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Amiel's Journal by Mrs. Humphrey Ward

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interesting description in one of his articles on Berlin, published in
the _Bibliotheque Universelle de Geneve_, of a university ceremonial
there in or about 1847, and of the effect produced on the student's
young imagination by the sight of half the leaders of European research
gathered into a single room. He saw Schlosser, the veteran historian, at
Heidelberg at the end of 1843.] The old generation is going. What will
the new bring us? What shall we ourselves contribute? A few great old
men--Schelling, Alexander von Humboldt, Schlosser--still link us with
the glorious past. Who is preparing to bear the weight of the future? A
shiver seizes us when the ranks grow thin around us, when age is
stealing upon us, when we approach the zenith, and when destiny says to
us: "Show what is in thee! Now is the moment, now is the hour, else fall
back into nothingness! It is thy turn! Give the world thy measure, say
thy word, reveal thy nullity or thy capacity. Come forth from the shade!
It is no longer a question of promising, thou must perform. The time of
apprenticeship is over. Servant, show us what thou hast done with thy
talent. Speak now, or be silent forever." This appeal of the conscience
is a solemn summons in the life of every man, solemn and awful as the
trumpet of the last judgment. It cries, "Art thou ready? Give an
account. Give an account of thy years, thy leisure, thy strength, thy
studies, thy talent, and thy works. Now and here is the hour of great
hearts, the hour of heroism and of genius."

April 6, 1851.--Was there ever any one so vulnerable as I? If I were a
father how many griefs and vexations, a child might cause me. As a
husband I should have a thousand ways of suffering because my happiness
demands a thousand conditions I have a heart too easily reached, a too
restless imagination; despair is easy to me, and every sensation
reverberates again and again within me. What might be, spoils for me
what is. What ought to be consumes me with sadness. So the reality, the
present, the irreparable, the necessary, repel and even terrify me. I
have too much imagination, conscience and penetration, and not enough
character. The life of thought alone seems to me to have enough
elasticity and immensity, to be free enough from the irreparable;
practical life makes me afraid.

And yet, at the same time it attracts me; I have need of it. Family
life, especially, in all its delightfulness, in all its moral depth,
appeals to me almost like a duty. Sometimes I cannot escape from the
ideal of it. A companion of my life, of my work, of my thoughts, of my
hopes; within, a common worship, toward the world outside, kindness and
beneficence; educations to undertake, the thousand and one moral
relations which develop round the first, all these ideas intoxicate me
sometimes. But I put them aside because every hope is, as it were, an
egg whence a serpent may issue instead of a dove, because every joy
missed is a stab; because every seed confided to destiny contains an ear
of grief which the future may develop.

I am distrustful of myself and of happiness because I know myself. The
ideal poisons for me all imperfect possession. Everything which
compromises the future or destroys my inner liberty, which enslaves me
to things or obliges me to be other than I could and ought to be, all
which injures my idea of the perfect man, hurts me mortally, degrades
and wounds me in mind, even beforehand. I abhor useless regrets and
repentances. The fatality of the consequences which follow upon every
human act, the leading idea of dramatic art and the most tragic element
of life, arrests me more certainly than the arm of the _Commandeur_. I
only act with regret, and almost by force.

To be dependent is to me terrible; but to depend upon what is
irreparable, arbitrary and unforeseen, and above all to be so dependent
by my fault and through my own error, to give up liberty and hope, to
slay sleep and happiness, this would be hell!

All that is necessary, providential, in short, _unimputable_, I could
bear, I think, with some strength of mind. But responsibility mortally
envenoms grief; and as an act is essentially voluntary, therefore I act
as little as possible.

Last outbreak of a rebellious and deceitful self-will, craving for
repose for satisfaction, for independence! is there not some relic of
selfishness in such a disinterestedness, such a fear, such idle

I wish to fulfill my duty, but where is it, what is it? Here inclination
comes in again and interprets the oracle. And the ultimate question is
this: Does duty consist in obeying one's nature, even the best and most
spiritual? or in conquering it?

Life, is it essentially the education of the mind and intelligence, or
that of the will? And does will show itself in strength or in
resignation? If the aim of life is to teach us renunciation, then
welcome sickness, hindrances, sufferings of every kind! But if its aim
is to produce the perfect man, then one must watch over one's integrity
of mind and body. To court trial is to tempt God. At bottom, the God of
justice veils from me the God of love. I tremble instead of trusting.

Whenever conscience speaks with a divided, uncertain, and disputed
voice, it is not yet the voice of God. Descend still deeper into
yourself, until you hear nothing but a clear and undivided voice, a
voice which does away with doubt and brings with it persuasion, light
and serenity. Happy, says the apostle, are they who are at peace with
themselves, and whose heart condemneth them not in the part they take.
This inner identity, this unity of conviction, is all the more difficult
the more the mind analyzes, discriminates, and foresees. It is
difficult, indeed, for liberty to return to the frank unity of instinct.

Alas! we must then re-climb a thousand times the peaks already scaled,
and reconquer the points of view already won, we must _fight the fight_!
The human heart, like kings, signs mere truces under a pretence of
perpetual peace. The eternal life is eternally to be re-won. Alas, yes!
peace itself is a struggle, or rather it is struggle and activity which
are the law. We only find rest in effort, as the flame only finds
existence in combustion. O Heraclitus! the symbol of happiness is after
all the same as that of grief; anxiety and hope, hell and heaven, are
equally restless. The altar of Vesta and the sacrifice of Beelzebub burn
with the same fire. Ah, yes, there you have life--life double-faced and
double-edged. The fire which enlightens is also the fire which consumes;
the element of the gods may become that of the accursed.

April 7, 1851.--Read a part of Ruge's [Footnote: Arnold Ruge, born in
1803, died at Brighton in 1880, principal editor of the _Hallische_,
afterward the _Deutsche Jahrbuecher_ (1838-43), in which Strauss, Bruno
Bauer, and Louis Feuerbach wrote. He was a member of the parliament of
Frankfort.] volume "_Die Academie_" (1848) where the humanism of the
neo-Hegelians in politics, religion, and literature is represented by
correspondents or articles (Kuno Fischer, Kollach, etc). They recall the
_philosophist_ party of the last century, able to dissolve anything by
reason and reasoning, but unable to construct anything; for construction
rests upon feeling, instinct, and will. One finds them mistaking
philosophic consciousness for realizing power, the redemption of the
intelligence for the redemption of the heart, that is to say, the part
for the whole. These papers make me understand the radical difference
between morals and intellectualism. The writers of them wish to supplant
religion by philosophy. Man is the principle of their religion, and
intellect is the climax of man. Their religion, then, is the religion of
intellect. There you have the two worlds: Christianity brings and
preaches salvation by the conversion of the will, humanism by the
emancipation of the mind. One attacks the heart, the other the brain.
Both wish to enable man to reach his ideal. But the ideal differs, if
not by its content, at least by the disposition of its content, by the
predominance and sovereignty given to this for that inner power. For
one, the mind is the organ of the soul; for the other, the soul is an
inferior state of the mind; the one wishes to enlighten by making
better, the other to make better by enlightening. It is the difference
between Socrates and Jesus.

_The cardinal question is that of sin._ The question of immanence or of
dualism is secondary. The trinity, the life to come, paradise and hell,
may cease to be dogmas, and spiritual realities, the form and the letter
may vanish away, the question of humanity remains: What is it which
saves? How can man be led to be truly man? Is the ultimate root of his
being responsibility, yes or no? And is doing or knowing the right,
acting or thinking, his ultimate end? If science does not produce love
it is insufficient. Now all that science gives is the _amor
intellectualis_ of Spinoza, light without warmth, a resignation which is
contemplative and grandiose, but inhuman, because it is scarcely
transmissible and remains a privilege, one of the rarest of all. Moral
love places the center of the individual in the center of being. It has
at least salvation in principle, the germ of eternal life. _To love is
virtually to know; to know is not virtually to love_; there you have the
relation of these two modes of man. The redemption wrought by science or
by intellectual love is then inferior to the redemption wrought by will
or by moral love. The first may free a man from himself, it may
enfranchise him from egotism. The second drives the _ego_ out of itself,
makes it active and fruitful. The one is critical, purifying, negative;
the other is vivifying, fertilizing, positive. Science, however
spiritual and substantial it may be in itself, is still formal
relatively to love. Moral force is then the vital point. And this force
is only produced by moral force. Like alone acts upon like. Therefore do
not amend by reasoning, but by example; approach feeling by feeling; do
not hope to excite love except by love. Be what you wish others to
become. Let yourself and not your words preach for you.

Philosophy, then, to return to the subject, can never replace religion;
revolutionaries are not apostles, although the apostles may have been
revolutionaries. To save from the outside to the inside--and by the
outside I understand also the intelligence relatively to the will--is an
error and danger. The negative part of the humanist's work is good; it
will strip Christianity of an outer shell, which has become superfluous;
but Ruge and Feuerbach cannot save humanity. She must have her saints
and her heroes to complete the work of her philosophers. Science is the
power of man, and love his strength; man _becomes_ man only by the
intelligence, but he _is_ man only by the heart. Knowledge, love,
power--there is the complete life.

June 16, 1851.--This evening I walked up and down on the Pont des
Bergues, under a clear, moonless heaven delighting in the freshness of
the water, streaked with light from the two quays, and glimmering under
the twinkling stars. Meeting all these different groups of young people,
families, couples and children, who were returning to their homes, to
their garrets or their drawing-rooms, singing or talking as they went, I
felt a movement of sympathy for all these passers-by; my eyes and ears
became those of a poet or a painter; while even one's mere kindly
curiosity seems to bring with it a joy in living and in seeing others

August 15, 1851.--To know how to be ready, a great thing, a precious
gift, and one that implies calculation, grasp and decision. To be always
ready a man must be able to cut a knot, for everything cannot be untied;
he must know how to disengage what is essential from the detail in which
it is enwrapped, for everything cannot be equally considered; in a word,
he must be able to simplify his duties, his business, and his life. To
know how to be ready, is to know how to start.

It is astonishing how all of us are generally cumbered up with the
thousand and one hindrances and duties which are not such, but which
nevertheless wind us about with their spider threads and fetter the
movement of our wings. It is the lack of order which makes us slaves;
the confusion of to-day discounts the freedom of to-morrow.

Confusion is the enemy of all comfort, and confusion is born of
procrastination. To know how to be ready we must be able to finish.
Nothing is done but what is finished. The things which we leave dragging
behind us will start up again later on before us and harass our path.
Let each day take thought for what concerns it, liquidate its own
affairs and respect the day which is to follow, and then we shall be
always ready. To know how to be ready is at bottom to know how to die.

September 2, 1851.--Read the work of Tocqueville ("_De la Democratie en
Amerique_.") My impression is as yet a mixed one. A fine book, but I
feel in it a little too much imitation of Montesquieu. This abstract,
piquant, sententious style, too, is a little dry, over-refined and
monotonous. It has too much cleverness and not enough imagination. It
makes one think, more than it charms, and though really serious, it
seems flippant. His method of splitting up a thought, of illuminating a
subject by successive facets, has serious inconveniences. We see the
details too clearly, to the detriment of the whole. A multitude of
sparks gives but a poor light. Nevertheless, the author is evidently a
ripe and penetrating intelligence, who takes a comprehensive view of his
subject, while at the same time possessing a power of acute and
exhaustive analysis.

September 6th.--Tocqueville's book has on the whole a calming effect
upon the mind, but it leaves a certain sense of disgust behind. It makes
one realize the necessity of what is happening around us and the
inevitableness of the goal prepared for us; but it also makes it plain
that the era of _mediocrity_ in everything is beginning, and mediocrity
freezes all desire. Equality engenders uniformity, and it is by
sacrificing what is excellent, remarkable, and extraordinary that we get
rid of what is bad. The whole becomes less barbarous, and at the same
time more vulgar.

The age of great men is going; the epoch of the ant-hill, of life in
multiplicity, is beginning. The century of individualism, if abstract
equality triumphs, runs a great risk of seeing no more true individuals.
By continual leveling and division of labor, society will become
everything and man nothing.

As the floor of valleys is raised by the denudation and washing down of
the mountains, what is average will rise at the expense of what is
great. The exceptional will disappear. A plateau with fewer and fewer
undulations, without contrasts and without oppositions, such will be the
aspect of human society. The statistician will register a growing
progress, and the moralist a gradual decline: on the one hand, a
progress of things; on the other, a decline of souls. The useful will
take the place of the beautiful, industry of art, political economy of
religion, and arithmetic of poetry. The spleen will become the malady of
a leveling age.

