcely foresaw the day when a wider tolerance would 
be necessary. And it would be to form an extremely false 
idea of the United States to imagine that the civil power and 
religion are wholly disassociated. The separation between 
Church and state is far from being as absolute in America as 
is often supposed, and M. Goblet d'Alviella very justly corrects 
the too enthusiastic assertions, on this point, of M. Guizot and 
M. de Laveleye.' 

' " Public institutions are still deeply impregnated with Christianity. Congress, 
the State legislatures, the navy, the army, the prisons, are all supplied with chap- 
lains ; the Bible is still read in a large number of schools. The invocation of God 
is generally obligatory in an oath in a court of law, and even in an oath of office. 
In Pennsylvania the Constitution requires that every public employee shall believe in 
God, and in a future state of reward and punishments. The Constitution of Mary- 
land awards liberty of conscience to deists only. The laws against blasphemy have 
never been formally abrogated. In certain States, more or less stringent Sunday 
laws are enforced. In 1880 a court declined to recognize, even as a moral obliga- 
tion, a debt contracted on Sunday, and a traveller, injured in a railway accident, 
was refused damages on the ground that he was travelling on the Lord's Day. And, 
finally, church property and funds are in a considerable degree exempt from taxa- 
tion." (M. Goblet d'Alviella, Evolution religieuse, p. 233.) 

Similarly, in Switzerland, in the month of February, 1 886, the criminal court of 
Claris, the chief place in a canton of 7000 inhabitants, at 130 kilometers from Bern, 
rendered a singular judgment, A mason named Jacques Schiesser, who was obliged 
to work in water of an excessively low temperature, shivering with cold, his hands 
blue, made a movement of impatience at the cold, and uttered irreverential words 
toward God. A proces-verbal was made out against him. He appeared before 
the judges, who condemned him for blas]ihemy to two days' imprisonment. It is 
surprising to see Switzerland carried, actually by Protestantism, back to the Middle 


Finally, to the political superiority of Protestantism must 

be added the intellectual and moral superiority of its clergy; 

The obligation to read and interpret the Bible 

Intellectual and j criveu rise, in the universities of Protestant 

moral superiority fc> ' 

ofProtestant theology, to a work of exegesis which has 
^ "^^* resulted in a new science, the Science of Religion. 

The Protestant clergymen are better educated than our priests, 
and have moreover families and children, and lead a life like 
that of any other citizen ; they are national, because their 
church is a national church ; they do not receive orders from 
abroad, and, more than all, they do not possess the terrible 
power which the Catholic priest owes to the confessional ; 
a power which cost France the Revocation of the Edict of 
Nantes and so many other deplorable measures.' 

The several advantages which Protestantism enjoys by com- 
parison with Catholicism are so incontestable that, if one must 

absolutely choose between the two religions, one 
But Protestant- . .... 

ism is not a neces- COUld not hesitate, nut such a choice is not neces- 
sary step toward sary: one can avoid both horns of the dilemma, 
free-thought. . . , , , 

Free-thought is even more intimately dependent 

upon, and more disposed to favour, science than Protestantism 
is, for free-thought absolutely depends upon science. Free- 
thought is more intimately dependent upon practical and civil 
liberty than Protestantism is, by the very fact that free-thought 
is the complete realization of liberty in the sphere of theory. 
Finally free-thought renders the clergy superfluous, or rather to 
reinstate a mediaeval term it tends to replace the priest by the 
clerk, that is to say by the savant, the professor, the man of 
letters, the man of culture, to whatever state of society he may 
belong. The best thi ng that has been said about Prote stant- 
ism in France is Narbonne's rema rk to Napoleon. 
" There is not enough religion in France to make two^ /^ In- 

'" By means of the confessional," says M. de I.aveleye, the " priest holds the 
sovereign, the magistrates, and the electors, and through the electors the legislative 
chamber, in his power ; so long as the priest presides over the sacraments, the 
separation of Church and State is only a dangerous illusion. The absolute sub- 
mission of the entire ecclesiastical hierarchy to a single will, the celibacy of the 
clergy, and the multiplication of monastic orders, constitute a danger in Catholic 
countries of which Protestant countries know nothincr. " 


stead of a national religion wc possess in France a national 
non-religion ; that very fact constitutes our claim to originality 
among the nations. In France two-thirds at least of the male 
population live outside the limits of religious tradition. In 
the country, as in the town, there is scarcely one man for every 
^ ten women to be found in church, sometimes not more than 
one for a hundred, and sometimes none at all. In the majority 
of the departments, scarcely one man can be found fulfilling 
his religious duties. In the great cities, the labourer is the 
avowed enemy of religion, in the country the peasant is simply 
indifferent. The peasantry displays a certain respect for the 
exterior forms of worship ; but the reason is that the peasantry 
comes in contact with the priest, its intercourse with him is 
constant, it generally fears or esteems him enough not to laugh 
at him, except behind his back. The results of the French 
Revolution cannot be arrested in this country ; sooner or 
later they will suf^ce to give birth to a complete religious, 
political, and civil liberty: even to-day in politics it is not in 
the direction of a lack of liberty that our failure lies, it is quite 
the reverse. For the French, it is useless to talk of adopting 
Protestantism under the pretext that it is favourable to civil 
and political liberty, to diffusion of modern ideas and science. 
There remains the consideration of public morality in 
France. But it is impossible to demonstrate that the morality 
of Protestant people is superior to that of 

No sufiBcient ^ , , . . , , , • u r 

evidence that Catholics ; nay, m respect to a certam number ot 

Protestant coun- jtcms, statistics tend rather to prove the con- 
tries are more . ^^ \^ 
moral than Catho- trary, if anything can be proved of morality by 

^°'' statistics. Drunkenness, for example, is a much 

less terrible scourge among Catholic peoples who inhabit 
climates in which alcohol constitutes a much smaller tempta- 
tion. Illegitimate births are much more frequent in Germany 
than in France ; no doubt because of the laws that regulate 
marriage. The average of crimes and offences is not very 
variable from country to country, and such variations as there 
are, are attributable to difference of climate, of race, of greater 
or less density of population, and not to differences of religion. 
To-day, on account of the increasing perfection of means of 


communication, vice tends to find its level. Vices spread like 
contagious diseases : everyone whose system is in a state 
which is favourable to poison becomes contaminated, to what- 
soever race or whatsoever religion he may belong. The effect 
of any given religion upon the morality of any given people is 
certainly not to be overlooked, but it is altogether relative to 
the character of the people in question, and proves nothing 
as to the absolute moral quality of the religion itself. Mo- 
hammedanism is of great service to barbarous tribes, because it 
prohibits drunkenness, and travellers generally agree as to the 
moral superiority of Mohammedan tribes as compared with 
tribes converted to Christianity; the first are composed of 
shepherds and relatively honest merchants, the second are 
composed of drunkards, whom alcohol has transformed into 
beasts and pillagers. Does it follow that we must all become 
converted to ^Mohammedanism, or even that the prohibitions 
of the Koran, all-powerful as they are over the savage mind, 
Avould act with the same force upon a drunkard of Paris or of 
London ? Alas, no ! and in the absence of any such possibility 
one may take refuge in this means : sobriety is even more 
important for the masses of the people than continence, its 
absence borders more nearly on bestiality; moreover the labour- 
ing man and especially the peasant possesses less opportunity 
to run to excesses of incontinence than of drink, for the simple 
reason that women cost more than drink. Even among the 
followers of Mohammed, the poor are obliged to restrict them- 
selves to one w^ife. 

And finally religion does not constitute the sole cause of 
morality; still less is it capable of re-establishing a morality 
which is on a decline ; the utmost it can do is to 
notthe^dTfaaor maintain morahty somewhat longer in existence 
that determines than it Otherwise would be, to confirm, custom 
^^^^ ^' and habit by a backing of faith. The power of 

custom and of the accomplished fact is so considerable that 
even religion can scarcely make head against it. When a new 
religion takes possession of a people it never destroys the 
mass of the beliefs which have taken root in their hearts; it 
fortifies them rather by adapting itself to them. To conquer 


paganism, Christianity was obliged to transform itself: it be- 
came Latin in Latin countries, German in German countries. 
Mohammedanism in Persia, in Hindustan, in the island of 
Java serves simply as a vestment and a veil for the old 
Zoroastrian, or Brahman, or Buddhistic beliefs. Manners, 
national characters, and superstitions are more durable than 
dogmas. The character of northern peoples is always hard 
and all of a piece, to an extent that produces a certain external 
regularity in their lives, a certain submission to discipline, 
sometimes also a certain savageness and brutality. The men 
of southern Europe, on the contrary, are mobile, malleable, 
open to temptation. The explanation is to be looked for in 
their climate, not in their religion. The rigid fir-tree grows in 
the north ; flexible, tall reeds in the south. The discipline of 
the Prussian army and administration does not result from 
the religion of Prussia, but from the worship of discipline. 
Throughout the whole life of the north there runs a certain 
stiffness which shows itself in the smallest details, in the manner 
of walking, of speaking, of directing the eyes ; and the northern 
conscience is brusque and rough, it commands, and one 
must obey or disobey ; in the south of Europe it argues. If 
Italy were Protestant, there would probably be few Quakers. 
We believe therefore that the effect is often taken for the 
cause, where a preponderant influence is attributed to the 
Protestant or Catholic religion on public or private morality, 
and, that is to say, on the vital power of a people. This 
influence formerly was enormous, it is diminishing day by 
day, and it is science to-day which tends to become the 
principal arbiter of the destinies of a nation. 

If it be so, what must one think of the doubts, as to the 

future of I'^rance, which seem to be entertained in certain 

Is the posses- quarters? Those who regard religion as the 

sion of a religion condition siiic qua non of life and of superiority 

indispensable for . , ^ . 

the best interests "1 the Struggle for existence among nations, 
ofhnmanity. must naturally consider France as in danger of 

disappearing. But is this criterion of national vitality 
admissible ? 


We find ourselves here once more in the presence of Mr. 
Matthew Arnold. In his judgment, the modern world has 

been made what it is by the influence of two 
nold's^theor^'^" peoples, the Greeks and the Jews, representing 

respectively two distinct and almost opposed 
ideas, which are contending with each other for the possession 
of the modern mind. For Greece — the brilliant, but in spite 
of its subtlety of spirit, somewhat superficial Greece — art and 
science fill the measure of life. For the Hebrews life might 
be summed up in one word, justice. And by justice must not 
be understood a rigid respect for the rights of others, but 
a willingness to renounce one's own interest, one's own 
pleasure, a self-effacement in the presence of the eternal 
law of sacrifice personified in Javch. Greece and Judea 
are dead ; Greece faithful to the last moment to its belief 
in the all-sufficiency of art and science, Judea faithless at 
the last moment to its belief in the all-sufficiency of justice, 
and falling by reason of that very infidelity. Mr. Matthew 
Arnold finds the two nations symbolized in an Old Testament 
story. It was before the birth of Isaac, the veritable inheritor 
of the divine promise, who was humble but elect. Abraham 
looked upon his first son Ishmael, who was young, vigorous, 
brilliant, and daring, and implored God: " Oh, that Ishmael 
might live before Thee ! " But it could not be. Greece, the 
Ishmael among nations, has perished. Later the Renaissance 
appeared as its successor ; the Renaissance was full of vitality, 
of future ; the dream, the sombre nightmare had passed away, 
there was to be no more religious asceticism, we were to return 
to nature. The Renaissance held in horror the tonsured and 
hooded Dark Ages, whose spirit was renouncement and morti- 
fication. For the Renaissance itself the ideal was fulness of 
life, growth of the individual, the free and joyous satisfaction 
of all our instincts, of art and science ; Rabelais was the per- 
sonification of it. Alas! the Renaissance fell, as Greece fell, 
and the natural successor of the Renaissance, in Mr. Matthew 
Arnold's judgment, is George Fox, the first Quaker, the open 
contemner of arts and sciences. Finally, in our days, a 
people in Europe has taken up the succession ; the modern 


Greece, dear to the enlightenment of all nations, the friend 
of art and science, is France. How often, and with what 
ardour, has this prayer in its favour been raised to God in 
heaven : " Oh, that Ishmael might live before Thee ! " France 
is the average sensual man, and Paris is his city, and who of 
us does not feel himself attracted ? The French possess this 
element of superiority over the Renaissance, that they are 
more balanced than other peoples, and though France has 
aimed to liberate mankind and to enfranchise them from the. 
austere rule of sacrifice, she has not conceived man as a monster, 
nor liberty as a species of madness. Her ideas are formulated 
in a system of education which lies in the regular, complete, 
and harmonious development of all the faculties. Accord- 
ingly the French ideal does not shock other nations, it seduces 
them ; France is for them the land of tact, of measure, of good 
sense, of logic. We aim in perfect confidence at developing 
the whole human being without violence to any part of it. It 
is in this ideal that we have found our famous gospel of the 
rights of man. The rights of man consist simply in a sys- 
tematization of Greek and French ideas, in a consecration 
of the supremacy of self, as against abnegation and religious 
sacrifice. In France, Mr. Matthew Arnold says, the desires 
of the flesh, and current ideas, are mistaken for the rights of 
man. While we are pursuing one ideal, other peoples, 
more tightly chained to Hebraism, continue to cultivate 
that justice which is founded on renouncement. From 
time to time they look with envy out of their own austere and 
dull life, and with admiration upon the French ideal which is 
so positive, so clear, so satisfying ; they are half inclined at 
times to make a trial of it. France has exerted a charm on 
the entire world. Everyone at some period or other of his 
life has thirsted for the French ideal, has desired to make a 
trial of it. The French wear the guise of the people to whom 
has been intrusted the beautiful, the charming ideal of the 
future, and other nations cry: "Oh, that Ishmael might live 
before Thee ! " And Ishmael seems to grow more and more 
brilliant each day, seems certain of success, is on the point of 
making the conquest of the world. But at this moment a dis- 


aster occurs, the Crisis, the Biblical judgment arrives at the 
moment of triumph ; behold the judgment of the world ! The 
world, in Mr. Matthew Arnold's opinion, was judged in 1870: 
the Prussians were Javeh's substitute. And once more Ish- 
mael, the spirit of Greece, the spirit of the Renaissance, the 
spirit of France, free-thought, and free conduct were con- 
quered by Israel, by the spirit of the Bible, by the spirit of 
the Middle Ages. A brilliant but superficial civilization was 
crushed beneath the weight of the barbarous and unyielding 
asceticism of a more or less naive faith. Javeh is even in the 
present century the god of battles, and woe to the individuals 
who do not believe, with the ancient Jew, that abnegation 
constitutes three-fourths of life, and that art and science 
together barely fill the other fourth. 

Rightly to estimate this philosophy of history let us occupy 

Matthew Arnold's point of view, which is not without some 

„. , . shade of truth. Assuredly Greece and Judea, 

Victorious ■' •' 

superiority of although their ideas dissolved into and became a 
e enism. ^^^j. ^^ Christianity, are, so to speak, two anti- 

thetical nations representing respectively two opposed con- 
ceptions of life and of the world. These two nations have 
unceasingly struggled against each other in intellectual battle, 
and one may accept as most honourable for France the role 
that Mr. Arnold has assigned to her, that of being the modern 
Greece, of representing the struggle of art and science against 
mystical and ascetic faith. Greece and France were conquered, 
it is true, but it does not follow from that fact that the spirit 
of Greece and France, of art and science, has been conquered 
by faith. The battle is on the definitive issue still uncertain. 
If one must trust to a calculation of probabilities, all the prob- 
abilities are in favour of science ; if the French were con- 
quered in 1870, it was not by German religion but by German 
science. In general it is very difficult to say that a doctrine 
is inferior because the people who maintained it have been 
vanquished in history. History is a succession of events 
whose causes are so complex that we never can affirm that we 
know absolutely all of the reasons which produced any given 
historical fact. There are, moreover, in the life of any people 


a number of currents of thought running side by side, and 
sometimes in opposite directions. The land of Rabelais is 
also that of Calvin. More than that, in other nations we see 
a species of official doctrine professed by a series of remark- 
able thinkers, which seems more or less in opposition to the 
more unconscious doctrine of the people, in which the con- 
duct and thoughts of the great multitude may be regarded as 
summarized. What, for example, is to be considered as the 
true doctrine of the Jewish people? Is it the passionate faith. 
of Moses, of Elijah, or of Isaiah ; is it the scepticism of the 
Ecclesiast, already foreshadowed in the book of Job; is it the 
explosion of sensuality in the Song of Songs ? It is difficult to 
decide ; it may be affirmed with some show of truth that the 
temperament of the Jewish people as a whole is rather more 
sensual than mystic. The official doctrine handed down to us 
in the Bible may be regarded as a reaction against popular 
tendencies ; a reaction whose violence is the measure of the 
strength and stubbornness of the tendencies against which it 
was directed. The great days of the Hebrew people were 
rather those when, under the reign of Solomon, the arts of 
ease and life were flourishing than those when the prophets 
were bewailing the disappearance of so much splendour. Or 
what was really the spirit of the people in the Middle Ages? 
Is it to be found in the mystical books of the monks of the 
times ? And are the Middle Ages, apart from the Renaissance, 
to be regarded as constituting a great and completed epoch ? 
Even if we supposed, with Mr. Matthew Arnold, that every 
brilliant age, such as the Renaissance, every age of art and 
science, harbours in its own bosom the germs of death, does 
that fact constitute a reason for lowering one's estimate of 
such epochs of intense life, and is it not better for a people to 
have lived, even though but for a few years, than to have slept 
through centuries ? 

Nothing is eternal. When a nation has enjoyed a brilliant 
life during a certain number of years or centuries, when it has 
produced great artists or great scholars, there necessarily 
comes a period of comparative exhaustion. Religions also are 
subject to the law of birth, maturity, and decay. Where does 


the responsibility lie ? On the very laws of life, which do not 
permit plants to blossom eternally, and which in general pro- 
vide, in all the kingdoms of the natural world, 
tween life of that there shall be nothing so fragile as a flower. 

nation and that of Y>\.\\. if all human things are transitory, to labour 
individual. *^ •' 

for the ernorescence of intelligence, to regard 

art and science as the supreme aim of life, is precisely to 
pursue that which is least perishable. Art, science, the last 
achievements of the human mind do not decay ; man alone, 
the individual disappears, and the ancient adage is eternally 
true: "Art is long, and life is short." As to true justice, it 
also is surely eternal ; but if by true justice be understood the 
hard law of Jehovah, the worship of this law has always fallen 
upon the insignificant epochs of history, and precisely upon 
the epochs of injustice and barbarism. Therein lies the explana- 
tion of the fact that that cult has flourished at periods when 
nations were the most robust and difficult to subdue. The 
manners of such nations are ferocious, their life at bottom is 
quite contrary to the ideal of justice, and their religious faith 
resembles their manners, and is violent and savage, and inclines 
them to intolerance, to fanaticism, to massacre ; but all these 
elements of injustice none the less constitute, in the people that 
unites them all, so many additional chances of victory over 
otsJier people. Later, when manners become more civilized, 
when faith diminishes and art and science are born, a nation 
often becomes weaker, directly as it becomes nobler ; the finer 
an organism is, the more delicate it becomes, the easier it is to 
break. Renouncement of self, submission of the weak to the 
strong, and of the strongest to an all-powerful priest, the species 
of hierarchy that obtained in Judea, in India, and Europe 
during the Middle Ages, formerly gave a people a superiority 
in the struggle for existence, like that of a rock over a vege- 
table, of an oak over a sensitive-plant, of a bull or an elephant 
over man ; but is precisely that kind of effectiveness the ideal of 
humanity, and the aim to be proposed to human effort? To 
raise art and science to their highest possible development 
exacts a considerable expense of force ; art and science fatigue 
and exhaust the people who give them birth. After epochs 


of effervescence, follow epochs of repose and of recuperation, 
epochs, so to speak, of intellectual lying fallow. These alterna- 
tions of repose and productivity, of sterility and fecundity will 
continue to recur until some means be found of maintaining 
the human mind continuously in its state of highest vitality, 
as one fertilizes the earth, and, so to speak, thus secures a con- 
stant flow of sap and a perpetual efflorescence. The day per- 
haps will come when the psychic analogue of the rotation 
of crops may be discovered. However that may be, the 
greatness of a people has in the past too often exhausted it. 
But it does not follow, from that fact, that history must be 
read backward, and that periods of mere preparation and 
barbarism and despotism must be regarded as those which are 
the incarnation of the law of justice and have saved the race 
of mankind. 

If greatness kills it is beautiful to die for greatness; but 
when it is the death of a nation that is in question, mortality 

„ ,, . is never complete. Which is the more com- 

Hellenism con- ^ 

tains the cure of pletely alivc to-day, whatever Mr. Matthew 
its own evils. Arnold may say, Greece or Judea? Which will 
be more alive to-morrow, France, which to-day seems trampled 
underfoot, or the nations which seem to be France's supe- 
riors? If we were perfectly sure that France, better than any 
other nation, represents art and science, we might afifirm 
with perfect certitude that she will possess the future, and say 
with confidence that Ishmael will live. It is true that, in Mr. 
Matthew Arnold's opinion, Ishmael represents not only the 
man of intellect but the man of the senses, of the desires of 
the flesh. Of a truth it is strange to see anyone regarding the 
conquerors of France as Quakers, and Paris can lay no better 
claim than London or Berlin to being dubbed the modern 
Babylon. Mr. Matthew Arnold's mystic terrors in this con- 
nection are really deserving of raillery. What is just in his 
position is that the French, even in the pursuit of pleasure, 
display a certain moderation and measure, display a degree of 
art that is unknown to other people ; and by that very fact 
they achieve, if not the substance, at least the form of morality, 
which is, as Aristotle has said, a just mean between two vicious 


extremes. In ]\Ir. Matthew Arnold's judgment, however, 
this specious moraHty serves simply as a cloak for the lowest 
degree of immorality, that namely of seeking one's rule of 
life not in God but in human nature, with all its diverse ten- 
dencies, high and low. This immorality constitutes in its turn a 
sort of social danger, that of a softening or enfeeblement of 
the national character of a people. This danger appears to us 
illusory, or rather, if one may so speak, it is a question which 
belongs rather to hygiene than to morals ; what is really 
wanted is that science itself should discover in the matter a 
rule of conduct. In reality, genuine men of science actually 
are those who know best how to direct themselves in life, and 
a whole people of men of science could leave little to desire 
on the score of conduct ; and that fact shows that science 
itself contains an element of practical wisdom and morality. 
Note also that there exists an antagonism between cerebral 
labour and the violence of the physical appetites. The pro- 
hibitions which are based upon a mystical law too often 
season desire simply, as it is easy to prove by examples drawn 
from the clergy of the Middle Ages. A much more certain 
method may be employed, namely, to extinguish desire, to 
substitute a sort of intellectual disdain in place of religious 
terror. The Mohammedan religion prohibits the use of wine; 
but it is very easy to distinguish between wine and alcohol, 
which Mohammed did not formerly forbid for the sufficient 
reason that he was unacquainted with its existence. More- 
over, religious faith is not only subject to subtleties of interpre- 
tation, it is subject to periods of weakness ; but if, on the 
contrary, you issue no mystical prohibition but cultivate a 
man to a certain degree of intellectual development, he will 
simply not desire to drink; education will have transformed 
him more perfectly than religion could have done. Far from 
diminishing the value that individuals set upon pleasure, 
religions in reality frequently augment it considerably, because, 
over and against such and such a pleasure, and, as it were, 
holding the balance level against it, they establish an eternity 
of pain. When a religious devotee yields to temptation, 
he conceives the desired indulgence as, in some sort, of an 


infinite value, as condensing into an instant such an eternity 
of joy as may compensate an eternity of suffering. This con- 
cejition, which unconsciously dominates the entire conduct 
of the believer, is fundamentally immoral. Fear of chastise- 
ment, as psychologists have frequently remarked, lends a 
certain additional charm to the forbidden pleasure ; magnify 
the chastisement, you heighten the charm. Therein lies the 
explanation of the fact that, if a devotee is immoral at all, he 
is infinitely more so than a sceptic ; he will indulge in mon-^ 
strous refinements in his pleasures, analogous to the mon- 
strous refinements in which his god indulges, in the item of 
punishments: and his virtue, consisting largely in fear, is 
itself fundamentally immoral. In epochs of scientific develop- 
ment this mystical and diabolical heightening of pleasure will 
disappear. The man of science is acquainted with the causes 
of pleasure, they fall into place in his scheme of things, in the 
general network of causes and effects ; a pleasure is a desirable 
effect, but only in so far as it does not exclude such and such 
another equally desirable effect. The pleasures of the senses 
take their legitimate rank in the classified and subordinated 
list of human aims. A man of large intelligence holds desire 
in check by means of its natural and sole all-powerful antag- 
onist — disdain. 

To sum it all up, Ishmael is quite capable of regulating his 
own conduct without Jehovah's help. Justice is salvation, said 
the Hebrew people ; but science also is salvation, 
iu?thai1usS^ and justice too, and justice not infrequently more 
just and more certain than any other kind. If 
Ishmael sometimes strays into the desert, sometimes loses his 
way and falls, he knows how to get up again ; he has strength 
enough in his own heart to help himself, and to make him 
independent of Jehovah, who left him alone in infinite space 
without even sending to his aid the angel mentioned in the 
Bible. If France has really, as Mr. Arnold says, formulated 
the new gospel of Ishmael, this profoundly human gospel is 
indubitably destined to outlive the other, for there is often 
nothing more provisional, more unlasting, more fragile, than 
what men have crowned with the adjective divine. The 


surest method of finding what is really eternal is to look for 
the best and most universal elements in the human character. 
But the gospel of the rights of man, Mr. Arnold objects, is the 
ideal of the average, sensual man only. One wonders what 
the meaning of the word " sensual" in this place can be, and 
what sensuality can have to do with an unwillingness to dis- 
regard the rights of other people or to have one's own rights 
disregarded by other people. As if the rights of man Jiad any- 
thing to do with sensuality ! ]\Ir. Arnold forgets that the 
word " right" always implies some measure of sacrifice. But 
the sacrifice is precisely proportionate — it is not the sacrifice 
of all for the benefit of one or of the few; it is not a sterile 
sacrifice, it is not a vain expense of force, it is the partial 
sacrifice of all for the benefit of all, it is the renunciation in 
our own conduct of everything which might interfere with like 
conduct on the part of other people ; so that, instead of being 
a waste of social power, it is in the best sense an organization 
and an increase of social power. The people who first truly 
realize the gospel of the rights of man will not only be the 
most brilliant, the most enviable, the happiest of peoples, but 
also the justest of peoples, with a justice which will be not 
only national and passing, but, so to speak, universal and 
indestructible ; not even the hand of Jehovah will be able to 
shiver its power, for what is really divine in power will dwell 
in its own heart. The French Revolution was not so purely 
sensual and earthly as Mr. Matthew Arnold affirms. It was 
an uprising not in the name of the senses but of the reason. 
The Declaration of Rights is a series of formulae a priori, con- 
stituting a sort of metaphysics or religion of civil government, 
founded upon a revelation by the human conscience. It is 
easily comprehensible that positive and empirical thinkers, 
such as Bentham and John Stuart Mill and Taine, should have 
a word of blame for this novel species of religious Utopia; but 
a person like Mr. Matthew Arnold, who prides himself on 
being religious, ought not to draw back from it, ought even to 
admire it. Theodore Parker, a Christian not less liberal than 
Mr. Matthew Arnold, did so. Writing on the subject of the 
French Revolution, Theodore Parker said : that the French 


were more transcendental than the Americans. To the intel- 
lectual conception of liberty and to the moral conception of 
equality they joined the religious conception of fraternity, and 
thus supplied politics as well as legislation with a divine found- 
ation as incontestable as the truths of mathematics. They 
declare that rights and duties precede and dominate human 
law. America says : " The Constitution of the United States is 
above the President ; the Supreme Court is above Congress." 
France says : " The constitution of the universe is above the 
Constitution of France ! " That is what forty millions of men 
declare. It is the greatest proclamation that a nation has ever 
made in history. 

What we may reasonably be reproached with is not our love 
for art and science, but our love for a facile art and a superficial 

science. We may rightfully be reproached also 

Good and evil . , , a • ,• , , , r 

sides of French With a somewhat Attic liglitness, a lack of per- 

S^'iety. severance and of seriousness. Naturally, one 

does not mean that we should imitate the superstitious Slave 
who attributes an involuntary burst of laughter to the devil, 
and who, after having laughed, expectorates indignantly to 
exorcise the sweet spirit of gaiety whom he regards as a 
spirit of evil. If French gaiety is one of our weaknesses it is 
also one of the elements of our national strength ; but let us 
be quite clear about the sense to be put upon the Avord. The 
gaiety which is genuine and charming consists simply in high- 
heartedness and vivacity of mind. One's courage is strong 
enough, confident enough, to be able to afford not to look 
at things on their painful side. Everything has two handles, 
says the Greek sage ; and by one handle it is light and easy to 
manage ; it is by that handle that the French are fond of tak- 
ing destiny and fortune. Gaiety of that kind is simply a form 
of hope ; thoughts which come from the heart, great thoughts 
are often the most smiling. What one calls aptness, that swift 
fitness and appropriateness in which the French delight, is 
itself an evidence of mental detachment, an af^rmation to the 
effect that things which appeared at first so enormous really 
possess slight importance, a mark of high courage in the face 
of disaster; it is simply a less theatrical rendering of the 


ancient non dolct. A French officer, in a guerilla war (in New 
Caledonia, I think), felt himself struck in the breast by a bullet ; 
" Well aimed, for a savage," he said, as he fell. That is French 
heroism ; not going the length of ignoring the fact, but main- 
taining a just appreciation of it as it is. But there is a gaiety 
that cannot be too much blamed or too steadily repressed, a 
gaiety undistinguished by subtlety or high courage, and one to 
which other peoples are quite as inclined as the French, the 
gross laugh which follows horse-play like an echo, and inhabits 
taverns and caf(^s cJia7itants. That species of gaiety is the 
vicious gaiety of peasants out for a holiday, of commercial 
travellers at dinner. It is undeniable that the Gaul has a 
weakness iov gatidriole. I know a promising young physician 
who was obliged to leave Paris, where he had won a name as 
a hospital surgeon, obliged to quit work and to go to a distant 
country for his health ; in a moment of expansion he confided 
to me that what he regretted most were the jolly evenings at 
the Palais-Royal. There are thousands of distinguished young 
men subjected to this species of education, of discipline in 
" chaff," and it is inevitable that it should result in a loss, for 
them, of something that is fine. The Palais-Royal, the 
vaudeville, cafes-concerts are places which corrupt the taste as 
the palate is corrupted by drinking wood eau-de-vie. It is 
difficult to be a really remarkable man and at the same time to 
possess a serious taste for the gross pleasantry of second- 
class theatres. The two are irreconcilable. And it is a 
melancholy thing to think that the pick of the young men of 
France should be exposed to precisely that influence, should 
pass a number of years in such an environment and lose their 
taste as surely as their ear for music. Whatever is anti-?esthetic 
in laughter is degrading; witticisms must be spiritual, must 
really expand the heart with healthy mirth ; laughter should 
positively embellish the face. Nihil incpto risu incptms est ; 
the reason is that in such cases laughter is simply an explosion 
of silliness. The wise man, says the Bible, laughs with an 
dinner laugh. Laughter should illuminate and not disfigure 
the visage, because it reveals the soul, and the soul should be 
beautiful, should resemble an outburst of frankness, of sincerity. 


The charm of laughter lies, in a great measure, in the sincerity 
of the joy which renders us, for the time being, transparent to 
those about us. Human thought and the human heart, with 
the entire world that they contain, may be embodied in a tear. 
Parisian wit, which in some quarters is regarded as the very 
type and ideal of French wit, is in some respects no more than 
an epitome of its defects ; among the working 
epitome of all that classes it consists in chaff, what they call blague; 
is evil in French among the upper classes it consists in a superficial 

gaiety. ..... _ , . , , . ', 

varnish, an inability to fix the mind on a logical 

succession of ideas. In the salon frivolity is a convention, it 
has positively attained the height of being good manners. My 
attention was attracted a minute ago by a fly buzzing about my 
window, its transparent wings described curve after curve on 
the luminous surface that arrested its flight. Its graceful and 
futile progress reminded me of the conversation of a lady to 
whom I had just been listening in the salon, and who for an 
hour had described a series of scarcely larger circles, upon the 
surfaces of everything, and beneath the surface of nothing. 
The whole world of Parisian frivolity was typefied by the 
shimmering flight of the fly on the window-pane, ignorant of 
the open air, playing with stray rays of the great sun toward 
which it was unable to mount. 

