Page images
PDF
EPUB

What, then, is this Proteus, and whence ?

Faith is a certitude without proofs. Being a certitude, it is an energetic principle of action. Being without proof, it is the contrary of science. Hence its two aspects and its two effects.

Is its point of departure intelligence ? No. Thought may shake or strengthen faith ; it cannot produce it. Is its origin in the will ? No: good-will may

favour it, ill-will may hinder it, but no one believes by will, and faith is not a duty. Faith is a sentiment, for it is a hope ; it is an instinct, for it precedes all outward instruction. Faith is the heritage of the individual at birth; it is that which binds him to the whole of being. The individual only detaches himself with difficulty from the maternal breast; he only isolates himself by an effort from the nature around him, from the love which enwraps him, the ideas in which he floats, the cradle in which he lies. He is born in union with humanity, with the world, and with God. The trace of this original union is faith. Faith is the reminiscence of that vague Eden

whence our individuality issued, but which it inhabited in the somnambulist state anterior to the personal life

Our individual life consists in separating ourselves from our milieu ; in so reacting upon it that we apprehend it consciously, and make ourselves spiritual personalities

– that is to say, intelligent and free. Our primitive faith is nothing more than the neutral matter which our experience of life and things works up afresh, and which may be so affected by our studies of every kind as to perish completely in its original form. We ourselves may die before we have been able to recover the harmony of a personal faith which may satisfy our mind and conscience as well as our hearts. But the need of faith never leaves us. It is the postulate of a higher truth which is to bring all things into harmony. It is the stimulus of research ; it holds out to us the reward, it points us to the goal. Such at least is the true, the excellent faith. That which is a mere prejudice of childhood, which has never known doubt, which ignores science, which cannot respect or understand or tolerate different convictions

- such a faith is a stupidity and a hatred, the mother of all fanaticisms. then repeat of faith what Æsop said of the tongue

We may

'Quid melius linguâ, linguâ quid pejus eâdem?' To draw the poison-fangs of faith in our. selves, we must subordinate it to the love of truth. The supreme worship of the true is the only means of purification for all religions, all confessions, all sects. Faith should only be allowed the second place, for faith has a judge — in truth. When she exalts herself to the position of supreme judge the world is enslaved: Christianity, from the fourth to the seventeenth century, is the proof it. ... Will the enlightened faith ever conquer the vulgar faith? We must look forward in trust to a better future.

The difficulty, however, is this. A narrow faith has much more energy than an enlightened faith; the world belongs to will much more than to wisdom. It is not then certain that liberty will triumph over fanaticism; and besides, independent thought will never have the force of prejudice. The solution is to be found in a division of labour. After those whose business it will have been to hold up to the world the ideal of a pure and free faith, will come the men of violence, who will bring the new creed within the circle of recognised interests, prejudices, and institutions. Is not this just what happened to Christianity ? After the gentle Master, the impetuous Paul and the bitter Councils. It is true that this is what corrupted the Gospel. But still Christianity has done more good than harm to humanity, and so the world advances, by the successive decay of gradually improved ideals.

19th June 1872. — The wrangle in the Paris Synod still goes on.11 The supernatural is the stone of stumbling. — It might be possible to agree on the idea of the Divine ; but no, that is not the question — the chaff must be separated from the good grain. The supernatural is miracle, and miracle is an objective phenomenon independent of all preceding causality. Now, miracle thus understood cannot be proved experimentally; and besides, the subjective phenomena, far more important than all the rest, are left out of account in the definition. Men will not see that miracle is a perception of the soul ; a vision of the Divine behind nature ; a psychical crisis, analogous to that of Æneas on the last day of Troy, which reveals to us the heavenly powers prompting and directing human action. For the indifferent there are no miracles. It is only the religious souls who are capable of recognising the finger of God in certain given facts.

The minds which have reached the doctrine of immanence are incomprehensible to the fanatics of transcendence. They will never understand these last — that the panentheism of Krause is ten times more religious than their dogmatic supernaturalism. Their passion for the facts which are objective, isolated, and past, prevents them from seeing the facts which are eternal and spiritual. They can only adore what comes to them from without. As soon as their dramaturgy is interpreted symbolically all seems to them lost. They must have their local prodigies — their vanished unverifiable miracles, because for them the divine is there and only there.

This faith can hardly fail to conquer among the races pledged to the Cartesian dualism, who call the incomprehensible clear, and abhor what is profound. Women also will always find local miracle more easy to understand than universal miracle, and the visible objective intervention of God more probable than His psychological and inward action. The Latin world by its mental form is doomed to petrify its abstractions, and to remain for ever

« PreviousContinue »