Is this indeed the fate reserved for the democratic era? May not the
general well-being be purchased too dearly at such a price? The creative
force which in the beginning we see forever tending to produce and
multiply differences, will it afterward retrace its steps and obliterate
them one by one? And equality, which in the dawn of existence is mere
inertia, torpor, and death, is it to become at last the natural form of
life? Or rather, above the economic and political equality to which the
socialist and non-socialist democracy aspires, taking it too often for
the term of its efforts, will there not arise a new kingdom of mind, a
church of refuge, a republic of souls, in which, far beyond the region
of mere right and sordid utility, beauty, devotion, holiness, heroism,
enthusiasm, the extraordinary, the infinite, shall have a worship and an
abiding city? Utilitarian materialism, barren well-being, the idolatry
of the flesh and of the "I," of the temporal and of mammon, are they to
be the goal if our efforts, the final recompense promised to the labors
of our race? I do not believe it. The ideal of humanity is something
different and higher.

But the animal in us must be satisfied first, and we must first banish
from among us all suffering which is superfluous and has its origin in
social arrangements, before we can return to spiritual goods.

September 7, 1851. (_Aix_).--It is ten o'clock at night. A strange and
mystic moonlight, with a fresh breeze and a sky crossed by a few
wandering clouds, makes our terrace delightful. These pale and gentle
rays shed from the zenith a subdued and penetrating peace; it is like
the calm joy or the pensive smile of experience, combined with a certain
stoic strength. The stars shine, the leaves tremble in the silver light.
Not a sound in all the landscape; great gulfs of shadow under the green
alleys and at the corners of the steps. Everything is secret, solemn,

O night hours, hours of silence and solitude! with you are grace and
melancholy; you sadden and you console. You speak to us of all that has
passed away, and of all that must still die, but you say to us,
"courage!" and you promise us rest.

November 9, 1851. (Sunday).--At the church of St. Gervais, a second
sermon from Adolphe Monod, less grandiose perhaps but almost more
original, and to me more edifying than that of last Sunday. The subject
was St. Paul or the active life, his former one having been St. John or
the inner life, of the Christian. I felt the golden spell of eloquence:
I found myself hanging on the lips of the orator, fascinated by his
boldness, his grace, his energy, and his art, his sincerity, and his
talent; and it was borne in upon me that for some men difficulties are a
source of inspiration, so that what would make others stumble is for
them the occasion of their highest triumphs. He made St. Paul _cry_
during an hour and a half; he made an old nurse of him, he hunted up his
old cloak, his prescriptions of water and wine to Timothy, the canvas
that he mended, his friend Tychicus, in short, all that could raise a
smile; and from it he drew the most unfailing pathos, the most austere
and penetrating lessons. He made the whole St. Paul, martyr, apostle and
man, his grief, his charities, his tenderness, live again before us, and
this with a grandeur, an unction, a warmth of reality, such as I had
never seen equaled.

How stirring is such an apotheosis of pain in our century of comfort,
when shepherds and sheep alike sink benumbed in Capuan languors, such an
apotheosis of ardent charity in a time of coldness and indifference
toward souls, such an apotheosis of a _human_, natural, inbred
Christianity, in an age, when some put it, so to speak, above man, and
others below man! Finally, as a peroration, he dwelt upon the necessity
for a new people, for a stronger generation, if the world is to be saved
from the tempests which threaten it. "People of God, awake! Sow in
tears, that ye may reap in triumph!" What a study is such a sermon! I
felt all the extraordinary literary skill of it, while my eyes were
still dim with tears. Diction, composition, similes, all is instructive
and precious to remember. I was astonished, shaken, taken hold of.

November 18, 1851.--The energetic subjectivity, which has faith in
itself, which does not fear to be something particular and definite
without any consciousness or shame of its subjective illusion, is
unknown to me. I am, so far as the intellectual order is concerned,
essentially objective, and my distinctive speciality, is to be able to
place myself in all points of view, to see through all eyes, to
emancipate myself, that is to say, from the individual prison. Hence
aptitude for theory and irresolution in practice; hence critical talent
and difficulty in spontaneous production. Hence, also, a continuous
uncertainty of conviction and opinion, so long as my aptitude remained
mere instinct; but now that it is conscious and possesses itself, it is
able to conclude and affirm in its turn, so that, after having brought
disquiet, it now brings peace. It says: "There is no repose for the mind
except in the absolute; for feeling, except in the infinite; for the
soul, except in the divine." Nothing finite is true, is interesting, or
worthy to fix my attention. All that is particular is exclusive, and all
that is exclusive, repels me. There is nothing non-exclusive but the
All; my end is communion with Being through the whole of Being. Then, in
the light of the absolute, every idea becomes worth studying; in that of
the infinite, every existence worth respecting; in that of the divine,
every creature worth loving.

December 2, 1851.--Let mystery have its place in you; do not be always
turning up your whole soil with the plowshare of self-examination, but
leave a little fallow corner in your heart ready for any seed the winds
may bring, and reserve a nook of shadow for the passing bird; keep a
place in your heart for the unexpected guests, an altar for the unknown
God. Then if a bird sing among your branches, do not be too eager to
tame it. If you are conscious of something new--thought or feeling,
wakening in the depths of your being--do not be in a hurry to let in
light upon it, to look at it; let the springing germ have the protection
of being forgotten, hedge it round with quiet, and do not break in upon
its darkness; let it take shape and grow, and not a word of your
happiness to any one! Sacred work of nature as it is, all conception
should be enwrapped by the triple veil of modesty, silence and night.

* * * * *

Kindness is the principle of tact, and respect for others the first
condition of _savoir-vivre_.

* * * * *

He who is silent is forgotten; he who abstains is taken at his word; he
who does not advance, falls back; he who stops is overwhelmed,
distanced, crushed; he who ceases to grow greater becomes smaller; he
who leaves off, gives up; the stationary condition is the beginning of
the end--it is the terrible symptom which precedes death. To live, is
to achieve a perpetual triumph; it is to assert one's self against
destruction, against sickness, against the annulling and dispersion of
one's physical and moral being. It is to will without ceasing, or rather
to refresh one's will day by day.

* * * * *

It is not history which teaches conscience to be honest; it is the
conscience which educates history. Fact is corrupting, it is we who
correct it by the persistence of our ideal. The soul moralizes the past
in order not to be demoralized by it. Like the alchemists of the middle
ages, she finds in the crucible of experience only the gold that she
herself has poured into it.

* * * * *

February 1, 1852. (Sunday).--Passed the afternoon in reading the
_Monologues_ of Schleiermacher. This little book made an impression on
me almost as deep as it did twelve years ago, when I read it for the
first time. It replunged me into the inner world, to which I return with
joy whenever I may have forsaken it. I was able besides, to measure my
progress since then by the transparency of all the thoughts to me, and
by the freedom with which I entered into and judged the point of view.

It is great, powerful, profound, but there is still pride in it, and
even selfishness. For the center of the universe is still the self, the
great _Ich_ of Fichte. The tameless liberty, the divine dignity of the
individual spirit, expanding till it admits neither any limit nor
anything foreign to itself, and conscious of a strength instinct with
creative force, such is the point of view of the _Monologues_.

The inner life in its enfranchisement from time, in its double end, the
realization of the species and of the individuality, in its proud
dominion over all hostile circumstances, in its prophetic certainty of
the future, in its immortal youth, such is their theme. Through them we
are enabled to enter into a life of monumental interest, wholly original
and beyond the influence of anything exterior, an astonishing example of
the autonomy of the _ego_, an imposing type of character, Zeno and
Fichte in one. But still the motive power of this life is not religious;
it is rather moral and philosophic. I see in it not so much a
magnificent model to imitate as a precious subject of study. This ideal
of a liberty, absolute, indefeasible, inviolable, respecting itself
above all, disdaining the visible and the universe, and developing
itself after its own laws alone, is also the ideal of Emerson, the stoic
of a young America. According to it, man finds his joy in himself, and,
safe in the inaccessible sanctuary, of his personal consciousness,
becomes almost a god. [Footnote: Compare Clough's lines:

"Where are the great, whom thou would'st wish to praise thee?
Where are the pure, whom thou would'st choose to love thee?
Where are the brave, to stand supreme above thee?
Whose high commands would cheer, whose chidings raise thee?
Seek, seeker, in thyself; submit to find
In the stones, bread, and life in the blank mind."]

He is himself principle, motive, and end of his own destiny; he is
himself, and that is enough for him. This superb triumph of life is not
far from being a sort of impiety, or at least a displacement of
adoration. By the mere fact that it does away with humility, such a
superhuman point of view becomes dangerous; it is the very temptation to
which the first man succumbed, that of becoming his own master by
becoming like unto the Elohim. Here then the heroism of the philosopher
approaches temerity, and the _Monologues_ are therefore open to three
reproaches: Ontologically, the position of man in the spiritual
universe is wrongly indicated; the individual soul, not being unique and
not springing from itself, can it be conceived without God?
Psychologically, the force of spontaneity in the _ego_ is allowed a
dominion too exclusive of any other. As a fact, it is not everything in
man. Morally, evil is scarcely named, and conflict, the condition of
true peace, is left out of count. So that the peace described in the
_Monologues_ is neither a conquest by man nor a grace from heaven; it is
rather a stroke of good fortune.

February 2d.--Still the _Monologues_. Critically I defended myself
enough against them yesterday; I may abandon myself now, without scruple
and without danger, to the admiration and the sympathy with which they
inspire me. This life so proudly independent, this sovereign conception
of human dignity, this actual possession of the universe and the
infinite, this perfect emancipation from all which passes, this calm
sense of strength and superiority, this invincible energy of will, this
infallible clearness of self-vision, this autocracy of the consciousness
which is its own master, all these decisive marks of a royal personality
of a nature Olympian, profound, complete, harmonious, penetrate the mind
with joy and heart with gratitude. What a life! what a man! These
glimpses into the inner regions of a great soul do one good. Contact of
this kind strengthens, restores, refreshes. Courage returns as we gaze;
when we see what has been, we doubt no more that it can be again. At the
sight of a _man_ we too say to ourselves, let us also be men.

March 3, 1852.--Opinion has its value and even its power: to have it
against us is painful when we are among friends, and harmful in the case
of the outer world. We should neither flatter opinion nor court it; but
it is better, if we can help it, not to throw it on to a false scent.
The first error is a meanness; the second an imprudence. We should be
ashamed of the one; we may regret the other. Look to yourself; you are
much given to this last fault, and it has already done you great harm.
Be ready to bend your pride; abase yourself even so far as to show
yourself ready and clever like others. This world of skillful egotisms
and active ambitions, this world of men, in which one must deceive by
smiles, conduct, and silence as much as by actual words, a world
revolting to the proud and upright soul, it is our business to learn to
live in it! Success is required in it: succeed. Only force is recognized
there: be strong. Opinion seeks to impose her law upon all, instead of
setting her at defiance, it would be better to struggle with her and
conquer.... I understand the indignation of contempt, and the wish to
crush, roused irresistibly by all that creeps, all that is tortuous,
oblique, ignoble.... But I cannot maintain such a mood, which is a mood
of vengeance, for long. This world is a world of men, and these men are
our brothers. We must not banish from us the divine breath, we must
love. Evil must be conquered by good; and before all things one must
keep a pure conscience. Prudence may be preached from this point of view
too. "Be ye simple as the dove and prudent as the serpent," are the
words of Jesus. Be careful of your reputation, not through vanity, but
that you may not harm your life's work, and out of love for truth. There
is still something of self-seeking in the refined disinterestedness
which will not justify itself, that it may feel itself superior to
opinion. It requires ability, to make what we seem agree with what we
are, and humility, to feel that we are no great things.

There, thanks to this journal, my excitement has passed away. I have
just read the last book of it through again, and the morning has passed
by. On the way I have been conscious of a certain amount of monotony. It
does not signify! These pages are not written to be read; they are
written for my own consolation and warning. They are landmarks in my
past; and some of the landmarks are funeral crosses, stone pyramids,
withered stalks grown green again, white pebbles, coins--all of them
helpful toward finding one's way again through the Elysian fields of the
soul. The pilgrim has marked his stages in it; he is able to trace by it
his thoughts, his tears, his joys. This is my traveling diary: if some
passages from it may be useful to others, and if sometimes even I have
communicated such passages to the public, these thousand pages as a
whole are only of value to me and to those who, after me, may take some
interest in the itinerary of an obscurely conditioned soul, far from the
world's noise and fame. These sheets will be monotonous when my life is
so; they will repeat themselves when feelings repeat themselves; truth
at any rate will be always there, and truth is their only muse, their
only pretext, their only duty.

