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Amiel's Journal by Mrs. Humphrey Ward

Part 5 out of 8

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happy now?

* * * * *

If men are always more or less deceived on the subject of women, it is
because they forget that they and women do not speak altogether the same
language, and that words have not the same weight or the same meaning
for them, especially in questions of feeling. Whether from shyness or
precaution or artifice, a woman never speaks out her whole thought, and
moreover what she herself knows of it is but a part of what it really
is. Complete frankness seems to be impossible to her, and complete
self-knowledge seems to be forbidden her. If she is a sphinx to us, it
is because she is a riddle of doubtful meaning even to herself. She has
no need of perfidy, for she is mystery itself. A woman is something
fugitive, irrational, indeterminable, illogical, and contradictory. A
great deal of forbearance ought to be shown her, and a good deal of
prudence exercised with regard to her, for she may bring about
innumerable evils without knowing It. Capable of all kinds of devotion,
and of all kinds of treason, "_monstre incomprehensible_," raised to the
second power, she is at once the delight and the terror of man.

* * * * *

The more a man loves, the more he suffers. The sum of possible grief for
each soul is in proportion to its degree of perfection.

* * * * *

He who is too much afraid of being duped has lost the power of being

* * * * *

Doubt of the reality of love ends by making us doubt everything. The
final result of all deceptions and disappointments is atheism, which may
not always yield up its name and secret, but which lurks, a masked
specter, within the depths of thought, as the last supreme explainer.
"Man is what his love is," and follows the fortunes of his love.

* * * * *

The beautiful souls of the world have an art of saintly alchemy, by
which bitterness is converted into kindness, the gall of human
experience into gentleness, ingratitude into benefits, insults into
pardon. And the transformation ought to become so easy and habitual that
the lookers-on may think it spontaneous, and nobody give us credit for

January 27, 1869.--What, then, is the service rendered to the world by
Christianity? The proclamation of "good news." And what is this "good
news?" The pardon of sin. The God of holiness loving the world and
reconciling it to himself by Jesus, in order to establish the kingdom of
God, the city of souls, the life of heaven upon earth--here you have the
whole of it; but in this is a revolution. "Love ye one another, as I
have loved you;" "Be ye one with me, as I am one with the Father:" for
this is life eternal, here is perfection, salvation, joy. Faith in the
fatherly love of God, who punishes and pardons for our good, and who
desires not the death of the sinner, but his conversion and his
life--here is the motive power of the redeemed.

What we call Christianity is a vast ocean, into which flow a number of
spiritual currents of distant and various origin; certain religions,
that is to say, of Asia and of Europe, the great ideas of Greek wisdom,
and especially those of Platonism. Neither its doctrine nor its
morality, as they have been historically developed, are new or
spontaneous. What is essential and original in it is the practical
demonstration that the human and the divine nature may co-exist, may
become fused into one sublime flame; that holiness and pity, justice and
mercy, may meet together and become one, in man and in God. What is
specific in Christianity is Jesus--the religious consciousness of Jesus.
The sacred sense of his absolute union with God through perfect love and
self-surrender, this profound, invincible, and tranquil faith of his,
has become a religion; the faith of Jesus has become the faith of
millions and millions of men. From this torch has sprung a vast
conflagration. And such has been the brilliancy and the radiance both of
revealer and revelation, that the astonished world has forgotten its
justice in its admiration, and has referred to one single benefactor the
whole of those benefits which are its heritage from the past.

The conversion of ecclesiastical and confessional Christianity into
historical Christianity is the work of biblical science. The conversion
of historical Christianity into philosophical Christianity is an attempt
which is to some extent an illusion, since faith cannot be entirely
resolved into science. The transference, however, of Christianity from
the region of history to the region of psychology is the great craving
of our time. What we are trying to arrive at is the _eternal_ gospel.
But before we can reach it, the comparative history and philosophy of
religions must assign to Christianity its true place, and must judge it.
The religion, too, which Jesus professed must be disentangled from the
religion which has taken Jesus for its object. And when at last we are
able to point out the state of consciousness which is the primitive
cell, the principle of the eternal gospel, we shall have reached our
goal, for in it is the _punctum saliens_ of pure religion.

Perhaps the extraordinary will take the place of the supernatural, and
the great geniuses of the world will come to be regarded as the
messengers of God in history, as the providential revealers through whom
the spirit of God works upon the human mass. What is perishing is not
the admirable and the adorable; it is simply the arbitrary, the
accidental, the miraculous. Just as the poor illuminations of a village
_fete_, or the tapers of a procession, are put out by the great marvel
of the sun, so the small local miracles, with their meanness and
doubtfulness, will sink into insignificance beside the law of the world
of spirits, the incomparable spectacle of human history, led by that
all-powerful Dramaturgus whom we call God. _Utinam!_

March 1, 1869.--Impartiality and objectivity are as rare as justice, of
which they are but two special forms. Self-interest is an inexhaustible
source of convenient illusions. The number of beings who wish to see
truly is extraordinarily small. What governs men is the fear of truth,
unless truth is useful to them, which is as much as to say that
self-interest is the principle of the common philosophy or that truth is
made for us but not we for truth. As this fact is humiliating, the
majority of people will neither recognize nor admit it. And thus a
prejudice of self-love protects all the prejudices of the understanding,
which are themselves the result of a stratagem of the _ego_. Humanity
has always slain or persecuted those who have disturbed this selfish
repose of hers. She only improves in spite of herself. The only progress
which she desires is an increase of enjoyments. All advances in justice,
in morality, in holiness, have been imposed upon or forced from her by
some noble violence. Sacrifice, which is the passion of great souls, has
never been the law of societies. It is too often by employing one vice
against another--for example, vanity against cupidity, greed against
idleness--that the great agitators have broken through routine. In a
word, the human world is almost entirely directed by the law of nature,
and the law of the spirit, which is the leaven of its coarse paste, has
but rarely succeeded in raising it into generous expansion.

From the point of view of the ideal, humanity is _triste_ and ugly. But
if we compare it with its probable origins, we see that the human race
has not altogether wasted its time. Hence there are three possible views
of history: the view of the pessimist, who starts from the ideal; the
view of the optimist, who compares the past with the present; and the
view of the hero-worshiper, who sees that all progress whatever has cost
oceans of blood and tears.

European hypocrisy veils its face before the voluntary suicide of those
Indian fanatics who throw themselves under the wheels of their goddess'
triumphal car. And yet these sacrifices are but the symbol of what goes
on in Europe as elsewhere, of that offering of their life which is made
by the martyrs of all great causes. We may even say that the fierce and
sanguinary goddess is humanity itself, which is only spurred to progress
by remorse, and repents only when the measure of its crimes runs over.
The fanatics who sacrifice themselves are an eternal protest against the
universal selfishness. We have only overthrown those idols which are
tangible and visible, but perpetual sacrifice still exists everywhere,
and everywhere the _elite_ of each generation suffers for the salvation
of the multitude. It is the austere, bitter, and mysterious law of
solidarity. Perdition and redemption in and through each other is the
destiny of men.

March 18, 1869 (_Thursday_).--Whenever I come back from a walk outside
the town I am disgusted and repelled by this cell of mine. Out of doors,
sunshine, birds, spring, beauty, and life; in here, ugliness, piles of
paper, melancholy, and death. And yet my walk was one of the saddest
possible. I wandered along the Rhone and the Arve, and all the memories
of the past, all the disappointments of the present and all the
anxieties of the future laid siege to my heart like a whirlwind of
phantoms. I took account of my faults, and they ranged themselves in
battle against me. The vulture of regret gnawed at my heart, and the
sense of the irreparable choked me like the iron collar of the pillory.
It seemed to me that I had failed in the task of life, and that now life
was failing me. Ah! how terrible spring is to the lonely! All the needs
which had been lulled to sleep start into life again, all the sorrows
which had disappeared are reborn, and the old man which had been gagged
and conquered rises once more and makes his groans heard. It is as
though all the old wounds opened and bewailed themselves afresh. Just
when one had ceased to think, when one had succeeded in deadening
feeling by work or by amusement, all of a sudden the heart, solitary
captive that it is, sends a cry from its prison depths, a cry which
shakes to its foundations the whole surrounding edifice.

Even supposing that one had freed one's self from all other fatalities,
there is still one yoke left from which it is impossible to escape--that
of Time. I have succeeded in avoiding all other servitudes, but I had
reckoned without the last--the servitude of age. Age comes, and its
weight is equal to that of all other oppressions taken together. Man,
under his mortal aspect, is but a species of ephemera.

As I looked at the banks of the Rhone, which have seen the river flowing
past them some ten or twenty thousand years, or at the trees forming the
avenue of the cemetery, which, for two centuries, have been the
witnesses of so many funeral processions; as I recognized the walls, the
dykes, the paths, which saw me playing as a child, and watched other
children running over that grassy plain of Plain Palais which bore my
own childish steps--I had the sharpest sense of the emptiness of life
and the flight of things. I felt the shadow of the upas tree darkening
over me. I gazed into the great implacable abyss in which are swallowed
up all those phantoms which call themselves living beings. I saw that
the living are but apparitions hovering for a moment over the earth,
made out of the ashes of the dead, and swiftly re-absorbed by eternal
night, as the will-o'-the-wisp sinks into the marsh. The nothingness of
our joys, the emptiness of our existence, and the futility of our
ambitions, filled me with a quiet disgust. From regret to disenchantment
I floated on to Buddhism, to universal weariness. Ah, the hope of a
blessed immortality would be better worth having!

With what different eyes one looks at life at ten, at twenty, at thirty,
at sixty! Those who live alone are specially conscious of this
psychological metamorphosis. Another thing, too, astonishes them; it is
the universal conspiracy which exists for hiding the sadness of the
world, for making men forget suffering, sickness, and death, for
smothering the wails and sobs which issue from every house, for painting
and beautifying the hideous face of reality. Is it out of tenderness for
childhood and youth, or is it simply from fear, that we are thus careful
to veil the sinister truth? Or is it from a sense of equity? and does
life contain as much good as evil--perhaps more? However it may be, men
feed themselves rather upon illusion than upon truth. Each one unwinds
his own special reel of hope, and as soon as he has come to the end of
it he sits him down to die, and lets his sons and his grandsons begin
the same experience over again. We all pursue happiness, and happiness
escapes the pursuit of all.

The only _viaticum_ which can help us in the journey of life is that
furnished by a great duty and some serious affections. And even
affections die, or at least their objects are mortal; a friend, a wife,
a child, a country, a church, may precede us in the tomb; duty alone
lasts as long as we.

This maxim exorcises the spirits of revolt, of anger, discouragement,
vengeance, indignation, and ambition, which rise one after another to
tempt and trouble the heart, swelling with the sap of the spring. O all
ye saints of the East, of antiquity, of Christianity, phalanx of heroes!
Ye too drank deep of weariness and agony of soul, but ye triumphed over
both. Ye who have come forth victors from the strife, shelter us under
your palms, fortify us by your example!

