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They are the advance-guard of Protestantism and the laggards of free thought.
Their mistake is in not seeing that all institutions rest upon a legal fiction, and that every living thing involves a logical absurdity. It may be logical to demand a church based on free examination and absolute sincerity ; but to realise it is a different matter. A church lives by what is positive, and this positive element necessarily limits investigation. People confound the right of the individual, which is to be free, with the duty of the institution, which is to be something. They take the principle of Science to be the same as the principle of the Church, which is a mistake. They will not see that Religion is different from Philosophy, and that the one seeks union by faith, while the other upholds the itary independence of thought. That the bread should be good it must have leaven ; but the leaven is not the bread. Liberty is the means whereby we arrive at an enlightened faith — granted ; but an assembly of people agreeing only upon this criterion and this method could not possibly found a church, for they might differ completely as to the results of the method. Suppose a newspaper the writers of which were of all pos
sible parties, – it would no doubt be a curiosity in journalism, but it would have no opinions, no faith, no creed. A drawingroom filled with refined people, carrying on polite discussion, is not a church, and a dispute, however courteous, is not worship. It is a mere confusion of kinds.
13th July 1869. — Lamennais, Heine the one the victim of a mistaken vocation, the other of a tormenting craving to astonish and mystify his kind. The first was wanting in common sense; the second was wanting in seriousness. The Frenchman was violent, arbitrary, domineering; the German was a jesting Mephistopheles, with a horror of Philistinism. The Breton was all passion and melancholy ; the Hamburger all fancy and satire. Neither developed freely nor normally. Both of them, because of an initial mistake, threw themselves into an endless quarrel with the world. Both were revolutionists. They were not fighting for the good cause, for impersonal truth; both were rather the champions of their own pride. Both suffered greatly, and died isolated, repudiated, and reviled. Men of magnificent talents, both of them, but men of small wisdom, who did more
harm than good to themselves and to others !- It is a lamentable existence which wears itself out in maintaining a first antagonism, or first blunder« The greater a man's intellectual power, the more dangerous is it for him to make a false start and to begin life badly.)
20th July 1869. - I have been reading over again five or six chapters, here and there, of Renan's St. Paul. Analysed to the bottom, the writer is a freethinker, but a freethinker whose flexible imagination still allows him the delicate epicurism of religious emotion. In his eyes the man who will not lend himself to these graceful fancies is vulgar, and the man who takes them seriously is prejudiced. He is entertained by the variations of conscience, but he is too clever to laugh at them. The true critic neither concludes nor excludes; his pleasure is to understand without believing, and to profit by the results of enthusiasm, while still maintaining a free mind, unembarrassed by illusion. Such a mode of proceeding has a look of dishonesty ; it is nothing, however, but the good-tempered irony of a highly-cultivated mind, which will neither be ignorant of anything nor
duped by anything. It is the dilettanteism of the Renaissance in its perfection. — At the same time what innumerable proofs of insight and of exultant scientific power !
14th August 1869. — In the name of Heaven, who art thou ? - what wilt thou
- wavering inconstant creature? What future lies before thee? What duty or what hope appeals to thee?
My longing, my search is for love, for peace, for something to fill my heart; an idea to defend ; a work to which I might devote the rest of my strength; an affection which might quench this inner thirst; a cause for which I might die with joy. But shall I ever find them ? I long for all that is impossible and inaccessible: for true religion, serious sympathy, the ideal life; for paradise, immortality, holiness, faith, inspiration, and I know not what besides ! What I really want is to die and to be born again, transformed myself, and in a different world. And I can neither stifle these aspirations nor deceive myself as to the possibility of satisfying them. I seem condemned to roll for ever the rock of Sisyphus, and to feel that slow wearing away of the mind which befalls the man whose vocation
and destiny are in perpetual conflict. A Christian heart and a pagan head,' like Jacobi; tenderness and pride; width of mind and feebleness of will; the two men of St. Paul; a seething chaos of contrasts, antinomies, and contradictions; humility and pride ; childish simplicity and boundless mistrust; analysis and intuition ; patience and irritability ; kindness and dryness of heart; carelessness and anxiety ; enthusiasm and languor; indifference and passion; altogether a being incomprehensible and intolerable to myself and to others !
Then from a state of conflict I fall back into the fluid, vague, indeterminate state, which feels all form to be a mere violence and disfigurement. All ideas, principles, acquirements, and habits are effaced in me like the ripples on a wave, like the convolutions of a cloud. My personality has the least possible admixture of individuality. I am to the great majority of men what the circle is to rectilinear figures ; I am everywhere at home, because I have no particular and nominative self. -- Perhaps, on the whole, this defect has good in it. Though I am less of a man, I am perhaps nearer to the man; perhaps rather more man. There is less of the individual, but more of the