April 2, 1852.--What a lovely walk! Sky clear, sun rising, all the tints
bright, all the outlines sharp, save for the soft and misty infinite of
the lake. A pinch of white frost, powdered the fields, lending a
metallic relief to the hedges of green box, and to the whole landscape,
still without leaves, an air of health and vigor, of youth and
freshness. "Bathe, O disciple, thy thirsty soul in the dew of the dawn!"
says Faust, to us, and he is right. The morning air breathes a new and
laughing energy into veins and marrow. If every day is a repetition of
life, every dawn gives signs as it were a new contract with existence.
At dawn everything is fresh, light, simple, as it is for children. At
dawn spiritual truth, like the atmosphere, is more transparent, and our
organs, like the young leaves, drink in the light more eagerly, breathe
in more ether, and less of things earthly. If night and the starry sky
speak to the meditative soul of God, of eternity and the infinite, the
dawn is the time for projects, for resolutions, for the birth of action.
While the silence and the "sad serenity of the azure vault," incline the
soul to self-recollection, the vigor and gayety of nature spread into
the heart and make it eager for life and living. Spring is upon us.
Primroses and violets have already hailed her coming. Rash blooms are
showing on the peach trees; the swollen buds of the pear trees and the
lilacs point to the blossoming that is to be; the honeysuckles are
already green.

April 26, 1852.--This evening a feeling of emptiness took possession of
me; and the solemn ideas of duty, the future, solitude, pressed
themselves upon me. I gave myself to meditation, a very necessary
defense against the dispersion and distraction brought about by the
day's work and its detail. Read a part of Krause's book "_Urbild der
Menschheit_" [Footnote: Christian Frederick Krause, died 1832, Hegel's
younger contemporary, and the author of a system which he called
_panentheism_--Amiel alludes to it later on.] which answered marvelously
to my thought and my need. This philosopher has always a beneficent
effect upon me; his sweet religious serenity gains upon me and invades
me. He inspires me with a sense of peace and infinity.

Still I miss something, common worship, a positive religion, shared with
other people. Ah! when will the church to which I belong in heart rise
into being? I cannot like Scherer, content myself with being in the
right all alone. I must have a less solitary Christianity. My religious
needs are not satisfied any more than my social needs, or my needs of
affection. Generally I am able to forget them and lull them to sleep.
But at times they wake up with a sort of painful bitterness ... I waver
between languor and _ennui_, between frittering myself away on the
infinitely little, and longing after what is unknown and distant. It is
like the situation which French novelists are so fond of, the story of a
_vie de province_; only the province is all that is not the country of
the soul, every place where the heart feels itself strange,
dissatisfied, restless and thirsty. Alas! well understood, this place is
the earth, this country of one's dreams is heaven, and this suffering is
the eternal homesickness, the thirst for happiness.

"_In der Beschraenkung zeigt sich erst der Meister_," says Goethe. _Male
resignation_, this also is the motto of those who are masters of the art
of life; "manly," that is to say, courageous, active, resolute,
persevering, "resignation," that is to say, self-sacrifice,
renunciation, limitation. Energy in resignation, there lies the wisdom
of the sons of earth, the only serenity possible in this life of
struggle and of combat. In it is the peace of martyrdom, in it too the
promise of triumph.

April 28, 1852. (Lancy.) [Footnote: A village near Geneva.]--Once more I
feel the spring languor creeping over me, the spring air about me. This
morning the poetry of the scene, the song of the birds, the tranquil
sunlight, the breeze blowing over the fresh green fields, all rose into
and filled my heart. Now all is silent. O silence, thou art terrible!
terrible as that calm of the ocean which lets the eye penetrate the
fathomless abysses below. Thou showest us in ourselves depths which make
us giddy, inextinguishable needs, treasures of suffering. Welcome
tempests! at least they blur and trouble the surface of these waters
with their terrible secrets. Welcome the passion blasts which stir the
wares of the soul, and so veil from us its bottomless gulfs! In all of
us, children of dust, sons of time, eternity inspires an involuntary
anguish, and the infinite, a mysterious terror. We seem to be entering a
kingdom of the dead. Poor heart, thy craving is for life, for love, for
illusions! And thou art right after all, for life is sacred.

In these moments of _tete-a-tete_ with the infinite, how different life
looks! How all that usually occupies and excites us becomes suddenly
puerile, frivolous and vain. We seem to ourselves mere puppets,
marionettes, strutting seriously through a fantastic show, and mistaking
gewgaws for things of great price. At such moments, how everything
becomes transformed, how everything changes! Berkeley and Fichte seem
right, Emerson too; the world is but an allegory; the idea is more real
than the fact; fairy tales, legends, are as true as natural history, and
even more true, for they are emblems of greater transparency. The only
substance properly so called is the soul. What is all the rest? Mere
shadow, pretext, figure, symbol, or dream. Consciousness alone is
immortal, positive, perfectly real. The world is but a firework, a
sublime phantasmagoria, destined to cheer and form the soul.
Consciousness is a universe, and its sun is love....

Already I am falling back into the objective life of thought. It
delivers me from--shall I say? no, it deprives me of the intimate life
of feeling. Reflection solves reverie and burns her delicate wings. This
is why science does not make men, but merely entities and abstractions.
Ah, let us feel and live and beware of too much analysis! Let us put
spontaneity, _naivete_, before reflection, experience before study; let
us make life itself our study. Shall I then never have the heart of a
woman to rest upon? a son in whom to live again, a little world where I
may see flowering and blooming all that is stifled in me? I shrink and
draw back, for fear of breaking my dream. I have staked so much on this
card that I dare not play it. Let me dream again....

Do no violence to yourself, respect in yourself the oscillations of
feeling. They are your life and your nature; One wiser than you ordained
them. Do not abandon yourself altogether either to instinct or to will.
Instinct is a siren, will a despot. Be neither the slave of your
impulses and sensations of the moment, nor of an abstract and general
plan; be open to what life brings from within and without, and welcome
the unforeseen; but give to your life unity, and bring the unforeseen
within the lines of your plan. Let what is natural in you raise itself
to the level of the spiritual, and let the spiritual become once more
natural. Thus will your development be harmonious, and the peace of
heaven will shine upon your brow; always on condition that your peace is
made, and that you have climbed your Calvary.

_Afternoon_--Shall I ever enjoy again those marvelous reveries of past
days, as, for instance, once, when I was still quite a youth, in the
early dawn, sitting among the ruins of the castle of Faucigny; another
time in the mountains above Lavey, under the midday sun, lying under a
tree and visited by three butterflies; and again another night on the
sandy shore of the North Sea, stretched full length upon the beach, my
eyes wandering over the Milky Way? Will they ever return to me, those
grandiose, immortal, cosmogonic dreams, in which one seems to carry the
world in one's breast, to touch the stars, to possess the infinite?
Divine moments, hours of ecstasy, when thought flies from world to
world, penetrates the great enigma, breathes with a respiration large,
tranquil, and profound, like that of the ocean, and hovers serene and
boundless like the blue heaven! Visits from the muse, Urania, who traces
around the foreheads of those she loves the phosphorescent nimbus of
contemplative power, and who pours into their hearts the tranquil
intoxication, if not the authority of genius, moments of irresistible
intuition in which a man feels himself great like the universe and calm
like a god! From the celestial spheres down to the shell or the moss,
the whole of creation is then submitted to our gaze, lives in our
breast, and accomplishes in us its eternal work with the regularity of
destiny and the passionate ardor of love. What hours, what memories! The
traces which remain to us of them are enough to fill us with respect and
enthusiasm, as though they had been visits of the Holy Spirit. And then,
to fall back again from these heights with their boundless horizons into
the muddy ruts of triviality! what a fall! Poor Moses! Thou too sawest
undulating in the distance the ravishing hills of the promised land, and
it was thy fate nevertheless to lay thy weary bones in a grave dug in
the desert! Which of us has not his promised land, his day of ecstasy
and his death in exile? What a pale counterfeit is real life of the life
we see in glimpses, and how these flaming lightnings of our prophetic
youth make the twilight of our dull monotonous manhood more dark and

April 29 (Lancy).--This morning the air was calm, the sky slightly
veiled. I went out into the garden to see what progress the spring was
making. I strolled from the irises to the lilacs, round the flower-beds,
and in the shrubberies. Delightful surprise! at the corner of the walk,
half hidden under a thick clump of shrubs, a small leaved _chorchorus_
had flowered during the night. Gay and fresh as a bunch of bridal
flowers, the little shrub glittered before me in all the attraction of
its opening beauty. What springlike innocence, what soft and modest
loveliness, there was in these white corollas, opening gently to the
sun, like thoughts which smile upon us at waking, and perched upon their
young leaves of virginal green like bees upon the wing! Mother of
marvels, mysterious and tender nature, why do we not live more in thee?
The poetical _flaneurs_ of Toepffer, his Charles and Jules, the friends
and passionate lovers of thy secret graces, the dazzled and ravished
beholders of thy beauties, rose up in my memory, at once a reproach and
a lesson. A modest garden and a country rectory, the narrow horizon of a
garret, contain for those who know how to look and to wait more
instruction than a library, even than that of _Mon oncle_. [Footnote:
The allusions in this passage are to Toepffer's best known books--"La
Presbytere" and "La Bibliotheque de mon Oncle," that airy chronicle of a
hundred romantic or vivacious nothings which has the young student Jules
for its center.] Yes, we are too busy, too encumbered, too much
occupied, too active! We read too much! The one thing needful is to
throw off all one's load of cares, of preoccupations, of pedantry, and
to become again young, simple, child-like, living happily and gratefully
in the present hour. We must know how to put occupation aside, which
does not mean that we must be idle. In an inaction which is meditative
and attentive the wrinkles of the soul are smoothed away, and the soul
itself spreads, unfolds, and springs afresh, and, like the trodden grass
of the roadside or the bruised leaf of a plant, repairs its injuries,
becomes new, spontaneous, true, and original. Reverie, like the rain of
night, restores color and force to thoughts which have been blanched and
wearied by the heat of the day. With gentle fertilizing power it awakens
within us a thousand sleeping germs, and as though in play, gathers
round us materials for the future, and images for the use of talent.
_Reverie is the Sunday of thought_; and who knows which is the more
important and fruitful for man, the laborious tension of the week, or
the life-giving repose of the Sabbath? The _flanerie_ so exquisitely
glorified and sung by Toepffer is not only delicious, but useful. It is
like a bath which gives vigor and suppleness to the whole being, to the
mind as to the body; it is the sign and festival of liberty, a joyous
and wholesome banquet, the banquet of the butterfly wandering from
flower to flower over the hills and in the fields. And remember, the
soul too is a butterfly.

May 2, 1852. (Sunday) Lancy.--This morning read the epistle of St.
James, the exegetical volume of Cellerier [Footnote: Jacob-Elysee
Cellerier, professor of theology at the Academy of Geneva, and son of
the pastor of Satigny mentioned in Madame de Stael's "L'Allemagne."] on
this epistle, and a great deal of Pascal, after having first of all
passed more than an hour in the garden with the children. I made them
closely examine the flowers, the shrubs, the grasshoppers, the snails,
in order to practice them in observation, in wonder, in kindness.

How enormously important are these first conversations of childhood! I
felt it this morning with a sort of religious terror. Innocence and
childhood are sacred. The sower who casts in the seed, the father or
mother casting in the fruitful word are accomplishing a pontifical act
and ought to perform it with religious awe, with prayer and gravity, for
they are laboring at the kingdom of God. All seed-sowing is a mysterious
thing, whether the seed fall into the earth or into souls. Man is a
husbandman; his whole work rightly understood is to develop life, to sow
it everywhere. Such is the mission of humanity, and of this divine
mission the great instrument is speech. We forget too often that
language is both a seed-sowing and a revelation. The influence of a word
in season, is it not incalculable? What a mystery is speech! But we are
blind to it, because we are carnal and earthy. We see the stones and the
trees by the road, the furniture of our houses, all that is palpable and
material. We have no eyes for the invisible phalanxes of ideas which
people the air and hover incessantly around each one of us.