April 6, 1869.--Magnificent weather. The Alps are dazzling under their
silver haze. Sensations of all kinds have been crowding upon me; the
delights of a walk under the rising sun, the charms of a wonderful view,
longing for travel, and thirst for joy, hunger for work, for emotion,
for life, dreams of happiness and of love. A passionate wish to live, to
feel, to express, stirred the depths of my heart. It was a sudden
re-awakening of youth, a flash of poetry, a renewing of the soul, a
fresh growth of the wings of desire--I was overpowered by a host of
conquering, vagabond, adventurous aspirations. I forgot my age, my
obligations, my duties, my vexations, and youth leaped within me as
though life were beginning again. It was as though something explosive
had caught fire, and one's soul were scattered to the four winds; in
such a mood one would fain devour the whole world, experience
everything, see everything. Faust's ambition enters into one, universal
desire--a horror of one's own prison cell. One throws off one's hair
shirt, and one would fain gather the whole of nature into one's arms and
heart. O ye passions, a ray of sunshine is enough to rekindle you all!
The cold black mountain is a volcano once more, and melts its snowy
crown with one single gust of flaming breath. It is the spring which
brings about these sudden and improbable resurrections, the spring
which, sending a thrill and tumult of life through all that lives, is
the parent of impetuous desires, of overpowering inclinations, of
unforeseen and inextinguishable outbursts of passion. It breaks through
the rigid bark of the trees, and rends the mask on the face of
asceticism; it makes the monk tremble in the shadow of his convent, the
maiden behind the curtains of her room, the child sitting on his school
bench, the old man bowed under his rheumatism.

"O Hymen, Hymenae!"

April 24, 1869.--Is Nemesis indeed more real than Providence, the
jealous God more true than the good God? grief more certain than joy?
darkness more secure of victory than light? Is it pessimism or optimism
which is nearest the truth, and which--Leibnitz or Schopenhauer--has
best understood the universe? Is it the healthy man or the sick man who
sees best to the bottom of things? which is in the right?

Ah! the problem of grief and evil is and will be always the greatest
enigma of being, only second to the existence of being itself. The
common faith of humanity has assumed the victory of good over evil. But
if good consists not in the result of victory, but in victory itself,
then good implies an incessant and infinite contest, interminable
struggle, and a success forever threatened. And if this is life, is not
Buddha right in regarding life as synonymous with evil since it means
perpetual restlessness and endless war? Repose according to the Buddhist
is only to be found in annihilation. The art of self-annihilation, of
escaping the world's vast machinery of suffering, and the misery of
renewed existence--the art of reaching Nirvana, is to him the supreme
art, the only means of deliverance. The Christian says to God: Deliver
us from evil. The Buddhist adds: And to that end deliver us from finite
existence, give us back to nothingness! The first believes that when he
is enfranchised from the body he will enter upon eternal happiness; the
second believes that individuality is the obstacle to all repose, and he
longs for the dissolution of the soul itself. The dread of the first is
the paradise of the second.

One thing only is necessary--the committal of the soul to God. Look that
thou thyself art in order, and leave to God the task of unraveling the
skein of the world and of destiny. What do annihilation or immortality
matter? What is to be, will be. And what will be, will be for the best.
Faith in good--perhaps the individual wants nothing more for his passage
through life. Only he must have taken sides with Socrates, Plato,
Aristotle, and Zeno, against materialism, against the religion of
accident and pessimism. Perhaps also he must make up his mind against
the Buddhist nihilism, because a man's system of conduct is
diametrically opposite according as he labors to increase his life or to
lessen it, according as he aims at cultivating his faculties or at
systematically deadening them.

To employ one's individual efforts for the increase of good in the
world--this modest ideal is enough for us. To help forward the victory
of good has been the common aim of saints and sages. _Socii Dei sumus_
was the word of Seneca, who had it from Cleanthus.

April 30, 1869.--I have just finished Vacherot's [Footnote: Etienne
Vacherot, a French philosophical writer, who owed his first successes
in life to the friendship of Cousin, and was later brought very much
into notice by his controversy with the Abbe Gratry, by the prosecution
brought against him in consequence of his book, "La Democratie" (1859),
and by his rejection at the hands of the Academy of Moral and Political
Sciences in 1865, for the same kind of reasons which had brought about
the exclusion of Littre in the preceding year. In 1868, however, he
became a member of the Institute in succession to Cousin. A Liberal of
the old school, he has separated himself from the republicans since the
war, and has made himself felt as a severe critic of republican blunders
in the _Revue des deux Mondes_. _La Religion_, which discusses the
psychological origins of the religious sense, was published in 1868.]
book "La Religion," 1869, and it has set me thinking. I have a feeling
that his notion of religion is not rigorous and exact, and that
therefore his logic is subject to correction. If religion is a
psychological stage, anterior to that of reason, it is clear that it
will disappear in man, but if, on the contrary, it is a mode of the
inner life, it may and must last, as long as the need of feeling, and
alongside the need of thinking. The question is between theism and
non-theism. If God is only the category of the ideal, religion will
vanish, of course, like the illusions of youth. But if Universal Being
can be felt and loved at the same time as conceived, the philosopher may
be a religious man just as he may be an artist, an orator, or a citizen.
He may attach himself to a worship or ritual without derogation. I
myself incline to this solution. To me religion is life before God and
in God.

And even if God were defined as the universal life, so long as this life
is positive and not negative, the soul penetrated with the sense of the
infinite is in the religious state. Religion differs from philosophy as
the simple and spontaneous self differs from the reflecting self, as
synthetic intuition differs from intellectual analysis. We are initiated
into the religious state by a sense of voluntary dependence on, and
joyful submission to the principle of order and of goodness. Religious
emotion makes man conscious of himself; he finds his own place within
the infinite unity, and it is this perception which is sacred.

But in spite of these reservations I am much impressed by the book,
which is a fine piece of work, ripe and serious in all respects.

May 13, 1869.--A break in the clouds, and through the blue interstices a
bright sun throws flickering and uncertain rays. Storms, smiles, whims,
anger, tears--it is May, and nature is in its feminine phase! She
pleases our fancy, stirs our heart, and wears out our reason by the
endless succession of her caprices and the unexpected violence of her

This recalls to me the 213th verse of the second book of the Laws of
Manou. "It is in the nature of the feminine sex to seek here below to
corrupt men, and therefore wise men never abandon themselves to the
seductions of women." The same code, however, says: "Wherever women are
honored the gods are satisfied." And again: "In every family where the
husband takes pleasure in his wife, and the wife in her husband,
happiness is ensured." And again: "One mother is more venerable than a
thousand fathers." But knowing what stormy and irrational elements there
are in this fragile and delightful creature, Manou concludes: "At no age
ought a woman to be allowed to govern herself as she pleases."

Up to the present day, in several contemporary and neighboring codes, a
woman is a minor all her life. Why? Because of her dependence upon
nature, and of her subjection to passions which are the diminutives of
madness; in other words, because the soul of a woman has something
obscure and mysterious in it, which lends itself to all superstitions
and weakens the energies of man. To man belong law, justice, science,
and philosophy, all that is disinterested, universal, and rational.
Women, on the contrary, introduce into everything favor, exception, and
personal prejudice. As soon as a man, a people, a literature, an epoch,
become feminine in type, they sink in the scale of things. As soon as a
woman quits the state of subordination in which her merits have free
play, we see a rapid increase in her natural defects. Complete equality
with man makes her quarrelsome; a position of supremacy makes her
tyrannical. To honor her and to govern her will be for a long time yet
the best solution. When education has formed strong, noble, and serious
women in whom conscience and reason hold sway over the effervescence of
fancy and sentimentality, then we shall be able not only to honor woman,
but to make a serious end of gaining her consent and adhesion. Then she
will be truly an equal, a work-fellow, a companion. At present she is so
only in theory. The moderns are at work upon the problem, and have not
solved it yet.

June 15, 1869.--The great defect of liberal Christianity [Footnote: At
this period the controversy between the orthodox party and "Liberal
Christianity" was at its height, both in Geneva and throughout
Switzerland.] is that its conception of holiness is a frivolous one, or,
what comes to the same thing, its conception of sin is a superficial
one. The defects of the baser sort of political liberalism recur in
liberal Christianity; it is only half serious, and its theology is too
much mixed with worldliness. The sincerely pious folk look upon the
liberals as persons whose talk is rather profane, and who offend
religious feelings by making sacred subjects a theme for rhetorical
display. They shock the _convenances_ of sentiment, and affront the
delicacy of conscience by the indiscreet familiarities they take with
the great mysteries of the inner life. They seem to be mere clever
special pleaders, religious rhetoricians like the Greek sophists, rather
than guides in the narrow road which leads to salvation.

It is not to the clever folk, nor even to the scientific folk, that the
empire over souls belongs, but to those who impress us as having
conquered nature by grace, passed through the burning bush, and as
speaking, not the language of human wisdom, but that of the divine will.
In religious matters it is holiness which gives authority; it is love,
or the power of devotion and sacrifice, which goes to the heart, which
moves and persuades.

What all religious, poetical, pure, and tender souls are least able to
pardon is the diminution or degradation of their ideal. We must never
rouse an ideal against us; our business is to point men to another
ideal, purer, higher, more spiritual than the old, and so to raise
behind a lofty summit one more lofty still. In this way no one is
despoiled; we gain men's confidence, while at the same time forcing them
to think, and enabling those minds which are already tending toward
change to perceive new objects and goals for thought. Only that which is
replaced is destroyed, and an ideal is only replaced by satisfying the
conditions of the old with some advantages over.

Let the liberal Protestants offer us a spectacle of Christian virtue of
a holier, intenser, and more intimate kind than before; let us see it
active in their persons and in their influence, and they will have
furnished the proof demanded by the Master; the tree will be judged by
its fruits.

* * * * *

June 22, 1869 (_Nine_ A. M).--Gray and lowering weather. A fly lies dead
of cold on the page of my book, in full summer! What is life? I said to
myself, as I looked at the tiny dead creature. It is a loan, as movement
is. The universal life is a sum total, of which the units are visible
here, there, and everywhere, just as an electric wheel throws off sparks
along its whole surface. Life passes through us; we do not possess it.
Hirn admits three ultimate principles: [Footnote: Gustave-Adolphe Hirn,
a French physicist, born near Colmar, 1815, became a corresponding
member of the Academy of Sciences in 1867. The book of his to which
Amiel refers is no doubt _Consequences philosophiques at metaphysiques
de la thermodynamique, Analyse elementaire de l'univers_ (1869).] the
atom, the force, the soul; the force which acts upon atoms, the soul
which acts upon force. Probably he distinguishes between anonymous souls
and personal souls. Then my fly would be an anonymous soul.

(_Same day_).--The national churches are all up in arms against
so-called Liberal Christianity; Basle and Zurich began the fight, and
now Geneva has entered the lists too. Gradually it is becoming plain
that historical Protestantism has no longer a _raison d'etre_ between
pure liberty and pure authority. It is, in fact, a provisional stage,
founded on the worship of the Bible--that is to say, on the idea of a
written revelation, and of a book divinely inspired, and therefore
authoritative. When once this thesis has been relegated to the rank of a
fiction Protestantism crumbles away. There is nothing for it but to
retire up on natural religion, or the religion of the moral
consciousness. M.M. Reville, Conquerel, Fontanes, Buisson, [Footnote:
The name of M. Albert Reville, the French Protestant theologian, is more
or less familiar in England, especially since his delivery of the
Hibbert lectures in 1884. Athanase Coquerel, born 1820, died 1876, the
well-known champion of liberal ideas in the French Protestant Church,
was suspended from his pastoral functions by the Consistory of Paris, on
account of his review of M. Renan's "Vie de Jesus" in 1864.
Ferdinand-Edouard Buisson, a liberal Protestant, originally a professor
at Lausanne, was raised to the important function of Director of Primary
Instruction by M. Ferry in 1879. He was denounced by Bishop Dupanloup,
in the National Assembly of 1871, as the author of certain liberal
pamphlets on the dangers connected with Scripture-teaching in schools,
and, for the time, lost his employment under the Ministry of Education.]
accept this logical outcome. They are the advance-guard of Protestantism
and the laggards of free thought.