But must one be serious to the point of ennui? Certainly 
not, it is not necessary. It does not belong to our tempera- 
ment. Let us recognize, however, that to be 
enduring of ennui is a great power; it is the 
secret of slow, patient, painstaking labour, which spares no 
detail, which guarantees solidity in the foundations and 
remote and hidden elements of knowledge ; it is the secret of 
the superiority of men of northern race over men of southern. 
In the south, owing to an impatience of what is tedious, there 
is manifested an inability to stick to one thing, to follow one 
pursuit, to venture into the darkness beyond where the light 
stops. Taskg pursued with obstinacy in the certitude of an 
ultimate success, indefatigable labour at the desk, reading 
understood as the absolute appropriation of every word and 
thought between the covers of the book in hand, are unknown 


to those superficial intelligences which are quick to take a 
birds-eye view of a subject in its entirety, but are impatient of 
details and of course among others of essential details. There 
are races of men who are incapable of anything exacting more 
attention than "skimming"; they skim their books, they skim 
the world, they turn the leaves of life. Neither true art nor 
true science is within their reach. " Live inwardly," says the 
•* Imitation." It is an ideal which Frenchmen, who are particu- 
larly inclined to lose themselves in external details, might well 
pursue. But true inwardness does not necessarily consist in 
sterile meditation on a dogma. " Live inwardly " should signify, 
be serious, be yourself, be original, independent, and free ; 
bestir your own powers of thought, take a pleasure in developing 
them and yourself; bloom inwardly like certain plants which 
lock up within themselves their pollen, their perfume, their 
beauty ; but give out your fruit. The natural expansiveness 
[which leads a Frenchman to be so communicative is one of 
his good qualities ; the bad side of it, where there is a bad 
side, consists simply in not having anything serious to 

Our defects are curable, and their remedy does not lie in a 
sort of religious asceticism, but in a more profound and com- 
plete understanding of the great objects of love 

Pr^nrhfi'vfr ^^^^^ ^^^^^ always attracted the French mind- 
science, art, law, liberty, universal fraternity. 
There is a Japanese legend of a young girl who procured 
some flower seeds and was surprised to find them nothing but 
little black prickly grains ; she offered them to her playmates, 
who would not accept them ; then she sowed them, in some 
anxiety as to the results, and by and by a superb flower sprang 
from every grain and all her playmates begged for the seeds 
that they had refused. Philosophic and scientific truths are 
just such seeds ; they are unattractive at first, but the day will 
come when mankind will prize them at their just worth. 



I, Decline of religious education — Defects of this education, in 
especial in Catholic countries— Means of lightening these 
defects — The priest — The possibility of state-action on the 

IL Education provided by the state— Primary instruction — The 
sclioolmaster— Secondary and higher instruction — Should the 
iiistory of religion be introduced into the curriculum. 

III. Education at home — Should the father take no part in the 
religious education of his children— Evils of a preliminary 
religious education to be followed by disillusionment — The 
special question of the immortality of the soul : what should be 
said to children about death. 

/. Decline of religious education. 

The religious education given to children by the priest pos- 
sesses defects and even dangers which it is important to set in 
a clear light, and which explain the gradual 

Unfitness of i i- • i j i.- a • • 

religious dogma decline in secular education. An opinion 
as material for regarded as divine is an opinion which is as 

education. r . t r i , • r f 

unnt tor purposes of education as tor purposes ot 
science. The great opposition which obtains between religion 
and philosophy — in spite of their outward resemblances — is 
that the one is seeking and that the other declares that it has 
found ; the one is anxious to hear, the other has already 
heard ; the one weighs evidence, the other puts forth asser- 
tions and condemnations ; the one recognizes it as its duty to 
raise objections and to reply to them ; the other to shut its 
eyes to objections and to difificulties. From these differences 
result corresponding differences in methods of instruction. A 
philosopher, a metaphysician, aims to convince, the priest 
inculcates ; the former instructs, the latter reveals ; the former 
endeavours to stimulate and to train the reasoning, the latter 
to suppress it or at least to turn it aside from primitive and 



fundamental dogmas ; the former awakens the intelHgence, 
the latter in some measure lays it asleep. It is inevitable that 
revelations should be opposed to spontaneity and liberty of 
mind. When God has spoken man should be silent, in 
especial when the man is a child. And errors, which are often 
inoffensive if taught by a philosopher, are grave and dangerous 
if taught by a priest who speaks in the name and with the 
authority of God. In the first instance the remedy lies 
always at hand : an insufficient reason may always be made to 
give way before a sufficient reason ; the child holds the 
standards of weight and measure in his own hands. And 
indeed it is not always easy to teach error at all by reason and 
reasoning : to attempt to give reasons for a prejudice is an 
excellent means of making its essential untruth prominent. 
It has always been some attempt on the part of humanity to 
demonstrate its beliefs that has resulted in their disproof. 
Whoever endeavours to examine a dogma is close upon the 
point of contradicting it, and the priest, who regards contra- 
diction as a failure in faith, is always obliged, in the nature of 
things, to avoid an examination of it, to interdict a certain 
number of questions, to take refuge in mystery. When a 
priest has filled a brain with faith he seals it. Doubt and 
investigation, which are the life of philosophy, the priest 
regards as a mark of distrust and suspicion, as a sin, as an 
impiety; he lifts his eyes to Heaven at the bare notion of any- 
body's thinking for himself. God is both judge and party in 
every discussion ; at the very time when you are endeavouring 
to find reasons for believing in his existence. He commands 
you to affirm it. The believer who hesitates at a dogma is a 
little in the position of the sheep in the fable, who wished to 
reason with the wolf and to prove to him that the water was 
not muddy ; he proved it indeed, but he was eaten up for his 
pains ; he would have done just as well to hold his peace and 
yield. Also there is nothing more difficult than to shake 
yourself free from a faith that was fastened upon you in your 
childhood and that has been confirmed by the priest, by 
custom, by example, by fear. Fear, in especial, is a capital 
guardian to watch over the interests of positive religion and a 


religious education, a guardian who is always on the qui vive ; 
but for it the body of belief which is known as dogma would 
soon fall into decay and blow away in dust. One person 
would reject this, another that ; everybody would rise in open 
revolt, running hither and thither gaily like a lot of school- 
children out for a holiday. Happily they are always accom- 
panied by a tutor, who keeps them in order and brings them 
home like a flock of lambs to the sheepcote. What power 
can reasoning have over anybody who is afraid? How caji 
you be expected to see anything as in itself it really is, if you 
have been accustomed from childhood to walk with your eyes 
closed ? Truth becomes for you as variable and unstable as 
your own sensibility. At an audacious moment you deny 
everything, the next day you are prepared to af^rm more than 
you were before. It is very easy to understand ; nobody is 
obliged to be brave always, and, more than all, one's conscience 
is involved. Conscience, like government, is conservative ; it is 
naturally inimical to revolution and change. It is early taken 
in hand, and taught its little lesson ; it becomes uneasy the 
instant you call in question a line on the map ; you cannot 
take an independent step without some inner voice crying out 
to you to take care. Accustomed as you are to hear people 
anathematized who do not think as you do, you shudder at the 
thought of incurring such anathemas yourself. The priest has 
corrupted to his interest every sentiment in your soul — fear, 
respect, remorse ; he has fashioned your soul, your character, 
your morals to his hand. Insomuch that if you call religion 
in question, you call everything in question. 

Subsidence of thought, benumbment of the spirit of liberty, 
love of routine, of blind tradition, of passive obedience, of 
Impropriety of everything, in a word, which is directly opposed 
suppressing the to the spirit of modern science are the results 
'^ "^•^" of a too exclusively clerical education. These 

dangers are being more and more distinctly felt, especially in 
France — perhaps too much so. We go the length of demand- 
ing that religious education shall be suppressed and that 
immediately, as being hostile to liberty and to progress. An 
irresistible movement has begun toward lay education, a 


movement to which Catholics must some day or other adjust 
themselves. But it should be done slowly, transition should 
not be pushed too rapidly. To suppress at a blow the whole 
clergy who once had complete control of the national educa- 
tion, and still have charge of some portion of it, ought not to be 
the aim of free-thinkers ; the clergy will suppress themselves if 
they are but given time ; they will simply become extinct. At 
bottom it is not a bad thing that fifty-five thousand people 
should be or appear to be occupied with something else than 
their personal wants. No doubt one never lives completely 
up to one's ideal, and the ideal of disinterestedness that the 
priest proposes to himself is rarely realized ; still it is good 
that a certain number of men here below should labour at a 
task which is above their strength ; so many others labour at 
tasks only which are beneath them. 

It must be confessed, however, that no religion is at its best 
in a country in which it reigns supreme; really to estimate it, 

A religion at its ^"^ "^"^^ ^^^ '^ struggling for supremacy against 
best only in com- some rival faith, Catholic against Protestant, for 
^^ ^ ^°^' example. Under such circumstances the priest 

and the pastor in a sense run a race with each other, compete 
with each other in activity and intelligence. One may see the 
results in the Dauphin^, in Alsace, and in a number of foreign 
countries. The zeal of the priest profits immensely by some 
such struggle for existence on the part of the religion to 
which he belongs; whoever does the most good, gives the 
best advice, the best education, to the children in his charge, 
wins a victory for his faith. The result, which is easy to fore- 
see, is that a mixed population of Protestants and Catholics is 
better instructed, more enlightened, is possessed of a higher 
morality than many other countries wholly Catholic. 

One very desirable step in Catholic countries is that the 

priest should be given complete civil liberty, should be allowed 

^ , to leave the Church if he choose, without becom- 

rroposed reform 
in Catholic ing an outcast in society, should be free to marry, 

countries. and to enjoy absolutely all the rights of citizen- 

ship. A second desirable step, and an essential one, is that the 
priest, who is one of the schoolmasters of the nation, should 


liimself receive a hi<^her education than he does to-day. The 
state, far from endeavouring to diniinisli the income of the 
priesthood — a very slight economy — might well, at need, 
augment it and exact diplomas analogous to those demanded 
of other instructors, and sufficient evidences of competence in 
extended historical and scientific inquiries and in religious 
history.' Already a number of priests in country districts are 
studying botany, mineralogy, and, in some instances, music. 
The ranks of the clergy contain a great quantity of live force,, 
which is neutralized by a defective primary education, by lack 
of initiative, by lack of habits of freedom. Instead of endeavour- 
ing to separate church and state by a species of surgical opera- 
tion, free-thinkers might well take their stand on the concordat, 
and profit by the fact that the state controls the income of the 
clergy, and endeavour to reawaken the priesthood to the condi- 
tions of modern life. In sociology, as in mechanics, it is some- 
times easier to make use of the obstacles to one's advancement 
than to try to batter them down. Whatever is, is in some meas- 
ure useful ; from the very fact that clerical education still main- 
tains its existence it may be argued that it still plays a certain 
role in maintaining the social equilibrium, even if it be but a 
passive role, the role of counterpoise. But whatever possesses 
some degree of utility may well acquire a higher degree ; what- 
ever is may be transformed. We must not endeavour to destroy 
the priesthood but to transform it ; to supply it with other 
practical and theoretical pursuits than the mechanical han- 
dling of the breviary. Between the literal religion which the 
majority of the French clergy teach, and a national and 
human ideal, there exist innumerable degrees which must be 
achieved successively and slowly, by a gradual intellectual prog- 
ress, by an almost insensible widening of the intellectual hori- 
zon. Meanwhile, until the priest shall have passed through 
these successive degrees and have become aware of his essen- 
tial superfluousness, it is good that he should make himself 

' Would it not be possible at once to raise the income of all priests who are pos- 
sessed of certain lay diplomas such as those of bachelor, licentiate, etc., and who, 
by that very fact, would be plainly competent to conduct a lay or religious education 
in a more modern and scientific spirit ? 


useful in the manner in which he still believes himself capable 
of being of use: but one thing should be exacted of him, that 
he should not make himself harmful by stepping outside of 
the limits within which he is properly confined. 

//. Education provided by the state. 

The task undertaken by a state that is endeavouring to 

substitute a lay for a clerical education is one of increasing 

importance. The law ought, no doubt, to rec- 

State neu- ^ ° 

trality in reli- ognizc all religions as equal, but, as has been 

gious matters, remarked,' there are two ways in which this 
recognition may be conducted: the one passive, the other 
active. The government may stand neutral simply, and 
abstain from either refuting or from giving comfort to the 
pretensions of any given system of theology ; or it may be 
actively neuter, that is to say, it may pursue its task of 
scientific and philosophical achievement in complete indiffer- 
ence to any and every system of theology." It is a neutrality 
of the latter sort that should be practised in primary and 
secondary instruction, and that should govern the conduct of 
the instructor. 

The schoolmaster has always been a mark for raillery, and 
sometimes justly so ; to-day he is slightly regarded by every- 
one with any pretensions to high acquirements. 

Importance of Rgnan and Taine, and partisans generally of an 
the schoolmaster. '■ o ^ 

intellectual aristocracy, can scarcely suppress 

a smile at the mention of this representative of democracy, 

of science for small children. University professors show 

small tolerance for the pedantry of their humble assistant, who 

is sometimes ignorant of Greek. ]\Ien of culture, with any 

tincture of poetry or of art, regard the man as something very 

prosaic and utilitarian whose main ambition is to instruct some 

thousands of peasants in the alphabet, grammar, and the names 

' M. Goblet d'Alviella. 

-"Lay education," said Littre, "ought not to avoid dealing with anything 
-which is essential ; and what could be more essential in considering the moral 
government of society than the religions which have dominated or still dominate 


of the principal cities of Europe, and of the geographical 
localities from which we obtain pepper and coffee. And yet 
this despised schoolmaster, whose importance is daily increas- 
ing, is the sole middle-man between the belated masses and 
the intellectual 61ite, who are moving ever more and more 
rapidly forward. He has the advantage of being necessary and 
the disadvantage of knowing it ; buried in his remote village, his 
accomplishments impress him almost as much as they do the 
children and the peasantry about him ; the optical illusion is 
a natural one. But if an exaggerated estimate of his own 
importance sometimes gives rise in him to an offensive 
pedantry, it supplies him with the sort of devotion that 
enables a humble functionary to rise to the height of the 
duties to which he has been called. And who, after all, but 
society, is responsible for the fashioning and instruction of 
the schoolmaster? And cannot society raise the level of his 
intelligence in proportion as it increases the magnitude of his 
task? A little knowledge makes a pedant, much knowledge 
makes a scholar. There will always be schoolmasters who 
will be as well educated as one could wish, provided only 
that their salaries are raised side by side with the list of 
required studies. It is strange that a society should not do its 
best to form those whose function it is in turn to form it. The 
great question of popular education becomes in certain aspects 
a question of shillings and pence. The practical instruc- 
tion of schoolmasters has already been carried to a certain 
degree of perfection ; he has been initiated into an apprentice- 
ship, and introduced, as it were, into the kitchen of certain 
sciences; he has been supplied with notions on agriculture 
and chemistry which often enable him to give excellent advice 
to the peasantry. It would be very easy a little to perfect his 
theoretical knowledge, to give him a broader knowledge of the 
sciences which he considers too exclusively on their practical 
side, to give him some conception of things as a whole, to 
raise him above an exclusive adoration of the isolated facts of 
historical or grammatical minutiae. A little philosophy would 
make a better historian and a less tedious geographer. He 
might be introduced to the great cosmological hypotheses, to 


some sufficient notions of psychology, and in especial of child- 
psychology, and finally a little history of religion would 
familiarize him with the principal metaphysical speculations 
tliat tlie luiman mind has put forth in its endeavour to pass 
beyond the bounds of science ; he would become, as a result 
of it, more tolerant in all matters of religious belief. This 
more extended instruction would permit him to follow at a 
distance the progress of science; his intelligence would not 
stand still, he would not come to his complete maturity some- 
where between the ABC-book and the grammar. Moreover, 
intellectual elevation is always accompanied by a moral eleva- 
tion which manifests itself in all the conduct of life, and some- 
times a word from a schoolmaster may change all the rest of 
a pupil's existence. The greater one's intellectual, and in 
especial, one's moral superiority, the greater one's influence 
over those about one. Even at the present time the very 
modest amount of knowledge at the disposal of the ordinary 
teacher gives him a very genuine influence ; he is believed in, 
his words are listened to and accepted. The peasant — that 
doubting Thomas — who nowadays shakes his head over what 
the oriest says, is becoming accustomed to consult the school- 
master; the schoolmaster has shown him how to make more 
grain grow in the same amount of ground ; the quivering of a 
blade of grass in the wind is for a man of the people the most 
categorical of afifirmations ; to accomplish something is to 
prove : action is ratiocination enough. Moreover the school- 
master demonstrates the practical power of science by fashion- 
ing successive generations of mankind, by converting them 
into men. It is at the schoolmaster's hands that everyone 
receives the provision of knowledge that must last him and 
maintain his strength throughout his whole life ; he prepares 
one for life as the priest prepares one for death, and in the 
eyes of the peasant, preparation for life is much more impor- 
tant than preparation for death. Life has its mystery as well 
as death, and in the former case the fact of one's capability is 
certain; the schoolmaster often determines the future of the 
pupil in a manner that is visible and verifiable ; and nothing 
like so much can be said for the priest. The power of the 


latter also has diminished with the change that has taken 
place in the popular notion of punishment after death. The 
priest's power lies in ceremonies, in propitiatory or expiatory 
sacrifices ; the virtue of sacrifices of both kinds equally is 
to-day looked on sceptically. Knowledge is better than 
prayer, and the priest is gradually losing his ascendency over 
the people. Tiie schoolmaster is often the butt of raillery, but 
the country priest, whom it was so much the fashion to idealize 
at the beginning of the century, is to-day a mark for open mirth. • 
The reaction was natural and in some measure legitimate ; 
perfection is not of this world, and dwells neither in the state 
nor the school, but the role of the schoolmaster and the priest 
in humanity is important, for they are the sole dispensers of 
science and metaphysics to the multitude. We have seen 
how much it is to be hoped that the priest, who is so ignorant 
to-day in Catholic countries, will soon receive a better educa- 
tion, will soon begin to create a reason for his continued 
existence in modern society. If he falls too far behind the 
intellectual movement of the times, he will drop out simply, 
and the schoolmaster will inherit his power. After all there 
are all kinds of apostles, in blouse and frock-coat as well as in 
priestly robes ; and the proselytism of some of them is based 
upon a mystical disinterestedness, and of others on a certain 
practical aim ; there are some who travel about the world, and 
some who sit by the fire and are none the less active for all 
that. What maybe affirmed safely is that in all times apostles 
have been even more disposed to address little children than 
men, and it is notable that the modern Vincent de Paul was a 
schoolmaster- Pestalozzi. 

What is taking the place of religious education, in existing 

societies, is moral education. The moral sentiment, as we 

know, is the least suspicious element in the 

tion the legitimate modern religious sentiment, and metaphysical 

successor of reli- hypotheses, based in the last resort upon moral 

gious education, "^ i ■ i 

conceptions, are the ultimate and highest out- 
come of religious hypotheses. To the elements of philosophic 
morality it has been proposed to add, in secondary and even 
in primary instruction, some notion of the history of reli- 



gions.' If this proposition is to be made acceptable it must 
be reduced within just Hmits. Let us cherish no illusion; M. 
Vernes is wrong if he believes that a professor, and in especial 
a schoolmaster, ever could dwell with insistence upon the his- 
tory of the Jews without coming into conflict with the clergy. A 
truly scientific criticism of the legends which are usually taught 
children under the name of sacred history positively batters 
down the very foundations of Christianity. Clergymen and 
priests would not endure it ; they would protest and with some 
show of reason against it, in the name of religious neutrality : 
religion is not less certain in their eyes than science, and the 
ignorant faith that distinguishes many of them has not yet 
been tempered by a habit of free criticism ; so that anything 
like a eenuine historical education which should openly con- 
trovert portions of the traditional theology must be considered 
in advance as impossible. There must be no question in the 
matter of openly refuting anybody ; the course of instruction 
must simply be such as to furnish those who follow it with a 
criterion of truth, and to teach them to make use of it. We 
believe therefore that if the history of religions is ever made a 
part of the regular course of instruction, it will deal principally 
with everything but the history of the Jews. It might furnish 
elementary instruction on the moral system of Confucius, on 
the moral metaphysical notions involved in Indo-European 
religions, on the antique Egyptian religion, on the Greek 
myths, and finally on the religious and moral atmosphere in 
which Christianity took its rise, and on which it in some sort 
depended and throve. It would be well even to make scholars 
in primary schools acquainted with the names of some of the 
great sages in the history of the world, with their actual or 
legendary biography, with the moral maxims which are attrib- 
uted to them. What harm could it do to instruct our 
children in the aphorisms uttered by Confucius, Zoroaster, 
Buddha, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, and to let them see 
something of what humanity really believed before the time 
of Christ? One cannot destroy the old faith openly and in a 
minute, but one may do much to undermine and justly to 
' By M. Maurice Vernes (approved by Littre, and later by M. Paul Bert). 


undermine it by showing where and how it borrowed much of 
all that is best in it — that it is not an exception in the history 
of human thought nor even, in all respects, unsurpassed in its 

The Church possesses two means of educating children in 
its dogmas, and only two; the first is that of patristic or 

irni„io„o„„>» „*• ecclesiastical authority : ' The fact is thus and such 

Helplessness 01 -' 

religion in the face because I say SO ' ; the second is the testimony of 
miracles. These two, even at the present day,, 
constitute the whole effective contents of the priests' armoury. 
The moment they step outside this little circle of ideas they lose 
their power. And to destroy these two arguments it suffices to 
show : 1st, that other men have said something different from 
the teachings of Christianity ; 2d, that other gods than Jehovah 
have also performed miracles; or, in other words, there are 
no miracles whatever that have been scientifically ascertained. 
A number of French schools were founded in Kabail, and 
were prospering, when by degrees they were abandoned. In 
one of them, which was the last deserted, some exercises of the 
pupils were discovered : they dealt with a story about Frede- 
gunde. This anecdote illustrates current notions on instruc- 
tion in classical history: History means facts, and facts often 
monstrous and immoral ; not content with teaching them 
to young Frenchmen we export them to Kabail ; but we do 
not export our ideas, nor even employ them at home. We 
should have done better to teach the young Algerians what 
we know about Mohammed and his religion and about Jesus 
and the other prophets, the divinity of whose inspiration 
Mohammed himself admitted. The slightest traces that a 
really rational education should leave in a half-savage mind 
would be more useful than a heap of absurd facts perfectly 
remembered. At bottom it is more important even that a 
French child should know something of Mohammed or Buddha 
than of Fredegunde. Although Mohammed and Buddha 
never lived on French soil, their influence on us is infinitely 
more great and their relation to us infinitely closer than that 
of Chilperic or Lothaire. 

The place in which the history of religions really belongs, is 


in the higher education. It is not enough to have introduced 
it with success into the College de France, and quite recently 
p, - to have secured its recognition in a small part of 

ligion in state the higher studies in the Ecole. If we should 
e ucation. replace our faculties of theology by chairs of 

religious criticism we should do no more than follow the 
example of Holland.' Mr. Max Miiller introduced the science 
of religions into the University of Oxford with success. 
Similarly in Switzerland at the organization of the University 
of Geneva, in 1873, there was created in the faculty of letters a 
chair of the history of religions, although there already existed 
in the university a faculty of theology. In Germany the 
history of religions is taught independently, notably at the 
University of Wurtzburg, under the name of Comparative 
Symbolism. Just as a complete course of instruction in phi- 
losophy should include the principles of the philosophy of law 
and the philosophy of history, it will some day include also 
tile principles of the philosophy of religion. After all, even 
from the point of view of philosophy, Buddha and Jesus 
possess a much greater importance than Anaximander or 

' Some years ago, as is well known, on the ist of October, 1877, the faculty of 
theology in the three state universities of Leyden, Utrecht, and Groningen, and 
in tlie Communal University of Amsterdam, was declared to be a lay faculty and 
was freed from all association and connection with the Church, and was required to 
give purely scientific and philosophic instruction on the history of religion, without 
practical discipline. (See M. Steyn Parve, Organisation de Vinsirttctioti primaire, 
s^cpndaire et sup^rieure dans le royaume des Fays-Bas, Leyden, 1878, and M. 
Maurice Vernes, Melanges de critique religieuse, p. 305.) 

The following is the programme of this faculty : i. General theology ; 2. History 
of doctrines concerning divinity ; 3. History of religions in general ; 4. History of 
the Israelite religion; 5. History of Christianity ; 6. Literature of the Israelites, 
and tlie ancient Christians; 7. Old and New Testament exegesis ; 8. History of 
the dogmas of the Christian church ; g. Philosophy of religion ; 10. Ethics. 

'^ As M. Vernes has remarked, the preparation for teaching the history of religions 
might well be the same as that for teaching philosophy, history, and letters. It 
should include the studies in tlie upper classes, of the philosophical section of the 
icole norniale, and a preparatory course in the divers other faculties : a real normal 
course. In this course the professor should point out the general princijile of the 
history of religions and should confine himself to indicating them very summarily 
in the case of the religions of Greece and Rome, to which a general literary education 

284 nissoLUTioy of keligioa's in ex is ting societies. 

It has been said, after M. Laboulaye, that a professor of 
the history of religion should be at once an archseologist, an 

epigraphist, a numismatist, a linguist, an anthro- 
Jtru'ctors'"^ pologist, and versed in Hindu, Phcenician, 

Slavonic, Germanic, Celtic, Etruscan, Greek, and 
Roman antiquities; he should be nothing less than a Pico 
della Mirandola. At that rate one might show also that 
neither schools nor colleges can be expected to include a course 
on natural history or on the political history of some seven or 
eight nations — nay, even that it is impossible to teach children 
to read : the art of reading is so difificult in its perfection ! 
Really is it necessary that the historian of religion should be a 
master of all the historical sciences? He is under no obliga- 
tion to discover new materials, he has simply to make use of 
those which philologists and epigraphists have put at his dis- 
posal ; such materials are now abundant enough and well 
enough ascertained to require a course specially devoted to 
them. There is no need for the instructor to master such and 
such a particular division of the history of religion ; he is simply 
required to furnish students in our universities, in the course of 
one or two years, with a general view of the development of 
religious ideas in history. The professor will no doubt encoun- 
ter certain dif^culties in dealing with religious questions 
because of the amount of feeling that such problems always 
involve, but the same difficulty is met with in every course 
which deals with contemporary questions, and almost every 
course does deal with them. A professor of history has to deal 
with contemporary facts, to describe the successive changes in 
the form of government in France, etc. A professor of philos- 
ophy has to deal with questions of theodicy and morals ; and 
even in pure psychology, materialistic and deterministic 
theories have to be passed upon ; even a mere professor of rhet- 
oric is obliged, in treating of literature and of Voltaire and of 

will have given the pupil access ; he should deal, without excessive attention to detail, 
with the other Indo-European religions (those of India, Persia, etc.), with the reli- 
gions of Egypt, of Assyria, of Phoenicia, of Islam ; and should spend his greatest 
efforts on the criticism of Judaism and the early stages of Christianity, on the 
history of the principal Christian dogmas and their development. 


the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, to touch on questions 
which are burning. Similarly, a professor in the law school 
must find a thousand occasions for praising, or blaming, or 
criticising the laws of the State. And must one, because of 
dangers of this sort which are met with at every step, cease 
teaching history, philosophy, and law ? No, and we do not 
believe that one should be debarred from teaching religious 
history. The whole question is one of fact rather than 
of principle ; it should be the master's business to avoid 
digressions beyond the limits of pure science, and to be on 
his guard against seeming to mean something more than he 
says, and masking a criticism of the existing order of things 
under a course on abstract theory.' 

The aim of this impartial course of instruction should be 

to supply each religion with its proper historical setting, to 

Legitimate show how it was born, developed, opposed to 

object of religious others; it should be described, not refuted. The 

instruction, 1 • ,. ^ ^- ri-.-i ,••, • 1 

bare mtroduction of historical continuity into the 

course of religious thought is itself a considerable step in 
advance ; whatever is continuous ceases to be marvellous. 
Nobody is astonished at a brook which gradually becomes 
bigger ; our ancestors adored great rivers of whose sources they 
were ignorant. 

///. Education at Home. 

It has often been asked, as a question of practical conduct^ 
whether the head of a household ought not to have a reliijion. 

' Works in religious criticism would naturally find their place in the school and 
college libraries. They might be supplemented by a more or less extensive museum 
of religious curiosities, beginning with the fetiches of savage tribes and extending 
down to the present day. 

To the mass of the French public the solid results already achieved by an inde- 
pendent criticism of the Bible constitute a terra incognita ; they must be dissemi- 
nated. M. Lenormant's effort might serve as an example for other efTorts of the 
same kind. In order to make it apparent at a glance how the Pentateuch has been 
formed, by the combination and fusion of the earlier sets of documents, M. 
Lenornant undertook to publish a translation from the Hebrew, in which he dis- 
tinguishes the extracts from the respective sets of documents by different kinds of 
type. Thus one has before one the natural explanation of the way in which all 
the episodes in Genesis are presented in the two parallel versions, sometimes juxta- 
posed, sometimes mingled. 


at least if not for himself, for his wife and children, and if his 

wife is religious ought he to abandon the education of his 

children to her? 

VVc believe it is the duty of the head of a household to 

rear his family in the ideas in which he believes. Whatever 

■p *i, I J * • solution of the religious problem he may have 
Fathers duty in . . 

regard to religious attained, he ought to hide it from no one, and 
ins rue ion. j^^ especial not from his family. Moreover, even 

if he should wish to keep his opinions secret, he would b,e 
unable to do so, at least for the whole of his life. His dis- 
simulation would simply result in such an association in the 
minds of his children between moral precepts and religious 
dogmas that the chances would be that they would stand, or 
rather fall, together. Of all people in the world the child is 
precisely the one who is likely to suffer most from a belief that 
religion and morality are inseparably bound up together. Of 
all human beings children are least philosophical, least meta- 
physical, least familiar with scientific ideas, and therefore of all 
others the most easily biassed once for all by the inculcation 
of false or doubtful notions presented as certain. In China, at 
the periodical conferences, certain mandarins dilate upon the 
following theme in the presence of the more notable among 
>! the inhabitants: "Do your duty as a citizen and beware of 
religion." That is precisely what a father ought to say again 
and again to his children. It is a good principle of education 
to take it for granted that the child is rational, and to treat it 
as such, in order ultimately and gradually to develop the spirit 
of reason in it. What a child lacks is much less intensity of 
attention than continuity. Very often among country people, 
and almost always among inferior races (as also among animals), 
the young are more wide-awake, more curious, more quick- 
minded than the mature men ; but their attention must be 
seized in transit ; teaching them resembles teaching a bird on 
the wing. Their schoolmaster must have the gifts of a bird- 
fancier ; and it is his fault much oftener than the child's if the 
latter does not understand, does not ask questions, is inert and 
incurious. The scientific education of the child should begin 
with its first question ; truth is a debt that one owes to it, and 


truth accessible to its intelligence. The moment a child 
asks a question out of its own head, it is at least in part pre- 
pared to understand the reply ; the duty of the person inter- 
rogated is to reply, as fully and as truly as he believes the 
child capable of understanding, and if he leaves gaps he must 
at least never fill them with lies. It is so easy to tell the child 
to wait until it is bigger. There should be no fear of pre- 
cociously developing the child's reason in its two essential 
forms, the instinct of inquiry, of why and //^w, and the instinct 
of perception^of logical cogency in the reply to the " why " and 
" how." One need not be afraid that the child will fatigue its 
brain by abstract reasoning ; Pascals are rare. The danger 
does not lie in a premature development of the reason, which 
it is always easy moreover to check, but in a premature de- 
velopment of the sensibility. The child must not be encour- 
aged to feel too strongly. To subject it to vain fears such as 
those of hell and the devil, or to beatific visions and mystic 
enthusiasms such as young girls experience at the time of the 
first communion, is to do it much greater harm than to teach 
it to reason justly and to develop in it a certain intelligent 
virility. Races become effeminate by excess of sensibility, 
never by excess of scientific and philosophic power. 