Every life is a profession of faith, and exercises an inevitable and
silent propaganda. As far as lies in its power, it tends to transform
the universe and humanity into its own image. Thus we have all a cure of
souls. Every man is the center of perpetual radiation like a luminous
body; he is, as it were, a beacon which entices a ship upon the rocks if
it does not guide it into port. Every man is a priest, even
involuntarily; his conduct is an unspoken sermon, which is forever
preaching to others; but there are priests of Baal, of Moloch, and of
all the false gods. Such is the high importance of example. Thence comes
the terrible responsibility which weighs upon us all. An evil example is
a spiritual poison: it is the proclamation of a sacrilegious faith, of
an impure God. Sin would be only an evil for him who commits it, were it
not a crime toward the weak brethren, whom it corrupts. Therefore, it
has been said: "It were better for a man not to have been born than to
offend one of these little ones."

May 6, 1852.--It is women who, like mountain flowers, mark with most
characteristic precision the gradation of social zones. The hierarchy of
classes is plainly visible among them; it is blurred in the other sex.
With women this hierarchy has the average regularity of nature; among
men we see it broken by the incalculable varieties of human freedom. The
reason is that the man on the whole, makes himself by his own activity,
and that the woman, is, on the whole, made by her situation; that the
one modifies and shapes circumstance by his own energy, while the
gentleness of the other is dominated by and reflects circumstance; so
that woman, so to speak, inclines to be species, and man to be

Thus, which is curious, women are at once the sex which is most constant
and most variable. Most constant from the moral point of view, most
variable from the social. A confraternity in the first case, a hierarchy
in the second. All degrees of culture and all conditions of society are
clearly marked in their outward appearance, their manners and their
tastes; but the inward fraternity is traceable in their feelings, their
instincts, and their desires. The feminine sex represents at the same
time natural and historical inequality; it maintains the unity of the
species and marks off the categories of society, it brings together and
divides, it gathers and separates, it makes castes and breaks through
them, according as it interprets its twofold _role_ in the one sense or
the other. At bottom, woman's mission is essentially conservative, but
she is a conservative without discrimination. On the one side, she
maintains God's work in man, all that is lasting, noble, and truly
human, in the race, poetry, religion, virtue, tenderness. On the other,
she maintains the results of circumstance, all that is passing, local,
and artificial in society; that is to say, customs, absurdities,
prejudices, littlenesses. She surrounds with the same respectful and
tenacious faith the serious and the frivolous, the good and the bad.
Well, what then? Isolate if you can, the fire from its smoke. It is a
divine law that you are tracing, and therefore good. The woman
preserves; she is tradition as the man is progress. And if there is no
family and no humanity without the two sexes, without these two forces
there is no history.

May 14, 1852. (Lancy.)--Yesterday I was full of the philosophy of joy,
of youth, of the spring, which smiles and the roses which intoxicate; I
preached the doctrine of strength, and I forgot that, tried and
afflicted like the two friends with whom I was walking, I should
probably have reasoned and felt as they did.

Our systems, it has been said, are the expression of our character, or
the theory of our situation, that is to say, we like to think of what
has been given as having been acquired, we take our nature for our own
work, and our lot in life for our own conquest, an illusion born of
vanity and also of the craving for liberty. We are unwilling to be the
product of circumstances, or the mere expansion of an inner germ. And
yet we have received everything, and the part which is really ours, is
small indeed, for it is mostly made up of negation, resistance, faults.
We receive everything, both life and happiness; but the _manner_ in
which we receive, this is what is still ours. Let us then, receive
trustfully without shame or anxiety. Let us humbly accept from God even
our own nature, and treat it charitably, firmly, intelligently. Not that
we are called upon to accept the evil and the disease in us, but let us
accept _ourselves_ in spite of the evil and the disease. And let us
never be afraid of innocent joy; God is good, and what He does is well
done; resign yourself to everything, even to happiness; ask for the
spirit of sacrifice, of detachment, of renunciation, and above all, for
the spirit of joy and gratitude, that genuine and religious optimism
which sees in God a father, and asks no pardon for His benefits. We must
dare to be happy, and dare to confess it, regarding ourselves always as
the depositaries, not as the authors of our own joy.

* * * * *

... This evening I saw the first glow-worm of the season in the turf
beside the little winding road which descends from Lancy toward the
town. It was crawling furtively under the grass, like a timid thought or
a dawning talent.

June 17, 1852.--Every despotism has a specially keen and hostile
instinct for whatever keeps up human dignity, and independence. And it
is curious to see scientific and realist teaching used everywhere as a
means of stifling all freedom of investigation as addressed to moral
questions under a dead weight of facts. Materialism is the auxiliary
doctrine of every tyranny, whether of the one or of the masses. To crush
what is spiritual, moral, human so to speak, in man, by specializing
him; to form mere wheels of the great social machine, instead of perfect
individuals; to make society and not conscience the center of life, to
enslave the soul to things, to de-personalize man, this is the dominant
drift of our epoch. Everywhere you may see a tendency to substitute the
laws of dead matter (number, mass) for the laws of the moral nature
(persuasion, adhesion, faith) equality, the principle of mediocrity,
becoming a dogma; unity aimed at through uniformity; numbers doing duty
for argument; negative liberty, which has no law _in itself_, and
recognizes no limit except in force, everywhere taking the place of
positive liberty, which means action guided by an inner law and curbed
by a moral authority. Socialism _versus_ individualism: this is how
Vinet put the dilemma. I should say rather that it is only the eternal
antagonism between letter and spirit, between form and matter, between
the outward and the inward, appearance and reality, which is always
present in every conception and in all ideas.

Materialism coarsens and petrifies everything; makes everything vulgar
and every truth false. And there is a religious and political
materialism which spoils all that it touches, liberty, equality,
individuality. So that there are two ways of understanding democracy....

What is threatened to-day is moral liberty, conscience, respect for the
soul, the very nobility of man. To defend the soul, its interests, its
rights, its dignity, is the most pressing duty for whoever sees the
danger. What the writer, the teacher, the pastor, the philosopher, has
to do, is to defend humanity in man. Man! the true man, the ideal man!
Such should be their motto, their rallying cry. War to all that debases,
diminishes, hinders, and degrades him; protection for all that
fortifies, ennobles, and raises him. The test of every religious,
political, or educational system, is the man which it forms. If a system
injures the intelligence it is bad. If it injures the character it is
vicious. If it injures the conscience it is criminal.

August 12, 1852. (Lancy.)--Each sphere of being tends toward a higher
sphere, and has already revelations and presentiments of it. The ideal
under all its forms is the anticipation and the prophetic vision of that
existence, higher than his own, toward which every being perpetually
aspires. And this higher and more dignified existence is more inward in
character, that is to say, more spiritual. Just as volcanoes reveal to
us the secrets of the interior of the globe, so enthusiasm and ecstasy
are the passing explosions of this inner world of the soul; and human
life is but the preparation and the means of approach to this spiritual
life. The degrees of initiation are innumerable. Watch, then, disciple
of life, watch and labor toward the development of the angel within
thee! For the divine Odyssey is but a series of more and more ethereal
metamorphoses, in which each form, the result of what goes before, is
the condition of those which follow. The divine life is a series of
successive deaths, in which the mind throws off its imperfections and
its symbols, and yields to the growing attraction of the ineffable
center of gravitation, the sun of intelligence and love. Created spirits
in the accomplishment of their destinies tend, so to speak, to form
constellations and milky ways within the empyrean of the divinity; in
becoming gods, they surround the throne of the sovereign with a
sparkling court. In their greatness lies their homage. The divinity with
which they are invested is the noblest glory of God. God is the father
of spirits, and the constitution of the eternal kingdom rests on the
vassalship of love.

September 27, 1852. (Lancy.)--To-day I complete my thirty-first year....

The most beautiful poem there is, is life--life which discerns its own
story in the making, in which inspiration and self-consciousness go
together and help each other, life which knows itself to be the world in
little, a repetition in miniature of the divine universal poem. Yes, be
man; that is to say, be nature, be spirit, be the image of God, be what
is greatest, most beautiful, most lofty in all the spheres of being, be
infinite will and idea, a reproduction of the great whole. And be
everything while being nothing, effacing thyself, letting God enter into
thee as the air enters an empty space, reducing the _ego_ to the mere
vessel which contains the divine essence. Be humble, devout, silent,
that so thou mayest hear within the depths of thyself the subtle and
profound voice; be spiritual and pure, that so thou mayest have
communion with the pure spirit. Withdraw thyself often into the
sanctuary of thy inmost consciousness; become once more point and atom,
that so thou mayest free thyself from space, time, matter, temptation,
dispersion, that thou mayest escape thy very organs themselves and thine
own life. That is to say, die often, and examine thyself in the presence
of this death, as a preparation for the last death. He who can without
shuddering confront blindness, deafness, paralysis, disease, betrayal,
poverty; he who can without terror appear before the sovereign justice,
he alone can call himself prepared for partial or total death. How far
am I from anything of the sort, how far is my heart from any such
stoicism! But at least we can try to detach ourselves from all that can
be taken away from us, to accept everything as a loan and a gift, and to
cling only to the imperishable--this at any rate we can attempt. To
believe in a good and fatherly God, who educates us, who tempers the
wind to the shorn lamb, who punishes only when he must, and takes away
only with regret; this thought, or rather this conviction, gives courage
and security. Oh, what need we have of love, of tenderness, of
affection, of kindness, and how vulnerable we are, we the sons of God,
we, immortal and sovereign beings! Strong as the universe or feeble as
the worm, according as we represent God or only ourselves, as we lean
upon infinite being, or as we stand alone.

The point of view of religion, of a religion at once active and moral,
spiritual and profound, alone gives to life all the dignity and all the
energy of which it is capable. Religion makes invulnerable and
invincible. Earth can only be conquered in the name of heaven. All good
things are given over and above to him who desires but righteousness. To
be disinterested is to be strong, and the world is at the feet of him
whom it cannot tempt. Why? Because spirit is lord of matter, and the
world belongs to God. "Be of good cheer," saith a heavenly voice, "I
have overcome the world."

Lord, lend thy strength to those who are weak in the flesh, but willing
in the spirit!

October 31, 1852. (Lancy.)--Walked for half an hour in the garden. A
fine rain was falling, and the landscape was that of autumn. The sky was
hung with various shades of gray, and mists hovered about the distant
mountains, a melancholy nature. The leaves were falling on all sides
like the last illusions of youth under the tears of irremediable grief.
A brood of chattering birds were chasing each other through the
Shrubberies, and playing games among the branches, like a knot of hiding
schoolboys. The ground strewn with leaves, brown, yellow, and reddish;
the trees half-stripped, some more, some less, and decked in ragged
splendors of dark-red, scarlet, and yellow; the reddening shrubs and
plantations; a few flowers still lingering behind, roses, nasturtiums,
dahlias, shedding their petals round them; the bare fields, the thinned
hedges; and the fir, the only green thing left, vigorous and stoical,
like eternal youth braving decay; all these innumerable and marvelous
symbols which forms colors, plants, and living beings, the earth and the
sky, yield at all times to the eye which has learned to look for them,
charmed and enthralled me. I wielded a poetic wand, and had but to touch
a phenomenon to make it render up to me its moral significance. Every
landscape is, as it were, a state of the soul, and whoever penetrates
into both is astonished to find how much likeness there is in each
detail. True poetry is truer than science, because it is synthetic, and
seizes at once what the combination of all the sciences is able at most
to attain as a final result. The soul of nature is divined by the poet;
the man of science, only serves to accumulate materials for its

November 6, 1852.--I am capable of all the passions, for I bear them all
within me. Like a tamer of wild beasts, I keep them caged and lassoed,
but I sometimes hear them growling. I have stifled more than one nascent
love. Why? Because with that prophetic certainty which belongs to moral
intuition, I felt it lacking in true life, and less durable than myself.
I choked it down in the name of the supreme affection to come. The loves
of sense, of imagination, of sentiment, I have seen through and rejected
them all; I sought the love which springs from the central profundities
of being. And I still believe in it. I will have none of those passions
of straw which dazzle, burn up, and wither; I invoke, I await, and I
hope for the love which is great, pure and earnest, which lives and
works in all the fibres and through all the powers of the soul. And even
if I go lonely to the end, I would rather my hope and my dream died with
me, than that my soul should content itself with any meaner union.