Their mistake is not seeing that all institutions rest upon a legal
fiction, and that every living thing involves a logical absurdity. It
may be logical to demand a church based on free examination and absolute
sincerity; but to realize it is a different matter. A church lives by
what is positive, and this positive element necessarily limits
investigation. People confound the right of the individual, which is to
be free, with the duty of the institution, which is to be something.
They take the principle of science to be the same as the principle of
the church, which is a mistake. They will not see that religion is
different from philosophy, and that the one seeks union by faith, while
the other upholds the solitary independence of thought. That the bread
should be good it must have leaven; but the leaven is not the bread.
Liberty is the means whereby we arrive at an enlightened faith--granted;
but an assembly of people agreeing only upon this criterion and this
method could not possibly found a church, for they might differ
completely as to the results of the method. Suppose a newspaper the
writers of which were of all possible parties--it would no doubt be a
curiosity in journalism, but it would have no opinions, no faith, no
creed. A drawing-room filled with refined people, carrying on polite
discussion, is not a church, and a dispute, however courteous, is not
worship. It is a mere confusion of kinds.

July 13, 1869.--Lamennais, Heine--the one the victim of a mistaken
vocation, the other of a tormenting craving to astonish and mystify his
kind. The first was wanting in common sense; the second was wanting in
seriousness. The Frenchman was violent, arbitrary, domineering; the
German was a jesting Mephistopheles, with a horror of Philistinism. The
Breton was all passion and melancholy; the Hamburger all fancy and
satire. Neither developed freely nor normally. Both of them, because of
an initial mistake, threw themselves into an endless quarrel with the
world. Both were revolutionists. They were not fighting for the good
cause, for impersonal truth; both were rather the champions of their own
pride. Both suffered greatly, and died isolated, repudiated, and
reviled. Men of magnificent talents, both of them, but men of small
wisdom, who did more harm than good to themselves and to others! It is a
lamentable existence which wears itself out in maintaining a first
antagonism, or a first blunder. The greater a man's intellectual power,
the more dangerous is it for him to make a false start and to begin life

July 20, 1869.--I have been reading over again five or six chapters, here
and there, of Renan's "St. Paul." Analyzed to the bottom, the writer is
a freethinker, but a free thinker whose flexible imagination still
allows him the delicate epicurism of religious emotion. In his eyes the
man who will not lend himself to these graceful fancies is vulgar, and
the man who takes them seriously is prejudiced. He is entertained by the
variations of conscience, but he is too clever to laugh at them. The
true critic neither concludes nor excludes; his pleasure is to
understand without believing, and to profit by the results of
enthusiasm, while still maintaining a free mind, unembarrassed by
illusion. Such a mode of proceeding has a look of dishonesty; it is
nothing, however, but the good-tempered irony of a highly-cultivated
mind, which will neither be ignorant of anything nor duped by anything.
It is the dilettantism of the Renaissance in its perfection. At the same
time what innumerable proofs of insight and of exultant scientific

August 14, 1869.--In the name of heaven, who art thou? what wilt
thou--wavering inconstant creature? What future lies before thee? What
duty or what hope appeals to thee?

My longing, my search is for love, for peace, for something to fill my
heart; an idea to defend; a work to which I might devote the rest of my
strength; an affection which might quench this inner thirst; a cause for
which I might die with joy. But shall I ever find them? I long for all
that is impossible and inaccessible: for true religion, serious
sympathy, the ideal life; for paradise, immortality, holiness, faith,
inspiration, and I know not what besides! What I really want is to die
and to be born again, transformed myself, and in a different world. And
I can neither stifle these aspirations nor deceive myself as to the
possibility of satisfying them. I seem condemned to roll forever the
rock of Sisyphus, and to feel that slow wearing away of the mind which
befalls the man whose vocation and destiny are in perpetual conflict. "A
Christian heart and a pagan head," like Jacobi; tenderness and pride;
width of mind and feebleness of will; the two men of St. Paul; a
seething chaos of contrasts, antinomies, and contradictions; humility
and pride; childish simplicity and boundless mistrust; analysis and
intuition; patience and irritability; kindness and dryness of heart;
carelessness and anxiety; enthusiasm and languor; indifference and
passion; altogether a being incomprehensible and intolerable to myself
and to others!

Then from a state of conflict I fall back into the fluid, vague,
indeterminate state, which feels all form to be a mere violence and
disfigurement. All ideas, principles, acquirements, and habits are
effaced in me like the ripples on a wave, like the convolutions of a
cloud. My personality has the least possible admixture of individuality.
I am to the great majority of men what the circle is to rectilinear
figures; I am everywhere at home, because I have no particular and
nominative self. Perhaps, on the whole, this defect has good in it.
Though I am less of _a_ man, I am perhaps nearer to _the_ man; perhaps
rather more _man_. There is less of the individual, but more of the
species, in me. My nature, which is absolutely unsuited for practical
life, shows great aptitude for psychological study. It prevents me from
taking sides, but it allows me to understand all sides. It is not only
indolence which prevents me from drawing conclusions; it is a sort of a
secret aversion to all _intellectual proscription_. I have a feeling
that something of everything is wanted to make a world, that all
citizens have a right in the state, and that if every opinion is equally
insignificant in itself, all opinions have some hold upon truth. To live
and let live, think and let think, are maxims which are equally dear to
me. My tendency is always to the whole, to the totality, to the general
balance of things. What is difficult to me is to exclude, to condemn, to
say no; except, indeed, in the presence of the exclusive. I am always
fighting for the absent, for the defeated cause, for that portion of
truth which seems to me neglected; my aim is to complete every thesis,
to see round every problem, to study a thing from all its possible
sides. Is this skepticism? Yes, in its result, but not in its purpose.
It is rather the sense of the absolute and the infinite reducing to
their proper value and relegating to their proper place the finite and
the relative. But here, in the same way, my ambition is greater than my
power; my philosophical perception is superior to my speculative gift. I
have not the energy of my opinions; I have far greater width than
inventiveness of thought, and, from timidity, I have allowed the
critical intelligence in me to swallow up the creative genius. Is it
indeed from timidity?

Alas! with a little more ambition, or a little more good luck, a
different man might have been made out of me, and such as my youth gave
promise of.

August 16, 1869.--I have been thinking over Schopenhauer. It has struck
me and almost terrified me to see how well I represent Schopenhauer's
typical man, for whom "happiness is a chimera and suffering a reality,"
for whom "the negation of will and of desire is the only road to
deliverance," and "the individual life is a misfortune from which
impersonal contemplation is the only enfranchisement," etc. But the
principle that life is an evil and annihilation a good lies at the root
of the system, and this axiom I have never dared to enunciate in any
general way, although I have admitted it here and there in individual
cases. What I still like in the misanthrope of Frankfort, is his
antipathy to current prejudice, to European hobbies, to western
hypocrisies, to the successes of the day. Schopenhauer is a man of
powerful mind, who has put away from him all illusions, who professes
Buddhism in the full flow of modern Germany, and absolute detachment of
mind In the very midst of the nineteenth-century orgie. His great
defects are barrenness of soul, a proud and perfect selfishness, an
adoration of genius which is combined with complete indifference to the
rest of the world, in spite of all his teaching of resignation and
sacrifice. He has no sympathy, no humanity, no love. And here I
recognize the unlikeness between us. Pure intelligence and solitary
labor might easily lead me to his point of view; but once appeal to the
heart, and I feel the contemplative attitude untenable. Pity, goodness,
charity, and devotion reclaim their rights, and insist even upon the
first place.

August 29, 1869.--Schopenhauer preaches impersonality, objectivity, pure
contemplation, the negation of will, calmness, and disinterestedness, an
aesthetic study of the world, detachment from life, the renunciation of
all desire, solitary meditation, disdain of the crowd, and indifference
to all that the vulgar covet. He approves all my defects, my
childishness, my aversion to practical life, my antipathy to the
utilitarians, my distrust of all desire. In a word, he flatters all my
instincts; he caresses and justifies them.

This pre-established harmony between the theory of Schopenhauer and my
own natural man causes me pleasure mingled with terror. I might indulge
myself in the pleasure, but that I fear to delude and stifle conscience.
Besides, I feel that goodness has no tolerance for this contemplative
indifference, and that virtue consists in self-conquest.

August 30, 1869.--Still some chapters of Schopenhauer. Schopenhauer
believes in the unchangeableness of innate tendencies in the individual,
and in the invariability of the primitive disposition. He refuses to
believe in the new man, in any real progress toward perfection, or in
any positive improvement in a human being. Only the appearances are
refined; there is no change below the surface. Perhaps he confuses
temperament, character, and individuality? I incline to think that
individuality is fatal and primitive, that temperament reaches far back,
but is alternable, and that character is more recent and susceptible of
voluntary or involuntary modifications. Individuality is a matter of
psychology, temperament, a matter of sensation or aesthetics; character
alone is a matter of morals. Liberty and the use of it count for nothing
in the first two elements of our being; character is a historical fruit,
and the result of a man's biography. For Schopenhauer, character is
identified with temperament just as will with passion. In short, he
simplifies too much, and looks at man from that more elementary point of
view which is only sufficient in the case of the animal. That
spontaneity which is vital or merely chemical he already calls will.
Analogy is not equation; a comparison is not reason; similes and
parables are not exact language. Many of Schopenhauer's originalities
evaporate when we come to translate them into a more close and precise

_Later_.--One has merely to turn over the "Lichtstrahlem" of Herder to
feel the difference between him and Schopenhauer. The latter is full of
marked features and of observations which stand out from the page and
leave a clear and vivid impression. Herder is much less of a writer; his
ideas are entangled in his style, and he has no brilliant condensations,
no jewels, no crystals. While he proceeds by streams and sheets of
thought which have no definite or individual outline, Schopenhauer
breaks the current of his speculation with islands, striking, original,
and picturesque, which engrave themselves in the memory. It is the same
difference as there is between Nicole and Pascal, between Bayle and

What is the faculty which gives relief, brilliancy, and incisiveness to
thought? Imagination. Under its influence expression becomes
concentrated, colored, and strengthened, and by the power it has of
individualizing all it touches, it gives life and permanence to the
material on which it works. A writer of genius changes sand into glass
and glass into crystal, ore into iron and iron into steel; he marks with
his own stamp every idea he gets hold of. He borrows much from the
common stock, and gives back nothing; but even his robberies are
willingly reckoned to him as private property. He has, as it were,
_carte blanche_, and public opinion allows him to take what he will.

August 31, 1869.--I have finished Schopenhauer. My mind has been a
tumult of opposing systems--Stoicism, Quietism, Buddhism, Christianity.
Shall I never be at peace with myself? If impersonality is a good, why
am I not consistent in the pursuit of it? and if it is a temptation, why
return to it, after having judged and conquered it?