It will perhaps be said, with Rousseau, that if the child is 
not to be trammelled with religious prejudice it may at least 
Impossible to "^^ait for reasoned instruction on religion until 
leave the child in it has attained its intellectual maturity. \\'e 
Ignorance, reply that it is impossible to do so in the present 

state of society. If the father does not teach his child it will 
absorb the prejudices of those it associates with, and to dis- 
abuse it of them afterward will demand a veritable crisis, which 
is always painful and often the cause of permanent suffering. 
The great art of education should consist precisely in avoiding 
crises of this sort in the orderl3' growth of the intellect. 
The father who postpones the decisive moment will be 
the first person to be surprised at the amount of pain 
he will be obliged to subject his child to in order to root 
up the error which he has placidly permitted to grow under 
his very eyes. 


M. Littrc lias given an account of a case of conscience of 
this kind ; after having voluntarily held aloof from the religious 
education of his daughter till she had reached 
earW ^'^^^ ^^"^ years of discretion, he found her at last so sin- 
cerely convinced, so completely fashioned by 
religion for religion, that he recoiled before so thorough-going 
a change ; like a surgeon whose hand should tremble at the 
tliought of an operation upon a body that love had rendered 
sacred to him ; like an oculist who should feel that light was 
not worth the pain that he would have to inflict on eyes that 
were dear to him. The intellectual operator has not at his 
command even the resource of chloroform ; he must practise 
his surgery upon a subject who is fully conscious and even 
excited by attention and reflection. Prevention is better than 
expectant treatment, which allows the disease to develop in 
the hopes of curing it afterward. The competent educator, 
like the competent physician, may be known by his ability in 
avoiding the necessity of operations. It \s a mistake to allow 
a child to grow up incomplete belief in religious legends, with 
the intention of undeceiving it afterward. It will be un- 
deceived not without regret nor without effort. And often 
the effort put forth will itself be too great, will overshoot 
itself, and from excess of faith the child will pass at a bound 
to sceptical indifference and will suffer for it. Treasures in 
heaven are treasures in fiat money ; the disappointment which 
must some day come, when one learns the truth, will be bitter. 
It would be better always to have known that one was 
poor. A child may early be accustomed to the conception of 
the infinite; it makes up its account with it as with the notion 
of the antipodes, or of the absence of an absolute up and down 
in the universe. The first sensation one experiences when one 
learns that the earth is spherical is of terror, a fear of the void, 
of tumbling off into the abyss of open space. The same naive 
fear lies at the bottom of the religious sentiment in certain 
minds, and is due to factitious associations of ideas which are a 
matter of education wholly. A fish born in an aquarium be- 
comes accustomed to its habitat, as the ancients were accus- 
tomed to the inverted crystal ball of the heavens; it would be 


lost in the ocean. Birds reared in the cage often die if they are 
abruptly given their liberty. A period of transition is always 
necessary, one needs time to become accustomed to intellectual 
expanses as well as to expanses of air and water. If mankind is 
to live without religion it must receive a non-religious education, 
and this education will spare it a great deal of the suffering that 
those who have been educated in the faith and have subse- 
quently broken away by their own efforts have undergone. 
The wood-cutter's child experiences no sentiment of fear in the 
solitude and obscurity of the forest, in the arched lanes and 
alleys, among the trees among w'hich it was born. A town- 
born child would feel lost in such a place and would begin to 
cry. The world of science, with its shadowy labyrinths and 
limitless extent and its numberless obstacles which must be 
removed one at a time, is such a forest ; the child who is born 
in it will not be frightened, will live in it always happily. 

Of all the problems of education which lie on the borders of 

religious metaphysics the most interesting is, unquestionably, 

what to say to the child about death and human 

Wtat to say to , . ,^r. ,, . , . , 

the child about destmy. When these questions are discussed 

death, M, Louis before him, is a rational and truly philosophical 

Menard's position. - .^ , 

method to be employed : Is he to be intormec 

dogmatically, or is it a matter of indifference what is said to 
him ? This problem has been discussed, in the " Critique 
philosophique," by M. Louis Menard, who deals with the hypo- 
thetical case of a child that has lost its mother and is cross- 
questioning its father. That is ingenious, but it is a specious 
way of raising the problem. When a young child loses its 
mother we regard it as the first duty of the father to console and 
spare its delicate organism the strain of all strong emotions. 
The question is one of moral hygiene, in which philosophy and 
religion are not concerned, in which the age and temperament of 
the child are the sole things to consider. Truth is not equally 
valuable at all periods of life ; one does not tell a man abruptly 
that his wife has just died. The most convinced materialist 
w ill hesitate to announce to a nervous child that it will never 
see its mother again. But the materialist in question would 


always do wrong to put forth a categorical affirmation in a 
case in which there exists at best nothing more than proba- 
bilities ; the most dangerous method of deception is to present 
as a recognized certainty what is really nothing of the kind. 
In any event there is one form of immortality, that of memory, 
and that species of immortality we may ourselves secure by 
implanting it in the mind of the child.' The father ought 
repeatedly to talk to the orphan child of the dead mother. 
He can create a recollection in the child as vivid and as detailed 
as his own ; whether the child behaves well or ill he can always 
say, " If your mother were but here ! " The child will thus be- 
come accustomed to find a recompense or a punishment in its 
mother's approbation or disapprobation." 

To raise the problem more fairly, let us suppose the cir- 
cumstances somewhat less tragic than those which M. Menard 
Should talk ^^^^ chosen, and let us ask how, in general, the 
with child as with child must be spoken to about death. When the 
a grown person. q\^\\^ jg capable of following a more or less com- 
plex bit of exposition, toward the age of ten or twelve for 
example, I confess that I see no reason why its questions 
should not be answered exactly as if they were those of a 
grown person. At that age it will no longer believe in fairies, 
it will no longer need to believe in legends, not even in those 
of Christianity. The scientific and philosophic spirit will have 
begun to develop and must not be either checked or dis- 
torted. If its intelligence leads it toward philosophical prob- 
lems, so much the better ; one must meet its need as simply 
as if the problems in question were historical. I have seen a 
child much tormented by a desire to know whether such and 
such an historical personage died a natural death or was 
poisoned. The child was told that the thing was doubtful, but 

' " Memory is no doubt an affliction for the grown man much more than for the 
child, but it is also a consolation. Cultivation of one's memories supplies powerful 
means of moral education for all ages, and for nations as well as for individuals. 
It was quite to be expected that we should find an ancestor worship in tlie early 
history of every people." (Felix Henneguy, Critique philosophiqtie, 8th year, 
vol. ii. p. 218.) 

2 Ibid. 


that the probabihty was so and so. The same method should 
be pursued in reference to more important problems. 

But how, it may be asked, is one to form replies, that the 

child can understand, to questions which relate to the life 

„ ,.„ ,, , beyond the p;rave ? Is not the sole language 

No difficnlty in -^ ° 00 

making the child that it understands that of Christianity, which 
nnderstand. ^^^j^ ^^jj.j^ ^^^ raised to heaven, with happy 

souls seated among the angels and the seraphim, etc? We 
reply that people in general seem to have a strange conception 
of the child's intelligence ; they expect it to understand the 
most refined subtleties of grammar, the most unexpected 
turns and shifts of theology, and are afraid to say a word to it 
of philosophy. A little girl of twelve years, of my acquaint- 
ance, replied with much ingenuity to this unexpected ques- 
tion : What is the difference between a perfect and an 
imperfect Christian ? It was evident that she would not have 
experienced greater difficulty in replying to a metaphysical 
question. I recollect having myself followed, at the age of 
eight, a discussion on the immortality of the soul ; nay, I even 
pronounced an interior judgment in favour of him who was 
maintaining the cause of immortality. Our system of educa- 
tion is full of contradictions, which consist at once in mechani- 
cally burdening the child's memory with things it cannot 
understand, and in depriving its intelligence of subjects in 
which it might take an interest. " Rut," M. Menard will 
object, " a child must not be put into a position of being able 
to oppose its father's belief to that of its mother or of its grand- 
mother." Why not ? It happens, necessarily, every day. 
There are, on all subjects, incessantly going on in the bosom 
of the family a series of discussions, of small disagreements 
which in nowise fundamentally disturb the harmony of the 
household ; why should it be otherwise when more important 
and uncertain questions simply are involved? " But the child 
will lose respect for its parents." It is certainly better that 
it should lose respect for them than that it should believe 
everything they say, even when they deceive it. Happily, 
respect for one's parents is not at all the same thjng as belief 
in their infallibility. Children early make use of liberty of 


judgment, they may early l)e taught to sift out the truth from 
a mass of more or less contradictory afifirmations, their judg- 
ment may be developed instead of being supplied, as is at 
present attempted, ready and completely made. The essen- 
tial thing is to avoid rousing their passions and converting 
them into fanatics. The child needs an atmosphere of calm 
for the harmonious development of its faculties ; it is a delicate 
plant that must not be too soon exposed to wind and weather; 
but it does not follow that it should be kept in the obscurity. 
or half light of religious legend. The sole means of spar- 
ing the child the trouble of passion and fanaticism is to place 
it outside of all religious communion and to habituate it to 
examine things coolly, philosophically ; to take problems of 
religion for what they are ; that is to say, for problems simply, 
with ambiguous solutions." Nothing serves better to awake 
the intellectual spontaneity of the child than to say to it : 
This is what I believe, and these are my reasons for believing 
it ; I may be wrong. Your mother, or such and such a person, 
believes something else for certain other reasons, right or 
wrong. The child acquires thus a rare quality, that of toler- 
ance ; its respect for its parents attaches to the diverse 
doctrines that it sees them professing; it learns, in its earliest 
years, that every sincere and reasoned belief is in the highest 
degree respectable. I am intimately acquainted with a child 
that has been reared in this way, and it has never had any 
occasion for anything but satisfaction with the education it 
has received. It has never been presented on the subject of 
human destiny, or the destiny of the world, with any opinion 
in the nature of an article of faith ; instead of religious cer- 
titudes it has heard only of metaphysical possibilities and 

' Among the greatest causes of difficulty witli a child, let us note the following : 
the father is apt to be a free-thinker, the mother a Catholic. It hears every day at 
Church that those who do not practise their religious duties will go to hell : the 
child therefore reasons that if its father dies it will never see him again, unless it 
goes to hell with him, and then it will never see its mother again. A full and 
complete belief in annihilation would be less painful and less annoying than this 
belief in eternal damnation. Add that in this respect many Protestant clergymen, 
in especial in England and in the United States, are not less intolerant than 
Catholic priests. 


probabilities. Toward the age of thirteen and a half the 
problem of the destiny of mankind was abruptly suggested to 
it ; the death of a very dear aged relative caused it to do more 
thinking than is customary at that age, but its philosophic 
beliefs proved themselves suf^cient. They still are sufificient, 
although the child in question has been obliged several times 
to face the possibility, and the immediate possibility, of its 
own death. I cite the example as an experiment which bears 
on the question under discussion. 

How then should death be spoken of to a child? I reply 
confidently, as one would speak of it to a grown person, 
allowing for the difference between abstract and 
concrete language. I naturally suppose the child 
to be semi-rational, more than ten years old, and capable of 
thinking of something else than its top or its doll. I believe 
it should then be talked with openly, and told what we our- 
selves think most probable on these terrible questions. The 
free-thinker who leans toward naturalistic doctrines will say to 
his son or his daughter that he believes death to be a resolu- 
tion of the person into its constituent elements, a return to 
a blind material existence, a fresh beginning in the perpetual 
round of evolution ; that all that we leave behind is the good 
that we have done and that we live in humanity by our good 
actions and our good thoughts, and that immortality is pro- 
ductivity for the best interests of humanity. The spiritualist 
will say that, owing to the distinction between the soul and 
the body, death is simply a deliverance. The pantheist or the 
monist will repeat the formula consecrated by the use of 
three thousand years: Tat tvani asi — Thou art that; and the 
modern child \\\\\ recognize, as the young Brahman does, that 
beneath the surface of things there lies a mysterious unity into 
which the individual may fade. Finally the Kantian will en- 
deavour to make his child understand that the conception of 
duty involves something anterior and superior to the present 
life ; that to be aware of the moral law is to be conscious of 
immortality. Everyone will say what he believes, and take 
care not to pretend that his opinion is the absolute truth. 
The child, thus treated like a human being, will early learn to 


make up its own mind, to provide itself with a creed without 
having received it from any traditional religion or any immu- 
table doctrine; it will learn that a really sacred belief is one 
which is reflective and reasoned and seemingly personal ; and 
if at times, as it advances in age, it experiences a greater or less 
anxiety about the unknown, so much the better; such an 
anxiety, when the senses are not involved and thought alone 
is concerned, is in no sense dangerous. The child who experi- 
ences it will be of the stuff out of which philosophers and . 
sages are made. 




Are women inherently predisposed toward religion and even 
toward superstition ?— The nature of feminine intelligence— Pre- 
dominance of the imagination— Credulity— Conservatism— Fem- 
inine sensibility— Predominance of sentiment— Tendency to 
mysticism — Is the moral sentiment among women based upon 
religion ?— Influence of religion and of non-religion upon mod- 
esty and love— Origin of modesty— Love and perpetual virginity 
— M. Kenan's paradoxes on the subject of monastic vows— How 
woman's natural proclivities may be turned to account by free- 
thought — Influence exercised by the wife's faith over the hus- 
band—Instance of a conversion to free-thought. 

Among free-thinkers themselves there are a certain number 
who beHeve that women are by the very nature of their minds 
devoted to superstition and to myth. Is the incapacity of the 
female mind for philosophy more demonstrable than that of the 
child's mind to which it has so frequently been compared ? 

We are not obliged to decide the question whether women's 

mental powers are or are not inferior to those of men.' We 

are obliged to consider only whether the limits 

Woman's atten- ^f female intelligence are so tightly drawn that 
tion to details. ^ . . ^ ^ . . 

religion, and even superstition, are for it inevi- 
table. Those who maintain that women are in some sort 
condemned to error argue from certain essential elements in 

' As a general rule, Darwin says, men go farther than women, whether the matter 
he one of profound meditation, of reason, or imagination, or simply of the use of 
the senses or even of the hands. According to certain statistical investigations it 
appears that the modern female hrain has remained almost stationary, while the 
male brain has developed notably. The brain of a Parisian woman is no larger 
than that of a Chinese woman, and the Parisian woman labours under the additional 
disadvantage of possessing a larger foot. 

Admitting these facts one may still refuse to infer from them the existence of a 
congenital incapacity, for the way in which women have always been treated by 
men and the education that they have received may well have left results which have 



her character; let us examine accordingly the peculiarity of 
her intelligence and of her sensibility. The female mind, it 
has been said, is less abstract than that of the male ; women 
are more impressionable on the side of the senses and of the 
imagination, are more readily appealed to by what is beautiful 
and striking and coloured : thence arises their need for myths, 
for symbols, for a cult, for rites that speak to the eye. We re- 
ply that this need is not absolute : are not Protestant women 
content with a cult which does not appeal to the senses? . 
And in any event, an imaginative spirit is not necessarily 
superstitious. Superstition is a matter of education, not of 
nature ; there is a certain maturity of mind which lends na 
encouragement to superstition. I have known a number of 
women who did not possess one superstition among them and 
were incapable of acquiring one; there was no distinction in 
this respect to be observed between their intelligence and 
that of a man ; the conception of the world as an orderly suc- 
cession of phenomena, once really accepted by the human 
mind, maintains itself by its own power, without aid from 
without, as the fact in the long run always does. 

become hereditary. The education of women has in all times been less strenuous 
than that of men ; and their mind, perhaps naturally less scientific, has never been 
developed by direct contact with the external world. In the Orient and in Greece, 
among the nations from whom we derive our civilization, women (at least in families 
in easy circumstances) were always restricted to a subordinate role, confined \.o 
woman's quarters, or withdrawn from all direct contact with the real world. 
Thence arose a sort of tradition of ignorance and intellectual abasement which has 
been handed down to us. There is nothing like the brain of a young girl reared 
at home for gathering to itself completely, and without loss, the whole residue of 
middle-class silliness, of naive and self-satisfied prejudice, of strutting ignorance 
that does not see itself as others see it, of superstition transformed into a rule 
of conduct. But change the education and you will in a great measure change these 
results. Even according to Darwin's own theory, education and heredity can in 
the long run undo anything that they have done. Even if there should remain a 
certain balance of intelligence in favor of the male, even if the female should 
prove to be in the end, as Darwin says, incapable of pushing invention as far in 
advance as man, it would not follow that her heart and intelligence should be 
filled with another order of ideas and sentiments than those which are beneficial to- 
men. It is one thing to invent and to widen the domain of science, and another 
thing to assimilate the knowledge already acquired ; it is one thing to widen the 
intellectual horizon, and another thing to adapt one's eyes and heart to this more 
open habitat. 


A second trait of female intelligence, which has also been 
made use of, is its credulity— by which religion has so largely 
profited. Women are more credulous than men, 
Female credu- j^^ ^j^j^ sense : they possess a certain confidence 
in men, whom they recognize as stronger and 
more widely experienced than themselves ; they willingly 
believe whatever grave men, whom they are accustomed to 
venerate, men like priests, assert. Their credulity is thus in a 
great part a mere form of their natural need to lean on some 
member of the opposite sex. Conceive a religion originated and 
administered solely by women ; it would be looked upon with 
great distrust by women, in general. The day men cease to be- 
lieve, female credulity — in especial that of the average woman, 
who is accustomed to judge with the eyes and intelligence of 
someone else — will be profoundly affected. I once asked a 
maid who had remained thirty years in the same house what 
were her beliefs. " Those of my master," she replied ; her 
master was an atheist. The same question was put to the 
wife of a member of the Institute. She replied: "I was a 
Catholic until I was married. After I was married I began to 
appreciate the superiority of my husband's mind, I saw that he 
did not believe in religion, and I ceased to believe in it entirely 

A third trait of the feminine character is its conservativeness, 

its friendliness to tradition, its indisposition to initiative. 

Respect for power and authority, Spencer says, 

Female conser- predominates in women, influences their ideas 
vatism, 1 ... 

and sentiments in regard to all institutions, and 

tends to strengthen political and ecclesiastical governments. 
For the same reason women are particularly inclined to put 
faith in whatever is imposing; doubt, criticism, a disposition 
to question whatever is established is rare among them, 
Mr. Spencer thinks. Women certainly do possess a more 
conservative disposition than men in religion and in politics ; 
it has been so found in England where women vote on muni- 
cipal questions, and in our judgment the role that woman 
should play in this world is precisely that of conservatism ; as 
a young girl, she must guard her person as a treasure, must be 


always suspicious of she knows not precisely what ; then as a 
wife she must watch over her child, her house, her husband ; 
must preserve, retain, defend, embrace somebody or something. 
Is it a thing to be complained of ? Is it not to this instinct 
that we owe our life, and if difference in sex, or sexual 
functions, involves grave differences in character, must we con- 
clude from this fact that women possess an irremediable civil 
and religious incapacity? No ; conservatism may be of service 
in the ranks of truth as in the ranks of error ; all depends on 
what is given to conserve. If women are more philosophically 
and scientifically educated, their conservatism may do good 

A final trait of the feminine mind, very like the preceding, 

is that women are more given to an absorption in detail, are 

less courageous, are more capable of dealing with 

Female timidity, .,,.,, , ^ 

particular details than with general ideas and 

things as a whole, and are more inclined to narrow and literal 
interpretations than men. If a woman, for example, is intrusted 
with any administrative office she will execute every rule to 
the letter with an exaggerated conscientiousness and a naive 
anxiety. The conclusion is that women will always lend com- 
fort to literal religions and to superstitious practices. In our 
opinion this penchant for minutiae and for scrupulousness 
which is so frequently observed among women may become, 
on the contrary, an important factor of incredulity when 
women are sufficiently instructed to perceive at first hand the 
innumerable contradictions and ambiguities of the texts they 
are dealing with. An enlightened scruple is a keener instru- 
ment of doubt than of faith. 

We confess we do not yet see that tlie differences, native or 
acquired, between the male and the female brain suffice to con- 
stitute women a sort of inferior caste, devoted by their birth 
to religion and the service of myth, while men are reserved 
for science and philosophy. 

Let me now examine the more profound reasons based on 
the nature of women's sentimental proclivities. In general, it 
is said that women are dominated not by reason but by senti- 
timent. They respond quickly to a call made in the name 


of pity or of charity, and not so quickly to one made in the 

name of equity. But is sentiment the exclusive possession of 

T ,. ^ relictions? And are there not also men of senti- 
Is sentiment a ° 

badge of servitude ment as well as men of thought? And are the 
to error ^^^j. ^^^ ^j^^^. ^^^^-Qmii; condemned to a life of error 

while the second live in the presence of the truth ? 

But it is insisted that in women sentiment naturally tends 

toward mysticism. Among the Greeks, Spencer says, the 

women were more accessible than the men to 

omen an religious excitation.' It may be replied that the 

mysticism. *> j r 

greatest mystics have not been women. St. 
Theresas have been much less numerous than men like Plotinus 
(it was Plotinus who first gave the word cKo-rao-is its current 
sense), Porphyry, lamblicus, Dionysius the Areopagite, St. 
13onaventure, Gerson, Richard de Saint Victor, Eckhart,Tauler, 
Swedenborg. Mysticism develops in proportion to the restric- 
tion of the individual's activity. Women's life, which is less 
active than that of men, allows more space for the development 
of mystic impulses and exercises of piety. But activity cures 
the diseases of contemplation, in especial of vain and empty con- 
templation in which only average and ignorant minds can take 
delight. Woman's religious activity will diminish in propor- 
tion as a wider field of activity is opened up to her, and in 
proportion as an intellectual and aesthetic education is supplied 
to her and she becomes interested in all the human questions 
and realities of this world. It has been desired even to render 
political life accessible to woman, to restore to her the rights 
which have hitherto been denied her. ]\I. Secretan has 
recently advocated this measure, which was formerly advo- 

' Sir Rutherford Alcnck says also, that in Japan it is very rare to see any otlier 
worshippers in the temples than women and children ; the men are always extremely 
few in number and belong to the lower classes. At least five-sixths and often nine- 
tenths of the pilgrims who come to the temple of Juggernaut are women. Among the 
Sikhs the women are said to believe in more gods than the men. These examples, 
borrowed as they are from different races, and at different epochs, show sufficiently, 
in Spencer's opinion, that, when we find an analogous state of things in Catholic 
countries, and even in some measure in England, we are not to attribute it solely 
to the education of women ; the cause, he thinks, is deeper, lies in their nature. 
(See Spencer's Study of Sociology.) 


cated by John Stuart Mill. To do so at the present moment 
would be to hand over politics directly to the priesthood, who 
at present control women. But when by gradual degrees 
women's religious emancipation shall have been completed, it 
is possible that a certain political emancipation may be the 
natural consequence of it. Her civil emancipation in any 
event is only a matter of time. The equality of women before 
the law is a necessary consequence of democratic ideas. When 
they shall be forced thus to occupy themselves more actively 
in the affairs of this world the new employment of their energy 
will protect them more and more from mystical tendencies. 

If an opportunity be given them to influence society they 
will no doubt exercise it philanthropically. Well, pity is one 
of the most powerful derivatives of mysticism. Even among 
religious orders it has been remarked how much less exalted 
the devotion of the members of the philanthropic orders is 
than of those who restrict themselves to sterile meditation in 
the cloister. 

If mysticism is no more truly indispensable to women than 

to men, can it be maintained that their moral sentiment is 

incapable of subsistence apart from some religion ? 

ema e mora j ^vQi^eji'g moral power less than that of men, 
sentiment. ^ ' 

and is it only in religion that they can find the 
additional increment of strength of which they are in need? 
Resistance to physical or moral pain supplies a sufficiently 
exact measure of power. Well, women show in maternity, 
with all its consequences, in pregnancy, in childbirth, in nurs- 
ing, accompanied as it is by continual watchfulness and care, 
a patience of physical pain which is perhaps greater than any- 
thing that the average man is capable of. Just so in respect to 
patience of moral pain : women may suffer much from poverty, 
and sadness follows the flying needle, but love and pity are the 
great sources of restraint. As the sphere of her intelligence 
widens, a large field will be supplied for the exercise of 
women's power of love which is so highly developed. The 
genuine remedy for every kind of suffering is increased activity 
of mind, which means increased instruction. Action is always 
an anodyne of pain. Therein lies the explanation of the 


power of charity to calm personal suffering, which is always in 

some degree egoistic. The best way to console one's self, fori 

women and men alike, will always be to minister to someone] 

else ; hope revives in a heart which gives hope to others. 

Pains become gentle as they become fertile in beneficence J 

and productivity is an appeasement. 

And finally, by way of compensation, there are other respects 

in which women would suffer perhaps less than men from the 

disappearance of religious beliefs. Women live 

Bestsideof more completely in the present than men do, 
female levity. r j i 

they are somewhat bird-like in their composition, 

and forget the tempest the instant it is passed. Women 
laugh as easily as they cry, and their laughter soon dries 
their tears : they are to be forgiven for at least one aspect of 
this divine levity. Moreover they have their household, all 
the tender and practical preoccupations of life, which absorb 
them more completely, heart and soul, than men. A woman's 
happiness is probably complete the instant she believes her- 
self to be beautiful and feels that she is loved ; a man's happi- 
ness is a much more complex product and contains a much 
larcier number of intellectual elements. Women live more 
wholly within the limits of their own generation than men, 
and experience a sort of contemporary immortality in the 
hearts of those they love. 

Among the most developed sentiments of women there are 
two which constitute the strength of their disposition to pro- 
priety : modesty, the dignity of their sex, and love, 
love° ®^^*" which is exclusive when it is. true. But for these 
two powerful causes religious motives would 
always have weighed lightly with her. If religion exercises a 
great control over women, it is by taking possession of these 
two motives: the surest means of making women listen, and 
almost the sole means, is to awaken their love, or to appeal to 
their modesty : to give themselves or to refuse themselves are 
the two great acts which dominate their lives, and immorality 
among them generally increases directly with the diminution 
of their modesty. Thence arises a new and delicate problem, 
whether modesty, that compound of power and grace, is not 


rather a religious than a moral virtue, and if religion has 
maintained it, would it not disappear with the disappearance 
of religion, and be enfeebled by a religion increasingly scientific 
and, in a sense, positive ? Note in the first place, that if the 
essence of all feminine virtue is modesty, as of all male virtue 
f ' it is courage, that very fact constitutes an additional reason 
for doing everything in one's power to make modesty inde- 
pendent of religion, in order that it may stand unaffected by 
the doubts which necessarily, in the modern world, will over- 
whelm the latter. Certainly modesty is capable of serving 
remarkably well as a safeguard for beliefs, and even for irra- 
tional beliefs ; it always prevents one from pushing reason, as 
from pushing desire to the end, but there is a true and a false, 
a useful and a harmful modesty. The first, as we shall see, is 
not bound up with religion, either in its origin or in its 

In the first place is modesty of religious origin ? Every young 
girl feels vaguely that she has at her disposal a treasure which 

a number of people desire. This sentiment, which 
Origin jg confused with some obscure consciousness of 

sex, was necessary to enable the female to 
attain complete physical development before giving her- 
self. Precocious immodesty must inevitably, in effect has, 
resulted in an arrested development. It might easily have pro- 
duced also a comparative sterility. Modesty is thus a guarantee 
for the continuance of the species, one of the sentiments that 
natural selection must inevitably have tended to preserve and 
to increase. It is a condition, moreover, of sexual selection ; 
if the female had been disposed to give herself indiscriminately, 
the species would have suffered. Happily desire is checked 
by modesty, an obstacle which it can remove only on condition 
of the woman's being strongly attracted by the object desired ; a 
quality which will subsequently be transmissible to the species. 
From the point of view of sexual selection there is in modesty 
a great deal of coquetry — a coquetry which is unaware of its aim, 
which is half unconscious, and often mistakes for a duty what 
is really but a bit of management. The art of provisional 
refusal, and of attractive flight, must inevitably have attained 


a high development among superior beings, for it is a power- 
ful medium of seduction and selection. Modesty has de- 
veloped side by side with it, and really constitutes but a 
fugitive moment in the eternity of female coquetry. Coquetry 
originates in the young girl who is yet too ignorant to be 
really modest, but too much of a woman not to love to attract 
and to retreat ; and at the other extreme it constitutes the last 
remnant of modesty in women who really possess none. 
Finally, modesty is also composed largely of an element of 
fear, which has been very useful in the preservation of the race. 
Among animals the female almost always runs some risk in the 
presence of the male, which is generally stronger than she ; 
love-making is not only a crisis but a danger, and she must 
mollify the male before surrendering herself to him, must 
seduce him before satisfying him. Even in the human race, 
in primitive times, women were not always safe from violence 
from men. Modesty secures a sort of expectant love which was 
necessary in primitive times, a proof, a period of mutual 
scrutiny. Lucretius has remarked that children, by their 
weakness and by their fragility, have contributed to the 
softening of human manners ; the same remark applies to 
women and to this sense of their own comparative weakness, 
which they experience so acutely in modesty, and which they 
to some degree communicate to men. Women's fears and 
scruples have made man's hand less hard ; their modesty has 
given rise in him to a certain form of respect, to a form of 
desire which is less brutal and more gentle; they have civilized 
love. Modesty is analogous to the species of fright that 
inclines a bird to flee one's caresses, which bruise it. One's 
very look possesses some element of hardness for a bird; and 
is it not a prolongation of touch ? In addition to these various 
elements there goes, to the composition of a young girl's or a 
young man's modesty, a higher and more properly human 
element ; the fear of love itself, the fear of something new 
and unknown, of the profound and powerful instinct which is 
awakening in one after having up to that time lain asleep, 
which abruptly arises in one and struggles for dominance with 
the other forces and impulses of one's being. The young man, 


unaccustomed as yet to submit to the domination of this 
instinct, finds in it something stranger and more mysterious 
than in any other; cest rinterrogation anxieiise de cheriibin.^ 

To sum up, the sentiment of modesty neither originates in 

rehgion nor depends upon it ; it is only very indirectly allied to 

„ ,. . it. Even from the point of view of modesty a 

Religious _ •' ^ 

education and religious education is not above reproach, 
mo es y. Among Protestants, is the reading of the Bible 

always a good school? M. Bruston has contended for the 
propriety of reading the Songs of Songs in an epoch like ours 
when marriages are often made out of interest rather than of 
incHnation ; and indeed we agree with him that the reading 
of the Song of Songs does tend to develop certain inclinations 
in young girls, but hardly an inclination to a regular and com- 
plicated church marriage. Among Catholics how many indis- 
creet questions the confessor puts to the young girl ! How 
many prohibitions, as dangerous in their way as suggestions ! 
And even in the item of modesty excess is a defect ; a little 
wholesome liberty in education and manners would do no 
harm. Catholic education sometimes distorts the woman's 
mind by making it too different from that of the man, and by 
accustoming it to a perpetual timidity and discomposure in 
the presence of the being with whom she must pass her life, 
and by rendering her modesty som.ewhat too indeterminate and 
savage, and converting it into a sort of religion. 

There is also sometimes manifest a sort of perversion of 
modesty in the mystical tendencies of woman, which are 

especially strong at the age of puberty. These 
True modesty. , . , , .... 

tendencies, exploited by the priesthood, give rise 

to convents and cloisters. A Catholic education too often 
constitutes for young girls a sort of moral mutilation ; one 
endeavours to keep them virgins, and one succeeds in convert- 
ing them into imperfect women. Religions are too inclined 

' Shame is usually regarded as constituting the essence of modesty, but shame 
can have been but one of the elements in its formation ; such shame as actually 
■exists is readily explicable as a sense of the uncleanness attaching, in especial in the 
case of the woman (of whom the Hebrews required a periodic purification), to cer- 
tain animal functions. But modesty must have been developed also by the use of 
■clothing and the growth of the habit of covering, first the loins and then more and 


to consider the union of the sexes under I know not what 
mystical aspect, and, from the point of view of morals, as a 
stain. Certainly purit)' is a power ; it is with a little diamond 
point that mountains, and even continents, are nowadays 
pierced, but Christianity has confounded chastity with purity. 
True purity is that of love, true chastity is chastity of heart ; 
chastity of heart survives chastity of body, and stops at the 
point beyond which i^ would become a restriction, an obstacle 
to the free development of the entire being. An eunuch or 
a young man studying for the priesthood may well be desti- 
tute of chastity ; the smile of a young girl at the thought of 
her fiance may be infinitely more virginal than that of a nun. 
Nothing moreover stains the mind like a too exclusive pre- 
occupation with the things of the body ; incessant attention 
to them necessarily evokes a chain of immodest imagery. 
St. Jerome in his desert, believing, as he relates, that he saw 
the Roman courtesans dancing naked in the moonlight, was less 
pure in heart and brain than Socrates unceremoniously paying 
a visit to Theodora. A too self-conscious modesty is immodest. 
The whole grace of virginity is ignorance ; the instant vir- 
ginity becomes aware of itself it is tarnished ; virginity, like 
certain fruits, can only be preserved by a process of desic- 
cation. Love and sunshine transform the universe. Modesty 
is simply a coat of mail which presupposes a state of war 
between the sexes, and aims at preventing a blind promiscuity; 
the mutual self-abandonment of love is more chaste than the 
modest inquietude and the immodest suspicion which pre- 
cede it; there grows up between two people who love each 
other a sort of confidence that results in their neither wishing 
nor being able to keep back anything from each other; self- 
constraint, suspicion, consciousness of antagonism of interest, 
all disappear. This is assuredly the characteristic of the 
most perfect form of reunion that can exist in this world ; 

more of the entire person ; and indeed the development of modesty and of the habit 
of wearing clothes must each have been aided by the other. The habit of going 
covered gives rise very soon to shame at being seen uncovered. The little negresses 
whom Livingstone supplied with shifts became, in a few days, so accustomed to 
having the upper half of their bodies hidden that, when they were surprised in their 
chambers in the morning, they hastily covered their breasts. 