November 8, 1852.--Responsibility is my invisible nightmare. To suffer
through one's own fault is a torment worthy of the lost, for so grief is
envenomed by ridicule, and the worst ridicule of all, that which springs
from shame of one's self. I have only force and energy wherewith to meet
evils coming from outside; but an irreparable evil brought about by
myself, a renunciation for life of my liberty, my peace of mind, the
very thought of it is maddening--I expiate my privilege indeed. My
privilege is to be spectator of my life drama, to be fully conscious of
the tragi-comedy of my own destiny, and, more than that, to be in the
secret of the tragi-comic itself, that is to say, to be unable to take
my illusions seriously, to see myself, so to speak, from the theater on
the stage, or to be like a man looking from beyond the tomb into
existence. I feel myself forced to feign a particular interest in my
individual part, while all the time I am living in the confidence of the
poet who is playing with all these agents which seem so important, and
knows all that they are ignorant of. It is a strange position, and one
which becomes painful as soon as grief obliges me to betake myself once
more to my own little _role_, binding me closely to it, and warning me
that I am going too far in imagining myself, because of my conversations
with the poet, dispensed from taking up again my modest part of valet in
the piece. Shakespeare must have experienced this feeling often, and
Hamlet, I think, must express it somewhere. It is a _Doppelgaengerei_,
quite German in character, and which explains the disgust with reality
and the repugnance to public life, so common among the thinkers of
Germany. There is, as it were, a degradation a gnostic fall, in thus
folding one's wings and going back again into the vulgar shell of one's
own individuality. Without grief, which is the string of this
venturesome kite, man would soar too quickly and too high, and the
chosen souls would be lost for the race, like balloons which, save for
gravitation, would never return from the empyrean.

How, then, is one to recover courage enough for action? By striving to
restore in one's self something of that unconsciousness, spontaneity,
instinct, which reconciles us to earth and makes man useful and
relatively happy.

By believing more practically in the providence which pardons and allows
of reparation.

By accepting our human condition in a more simple and childlike spirit,
fearing trouble less, calculating less, hoping more. For we decrease our
responsibility, if we decrease our clearness of vision, and fear lessens
with the lessening of responsibility.

By extracting a richer experience out of our losses and lessons.

November 9, 1852.--A few pages of the _Chrestomathie Francaise_ and
Vinet's remarkable letter at the head of the volume, have given me one
or two delightful hours. As a thinker, as a Christian, and as a man,
Vinet occupies a typical place. His philosophy, his theology, his
esthetics, in short, his work, will be, or has been already surpassed at
all points. His was a great soul and a fine talent. But neither were
well enough served by circumstances. We see in him a personality worthy
of all veneration, a man of singular goodness and a writer of
distinction, but not quite a great man, nor yet a great writer.
Profundity and purity, these are what he possesses in a high degree, but
not greatness, properly speaking. For that, he is a little too subtle
and analytical, too ingenious and fine-spun; his thought is overladen
with detail, and has not enough flow, eloquence, imagination, warmth,
and largeness. Essentially and constantly meditative, he has not
strength enough left to deal with what is outside him. The casuistries
of conscience and of language, eternal self-suspicion, and
self-examination, his talent lies in these things, and is limited by
them. Vinet wants passion, abundance, _entrainement_, and therefore
popularity. The individualism which is his title to glory is also the
cause of his weakness.

We find in him always the solitary and the ascetic. His thought is, as
it were, perpetually at church; it is perpetually devising trials and
penances for itself. Hence the air of scruple and anxiety which
characterizes it even in its bolder flights. Moral energy, balanced by a
disquieting delicacy of fibre; a fine organization marred, so to speak,
by low health, such is the impression it makes upon us. Is it reproach
or praise to say of Vinet's mind that it seems to one a force
perpetually reacting upon itself? A warmer and more self-forgetful
manner; more muscles, as it were, around the nerves, more circles of
intellectual and historical life around the individual circle, these are
what Vinet, of all writers perhaps the one who makes us _think_ most, is
still lacking in. Less _reflexivity_ and more plasticity, the eye more
on the object, would raise the style of Vinet, so rich in substance, so
nervous, so full of ideas, and variety, into a grand style. Vinet, to
sum up, is conscience personified, as man and as writer. Happy the
literature and the society which is able to count at one time two or
three like him, if not equal to him!

November 10, 1852.--How much have we not to learn from the Greeks, those
immortal ancestors of ours! And how much better they solved their
problem than we have solved ours. Their ideal man is not ours, but they
understood infinitely better than we how to reverence, cultivate and
ennoble the man whom they knew. In a thousand respects we are still
barbarians beside them, as Beranger said to me with a sigh in 1843:
barbarians in education, in eloquence, in public life, in poetry, in
matters of art, etc. We must have millions of men in order to produce a
few elect spirits: a thousand was enough in Greece. If the measure of a
civilization is to be the number of perfected men that it produces, we
are still far from this model people. The slaves are no longer below us,
but they are among us. Barbarism is no longer at our frontiers; it lives
side by side with us. We carry within us much greater things than they,
but we ourselves are smaller. It is a strange result. Objective
civilization produced great men while making no conscious effort toward
such a result; subjective civilization produces a miserable and
imperfect race, contrary to its mission and its earnest desire. The
world grows more majestic but man diminishes. Why is this?

We have too much barbarian blood in our veins, and we lack measure,
harmony and grace. Christianity, in breaking man up into outer and
inner, the world into earth and heaven, hell and paradise, has
decomposed the human unity, in order, it is true, to reconstruct it more
profoundly and more truly. But Christianity has not yet digested this
powerful leaven. She has not yet conquered the true humanity; she is
still living under the antimony of sin and grace, of here below and
there above. She has not penetrated into the whole heart of Jesus. She
is still in the _narthex_ of penitence; she is not reconciled, and even
the churches still wear the livery of service, and have none of the joy
of the daughters of God, baptized of the Holy Spirit.

Then, again, there is our excessive division of labor; our bad and
foolish education which does not develop the whole man; and the problem
of poverty. We have abolished slavery, but without having solved the
question of labor. In law there are no more slaves, in fact, there are
many. And while the majority of men are not free, the free man, in the
true sense of the term can neither be conceived nor realized. Here are
enough causes for our inferiority.

November 12, 1852.--St. Martin's summer is still lingering, and the days
all begin in mist. I ran for a quarter of an hour round the garden to
get some warmth and suppleness. Nothing could be lovelier than the last
rosebuds, or than the delicate gaufred edges of the strawberry leaves
embroidered with hoar-frost, while above them Arachne's delicate webs
hung swaying in the green branches of the pines, little ball-rooms for
the fairies carpeted with powdered pearls and kept in place by a
thousand dewy strands hanging from above like the chains of a lamp and
supporting them from below like the anchors of a vessel. These little
airy edifices had all the fantastic lightness of the elf-world and all
the vaporous freshness of dawn. They recalled to me the poetry of the
north, wafting to me a breath from Caledonia or Iceland or Sweden,
Frithiof and the Edda, Ossian and the Hebrides. All that world of cold
and mist, of genius and of reverie, where warmth comes not from the sun
but from the heart where man is more noticeable than nature--that chaste
and vigorous world in which will plays a greater part than sensation and
thought has more power than instinct--in short the whole romantic cycle
of German and northern poetry, awoke little by little in my memory and
laid claim upon my sympathy. It is a poetry of bracing quality, and acts
upon one like a moral tonic. Strange charm of imagination! A twig of
pine wood and a few spider-webs are enough to make countries, epochs,
and nations live again before her.

December 26, 1852. (Sunday.)--If I reject many portions of our theology
and of our church system, it is that I may the better reach the Christ
himself. My philosophy allows me this. It does not state the dilemma as
one of religion or philosophy, but as one of religion accepted or
experienced, understood or not understood. For me philosophy is a manner
of apprehending things, a mode of perception of reality. It does not
create nature, man or God, but it finds them and seeks to understand
them. Philosophy is consciousness taking account of itself with all that
it contains. Now consciousness may contain a new life--the facts of
regeneration and of salvation, that is to say, Christian experience. The
understanding of the Christian consciousness is an integral part of
philosophy, as the Christian consciousness is a leading form of
religious consciousness, and religious consciousness an essential form
of consciousness.

* * * * *

An error is the more dangerous in proportion to the degree of truth
which it contains.

Look twice, if what you want is a just conception; look once, if what
you want is a sense of beauty.

* * * * *

A man only understands what is akin to something already existing in

* * * * *

Common sense is the measure of the possible; it is composed of
experience and prevision; it is calculation applied to life.

* * * * *

The wealth of each mind is proportioned to the number and to the
precision of its categories and its points of view.

* * * * *

To feel himself freer than his neighbor is the reward of the critic.

Modesty (_pudeur_) is always the sign and safeguard of a mystery. It is
explained by its contrary--profanation. Shyness or modesty is, in truth,
the half-conscious sense of a secret of nature or of the soul too
intimately individual to be given or surrendered. It is _exchanged_. To
surrender what is most profound and mysterious in one's being and
personality at any price less than that of absolute reciprocity is

January 6, 1853.--Self-government with tenderness--here you have the
condition of all authority over children. The child must discover in us
no passion, no weakness of which he can make use; he must feel himself
powerless to deceive or to trouble us; then he will recognize in us his
natural superiors, and he will attach a special value to our kindness,
because he will respect it. The child who can rouse in us anger, or
impatience, or excitement, feels himself stronger than we, and a child
only respects strength. The mother should consider herself as her
child's sun, a changeless and ever radiant world, whither the small
restless creature, quick at tears and laughter, light, fickle,
passionate, full of storms, may come for fresh stores of light, warmth,
and electricity, of calm and of courage. The mother represents goodness,
providence, law; that is to say, the divinity, under that form of it
which is accessible to childhood. If she is herself passionate, she will
inculcate on her child a capricious and despotic God, or even several
discordant gods. The religion of a child depends on what its mother and
its father are, and not on what they say. The inner and unconscious
ideal which guides their life is precisely what touches the child; their
words, their remonstrances, their punishments, their bursts of feeling
even, are for him merely thunder and comedy; what they worship, this it
is which his instinct divines and reflects.

The child sees what we are, behind what we wish to be. Hence his
reputation as a physiognomist. He extends his power as far as he can
with each of us; he is the most subtle of diplomatists. Unconsciously he
passes under the influence of each person about him, and reflects it
while transforming it after his own nature. He is a magnifying mirror.
This is why the first principle of education is: train yourself; and the
first rule to follow if you wish to possess yourself of a child's will
is: master your own.

February 5, 1853 (seven o'clock in the morning).--I am always astonished
at the difference between one's inward mood of the evening and that of
the morning. The passions which are dominant in the evening, in the
morning leave the field free for the contemplative part of the soul. Our
whole being, irritated and overstrung by the nervous excitement of the
day, arrives in the evening at the culminating point of its human
vitality; the same being, tranquilized by the calm of sleep, is in the
morning nearer heaven. We should weigh a resolution in the two balances,
and examine an idea under the two lights, if we wish to minimize the
chances of error by taking the average of our daily oscillations. Our
inner life describes regular curves, barometical curves, as it were,
independent of the accidental disturbances which the storms of sentiment
and passion may raise in us. Every soul has its climate, or rather, is a
climate; it has, so to speak, its own meteorology in the general
meteorology of the soul. Psychology, therefore, cannot be complete so
long as the physiology of our planet is itself incomplete--that science
to which we give nowadays the insufficient name of physics of the globe.

I became conscious this morning that what appears to us impossible is
often an impossibility altogether subjective. Our mind, under the action
of the passions, produces by a strange mirage gigantic obstacles,
mountains or abysses, which stop us short. Breathe upon the passion and
the phantasmagoria will vanish. This power of mirage, by which we are
able to delude and fascinate ourselves, is a moral phenomenon worthy of
attentive study. We make for ourselves, in truth, our own spiritual
world monsters, chimeras, angels, we make objective what ferments in us.
All is marvelous for the poet; all is divine for the saint; all is great
for the hero; all is wretched, miserable, ugly, and bad for the base
and sordid soul. The bad man creates around him a pandemonium, the
artist, an Olympus, the elect soul, a paradise, which each of them sees
for himself alone. We are all visionaries, and what we see is our soul
in things. We reward ourselves and punish ourselves without knowing it,
so that all appears to change when we change.