Is happiness anything more than a conventional fiction? The deepest
reason for my state of doubt is that the supreme end and aim of life
seems to me a mere lure and deception. The individual is an eternal
dupe, who never obtains what he seeks, and who is forever deceived by
hope. My instinct is in harmony with the pessimism of Buddha and of
Schopenhauer. It is a doubt which never leaves me even in my moments of
religious fervor. Nature is indeed for me a Maia; and I look at her, as
it were, with the eyes of an artist. My intelligence remains skeptical.
What, then, do I believe in? I do not know. And what is it I hope for?
It would be difficult to say. Folly! I believe in goodness, and I hope
that good will prevail. Deep within this ironical and disappointed being
of mine there is a child hidden--a frank, sad, simple creature, who
believes in the ideal, in love, in holiness, and all heavenly
superstitions. A whole millennium of idylls sleeps in my heart; I am a
pseudo-skeptic, a pseudo-scoffer.

"Borne dans sa nature, infini dans ses voeux,
L'homme est un dieu tombe qui se souvient des cieux."

October 14, 1869.--Yesterday, Wednesday, death of Sainte-Beuve. What a

October 16, 1869.--_Laboremus_ seems to have been the motto of
Sainte-Beuve, as it was that of Septimius Severus. He died in harness,
and up to the evening before his last day he still wrote, overcoming the
sufferings of the body by the energy of the mind. To-day, at this very
moment, they are laying him in the bosom of mother earth. He refused the
sacraments of the church; he never belonged to any confession; he was
one of the "great diocese"--that of the independent seekers of truth,
and he allowed himself no final moment of hypocrisy. He would have
nothing to do with any one except God only--or rather the mysterious
Isis beyond the veil. Being unmarried, he died in the arms of his
secretary. He was sixty-five years old. His power of work and of memory
was immense and intact. What is Scherer thinking about this life and
this death?

October 19, 1869.--An admirable article by Edmond Scherer on
Sainte-Beuve in the _Temps_. He makes him the prince of French critics
and the last representative of the epoch of literary taste, the future
belonging to the bookmakers and the chatterers, to mediocrity and to
violence. The article breathes a certain manly melancholy, befitting a
funeral oration over one who was a master in the things of the mind. The
fact is, that Sainte-Beuve leaves a greater void behind him than either
Beranger or Lamartine; their greatness was already distant, historical;
he was still helping us to think. The true critic acts as a fulcrum for
all the world. He represents the public judgment, that is to say the
public reason, the touchstone, the scales, the refining rod, which tests
the value of every one and the merit of every work. Infallibility of
judgment is perhaps rarer than anything else, so fine a balance of
qualities does it demand--qualities both natural and acquired, qualities
of mind and heart. What years of labor, what study and comparison, are
needed to bring the critical judgment to maturity! Like Plato's sage, it
is only at fifty that the critic rises to the true height of his
literary priesthood, or, to put it less pompously, of his social
function. By then only can he hope for insight into all the modes of
being, and for mastery of all possible shades of appreciation. And
Sainte-Beuve joined to this infinitely refined culture a prodigious
memory, and an incredible multitude of facts and anecdotes stored up for
the service of his thought.

December 8, 1869.--Everything has chilled me this morning; the cold of
the season, the physical immobility around me, but, above all, Hartman's
"Philosophy of the Unconscious." This book lays down the terrible thesis
that creation is a mistake; being, such as it is, is not as good as
non-being, and death is better than life.

I felt the same mournful impression that Obermann left upon me in my
youth. The black melancholy of Buddhism encompassed and overshadowed me.
If, in fact, it is only illusion which hides from us the horror of
existence and makes life tolerable to us, then existence is a snare and
life an evil. Like the Greek Annikeris, we ought to counsel suicide, or
rather with Buddha and Schopenhauer we ought to labor for the radical
extirpation of hope and desire--the causes of life and resurrection.
_Not_ to rise again; there is the point, and there is the difficulty.
Death is simply a beginning again, whereas it is annihilation that we
have to aim at. Personal consciousness being the root of all our
troubles, we ought to avoid the temptation to it and the possibility of
it as diabolical and abominable. What blasphemy! And yet it is all
logical; it is the philosophy of happiness carried to its farthest
point. Epicurism must end in despair. The philosophy of duty is less
depressing. But salvation lies in the conciliation of duty and
happiness, in the union of the individual will with the divine will, and
in the faith that this supreme will is directed by love.

* * * * *

It is as true that real happiness is good, as that the good become
better under the purification of trial. Those who have not suffered are
still wanting in depth; but a man who has not got happiness cannot
impart it. We can only give what we have. Happiness, grief, gayety,
sadness, are by nature contagious. Bring your health and your strength
to the weak and sickly, and so you will be of use to them. Give them,
not your weakness, but your energy, so you will revive and lift them up.
Life alone can rekindle life. What others claim from us is not our
thirst and our hunger, but our bread and our gourd.

The benefactors of humanity are those who have thought great thoughts
about her; but her masters and her idols are those who have flattered
and despised her, those who have muzzled and massacred her, inflamed her
with fanaticism or used her for selfish purposes. Her benefactors are
the poets, the artists, the inventors, the apostles and all pure hearts.
Her masters are the Caesars, the Constantines, the Gregory VII.'s, the
Innocent III.'s, the Borgias, the Napoleons.

* * * * *

Every civilization is, as it were, a dream of a thousand years, in which
heaven and earth, nature and history, appear to men illumined by
fantastic light and representing a drama which is nothing but a
projection of the soul itself, influenced by some intoxication--I was
going to say hallucination--or other. Those who are widest awake still
see the real world across the dominant illusion of their race or time.
And the reason is that the deceiving light starts from our own mind: the
light is our religion. Everything changes with it. It is religion which
gives to our kaleidoscope, if not the material of the figures, at least
their color, their light and shade, and general aspect. Every religion
makes men see the world and humanity under a special light; it is a mode
of apperception, which can only be scientifically handled when we have
cast it aside, and can only be judged when we have replaced it by a

* * * * *

February 23, 1870.--There is in man an instinct of revolt, an enemy of
all law, a rebel which will stoop to no yoke, not even that of reason,
duty, and wisdom. This element in us is the root of all sin--_das
radicale Boese_ of Kant. The independence which is the condition of
individuality is at the same time the eternal temptation of the
individual. That which makes us beings makes us also sinners.

Sin is, then, in our very marrow. It circulates in us like the blood in
our veins, it is mingled with all our substance, [Footnote: This is one
of the passages which rouses M. Renan's wonder: "Voila la grande
difference," he writes, "entre l'education catholique et l'education
protestante. Ceux qui comme moi ont recu une education catholique en ont
garde de profonds vestiges. Mais ces vestiges ne sont pas des dogmes, ce
sont des reves. Une fois ce grand rideau de drap d'or, bariole de soie,
d'indienne et de calicot, par lequel le catholicisme nous masque la vue
du monde, une fois, dis-je ce rideau dechire, on voit l'univers en sa
splendeur infinie, la nature en sa haute et pleine majeste. Le
protestant le plus libre garde souvent quelque chose de triste, un fond
d'austerite intellectuelle analogue au pessimisme slave."--(_Journal des
Debats_, September 30, 1884).

One is reminded of Mr. Morley's criticism of Emerson. Emerson, he points
out, has almost nothing to say of death, and "little to say of that
horrid burden and impediment on the soul which the churches call sin,
and which, by whatever name we call it, is a very real catastrophe in
the moral nature of man--the courses of nature, and the prodigious
injustices of mail in society affect him with neither horror nor awe. He
will see no monster if he can help it."

Here, then, we have the eternal difference between the two orders of
temperament--the men whose overflowing energy forbids them to realize
the ever-recurring defeat of the human spirit at the hands of
circumstance, like Renan and Emerson, and the men for whom "horror and
awe" are interwoven with experience, like Amiel.] Or rather I am wrong:
temptation is our natural state, but sin is not necessary. Sin consists
in the voluntary confusion of the independence which is good with the
independence which is bad; it is caused by the half-indulgence granted
to a first sophism. We shut our eyes to the beginnings of evil because
they are small, and in this weakness is contained the germ of our
defeat. _Principiis obsta_--this maxim dutifully followed would preserve
us from almost all our catastrophes.

We will have no other master but our caprice--that is to say, our evil
self will have no God, and the foundation of our nature is seditious,
impious, insolent, refractory, opposed to, and contemptuous of all that
tries to rule it, and therefore contrary to order, ungovernable and
negative. It is this foundation which Christianity calls the natural
man. But the savage which is within us, and constitutes the primitive
stuff of us, must be disciplined and civilized in order to produce a
man. And the man must be patiently cultivated to produce a wise man, and
the wise man must be tested and tried if he is to become righteous. And
the righteous man must have substituted the will of God for his
individual will, if he is to become a saint. And this new man, this
regenerate being, is the spiritual man, the heavenly man, of which the
Vedas speak as well as the gospel, and the Magi as well as the

March 17, 1870.--This morning the music of a brass band which had
stopped under my windows moved me almost to tears. It exercised an
indefinable, nostalgic power over me; it set me dreaming of another
world, of infinite passion and supreme happiness. Such impressions are
the echoes of paradise in the soul; memories of ideal spheres, whose sad
sweetness ravishes and intoxicates the heart. O Plato! O Pythagoras!
ages ago you heard these harmonies--surprised these moments of inward
ecstacy--knew these divine transports! If music thus carries us to
heaven, it is because music is harmony, harmony is perfection,
perfection is our dream, and our dream is heaven. This world of quarrels
and bitterness, of selfishness, ugliness, and misery, makes us long
involuntarily for the eternal peace, for the adoration which has no
limits, and the love which has no end. It is not so much the infinite as
the beautiful that we yearn for. It is not being, or the limits of
being, which weigh upon us; it is evil, in us and without us. It is not
all necessary to be great, so long as we are in harmony with the order
of the universe. Moral ambition has no pride; it only desires to fill
its place, and make its note duly heard in the universal concert of the
God of love.

March 30, 1870.--Certainly, nature is unjust and shameless, without
probity, and without faith. Her only alternatives are gratuitous favor
or mad aversion, and her only way of redressing an injustice is to
commit another. The happiness of the few is expiated by the misery of
the greater number. It is useless to accuse a blind force.

The human conscience, however, revolts against this law of nature, and
to satisfy its own instinct of justice it has imagined two hypotheses,
out of which it has made for itself a religion--the idea of an
individual providence, and the hypothesis of another life.

In these we have a protest against nature, which is thus declared
immoral and scandalous to the moral sense. Man believes in good, and
that he may ground himself on justice he maintains that the injustice
all around him is but an appearance, a mystery, a cheat, and that
justice _will_ be done. _Fiat justitia, pereal mundus!_

It is a great act of faith. And since humanity has not made itself, this
protest has some chance of expressing a truth. If there is conflict
between the natural world and the moral world, between reality and
conscience, conscience must be right.

It is by no means necessary that the universe should exist, but it is
necessary that justice should be done, and atheism is bound to explain
the fixed obstinacy of conscience on this point. Nature is not just; we
are the products of nature: why are we always claiming and prophesying
justice? why does the effect rise up against its cause? It is a singular
phenomenon. Does the protest come from any puerile blindness of human
vanity? No, it is the deepest cry of our being, and it is for the honor
of God that the cry is uttered. Heaven and earth may pass away, but good
_ought_ to be, and injustice ought _not_ to be. Such is the creed of the
human race. Nature will be conquered by spirit; the eternal will triumph
over time.