Plato believed that the human body is the prison of the spirit 
and cuts it off from immediate communication with its fellow- 
spirits ; paradoxical as it may seem, it is in love that the body 
becomes less opaque, and effaces itself, and soul communicates 
with soul. Nay, marriage itself preserves in women a sort 
of moral virginity, as one may recognize on the scarred and 
discoloured hands of old women the white line that has been 
protected for thirty years, by the wedding ring, against the 
wear and tear of life. 

Modesty is a sentiment which has survived, as we have seen, 
because it was useful to the propagation of the species; mysti- 
cism perverts and corrupts it and enlists it pre- 
ceiibacr^'^ °° cisely against the propagation of the species. 
Between a Carmelite nun and a courtesan like 
Ninon de Lenclos the sociologist might well hesitate; socially 
they are almost equally worthless, their lives are almost 
equally miserable and vain ; the excessive macerations of the 
one are as foolish as the pleasures of the other ; the moral 
desiccation of the one is often not without some analogy to 
the corruption of the other. Vows or habits of perpetual 
chastity, the monastic life itself, have found in our days an 
unexpected defender in M. Renan. It is true he does not 
regard such matters from the point of view of Christianity. 
If he has a word to say in favour of perpetual chastity, it is 
strictly in the name of physiological induction ; he considers 
chastity simply as a means of heightening the capacity of the 
brain and of increasing one's intellectual fertility. He does 
not absolutely blame impurity, he delights in a sense, as he 
himself says, in the joys of the debauchee and the courtesan ; 
he possesses the boundless curiosity and the accomplished 
impudicity of the man of science. But he believes that there 
exists a sort of intellectual antinomy between complete intel- 
lectual development and bodily love. The true man of science 
should concentrate his entire vitality in his brain, should 
.^jjjy^ devote his life to abstractions and chimeras; by this reserva- 
tion of his entire strength for the service of his head, his 
intelligence will flower in double blossoms, the monstrous 
beauty of which, produced by the transformation of stamens 


into petals, is the achievement of sterihty. Love is a heavy 
tax to pay for the vanities of the world, and in the budget of 
the human idce women count almost exclusively on the side 
of expense. Science, economical of time and force, should 
teach one to disembarrass one's self of women and love, and to 
leave such futilities to the drones. These paradoxes that 
M. Renan puts forth rest on a well-known scientific fact : 
that the most intelligent species are those in which reproduc- 
tion is least active ; fertility, generally speaking, varies 
inversely to cerebral energy. But love must not quite be 
confounded with sexual activity, unless one is to draw the 
somewhat strange conclusion that among animals hares are 
those who are best acquainted with love, and among men 
Frenchmen are those who know least of it. From the fact 
that excessive commerce with the other sex paralyses the 
intelligence, it does not in the least follow that the sentiment 
of love produces the same effect and that one's intellectual 
power diminishes with the growth of one's heart. 

We believe that love may be sufficiently defended on intel- 
lectual as well as on moral grounds. If it in certain respects 

involves an expense of force, it in others so 
stimuknt""^''^^ heightens the entire vital energy, that the 

expense must be regarded as one of those fruit- 
ful investments which are inseparable from the very continu- 
ance of life. To live, after all, in the physical as well as in the 
moral sense of the word, is not only to receive but to give, 
but above all to give one's self to love ; it is dif^cult to pervert 
one of the most primitive elements of the human character, 
without also perverting the heart and the intelligence. Love 
is above all things a stimulant to the entire being and to the 
brain itself ; it takes possession of the whole man ; it plays 
upon man as upon a harp and sounds the whole compass of 
his being. It cannot be replaced by coffee or hasheesh. 
Women not only complete men, and form by union with them 
a more complete, more rounded existence, more justly epito- 
mizing the possibilities of life ; they are capable also, by their 
mere presence, by their mere smile, of doubling our individual 
powers and carrying them to the highest point of energy of 



which they are capable. Our manhood leans upon their grace. 
All other motives which inspire man — love of reputation, of 
glory, even of God — are slight as compared with the love of a 
woman who understands her role. Even the most abstract 
passion, the passion for science, often fails to acquire its entire 
strength until it has called to its aid the love of a woman, 
which wrings a smile out of the grave alembics and fills the 
crucibles with the gaiety of hope. Nothing is simple in our 
being ; all things amalgamate and unite together. They who 
invented the monk aimed at simplifying human life ; they 
succeeded only in unnaturally complicating it or mutilating it. 
But love does not only play, in the life of the man of 
science and of the thinker, the role of stimulant ; over and 
above its function in inciting such men to work, 

Lnvp muK PS • 

for sanity. '*• Contributes indirectly to rectify the product 

of their labours. Love lives in reality, and to 
live in reality helps one to think justly. Rightly to under- 
stand the world in which we live, we must not dwell beyond 
its bounds, must not make a world of our own, an unnatural 
and frigid world, rounded by the walls of a monastery. "To 
aim at being an angel is to be a beast," says Pascal ; and not 
only to be a beast, but in a measure to brutalize one's self, to 
dim the precision and vivacity of one's intelligence. A com- 
plete acquaintance with the details of the lives of great minds 
would reveal surprising traces of love in the audacity and 
sweep of great metaphysical and cosmological hypotheses, in 
profound generalizations, in passionate exactitude of demon- 
stration. Love reaches everywhere ; and as the philosopher 
who is also a lover pushes audaciously forward in the domain 
of thought, he moves more easily, more lightly, more con- 
fidently, with a heightened faith in himself, in others, and in 
this mysterious and mute universe. Love inspires one with 
that gentleness of heart which inclines one to an interest in 
the smallest things and in their place in the universe. There 
is great kindliness in the heart of the true philosopher. 

Then, too, what is science without art? The most intimate 
relations exist between the intellectual and artistic faculties.' 

' See the author's Problhnes de V esthitique coniemporaine, livre ii. 


Could art exist without love ? Love becomes, in matters of 

art, of the very tissue of thought. To compose verses or 

music, to paint or model, is simply to transmute 

Love the Xomq by diverse methods and into diverse forms, 

essence of art. ^ i ■ i r i 

Whatever the more or less sincere defenders 

of the monastic spirit and religious mysticism may say, love, 
which is as old as the world, is not upon the point of quitting 
it ; and it is in the hearts and minds of the greatest of mankind 
that it dwells most securely. " Human frailty ! " someone will 
murmur. " No," we reply : " source of strength and strength 
itself." If love is the science of the ignorant it constitutes 
some part also of the science of the sage. Eros is of all the 
gods the one on whom Prometheus is most dependent, for it is 
from Eros that he steals the sacred flame. Eros will survive 
in every heart, and in especial in every woman's heart, when all 
religions shall have decayed. 

We may conclude, therefore, that the characteristic ten- 
dencies of woman may be employed in the services of truth, 
, science, free-thought, and social fraternity. 

Importance of ° i t • i • 

early education Everything depends on the education that is 
in woman. given her, and on the influence of the man whom 

she marries. Woman must be begun with in childhood. 
The life of a woman is more orderly and continuous than that 
of a man ; for that reason the habits of childhood exercise a 
more permanent influence over her. There is but one great 
revolution in a woman's life : marriage. And there are women 
for whom this revolution does not exist ; and there are others 
for whom it exists in its most attenuated form, as when, for 
example, the husband's manner of life and his beliefs are 
practically the same as those of the wife's mother and family. 
In a tranquil environment, such as the majority of women 
exist in, the influence of early education may persist to the 
end ; the small number of religious or philosophical ideas that 
were planted in a woman's brain in her childhood may be 
found there years afterward, practically unchanged. The 
home is a protection, a sort of hot-house in which plants 
flourish that could not live in the open air; the film of glass or 
of veiling behind which women habitually stand to look out 


into the street does not protect them against sun and rain 
alone. A woman's soul, like her complexion, preserves some- 
thing of its native whiteness. 

In France, in the majority of instances, women are children 

up to the time of their marriage; and children inclined to 

„ , , regard the man to whom their parents \\\s\\ them 

Husband re- ° ^ 

spoasible for to give their hand with a certain mixture of fear 

wi e s e ucation. ^^^ ^£ respect. Such a woman's intelligence 

is almost as virgin as her body, and in the first months of, 
marriage the husband may acquire, if he chooses, a decisive 
influence over his wife, model her as yet imperfectly devel- 
oped brain almost to his will. If he waits, if he temporizes, 
he will find his task difificult — the more so as his wife will 
some day gain over him some such influence as he might at 
first have gained over her. The instant a woman becomes 
fully aware of her power, she almost always becomes the con- 
trolling influence in the household ; if her husband has not 
formed her, if he has left her with all the prejudices and 
ignorances of a child, and often of a spoiled child, she will, 
in the course of time, form or rather deform him — will oblige 
him at first to tolerate, and ultimately to accept, her childish 
beliefs and errors, and perhaps in the end, profiting by the 
decline of his intelligence, with the coming on of old age, she 
will convert him, and by that fact retard the intellectual 
progress of the household by an entire generation. The priest- 
hood positively count on the growing influence of the wife in 
every household ; but they are helpless in the first months, 
or perhaps years, of marriage against the influence that the 
husband may exercise. And once fashioned by him the wife 
may continue to exist to the end of her life in his image, and to 
give him back his own ideas and instil them into his children. 
The free-thinker, it is true, labours under a great disadvan- 
tage in the work of conversion : a believer may always decline 

to reason ; whenever an intellectual duel seems 
difficult* "^^ "^ ^° \\'\vc\. to be disadvantageous he may decline to 

fight ; a high degree of indulgent tenacity and 
of prudence is necessary in a discussion with anyone who is 
thus ready to take refuge in flight at the slightest alarm. 


What can one do against a gentle and obstinate determination 
to say nothing, to intrench one's self in ignorance, to allow 
argument to shatter itself against an outer wall. " It seemed 
to me,'" a Russian novelist cries, "as if all my words bounded 
off her like peas shot at a marble statue." One of Shak- 
spere's heroines proposes to essay matrimony as an qxercise 
of patience. If patience is, in the management of the house- 
hold, the great virtue of the wife, the man's virtue should be 
perseverance and active obstinacy in an effort to fashion and 
create her to his desire and ideal. I once questioned a woman 
who had married a free-thinker with a secret intention of con- 
verting him.. The upshot of the matter was the precise op- 
posite, and I quote below her own account, as she gave it to me, 
of the successive phases of this moral crisis. It is of course only 
an isolated example, but it may serve to illustrate the character 
of women, and the more or less great facility with which they 
may be made to accept scientific or philosophic ideas. 

" The double aim of every Christian woman is to save souls, 
in general, and to save her own in particular. To aid Christ, 

TTTT, ^ w by bringing back into the fold the sheep who 
Wife's effort to -^ '^ ° 

conYert her hus- have strayed away, is her great dream, and to 

^^^^' preserve her own purity is her constant pre- 

occupation. When the moment came for me to try my 
powers, a lively solicitude took possession of me : should I 
really succeed in winning over the man to whom I was to 
unite my life, or would he succeed in winning me over? Great 
is the power of evil, and whoever exposes himself to tempt- 
ation will perish, but if evil is powerful, God, I assured myself, 
is still more powerful, and God never abandons those 
who confide in him, and I confided in God. To convince the 
incredulous who had systematized their incredulity into a 
reasoned whole was no slight task, and I did not hope to 
accomplish it in four and twenty hours. My plan was this : to 
be faithful in the midst of the unfaithful, immutable and 
confident in my religion which was the religion of the humble, 
the simple, and the ignorant ; to do the utmost good possible, 
according to the first of Christ's commandments; to practise 
my religion in silence but openly; to domesticate it in my house- 


hold ; to inaugurate a secret, slow, incessant combat which 
should last, if necessary, till the end of my life. And then 
to rely upon the infinite mercy of God. 

" With this disposition of mind I had no difficulty in stand- 
ing mute whenever my husband attacked my beliefs. My first 
object was to prove the uselessness of all discussion, the firm- 
ness of my faith. I knew perfectly well that I really was 
unable to reply, that he knew so much and I so little. But if 
I had only been a doctor of theology I would have accepted, 
the challenge, I would have heaped up proof on proof ! With 
the truth and God for me, how could I have been vanquished ? 
But I was not in the least like a doctor of theology, and the 
result was that, fortified in my ignorance, I listened placidly 
to all his arguments, and the livelier, the more cogent they 
were, the more profoundly I was convinced of the truth of my 
religion, which stood erect under so much battering and 
triumphed in its immunity. 

" I was inexpugnable, and the siege might have lasted long 
if my husband had not recognized the strength of my position 
and changed his tactics. His object was to force me to 
discuss, to follow his objections, to understand them in spite 
of myself, to turn them over in my own mind. He told me 
that it would be a help to him in his work if I should epito- 
mize sometimes in writing, sometimes viva voce, a certain 
number of works on religion. He put into my hands M. 
Renan's ' Vie de J^sus,' M. Reville's wise and conscientious 
little book on ' L'Histoire du dogme de la divinite de Jesus 
Christ,' often full of abstract inquiries in which the sincerity 
of the author was evident and contagious, even when the 
reader was looking for sophisms.' I could not refuse to read 
the books without abandoning my most cherished ambition, 
which was to aid my husband in his work. My conscience was 
involved, and I could not consult my confessor because we 

' " Among the polemical works on Christianity I shall cite one which is perhaps 
somewhat old, but precious, in that it sums up with great impartiality the whole 
mass of secular objections, including a large number of modern objections to Chris- 
.tianity, the book of IM. Patrice Larroque, entitled Examen critique des doctrines 
de la religion ChrMenne." 


were then abroad ; moreover my faith, although profound, had 
always been, or pretended to be, generous and enlightened. 
If I was ever to hand my religion on I must not be intolerant; 
and I read ! M. Renan did not especially scandalize me, he 
was a follower of Jesus, writing of Jesus ; his book, which 
has charmed many women as much as a romance, saddened 
me without repelling me. I was obliged to make a written 
abstract of the entire book and had to put myself into the 
author's place, to see things with his eyes, to think his 
thoughts; and, in spite of myself, I sometimes saw in my own 
heart, side by side with the impeccable and perfect Christ God, 
the figure of the imperfect, suffering, worn man, out of patience 
and cursing. The other books, which were much more 
abstract, called for a much greater effort on my part, but the 
very effort that I put forth constrained me more completely 
to assimilate their contents. Every day I lost ground, and 
my once passive faith became slowly transformed into an 
anxious desire to know, into a hope that a more complete 
knowledge would re-establish my broken defences. 

" One day, my husband said to me abruptly : ' You will not 
refuse to read the Bible, which is the source of your religion, 
from one end to the other ? ' I acceded with pleasure, I did not 
wait for permission — I was beyond that ; it seemed to me that 
to read the Bible must be the beginning of that profound 
knowledge which I envied my ideal doctor of theology. It 
was with trembling fingers that I opened the black-bound 
book, with its closely printed pages dictated by God Himself, 
alive still with the divine Word I I held in my hands the 
truth, the justification of human life, the keys of the future ; 
it seemed to me that the tablets of Sinai had been committed 
to me as to the prostrate multitude of the Hebrews at the 
foot of the mountain, and I also would have kneeled humbly 
to receive it. But, as I made my way through the book, the 
immorality of certain pages seemed to me so evident that my 
whole heart rose in revolt against them. I had not been 
hardened from my childhood, as Protestant girls are, to all 
these tales. The Catholic education, which does what it can to 
keep the Sacred Books out of sight, seems to me in this respect, 


and only in this respect, much superior to the Protestant 
religion. In any event, it prepares one who reads the Bible 
for the first time in mature years to feel much more acutely 
the profound immorality of sacred history. Catholicism often 
perverts the intelligence ; Protestantism might naturally go 
the length of perverting the hearts Unbelievers have often 
made the moral monstrosities in the Bible a subject of raillery ; 
I felt nothing but indignation when I came across them, and 
I closed with disgust the book which I had so long regarded 
with respect. 

" What should I think of it ; what should I believe ? The 
words of infinite love and charity which the New Testament 
contains came back to me. If God was anywhere He must 
be there, and once more I opened the sacred book — the book 
which has so often tempted humanity. After all, it was Christ 
that I had adored rather than the Lord of Hosts. ]\Iy 
acquaintance had been almost wholly limited to the Gospel of 
St. John, which I had learned was of disputable authenticity. 
I read the Gospels from end to end. Even in St. John I could 
not find the model man above reproach, the incarnate God, 
the divine Word ; in the very midst of the beauties and sub- 
limities of the text, I myself began to perceive innumerable 
contradictions, naivetes, superstitions, and moral failings. 
My beliefs no longer existed, I had been betrayed by my God, 
my whole previous intellectual life looked to me more and 
more like a dream. This dream had its beautiful aspects; 
even to-day I sometimes regret the consolation that it once 
afforded me and can never afford me again. Nevertheless, in 
all sincerity, if I had the chance to sleep once more the intel- 
lectual sleep of my* girlhood, to forget all that I have learned, 
to return to my errors — I w^ould not for the world consent to 
take it, I would not take a step backward. The memory of 
the illusions that I have lost has never disturbed the line of 
reasoning by means of which I lost them. When once I had 
come face to face with the reality, it maintained itself from 
that moment on, sometimes painfully, but steadily in my 
imagination. The last thing that a human being can willingly 
consent to is to be deceived." 



I. Importance of the problem of population — Antagonism 
between numerical strength and wealth — Necessity of numbers 
for the maintenance and progress of the race — Necessity of giving 
the advantage of numbers to the superior races — Problem of 
population in France — Its relation to the religious problem — Are 
the reasons for the restriction of the number of births physio- 
logical, moral, or economic ? — Malthusianism in France — The 
true national peril. 

II. Remedies — Is a return to religion possible? — Religious power- 
lessness and growing tolerance in the matter — The influence 
that the law might exercise upon tlie causes of small families — 
Enumeration of these causes — Reform of the law in regard to 
filial duty — (Support of parents) — Reform of the law of inheri- 
tance — Reform of the military law for the purpose of favouring 
large families and of permitting emigration to the French colonies. 

III. Influence of public education: its necessity as a substitute 
for religious sentiment. 

One of the most important of the problems to which the 
gradual enfeeblement of the religious sentiment has given rise 
is that of race fertility and the question of population. Almost 
all religions have attached a considerable importance to the rapid 
increase of population. With the diminution of the influence 
of religions among the superior races of mankind, shall we not 
lose an important aid in their maintenance and multiplication? 

I. In the beginning, for the earliest aggregations of mankind, 
number was a condition of power and consequently of security. 

. ^ The power of wealth, which can be concentrated 

Antagonism ^ ' 

between wealth in the possession of a single man, did not, so to 
an popuation. gpeak, exist. In our days wealth has become a 
power which is sufficient unto itself, and which division and 
distribution often inevitably dissipate. Therein lies the' 



source of the reasoning which appeals nowadays to the heads 
of families: "To render a family powerful one must transmit 
one's capital in as undivided a state as possible ; that is to say, 
one must restrict the numbers of one's descendants to the 
utmost feasible limits." Capital and capitalistic egoism is 
therefore the enemy of population, because multiplication of 
men always implies a more or less minute subdivision of 

Religion has always held the power of capital, in this 
respect, in check. The Christian, the Hindu, the Moham- 
Importance of iTf^e<^^n religion all correspond to a state of things 
rapid increase of very different from that of the modern world ; to 
popu a ion. ^ state of society in which number constitutes a 

great power, in which large families possess an immediate and 
visible utility. The greater number of the great religions are 
at one in the precept : " Increase and multiply." According to 
the laws of Manou, one of the conditions of salvation is the 
large number of male descendants. The religious and national 
tradition of the Jews on the point is well known. Every 
religion of Jewish origin being thus favourable to increase in 
the size of the family, and expressly prohibiting means of 
prevention, it follows that, other things equal, a sincerely 
Christian or Jewish people will multiply more rapidly than a 
free-thinking people. The infertility of the higher races, 
over and above the influence of the opposition between 
religion and the modern spirit, is induced also by a sort of 
antinomy between civilization and race propagation : rapid 
civilization is always accompanied by a certain race corruption. 
This antinomy must be remedied under penalty of extinction. 
Life is intense in proportion to the number of young, ambi- 
tious people who engage in it ; the struggle for existence 
is fertile just so far as it is carried on by young men rather 
than by men who are fatigued and who no longer possess an 
enthusiasm for work; a young and rapidly increasing nation 
constitutes a richer and more powerful organism, a steam- 
engine working at a high pressure. One-half, perhaps three- 
fourths of the distinguished men have come of numerous 
families ; some have been the tenth, some the twelfth child ; to 


restrict the number of children is to restrict the production of 
talent and genius, and that, too, out of all proportion to the 
restriction of the family. An only son, far from having, on 
the average, a greater number of chances of being a remark- 
able man, really possesses fewer ; in especial if he belongs to the 
upper classes. " Both the mother and father, it has been said, 
watch over this first child and enfeeble it by superfluous care, 
and spare it, by yielding to its wishes, all moral gymnastic." 
Every child who expects to be the sole inheritor of a srnalH\ 
fortune will put forth less energy, in the struggle for existence, 
than he otherwise would. And finally, it is a physiological 
fact that the first children are often less vigorous and less^ 
intelligent ; maternity is a function which becomes perfect, asi 
other functions do, by repetition; a mother's first effort is asj 
rarely a masterpiece as a poet's. To limit the number of chil-, 
dren is. therefore, in a certain measure to dwarf their physical 
and intellectual powers. 

/-^Ks. an increase of population heightens the intensity of the 
' physical and mental life of a nation, so also it heightens the 
intensity of the economic life of a nation, stimulates the circula- 
tion of wealth, and ultimately increases the public 
MShusfaidL treasure instead of diminishing it. It is happen- 
ing under our very eyes in Germany and England, 
where public wealth has increased side by side with the popula- 
tion. In Germany, in a period of nine years (1872-1881), 
the average annual revenue of each individual increased six 
per cent., while the population rolled up by millions. The 
economical doctrine which regards overpopulation as the 
principal cause of poverty is a very superficial one. As long 
as there is an available plot of ground unoccupied, and per- 
haps even after the entire earth shall be cultivated (for science 
may be able to create new sources of wealth and even of food) 
a man will always constitute a bit of living capital, of a higher 
value than a horse or a cow, and to increase the numbers of 
citizens of a nation will be to increase the sum of its wealth.' 

' What economists have really established, and what MM. Maurice Block, Cour- 
celles-Seneuil, Paul Leroy-Beaulieu, Othenin d'Haussonville are right in maintaining, 
is that it is harmful to society to add to the non-working classes, to the number of 


Formerly the struggle for existence between two races or 

nations ended in a single violent crisis: the vanquished were 

massacred or reduced to slavery, and slavery 
Menace to , , t i • i 11 • • r 1 

modern civiliza- usually resulted in the gradual extinction 01 the 

*'°°' inferior race ; it was a slow massacre.- Famine, 

produced by methodical devastation, achieved what war had 
begun — whole races disappeared abruptly from the face of the 
globe and left not a trace behind : the most recent and most 
striking example is that of the great American empires of 
Mexico and Peru. Thus the strongest and most intelligent 
races alone survived, and had only to confirm their victory 
with all its consequences by clearing the earth before them. 
Existence was a monopoly in the hands of the strong. It is 
no longer so. To-day the vanquished are no longer massa- 
cred ; on the contrary, when an uncivilized country is conquered, 
it is supplied with good laws, with police and hygiene. 
Inferior races increase and multiply under the rule of 
superior races. The Cape negroes, the Chinese, the negroes 
in the United States, and even the last surviving red-skins, 
who seem disposed to-day to take heart, are examples of 
what I mean. Well, the Orient contains, in the Chinese 
Empire, a veritable reservoir of men, which some day or other 
will overflow the entire earth. In the face of this compact 
multitude, which is increasing rapidly, and with advancing 
civilization will increase more rapidly, the four or five great 

feeble beings who are incapable of labour, to the number of beggars, and of non- 
combatants generally, whoever they may be. Well, poverty favours the birth of 
those who are dependent upon society, and the birth of those who are dependent 
upon society tends still further to increase poverty ; that is the circle from which 
so many economists have believed that the precepts of Malthus offered them an 
issue. Unhappily, if there is one universal attribute of poverty, it is its fertility ; 
for in all nations the poorest classes are those that have the greatest number of 
children. Malthus has never been listened to by the poorer classes, but precisely 
by those only who, from the point of view of a sagacious political economy, ought 
to be encouraged to leave as many children behind them as possible, because they 
alone would educate them well : that is to say, the economical peasantry and the 
prosperous middle class. Insomuch that a fertility of the poor is absolutely with- 
out remedy (except by way of charity or emigration) ; but it constitutes in the end 
a much less considerable evil than the infertility of a nation as a whole, and is an 
ultimate evil only because, in the last analysis, it results in a genuine unproductivity. 
Poverty, especially in the cities, rapidly kills out the most prolific races. 


nations of Europe, and the United States and Australia, seem 
a small matter. The future of humanity depends mathemati- 
cally upon the proportions in which the more intelligent races 
are represented in the complex composition of the man of 
the future. And every son of one of the more highly 
endowed races of the globe, such as the French, German, or 
English, commits a positive fault in not labouring for the multi- 
plication of his race; he contributes to lower the future level of 
human intelligence. Men of science have already established 
it as a law that the power of reproduction decreases with the 
increase of cerebral activity, and that intelligent races repro- 
duce themselves with increasing difificulty ; to augment this 
natural difficulty by a voluntary restriction is daily to labour 
for the brutalization of the human race. 

The followers of iMalthus, supposing that there at present 
exists an equilibrium between population and the means of 

subsistence, look with anxiety upon every new 
Duty of civilized ^^^j^^j j^^ ^j^^ ^^^^.j^ ^^^ ^^^^^^ admitting that 

races to mtiltipiy, ' o 

the struggle for existence has already reached 
that acute stage, it might still be hoped that only the more 
intelligent would leave children behind them. ^lalthus' law 
should possess no force for the educated men of Europe, who 
alone are acquainted with it, but only for the negroes or the 
Chinese, who are absolutely ignorant of it. Malthus' law is not 
meant for us ; in reality it is not meant for anyone. By the 
very fact that one is acquainted with it, and possesses 
foresight and self-control enough to put it into practice, one 
proves that one stands beyond the circle of its applicability. 
Malthusians, who endeavour to apply to the reproduction of 
mankind the principles of animal-breeders, forget that the 
dominant principle iti all breeding is to favour the multiplica- 
tion of the superior species. One Durham bull is worth ten 
common bulls. What is true of bulls and sheep is true of men : 
a Frenchman, with the scientific and aesthetic aptitude of his 
race, represents on the average a social capital a hundred times 
greater than that represented by a negro, an Arab, a Turk, a 
Cossack, or a Chinaman. To leave few French descendants, in 
order that Cossacks and Turks may increase and multiply, is 


to commit an absurdity, even on the principles of a Mal- 
thusian. Be it remembered that it was among the Aryans, 
and in especial among the Greeks, that science and art 
worthy of the name took their rise ; from them they passed 
to the other Aryans, and then to the other human races. 

Michelet compares the treasure of science and truth, 

amassed by the human mind, to the egg that a slave carried in- 

„ , to the Roman circus, at the end of the entertain- 

Bad outlook 

for the future. ment, into the midst of the great lions, who were 
gorged and asleep. If one of the wild beasts 
opened his eyes and was seized once more by desire at sight 
of the man with the egg, which is the symbol of human genius, 
the slave was lost. In our times genius is infinitely less perse- 
cuted than heretofore, and is no longer in danger of the arena 
or of the headsman, and it seems as if the sacred egg out of 
which the future is to arise has nothing further to fear; but 
this is a mistake. Precisely because the human mind is year by 
year growing richer, its treasure is becoming so considerable, so 
delicate, and difificult to preserve in its entirety, that it may 
well be asked whether a succession of people sufificiently well 
endowed will arise to retain and to augment the acquisitions of 
science. Up to the present day those truths alone have sur- 
vived the wear and tear of time which were simple ; at the pres- 
ent epoch the rapidity of the progress of science may well make 
us anxious as to its permanence. The extreme complexity of 
science may well make us fear that the peoples of the future 
may not possess mental elevation enough to embrace it in its 
entirety, and to add to it by a constant increase. Suppose, for 
example, that the world should be reduced abruptly to Africa, 
Asia, and South America, where the Spanish race has not yet 
produced a single scientific genius; must not the scientific 
labours of our century inevitably miscarry ? Happily their 
safety is bound up with that of certain great nations. The 
Anglo-Saxon and Germanic peoples to-day cover the earth 
with their children and their colonies. But it is sad to think 
that one of the three or four great European peoples, which 
alone count for much in the progress of humanity, should be 
dancing gaily toward annihilation. 


A t usion of races will sooner or later take place in humanity ; 
it is already takin<^ place in the United States, and the perfec- 
tion of means of communication is hastening its 
^3i^^ consummation throughout the entire world. 

Euroi)e is pouring out its surplus upon iVmerica, 
Africa, and Australia ; Asia will some day overflow Europe 
and America ; what is taking place to-day, fifty years after the 
invention of railways, can scarcely give us an idea of the 
mixture and amalgamation of races which will some day be 
realized on the earth. Such a mixture, even though it raise 
the level, in some small degree, of races intellectually ill- 
endowed, may well abase the level of races intellectually 
well-endowed, if the latter are greatly outnumbered by the 

It may be objected, it is true, that the superior races of 

mankind may remain isolated in the midst of the multiplica- 

^, tion of the other branches of humanity in a sort 

Money the •' 

modern patent of of jealous aristocracy, served and respected by 
nobihty. those whom they dominate by their intelligence. 

This is one of the dreams of M. Renan, who sees in the 
Chinese the future slave of the Europeans — gentle, docile slaves, 
with just enough intelligence to be marvellous industrial 
machines. Unhappily we have learned, to our expense, that 
the Chinese are also excellent instruments of war. In the 
industrial society in which we live, money constitutes, in the 
long run, the basis of aristocracy. To-day money is the true 
force and title of nobility. To lay up treasures demands a 
very average intelligence, of which a great number of inferior 
people are no doubt capable ; once rich and they will be our 
equals; richer, they will be our superiors and our masters. 
If they have money enough they can purchase every privilege, 
even that of mixing their blood w'ith ours, even that of marry- 
ing our daughters and of confounding our race and theirs. 
The only means by which intelligence can preserve its power 
is by means of numbers. Genius itself must leave a posterity 
behind it, and in spite of prejudice to the contrary, if we are , 
to be eternal it must be by means of our children rather than 7 
bv our works. 


Positivists propose to substitute a religion of humanity for 
existing and rapidly disappearing religions ; there is a still 
more accessible religion, and more practical, and 
famnyf°'^° * ® more useful, which was one of the first religions 
of humanity: the religion of the family, the wor- 
ship of the little group of beings bound together by ties of 
blood and memory and name and honour, which form an 
epitome of a nation ; to permit one's family to die out or to 
diminish in number is to labour, to the extent that in one lies, 
to diminish the power of one's native country and of humanity 
itself. Patriotism has been made a subject of ridicule, but 
patriotism is a beautiful thing, and befitting in the head of a 
household. Paternity in its completest sense, that is to say, 
the responsibility for the education of a new generation from 
birth to the age of manhood, is, after all, the surest element of 
patriotism, and is within the reach of everyone. 