The soul is essentially active, and the activity of which we are
conscious is but a part of our activity, and voluntary activity is but a
part of our conscious activity. Here we have the basis of a whole
psychology and system of morals. Man reproducing the world, surrounding
himself with a nature which is the objective rendering of his spiritual
nature, rewarding and punishing himself; the universe identical with
the divine nature, and the nature of the perfect spirit only becoming
understood according to the measure of our perfection; intuition the
recompense of inward purity; science as the result of goodness; in
short, a new phenomenology more complete and more moral, in which the
total soul of things becomes spirit. This shall perhaps be my subject
for my summer lectures. How much is contained in it! the whole domain of
inner education, all that is mysterious in our life, the relation of
nature to spirit, of God and all other beings to man, the repetition in
miniature of the cosmogony, mythology, theology, and history of the
universe, the evolution of mind, in a word the problem of problems into
which I have often plunged but from which finite things, details,
minutiae, have turned me back a thousand times. I return to the brink of
the great abyss with the clear perception that here lies the problem of
science, that to sound it is a duty, that God hides Himself only in
light and love, that He calls upon us to become spirits, to possess
ourselves and to possess Him in the measure of our strength and that it
is our incredulity, our spiritual cowardice, which is our infirmity and

Dante, gazing into the three worlds with their divers heavens, saw under
the form of an image what I would fain seize under a purer form. But he
was a poet, and I shall only be a philosopher. The poet makes himself
understood by human generations and by the crowd; the philosopher
addresses himself only to a few rare minds. The day has broken. It
brings with it dispersion of thought in action. I feel myself
de-magnetized, pure clairvoyance gives place to study, and the ethereal
depth of the heaven of contemplation vanishes before the glitter of
finite things. Is it to be regretted? No. But it proves that the hours
most apt for philosophical thought are those which precede the dawn.

February 10, 1853.--This afternoon I made an excursion to the Saleve
with my particular friends, Charles Heim, Edmond Scherer, Elie
Lecoultre, and Ernest Naville. The conversation was of the most
interesting kind, and prevented us from noticing the deep mud which
hindered our walking. It was especially Scherer, Naville, and I who kept
it alive. Liberty in God, the essence of Christianity, new publications
in philosophy, these were our three subjects of conversation. The
principle result for me was an excellent exercise in dialectic and in
argumentation with solid champions. If I learned nothing, many of my
ideas gained new confirmation, and I was able to penetrate more deeply
into the minds of my friends. I am much nearer to Scherer than to
Naville, but from him also I am in some degree separated.

It is a striking fact, not unlike the changing of swords in "Hamlet,"
that the abstract minds, those which move from ideas to facts, are
always fighting on behalf of concrete reality; while the concrete minds,
which move from facts to ideas, are generally the champions of abstract
notions. Each pretends to that over which he has least power; each aims
instinctively at what he himself lacks. It is an unconscious protest
against the incompleteness of each separate nature. We all tend toward
that which we possess least of, and our point of arrival is essentially
different from our point of departure. The promised land is the land
where one is not. The most intellectual of natures adopts an ethical
theory of mind; the most moral of natures has an intellectual theory of
morals. This reflection was brought home to me in the course of our
three or four hours' discussion. Nothing is more hidden from us than the
illusion which lives with us day by day, and our greatest illusion is to
believe that we are what we think ourselves to be.

The mathematical intelligence and the historical intelligence (the two
classes of intelligences) can never understand each other. When they
succeed in doing so as to words, they differ as to the things which the
words mean. At the bottom of every discussion of detail between them
reappears the problem of the origin of ideas. If the problem is not
present to them, there is confusion; if it is present to them, there is
separation. They only agree as to the goal--truth; but never as to the
road, the method, and the criterion.

Heim represented the impartiality of consciousness, Naville the morality
of consciousness, Lecoultre the religion of consciousness, Scherer the
intelligence of consciousness, and I the consciousness of consciousness.
A common ground, but differing individualities. _Discrimen ingeniorum_.

What charmed me most in this long discussion was the sense of mental
freedom which it awakened in me. To be able to set in motion the
greatest subjects of thought without any sense of fatigue, to be greater
than the world, to play with one's strength, this is what makes the
well-being of intelligence, the Olympic festival of thought. _Habere,
non haberi_. There is an equal happiness in the sense of reciprocal
confidence, of friendship, and esteem in the midst of conflict; like
athletes, we embrace each other before and after the combat, and the
combat is but a deploying of the forces of free and equal men.

March 20, 1853.--I sat up alone; two or three times I paid a visit to
the children's room. It seemed to me, young mothers, that I understood
you! sleep is the mystery of life; there is a profound charm in this
darkness broken by the tranquil light of the night-lamp, and in this
silence measured by the rhythmic breathings of two young sleeping
creatures. It was brought home to me that I was looking on at a
marvelous operation of nature, and I watched it in no profane spirit. I
sat silently listening, a moved and hushed spectator of this poetry of
the cradle, this ancient and ever new benediction of the family, this
symbol of creation, sleeping under the wing of God, of our consciousness
withdrawing into the shade that it may rest from the burden of thought,
and of the tomb, that divine bed, where the soul in its turn rests from
life. To sleep is to strain and purify our emotions, to deposit the mud
of life, to calm the fever of the soul, to return into the bosom of
maternal nature, thence to re-issue, healed and strong. Sleep is a sort
of innocence and purification. Blessed be He who gave it to the poor
sons of men as the sure and faithful companion of life, our daily healer
and consoler.

April 27, 1853.--This evening I read the treatise by Nicole so much
admired by Mme. de Sevigne: "_Des moyens de conserver la paix avec les
hommes._" Wisdom so gentle and so insinuating, so shrewd, piercing, and
yet humble, which divines so well the hidden thoughts and secrets of the
heart, and brings them all into the sacred bondage of love to God and
man, how good and delightful a thing it is! Everything in it is smooth,
even well put together, well thought out, but no display, no tinsel, no
worldly ornaments of style. The moralist forgets himself and in us
appeals only to the conscience. He becomes a confessor, a friend, a

May 11, 1853.--Psychology, poetry, philosophy, history, and science, I
have swept rapidly to-day on the wings of the invisible hippogriff
through all these spheres of thought. But the general impression has
been one of tumult and anguish, temptation and disquiet.

I love to plunge deep into the ocean of life; but it is not without
losing sometimes all sense of the axis and the pole, without losing
myself and feeling the consciousness of my own nature and vocation
growing faint and wavering. The whirlwind of the wandering Jew carries
me away, tears me from my little familiar enclosure, and makes me behold
all the empires of men. In my voluntary abandonment to the generality,
the universal, the infinite, my particular _ego_ evaporates like a drop
of water in a furnace; it only condenses itself anew at the return of
cold, after enthusiasm has died out and the sense of reality has
returned. Alternate expansion and condensation, abandonment and recovery
of self, the conquest of the world to be pursued on the one side, the
deepening of consciousness on the other--such is the play of the inner
life, the march of the microcosmic mind, the marriage of the individual
soul with the universal soul, the finite with the infinite, whence
springs the intellectual progress of man. Other betrothals unite the
soul to God, the religious consciousness with the divine; these belong
to the history of the will. And what precedes will is feeling, preceded
itself by instinct. Man is only what he becomes--profound truth; but he
becomes only what he is, truth still more profound. What am I? Terrible
question! Problem of predestination, of birth, of liberty, there lies
the abyss. And yet one must plunge into it, and I have done so. The
prelude of Bach I heard this evening predisposed me to it; it paints the
soul tormented and appealing and finally seizing upon God, and
possessing itself of peace and the infinite with an all-prevailing
fervor and passion.

May 14, 1853.--Third quartet concert. It was short. Variations for piano
and violin by Beethoven, and two quartets, not more. The quartets were
perfectly clear and easy to understand. One was by Mozart and the other
by Beethoven, so that I could compare the two masters. Their
individuality seemed to become plain to me: Mozart--grace, liberty,
certainty, freedom, and precision of style, and exquisite and
aristocratic beauty, serenity of soul, the health and talent of the
master, both on a level with his genius; Beethoven--more pathetic, more
passionate, more torn with feeling, more intricate, more profound, less
perfect, more the slave of his genius, more carried away by his fancy
or his passion, more moving, and more sublime than Mozart. Mozart
refreshes you, like the "Dialogues" of Plato; he respects you, reveals
to you your strength, gives you freedom and balance. Beethoven seizes
upon you; he is more tragic and oratorical, while Mozart is more
disinterested and poetical. Mozart is more Greek, and Beethoven more
Christian. One is serene, the other serious. The first is stronger than
destiny, because he takes life less profoundly; the second is less
strong, because he has dared to measure himself against deeper sorrows.
His talent is not always equal to his genius, and pathos is his
dominant feature, as perfection is that of Mozart. In Mozart the balance
of the whole is perfect, and art triumphs; in Beethoven feeling governs
everything and emotion troubles his art in proportion as it deepens it.

July 26, 1853.--Why do I find it easier and more satisfactory, as a
writer of verse, to compose in the short metres than in the long and
serious ones? Why, in general, am I better fitted for what is difficult
than for what is easy? Always for the same reason. I cannot bring
myself to move freely, to show myself without a veil, to act on my own
account and act seriously, to believe in and assert myself, whereas a
piece of badinage which diverts attention from myself to the thing in
hand, from the feeling to the skill of the writer, puts me at my ease.
It is timidity which is at the bottom of it. There is another reason,
too--I am afraid of greatness, I am not afraid of ingenuity, and
distrustful as I am both of my gift and my instrument, I like to
reassure myself by an elaborate practice of execution. All my published
literary essays, therefore, are little else than studies, games,
exercises for the purpose of testing myself. I play scales, as it were;
I run up and down my instrument, I train my hand and make sure of its
capacity and skill. But the work itself remains unachieved. My effort
expires, and satisfied with the _power_ to act I never arrive at the
will to act. I am always preparing and never accomplishing, and my
energy is swallowed up in a kind of barren curiosity. Timidity, then,
and curiosity--these are the two obstacles which bar against me a
literary career. Nor must procrastination be forgotten. I am always
reserving for the future what is great, serious, and important, and
meanwhile, I am eager to exhaust what is pretty and trifling. Sure of my
devotion to things that are vast and profound, I am always lingering in
their contraries lest I should neglect them. Serious at bottom, I am
frivolous in appearance. A lover of thought, I seem to care above all,
for expression; I keep the substance for myself, and reserve the form
for others. So that the net result of my timidity is that I never treat
the public seriously, and that I only show myself to it in what is
amusing, enigmatical, or capricious; the result of my curiosity is that
everything tempts me, the shell as well as the mountain, and that I lose
myself in endless research; while the habit of procrastination keeps me
forever at preliminaries and antecedents, and production itself is never
even begun.

But if that is the fact, the fact might be different. I understand
myself, but I do not approve myself.

August 1, 1853.--I have just finished Pelletan's book, "Profession de
foi du dix-neuvieme Siecle." It is a fine book Only one thing is wanting
to it--the idea of evil. It is a kind of supplement to the theory of
Condorcet--indefinite perfectibility, man essentially good, _life_,
which is a physiological notion, dominating virtue, duty, and holiness,
in short, a non-ethical conception of history, liberty identified with
nature, the natural man taken for the whole man. The aspirations which
such a book represents are generous and poetical, but in the first place
dangerous, since they lead to an absolute confidence in instinct; and in
the second, credulous and unpractical, for they set before us a mere
dream man, and throw a veil over both present and past reality. The
book is at once the plea justificatory of progress, conceived as fatal
and irresistible, and an enthusiastic hymn to the triumph of humanity.
It is earnest, but morally superficial; poetical, but fanciful and
untrue. It confounds the progress of the race with the progress of the
individual, the progress of civilization with the advance of the inner
life. Why? Because its criterion is quantitative, that is to say,
purely exterior (having regard to the wealth of life), and not
qualitative (the goodness of life). Always the same tendency to take
the appearance for the thing, the form for the substance, the law for
the essence, always the same absence of moral personality, the same
obtuseness of conscience, which has never recognized sin present in the
will, which places evil outside of man, moralizes from outside, and
transforms to its own liking the whole lesson of history! What is at
fault is the philosophic superficiality of France, which she owes to her
fatal notion of religion, itself due to a life fashioned by Catholicism
and by absolute monarchy.

Catholic thought cannot conceive of personality as supreme and conscious
of itself. Its boldness and its weakness come from one and the same
cause--from an absence of the sense of responsibility, from that vassal
state of conscience which knows only slavery or anarchy, which
proclaims but does not obey the law, because the law is outside it, not
within it. Another illusion is that of Quinet and Michelet, who imagine
it possible to come out of Catholicism without entering into any other
positive form of religion, and whose idea is to fight Catholicism by
philosophy, a philosophy which is, after all, Catholic at bottom, since
it springs from anti-Catholic reaction. The mind and the conscience,
which have been formed by Catholicism, are powerless to rise to any
other form of religion. From Catholicism, as from Epicureanism there is
no return.