April 1, 1870.--I am inclined to believe that for a woman love is the
supreme authority--that which judges the rest and decides what is good
or evil. For a man, love is subordinate to right. It is a great passion,
but it is not the source of order, the synonym of reason, the criterion
of excellence. It would seem, then, that a woman places her ideal in the
perfection of love, and a man in the perfection of justice. It was in
this sense that St. Paul was able to say, "The woman is the glory of the
man, and the man is the glory of God." Thus the woman who absorbs
herself in the object of her love is, so to speak, in the line of
nature; she is truly woman, she realizes her fundamental type. On the
contrary, the man who should make life consist in conjugal adoration,
and who should imagine that he has lived sufficiently when he has made
himself the priest of a beloved woman, such a one is but half a man; he
is despised by the world, and perhaps secretly disdained by women
themselves. The woman who loves truly seeks to merge her own
individuality in that of the man she loves. She desires that her love
should make him greater, stronger, more masculine, and more active. Thus
each sex plays its appointed part: the woman is first destined for man,
and man is destined for society. Woman owes herself to one, man owes
himself to all; and each obtains peace and happiness only when he or she
has recognized this law and accepted this balance of things. The same
thing may be a good in the woman and an evil in the man, may be strength
in her, weakness in him.

There is then a feminine and a masculine morality--preparatory chapters,
as it were, to a general human morality. Below the virtue which is
evangelical and sexless, there is a virtue of sex. And this virtue of
sex is the occasion of mutual teaching, for each of the two incarnations
of virtue makes it its business to convert the other, the first
preaching love in the ears of justice, the second justice in the ears of
love. And so there is produced an oscillation and an average which
represent a social state, an epoch, sometimes a whole civilization.

Such at least is our European idea of the harmony of the sexes in a
graduated order of functions. America is on the road to revolutionize
this ideal by the introduction of the democratic principle of the
equality of individuals in a general equality of functions. Only, when
there is nothing left but a multitude of equal individualities, neither
young nor old, neither men nor women, neither benefited nor
benefactors--all social difference will turn upon money. The whole
hierarchy will rest upon the dollar, and the most brutal, the most
hideous, the most inhuman of inequalities will be the fruit of the
passion for equality. What a result! Plutolatry--the worship of wealth,
the madness of gold--to it will be confided the task of chastising a
false principle and its followers. And plutocracy will be in its turn
executed by equality. It would be a strange end for it, if Anglo-Saxon
individualism were ultimately swallowed up in Latin socialism.

It is my prayer that the discovery of an equilibrium between the two
principles may be made in time, before the social war, with all its
terror and ruin, overtakes us. But it is scarcely likely. The masses are
always ignorant and limited, and only advance by a succession of
contrary errors. They reach good only by the exhaustion of evil. They
discover the way out, only after having run their heads against all
other possible issues.

April 15, 1870.--_Crucifixion!_ That is the word we have to meditate
to-day. Is it not Good Friday?

To curse grief is easier than to bless it, but to do so is to fall back
into the point of view of the earthly, the carnal, the natural man. By
what has Christianity subdued the world if not by the apotheosis of
grief, by its marvelous transmutation of suffering into triumph, of the
crown of thorns into the crown of glory, and of a gibbet into a symbol
of salvation? What does the apotheosis of the Cross mean, if not the
death of death, the defeat of sin, the beatification of martyrdom, the
raising to the skies of voluntary sacrifice, the defiance of pain? "O
Death, where is thy sting? O Grave, where is thy victory?" By long
brooding over this theme--the agony of the just, peace in the midst of
agony, and the heavenly beauty of such peace--humanity came to
understand that a new religion was born--a new mode, that is to say, of
explaining life and of understanding suffering.

Suffering was a curse from which man fled; now it becomes a purification
of the soul, a sacred trial sent by eternal love, a divine dispensation
meant to sanctify and ennoble us, an acceptable aid to faith, a strange
initiation into happiness. O power of belief! All remains the same, and
yet all is changed. A new certitude arises to deny the apparent and the
tangible; it pierces through the mystery of things, it places an
invisible Father behind visible nature, it shows us joy shining through
tears, and makes of pain the beginning of joy.

And so, for those who have believed, the tomb becomes heaven, and on the
funeral pyre of life they sing the hosanna of immortality; a sacred
madness has renewed the face of the world for them, and when they wish
to explain what they feel, their ecstasy makes them incomprehensible;
they speak with tongues. A wild intoxication of self-sacrifice, contempt
for death, the thirst for eternity, the delirium of love--these are what
the unalterable gentleness of the Crucified has had power to bring
forth. By his pardon of his executioners, and by that unconquerable
sense in him of an indissoluble union with God, Jesus, on his cross,
kindled an inextinguishable fire and revolutionized the world. He
proclaimed and realized salvation by faith in the infinite mercy, and in
the pardon granted to simple repentance. By his saying, "There is more
joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth than over ninety and nine
just persons who need no repentance," he made humility the gate of
entrance into paradise.

Crucify the rebellious self, mortify yourself wholly, give up all to
God, and the peace which is not of this world will descend upon you. For
eighteen centuries no grander word has been spoken; and although
humanity is forever seeking after a more exact and complete application
of justice, yet her secret faith is not in justice but in pardon, for
pardon alone conciliates the spotless purity of perfection with the
infinite pity due to weakness--that is to say, it alone preserves and
defends the Idea of holiness, while it allows full scope to that of
love. The gospel proclaims the ineffable consolation, the good news,
which disarms all earthly griefs, and robs even death of its
terrors--the news of irrevocable pardon, that is to say, of eternal
life. The Cross is the guarantee of the gospel.

Therefore it has been its standard.

May 7, 1870.--The faith which clings to its idols and resists all
innovation is a retarding and conservative force; but it is the property
of all religion to serve as a curb to our lawless passion for freedom,
and to steady and quiet our restlessness of temper. Curiosity is the
expansive force, which, if it were allowed an unchecked action upon us,
would disperse and volatilize us; belief represents the force of
gravitation and cohesion which makes separate bodies and individuals of
us. Society lives by faith, develops by science. Its basis then is the
mysterious, the unknown, the intangible--religion--while the fermenting
principle in it is the desire of knowledge. Its permanent substance is
the uncomprehended or the divine; its changing form is the result of its
intellectual labor. The unconscious adhesions, the confused intuitions,
the obscure presentiments, which decide the first faith of a people, are
then of capital importance in its history. All history moves between the
religion which is the genial instinctive and fundamental philosophy of a
race, and the philosophy which is the ultimate religion--the clear
perception, that is to say, of those principles which have engendered
the whole spiritual development of humanity.

It is always the same thing which is, which was, and which will be; but
this thing--the absolute--betrays with more or less transparency and
profundity the law of its life and of its metamorphoses. In its fixed
aspect it is called God; in its mobile aspect the world or nature. God
is present in nature, but nature is not God; there is a nature in God,
but it is not God himself. I am neither for immanence nor for
transcendence taken alone.

May 9, 1870.--Disraeli, in his new novel, "Lothair," shows that the two
great forces of the present are Revolution and Catholicism, and that the
free nations are lost if either of these two forces triumphs. It is
exactly my own idea. Only, while in France, in Belgium, in Italy, and in
all Catholic societies, it is only by checking one of these forces by
the other that the state and civilization can be maintained, the
Protestant countries are better off; in them there is a third force, a
middle faith between the two other idolatries, which enables them to
regard liberty not as a neutralization of two contraries, but as a moral
reality, self-subsistent, and possessing its own center of gravity and
motive force. In the Catholic world religion and liberty exclude each
other. In the Protestant world they accept each other, so that in the
second case there is a smaller waste of force.

Liberty is the lay, the philosophical principle. It expresses the
juridical and social aspiration of the race. But as there is no society
possible without regulation, without control, without limitations on
individual liberty, above all without moral limitations, the peoples
which are legally the freest do well to take their religious
consciousness for check and ballast. In mixed states, Catholic or
free-thinking, the limit of action, being a merely penal one, invites
incessant contravention.

The puerility of the freethinkers consists in believing that a free
society can maintain itself and keep itself together without a common
faith, without a religious prejudice of some kind. Where lies the will
of God? Is it the common reason which expresses it, or rather, are a
clergy or a church the depositories of it? So long as the response is
ambiguous and equivocal in the eyes of half or the majority of
consciences--and this is the case in all Catholic states--public peace
is impossible, and public law is insecure. If there is a God, we must
have him on our side, and if there is not a God, it would be necessary
first of all to convert everybody to the same idea of the lawful and the
useful, to reconstitute, that is to say, a lay religion, before anything
politically solid could be built.

Liberalism is merely feeding upon abstractions, when it persuades itself
that liberty is possible without free individuals, and when it will not
recognize that liberty in the individual is the fruit of a foregoing
education, a moral education, which presupposes a liberating religion.
To preach liberalism to a population jesuitized by education, is to
press the pleasures of dancing upon a man who has lost a leg. How is it
possible for a child who has never been out of swaddling clothes to
walk? How can the abdication of individual conscience lead to the
government of individual conscience? To be free, is to guide one's self,
to have attained one's majority, to be emancipated, master of one's
actions, and judge of good and evil; but ultramontane Catholicism never
emancipates its disciples, who are bound to admit, to believe, and to
obey, as they are told, because they are minors in perpetuity, and the
clergy alone possess the law of right, the secret of justice, and the
measure of truth. This is what men are landed in by the idea of an
exterior revelation, cleverly made use of by a patient priesthood.

But what astonishes me is the short-sight of the statesmen of the south,
who do not see that the question of questions is the religious question,
and even now do not recognize that a liberal state is wholly
incompatible with an anti-liberal religion, and almost equally
incompatible with the absence of religion. They confound accidental
conquests and precarious progress with lasting results.

There is some probability that all this noise which is made nowadays
about liberty may end in the suppression of liberty; it is plain that
the internationals, the irreconcilables, and the ultramontanes, are, all
three of them, aiming at absolutism, at dictatorial omnipotence. Happily
they are not one but many, and it will not be difficult to turn them
against each other.

If liberty is to be saved, it will not be by the doubters, the men of
science, or the materialists; it will be by religious conviction, by the
faith of individuals who believe that God wills man to be free but also
pure; it will be by the seekers after holiness, by those old-fashioned
pious persons who speak of immortality and eternal life, and prefer the
soul to the whole world; it will be by the enfranchised children of the
ancient faith of the human race.

June 5, 1870.--The efficacy of religion lies precisely in that which is
not rational, philosophic, nor external; its efficacy lies in the
unforeseen, the miraculous, the extraordinary. Thus religion attracts
more devotion in proportion as it demands more faith--that is to say, as
it becomes more incredible to the profane mind. The philosopher aspires
to explain away all mysteries, to dissolve them into light. It is
mystery, on the other hand, which the religious instinct demands and
pursues; it is mystery which constitutes the essence of worship, the
power of proselytism. When the cross became the "foolishness" of the
cross, it took possession of the masses. And in our own day, those who
wish to get rid of the supernatural, to enlighten religion, to economize
faith, find themselves deserted, like poets who should declaim against
poetry, or women who should decry love. Faith consists in the acceptance
of the incomprehensible, and even in the pursuit of the impossible, and
is self-intoxicated with its own sacrifices, its own repeated

It is the forgetfulness of this psychological law which stultifies the
so-called liberal Christianity. It is the realization of it which
constitutes the strength of Catholicism.