In France especially, as we have seen, the population question 

is an important one, and should be insisted on. It has been 

„ , , . said with reason that France to-day is not threat- 

Gradual im- J 

poverishmont of ened by a multitude of dangers, but by one onh', 
which actually constitutes a national peril : that 
of extinction from lack of children.' A nation may increase 
its capital in two ways; i. By productive expenditure and 
productive labour; 2. By the utmost possible diminution 
of both, of labour and of expenditure. France has been em- 
ploying the second means since the beginning of the present 
century ; she has been economizing in children and diminish- 
ing the rapidity of the circulation of national life. She has, 
by this process, amassed a great treasure, but the results of 
her economy have been in part consecrated to the payment of 
an indemnity of five billions, and in part to loans, as in Mexico, 
Turkey, and Egypt, and to speculation of every .kind, and the 
result of these blind economies has been a gradual impoverish- 

Over and above those who are unreflective, or who simply 
trust to luck, there exists no considerable class of people in 
France, except Catholics, Protestants, and Jews, who can be 
counted on to maintain the race. There exists no doubt a 

' M. Richet. 


certain number of bons vivants who are determined to take 
their pleasure at all hazards, and who find in the restriction 

Classes in France ^^ ^^'^ ^^"^^1^ ^ limitation of their pleasure; but 
that maintain the they are rare. The disciples of Malthus are 
popu ation. nowadays much more numerous than those of 

Rabelais, People who have children, not out of pleasure nor 
by chance, but out of patriotism and philosophy, are so rare 
that they need not at present be taken into account. The more 
the property in France is subdivided, the greater the number 
of small proprietors, the fewer children there are. Since 1866 
the agricultural iiu[uiry has demonstrated the invasion of 
Malthusianism and the progressof voluntary infertility in almost 
every department side by side with the subdivision of the soil. 
From that time on the movement has gone forward unchecked. 
" In certain communes the words brother and sister have 
almost fallen out of use. Primogeniture, which was abolished 
in 1789, has been replaced by unigcniturc." ' Labourers only 
are anti-malthusians, and that out of carelessness for the future. 
A Alalthusian was one day remonstrating with a poor labourer, 
who was the father of twelve children and ambitious to become 
the father of a thirteenth. " What will you have.'" said the 
latter, "it is the only pleasure in the world that I get for 
nothing ; I would not diminish it on any account." 

It has been maintained that a greater or less restriction of 
the number of births is essentially due, not to a diminution in. 

Power of the religious devotion of the people, but simply 

relirrion to stimu- to an increase of prudence. Whoever docs not 

late population. ,..,., 

live Simply m the present moment, but takes 
account of the future, will restrict the number of his children 
according to the figure of his income. And yet where faith 
is sincere and rigid, it does not permit one to hesitate on 
mere grounds of economics. In Brittany prudence neither 
checks religion nor fertility. Engaged couples, knowing that 
the}' will have children after marriage, postpone their union 
till they shall have laid by a certain amount of monc}-, pur- 
chased a house and a plot of ground. In the department of 
Ille-et-Vilaine, men do not generally become engaged before 
their twenty-fourth year, nor women before their nineteenth 

' Toubeaii, La Repartition des imp6ts, t. ii. 


year. Marriage does not last as long therefore in Brittany as 
in Normandy ; it lasts on the average twenty-seven years and 
a half in Normandy and twenty-one in l^rittany, and yet the 
fertility of the women of Brittany, as compared with that of 
the women of Normandy, is almost as that of a hundred to 
sixty. In Brittany tiie result of religion and prudence, before 
marriage, combined, is a constant increase of population ; in 
Normandy the effect of incredulity and prudence, after mar- 
riage, combined, is a constant diminution of the population;^ 
although, of the two peoples, the Normans are more vigorous, 
and owing to the greater frequency of twins, naturally more 

The weakness of the French as a nation does not lie in the 

smallness of the number of marriages. Practically the average 

Condition of number of marriages in France is the same as in 

population in Germany, something like eight a year for every 
France not due to -^ ' ^ , ^ . , 

aversion to thousand inhabitants, so that marriages are about 

marriage. ^^ frequent in France as elsewhere. There is no 

question of immorality involved, but simply one of the prudence 
of married people. Illegitimate births are less numerous in 
France than in Italy or in Germany and in especial in Catholic 
Germany. In Paris scarcely more than twenty-five per cent. 
of the children are illegitimate, at Osmultz in Moravia fully 
seventy per cent, are illegitimate. M. Bertillon has estab- 
lished the fact that, since the beginning of the century, the 
percentage of marriage has been maintained, and even has 
increased rather than diminished up to 1865 ; but that the 
percentage of births has diminished continuously, and regu- 
larly. According to statistics every marriage averages five 
children in Germany, five in England, or almost five, and three 
only in France. 

Certain thinkers have been inclined to believe that the com- 
parative slowness in the increase of the French people was due 

Nor to degree of ^^ a relatively high development of the brain. 
civilization in We have already remarked the antagonism which 

ranee. exists between reproduction and the develop- 

ment of the nervous or cerebral system, but it is somewhat 
precipitate to apply to a special group of men what is true of 
■ See M. Baudrillart, Les Populations r urates de la Bretagne. 

population: and the future of the race. 325 

the species as a whole ; and there is a touch of fatuity in the 
notion that the French people have achieved so high a point 
of development that there exists in certain provinces not only 
a decrease in the rate of reproduction, but an absolute 
decrease of population. A statistical investigation has shown, 
it is true, that members of the Institute do not average more 
than one or two children apiece, but this statistical inquiry 
proves simply that members of the Institute have not desired 
to have large families, and that their conduct, which is 
generally not influenced by religion, has been comformable to 
their desire. An ordinarily healthy man could become the 
father of a hundred children every year ; and to imagine that his 
sexual needs diminish under the influence of intellectual labour 
to the extent of his having but one child in forty years would 
be more apropos in a comic opera than in a serious book. 
Remark, however, that the fertility is less great among peasants, 
whose cerebral activity is at a minimum, than in our cities, in 
which it is relatively great ; but in cities fertility is balanced 
unhappily by mortality. The antagonism between fertility 
and development of the brain should be at its greatest in 
women ; but Frenchwomen, whose education has long been 
neglected, do not appear to possess on the average any intel- 
lectual superiority over the women of other countries. And 
in our provinces population advances most slowly in Nor- 
mandy, where the women are so vigorous that the percentage 
of twins is higher than elsewhere. 

Malthusianism therefore is the cause of the evil, and mal- 

thusianism is a worse scourge than pauperism ; it is in a sense 

the pauperism of the middle classes. Just as an 

Malthusianism excessive impoverishment may kill out a whole 

the cause. ^ • 1 1 1 r 1 

social class, malthusianism is the death of the 
middle classes. It is rare to find a middle-class family 
with more than two or three children ; two children, at least, 
are necessary to replace the father and the mother, and to 
maintain the population ; a certain number of celibates and of 
married people who are sterile must be allowed for. The 
middle classes therefore are approaching extinction : the result 
of restricting their number is suicide. 


To sum up, the population question in France is purely and 
simply a moral question ; but more than any other question 
of the like nature it is closely bound up with religion because, 
up to the present time, religion has been the sole power which 
has dared to check popular inclination in this regard. It is 
in respect to population that lay morality has been most 

II. If the question is really one of a return to some tradi-^ 

tional religion or a gradual extinction of the race, free-thinkers 

may well hesitate between a number of lines of 

Futility of ef- • \ a . ^ ^ 

fort to bring about conduct. They may, m the hrst place, take 

areturnofre- refupfe in resignation: " After me the Deluge." 
ligion. , , , 

Many of the middle classes and a great number 

even of economists, who regard the future of their race and 
of their country as much too distant to be taken into account 
and consider present comfort as the sole rational aim of man, 
accept this position. A more radical alternative is to join the 
Church : both the Catholic and the Protestant churches, in spite 
of the eccentricity of their legends, are useful as an aid in mak- 
ing a nation numerous and strong and prolific ; and the French 
of all nations needs religion, so that, instead of endeavouring to 
destroy the Christian faith, it is our duty to endeavour to 
propagate it. There is an element of hypocrisy and even 
of cowardice in this effort to revive a bygone error in the 
name of present utility. And it involves the afTfirmation that 
error is at the bottom more useful than truth, and that truth 
is fundamentally irreconcilable with the continued existence 
of the human race — an affirmation which is somewhat pre- 
cipitate. Above all, the effort to arrest scepticism is simply 
futile — futile for humanity, for a people, for a family. When 
it is time to regret that certain things have been learned it is 
too late to set about ignoring them. The French people, in 
especial, possess a fund of incredulity which is based upon the 
practical and logical character of their temperament : they rose 
in 1789 against the clergy, in the name of liberty; nowadays 
they will struggle with the same stubbornness in the name of 
comfort against the prescriptions of religion, against the very 


instincts of human nature, and will make themselves sterile 
in order to become rich without immoderate labour. The 
re-establishment of religion is simply out of the question ; 
sincerely religious men themselves, if they happen also to be 
intelligent, recognize it. This rational sterility, produced by 
a triumph of the intellect over natural instinct and religious 
dogma, is a charming theme for declamation ; but declama- 
tion is also sterile, and does not date from yesterday ; it was 
tried before the Revolution and succeeded neither in augment- 
ing religious sensibility nor in diminishing French infertility. 
In a pamphlet on the Erreurs de Voltaire, the Abbe Nonotte 
wrote in 1766 : " Present notions and practices on the subject 
of population are as melancholy for morality as for statesman- 
ship. People are content nowadays with a single heir. Pleas- 
ure and libertinism carry the day. The fortunes of a great 
number of the first families in Paris rest on the shoulders of 
a single child. It was better in former times ; for families 
were not afraid of a number of children, and were not so 
extravagant but that they could provide them with a- means of 

Neither the priest nor the confessor can be counted on. 

Has the priest ever power enough, even in countries like 

Brittany where devotion is at its height, to sup- 

prieTt tVcope press the grossest vice ; drunkenness, for example, 

with (question of and that, too, among women ? How can a priest 

population, , , . . . ^ 

be expected to mamtam an influence over men 
who confess hardly more than once a year — at Easter? How 
can the priest, under such circumstances, be expected to 
be really a governor of the conscience, and in especial a 
physician of the soul? He receives a general confession from 
each of his parishioners, he is in a hurry, he is obliged to 
restrict his attention to the most enormous of the sins con- 
fessed to him, and the whole ends in absolution, followed by 
communion. Some days afterward the men get drunk again, 
and do just as they did before, till the year comes round. 
Prejudices and habits are stronger than anything else. 

They who, with the Abbe Nonotte, regard religion as the 
cure of all evils, forget that religion itself is very compliant, 


that it can be made to stand for a multitude of things. If the 
mass of the French people should allow themselves to be per- 
suaded by the Abbe Nonotte and his disciples 

Pliancy of re- , , . . , ^ . , , .... 

ligion. to return to the traditional faith, the traditional 

faith itself would soon cease to be so austere. 
Confessors would become more discreet. Are they not to-day 
obliged to tolerate polkas and waltzes, and young people 
whirling about the room in each other's arms, which was 
formerly so severely prohibited ? The letter of religion . 
remains in vain the same, the spirit of the worshippers 
changes. At the present day Jesuits willingly close their 
eyes to the sterility of the family ; they have even been 
accused of whispering to advice for the preservation of certain 
inheritances. Do you imagine that confessors in the Fau- 
bourg Saint-Germain ask especially embarrassing questions ? 
Heaven can be compromised with. 

This sort of tolerance, like all tolerance, will grow with 
time. Even in Protestant families in which a more extreme 

rigidity reigns, the spirit of the times is dominant. 
Even of Protes- Orthodoxy is everywhere becoming less ferocious, 

sterility is everywhere on the increase. Even 
clergymen do not have as large families as formerly. Statis- 
tics on this head would be very instructive; one might find in 
the very bosom of Protestantism sterility increasing directly 
with liberalism of belief. If Darwin and Spencer have 
partisans in the English clergy, and among the American 
Protestants, why should not Malthus also? In especial, since 
Malthus was a grave and religious man. 

The Catholic religion has itself been guilty by its advocacy of 
religious celibacy. In France one hundred and thirty thousand 

persons of both se.xes are devoted to celibacy.' 

IjPPTP3.9P of 

population en- It is to be regretted that Catholicism, which 

couraged by the during a number of centuries (in the time when 
Catholic Churcli. „ ^f, . ah- • i • i r ^i 

St. Sidonius Apollinans, the son-in-law ot the 

Emperor Avitus, was Bishop of Clermont-Ferrand) did not 

impose celibacy upon ecclesiastics, should have felt obliged 

later to exact it, and should have come to consider absolute 

' Dr. Lagneau, Remarques dhnographiques stir le ce'libat eti France. 


continence superior to marriage, contrary to all physiologi- 
cal and psychological laws. " Continence as a profession," 
says Vl. Montesquieu, " has destroyed more men than pesti- 
lence and war together. Every religious house constitutes a 
family which never gives birth to a child, and which continues 
in existence only by adopting children from without. Such 
houses are open like so many abysses, to swallow up the future 
of the race." Religious celibacy results in another evil con- 
sequence : although priests do not to-day constitute the elite 
of society, they are still among the most intelligent, the best 
educated, the least ill-disposed members of society. And they 
gaily consent to be annihilated, to disappear, and to leave, like 
the heretics they used to burn, no trace behind. They form 
as constant a drain on the body-politic as the victims of the 
Inquisition formed during so many years in Spain. If we 
should count the sons only of clergymen who have become 
distinguished or even great men, from Linnaeus to Wurtz and 
Emerson, we might see how much we lose by the celibacy of 
our priesthood. 

But religion apart, sterility may be combated by law, by 
morals, and by education. 

Religion is the law of primitive peoples ; when it becomes 

feeble, its precepts split into two parts : one of which, regarded 

, , \ as useless, is neglected and loses its entire value, 
Legal remedy. , , . , , 1 

while the other, which is regarded as the guarantee 

of social life, becomes formulated into moral or civilized laws 
obligatory in character. This is the history of a number of 
hygienic measures prescribed by Oriental religion which have 
become simple police regulations in the iaws of modern 
Europe. In the present question it is evident that the law- 
should take the place that religion once held ; the legislator 
should assume the function of the priest. Such a substitution 
is not unexampled; it took place among the Greeks; the 
citizen was obliged, by law, to have children. Socrates in 
Athens was obliged by law to take a second wife. In Sparta 
the young husband lived at the public table until he had sup- 
plied the state with three sons. He was subject to military 
service until he had supplied the state with four.' Nowadays 

' Aristotle, Politica, ii. 6, 13. 


of course such radical laws are not to be thought of, and 
indeed no simple and direct law could reach the evil ; an 
entire system of mutually completing laws is necessary. The 
whole series of reasons which prevent the head of a household 
from having a large family must first be known ; then they 
must be met in detail by a series of laws devised to suppress 
them or counterbalance them ; so that whenever one interest 
makes for sterility, another and equivalent interest shall make 
for fertility. It is accordingly in the very bosom of the family 
that the law, and that progressive reform of morals to which 
the law is so capable of contributing, must operate. 
*^» The head of a family to-day abandons the notion of having 
. ^"^^ many children for a number of reasons, sometimes mutually 
^ ,. , contradictory, which it is necessary we should 

comfort a reason make ourselves fully acquainted with before en- 

for small families, i •„*-]■.„ c l ,.■ 

deavouring to devise means oi counteractmg 
them. There exist in the first place, though not very frequently, 
physical reasons : the ill-health of the mother, the fear of 
her dying through frequent pregnancies. When this fear is 
justified in the judgment of a physician it is respectable ; it is 
defensible even from the point of view of society, for children 
born under such conditions would be delicate and useless as 
members of society. But in almost the whole number of 
cases, the grounds of sterility are economical and egoistic. 
French sterility is an economical, much more than a physio- 
logical phenomenon. The head of a family calculates the 
cost of rearing a numerous family, calculates that instead of 
being able to lay by money while he is in the vigour of his 
life, he will have to spend it on his children, and to pass his 
old age in poverty ; having a large family he regards simply 
as a bit of prodigality. Our budget of 4,200,000,000 repre- 
sents an average of 113 francs a head; with such taxes, 
decidedly, if one is to bring up a numerous family, one must 
have a considerable fortune or must deftly manipulate one's 

Also the small proprietor regards the earth somewhat as a 
savage does his fetich : his field, his house, are sacred entities 
w^hich he wishes to confide to sure hands. If he has a number 


of children, it will be necessary to share these treasures and 

perhaps to sell them in case they cannot otherwise be divided 

equally. The peasant no more regards such a 

Worship of land jiyi^io,-i of property as possible than a gentleman 
another. ^ ^ ■' ^ ,. 

under the old regime would have admitted the 

possibility of selling his ancestral chateau. Both of them 
would regard a mutilation of their family as a less evil than 
the mutilation of their domain. But to rear a child is to 
create a bit of capital, and fertility is a form of social economy. 
Both economists and French peasants admit willingly that to 
rear a calf or a sheep is to add to one's wealth, and a fortiori 
they should admit that to rear a child is. But there is a differ- 
ence : the calf, once reared, labours solely for the person who 
reared it, whereas the child ultimately comes to labour for 
itself. From the selfish point of view of the father, it is better 
to raise cattle and sheep. From the point of view of society, 
it is incontestably better to rear men. In all new countries 
the French race is prolific, because a large number of children 
under such circumstances is not a charge but a profitable 
investment. In Canada sixty thousand Frenchmen have 
grown into a people of two millions and a half. In Algeria the 
birth-rate is from 30 to 35 per lOOO ; in Normandy it is not 20 
per thousand. Finally, a striking example of the influence of 
emigration has been discovered in France itself, in the Depart- 
ment of the Basses-Pyrenees, where the birth-rate varies with 
the rate of emigration, to fill the places of those who have gone 
to America. 

Let us consider, on the other hand, the causes which influ- 
ence women. It is natural that, in a certain stage of society, 
^ , women should be unwilling to be mothers. 

W omen of i i 1 i ■ i • «. • 

fashion imitate Motlierhood represents the sole task which it is 
the demi-monde, j^f^ ^^ ^1^^^^^ ^^ perform, and this task they find 

the harder because fortune has relieved them of every other. 
They are not even obliged to nourish their children : the 
maternal breast can find a substitute ; they are not obliged 
either to rear their children or to teach them : governesses 
can be hired ; but nobody can give birth to their children, and 
in their life of frivolity childbirth is the one serious function 


that remains. They protest against it and they are right. 
The ambition of women of the grandmonde being too often^ 
as has been said, to mimic women of the denii-viojidc, it is 
well that they should imitate them in this respect as in 
all others, and that they should endeavour to establish 
between marriage and prostitution this final bond of simi- 
larity — sterility. 

Even among the women of the people gestation and child- 
birth, being, as they are, painful, are also objects of tjie 
„ . , liveliest repugnance and of protestations of every 
lower classes kind. I have never seen a woman of the people 
ear a our. y^-\\o did not complain at being pregnant and who- 

would not have preferred any other malady. Ah ! Nous ne 
faisons pas, nous reccvons — " We w^omen have no voice in the 
matter," said one of them to me — " if but we had ! " She epito- 
mized in a word the physiological and psychological position 
of the poor woman. Those who have not had children, far 
from complaining of it, congratulate themselves, and in any 
event they rarely desire more than one. 

In Picardy and in Normandy, as M. Baudrillart remarks, a 

woman who has many children is made the butt of raillery. 

And if other provinces are less sterile, it is owing 

Large families ... . ,^. , 

among the poor to religion or to Ignorance. 1 he women have 
traceable to ^q^ ye^- become acquainted with Malthus. They 

ignorance, . -,11 

know of but one remedy against an evil that they 
fear — to keep out of the way of their husbands. The wife of 
such and such a labouring man prefers a beating to the risk 
of having another child : but as she is the weaker she often 
succeeds in bringing upon herself both the beating and the 
child. Fear of pregnancy is more often than is commonly 
believed the cause of dissension in poor households, and for 
that matter in rich households also. The instant a woman 
reasons, instead of submitting to the law, she inevitably feels 
the disproportion that exists, for her, between the pleasures of 
love and the pains of maternity. She must be supplied with 
a new conception of duty, and that not simply in the way of a 
religious obligation which the husband can ridicule but of a 
moral obligation. 


Catholic education, as we have ah'eady remarked, does great 
harm in rearing young girls in a false modesty, in never speak- 

Girls should be '"^ ^° ^^^^'" °^ ^^^ duties of marriage for fear of 
educated for awakening their imagination in the direction of 

ma erm y. their future husband. The actual result is pre- 

cisely the opposite of the calculated result. Young girls see 
nothing in marriage but the future husband and unknown 
pleasures. They never think of any matter of painful duty 
which they must accept in advance ; they do not consider 
children as a question of duty but of necessity simply, they 
are actuated by but one ambition, that of diverting themselves. 
Girls should be educated and prepared for motherhood ; our 
present education is adapted to the formation of nuns or old 
maids, sometimes of courtesans, for we neglect early to inspire 
woman with a feeling of duty for her proper function, which 
constitutes also a large portion of all that is moral in her life — 
the duty of maternity. Happily, married women cannot remain 
sterile simply by wishing it, their husbands must become their 
accomplices ; it is their husbands, who, in the last resort, are 
responsible. If the husband, out of complaisance to his wife 
or to his wife's relatives, undertakes to be a Malthusian malgri 
lui, he plays almost as ridiculous a role as that of Georges 
Dandin : the man who permits himself to be dictated to in 
the matter of not having children is almost as complaisant as 
the man who acknowledges the children of other people. 

Another cause which explains the low birth-rate in France 

is that paternal and maternal love is more tender and more 

exclusive there than in other countries. The 

Paternal love i r -i 

tends to restrict r rench family, whatever may be said to the con- 
ctildr^en^^' °^ trary, is much more closely united than the English 
or (German family :).?in it a sort of fraternity 
obtains between parents and children. Members of a family 
separate with regret, and the ideal of the father is to have so few 
children that he may always keep them by him. We are too 
refined, too far advanced from a state of nature, to submit with- 
out suffering to the rupture which puberty naturally brings 
about in the animal family, to the flight of the young bird 
whose wings are grown ; we have not the courage to accept the 


dismemberment of the household, far less to wish it as a neces- 
sity and, on the whole, a good thing. This affection has of 
course its egoistic side, and it is on that side that it results in 
sterility. Parents rear children less for the children's sake 
than for their own. 

Having thus passed in review the principal causes which 
restrict the number of children in French families let us con- 
sider what influence law and morals might exert 
remldiesf^ in Counteracting them. Legal reforms should be 

directed especially toward the two following 
points: i. Reform of the law relating to filial duties (main- 
tenance of parents) ; 2. Reform of the law of inheritance ; 3. 
Reform of the military law, so as to favour numerous families 
and permit emigration to the French colonies. 

Rearing children being a considerable trouble and expense 

it is necessary that it should be made profitable, that it should 

„ be converted into a species of loan for a long 

the law does not term of years. The law can bring this about in 

sufficiently pro- various ways. French legislation has protected 

tect parents o j- 

against ingrati- children by a provision that their fathers cannot 
*^'^®' completely disinherit them ; it should also have 

protected fathers against children's ingratitude. It often 
happens, in the country especially, that after an aged 
couple have reared a numerous generation they find them- 
selves dependent upon their sons or upon their sons-in-law and 
are ill-fed and greeted with abuse. The law provides that 
children must maintain their parents, no doubt, but mainte- 
nance may be supplied in a manner which renders it little 
better than assassination. The law which has endeavoured 
to establish the moral independence of the son as against the 
father might well endeavour to establish on a firm basis the 
moral independence of the parents them.selves. If a father to- 
day cannot disinherit his son, is it not shocking that a son 
should be able, in a sense, to disinherit his father — to accept 
life, nourishment, education from him and to give derision, 
abusive language, and sometimes blows in return? Observers 
who have lived among the people, in especial in country districts, 
uniformly bear witness to the deplorable situation of certain 


old men who are obliged to beg on the highroad, or of their 
neighbours, for means of support which are refused them in 
their own houses. The present French law is helpless in 
the presence of filial ingratitude which takes the form, not of 
overt act, but of abusive language and disrespectful conduct. 
It annuls a donation made to an ungrateful child, but it cannot 
annul the donation of life, and ungrateful children benefit by 
the inability. A father should be able to count at least on 
a certain minimum of revenue from his children, whoever 
they may be.' 

If, as is probable, the principle of social insurance is ulti- 
mately to prevail, and if a certain amount of the regular 

income of every labourer is to be retained and 
The state owes i-iUir ■• ri-ii i-i 

parents a debt. ^^^^ ^y to form a provision for his old age, which 

his employer or the state will increase in certain 

proportions, we believe that it would be equitable to increase 

the provision laid by for the father of a family in a larger 

ratio than the provision laid by for a celibate. The father of a 

'We are not obliged here to enter into details of administration. Perhaps it 
would be no more than just to give parents their choice between living with their 
children, which is often so painful, and an annual sum, proportional to the salary 
and resources of the children. This sum might be taxed by the state or the com- 
mune, and paid by it to the father. Every head of a family would at once reflect 
that if he some day becomes poor and has but one child he will have but one 
source of income, whereas, if he has ten children, he will have ten sources of income, 
and ten chances that one of them may be considerable ; as it would be if any of 
one's children should have become wealthy. A numerous family would thus 
constitute a guarantee of independence for the father ; on the other hand, the more 
he expended in educating them, the greater chance he would have of later obtaining 
an equivalent return for it. In labouring for the augmentation of the social capital 
he would thus be securing an insurance for his old age. Even supposing that the 
execution of a law of this kind should be difificult, the right of parents to some 
really active gratitude on the part of their children should be recognized and con- 
secrated formally by the letter of the law, which should prescribe a line of conduct 
for children and even fix a certain appropriate ratio between their income and the 
amount of their remittances to their parents. The law should even do what in it 
lies to efface from the language, in especial in their ap]ilicability to those who have 
generously fulfilled their duties of paternity, the shameful words : ^tre a la charge 
de ses enfants — dependent on his children for support ; the public should be 
made accustomed to consider this sort of dependence not as an accident to the 
children, and as a misfortune, and almost a disgrace, to the parents, but as a 
natural consequence of the relation of parent and child. 


family having done more for the state than the cehbate — hav- 
ing contributed to the state his time and trouble and expense 
in rearing certain members of the new generation — it would be 
legitimate for the state to make a restitution to him of some 
small portion of the money he has laid out in a disinterested 
manner; in a manner which did not benefit him and has bene- 
fited the state. 

Meanwhile this consummation is somewhat distant, and 
there is a reform immediately practicable : a tax on celibacy. 

Whenever this tax has been mentioned it has 
Tax on celibacy. , , , , . ^ . ,.,.,. 

been made the subject of universal ridicule ; it 

has been represented, as M. Ch. Richet remarked, as a sort of 

penalty, a fine for not being willing or not being able to 

marry. This is a very unfair statement of the case; the 

measure would be simply strict justice. With anything like an 

equality in the matter of fortune a celibate pays smaller taxes 

(indirect taxes, taxes on doors and windows, etc.) ; and the tax 

of rearing a family, by which the married man serves the state 

in a number of ways at once, the celibate avoids altogether. 

The celibate therefore is an altogether privileged person, he 

avoids almost everything in the way of social duties. In 

regard to all taxes, direct and indirect, he enjoys dispensations 

which are not without analogy to those formerly admitted to 

priests and nobies. The same thing holds good of married 

people who do not have children ; they are, so to speak, 

encouraged by the law : it is a state of things which should 

not and cannot last. 

By a tax on celibacy one would simply be reverting to the 

ideas of the French Revolution. The Revolution took care, 

In principle by a number of laws, to favour the married man 

identical with ^t the expense of the unmarried. Thus every 

certain provisions i-i i 

at time of Revo- celibate was ranked, for purposes of taxation, in 

lution. a higher class than that to which, according to 

his income, he would have been placed had he been married. 

If he demanded assistance for some of the causes for which 

assistance was granted, he would be given but half the amount 

that a married man in his situation would have received ; if he 

was more than thirty years old the laws obliged him to pay 


twenty-five per cent, additional to all ground tax ; the tax- 
able value of his property was estimated at fifty per cent, 
hieher than it would otherwise have been. A manufacturer 
was obliged to declare whether he was celibate or married. 
The law considered every man a celibate who was thirty years 
old and was not married, or a widower.' 

Over and above the special tax on celibacy, a more equitable 

distribution of the tax on families might be realized. As M. 

Richet remarks, if the father of a family cannot 

Parents should , ..ii -i- ^^ .< j- ^ ^ 

be taxed inversely be assisted by indirect taxes, tne direct tax on 
to number of chil- \{^^-^ should at least be inversely proportional to 
the number of his children."" Not only so, but 
compulsory road labour — this unpopular tax, which consti- 
tutes the last vestige of the corvee — might well be suppressed 
entirely for the fathers of more than four or even of more 
than three children.^ 

' See the Etudes sur le celibat en France, by Dr. G. Lagneau (Academie des 
sciences morales et politiques, p. 835, 1885.) 

' " Direct taxes," says M. Javal, " are in a great measure a tax on children : com- 
pulsory road labour is forced on young men before they are adult. The tax on 
doors and windows is a tax on air and light, the inconvenience of which increases 
•directly with the increase in the size of the family and the consequent necessity of 
occupying a larger apartment. The license itself, which applies to the amount of 
the rent of one's habitation, is in a great measure proportional to the necessary 
expenses and not to the resources of the person taxed." {Revue scientijique , No. 
i3, November i, 1S84, p. 567.) " It is well known," says M. Bertillon, " that the 
city of Paris pays to the state the tax on apartments that rent for less than four hun- 
dred francs. In principle nothing could be better, but in practice : suppose two 
neighbours, one of them an unmarried man, possesses a comfortable lodging of two 
rooms with the accessories ; one of these two rooms can scarcely be called a neces- 
sity for him and is distinctly a simple addition to his comfort, and the city pays his 
tax. His neighbour has a family and four children, and lives in three rooms which 
constitute a very narrow, and hardly a sufficient lodging, but the rent of it is five 
hundred francs and the unhappy manmust pay : (i) Six times greater taxes on what 
lie consumes than his neighbour ; (2) A furniture tax ; (3) Some portion of the tax 
tliat the city pays on the apartment of the celibate neighbour. Evidently the 
result is precisely the opposite of what it should be." (Bertillon, La statistique 
humaitie de la France.) 

•'* If a purse should be given by the state to one of every seven children in the 
same family (according to a law at the time of the Revolution which has recently 
been revived and corrected) it would be no more than justice, nay, it would be almost 
an act of simple reparation ; although it must not be supposed that the practical 
results would be considerable. The benefit that it would do to the father of the 


Everybody is agreed nowadays as to the defects in the law 
regulating the taxation of inheritances. We believe that it is 

Ininstic f more than anything else by a modification of this 
present law of law that the practice of malthusianism can be 
checked. The tax on every inheritance which is 
to be divided up among a great number of children ought as 
far as possible to be reduced, whereas the tax on inheritances 
which are to go undivided to a single inheritor ought to be 
increased. The small proprietor who limits himself to one 
child, in order to avoid dividing his field, would soon learn that 
he is making a bad calculation if by that very act he subjects 
his estate to a heavy tax. On the contrary, whoever lays out 
his fortune in rearing a number of children would at least have 
the satisfaction of thinking that almost the whole of his 
fortune could be handed down to them, that the public 
treasury would take little of it, and that if his property had to 
be divided after his death it would at least not be seriously 
diminished ; almost nothing would " go out of the family." ' 

Every reform of the law of inheritance must make up its 
account with the two motives which alone inspire a man to 

Tax on inheri- ^"^^58 a fortune: a personal interest, and an 
tances falling to interest in his wife and children. So that, when- 
''^^^^^' ever a man is a widower without children, his 

property might be made subject at his death to a considerable 
tax, without his industry, which society is interested in stimu- 
lating, being thereby especially discouraged. A considerable 
tax therefore on the property left by celibates, and married 
couples without children, would be evidently equitable, and, 
no more than in the case of a tax on celibacy, to be regarded 
as a penalty. The simple fact is that a man who has not 

family is too uncertain, and the prospect of such an advantage could influence only 
a man who had six children and was hesitating about the seventh ; but he who has 
had six children is not a follower of Malthus and is not likely to be. 

' Suppose, to take almost the first figures that occur to one, that the law taxed an 
only son's inheritance twenty per cent. ; it might tax an inheritance to be handed 
down to two children only fifteen per cent., an inheritance to be handed down to 
three children ten per cent., to four children eight percent., to five children six per 
cent., to six children four per cent., to seven children two per cent., and to any 
greater number of children nothing. Remark that this gradation actually exists 


reared children has expended much less of his income for the 
benefit of society, and that society has the right during his hfe- 
time or at his death to trim the scales against him. Indeed 
proportionate taxation ought positively to be a matter of con- 
science with society. 