October 11, 1853.--My third day at Turin, is now over. I have been able
to penetrate farther than ever before into the special genius of this
town and people. I have felt it live, have realized it little by little,
as my intuition became more distinct. That is what I care for most: to
seize the soul of things, the soul of a nation; to live the objective
life, the life outside self; to find my way into a new moral country. I
long to assume the citizenship of this unknown world, to enrich myself
with this fresh form of existence, to feel it from within, to link
myself to it, and to reproduce it sympathetically; this is the end and
the reward of my efforts. To-day the problem grew clear to me as I stood
on the terrace of the military hospital, in full view of the Alps, the
weather fresh and clear in spite of a stormy sky. Such an intuition
after all is nothing out a synthesis wrought by instinct, a synthesis to
which everything--streets, houses, landscape, accent, dialect,
physiognomies, history, and habits contribute their share. I might call
it the ideal integration of a people or its reduction to the generating
point, or an entering into its consciousness. This generating point
explains everything else, art, religion, history, politics, manners; and
without it nothing can be explained. The ancients realized their
consciousness in the national God. Modern nationalities, more
complicated and less artistic, are more difficult to decipher. What one
seeks for in them is the daemon, the fatum, the inner genius, the
mission, the primitive disposition, both what there is desire for and
what there is power for, the force in them and its limitations.

A pure and life-giving freshness of thought and of the spiritual life
seemed to play about me, borne on the breeze descending from the Alps. I
breathed an atmosphere of spiritual freedom, and I hailed with emotion
and rapture the mountains whence was wafted to me this feeling of
strength and purity. A thousand sensations, thoughts, and analogies
crowded upon me. History, too, the history of the sub-Alpine countries,
from the Ligurians to Hannibal, from Hannibal to Charlemagne, from
Charlemagne to Napoleon, passed through my mind. All the possible points
of view, were, so to speak, piled upon each other, and one caught
glimpses of some eccentrically across others. I was enjoying and I was
learning. Sight passed into vision without a trace of hallucination, and
the landscape was my guide, my Virgil.

All this made me very sensible of the difference between me and the
majority of travelers, all of whom have a special object, and content
themselves with one thing or with several, while I desire all or
nothing, and am forever straining toward the total, whether of all
possible objects, or of all the elements present in the reality. In
other words, what I desire is the sum of all desires, and what I seek to
know is the sum of all different kinds of knowledge. Always the
complete, the absolute; the _teres atque rotundum_, sphericity,

October 27, 1853.--I thank Thee, my God, for the hour that I have just
passed in Thy presence. Thy will was clear to me; I measured my faults,
counted my griefs, and felt Thy goodness toward me. I realized my own
nothingness, Thou gavest me Thy peace. In bitterness there is sweetness;
in affliction, joy; in submission, strength; in the God who punishes,
the God who loves. To lose one's life that one may gain it, to offer it
that one may receive it, to possess nothing that one may conquer all, to
renounce self that God may give Himself to us, how impossible a problem,
and how sublime a reality! No one truly knows happiness who has not
suffered, and the redeemed are happier than the elect.

(Same day.)--The divine miracle _par excellence_ consists surely in the
apotheosis of grief, the transfiguration of evil by good. The work of
creation finds its consummation, and the eternal will of the infinite
mercy finds its fulfillment only in the restoration of the free creature
to God and of an evil world to goodness, through love. Every soul in
which conversion has taken place is a symbol of the history of the
world. To be happy, to possess eternal life, to be in God, to be saved,
all these are the same. All alike mean the solution of the problem, the
aim of existence. And happiness is cumulative, as misery may be. An
eternal growth is an unchangeable peace, an ever profounder depth of
apprehension, a possession constantly more intense and more spiritual of
the joy of heaven--this is happiness. Happiness has no limits, because
God has neither bottom nor bounds, and because happiness is nothing but
the conquest of God through love.

The center of life is neither in thought nor in feeling, nor in will,
nor even in consciousness, so far as it thinks, feels, or wishes. For
moral truth may have been penetrated and possessed in all these ways,
and escape us still. Deeper even than consciousness there is our being
itself, our very substance, our nature. Only those truths which have
entered into this last region, which have become ourselves, become
spontaneous and involuntary, instinctive and unconscious, are really our
life--that is to say something more than our property. So long as we are
able to distinguish any space whatever between the truth and us we
remain outside it. The thought, the feeling, the desire, the
consciousness of life, are not yet quite life. But peace and repose can
nowhere be found except in life, and in eternal life and the eternal
life is the divine life, is God. To become divine is then the aim of
life: then only can truth be said to be ours beyond the possibility of
loss, because it is no longer outside us, nor even in us, but we are it,
and it is we; we ourselves are a truth, a will, a work of God. Liberty
has become nature; the creature is one with its creator--one through
love. It is what it ought to be; its education is finished, and its
final happiness begins. The sun of time declines and the light of
eternal blessedness arises.

Our fleshly hearts may call this mysticism. It is the mysticism of
Jesus: "I am one with my Father; ye shall be one with me. We will be one
with you."

Do not despise your situation; in it you must act, suffer, and conquer.
From every point on earth we are equally near to heaven and to the

There are two states or conditions of pride. The first is one of
self-approval, the second one of self-contempt. Pride is seen probably
at its purest in the last.

* * * * *

It is by teaching that we teach ourselves, by relating that we observe,
by affirming that we examine, by showing that we look, by writing that
we think, by pumping that we draw water into the well.

* * * * *

February 1, 1854.--A walk. The atmosphere incredibly pure, a warm
caressing gentleness in the sunshine--joy in one's whole being. Seated
motionless upon a bench on the Tranchees, beside the slopes clothed with
moss and tapestried with green, I passed some intense delicious moments,
allowing great elastic waves of music, wafted to me from a military band
on the terrace of St. Antoine, to surge and bound through me. Every way
I was happy, as idler, as painter, as poet. Forgotten impressions of
childhood and youth came back to me--all those indescribable effects
wrought by color, shadow, sunlight, green hedges, and songs of birds,
upon the soul just opening to poetry. I became again young, wondering,
and simple, as candor and ignorance are simple. I abandoned myself to
life and to nature, and they cradled me with an infinite gentleness. To
open one's heart in purity to this ever pure nature, to allow this
immortal life of things to penetrate into one's soul, is at the same
time to listen to the voice of God. Sensation may be a prayer, and
self-abandonment an act of devotion.

February 18, 1854.--Everything tends to become fixed, solidified, and
crystallized in this French tongue of ours, which seeks form and not
substance, the result and not its formation, what is seen rather than
what is thought, the outside rather than the inside.

We like the accomplished end and not the pursuit of the end, the goal
and not the road, in short, ideas ready-made and bread ready-baked, the
reverse of Lessing's principle. What we look for above all are
conclusions. This clearness of the "ready-made" is a superficial
clearness--physical, outward, solar clearness, so to speak, but in the
absence of a sense for origin and genesis it is the clearness of the
incomprehensible, the clearness of opacity, the clearness of the
obscure. We are always trifling on the surface. Our temper is
formal--that is to say, frivolous and material, or rather artistic and
not philosophical. For what it seeks is the figure, the fashion and
manner of things, not their deepest life, their soul, their secret.

March 16, 1854. (From Veevay to Geneva.)--What message had this lake for
me, with its sad serenity, its soft and even tranquility, in which was
mirrored the cold monotonous pallor of mountains and clouds? That
disenchanted disillusioned life may still be traversed by duty, lit by a
memory of heaven. I was visited by a clear and profound intuition of the
flight of things, of the fatality of all life, of the melancholy which
is below the surface of all existence, but also of that deepest depth
which subsists forever beneath the fleeting wave.

December 17, 1854.--When we are doing nothing in particular, it is then
that we are living through all our being; and when we cease to add to
our growth it is only that we may ripen and possess ourselves. Will is
suspended, but nature and time are always active and if our life is no
longer our work, the work goes on none the less. With us, without us, or
in spite of us, our existence travels through its appointed phases, our
invisible Psyche weaves the silk of its chrysalis, our destiny fulfills
itself, and all the hours of life work together toward that flowering
time which we call death. This activity, then, is inevitable and fatal;
sleep and idleness do not interrupt it, but it may become free and
moral, a joy instead of a terror.

Nothing is more characteristic of a man than the manner in which he
behaves toward fools.

It costs us a great deal of trouble not to be of the same opinion as our
self-love, and not to be ready to believe in the good taste of those who
believe in our merits.

Does not true humility consist in accepting one's infirmity as a trial,
and one's evil disposition as a cross, in sacrificing all one's
pretensions and ambitions, even those of conscience? True humility is

* * * * *

A man only understands that of which he has already the beginnings in

Let us be true: this is the highest maxim of art and of life, the secret
of eloquence and of virtue, and of all moral authority.

* * * * *

March 28, 1855.--Not a blade of grass but has a story to tell, not a
heart but has its romance, not a life which does not hide a secret which
is either its thorn or its spur. Everywhere grief, hope, comedy,
tragedy; even under the petrifaction of old age, as in the twisted forms
of fossils, we may discover the agitations and tortures of youth. This
thought is the magic wand of poets and of preachers: it strips the
scales from our fleshly eyes, and gives us a clear view into human life;
it opens to the ear a world of unknown melodies, and makes us understand
the thousand languages of nature. Thwarted love makes a man a polyglot,
and grief transforms him into a diviner and a sorcerer.

April 16, 1855.--I realized this morning the prodigious effect of
climate on one's state of mind. I was Italian or Spanish. In this blue
and limpid air, and under this southern sun, the very walls smile at
you. All the chestnut trees were en fete; with their glistening buds
shining like little flames at the curved ends of the branches, they were
the candelabra of the spring decking the festival of eternal nature. How
young everything was, how kindly, how gracious! the moist freshness of
the grass, the transparent shadows in the courtyards, the strength of
the old cathedral towers, the white edges of the roads. I felt myself a
child; the sap of life mounted again into my veins as it does in plants.
How sweet a thing is a little simple enjoyment! And now, a brass band
which has stopped in the street makes my heart leap as it did at
eighteen. Thanks be to God; there have been so many weeks and months
when I thought myself an old man. Come poetry, nature, youth, and love,
knead my life again with your fairy hands; weave round me once more your
immortal spells; sing your siren melodies, make me drink of the cup of
immortality, lead me back to the Olympus of the soul. Or rather, no
paganism! God of joy and of grief, do with me what Thou wilt; grief is
good, and joy is good also. Thou art leading me now through joy. I take
it from Thy hands, and I give Thee thanks for it.

April 17, 1855.--The weather is still incredibly brilliant, warm, and
clear. The day is full of the singing of birds, the night is full of
stars, nature has become all kindness, and it is a kindness clothed upon
with splendor.

For nearly two hours have I been lost in the contemplation of this
magnificent spectacle. I felt myself in the temple of the infinite, in
the presence of the worlds, God's guest in this vast nature. The stars
wandering in the pale ether drew me far away from earth. What peace
beyond the power of words, what dews of life eternal, they shed on the
adoring soul! I felt the earth floating like a boat in this blue ocean.
Such deep and tranquil delight nourishes the whole man, it purifies and
ennobles. I surrendered myself, I was all gratitude and docility.

April 21, 1855.--I have been reading a great deal: ethnography,
comparative anatomy, cosmical systems. I have traversed the universe
from the deepest depths of the empyrean to the peristaltic movements of
the atoms in the elementary cell. I have felt myself expanding in the
infinite, and enfranchised in spirit from the bounds of time and space,
able to trace back the whole boundless creation to a point without
dimensions, and seeing the vast multitude of suns, of milky ways, of
stars, and nebulae, all existent in the point.

And on all sides stretched mysteries, marvels and prodigies, without
limit, without number, and without end. I felt the unfathomable thought
of which the universe is the symbol live and burn within me; I touched,
proved, tasted, embraced my nothingness and my immensity; I kissed the
hem of the garments of God, and gave Him thanks for being Spirit and for
being life. Such moments are glimpses of the divine. They make one
conscious of one's immortality; they bring home to one that an eternity
is not too much for the study of the thoughts and works of the eternal;
they awaken in us an adoring ecstasy and the ardent humility of love.