Apparently no positive religion can survive the supernatural element
which is the reason for its existence. Natural religion seems to be the
tomb of all historic cults. All concrete religions die eventually in the
pure air of philosophy. So long then as the life of nations is in need
of religion as a motive and sanction of morality, as food for faith,
hope, and charity, so long will the masses turn away from pure reason
and naked truth, so long will they adore mystery, so long--and rightly
so--will they rest in faith, the only region where the ideal presents
itself to them in an attractive form.

June 9, 1870.--At bottom, everything depends upon the presence or
absence of one single element in the soul--hope. All the activity of
man, all his efforts and all his enterprises, presuppose a hope in him
of attaining an end. Once kill this hope and his movements become
senseless, spasmodic, and convulsive, like those of some one falling
from a height. To struggle with the inevitable has something childish in
it. To implore the law of gravitation to suspend its action would no
doubt be a grotesque prayer. Very well! but when a man loses faith in
the efficacy of his efforts, when he says to himself, "You are incapable
of realizing your ideal; happiness is a chimera, progress is an
illusion, the passion for perfection is a snare; and supposing all your
ambitions were gratified, everything would still be vanity," then he
comes to see that a little blindness is necessary if life is to be
carried on, and that illusion is the universal spring of movement.
Complete disillusion would mean absolute immobility. He who has
deciphered the secret and read the riddle of finite life escapes from
the great wheel of existence; he has left the world of the living--he is
already dead. Is this the meaning of the old belief that to raise the
veil of Isis or to behold God face to face brought destruction upon the
rash mortal who attempted it? Egypt and Judea had recorded the fact,
Buddha gave the key to it; the individual life is a nothing ignorant of
itself, and as soon as this nothing knows itself, individual life is
abolished in principle. For as soon as the illusion vanishes,
Nothingness resumes its eternal sway, the suffering of life is over,
error has disappeared, time and form have ceased to be for this
enfranchised individuality; the colored air-bubble has burst in the
infinite space, and the misery of thought has sunk to rest in the
changeless repose of all-embracing Nothing. The absolute, if it were
spirit, would still be activity, and it is activity, the daughter of
desire, which is incompatible with the absolute. The absolute, then,
must be the zero of all determination, and the only manner of being
suited to it is Non-being.

July 2, 1870.--One of the vices of France is the frivolity which
substitutes public conventions for truth, and absolutely ignores
personal dignity and the majesty of conscience. The French are ignorant
of the A B C of individual liberty, and still show an essentially
catholic intolerance toward the ideas which have not attained
universality or the adhesion of the majority. The nation is an army
which can bring to bear mass, number, and force, but not an assembly of
free men in which each individual depends for his value on himself. The
eminent Frenchman depends upon others for his value; if he possess
stripe, cross, scarf, sword, or robe--in a word, function and
decoration--then he is held to be something, and he feels himself
somebody. It is the symbol which establishes his merit, it is the public
which raises him from nothing, as the sultan creates his viziers. These
highly-trained and social races have an antipathy for individual
independence; everything with them must be founded upon authority
military, civil, or religious, and God himself is non-existent until he
has been established by decree. Their fundamental dogma is that social
omnipotence which treats the pretension of truth to be true without any
official stamp, as a mere usurpation and sacrilege, and scouts the claim
of the individual to possess either a separate conviction or a personal

July 20, 1870 (_Bellalpe_).--A marvelous day. The panorama before me is
of a grandiose splendor; it is a symphony of mountains, a cantata of
sunny Alps.

I am dazzled and oppressed by it. The feeling uppermost is one of
delight in being able to admire, of joy, that is to say, in a recovered
power of contemplation which is the result of physical relief, in being
able at last to forget myself and surrender myself to things, as befits
a man in my state of health. Gratitude is mingled with enthusiasm. I
have just spent two hours of continuous delight at the foot of the
Sparrenhorn, the peak behind us. A flood of sensations overpowered me. I
could only look, feel, dream, and think.

_Later_.--Ascent of the Sparrenhorn. The peak of it is not very easy to
climb, because of the masses of loose stones and the steepness of the
path, which runs between two abysses. But how great is one's reward!

The view embraces the whole series of the Valais Alps from the Furka to
the Combin; and even beyond the Furka one sees a few peaks of the Ticino
and the Rhaetian Alps; while if you turn you see behind you a whole
polar world of snowfields and glaciers forming the southern side of the
enormous Bernese group of the Finsteraarahorn, the Moench, and the
Jungfrau. The near representative of the group is the Aletschhorn,
whence diverge like so many ribbons the different Aletsch glaciers which
wind about the peak from which I saw them. I could study the different
zones, one above another--fields, woods, grassy Alps, bare rock and
snow, and the principle types of mountain; the pagoda-shaped Mischabel,
with its four _aretes_ as flying buttresses and its staff of nine
clustered peaks; the cupola of the Fletchhorn, the dome of Monte Rosa,
the pyramid of the Weisshorn, the obelisk of the Cervin.

Bound me fluttered a multitude of butterflies and brilliant green-backed
flies; but nothing grew except a few lichens. The deadness and emptiness
of the upper Aletsch glacier, like some vast white street, called up the
image of an icy Pompeii. All around boundless silence. On my way back I
noticed some effects of sunshine--the close elastic mountain grass,
starred with gentian, forget-me-not, and anemones, the mountain cattle
standing out against the sky, the rocks just piercing the soil, various
circular dips in the mountain side, stone waves petrified thousands of
thousands of years ago, the undulating ground, the tender quiet of the
evening; and I invoked the soul of the mountains and the spirit of the

July 22, 1870 (_Bellalpe_).--The sky, which was misty and overcast this
morning, has become perfectly blue again, and the giants of the Valais
are bathed in tranquil light.

Whence this solemn melancholy which oppresses and pursues me? I have
just read a series of scientific books (Bronn on the "Laws of
Palaeontology," Karl Ritter on the "Law of Geographical Forms"). Are
they the cause of this depression? or is it the majesty of this immense
landscape, the splendor of this setting sun, which brings the tears to
my eyes?

"Creature d'un jour qui t'agites une heure,"

what weighs upon thee--I know it well--is the sense of thine utter
nothingness!... The names of great men hover before my eyes like a
secret reproach, and this grand impassive nature tells me that to-morrow
I shall have disappeared, butterfly that I am, without having lived. Or
perhaps it is the breath of eternal things which stirs in me the shudder
of Job. What is man--this weed which a sunbeam withers? What is our life
in the infinite abyss? I feel a sort of sacred terror, not only for
myself, but for my race, for all that is mortal. Like Buddha, I feel the
great wheel turning--the wheel of universal illusion--and the dumb
stupor which enwraps me is full of anguish. Isis lilts the corner of her
veil, and he who perceives the great mystery beneath is struck with
giddiness. I can scarcely breathe. It seems to me that I am hanging by a
thread above the fathomless abyss of destiny. Is this the Infinite face
to face, an intuition of the last great death?

"Creature d'un jour qui t'agites une heure,
Ton ame est immortelle et tes pleurs vont finir."

_Finir?_ When depths of ineffable desire are opening in the heart, as
vast, as yawning as the immensity which surrounds us? Genius,
self-devotion, love--all these cravings quicken into life and torture me
at once. Like the shipwrecked sailor about to sink under the waves, I am
conscious of a mad clinging to life, and at the same time of a rush of
despair and repentance, which forces from me a cry for pardon. And then
all this hidden agony dissolves in wearied submission. "Resign yourself
to the inevitable! Shroud away out of sight the flattering delusions of
youth! Live and die in the shade! Like the insects humming in the
darkness, offer up your evening prayer. Be content to fade out of life
without a murmur whenever the Master of life shall breathe upon your
tiny flame! It is out of myriads of unknown lives that every clod of
earth is built up. The infusoria do not count until they are millions
upon millions. Accept your nothingness." Amen!

But there is no peace except in order, in law. Am I in order? Alas, no!
My changeable and restless nature will torment me to the end. I shall
never see plainly what I ought to do. The love of the better will have
stood between me and the good. Yearning for the ideal will have lost me
reality. Vague aspiration and undefined desire will have been enough to
make my talents useless, and to neutralize my powers. Unproductive
nature that I am, tortured by the belief that production was required of
me, may not my very remorse be a mistake and a superfluity?

Scherer's phrase comes back to me, "We must accept ourselves as we are."

September 8, 1870 (_Zurich_).--All the exiles are returning to
Paris--Edgar Quinet, Louis Blanc, Victor Hugo. By the help of their
united experience will they succeed in maintaining the republic? It is
to be hoped so. But the past makes it lawful to doubt. While the
republic is in reality a fruit, the French look upon it as a
seed-sowing. Elsewhere such a form of government presupposes free men;
in France it is and must be an instrument of instruction and protection.
France has once more placed sovereignty in the hands of universal
suffrage, as though the multitude were already enlightened, judicious,
and reasonable, and now her task is to train and discipline the force
which, by a fiction, is master.

The ambition of France is set upon self-government, but her capacity for
it has still to be proved. For eighty years she has confounded
revolution with liberty; will she now give proof of amendment and of
wisdom? Such a change is not impossible. Let us wait for it with
sympathy, but also with caution.

September 12, 1870 (_Basle_).--The old Rhine is murmuring under my
window. The wide gray stream rolls its great waves along and breaks
against the arches of the bridge, just as it did ten years or twenty
years ago; the red cathedral shoots its arrow-like spires toward heaven;
the ivy on the terraces which fringe the left bank of the Rhine hangs
over the walls like a green mantle; the indefatigable ferry-boat goes
and comes as it did of yore; in a word, things seem to be eternal, while
man's hair turns gray and his heart grows old. I came here first as a
student, then as a professor. Now I return to it at the downward turn of
middle age, and nothing in the landscape has changed except myself.

The melancholy of memory may be commonplace and puerile--all the same it
is true, it is inexhaustible, and the poets of all times have been open
to its attacks.

At bottom, what is individual life? A variation of an eternal theme--to
be born, to live, to feel, to hope, to love, to suffer, to weep, to die.
Some would add to these, to grow rich, to think, to conquer; but in
fact, whatever frantic efforts one may make, however one may strain and
excite one's self, one can but cause a greater or slighter undulation in
the line of one's destiny. Supposing a man renders the series of
fundamental phenomena a little more evident to others or a little more
distinct to himself, what does it matter? The whole is still nothing but
a fluttering of the infinitely little, the insignificant repetition of
an invariable theme. In truth, whether the individual exists or no, the
difference is so absolutely imperceptible in the whole of things that
every complaint and every desire is ridiculous. Humanity in its entirety
is but a flash in the duration of the planet, and the planet may return
to the gaseous state without the sun's feeling it even for a second. The
individual is the infinitesimal of nothing.

What, then, is nature? Nature is Maia--that is to say, an incessant,
fugitive, indifferent series of phenomena, the manifestation of all
possibilities, the inexhaustible play of all combinations.

And is Maia all the while performing for the amusement of somebody, of
some spectator--Brahma? Or is Brahma working out some serious and
unselfish end? From the theistic point of view, is it the purpose of God
to make souls, to augment the sum of good and wisdom by the
multiplication of himself in free beings--facets which may flash back to
him his own holiness and beauty? This conception is far more attractive
to the heart. But is it more true? The moral consciousness affirms it.
If man is capable of conceiving goodness, the general principle of
things, which cannot be inferior to man, must be good. The philosophy of
labor, of duty, of effort, is surely superior to that of phenomena,
chance, and universal indifference. If so, the whimsical Maia would be
subordinate to Brahma, the eternal thought, and Brahma would be in his
turn subordinate to a holy God.

