« PreviousContinue »
one another, as I have loved you ;' • Be ye one with me, as I am one with the Father :' for this is life eternal, here is perfection, salvation, joy. Faith in the fatherly love of God, who punishes and pardons for our good, and who desires not the death of the sinner, but his conversion and his life, — here is the motive power of the redeemed.
What we call Christianity is a vast ocean, into which flow a number of spiritual currents of distant and various origin ; certain religions, that is to say, of Asia and of Europe, the great ideas of Greek wisdom, and especially those of Platonism. Neither its doctrine nor its morality, as they have been historically developed, are spontaneous. What is essential and original in it is the practical demonstration that the human and the divine nature may co-exist, may become fused into one sublime flame; that holiness and pity, justice and mercy, may meet together and become one, in man and in God. What is specific in Christianity is Jesus — the religious consciousness of Jesus. The sacred sense of his absolute union with God through perfect love and self-surrender, this profound, invincible, and tranquil faith of his, has become a religion ; the faith of Jesus has become the faith of millions and millions of men.
From this torch has sprung a vast conflagration. And such has been the brilliancy and the radiance both of revealer and revelation, that the astonished world has forgotten its justice in its admiration, and has referred to one single benefactor the whole of those benefits which are its heritage from the past.
The conversion of ecclesiastical and confessional Christianity into historical Christianity is the work of Biblical science. The conversion of historical Christianity into philosophical Christianity is an attempt which is to some extent an illusion, since faith cannot be entirely resolved into science. The transference, however, of Christianity from the region of history to the region of psychology is the great craving of our time. What we are trying to arrive at is the eternal Gospel. But before we can reach it, the comparative history and philosophy of religions must assign to Christianity its true place, and must judge it. The religion too which Jesus professed must be disentangled from the religion which has taken Jesus for its object. And when at last we are able to point out the state of consciousness which is the primitive cell, the principle of the eternal Gospel, we shall have reached our goal, for in it is the punctum saliens of pure religion.
Perhaps the extraordinary will take the place of the supernatural, and the great geniuses of the world will come to be regarded as the messengers of God in history, as the providential revealers through whom the spirit of God works upon the human mass. What is perishing is not the admirable and the adorable ; it is simply the arbitrary, the accidental, the miraculous. Just as the poor illuminations of a village fête, or the tapers of a procession, are put out by the great marvel of the sun, so the small local miracles, with their meanness and doubtfulness, will sink into insignificance beside the law of the world of spirits, the incomparable spectacle of human history, led by that all-powerful Dramaturgus whom we call God. — Utinam !
1st March 1869. ~ Impartiality and objectivity are as rare as justice, of which they are but two special forms. Self. interest is an inexhaustible source of convenient illusions. The number of beings who wish to see truly is extraordinarily
small. What governs men is the fear of truth, unless truth is useful to them, which is as much as to say that self-interest is the principle of the common philosophy, or that truth is made for us but not we for truth. — As this fact is humiliating, the majority of people will neither recognise nor admit it.
And thus a prejudice of self-love protects all the prejudices of the understanding, which are themselves the result of a stratagem of the ego. Humanity has always slain or persecuted those who have disturbed this selfish repose of hers. She only improves in spite of herself. The only progress which she desires is an increase of enjoyments. All advances in justice, in morality, in holiness, have been imposed upon or forced from her by some noble violence. Sacrifice, which is the passion of great souls, has never been the law of societies. It is too often by employing one vice against another, - for example, vanity against cupidity, greed against idleness, - that the great agitators have broken through routine. In a word, the human world is almost entirely directed by the law of nature, and the law of the spirit, which is the leaven of its coarse paste, has but rarely succeeded in raising it into generous expansion.
From the point of view of the ideal, humanity is triste and ugly. But if we compare it with its probable origins, we see that the human race has not altogether wasted its time. Hence there are three possible views of history: the view of the pessimist, who starts from the ideal; the view of the optimist, who compares the past with the present; and the view of the heroworshipper, who sees that all progress whatever has cost oceans of blood and tears.
European hypocrisy veils its face before the voluntary suicide of those Indian fanatics who throw themselves under the wheels of their goddess's triumphal car. these sacrifices are but the symbol of what goes on in Europe as elsewhere, of that offering of their life which is made by the martyrs of all great causes. We may even say that the fierce and sanguinary goddess is humanity itself, which is only spurred to progress by remorse, and repents only when the measure of its crimes runs over. The fanatics who sacrifice themselves are an eternal protest against the universal selfishness. We have only overthrown those idols which are tangible and visible, but perpetual sacrifice still exists everywhere, and everywhere the élite of each generation