Given the importance o{ large fortunes in modern society, 

religion and the patriarchal spirit together devised in former 

French law of times a compromise between the necessity of 

inheritance tends having a large family and of keeping the family 

toward minute . i- • i i t r . 

subdivision of possessions undivided ; 1 refer to primogeniture. 
estates. -p^ attempt to re-establish the law of primogeni- 

ture in nations which have rejected it would be impracticable 
and unjust, even though one should recognize that the tradi- 
tional superstition and prejudices on this point were not with- 
out some justification. But, to reassure those who dislike 
the thought of the inevitable partition of their territorial pos- 
sessions, the present laws in regard to inheritances might be 
made less stringent. Every land-owner, every owner of a 
factory or a commercial house, might be left free to designate 
which of his children he considered most competent to succeed 
him in the possession of such real property, and the law of 
partition might be considered as applicable to the rest of his 
property only. It would be a sort of liberty of bequest, within 
the limits of the family. The authors of our civil code 
broke the line of succession as it had existed in the families of 
the nobility ; and they did well, in that they dispersed masses 
of unproductive capital, and by that very fact rendered them 
productive ; but they did less well, in that they rendered it 
difficult to bequeath large farming or manufacturing establish- 
ments from father to son. They have necessitated the sub- 
to-day but inversely, because just in so far as an inheritance has to be divided up 
among a large number of children, the expenses of the sale and partition tend to 
increase and the value of the property, which is thus split up into bits, tends to 
decrease. A number of cases may be cited in which inheritances that had to be 
divided among seven or eight children have lost, by partition, not only twenty but 
even twenty-five or fifty per cent, of their value. On the contrary, an inheritance 
transmitted to a single inheritor is burdened witli the direct tax only, and tluit 
amounts at most to ten per cent. Here, as elsewhere, the law protects small 
families and encourages sterility. 


division of capitals whicli were much more productive in their 
entirety ; and as a result families of farmers and manufacturers 
who remain, from father to son, for generations in the same 
pursuit and are thereby enabled to carry it to its highest degree 
of perfection, have almost disappeared in France. Such com- 
mercial or land-owning dynasties constitute the greatness of 
England and of Germany. A great commercial house or a 
great farming enterprise is not to be created in a day, and if 
after one's death one's labour is to be destroyed by partition, 
so much the worse for the country. Le Play has depicted in 
lively colours the despair of the farmer who has laboured all 
his life to perfect a system of cultivation, of the manufacturer 
who has created a prosperous house, who see their work 
menaced with destruction if they have a number of children. 
Such men have but one resource ; to withdraw enough money 
from their business to satisfy the requirements of the law in 
regard to the children who are not to succeed them, and thus 
to prevent the sale of their establishment. The result of this 
manoeuvre often is that the child who inherits this establish- 
ment is left too poor to carry on the business and finds 
ruin where his father found wealth. The law, in its endeav- 
our to divide the produce of the father's labour among 
his children, too often annihilates the most valuable part of 
the father's labour ; in the effort to obtain an apparent equity 
in the partition of the revenues, it destroys the source of 
them. The law cuts down the tree to gather the fruit. 

Military service, which is perhaps the heaviest burden that 

the state lays on the individual, also constitutes the state's 

„ ... principal means of influencing him. The most 

Large families ^ * '^ 

should be partly Malthusiau native of Normandy would become 
exempted from amenable at onceif a question of five years' military 

military service. ^ -' -' 

service, more or less, were involved. To-day the 
father of four living children is exempt from the twenty-eight 
days' military service (the law does not seem to be well known, 
but ought to be); he ought to be exempt from all reserve service, 
even in time of war. Similarly, as has already been demanded, 
a family which has furnished two soldiers to the army ought 
to be exempt from further military duty. The younger sons 


should be definitively excused from military service by the 
fact of their two elder brothers having marched under the 
flag. As a matter of fact, families in which there are more 
than two sons are so rare that such a measure would hardly 
diminish the annual recruits.' More than that the Budget is 
unequal to the needs of the whole number of possible recruits 
even as the case stands; it is therefore irrational to make one's 
selection from among them by an appeal to chance. Such a 
device is an appeal to inequality and that under the disguise of 
equality and law ; the future of every society depends upon the 
decreasing part played in it by the injustices of chance. The 
military service required of each family should therefore be 
regulated with some rational reference to the number of chil- 
dren in it."* 

Emigration tends to augment fertility ; emigration must 
therefore be favoured by law. It is soberly estimated at pres- 
ent that from thirty to forty thousand French- 
be^encSgeV" '^^n emigrate each year; the figure is relatively 
small, but that number of emigrants a year is 
enough to settle important colonies.' It is unscientific to 
maintain at this late day that the French are incapable of 
colonizing when they have so powerfully aided in forming the 
great English colonies in Canada, India, and Egypt and are 
actually colonizing Algeria and Tunis. What w^e lack is not 
the ability to establish colonies, but the habit of emigration. 
Emigration, in spite of its importance for us, obtains mainly in 
certain poor districts in France ; it is not general enough to 

' M. Javal in 1885 proposed, in the Chamber, to substitute for Article 19 of the 
commission another article, according to the terms of which when two or three 
sons of the same family were enrolled they should be held to only three years of 
service all told, and that when there were more than three brothers enrolled they 
should each be required to give but one year's service. The amendment was due 
to the fact that population in France is not increasing. 

" Young soldiers also, as M. Richet says, might be permitted to marry under 
certain conditions. They are precisely at the age when fertility is at its greatest. 

■■^ Rightly to appreciate the ability of France to maintain colonies, this figure 
must not be compared with the rate of emigration from other countries, but with 
the average excess of births over deaths in France. Thus considered, the number 
of forty thousand emigrants (adopted by M. Paul Leroy-Beaulieu) becomes rela- 
tively large, since the annual excess of our births is not one hundred thousand. 


have any considerable influence, as yet, in raising the birth- 
rate ; the law should here be looked to, to correct the habits 
of the people. In England out of every family of four sons it 
is almost to be expected that one of them will go to India, 
another to Australia, a third to America ; there is nothing 
surprising in it, it is the custom. A sense of distance is almost 
unknown on the opposite side of the Channel. In France, if 
a single child leaves the country, even as the secretary of an 
embassy, he is as solemnly bid good-bye as if he were going 
never to return, as if he were dying even. There is a great 
deal of prejudice and ignorance in paternal anguish of this kind. 
Such and such a sedentary profession, for example that of a 
physician, is subject to perils that are perfectly well known 
to statisticians and which we nevertheless do not hesitate to 
choose for our children precisely because it permits them to 
live next door to us, rather than at the other end of the world. 
Such national prejudices will give way before education, the 
increasing habit of travelling, and the progressively rapid cir- 
culation of society ; laws might favour it. The spirit of enter- 
prise and colonization, which seems at first sight so foreign ta 
love of family, is capable of being allied with it ; nay, becomes, 
under certain circumstances, the very condition of it. To rear 
a numerous family is always in a certain sense to colonize, even 
though all the children live within the limits of their native 
country. To rear a large family is to launch one's children 
upon unknown ways, and demands the activity of mind and fer- 
tility of resource which are of the essence of colonization. The 
creation of a numerous family is positively a social enterprise, 
as the creation of a great commercial house or a great farming 
industry is an economical enterprise; success in both cases 
demands constant effort and brings a various profit in return 
Suppose a couple have reared ten children to labour and hon- 
esty ; the children form a protecting phalanx about the 
parents and give them, in return for the rearing, if not gross 
and direct benefits, at least happiness and honour. We do 
not wish to disguise the fact, however, that to rear a family 
involves a certain amount of risk ; but every enterprise involves 
a risk. And indeed the prime need in this whole matter is 


to develop the spirit of enterprise and audacity which was 
formerly so powerful in the French nation. A great many 
people to-day remain celibate for the same reason that they 
are content to live within a small income without endeavouring 
to increase their fortune by investing it in commerce or 
manufacture ; they are afraid of the risks of the family, just as 
they are afraid of commercial risks. They consume instead of 
producing, because producing is inseparable from a certain 
preliminary investment of money and activity. Similarly a 
great many people, once they are married, endeavour, so to 
speak, to reduce marriage to a minimum ; they do not dare 
to have children ; they are afraid of the preliminary outlay, 
they are afraid of emerging from the shell of their short-sighted 

It is, of course, emigration to French colonies that the law 

ought especially to favour, and for that purpose there is one 

respect in which the military law should be 

To French reformed. As a matter of fact, in spite of 


the law of July 27, 1872, the government 

is obliged to grant pardon to the numerous Basques and 
Savoyards who emigrate to escape military service. More 
than that, the sole important current that exists in France 
flows toward foreign colonies, and often creates on their 
shores industries which rival our own, while they rarely open 
advantageous markets for our commerce. Is it not a 
matter of urgent necessity to make our colonies as attrac- 
tive to the French emigrants as the colonies of any foreign 
nationality? If the young man of twenty who has made 
up his mind to pass some years of his life in Brazil finds him- 
self de facto exempt from military service, ought he not 
to be de jure exempt if he wishes to emigrate to Algiers, to 
Tunis, to Tonquin, to Madagascar? Emigration is itself a 
sort of military service. Colonists defend and enlarge the 
frontiers of the countries ; a really rational law should recog- 
nize them as a portion of the military power of the country. 
Fifty-four chambers of commerce in our principal cities, " con- 
sidering that it is of the greatest importance to encourage, by 
•every means possible, intelligent and well-educated young 


people, intending to emigrate, to establish themselves in 
our colonies," demanded justly " that, in times of peace, 
young men residing in the colonies should be granted 
a delay of five years in the call to military service, a delay 
which should become a definitive exemption after a further 
residence of five consecutive years. We believe that this 
period of ten years might be shortened, and that a residence 
of seven years in the colonies, or even of five in certain dis- 
tant colonies, like Tonquin, might be infinitely more profitable 
to the mother country than a three-years' military service at 
home.' We are much less in need of soldiers to guard our 
colonies than of colonists ; indeed our colonies are too often 
"colonies without colonists." More than that, we travel too 
little, we are not as well acquainted as we should be with our 
own possessions ; whoever had spent five of the most active 
years of his life in the colonies would be tempted to return 
there or to send his friends and relatives there. An amend- 
ment, looking to this exemption from military service, was 
discussed in the Chamber of Deputies in May and June, 1884. 
If it should ever be passed, it might have a considerable 
influence upon the destinies of the French people.'' 

' The legal minimum of required residence should not be taken as represent- 
ing the real duration of actual residence : people do not come back from distant 
countries merely for the wishing ; but the legislature should take advantage of the 
psychological effect of a definite figure ; an emigrant rarely leaves France without 
a determination to be gone only so long. The majority of the Basques who 
emigrate in such large numbers to America expect to return soon ; three-fourths of 
them become good citizens of the Argentine Republic. 

* Among the secondary causes which tend to lower the French birth-rate, and 
which the law might counteract, let us notice that of abortion, which is practised in 
France not less commonly than in Germany, but bears much worse results here 
than there, because of the small number of children that are born in France. Paris 
positively enjoys a reputation for the art of miscarriage, and ladies come there 
from various parts of the world to be relieved of their children. "One of the 
professors of our schools said this year, in one of his courses, that a midwife had 
confessed to him that she produced on an average one hundred miscarriages a year." 
(Dr. Verrier, Revue scietttijique, June 21, 1884.) Pajot affirms that there are 
more miscarriages than births. Might not this state of things be remedied : i. 
By the re-establishment of the revolving boxes {tours): 2. By a more constant 
inspection of the books and offices of midwives and accoucheurs, such as furnished 
lodgings in Paris are subject to. 

Among the principal reasons which prevent marriage let us mention the pre- 


III. Apart from the laws, the great means of influencing 

races is public education : it is by that means that the ideas 

and feelin";s may be moulded. The French 
Dangers of de- o -' 

population should people must be enlightened, therefore, on the 
be taught. disastrous consequences of depopulation; senti- 

ments of patriotism, of honour, of duty, must in every possible 
way be appealed to. The schoolmaster, the physician, and 
the mayor may all be of help. There are a whole multitude 
of such means of instruction that are being neglected. 

In the first place there are military conferences. Confer- 
ences of a half hour each, with striking facts and examples and 

a few significant figures, might exercise a con. 
Inthearmyby gj^erable influence on the army, which is to-day 

the nation. i\Iilitary conferences will some day 
certainly be one of the great means for the dissemination of 
knowledge ; they have recently been employed with success in 
Belgium during the strikes, to inculcate notions of political 
economy in the army and to fortify the military against cer- 
tain-communistic arguments. 

liminary formalities, which are too numerous even when both parties are French, 
and are simply numberless when one party is a foreigner. The law of marriages 
when both parties are French ought to be simplified to the utmost possible 
extent, so that an impatience of the preliminaries could in nowise influence 
engaged couples. More than that every effort should be made to facilitate marriages 
between French subjects and foreigners, unions the results of which are generally 
good for the race and which are hindered by all sorts of legal obstacles in certain 
countries ; this last question is a subject to be dealt with by diplomacy. Still 
other causes that the law might modify operate in France, if not to diminish 
the birth-rate, at least — what amounts to the same thing — to increase the mortality 
among children. In the first place is to be reckoned the employment of wet- 
nurses, who should be subject to a much more rigorous surveillance than they are 
at present, under the Roussel law. In the second place, there is the deplorable 
condition of illegitimate children, the mortality among whom is greater in France 
than in any other country: some of them are reported as stillborn, who medical 
statistics would go to show are the victims of murder ; others die of hunger 
in the second week of their birth owing to negligence or cruelty on the part of 
the mother. The re-establishment of the revolving boxes (fours) would here also 
be of prime service. In the third place, let us mention the exceptional mortality 
in France of adults from twenty to twenty-five years of age, which must result 
from bad administration in the army. Legislators and administrators should 
direct their attention simultaneously to all these points, if they are to check the 
current of depopulation in France. 


Then, in the second place, posters might be used. Certain 

speeches delivered in the Chamber or the Senate have a much 

feebler title to be placarded on the walls of remote 

In the country ^jjiacres than such and such economical, statistical, 

by proclamations, ° _ ' ' 

and geographical information. In the country 

placarding might be supplemented by viva voce reading by 
some important functionary of the village, or even by the 
public crier. The Bulletin des ComnmneSy if it were composed 
more carefully than it is and filled with examples, might be 
read every Sunday in front of the town hall. If the school- 
master were intrusted with this function the reading would be 
the germ of a weekly conference, which considering the empti- 
ness and monotony of country life might well succeed in 
attracting a certain number of the public. Statistical and 
economical information on the depopulation of certain 
provinces ; on the dangers of such depopulation ; on the enor- 
mous growth of the English, German, and Italian peoples ; on 
the social consequences of the enfeeblement of a race — might 
thus be placarded, read aloud, and commented on in order to 
call to the attention of everyone the economical and political 
ruin which is menacing us. The influence of religious instruc- 
tion is diminishing; it is essential to supply its place by a 
moral and patriotic education which shall combat prejudice, 
egoism, imprudence, and false prudence. 

One of the commonest psychological illusions that a better 
education might dispel is the belief that one's children are 

going to depend for their happiness on pre- 
Tastes of . , . , 

parents and of cisely the Same circumstances that constitute 

children not the one's own happiness. A miser, whose happiness 


consists in adding to his wealth, does not perceive 
that his posterity will not lay the same emphasis that he does 
on the possession of an immense and undivided capital. The 
peasant, who has passed his life in rounding out his plot of 
ground, by obtaining here a bit and there a bit of real estate at 
the expense of infinite stratagem, conceives his son as finding 
his highest happiness in a continuation of the same process. 
His vision does not stretch beyond the hedge that bounds his 
own meadow, or rather the hedge that bounds the neighbour- 


ing meadow which he is ambitious to acquire. A viUage 
butcher will have but one child, so that he may make him a 
butcher like himself, and his successor ; if he had two, the 
second might be forced to become a baker or a carpenter or a 
locksmith. Wiiat a misfortune ! — how could one consent to live 
if one were not a butcher I The idle man of leisure, who passes 
the first forty years of his life between women and horses, 
dreams of nothing better for his heir than idleness. Those, on 
the contrary, who feel such and such a thorn in their present 
mode of life imagine that they are securing perfect happiness 
for their son if they secure him an immunity from that particu- 
lar source of suffering. The hard-working day labourer, the 
small shopkeeper, the functionary who has laboured all his 
life ten or twelve hours out of every twenty-four, and has never 
had but one desire in his life — that of taking his fill of rest — 
imagines that his son will naturally be much happier than him- 
self if he does not have to work so much. Ninety-five per 
cent, of the human race are bound to hard labour and imagine 
that the pinnacle of happiness would be to do nothing. The 
majority are absolutely ignorant of the fact that, other things 
equal, happiness is never exactly proportionate to wealth, and 
that, according to one of Laplace's theorems, if fortune should 
increase by geometrical progression, happiness would increase 
by arithmetical progression ; the millionaire controls but a 
fraction more happiness than a workman who makes enough 
to live on. And too, wealth is never known at its best except 
by the man who has made it, who knows what it is worth, who 
looks upon it with the satisfaction of an artist contemplating 
his work, of a house-owner examining his house, of a peasant 
measuring his field. A fortune is always more precious to the 
man who has got it together than to his son, who will per- 
haps dissipate it. If there is one anxiom that fathers ought to 
take the trouble to master, it is this: A robust, intelligent 
young man with the advantage of a good education, which 
to-day is indispensable, runs a greater chance of being happy 
in life if he is busy, and he will not be busy if a fortune is 
handed to him when he comes of age. If a young man is to 
be made happy, the surest means is not to give him a fortune 


but to supply him with an opportunity of acquiring one, if 
fortune be his aim.' 

The peasantry and the middle classes of France, when they 

become more enlightened, will begin to understand that the 

Relation universe stretches beyond their village or their 

between ample street; that their children, when once they have 

means of subsist- rr ■ \ \ i mi i i • i 

ence and popuia- been suthciently educated, Will have a multitude 
*^°°* of careers open to them, and notably that of 

emigration to the colonies. Whenever a limitless field of 
action is thrown open to a race, its birth-rate increases. People 
who live near unoccupied land, or who see numerous careers 
open to their children, are like people who live on the coast in 
the presence of the wealth of the ocean. What is the explan- 
ation of the well-known fertility of the fishing population, even 
in France? It has been attributed to differences of food ; it is 
more probably due, as has been remarked, to the fact that the 
produce of fishing is proportionate to the number of fishermen 
and that the sea is large enough and deep enough for all. 

To sum up, the relation of religious beliefs to the mainte- 
nance of the race is the foundation of one of the gravest 
problems that the decline of Christianity gives 

Summarvi . _ - , . . , , , , . 

rise to. It we have insisted at length upon this 
problem, the reason is that it is almost the only one in regard 
to which neither morals nor politics have as yet seriously 
attempted to supply the place of religion. In regard to such 
questions morals have hitherto been afraid to insist, and poli- 
tics have been unpardonably negligent. Religion alone is 
afraid of nothing and has neglected nothing. This state of 
things must be changed ; some solution must be found for so 
vital a problem — a problem which becomes every year more 

' We conceive, for example, that a father who proposes to enrich his son might 
often do well to take as the measure of his generosity the sum that his son can lay 
by, and does really lay by, during a year of labour. The father might double or 
even sextuple that sum, but he ought at least to make it the basis of his calculations 
instead of taking counsel with some vague and often deceptive notion of equality, 
or with his affection for his child, which is often an extreme instance of inequality. 
We know a young man who at his twenty-eighth year had already amassed by ten 
years of labour forty thousand francs ; his parents tripled the amount. 


and more vital as instinct declines in power and reflective 
intelligence becomes stronger.' Shall we be obliged some 
day to adopt the most radical imaginable solution ; shall those 
who have no children be obliged to pay for the rearing and 
education of the children of those who have many? No; 
before reaching so extreme a point as that a number of pallia- 
tives will have been tried, and we have endeavoured to sug- 
gest some of them. What is essential is that politics, morals, 
education, and hygiene should all do their duty in this matter, 
in especial since religion is nowadays beginning to be power- 
less in it. Science must do in the future what religion has 
done in the past ; must secure the fertility of the race and its 
physical, moral, and economical education. 

' See Esquisse d'tme morale sans obligation ni sanction, p. 53, and Morale 
anglaise contemporaine , 2^ partie. 

part Ubir&. 



I. Is a renovation of religion possible? i. Is a unification of the 
great religions to-day existing possible? 2. Is the appearance of 
a new religion to be expected ? — Future miracles impossible — 
Religious poetry not to be expected — Men of genius capable of 
sincerely and naively labouring in the creating of a new religion 
not to be expected — Impossibility of adding to the original stock 
of religious ideas — No new cult possible— Last attempts at a new 
cult in America and in France — The Positivisf cult — Ethical 
culture— Can socialism renew religion ? — Advantages and defects 
of socialistic experiments. 

II. Religious anomy and the substitution of doubt for faith — i. 
Will the absence of religion result in scepticism ? Will the 
number of sceptics increase with the disappearance of religion ? 
2, Substitution of doubt for faith— Genuinely religious charac- 
ter of doubt. 

III. Substitution of metaphysical hypothesis for dogma — Difference 
between religious sentiment and instinct for metaphysics — Imper- 
ishable character of the latter — Sentiment at once of the limits of 
science and of the infinity of our ideal — Spencer's attempted 
reconciliation of science and religion — Confusion of religion with 

/. Is a renovation of religion possible ? 

We have seen that the influence of dogma and of religious 
moraHty is on the wane in actually existi-ng societies ; but will 

Is contempo- "°^ ^^^'"'' P^^'io*^ ^^ decline be followed by a reac- 
rary scepticism tion in the opposite direction? 

Such a reaction could take place in two ways 
only: l. By the unification of religions; 2. By the appear- 
ance of a new religion. The unification of existing religions 



is not to-day to be thought of ; each of them has shown itself to 

be incapable of assimilating the others. The different Chris- 

,., . . tian confessions hold each other in mutual respect, 
Consolidation of ^ 

existing religions but they do the same with the great religions 
not possible. of the East. Islamism alone has made notable 

progress among tribes still imbued with primitive animism, and 
for them it represents a manifest progress. As for Christian 
missionaries they have never been able to make many prose- 
lytes among the Mussulmans, the Buddhists, or the Hindus. 
The Hindu who has been instructed in European science 
necessarily comes to doubt the revealed foundation of his 
national religion, but he is not on that account any the more 
inclined to believe in the Christian revelation. He ceases 
simply to be religious and becomes a ^free-thinker. \\\ 
peoples alike are in that position ; the principal great religions 
possess an approximate value as symbols of the unknowable, 
and worshippers perceive no advance in passing from one of 
them to the other : mankind in general does not welcome 
change for ciiange's sake. Missionaries themselves to-day lack 
faith io-theiiuieJigjonj they possess either enthusiasm minus 
talent or talent minus enthusiasm, and the time is at hand 
when the spirit of propagandism, which has hitherto consti- 
tuted the power of religion, will abandon it. Few people can 
cry to-day in the words of the unbelieving Jesuit missionary : 
" Ah, you have no conception of the pleasure of convincing 
men of what you do not believe yourself!" Where absolute 
faith is lacking, and absolute faith in the very details of the 
dogmas is lacking, sincerity, which constitutes the essential 
power of all propagandism, is lacking too. Bishop Colenso 
was one day asked, by his neophytes in Natal, some questions 
on the Old Testament. After having followed him up from 
question to question they asked him, on his word of honour, 
if all that was true. Seized by a scruple, the Bishop fell into a 
profound train of reflection, studied the question, read Strauss 
and the German commentators, and finally published a book in 
which he treats Biblical history as a serie s of myths . To this 
celebrated example of Colenso among the Kafifirs, must be 
joined that of Mr. Francis Newman in Syria, and of the Rev. 


Adams in India, and of others less well known. Efficiently to 
combat religions as well organized as those of India, for 
example, our missionaries would be obliged to become seri- 
ously proficient in the history of religion. But the day they 
sincerely study comparative religion in the hopes of convert- 
ing somebody else, they will themselves undergo conversion, 
or at least will rapidly learn to reject a belief in a special 
revelation.' The great religions, and principally the " univer- 
sal " religions, which to-day have attained their full devel- 
opment, hold each other in check. These vast bodies show 
almost no signs of life except within, by the formation of new 
centres of activity which detach themselves from the primi- 
tive nucleus, as we see daily happening in the bosom of Prot- 
estantism, which is constantly being subdivided into new sects ; 
as also within the bosom of Hinduism, insomuch that the 
only sign of life that these religions give is that they are 
beginning to disintegrate. 

The increasing multiplicity of sects, for example of the 

Protestant sects ; the courageous efforts of certain disciples of 

Analogy be- Comte and of Spencer, the birth of Mormonism 

tween nineteenth jj-^ America and of Brahmaism in India, have been 

century and time ^ , . . ^ 

ofthe Antonines regarded as symptoms of a religious fermentation 
superficial. analogous to that which disturbed the world at 

the time of the Antonines and very possibly destined, like 
that, to result in a renovation. "All things in nature spring 
from humble beginnings, and no one can to-day say whether 
the unconscious mission of the fisherman and publicans, 
gathered eighteen centuries ago on the borders of Lake 
Tiberias about a gentle and mystical idealist, will not to-morrow 

' See M. Goblet d'Alviella, L' Evolution religieuse. Anglo-Saxon religious pros- 
elytism has acliieved the distinction of contradicting and paralyzing itself. The 
Theosophist Society of the United States, in 1879, ^^^^ to India certain mission- 
aries, or rather counter-missionaries, who were commissioned "to preach the 
majesty and glory of all ancient religions and to fortify the Hindu, the Cingalese, 
the Parsee, against all efforts to induce him to accept a new faith instead of the 
Vedas, of the Tri-Pitaka and of the Zend Avesta." In India and in the island of 
Ceylon these counter-missionaries have succeeded in bringing back to the primitive 
faith some thousands of converts to Christianity. 


be handed on to such and such an association of spiritualists 
prophesying in a gorge of the Rocky Mountains; to such and 
such an illuminated gathering of socialists in some back shop in 
London ; to such and such a band of ascetics, meditating, like 
the Essenes of old on the miseries of the world, in some jungle 
of Hindustan. Perhaps all they need is to discover on the 
road to Damascus another Paul, to give them a passport to 
future ages." ' These analogies between our century and that 
of the Antonines are very superficial ; between the century 
which, as a whole, is of an unexampled incredulity and the 
century which was of an unexampled credulity — which 
accepted all religion from that of Isis and Mithra to that of 
Christ ; from that of the talking serpent to that of Christ 
incarnate in the body of a virgin. During the past eighteen 
hundred years a new thing has been born into the world — 
science ; and science is not compatible with supernatural 
revelations, which are the foundation of religions. 

Will it be objected that miracles still happen? Possibly one 

or two notable ones in a century ! The surprising thing is not 

that miracles still happen, but that, with millions 

found a religion of believers, including in their ranks thousands 

to-day on miracles q{ excited women and children, they do not 

desperate. 1 t- 1 1 1 • 

happen frequently. bvery day ought to bring 

forth its duly authenticated miracle, but unhappily daily 
miracles no longer happen — except in mad-houses and hos- 
pitals for the hysterical, where they are observed and reported 
nowadays by incredulous men of science. When they happen 
elsewhere, true believers themselves are almost afraid of them 
and do not care to talk about them. Of old a king forbade 
God to perform miracles ; the Pope has done almost as much 
to-day ; they are regarded as objects of doubt and suspicion, 
rather than of edification. Among orthodox Protestant 
nations, miracles do not happen ; enlightened theologians 
among them no longer insist on the marvellous elements in the 
early Christian tradition ; they regard them as more likely to 
enfeeble than to confirm the authority of the Scriptures. Add 
that as a means of founding a new religion, or of reviving old 
^ revolution religieuse contemporaine, by M. Goblet d'Alviella, p. 411. 


religions, a miracle or two would do no good ; they would 
rather result in the total destruction of the faith they were 
intended to establish. A whole series of miracles would be 
necessary, a sort of marvellous atmosphere in which the whole 
face of nature should be transformed, a mystic halo not only 
visibly resting on the head of the prophet, but reflected on the 
believers who surround him. In other words, the Messiah 
must be in his lifetime quite as wonderful as he is always 
reported to be afterward, and that without deception or finesse, 
either on his part or on the part of those who surround hifn 
and are supported by his divinity. Unhappily, in our days 
great men are immediately taken account of by history, which 
verifies everything, describes everything, sets down in plain 
print the contemporary fact, otherwise so likely to settle, with 
time, into some fantastic shape. Even the legend of Napoleon, 
which he himself laboured with all the resources of despotic 
power and brutal force to establish, did not last thirty years in 
Europe ; in the East it exists still, transfigured. Personalities 
shrink beneath the touch of history. If Jesus had lived to-day 
his letters would have been published, and it is impossible to 
believe in the divinity of anybody after one has read his cor- 
respondence. The slightest facts of an interesting man's life 
are ascertainable: state records enable us to ascertain important 
dates, what he did from year to year and even sometimes from 
day to day; sometimes a mere appearance in court, such as 
happened in the life of Shakspeare's father, may serve to fix a 
date ; and in the life of a prophet there would be no lack of 
appearances in court since unlicensed assemblies are interdicted. 
Life to-day is so hemmed in by reality, so disciplined, that it is 
difficult for the marvellous to find entrance, or to make good 
its lodgment even if it should get in. We live in little num- 
bered and windowed boxes, in which the least disturbance 
attracts attention ; we arc watched like soldiers living in bar- 
racks ; we have every evening to be present at the roll-call, with 
no possibility of dropping out of the society of men, of return- 
ing into ourselves, of avoiding the big eye of society. We 
are like bees living under a glass ; the observer can watch 
them at work, watch them constructing their hive, watch them 


making their honey ; and the sweetest of honey, even the 
honey with which the ancients nourished the baby Jupiter, 
ceases to be marvellous when one has been present at its tardy 
and painstaking elaboration. 

We are far from the time when Pascal could say " Miracles 
are as a flash of lightning that reveals." The lightning no 
longer flashes. Science stands ready to explain the first 
miracle that arises in support of a new religion. 

Metaphysical and poetic genius also, upon which religions 
were so dependent in their earliest stages in the past, have 

„ . ^ , also withdrawn from their service. Read the 

Gemus has de- 

serted the service descriptions of the latest miracles, those at 
ofreiigion. Lourdes, for example : the little girl taking off 

her stockings to step into the rivulet, the words of the Virgin, 
the vision repeated as a spectacle before witnesses who saw 
nothing — all of it is trivial and insignificant; how far we 
have travelled from the Lives of the Saints, the Gospel, the 
great Hindu legends ! The poor in spirit may see God or the 
Virgin, but they cannot make others see them ; the poor in 
spirit cannot found or revive religion ; it requires genius, and 
genius, which bloweth where it listeth, bloweth to-day else- 
where. If the Bible and the Gospels had not been sublime 
poems they would not have made the conquest of the world, 
^sthetically considered, they are epics greater than the Iliad. 
What Odyssey equals that of Jesus? Refined Greeks and 
Romans did not at first appreciate the simple, impassioned 
poetry of the Gospels ; it was long before they admired the 
style of the Scriptures. St. Jerome, transported in a dream to 
the feet of the Sovereign Judge, heard a menacing voice cry: 
" Thou art naught but a Ciceronian ! " After this dream St. 
Jerome applied himself to the study of the beauties of the 
Bible and the New Testament, and came ultimately to prefer 
them to the balanced periods of the great Latin orator : the 
Sermon on the Mount, in spite of some inconsistencies (in part 
the work of the disciples), is more eloquent than the most 
eloquent of Cicero's orations, and the invectives against the 
Pharisees, authentic or not, are better literature than the 
denunciations against Catiline. M. Havet, in our judgment, 


entirely misses the point, when he asks how " so great a 
revolution could have taken its rise from such commonplace 
literature as the New Testament." The literary excellence 
of the New Testament is of a new kind, unparalleled among 
the Greeks or the writers of the Old Testament ; it possesses 
the grace of tenderness and of unction, which is well worth 
the lyrical fire of the prophets ; it is a profound and naive 
manual of popular morality, and every word makes one's heart 
vibrate. The literary success of the New Testament was fully 
merited. The Hebrew people, who had not produced one 
man of science, had evidently produced a succession of 
sombre, tender, puissant poets unparalleled among any other 
people ; a fact which in a great part explains the victori- 
ous progress of Hebrew religion. Poetry, like hope, is the 
sister of faith, and is more necessary than hope to faith, for 
one may forego the distant grace of hope when one is under 
the present charm of an illusion. 