October 25, 1870 (_Geneva_).--"Each function to the most worthy:" this
maxim governs all constitutions, and serves to test them. Democracy is
not forbidden to apply it, but democracy rarely does apply it, because
she holds, for example, that the most worthy man is the man who pleases
her, whereas he who pleases her is not always the most worthy, and
because she supposes that reason guides the masses, whereas in reality
they are most commonly led by passion. And in the end every falsehood
has to be expiated, for truth always takes its revenge.

Alas, whatever one may say or do, wisdom, justice, reason, and goodness
will never be anything more than special cases and the heritage of a few
elect souls. Moral and intellectual harmony, excellence in all its
forms, will always be a rarity of great price, an isolated _chef
d'oeuvre_. All that can be expected from the most perfect institutions
is that they should make it possible for individual excellence to
develop itself, not that they should produce the excellent individual.
Virtue and genius, grace and beauty, will always constitute a _noblesse_
such as no form of government can manufacture. It is of no use,
therefore, to excite one's self for or against revolutions which have
only an importance of the second order--an importance which I do not
wish either to diminish or to ignore, but an importance which, after
all, is mostly negative. The political life is but the means of the true

October 26, 1870.--Sirocco. A bluish sky. The leafy crowns of the trees
have dropped at their feet; the finger of winter has touched them. The
errand-woman has just brought me my letters. Poor little woman, what a
life! She spends her nights in going backward and forward from her
invalid husband to her sister, who is scarcely less helpless, and her
days are passed in labor. Resigned and indefatigable, she goes on
without complaining, till she drops.

Lives such as hers prove something: that the true ignorance is moral
ignorance, that labor and suffering are the lot of all men, and that
classification according to a greater or less degree of folly is
inferior to that which proceeds according to a greater or less degree of
virtue. The kingdom of God belongs not to the most enlightened but to
the best; and the best man is the most unselfish man. Humble, constant,
voluntary self-sacrifice--this is what constitutes the true dignity of
man. And therefore is it written, "The last shall be first." Society
rests upon conscience and not upon science. Civilization is first and
foremost a moral thing. Without honesty, without respect for law,
without the worship of duty, without the love of one's neighbor--in a
word, without virtue--the whole is menaced and falls into decay, and
neither letters nor art, neither luxury nor industry, nor rhetoric, nor
the policeman, nor the custom-house officer, can maintain erect and
whole an edifice of which the foundations are unsound.

A state founded upon interest alone and cemented by fear is an ignoble
and unsafe construction. The ultimate ground upon which every
civilization rests is the average morality of the masses, and a
sufficient amount of practical righteousness. Duty is what upholds all.
So that those who humbly and unobtrusively fulfill it, and set a good
example thereby, are the salvation and the sustenance of this brilliant
world, which knows nothing about them. Ten righteous men would have
saved Sodom, but thousands and thousands of good homely folk are needed
to preserve a people from corruption and decay.

If ignorance and passion are the foes of popular morality, it must be
confessed that moral indifference is the malady of the cultivated
classes. The modern separation of enlightenment and virtue, of thought
and conscience, of the intellectual aristocracy from the honest and
vulgar crowd, is the greatest danger that can threaten liberty. When any
society produces an increasing number of literary exquisites, of
satirists, skeptics, and _beaux esprits_, some chemical disorganization
of fabric may be inferred. Take, for example, the century of Augustus,
and that of Louis XV. Our cynics and railers are mere egotists, who
stand aloof from the common duty, and in their indolent remoteness are
of no service to society against any ill which may attack it. Their
cultivation consists in having got rid of feeling. And thus they fall
farther and farther away from true humanity, and approach nearer to the
demoniacal nature. What was it that Mephistopheles lacked? Not
intelligence certainly, but goodness.

October 28, 1870.--It is strange to see how completely justice is
forgotten in the presence of great international struggles. Even the
great majority of the spectators are no longer capable of judging except
as their own personal tastes, dislikes, fears, desires, interests, or
passions may dictate--that is to say, their judgment is not a judgment at
all. How many people are capable of delivering a fair verdict on the
struggle now going on? Very few! This horror of equity, this antipathy
to justice, this rage against a merciful neutrality, represents a kind
of eruption of animal passion in man, a blind fierce passion, which is
absurd enough to call itself a reason, whereas it is nothing but a

November 16, 1870.--We are struck by something bewildering and ineffable
when we look down into the depths of an abyss; and every soul is an
abyss, a mystery of love and piety. A sort of sacred emotion descends
upon me whenever I penetrate the recesses of this sanctuary of man, and
hear the gentle murmur of the prayers, hymns, and supplications which
rise from the hidden depths of the heart. These involuntary confidences
fill me with a tender piety and a religious awe and shyness. The whole
experience seems to me as wonderful as poetry, and divine with the
divineness of birth and dawn. Speech fails me, I bow myself and adore.
And, whenever I am able, I strive also to console and fortify.

December 6, 1870.--"Dauer im Wechsel"--"Persistence in change." This
title of a poem by Goethe is the summing up of nature. Everything
changes, but with such unequal rapidity that one existence appears
eternal to another. A geological age, for instance, compared to the
duration of any living being, the duration of a planet compared to a
geological age, appear eternities--our life, too, compared to the
thousand impressions which pass across us in an hour. Wherever one
looks, one feels one's self overwhelmed by the infinity of infinites.
The universe, seriously studied, rouses one's terror. Everything seems
so relative that it is scarcely possible to distinguish whether anything
has a real value.

Where is the fixed point in this boundless and bottomless gulf? Must it
not be that which perceives the relations of things--in other words,
thought, infinite thought? The perception of ourselves within the
infinite thought, the realization of ourselves in God, self-acceptance
in him, the harmony of our will with his--in a word, religion--here
alone is firm ground. Whether this thought be free or necessary,
happiness lies in identifying one's self with it. Both the stoic and the
Christian surrender themselves to the Being of beings, which the one
calls sovereign wisdom and the other sovereign goodness. St. John says,
"God is Light," "God is Love." The Brahmin says, "God is the
inexhaustible fount of poetry." Let us say, "God is perfection." And
man? Man, for all his inexpressible insignificance and frailty, may
still apprehend the idea of perfection, may help forward the supreme
will, and die with Hosanna on his lips!

* * * * *

All teaching depends upon a certain presentiment and preparation in the
taught; we can only teach others profitably what they already virtually
know; we can only give them what they had already. This principle of
education is also a law of history. Nations can only be developed on the
lines of their tendencies and aptitudes. Try them on any other and they
are rebellious and incapable of improvement.

* * * * *

By despising himself too much a man comes to be worthy of his own

* * * * *

Its way of suffering is the witness which a soul bears to itself.

* * * * *

The beautiful is superior to the sublime because it lasts and does not
satiate, while the sublime is relative, temporary and violent.

* * * * *

February 4, 1871.--Perpetual effort is the characteristic of modern
morality. A painful process has taken the place of the old harmony, the
old equilibrium, the old joy and fullness of being. We are all so many
fauns, satyrs, or Silenuses, aspiring to become angels; so many
deformities laboring for our own embellishment; so many clumsy
chrysalises each working painfully toward the development of the
butterfly within him. Our ideal is no longer a serene beauty of soul; it
is the agony of Laocoon struggling with the hydra of evil. The lot is
cast irrevocably. There are no more happy whole-natured men among us,
nothing but so many candidates for heaven, galley-slaves on earth.

"Nous ramons notre vie en attendant le port."

Moliere said that reasoning banished reason. It is possible also that
the progress toward perfection we are so proud of is only a pretentious
imperfection. Duty seems now to be more negative than positive; it means
lessening evil rather than actual good; it is a generous discontent, but
not happiness; it is an incessant pursuit of an unattainable goal, a
noble madness, but not reason; it is homesickness for the
impossible--pathetic and pitiful, but still not wisdom.

The being which has attained harmony, and every being may attain it, has
found its place in the order of the universe, and represents the divine
thought at least as clearly as a flower or a solar system. Harmony seeks
nothing outside itself. It is what it ought to be; it is the expression
of right, order, law, and truth; it is greater than time, and represents

February 6,1871.--I am reading Juste Olivier's "Chansons du Soir" over
again, and all the melancholy of the poet seems to pass into my veins.
It is the revelation of a complete existence, and of a whole world of
melancholy reverie.

How much character there is in "Musette," the "Chanson de l'Alouette,"
the "Chant du Retour," and the "Gaite," and how much freshness in
"Lina," and "A ma fille!" But the best pieces of all are "Au dela,"
"Homunculus," "La Trompeuse," and especially "Frere Jacques," its
author's masterpiece. To these may be added the "Marionettes" and the
national song, "Helvetie." Serious purpose and intention disguised in
gentle gayety and childlike _badinage_, feeling hiding itself under a
smile of satire, a resigned and pensive wisdom expressing itself in
rustic round or ballad, the power of suggesting everything in a
nothing--these are the points in which the Vaudois poet triumphs. On the
reader's side there is emotion and surprise, and on the author's a sort
of pleasant slyness which seems to delight in playing tricks upon you,
only tricks of the most dainty and brilliant kind. Juste Olivier has the
passion we might imagine a fairy to have for delicate mystification. He
hides his gifts. He promises nothing and gives a great deal. His
generosity, which is prodigal, has a surly air; his simplicity is really
subtlety; his malice pure tenderness; and his whole talent is, as it
were, the fine flower of the Vaudois mind in its sweetest and dreamiest

February 10, 1871.--My reading for this morning has been some vigorous
chapters of Taine's "History of English Literature." Taine is a writer
whose work always produces a disagreeable impression upon me, as though
of a creaking of pulleys and a clicking of machinery; there is a smell
of the laboratory about it. His style is the style of chemistry and
technology. The science of it is inexorable; it is dry and forcible,
penetrating and hard, strong and harsh, but altogether lacking in charm,
humanity, nobility, and grace. The disagreeable effect which it makes on
one's taste, ear, and heart, depends probably upon two things: upon the
moral philosophy of the author and upon his literary principles. The
profound contempt for humanity which characterizes the physiological
school, and the intrusion of technology into literature inaugurated by
Balzac and Stendhal, explain the underlying aridity of which one is
sensible in these pages, and which seems to choke one like the gases
from a manufactory of mineral products. The book is instructive in the
highest degree, but instead of animating and stirring, it parches,
corrodes, and saddens its reader. It excites no feeling whatever; it is
simply a means of information. I imagine this kind of thing will be the
literature of the future--a literature _a l'Americaine_, as different as
possible from Greek art, giving us algebra instead of life, the formula
instead of the image, the exhalations of the crucible instead of the
divine madness of Apollo. Cold vision will replace the joys of thought,
and we shall see the death of poetry, flayed and dissected by science.

February 15, 1871.--Without intending it, nations educate each other,
while having apparently nothing in view but their own selfish interests.
It was France who made the Germany of the present, by attempting its
destruction during ten generations; it is Germany who will regenerate
contemporary France, by the effort to crush her. Revolutionary France
will teach equality to the Germans, who are by nature hierarchical.
Germany will teach the French that rhetoric is not science, and that
appearance is not as valuable as reality. The worship of prestige--that
is to say, of falsehood; the passion for vainglory--that is to say, for
smoke and noise; these are what must die in the interests of the world.
It is a false religion which is being destroyed. I hope sincerely that
this war will issue in a new balance of things better than any which has
gone before--a new Europe, in which the government of the individual by
himself will be the cardinal principle of society, in opposition to the
Latin principle, which regards the individual as a thing, a means to an
end, an instrument of the church or of the state.