May 23, 1855.--Every hurtful passion draws us to it, as an abyss does,
by a kind of vertigo. Feebleness of will brings about weakness of head,
and the abyss in spite of its horror, comes to fascinate us, as though
it were a place of refuge. Terrible danger! For this abyss is within us;
this gulf, open like the vast jaws of an infernal serpent bent on
devouring us, is in the depth of our own being, and our liberty floats
over this void, which is always seeking to swallow it up. Our only
talisman lies in that concentration of moral force which we call
conscience, that small inextinguishable flame of which the light is duty
and the warmth love. This little flame should be the star of our life;
it alone can guide our trembling ark across the tumult of the great
waters; it alone can enable us to escape the temptations of the sea, the
storms and the monsters which are the offspring of night and the deluge.
Faith in God, in a holy, merciful, fatherly God, is the divine ray which
kindles this flame.

How deeply I feel the profound and terrible poetry of all these
primitive terrors from which have issued the various theogonies of the
world, and how it all grows clear to me, and becomes a symbol of the one
great unchanging thought, the thought of God about the universe! How
present and sensible to my inner sense is the unity of everything! It
seems to me that I am able to pierce to the sublime motive which, in all
the infinite spheres of existence, and through all the modes of space
and time, every created form reproduces and sings within the bond of an
eternal harmony. From the infernal shades I feel myself mounting toward
the regions of light; my flight across chaos finds its rest in paradise.
Heaven, hell, the world, are within us. Man is the great abyss.

July 27, 1855.--So life passes away, tossed like a boat by the waves up
and down, hither and thither, drenched by the spray, stained by the
foam, now thrown upon the bank, now drawn back again according to the
endless caprice of the water. Such, at least, is the life of the heart
and the passions, the life which Spinoza and the stoics reprove, and
which is the exact opposite of that serene and contemplative life,
always equable like the starlight, in which man lives at peace, and sees
everything tinder its eternal aspect; the opposite also of the life of
conscience, in which God alone speaks, and all self-will surrenders
itself to His will made manifest.

I pass from one to another of these three existences, which are equally
known to me; but this very mobility deprives me of the advantages of
each. For my heart is worn with scruples, the soul in me cannot crush
the needs of the heart, and the conscience is troubled and no longer
knows how to distinguish, in the chaos of contradictory inclinations,
the voice of duty or the will of God. The want of simple faith, the
indecision which springs from distrust of self, tend to make all my
personal life a matter of doubt and uncertainty. I am afraid of the
subjective life, and recoil from every enterprise, demand, or promise
which may oblige me to realize myself; I feel a terror of action, and am
only at ease in the impersonal, disinterested, and objective life of
thought. The reason seems to be timidity, and the timidity springs from
the excessive development of the reflective power which has almost
destroyed in me all spontaneity, impulse, and instinct, and therefore
all boldness and confidence. Whenever I am forced to act, I see cause
for error and repentance everywhere, everywhere hidden threats and
masked vexations. From a child I have been liable to the disease of
irony, and that it may not be altogether crushed by destiny, my nature
seems to have armed itself with a caution strong enough to prevail
against any of life's blandishments. It is just this strength which is
my weakness. I have a horror of being duped, above all, duped by myself,
and I would rather cut myself off from all life's joys than deceive or
be deceived. Humiliation, then, is the sorrow which I fear the most, and
therefore it would seem as if pride were the deepest rooted of my

This may be logical, but it is not the truth: it seems to me that it is
really distrust, incurable doubt of the future, a sense of the justice
but not of the goodness of God--in short, unbelief, which is my
misfortune and my sin. Every act is a hostage delivered over to avenging
destiny--there is the instinctive belief which chills and freezes; every
act is a pledge confided to a fatherly providence, there is the belief
which calms.

Pain seems to me a punishment and not a mercy: this is why I have a
secret horror of it. And as I feel myself vulnerable at all points, and
everywhere accessible to pain, I prefer to remain motionless, like a
timid child, who, left alone in his father's laboratory, dares not touch
anything for fear of springs; explosions, and catastrophes, which may
burst from every corner at the least movement of his inexperienced
hands. I have trust in God directly and as revealed in nature, but I
have a deep distrust of all free and evil agents. I feel or foresee
evil, moral and physical, as the consequence of every error, fault, or
sin, and I am ashamed of pain.

At bottom, is it not a mere boundless self-love, the purism of
perfection, an incapacity to accept our human condition, a tacit protest
against the order of the world, which lies at the root of my inertia? It
means _all or nothing_, a vast ambition made inactive by disgust, a
yearning that cannot be uttered for the ideal, joined with an offended
dignity and a wounded pride which will have nothing to say to what they
consider beneath them. It springs from the ironical temper which refuses
to take either self or reality seriously, because it is forever
comparing both with the dimly-seen infinite of its dreams. It is a state
of mental reservation in which one lends one's self to circumstances for
form's sake, but refuses to recognize them in one's heart because one
cannot see the necessity or the divine order in them. I am disinterested
because I am indifferent; I have nothing to say against what is, and yet
I am never satisfied. I am too weak to conquer, and yet I will not be
Conquered--it is the isolation of the disenchanted soul, which has put
even hope away from it.

But even this is a trial laid upon one. Its providential purpose is no
doubt to lead one to that true renunciation of which charity is the sign
and symbol. It is when one expects nothing more for one's self that one
is able to love. To do good to men because we love them, to use every
talent we have so as to please the Father from whom we hold it for His
service, there is no other way of reaching and curing this deep
discontent with life which hides itself under an appearance of

September 4, 1855.--In the government of the soul the parliamentary form
succeeds the monarchical. Good sense, conscience, desire, reason, the
present and the past, the old man and the new, prudence and generosity,
take up their parable in turn; the reign of argument begins; chaos
replaces order, and darkness light. Simple will represents the
autocratic _regime_, interminable discussion the deliberate regime of
the soul. The one is preferable from the theoretical point of view, the
other from the practical. Knowledge and action are their two respective

But the best of all would be to be able to realize three powers in the
soul. Besides the man of counsel we want the man of action and the man
of judgment. In me, reflection comes to no useful end, because it is
forever returning upon itself, disputing and debating. I am wanting in
both the general who commands and the judge who decides.

Analysis is dangerous if it overrules the synthetic faculty; reflection
is to be feared if it destroys our power of intuition, and inquiry is
fatal if it supplants faith. Decomposition becomes deadly when it
surpasses in strength the combining and constructive energies of life,
and the _separate_ action of the powers of the soul tends to mere
disintegration and destruction as soon as it becomes impossible to bring
them to bear as _one_ undivided force. When the sovereign abdicates
anarchy begins.

It is just here that my danger lies. Unity of life, of force, of action,
of expression, is becoming impossible to me; I am legion, division,
analysis, and reflection; the passion for dialectic, for fine
distinctions, absorbs and weakens me. The point which I have reached
seems to be explained by a too restless search for perfection, by the
abuse of the critical faculty, and by an unreasonable distrust of first
impulses, first thoughts, first words. Unity and simplicity of being,
confidence, and spontaneity of life, are drifting out of my reach, and
this is why I can no longer act.

Give up, then, this trying to know all, to embrace all. Learn to limit
yourself, to content yourself with some definite thing, and some
definite work; dare to be what you are, and learn to resign with a good
grace all that you are not, and to believe in your own individuality.
Self-distrust is destroying you; trust, surrender, abandon yourself;
"believe and thou shalt be healed." Unbelief is death, and depression
and self-satire are alike unbelief.

* * * * *

From the point of view of happiness, the problem of life is insoluble,
for it is our highest aspirations which prevent us from being happy.
From the point of view of duty, there is the same difficulty, for the
fulfillment of duty brings peace, not happiness. It is divine love, the
love of the holiest, the possession of God by faith, which solves the
difficulty; for if sacrifice has itself become a joy, a lasting, growing
and imperishable joy--the soul is then secure of an all-sufficient and
unfailing nourishment.

* * * * *

January 21, 1856.--Yesterday seems to me as far off as though it were
last year. My memory holds nothing more of the past than its general
plan, just as my eye perceives nothing more in the starry heaven. It is
no more possible for me to recover one of my days from the depths of
memory than if it were a glass of water poured into a lake; it is not so
much a lost thing as a thing melted and fused; the individual has
returned into the whole. The divisions of time are categories which have
no power to mold my life, and leave no more lasting impression than
lines traced by a stick in water. My life, my individuality, are fluid,
there is nothing for it but to resign one's self.

April 9, 1856.--How true it is that our destinies are decided by
nothings and that a small imprudence helped by some insignificant
accident, as an acorn is fertilized by a drop of rain, may raise the
trees on which perhaps we and others shall be crucified. What happens is
quite different from that we planned; we planned a blessing and there
springs from it a curse. How many times the serpent of fatality, or
rather the law of life, the force of things, intertwining itself with
some very simple facts, cannot be cut away by any effort, and the logic
of situations and characters leads inevitably to a dreaded _denouement_.
It is the fatal spell of destiny, which obliges us to feed our grief
from our own hand, to prolong the existence of our vulture, to throw
into the furnace of our punishment and expiation, our powers, our
qualities, our very virtues, one by one, and so forces us to recognize
our nothingness, our dependence and the implacable majesty of law. Faith
in a providence softens punishment but does not do away with it. The
wheels of the divine chariot crush us first of all that justice may be
satisfied and an example given to men, and then a hand is stretched out
to us to raise us up, or at least to reconcile us with the love hidden
under the justice. Pardon cannot precede repentance and repentance only
begins with humility. And so long as any fault whatever appears trifling
to us, so long as we see, not so much the culpability of as the excuses
for imprudence or negligence, so long, in short, as Job murmurs and as
providence is thought to be too severe, so long as there is any inner
protestation against fate, or doubt as to the perfect justice of God,
there is not yet entire humility or true repentance. It is when we
accept the expiation that it can be spared us; it is when we submit
sincerely that grace can be granted to us. Only when grief finds its
work done can God dispense us from it. Trial then only stops when it is
useless: that is why it scarcely ever stops. Faith in the justice and
love of the Father is the best and indeed the only support under the
sufferings of this life. The foundation of all of our pains is unbelief;
we doubt whether what happens to us ought to happen to us; we think
ourselves wiser than providence, because to avoid fatalism we believe in
accident. Liberty in submission--what a problem! And yet that is what we
must always come back to.

May 7, 1856.--I have been reading Rosenkrantz's "History of Poetry"
[Footnote: "Geschichte der Poesie," by Rosenkrantz, the pupil and
biographer of Hegel] all day: it touches upon all the great names of
Spain, Portugal, and France, as far as Louis XV. It is a good thing to
take these rapid surveys; the shifting point of view gives a perpetual
freshness to the subject and to the ideas presented, a literary
experience which is always pleasant and bracing. For one of my
temperament, this philosophic and morphological mode of embracing and
expounding literary history has a strong attraction. But it is the
antipodes of the French method of proceeding, which takes, as it were,
only the peaks of the subject, links them together by theoretical
figures and triangulations, and then assumes these lines to represent
the genuine face of the country. The real process of formation of a
general opinion, of a public taste, of an established _genre_, cannot be
laid bare by an abstract method, which suppresses the period of growth
in favor of the final fruit, which prefers clearness of outline to
fullness of statement, and sacrifices the preparation to the result, the
multitude to the chosen type. This French method, however, is eminently
characteristic, and it is linked by invisible ties to their respect for
custom and fashion, to the Catholic and dualist instinct which admits
two truths, two contradictory worlds, and accepts quite naturally what
is magical, incomprehensible, and arbitrary in God, the king, or
language. It is the philosophy of accident become habit, instinct,
nature and belief, it is the religion of caprice.

By one of those eternal contrasts which redress the balance of things,
the romance peoples, who excel in the practical matters of life, care
nothing for the philosophy of it; while the Germans, who know very
little about the practice of life, are masters of its theory. Every
living being seeks instinctively to complete itself; this is the secret
law according to which that nation whose sense of life is fullest and
keenest, drifts most readily toward a mathematical rigidity of theory.
Matter and form are the eternal oppositions, and the mathematical
intellects are often attracted by the facts of life, just as the
sensuous minds are often drawn toward the study of abstract law. Thus
strangely enough, what we think we are is just what we are not: what we
desire to be is what suits us least; our theories condemn us, and our
practice gives the lie to our theories. And the contradiction is an
advantage, for it is the source of conflict, of movement, and therefore
a condition of progress. Every life is an inward struggle, every
struggle supposes two contrary forces; nothing real is simple, and
whatever thinks itself simple is in reality the farthest from
simplicity. Therefore it would seem that every state is a moment in a
series; every being a compromise between contraries. In concrete
dialectic we have the key which opens to us the understanding of beings
in the series of beings, of states in the series of moments; and it is
in dynamics that we have the explanation of equilibrium. Every situation

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