To found a great religion has demanded and will always 
demand the services of men of genius such as Jesus was, or, to 
Andthecondi- t)e quite historic, as St. Paul was. But if genius 
tions in which jg to found religion it can do so only under two 
could succeed are essential Conditions. It must in the first place 
wanting, j^g absolutely sincere ; we no longer live in a 

period when religion can be benefited by imposture ; it 
must, in the second place, distinctly impose upon itself; 
it must be the dupe of its own inspiration, of its own 
interior illuminations, disposed to see in them something super- 
human, to feel itself in direct communication with God, or at 
least especially designated by God. This second condition was 
easy to realize in ancient times when, in their ignorance of 
psychological and physiological phenomena, not only men like 
Jesus but philosophers like Socrates and Plotinus believed 
that they felt within them something supernatural, took their 
visions and their ecstasies seriously ; and, unable to explain 
their own very genuine genius, regarded it as a proof of some 
mysterious or miraculous communication with God. Purely 
and simply to rank these great men among lunatics would 
be absurd ; they were simply seeking to explain phenomena 


which overtaxed their knowledge and gave what, after all, was 
the most plausible explanation for the times in which they 
lived. With the scientific knowledge that we possess nowa- 
days, and which every man who attains a certain intellectual 
level inevitably will possess, men like Moses and Jesus, men 
who are inspired, will be obliged, so to speak, to choose between 
two alternatives; to see in their inspiration simply the natural 
impulse of genius, to speak in their own name, to make no 
pretences to revelation or prophecy, to be, in effect, philos- 
ophers, or actively to allow themselves to be deceived by 
their own exaltation, to objectify it, to personify it, to become 
madmen in downright earnest. At the present day those 
who are not capable of naming the force that is acting in 
them and declaring it to be natural and human, and of preserv- 
ing their self-mastery, are definitively regarded as of unsound 
mind ; prophets who believe in their own prophecies are sent 
to Charenton. We are familiar with distinctions that were 
unknown in ancient times, even to the promoters of religious 
ideas ; the great men who founded religions were carried away 
by the movement they had themselves called into being; were 
divinized by the God that they themselves had brought to 
men. Genius is as capable of going to school as stupidity; 
and, like stupidity, it has been to school in the nineteenth 
century and is familiar with nineteenth-century science. A 
time will come — nay, probably has come for Europe — when 
prophets, apostles, and Messiahs wall be extinct among men. 
It is a species which is dying out. " Who of us, who of us will 
become a god?" None of us will become a god, and more 
than that none of us wants to. Science has killed the 
^supexnatural in us even in the very centre of our being, in our 
deepest ecstasies ; visions no longer put on the shape of appari- 
tion but of simple hallucination, and the day they become so 
strong that we believe in them we lose all power to make 
anybody else believe in them, and become, not uncommonly, 
amenable to the law. The middle term between the man of 
genius and the fool, the man of inspiration, of revelation, the 
Messiah, the God, has disappeared. 

Add that inspiration nowadays, and forever more, lacks 


and will lack its appropriate environment. Intensity of 
religious emotion in a people, an intensity which sometimes 
Dissemin ti n ^'-'^'^s to the height of fanaticism, depends, in a 
of knowledge has great measure, upon ignorance and upon the 
reUgious se^nti- level of intelligence achieved by average human 
ment. life. When problems of the origin and destiny, 

and reason of things, are suddenly presented to an ignorant 
people, it experiences profound terrors, ecstasies, a general 
heightening of the sensibility which is due to the fact that a 
state of metaphysical and philosophical curiosity is utterly 
unfamiliar to it, constitutes a positive revolution in its ordinary 
habits of mind. When the average level of intellectual 
activity is once raised, metaphysical emotion loses its revolu- 
tionary character precisely because the whole extent of human 
existence has become imbued with it. A calm, high, con- 
tinuous enjoyment takes the place of a brief, stormy ecstasy ; 
people who pass their lives on the shore of the ocean cease to 
fear it, or at least do not experience so violent an emotion in 
its presence as they did at the sight of their first tempest. 
If we had never looked upon the starry heavens, the first time 
we lifted our eyes to them we should be filled with fear ; the 
spectacle of them to-day calms us, gently inspires us. To 
appease the violence of religious sentiment, it must, when it 
has been purified, be permitted to permeate the whole of 
human existence, be always present with us, and domesticate 
us in the infinite, 

A final condition precedent to the success of a new religion 
would be that it should be really new, that it should contribute 

Anewreli ion ^ ^^^^ ^*^^^ ^° ^^^^ treasury of the human mind. 
must be both novel Among the wretched attempts at starting a new 
sigm can . f^it-ji ^vhich have been made from one end of the 
world to the other in our days, nothing original has made its 
appearance. In America a religion new in appearance, Mor- 
monism, has had some success ; it is, of all modern attempts, 
the only one which has relied upon miraculous prophecy and 
revelation, such as are indispensable to a genuine dogmatic 
religion : it has also its book, its Bible, and even includes in its 
legend some prosaic tale ofmarvellouspairof spectacles destined 


for the deciphering of the book. The God of Mormonism, 
who is rather better educated than the God of the Bible, 
possesses some notion of optics. But at bottom Mormonism 
is simply a modern edition of Jewish ideas and customs : the 
whole religion is a bit of plagiarism, a resuscitation of super- 
anuated legends and beliefs, to which it has added nothing but 
what is trivial ; it is a religious anachronism. It seems also 
to have reached the limit of its development, the number of 
its adherents is not increasing. Hindu Brahmaism is an 
eclectic and mystic spiritualism without one really new idea. 
Comtism, which consists of the rites of religion and nothing 
else, is an attempt to maintain life in the body after the 
departure of the soul. The spiritualists are charlatans, or 
empirics, who have been impressed with certain, as yet 
obscure, phenomena of the nervous system which they them- 
selves are unable to explain scientifically. But charlatanism 
has never founded anything durable in the domain of religion. 
To compare American Mormonism or spiritualism to nascent 
Christianity is to make one's self ridiculous. Humble as the 
beginnings of Christianity were one must not be the dupe of 
historical illusion, nor believe that Christianity owed its triumph 
to a simple concurrence of happy events ; that the world, for 
example, according to M. Kenan's hypothesis, might quite 
easily have become Mithraic. The disciples of a certain 
Chrestus, mentioned for the first time by Suetonius, could 
present, as the basis of their as yet vague beliefs, two in- 
comparable epic poems, the Old Testament and Gospels; they 
introduced into the world a new system of morality, which was 
admirable even in its errors, and original at least for the mass 
of mankind ; and they contributed, finally, to the common 
stock of ideas a great metaphysical conception, that of the 
resurrection, which, combined with current philosophical con- 
ceptions, necessarily gave birth to the doctrine of personal 
immortality. Christianity conquered by its own weight, it was 
inevitable that it should find its St. Paul ; the Old Testament 
and the Gospels were too eminent to be forgotten, or to remain 
without influence on human life. There is not a single 
example in the history of the world of a great masterpiece, at 


once literary or philosophical, which has gone its way unper- 
ceived, without exerting an influence upon the progress of 
humanity. Every work which is sufficiently endowed with 
beauty or virtue is sure of the future. 

It is among the masses that religious movements have 

hitherto begun. But a new religion could not come to us to- 

vr * day from the ignorant masses of an Oriental 

No great re- ■' " 

ligion could now- people nor from the lower classes of any country 

tll^X °f ^"^°P^- I" h^^t^^^" antiquity, all social 
masses. classes were united in a belief in naive supersti- 

tions. Marcus Aurelius himself was obliged to preside in 
great pomp over a ceremony in honour of the serpent of Alex- 
ander of Abonoteichos which numbered believers among his 
friends. To-day a bishop in Australia can refuse to order a 
prayer for rain, and declare that atmospheric phenomena are 
regulated by inflexible natural laws, and persuade the believers 
in his diocese, if they want a remedy against drought, to 
ameliorate their system of irrigation. These two facts indi- 
cate the thorough-going difference between the ancient and 
modern world. The contemptuous title of Barbarians, which 
the Greeks and Romans applied to all other peoples, was less 
than exact, for the Hebrews and the Hindus at least possessed 
a more profound religion than the Greeks and Romans and 
even in certain respects a superior literature. Greek and 
Roman civilization is a rare historical example, which proves 
that religion is not necessarily the measure of the intellectual 
development of a people. Greece excels principally by her art 
and science ; but the superiority which she conceived herself 
to possess in other respects was a pure illusion founded on 
ignorance. The superiority that we attribute to ourselves is 
demonstrated by our knowledge ; we are better acquainted to- 
day with the religion of most Oriental peoples than they are 
themselves; and we have earned a right to sit in judgment 
on them, and admire them, and criticise them, that the ancients 
did not possess. The distinction between those who know 
and those who do not is to-day the sole really serious line of 
demarcation between classes and nations. And the line is one 
that religion cannot pass, for every complete religion involves 


a general conception of the world, and no such naive con- 
ception of the world as a man of the people is capable of 
can ever find acceptance by a cultivated mind. No great 
religion can germinate and achieve complete development in 
modern society. 

The impossibility of finding anything new in the domain of 

mythical religion might almost be demonstrated a priori ; 

nothine more attractive will ever be discovered in 

Impossibility of ^j^ ^ ^f ^ metaphysical myth than the sovereign 

improving on ex- -' ^ ■' ... . 

isting religions in happiness obtained in this life in the Buddhists 
* ^^ ' Nirvana, or obtained in the life after death in 

Christian immortality. In these two conceptions, the meta- 
physical imagination of humanity has once for all achieved its 
masterpiece, as the plastic imagination once for all achieved its 
masterpiece in Greek statuary. Something may be demanded 
in another order of ideas, one may exact less naive hypotheses, 
hypotheses more neighbour to the truth ; but these hypotheses 
will never seduce humanity nor pass over the world like a wave 
of light, nor become transfigured in the form of a revelation. 
The multitude never listens to a revelation that does not 
announce some glad tidings, some salvation in this world, or 
the next ; to be a prophet, and to be listened to, imperatively 
requires one to be a prophet of good augury. Religious 
metaphysics, after its two immense efforts in Buddhism and 
Christianity (Mohammedanism is simply a vulgarization of these 
two), is condemned in the future to sterility or repetition, so 
long as severe and truly philosophical hypotheses, based on 
scientific generalization, engage the attention of mankind. 
Infantine hypotheses, which resolve the problems of the destiny 
of mankind and of the world in a manner altogether consoling 
to human vanity, are condemned to uniformity and banality. 
To discover anything new in the realm of metaphysics, the 
religious spirit will have to abandon the conditions which 
have hitherto existed ; will have to deal with ideas that lie 
beyond the primitive intellectual range of a Hottentot, and 
even abandon all notion of universality, of Catholicity, in the 
sphere of speculation. 

The same is true in the sphere of morals. So far as an exalted 

3^2 NOA'-REIJGWjY of 77/ E FUTURE. 

and attractive system of morality is concerned, can one go 

farther than Christianity and Buddhism, both of which preach 

exclusive altruism, absolute self-abnegation ? All 

improving ex- ^hat One Can do is really to take a few steps back- 

isting religious ward to moderate certain exaggerated outbursts 
morality as such. ... . , _ ,,, . . , t, , 

ot devotion in the void, to nt Lliristian and Bud- 
dhistic morality to the real world, to supply this beautiful 
mysticism with a material body; but for such a task anew 
Messiah would be powerless, simple good sense does not charm 
humanity; the cold, humble, commonplace duties of everyday 
life cannot be made the basis of a great popular movement. 
Common-sense is not contagious after the fashion of religious 
exaltation, which passes from man to man like wildfire. Moral 
sentiment may well, in the course of time, filter into us, pass 
slowly from man to man, rise like a rising tide, but so gradu- 
ally as scarcely to be perceptible. The most lasting approaches 
to perfection are often the most unconscious. It is a difficult 
matter by a simple impulse of faith to climb sheer up on the 
ladder of civilization. True moral perfection is often the precise 
opposite of heroic paroxysm. As the passion for goodness 
becomes triumphant, it ceases to be a passion : it becomes, and 
must become, a portion of our normal life, of the flesh that the 
mystics curse , the man must become good from the roots of 
his hair to the soles of his feet. Thus Buddhism and Chris- 
tianity, in many respects, have miscarried. If the first apostles, 
who preached these religions, should return among men, how 
unchanged and untransmuted they would find humanity, after 
so many thousands of years ! There has been, no doubt, an 
intellectual progress which has confirmed a certain number of 
moral ideas, but this very complex intellectual progress has 
not entirely been effected by religions. There was as yet no 
sign of it in the small number of simple-hearted people 
gathered about the " new word " in which the apostles saw their 
moral and religious ideal realized. As the primitive virtues of 
this small knot of wholly religious and not at all scientific 
people overspread humanity, they necessarily became corrupt : 
and a morality of exalted self-abnegation could not succeed be- 
yond a small group, a family, a convent, artificially sequestered 


from the rest of the world ; it necessarily failed when it 
undertook to appeal to all mankind. The great world is 
too inhospitable and shifting a soil ; one does not sow seed 
in the sea. A revival or a repetition of the religious epics of 
Christianity or of Buddhism would to-day meet with an im- 
mediate check ; for it is the very essence of their influence to 
develop the heart disproportionately to the brain, and, such 
an effect being a sort of disturbance of equilibrium, a sort of 
natural monstrosity, can be produced in individuals indeed, 
but not in races. The investigator to-day, who adds the least 
item of truth to the mass of scientific and philosophic knowl- 
edge already acquired, performs a much less brilliant but 
probably more definitive work than the purely religious work 
of a Messiah. He is of those who construct not in three days, 
but during successive ages, the sacred edifice which will not 

The most essential incident of every dogmatic religion, the 
cult, is not less foreign to the spirit of modern society than 

„ . docrma itself is. The foundation of outer forms 

G-rowmg an- ° . . 

tagonism to ex- of worship, as we have seen, is a crystallization 
ternais of worship. ^^ custom and tradition into the form of rites. 
Well, as has been said, one of the characteristic marks of the 
innovating spirit, and of intellectual superiority, is the power 
of breaking up associations of ideas, of liberating one's self in 
a measure from established collocations of ideas, of being 
slow to contract invincible habits of thought, of precisely not 
possessing a ritualistic mind. If such be one of the great 
signs of superiority in an individual, it is none the less so in a 
people. Progress in humanity may be estimated by the 
degree of perfection that the faculty of psychic disassociation 
has achieved. The instinct for novelty is then no longer held 
in check by the instinct for ritualism-; curiosity may be 
pushed to its extreme without any sense of innovating 
impie-ty such as primitive peoples regard it with. The impor- 
tance of ritualism in the material and religious life of a people 
indicates the predominance among them of obscure and 
unconscious associations of ideas, their brain is caught and 
enveloped in a closely woven network of tradition, in a tissue 


impenetrable to the light of conscience. On the contrary, the 
progress of reflection and of conscience which is manifested 
among modern people is accompanied by an enfeeblement of 
established custom, of unconscious habit, of the discipline and 
power of the past. There is often a certain danger, on the 
practical side, in this change, because reflection becomes 
strong enough to dissolve habits before it is capable of mak- 
ing head against the passions of the moment. The power 
of disassociation is intellectual, and is not in itself adequate 
to the moral domination and direction of the individual, and 
whatever may be the objections, from the point of view of 
morals, to the progress of reflection, it is certain that it sooner 
or later strips rites, religious ceremonies, and the whole 
machinery of worship, of their sacred character. Etiquette in 
the presence of kings and gods alike is destined to disappear. 
Whatever is an observance ceases to be a duty, and the role 
of the priest by that fact is seriously changed. The distant 
ideal toward which we are marching includes among other 
things the disappearance of the priesthood, which is rite per- 
sonified ; the god of the priesthood, who in certain respects is 
no more than an apotheosis of custom, has to-day grown old 
and maintains his power only by the prestige of the accom- 
plished fact. It is in vain for men like German, English, or 
American clergymen, or Hindu deists, who still possess a 
religion, to endeavour to throw over revelation and dogma, and 
reduce their faith to a system of personal and progressive 
beliefs, to be accompanied by a ritual. The ritual is an ex- 
crescence simply, an almost superstitious habit, mechanically 
practised and destined to disappear. 

The movement which, in certain countries, inclines religion 

to be shy of dogmas and rites, is in reality a movement of 

disintegration, not of reconstruction. Human 

mo?emiunre- beliefs, when they shall have taken their final 

ligion a movement form in the future, will bear no mark of dogmatic 

sm egra ion. ^^^ ritualistic religion, they will be simply philo- 
sophical. Among certain people, it is true, every philosophical 
system tends to assume the practical and sentimental form of 
a system of beliefs and aspirations. The ideas of Kant and 


Schelling, when they passed into America, gave birth to 
Emerson's and Parker's transcendentahsm ; Spencer's theory 
of evolution became, in America, a reHgion of Cosmism^ 
represented by Messrs. Fiske, Potter, and Savage. But all 
such alleged religions are simply the moving shadow, in the 
domain of sentiment and action, of the substance of intellectual 
speculation. It is not enough to be of the same opinion on 
some sociological or metaphysical theory and then to congre- 
2"ate to the number of ten or a hundred in some theatre or 
temple, to found a new religion and a new cult. The majority 
of these pretended religions, which are simply philosophies 
and sometimes very bad philosophies, are open to Mark Patti- 
son's observation on the congregation of Comtists in their 
chapel in London : "Three persons and no God." 

The defects of these modern cults appear in their most 
exaggerated form in secularism, which had its hour of success 
in England. Secularism is a purely atheistic 
and utilitarian religion, which has borrowed all it 
could from the ritual of the English Church. This contra- 
diction between the outer form and the inner void resulted in 
a positive parody.' 

In France the Comtists have made the same attempt to 

preserve the rites, without the background, of belief. The 

Comtist doctrine of fetichism contains a certain 

Comtists. ._i-^.i 1 u • • • ■4-- 

amount of truth as characterizmg primitive 

religion, but it is insufficient in its application to actual, exist- 
ing religions. The religions of the present day have devel- 
oped, gradually, from a primitive system of physics to a 
complete system of metaphysics : the fetiches have been 
transmuted into symbols of the First Cause, or of the Final 
Cause, Positivism can offer us no symbol of this kind ; its 
''Great Fetich" is genuinely a fetich, and appropriate for 
primitive peoples only. "Humanity" does not afford com- 
plete satisfaction to one's conception of causality, nor to 
one's conception of finality. In regard to the first, humanity 
is a simple link in the infinite chain of phenomena ; in 
regard to the second, humanity constitutes an end which is 

' See the secularist version of the lU inissa est. 


practically inexact and theoretically insufficient : practically 
inexact because almost the whole of one's activity relates 
to such and such a restricted group of human beings and 
not to humanity as a whole ; and theoretically insufficient, 
because humanity looks small in the presence of the great 
universe. Its life is a point in space, a point in time ; it con- 
stitutes a contracted ideal, and to say the truth, it is as vain 
for a race to regard itself as its own end as for an individual. 
One cannot eternally contemplate one's own image and can- 
not, in especial, eternally adore it. Love of humanity is the 
greatest of virtues and the most ridiculous of fetichisms. The 
marriage of positive science and blind sentiment cannot pro- 
duce religion ; the attempt to return to fetichism is an 
attempt to foist the religion of a savage upon the most; 
civilized of mankind. Moreover, what we believe destined to; 
subsist in the future in a multitude of forms, and to replace 
religions, is not pure and simple sentiment, but sentiment 
roused by metaphysical symbols, by speculation and thought. 
Religious metaphysics may consist in involuntary illusion, in 
error, in dream ; but unmetaphysical fetichism consists in 
voluntary illusion, in cherished error, in day-dream. Augusta 
Comte seemed to believe that we should always need as the 
centre of our system of worship, an imaginary personification 
of humanity, a great Being, a great Fetich ; such a fetichism 
would be a species of new category, in the Kantian sense. 
Fetichism has never imposed itself upon humanity after that 
fashion ; intellectually considered, it was based on reasons 
which can be shown to be false ; emotionally considered, it 
was based on feelings which can be shown to be perverted, 
and can be rectified. If love sometimes stretches out toward 
personification, toward fetiches, it is only in default of real 
persons and living individuals; such in our opinion is, in its 
simplest form, the law which will gradually result in the dis- 
appearance of every fetichistic cult. We must find gods of 
flesh and bone, living and breathing among us — not poetical 
creations like those of Homer, but visible realities. We must 
discover the kingdom of heaven in the human soul, a future 
providence in science, absolute goodness in the foundation 


of life. We must not project our ideas and subjective images 
of things into the outer world, and beyond the limits of the 
outer world, and love them with a sterile love ; but must love 
the beings of this world with an active affection in so far as 
they are capable of conceiving and realizing the same ideas as 
we. Just as patriotism, in so far as it is an abstract love, tends 
to disappear, and to resolve itself into a general sympathy for 
all our fellow-citizens, just so far the love of God tends to 
overflow the surface of the earth and to include all living beings. 
To know living beings is to love them ; and thus science, in so 
far as it is science of the observation of life, is one with the senti- 
ment which constitutes what is best in religion, is one with love. 
Another religion of humanity, or rather a religion of ethics, 
has recently been founded in New York by Mr. Felix Adler, 

the son of an American rabbi ; but Mr. Adler, 
Ethical Calture , . ■ ^ ^ ._i ^ . 1 1 

Society. \\\\o IS more consistent than Comte, has deter- 

mined to do away with religious ceremonial, not 
less than with religious dogma. He has abandoned almost 
everything in the way of ceremony ; he has abandoned the cate- 
chism, and professes allegiance to no sacred book. As a 
metaphysician he is a follower of Kant, rather than of Comte, 
but makes no positive affirmation on the subject of God and 
immortality ; he admits only the existence of an unknowable 
noumenon, of an ultimate reality which lies behind all appear- 
ances, and is responsible for the harmony of the world. So 
long as divergence in matters of belief continues to become in- 
creasingly great, Mr. Adler regards it as necessary to concen- 
trate attention on the moral law itself, apart from any theory 
of its origin or justification. Men have so long disputed, he 
thinks, about the basis of the law, that the law itself has not 
received its due share of notice. His movement is essentially 
a practical movement and appeals to the conscience, a cry for 
more justice, an exhortation for the performance of duty. 
The primary aim of the society should be, according to Mr. 

Adler, to reform the lives of its own members. 
Its object, TT1 f Aoi 

He has founded : i. A bunday-school, where 

instruction is given in practical morality, in the history of the 

most important religions, and in the elements of the philosophy 



of religion ; 2. A public kindergarten organized on the Froebel 
method ; 3. A school, for working people's children between 
the ages of three and nine.' 

Mr. Adler's following at first consisted of Jews; subse- 
quently a number of people, without distinction of race, 
Isofatype gathered about him. They are left entirely free 
destined to sur- in the matter of their personal beliefs, and are 
^^^^" united only in an ardent desire for the regenera- 

tion of mankind. Every Sunday the faithful congregate, to 
listen to a discourse and then disperse ; none but members of 
the society are permitted to join in the management of the 
institutions founded and maintained by the society. This 
religion, which is, ^ /'^;;/^nVrtz«^, wholly practical, is acceptable 
to the philosopher; at bottom it is simply a great mutual aid 
temperance society. The only objection that can be urged 
against it is that it is somewhat prosaic, but it is certainly one 
of the forms of social activity which are destined to succeed 
ritualistic religions. 

Certain partisans of religious revival regard socialism as 

their last hope. Socialistic ideas ought, in their judgment, to 

. . . , eive religion a fresh start and .supply it with 
Antiquity of ^ ° . 

faith in socialism an impetus hitherto unknown. This conception 
as a panacea. ^vears an air of originality, but, as a matter of 
fact, it is quite the reverse of original. The great catholic 
religions, ^uddhism and Christianity^jvvere in the beginning 
socialistic, they preached universal partition of goods, an^ 
poverty ; it was by means of so doing that they were in part 
enabled to spread with such rapidity. In reality the instant 
that the period of propagandism succeeded the period of 
struggle for permission to exist, these religions did everything 
within their power to become individualistic even at the ex- 
pense of inconsistency ; they ceased to promise equality on 
earth and relegated it to heaven or to Nirvana. 

' Indigent pupils are clothed and fed ; the instruction is gratuitous ; the school 
contains at present one hundred pupils, having begun with eight. An industrial 
museum is attached to it. The society also sends out district nurses to attend the 
sick in the poorer quarters of New York. 


Do we therefore believe that socialistic ideas will play no 

part in the future, and is it not conceivable that a certain 

„ . ,. mysticism mi<z:ht form an alliance with socialism, 

Socialism un- j j=> 

realizable except and both lend and borrow force by so doing ? A 
byaseectew. niystical socialism is by no means unrealizable 
under certain conditions, and, far from constituting an obstacle 
to religious free-thought, it might become one of its most 
important manifestations. But what has hitherto rendered 
socialism impracticable and Utopian is that it has aimed at 
subjugating the whole of mankind, rather than some small 
social group. What has been aimed at is state socialism ; the 
case has been the same in the matter of religion. But systems 
of socialism and of religious doctrine must, in the future at 
least, be addressed to small groups and not to confused masses ; 
must be made the basis of manifold and various associations 
in the bosom of society. As its most earnest partisans recog- 
nize, socialism presupposes for its success a certain average of 
virtue, that may well obtain among some hundreds of men but 
not among some millions. It endeavours to establish a sort 
of special providence, which would be quite incompetent to 
manage the affairs of the world but may well watch over the 
interests of a neighbourhood. Socialism aims more or less at 
playing the part of fate, at predetermining the destiny of the 
individual, at supplying each individual with a certain average 
amount of happiness which he can neither increase nor dimin- 
ish. Socialism is the apotheosis of state interference, and the 
world in general is not disposed to worship it ; its ideal is a 
life which is completely foreseen, insured, with the element of 
fortune and of hope left out, with the heights and the depths of 
human life levelled away — an existence somewhat utilitarian and 
uniform, regularly plotted off like the squares on a checker board, 
incapable of satisfying the ambitious desires of the mass of man- 
kind. Socialism is to-day advocated by the rebels in society. Its 
success, however, would depend on the most peaceable, the most 
conservative, the most bourgeois people in the world; it supplies 
no sufficient outlet for the love of risk, of staking one's everything, 
of playing for the height of fortune against the depth of misery, 
which is one of the essential factors of human progress. 


Practical experiments in socialism are being made every- 
day; there is in France the phalansterian association of M, 
Godin ; in America there are the associations by 
Experiments in ^j^^ followers of Cabct, not to speak of others of 

socialism. * 

a more purely religious character, such as those 

of the Quakers, Shakers, etc.; and finally, there are co-opera- 
tive societies of various kinds. These avowedly or unavowedly 
socialistic experiments have never succeeded except when 
their promoters were willing very rigorously to limit their 
numbers; certain intellectual and moral defects in the mem- 
bers must inevitably in every case have proved fatal to them. 
Socialism is possible only in a small society of the elect. 
Even the theorists who once regarded profit-sharing as the 
universal panacea recognize to-day that profit-sharing con- 
stitutes a remedy in some cases only ; that the labouring classes 
are not, as a whole, either patient, or painstaking enough to 
fulfil the very simple conditions that profit-sharing demands. 
They are unfit for corporate life, they are hard repellent 
individuals, they are elements of disintegration ; when a small 
socialistic society finds them on its list of members, it excludes 
them ; if mankind as a whole formed one great socialistic 
society, it also would be obliged to exclude them. To univer- 
salize socialism is to destroy it. 

Every scientific discovery passes through three distinct 

stages : the stage of pure theory, of application on a small 

scale in the laboratory, of application on a grand 

Fntnre of sz'dX^ in the world of business. It frequently 

socialism. , , , r • i • 

happens that the development of an idea is 

arrested in the sphere of theory, that it does not enter into 

the sphere of practice at all, or that, completely successful in 

the laboratory, it miscarries when the attempt is made to 

apply it to business. If this holds true of scientific ideas, of 

devices that depend for their success upon the plasticity of 

inert matter only, which we may bend to our will, a fortiori it 

must be true of sociological ideas, of experiments, of devices 

that depend for their success on the plasticity of so variable, 

so heterogeneous a substance as human nature. Socialism is 

still, for the most part, at the theoretical stage ; and even as a 



theory socialism is very vague and not very consistent and, 
when the effort is made to put it into practice, the difference 
between experiments in the laboratory, among conditions that 
the experimenter can in a measure determine and control, and 
in the great world in which everything is determined and con- 
trolled for him, must be remembered. The state which yields 
to the seduction of some charming socialistic theory, and 
endeavours, as it will endeavour, to realize it, will inevitably 
be ruined. Social experiments cannot be attempted by the 
state — not even if they are experiments in religion, or rather in 
especial not if they are experiments in religion. Some experi- 
ments may at most be observed by the state and followed 
with interest by it ; nay, the state may even in certain cases 
encourage the most interesting of them and subsidize them as 
it does certain industrial enterprises. We are persuaded that 
socialism in the future, like religion in the past, will appear in 
many different forms. There will arise a number of concep- 
tions of an ideal society, each of which is realizable in special 
circumstances, and by people of some special disposition. 
Human society which to-day, beyond the limits of convents 
and monasteries (which consist in artificial groupings of 
individuals of the same sex), presents a certain uniformity of 
type, may well at some later date, owing to complete liberty 
of association, and to the spread of personal initiative, present 
a great variety of types. Socialism will not result in the 
founding of a religion, but it may well result in the founding 
of a number of associations dominated respectively by some 
metaphysical or moral idea. Socialism will thus contribute 
to that multiplicity and diversity of beliefs which does not 
excludie but rather encourages their practical application. 

The future, therefore, will leave the human mind, as time 

goes on, more and more at liberty; will permit the individual 

to do increasingly as he likes so long as he does 

NccGs^itv of 

allowing for a "^^ violate the rights of anybody else. What is 

multiplicity of the highest social ideal ? Does it lie purelv and 
conflicting ideals. .... . ^ , . ' 

snnply m the practice of the necessary virtues or 

of a half conscious morality, an unreflecting benignity, com- 
pounded of ignorance and custom ? This social ideal is realized 


in certain countries in the Orient, where Buddhism is dominant, 
and the people are so gentle that years pass without a homi- 
cide ; and yet life in these countries in nowise appeals to 
us as ideal. To this sort of morality must be added some 
satisfaction of the principal desire of mankind, of the desire 
for economic ease and for practical happiness, and even that 
would not be enough ; for that much is realized in corners of 
Switzerland, of Portugal, in primitive countries like Costa 
Rica, where poverty is unknown. Artists dream of a life 
devoted entirely to art, to the beautiful, of a life which is 
hostile to prosaic and practical virtue, and this ideal was realized 
in the Renaissance : the Renaissance was distinguished by an 
extraordinary efflorescence of aesthetic instinct and moral 
depravity, and we in nowise desire to return to it. And if 
science, which is the modern ideal, should become absolute, 
we should see a society of biases Fausts which would not be 
more enviable perhaps than other societies. No ; a complete 
social ideal must neither consist in bare morality nor in simple 
economic well-being, nor in art alone, nor in science alone — it 
must consist in all of these together ; its ideal must be the 
greatest and most universal conceivable. This ideal is that of 
progress,and progress cannot take place in one direction only at a 
time; whoever advances in one direction only will soon retreat. 
A point of light shines in all directions simultaneously. The 
excellence of religion cannot be demonstrated by showing that 
it favours some one species of human activity ; morality, for 
example, or art. It is not enough to make man moral as 
Christianity and Buddhism did, nor to excite his aesthetic 
imagination as Paganism did. Not one but all of his facul- 
ties must be stimulated, and there is but one religion that 
can do it ; and that religion each must create for himself. 
Whoever feels attracted by a life similar to that of a priest 
will do well to become a Christian and even a Quaker, 
and the artist will do well to become a pagan. What is 
certain is that no one of the deities which mankind has 
^J^ created and worshipped is all-sufificing ; mankind needs all 
of them and something more, for human thought has out- 
grown its gods. 


Under the sounding domes of old cathedrals, the echoes 

are so numerous that an immense screen has sometimes to be 

stretched across the nave to break the reverber- 
Liberty the con- . , , . , . 

ditionofknowl- ations and enable the priest s voice alone to reach 

^^^^' the faithful. This screen which is invisible from 

below, which isolates the sacred word and deadens all other 

sound, is stretched not only across the cathedral nave but 

across the heart of every true believer. It must be torn away ; 

every voice and word must be free to attain the ear of man ; 

the sacred word rises from no one throat, but is the symphony 

of all the voices that sound beneath the dome of heaven. 

I was talking one day with M. Renan upon the gradual 

decrease in the power of religion, on the silence that has fallen 

on the divine word, which formerly drowned 

Decline of the jj other sounds. To-day, it is the word of nature 

power of religion, ^ ' 

and humanity, of free-thought and free senti- 
ment, which is taking the place of oracles and of supernatural 
revelation, of dogmatic religion. M. Renan, with the openness 
of mind which is habitual with him, and which partakes indeed 
largely of scepticism, took up at once my point of view. 
" Yes," he said, " we are all marching toward non-religion. 
After all, why should not humanity do without religious dog- 
mas ? Speculation will take the place of religion. Even at the 
present day, among advanced peoples, dogmas are disinte- 
grating, the incrustations of human thought are breaking up. 
Most people in France are already non-religious; men of the 
people hardly believe more than professed men of science ; 
they possess their little fund of ideas, more or less profound, 
on which they live, without help from the priest. In Germany 
the work of decomposition is far advanced. In England it is 
-only in its beginnings, but it is moving rapidly. Christianity 
is everywhere giving place to free-thought. Buddhism 
and Hinduism are doing the same ; in India the mass of 
intelligent men are free-thinkers, in China there is no state 
religion. It will take a long while, but religion will in the end 
disappear, and one may already imagine for Europe a time 
when it will be a thing of the past. . . Islam is the one 
black soot on the horizon. The Turks are narrow, rebellious 


against reasoning, hostile to everything that lies beyond literal 
faith . . . but if they will not follow us we shall simply leave 
them behind, and I think we shall be obliged to do so." We 
should add that, if some Christians and Buddhists show them- 
selves as backward as the Turks, we shall leave them behind 
also. Those members of mankind who think, see, and move 
forward, are always obliged to drag a long train of those who 
neither see, nor think, nor wish to move forward. They do 
move forward, however, in the long run. Professed advocates 
of the different positive and dogmatic religions count every 
day for less and less among the truly active members of the 
human species ; and we ask nothing better. Whoever does 
not count for progress practically does not exist, and ulti- 
mately will not exist. Activity of thought is becoming more 
and more a condition of existence ; the preponderant role that 
religions played in the past is to be explained by the fact 
that religion offered almost the sole field of intellectual and 
moral activity — the sole issue for the most elevated tendencies 
of our being. At that time there lay beyond the limits 
of religion nothing but the grossest and most material occupa- 
tions ; there was no known middle ground between heaven and 
earth. To-day this middle ground has been discovered — the 
ground of thought. Science and art are born ; and open before 
us an infinite perspective, where each of us may find an 
opportunity to employ the best of our gifts. Science offers a 
field for disinterestedness and research, but does not tolerate 
vagaries of the imagination. It encourages enthusiasm, but not 
delirium, and possesses a beauty of its own, the beauty of truth. 

//. Religions anomy and the substitution of doubt for faith. 

I. We have proposed as the moral ideal what we have called 

moral anomy — the absence of any fixed moral rule.' We 

believe still more firmly that the ideal toward 

Eeligious which every reliction ought to tend is religious 

anomy. y & & c>^ ^ 

anomy, the complete enfranchisement of the indi- 
vidual in all religious matters, the redemption of his thought, 
which is more precious than his life, the suppression of dog- 
' See our Esquisse d'une morale sans obligatio7i ni sanction. 


matic faith in every form. Instead of accepting ready-made 
dogmas, we should each of us be the makers of our own creed. 
Whatever Montaigne may say, faith is a softer pillow for idle- 
ness than doubt. Faith is a species of nest in which idleness 
lies in shelter, and hides its head under the warmth and dark- 
ness of a protecting wing ; nay, it is a nest prepared in advance, 
like those that are sold in the markets and made by men, for 
birds that are kept in cages. We believe that in the future • 
man will be increasingly unwilling to live in cages and that, if 
he needs a nest, he will construct it himself twig by twig in the 
open air, and abandon it when he is weary of it, and remake it, 
if necessary, every springtime, at each new stage of his thought. 
Is religious anomy, or the absence of religion, synonymous 
wnth scepticism ? Since the disappearance of Pyrrhonism and 
„ ,. . ^nesideinism, scepticism is simply a word which 

Keligious ^ ..... J 

anomy and scepti- serves as a label for the most dissimilar doc- 
*^^^™' trines. Greek sceptics were fond of calling 

themselves seekers, Z-qT-qjLKoi \ a name w^hich is appropriate to 
every philosopher as distinguished from believer. But how 
the term scepticism in its modern negative acceptation is 
abused ! If you do not belong to some definite system of 
thought, you are at once set down as a sceptic. But nothing 
is further removed from a superficial scepticism than the 
sympathetic mind which, precisely because it embraces so 
large a horizon, refuses to confine itself to some one narrow 
point of view, as in a glade a hundred feet square or in a 
diminutive valley between two mountains. " You are not 
dogmatic enough," the philosopher is sometimes told. "To 
what system do you belong?" " In what class of thinking 
insects do you belong?" "To what card in our collection 
must you be pinned ? " A reader always wants to ask an 
author a certain number of conventional questions. What do 
you think of such and such a problem ? Of such and such 
another? You are not a spiritualist ; are you then a material- 
ist? You are not an optimist; are you then a pessimist? 
One must reply, yes or no, without explanatory amplifica- 
tion. But what I think is of small importance, even for 
myself; my point of view is not the centre of the universe. 


What I am seeking to Icain, what you are seeking to learn, 
is the contents of human thought in all its variety and com- 
plexity. If I study myself it is not because I am myself, but 
because I am a man like other men. If I watch my own little 
soap bubble, it is because it contains a ray of the sun; my 
object is precisely to pass beyond the limits of my own hori- 
zon and not to remain within them. More than that, people 
twhose ideas are fixed, clear-cut, absolute, are exactly those 
i.who have no ideas of their own. Revelation, intuition, 
religion, categorical and exclusive af^rmation, are notions 
hostile to modern thought, which is in its very essence pro- 
gressive. There are two sorts of men : those who remain on 
the surface of things and those who sound the depths of 
things. There are superficial minds and serious minds. In 
France almost all those whom we designate as sceptics or as 
biases are superficial minds, with an affectation of profundity. 
They are also often practical Epicureans. There will always 
be people ready to say, with a certain hero of Balzac's: " A 
good fire, a good table ; behold the ideal of human life ! " 
Waiting for dinner is the sole occupation of the day. But 
there will always be other people for whom life consists in an 
indefatigable activity. 

The number of sceptics will not necessarily be increased by 

the final decay and disappearance of religious scepticism, 

which is a compound of lightness and ignorance. 

Feebleness of resting on the same foundation as religious prej- 

scepticism. =» i • , i ■ , i • i 

udice, on the absence of a solid philosophical 

education. Really serious minds are either positive or specu- 
lative ; a too positive, common-sense spirit might, if it became 
general in society, menace it with a certain intellectual 
debasement; but religion w^ould not hinder its development: 
witness America. The true means of checking the positive 
spirit is to cultivate the sense of beauty and the love of art. 
To speculative minds, on the other hand, belongs the future of 
humanity ; but far from being dependent upon dogma, specu- 
lation can flourish only in its absence. It is the life of specu- 
lation to ask questions about the deepest concerns of human 
life ; dogma provides ready-made answers, and speculation 


cannot accept them. The disappearance of positive religions 
will give scientific and metaphysical speculation a fresh 
impulse. The speculative spirit is the extreme opposite both 
of the spirit of faith and of the spirit of absolute negation. 
An inquirer may suspect his own resources, may recognize his 
own powerlessness, but he will never give up the search- 
Strong minds will never be discouraged or disgusted, will 
never be followers of Merim^e or Beyle. In active mental 
labour there is something which is worth more than faith and 
doubt together, as there is in genius something which is worth 
more at once than the somewhat silly admiration of the multi- 
tude and the disdainful criticism of pretended connoisseurs ; 
excess of criticism and excess of credulity are alike powerless. 
It is eood to be aware of one's own weakness, but from time to 
time only; one must turn one's eyes toward the limits of 
human intelligence, but not rest them there, on pain of 
paralysis. " Man," says Goethe, " should believe firmly that 
the incomprehensible will become comprehensible ; but for that 
he would cease to scrutinize and to try." In spite of the num- 
ber of ideas which make their entrance into and exit from the 
human mind, which rise and set on the human horizon, which 
flame up and burn out, there is, in every human mind, an ele- 
ment of eternity. On certain autumn nights one may observe 
a veritable shower of aerolites ; hundreds of stars detach 
themselves from the zenith like luminous flakes of snow ; the 
dome of heaven itself seems to have given way, the worlds 
hungf above the earth seem to have broken loose, and all the 
stars at once to be descending and about to leave the great 
firmament of night unvariegated, opaque ; but the falling stars 
go out one by one, and the serene brilliancy of the fixed stars 
still remains ; the storm has passed beneath them and has not 
troubled the tranquil splendour of their rays, nor the incessant 
appeal of their fixity and glory. The appeal is one that man 
will always respond to ; under the open sky and the pressure 
of the problem brought home to him by the great stars, 
man does not feel himself feeble unless he pusillanimously 
shuts his eyes. Humanity will lose none of its intellectual 
power by the disappearance of religious faith ; its horizon will 


grow wider simply, and the luminous points in the immensity 
of space will grow more numerous. True genius is specula- 
tive, and in whatever environment true genius is placed it will 
speculate ; it has speculated hitherto despite of all that 
orthodox faith could do, it will speculate still more actively in 
spite of all that scepticism can do. 

And the practical side of human life has nothing to fear 
from the growth of the speculative spirit. Given minds suffi- 
ciently large, and the fact that they look down 

Speculation and upon 'the earth from a height, does not prevent 
practice. ^ ... 

them from seeing human life as it is and as it 

should be. Decidedly one must be a man, a patriot, a 

" tellurian," as Amiel said, with some contempt ; to be so may 

appear to be a small function in the totality of things, but an 

upright spirit will not fulfil it with less exactitude because he 

perceives its limits and its restricted importance. Nothing is 

in vain, and a fortiori no being is in vain ; small functions are 

as necessary as great. If a man of intelligence happens to be 

a porter or a scavenger, he should apply himself to that 

profession with as much devotion as to any other. To do 

well what one has to do, however humble it may be, is the 

first of duties. An ant of genius ought not to bring to the 

ant-hill a grain the less, even though he were capable of taking 

cognizance of the eternities of time and space. 

II. Although the suppression of religious dogma does not 
lead to scepticism, it decidedly does lead to .doubt, and we 

T. ,, J. believe that the modern sense of doubt repre- 

Doubt as Qis- _ _ ^ 

tingnished from sents a higher stage of civilization than the faith 
scepticism. ^^ dogma that distinguished former times. 

Religious faith is distinguished from philosophic belief by a sub- 
jective difference. If the man of faith is not altogether blind, at 
least he perceives but one point in the intellectual horizon ; he 
has focussed his intelligence upon some one plot of ground, and 
the rest of the world does not exist for him ; he returns day 
after day to his chosen corner, to the little nest he has made 
for his thoughts to dwell in, as we said above — returns as a 
dove returns to the dovecote and sees but it in the immensity 


of space. Fanaticism marks a still further degree of contrac- 
tion in one's intellectual vision. On the contrary, the greater 
the progress of reflection in the history of the human race, 
the more completely religious faith becomes merged in, and 
subordinated to, philosophic conviction; the two cease to be 
distinguishable except by a difference in the degree of doubt 
that they involve, a doubt which itself rests upon a clearness in 
one's vision of things. As reflection becomes more profound, 
it manifests here as everywhere its destructive influence 
upon instinct ; everything that is instinctive, primitive, and 
naive in faith disappears, and, along with it, disappears every- 
thing that constituted its strength, that made it so powerful in 
the human heart. True strength lies in the human reason, in 
complete self-consciousness, in a consciousness of the problems 
of life, of their complexity, of their difificulties. 

Faith, as we have seen, consists in affirming things not 
capable of objective verification, with the same subjective 

satisfaction as if they could be verified : in attrib- 
offaitL^'^'^^^'"'' uting to the uncertain as great a value as to the 

certain — nay, perhaps a greater value. The ideal 
of the philosopher, on the contrary, would be a perfect corre- 
spondence between conclusiveness of evidence and degree 
of belief. The intellectual satisfaction that we take in our 
beliefs, the degree of tenacity with which we hold them, 
should vary precisely with the completeness and certainty of 
our knowledge. A primitive intelligence cannot be content 
to remain in suspense, it must decide one way or the other; 
it is the mark of a more perfect intelligence to remain in 
doubt in reference to what is doubtful. Credulity is intellect- 
ual original sin. 

Employing the word certitude strictly for what is certain, 
and meaning by belief what is plausible or probable only, 

when one is investigating some mere matter of 

Uncertainty of ^^^^ ^^^ ^ -^^ ^j^^ ^^^ y^^ ^|^jg ^^ g positively 

metaphysics, ' -^ -ii 

such and such is certain, is what the future will 

affirm on this point ; but, when the degree of certitude involved 

amounts to no more than to probability or even possibility, 

and to metaphysical possibility at that, it is ridiculous to say: 



" I believe such and such a thing ; such and such is therefore the 
dogma that everybody ought to adopt." Such positive basis 
for metaphysical inductions as exists is too uneven not to result 
in a divergence in the lines of the hypotheses which rise from 
it into the obscure heights of the unknown ; no two of our 
glances toward the infinite are parallel ; our attempts at solv- 
ing metaphysical problems are little more than rockets shot 
capriciously into the sky. The philosopher can do little 
more than take cognizance of the divergence of rival hypoth- 
eses, and of their equality and equal insufificiency in the eye 
of reason. 

But the problem of action presents itself to the philosopher 
no less than to the rest of mankind. For purposes of conduct 
Postulatsf some one among the diverging lines of human 
purposes of prac- speculation must be chosen ; philosophic thought 
^^^' must be left to describe its curves and circles 

above our heads while we walk, if not sure-footedly at least in 
some definite direction, upon the earth. One is sometimes for 
practical purposes obliged to rely on doubtful premises as if 
they were certain. Such a choice, however, is simply an 
inferior and exceptional means of choosing among hypotheses 
which one has neither the time nor the power exactly to test. 
One cuts loose from one's doubts, but the expedient is a 
purely practical one; cutting the Gordian knots of life cannot 
be adopted as one's habitual intellectual procedure. Faith 
which leans with an equal sense of security upon the certain 
and the uncertain, the evident and the doubtful, should be but 
a provisional state of mind forced upon one by some practical 
necessity. One ought never, so to speak, to believe once for all, 
to subscribe one's allegiance forever. Faith should never be 
regarded as more than a second best, and a provisional second 
best. The instant that action is no longer necessary, one must 
revert to one's doubt, to one's scruples, to all the precautions 
of science. Kant did violence to the natural order of things 
when he ascribed to faith and morals a predominance over 
reasoning ; when he gave to the practical reason, whose com- 
mandments may be the expression simply of acquired habits, 
control over the critical and scientific reason. His moral 


philosophy consists in erecting a foregone conclusion into a rule, 
whereas, as a matter of fact, one ought not to make up one's 
mind definitely until all the evidence is in, until every alterna- 
tive choice has been considered and rejected, if at all, on good 
grounds; our beliefs should be relied upon in practice exactly 
in proportion to their probability in the actual state of our 
knowledge. Alternatives do not exist in the outer world, they 
do not exist in a state of complete knowledge. The moral 
ideal is not to multiply them, nor to make a leap in the dark the 
habitual method of intellectual procedure. There is no such 
thing as a categorical imperative or a religious credo for the 
traveller under unknown skies ; he is not to be saved by faith 
but by active and constant self-control, by the spirit of doubt 
and criticism. 

Doubt is not, at bottom, as profoundly opposed as might be 
believed to what is best in the religious sentiment, it is even a 
D ubtandthe P^oduct of the religious sentiment. For doubt is 
religious senti- simply a consciousness that one's thought is 
^^^^' not absolute — cannot seize the absolute either 

directly or indirectly ; and so, consequently, doubt is the most 
religious attitude of the human mind. Even atheism is often 
less irreligious than a positive belief in the imperfect and in- 
consistent God of religion. To be in doubt about God is a 
form of the sense of the divine. Moreover, the constant inquiry 
that doubt provokes does not necessarily exclude the erection 
of an altar to the unknown God, but it excludes everything 
in the nature of a determinate religion, the erection of an altar 
that bears a name, the establishment of a cult that consists in 
rites. In the cemeteries in Tyrol, a little marble basin rests 
on each tomb ; it gathers water from the rain and the swallows 
from the eaves of the neighbouring church come and drink 
from it ; this clear water, that comes from on high, is a 
thousand times more sacred, more deeply blessed than that 
which sleeps in the holy-water vessel in the church, and over 
which the priest has stretched his hands. Why should 
religion, so to speak, sequestrate, retire from public cir- 
culation, everything it touches ? That alone is truly sacred 
which is consecrated to the use of mankind as a whole. 


which passes from hand to hand, which is worn out in process 
of time in the service of humanity. There has been enough 
and to spare of closed houses, closed temples, closed souls — of 
cloistered and walled-in lives, of smothered or extinguished 
hearts ; what ]s_uan ted is an open heart and life under the 

»U#i» open sky, under the incessant benediction of the sun and 

' clouds. 

Philosophy is often accused of pride because it rejects faith, 
but it was the father of philosophy, Socrates, who first said : 
" I know but one thing, that I know nothing." 
doubV^ ^° ^^ ^^ precisely because the philosopher knows how 

much he does not know that he is not certain 
in regard to all things, but is reduced to remain in doubt, to 
wait anxiously and reverentially for the germination of the seed 

i*-( fct. ^^ truth in the distant future. To regard as certain what one 

'*» does not positively know is to violate one's intellectual con- 
science. From the point of view of the individual, as from the 
point of view of society, doubt is in certain cases a duty — 
doubt, or if you prefer, methodical ignorance, humility, self- 
abnegation in matters intellectual. Where philosophy is 
ignorant it is morally obliged to say to others and to itself: 
" I do not know; I doubt, I hope, nothing more."-- 

The most original, and one of the most profoundly moral 
products of the present century, of the century of science, is 
precisely this sincere sense of doubt, of the 
doubT^^° seriousness of every act of faith, of its not being 

a matter to be undertaken lightly, of its being a 
graver engagement than many others that one hesitates to 
assume ; to give in one's faith to an opinion has come to be 
like attesting one's allegiance to it by the mediaeval signature, 
which was written in one's blood and bound one for all 
eternity. At the point of death especially, which is the 
very period when religion says to a man, " Abandon thyself for 
an instant, yield to the force of example, of custom, to the 
natural disposition to affirm as certain what thou dost not 
know, to fear of damnation, and thou shalt be saved " — at the 
point of death when a blind act of faith is a last weakness and 
a last cowardice, doubt is assuredly the highest and most 


courageous position the human the ught can assume : it is a 
fight to the finish without surrender ; it is death with all one's 
wounds before, in the presence of the problem still unsolved, 
but faced to the end. 

///. Substitution of nietaphysicat hypotheses for dogma. 

Beyond the limits of science chere lies still a field for 
hypothesis, and for that other science called metaphysics, the 
aim of which is to estimate the comparative 
phyTics." °^^*^" value of hypotheses ; to know, to suppose, to 
reason, to inquire, are of the essence of the 
modern mind ; we no longer need dogma. Religion, which in 
the beginning was a naive science, has ultimately become the 
enemy of science ; in the future it must give way before science 
or must become merged in some really scientific hypothesis; 
an hypothesis, that is to say, which acknowledges itself to be 
such, which declares itself to be provisional, which measures 
its utility by the amount it explains ; and aspires to nothing 
better than to give place to an hypothesis that shall be more 
inclusive. Science and research outweigh stationary adoration. 
The eternal element in religion is the tendency which pro- 
duced there the need of an explanation, of a theory that 
shall bind mankind and the world together; the indefatigable 
activity of mind which declines to stop at the brute fact which 
produced in former times the tangle of contradictory myths 
and legends now transmuted into the co-ordinate and har- 
monious body of science. What is respectable in religion 
is precisely the germ of the spirit of metaphysics and scientific 
investigation, which is to-day proving fatal to religions. 

Religious sentiment properly so called must not be con- 
founded with the instinct for metaphysics, the two are utterly 

^. . . distinct. The first is destined to decline with the 

between meta- extension of knowledge; the other, under some 

physical and re- form or other, will always continue. The instinct 
ligious sentiment, ^ r • 

for free speculation corresponds in the first place 
to an indestructible sense of the limits of positive knowledge: 
it is an echo in us of the undying mystery of things. It cor- 


responds to an invincible tendency in the human mind to the 

need for an ideal ; to the need, not only of the intelligence but 

of the heart, to pass beyond the limits of the visible and 

tangible world. The wings of the soul are too long to fly close 

to the earth, the soul is formed to move in long swoops and 

circles in the open sky. All it needs is to be lifted above the 

earth ; often it is unable to do this of itself, and its long wings 

beat and trail in the dust. And to what power is it to look for 

its preliminary start ? To its very desire for unknown spaces, to 

its desire for an infinite and insecure ideal. Nature, as positive 

science reveals it to us, is, no doubt, the sole incontestable 

divinity, the deus ccrtus, as the Emperor Aurelius called the 

Sun ; but its very certitude constitutes an element of inferiority. 

Sun-light is not the most brilliant light ; the reality can have 

no lasting pretensions to be regarded as divine. The ideal 

God is necessarily the dcus incertiis, a problematical, perhaps 

even fictitious God. 

This sense at once of the limits of science and of the infinity 

of human aspirations makes it forever inadmissible for man toi 

Tj . . „ abandon all effort to solve the great problem of' 
Persistence of ts f 

metaphysical the origin and destiny of the universe. The 
pro ems. child, Spencer says, may hide his head under the 

bed-clothes, and for an instant escape consciousness of the 
darkness outside ; but in the long run the consciousness sub- 
sists, the imagination continues to dwell upon what lies beyond 
the limits of human conception. The progress of human 
thought has consisted less in discovering answers to ultimate 
problems than in discovering more precise methods of 
formulating the problems themselves ; the enigmas are no 
longer stated in primitive terms. This change in statement is 
a proof of the progress and growth in the human mind ; but 
the problems unhappily are as difficult as ever to solve. Up to 
the present moment no sufficient answer has been suggested, 
the mystery has simply been transposed from one place to 
another ; so much so that Spencer says the scientific inter- 
pretation of the universe is as full of mysteries as theology; 
and he compares human knowledge to a luminous globe in the 
midst of infinite darkness. The larger the globe becomes the 


greater the depth and extent of darkness that it reveals, inso- 
much that increase of science but enlarges the abyss of our 

One must, however, be on one's guard against exaggeration. 

The universe is infinite, no doubt, and consequently the 

„ .,, o . material of human science is infinite, but the uni- 

PossiDie finite- . u r 

nessoftheun- vcrse is dominated by a certain number ot 

^'^°^°' simple laws with which we may become continu- 

ously better and better acquainted. Many generations of men 
would be necessary to master in all their complexity the vedic 
epics, but we are able even to-day to formulate the principles 
which dominate them, and it is not impossible that we may 
some day be able to do the same for the epic of the universe. 
We may be able even to go the length of achieving precision 
in our ignorance, of marking in the infinite chain of phe- 
nomena the links which must forever be hidden from us. It 
is not accurate, therefore, to say that our ignorance increases 
with our knowledge, although it may be considered as prob- 
able that our knowledge will always be aware of something 
that escapes it, and may come in time to be able more and 
more distinctly to define, however negatively, the nature of 
this residuum. The infinity of the unknowable, even, is no 
more than hypothetical. We perhaps flatter ourselves in the 
belief that we possess anything that is infinite — even igno- 
ranee. Perhaps the sphere of our knowledge is like the 
terrestrial globe, enveloped by but a thin atmosphere of the 
unknowable and unknown ; perhaps there is no basis and 
foundation of the universe, just as there is no basis and foun- 
dation of the earth ; perhaps the ultimate secret of things is 
the gravitation of phenomena. The unknown is the air we 
breathe, but it is perhaps no more infinite than the earth's 
atmosphere, and one's consciousness of an unknowable infinity 
can no more be regarded as the basis of knowledge than the 
atmosphere of the earth can be regarded as the foundation 
upon which the earth rests.' 

' The notion of the unknowable has been the subject of a lively discussion in 
England and in Fiance. See on this point the work of M. Paulhan in the Revue 
philosophiqtte, t. vi. p. 279. 


Unknowable or not, infinite or finite, the unknown will 
always be the object of metaphysical hypotheses. But is to 
Distinction be- ^^^'^^ ^he perpetuity of metaphysical hypotheses 
tween religion to admit the eternity of religion? The question 
an me ap ysics. jj-j^Qiygs an ambiguity of words. Spencer defines 
religious thought as that which deals with all that lies beyond 
the sphere of the senses, but that is precisely the field of 
philosophic thought; philosophy in its entirety, therefore, 
and not religion only, is included in Spencer's definition. Nay 
more, science itself is in part included in Spencer's definition, 
for science, which takes cognizance of everything within the 
reach of perception and reasoning, by that very fact under- 
takes to fix the limit of their power, and thus indirectly 
touches upon the field of the unknowable — if not to enter it, at 
l^ast to outline it, and that itself constitutes a sort of negative 
acquaintance with it. Knowledge is essentially critical and 
self-critical. The eternity of philosophy and of science must, 
no doubt, be admitted; but the eternity of religion, as that word 
is usually understood, in nowise follows from that admission. 

According to Spencer, the unknowable itself is not abso- 
lutely unknowable. Among the mysteries, which become 

more mysterious as they are more deeply reflected 
kn^waWe'^ ^'^' upon, there will remain, Spencer thinks, for man 

one absolute certitude — that he is in the presence 
of an infinite and eternal energy which is the source of all 
things. The formula of human certitude is open to discussion. 
The man of science is more inclined to believe in an infinite 
number of energies than in an infinite energy, in a sort of 
mechanical atomism, a subdivision of force ad infinitum rather 
than in monism. Moreover, no religion can stop with the bare 
affirmation of the existence of an eternal energy or infinity of 
energies. It must maintain the existence of some relation 
between these energies and human morality, between the 
direction of these energies and that of the moral impulse in 
mankind. But a relation of this sort is the last thing in the 
world that can be deduced from the doctrine of evolution. 
Hypotheses in regard to the matter may of course be devised, 
but, far from possessing a character of certitude, such 


hypotheses would rather, from the point of view of pure 
science, display a positive improbability. Human morality, if 
it be considered scientifically, is a question that concerns the 
struggle for existence and not a question that concerns the 
universe. What distinguishes the natural forces, with which 
science deals, from gods, is precisely that the former are 
indifferent to the morality or immorality of our lives. In 
spite of our increasing admiration for the complexity of the 
phenomena of the world, for the solidarity that obtains 
among them, for the latent or active life which animates all 
things, we have not yet demonstrably discovered in the world 
a single element of divinity. Science does not reveal to us a 
universe spontaneously labouring for the realization of what 
we call goodness : goodness is to be realized, if at all, only by 
our bending the world to our purposes, by enslaving the gods 
that we once adored, by replacing the reign of God by the 
reign of man. 

The alleged reconciliation of science and religion in Spen- 
cer's pages is not made out except by virtue of an ambiguity 
in terms. Partisans of religion have, however, 
lowers'irFranoe liastened to welcome these apparent concessions 
in their favour and have based on them an argu- 
ment for the perpetuity of dogmas. Jouffroy has told us how 
dogmas become extinct ; recently one of his successors at the 
Sorbonne endeavoured to show " how dogmas come into being 
again," and he took his stand with Spencer on an ambiguity in 
terms. By dogmas j\I. Caro meant the principal points of the 
original doctrine of the soul — as if one could apply the name 
dogma to philosophical hypotheses, even though they be 
eternal hypotheses ! The important thing, however, is to 
understand each other; if problems which constantly recur, 
and constantly receive hypothetical solutions, are to be called 
dogmas, then dogmas do come to life again, and may be ex- 
pected always to do so ; innlta renascentur qu(B jam cecidere, 
cadeiiique. . . But if terms be employed as a philosopher 
should employ them, with precision, how can metaphysical con- 
clusions be regarded as dogmas? Examine the writings of 
Heraclitus, the evolutionist; Plato, the contemplator of ideas; 


Aristotle, the formulater of the hivvs of thought ; Descartes, the 
inquirer who sought in an abyss of doubt for the absolute 
criterion of truth ; Leibnitz, who regarded himself as the 
mirror of the universe; Spinoza, lost in the heart of infinite 
substance ; Kant, resolving the universe into thought and 
thought into the moral law; where are the dogmas in these 
great metaphysical poems? They are not systems of dogma, 
they are systems marked by the individuality of genius, 
although containing something of the eternal philosophy, the. 
perennis philosophia of Leibnitz. Every system, as such, is/ 
precisely the means of demonstrating the insufificiency of the' 
central idea which dominates it, and the necessity for the humane 
mind of passing beyond it. To systematize is to develop a 
group of ideas to their logical conclusion, and, by that very fact, 
to show how much they do not include, how far they fall short 
of exhausting human thought as a whole ; to construct is to 
demonstrate the weight of the material one is building with, 
and the impossibility of piling it up to heaven. Every system 
requires a certain number of years to bring it to completion, 
and then, when the edifice is achieved, one may one's self mark 
the points where it will begin to crack, what columns will yield 
first, where its ultimate decay will begin. To recognize that 
the subsidence and decay of a thing is rational, is to be 
resierned to it and in some measure consoled for it; but what- 
ever is useful is necessarily transitory, for it is useful for an 
end ; and it is thus that the utility of a system implies that it 
will some day make way for something else. "'Avay/cr; o-r^vai," 
says dogma ; " dvayKi; /a^ o-T^mi," the philosopher says. Systems 
die and dogmas die ; sentiments and ideas survive. What- 
ever has been set in order falls into disorder, boundaries 
become obliterated, structures fall into dust ; what is eternal 
is the dust itself, the dust of doctrine, which is always ready 
to take on a new form, to fill a new mould, and which, far 
from receiving its life from the fugitive forms it fills, lends them 
theirs. Human thoughts live, not by their contours but from 
within. To understand them they must be taken, not as they 
appear in any one system, but as they appear in a succession 
of different and often diverse systems. 


As speculation and hypothesis are eternal, so also is the 
instinct for philosophy and metaphysics which corresponds to 
them eternal, though it is perpetually changing. 
meuphysic?°^ ^^ appears at the present day as something 
widely different from the intimate certitude of 
dogma, of confident and placid faith. If independence of 
mind and freedom of speculation are not without their sweet- 
ness, their attractiveness, their intoxication, they are not with- 
out their bitterness and disquietude. We must make up our 
minds to-day to accept a certain modicum of intellectual suffer- 
ing as inseparable from our treasure of intellectual joy ; for the 
life of the spirit, like that of the body, follows a just mean 
between pleasure and pain. Intense metaphysical emotion, 
like intense jesthetic emotion, possesses always an element of 
sadness." The day will come when the graver moods of the 
human heart will sometimes demand satisfaction as they 
demanded and found satisfaction in Heraclitus and Jeremiah. 
It is inevitable that there should be an element of melancholy 
in the emotional setting of metaphysical speculation — as 
there inevitably is in the perception of the sublimity we feel 
ourselves incapable of attaining, in the experience of doubt, 
of intellectual evil, of moral evil, of sensible evil which are 
mingled with all our joys, and of which doubt itself is but 
a reverberation in consciousness. There is an element of 
suffering in all profound philosophy as in all profound religion. 

One day when I was seated at my desk my wife came up to 

me and exclaimed : " How melancholy you look ! What is 

the matter with you ? Tears, mo7i Dicii ! Is it 

Communion anything that I have done?" " Of course it is ^ 

•with tne universe. ■' ° ^ 

not ; it is never anything that you have done. I 
was weeping over a bit of abstract thought, of speculation on 
the world and the destiny of things. Is there not enough 
misery in the world to justify an aimless tear? and of joy to 
justify an aimless smile?" The great totality of things in 
which man lives may well demand a smile or a tear from 
him, and it is his conscious solidarity with the universe, the 
impersonal joy a