In the order and harmony which would result from free adhesion and
voluntary submission to a common ideal, we should see the rise of a new
moral world. It would be an equivalent, expressed in lay terms, to the
idea of a universal priesthood. The model state ought to resemble a
great musical society in which every one submits to be organized,
subordinated, and disciplined for the sake of art, and for the sake of
producing a masterpiece. Nobody is coerced, nobody is made use of for
selfish purposes, nobody plays a hypocritical or selfish part. All bring
their talent to the common stock, and contribute knowingly and gladly to
the common wealth. Even self-love itself is obliged to help on the
general action, under pain of rebuff should it make itself apparent.

February 18, 1871.--It is in the novel that the average vulgarity of
German society, and its inferiority to the societies of France and
England, are most clearly visible. The notion of "bad taste" seems to
have no place in German aesthetics. Their elegance has no grace in it;
and they cannot understand the enormous difference there is between
distinction (what is _gentlemanly_, _ladylike_), and their stiff
_vornehmlichkeit_. Their imagination lacks style, training, education,
and knowledge of the world; it has an ill-bred air even in its Sunday
dress. The race is poetical and intelligent, but common and
ill-mannered. Pliancy and gentleness, manners, wit, vivacity, taste,
dignity, and charm, are qualities which belong to others.

Will that inner freedom of soul, that profound harmony of all the
faculties which I have so often observed among the best Germans, ever
come to the surface? Will the conquerors of to-day ever learn to
civilize and soften their forms of life? It is by their future novels
that we shall be able to judge. As soon as they are capable of the novel
of "good society" they will have excelled all rivals. Till then, finish,
polish, the maturity of social culture, are beyond them; they may have
humanity of feeling, but the delicacies, the little perfections of life,
are unknown to them. They may be honest and well-meaning, but they are
utterly without _savoir vivre_.

February 22, 1871.--_Soiree_ at the M--. About thirty people
representing our best society were there, a happy mixture of sexes and
ages. There were gray heads, young girls, bright faces--the whole framed
in some Aubusson tapestries which made a charming background, and gave a
soft air of distance to the brilliantly-dressed groups.

In society people are expected to behave as if they lived on ambrosia
and concerned themselves with nothing but the loftiest interests.
Anxiety, need, passion, have no existence. All realism is suppressed as
brutal. In a word, what we call "society" proceeds for the moment on the
flattering illusory assumption that it is moving in an ethereal
atmosphere and breathing the air of the gods. All vehemence, all natural
expression, all real suffering, all careless familiarity, or any frank
sign of passion, are startling and distasteful in this delicate
_milieu_; they at once destroy the common work, the cloud palace, the
magical architectural whole, which has been raised by the general
consent and effort. It is like the sharp cock-crow which breaks the
spell of all enchantments, and puts the fairies to flight. These select
gatherings produce, without knowing it, a sort of concert for eyes and
ears, an improvised work of art. By the instinctive collaboration of
everybody concerned, intellect and taste hold festival, and the
associations of reality are exchanged for the associations of
imagination. So understood, society is a form of poetry; the cultivated
classes deliberately recompose the idyll of the past and the buried
world of Astrea. Paradox or no, I believe that these fugitive attempts
to reconstruct a dream whose only end is beauty represent confused
reminiscences of an age of gold haunting the human heart, or rather
aspirations toward a harmony of things which every day reality denies to
us, and of which art alone gives us a glimpse.

April 28, 1871.--For a psychologist it is extremely interesting to be
readily and directly conscious of the complications of one's own
organism and the play of its several parts. It seems to me that the
sutures of my being are becoming just loose enough to allow me at once a
clear perception of myself as a whole and a distinct sense of my own
brittleness. A feeling like this makes personal existence a perpetual
astonishment and curiosity. Instead of only seeing the world which
surrounds me, I analyze myself. Instead of being single, all of a piece,
I become legion, multitude, a whirlwind--a very cosmos. Instead of
living on the surface, I take possession of my inmost self, I apprehend
myself, if not in my cells and atoms, at least so far as my groups of
organs, almost my tissues, are concerned. In other words, the central
monad isolates itself from all the subordinate monads, that it may
consider them, and finds its harmony again in itself.

Health is the perfect balance between our organism, with all its
component parts, and the outer world; it serves us especially for
acquiring a knowledge of that world. Organic disturbance obliges us to
set up a fresh and more spiritual equilibrium, to withdraw within the
soul. Thereupon our bodily constitution itself becomes the object of
thought. It is no longer we, although it may belong to us; it is nothing
more than the vessel in which we make the passage of life, a vessel of
which we study the weak points and the structure without identifying it
with our own individuality.

Where is the ultimate residence of the self? In thought, or rather in
consciousness. But below consciousness there is its germ, the _punctum
saliens_ of spontaneity; for consciousness is not primitive, it
_becomes_. The question is, can the thinking monad return into its
envelope, that is to say, into pure spontaneity, or even into the dark
abyss of virtuality? I hope not. The kingdom passes; the king remains;
or rather is it the royalty alone which subsists--that is to say, the
idea--the personality begin in its turn merely the passing vesture of
the permanent idea? Is Leibnitz or Hegel right? Is the individual
immortal under the form of the spiritual body? Is he eternal under the
form of the individual idea? Who saw most clearly, St. Paul or Plato?
The theory of Leibnitz attracts me most because it opens to us an
infinite of duration, of multitude, and evolution. For a monad, which is
the virtual universe, a whole infinite of time is not too much to
develop the infinite within it. Only one must admit exterior actions and
influences which affect the evolution of the monad. Its independence
must be a mobile and increasing quantity between zero and the infinite,
without ever reaching either completeness or nullity, for the monad can
be neither absolutely passive nor entirely free.

June 21, 1871.--The international socialism of the _ouvriers_,
ineffectually put down in Paris, is beginning to celebrate its
approaching victory. For it there is neither country, nor memories, nor
property, nor religion. There is nothing and nobody but itself. Its
dogma is equality, its prophet is Mably, and Baboeuf is its god.

[Footnote: Mably, the Abbe Mably, 1709-85, one of the precursors of the
revolution, the professor of a cultivated and classical communism based
on a study of antiquity, which Babeuf and others like him, in the
following generation, translated into practical experiment. "Caius
Gracchus" Babeuf, born 1764, and guillotined in 1797 for a conspiracy
against the Directory, is sometimes called the first French socialist.
Perhaps socialist doctrines, properly so called, may be said to make
their first entry into the region of popular debate and practical
agitation with his "Manifeste des Egaux," issued April 1796.]

How is the conflict to be solved, since there is no longer one single
common principle between the partisans and the enemies of the existing
form of society, between liberalism and the worship of equality? Their
respective notions of man, duty, happiness--that is to say, of life and
its end--differ radically. I suspect that the communism of the
_Internationale_ is merely the pioneer of Russian nihilism, which will
be the common grave of the old races and the servile races, the Latins
and the Slavs. If so, the salvation of humanity will depend upon
individualism of the brutal American sort. I believe that the nations of
the present are rather tempting chastisement than learning wisdom.
Wisdom, which means balance and harmony, is only met within individuals.
Democracy, which means the rule of the masses, gives preponderance to
instinct, to nature, to the passions--that is to say, to blind impulse,
to elemental gravitation, to generic fatality. Perpetual vacillation
between contraries becomes its only mode of progress, because it
represents that childish form of prejudice which falls in love and
cools, adores, and curses, with the same haste and unreason. A
succession of opposing follies gives an impression of change which the
people readily identify with improvement, as though Enceladus was more
at ease on his left side than on his right, the weight of the volcano
remaining the same. The stupidity of Demos is only equaled by its
presumption. It is like a youth with all his animal and none of his
reasoning powers developed.

Luther's comparison of humanity to a drunken peasant, always ready to
fall from his horse on one side or the other, has always struck me as a
particularly happy one. It is not that I deny the right of the
democracy, but I have no sort of illusion as to the use it will make of
its right, so long, at any rate, as wisdom is the exception and conceit
the rule. Numbers make law, but goodness has nothing to do with figures.
Every fiction is self-expiating, and democracy rests upon this legal
fiction, that the majority has not only force but reason on its
side--that it possesses not only the right to act but the wisdom
necessary for action. The fiction is dangerous because of its flattery;
the demagogues have always flattered the private feelings of the masses.
The masses will always be below the average. Besides, the age of
majority will be lowered, the barriers of sex will be swept away, and
democracy will finally make itself absurd by handing over the decision
of all that is greatest to all that is most incapable. Such an end will
be the punishment of its abstract principle of equality, which dispenses
the ignorant man from the necessity of self-training, the foolish man
from that of self-judgment, and tells the child that there is no need
for him to become a man, and the good-for-nothing that self-improvement
is of no account. Public law, founded upon virtual equality, will
destroy itself by its consequences. It will not recognize the
inequalities of worth, of merit, and of experience; in a word, it
ignores individual labor, and it will end in the triumph of platitude
and the residuum. The _regime_ of the Parisian Commune has shown us what
kind of material comes to the top in these days of frantic vanity and
universal suspicion.

Still, humanity is tough, and survives all catastrophes. Only it makes
one impatient to see the race always taking the longest road to an end,
and exhausting all possible faults before it is able to accomplish one
definite step toward improvement. These innumerable follies, that are to
be and must be, have an irritating effect upon me. The more majestic is
the history of science, the more intolerable is the history of politics
and religion. The mode of progress in the moral world seems an abuse of
the patience of God.

Enough! There is no help in misanthropy and pessimism. If our race vexes
us, let us keep a decent silence on the matter. We are imprisoned on the
same ship, and we shall sink with it. Pay your own debt, and leave the
rest to God. Sharer, as you inevitably are, in the sufferings of your
kind, set a good example; that is all which is asked of you. Do all the
good you can, and say all the truth you know or believe; and for the
rest be patient, resigned, submissive. God does his business, do yours.

July 29, 1871.--So long as a man is capable of self-renewal he is a
living being. Goethe, Schleiermacher and Humboldt, were masters of the
art. If we are to remain among the living there must be a perpetual
revival of youth within us, brought about by inward change and by love
of the Platonic sort. The soul must be forever recreating itself, trying
all its various modes, vibrating in all its fibres, raising up new
interests for itself....

The "Epistles" and the "Epigrams" of Goethe which I have been reading
to-day do not make one love him. Why? Because he has so little soul. His
way of understanding love, religion, duty, and patriotism has something
mean and repulsive in it. There is no ardor, no generosity in him. A
secret barrenness, an ill-concealed egotism, makes itself felt through
all the wealth and flexibility of his talent. It is true that the
egotism of Goethe has at least this much that is excellent in it, that
it respects the liberty of the individual, and is favorable to all
originality. But it will go out of its way to help nobody; it will give
itself no trouble for anybody; it will lighten nobody else's burden; in
a word, it does away with charity, the great Christian virtue.
Perfection for Goethe consists in personal nobility, not in love; his
standard is aesthetic, not moral. He ignores holiness, and has never
allowed himself to reflect on the dark problem of evil. A Spinozist to
the core, he believes in individual luck, not in liberty, nor in
responsibility. He is a Greek of the great time, to whom the inward
crises of the religious consciousness are unknown. He represents, then,
a state of soul earlier than or subsequent to Christianity, what the
prudent critics of our time call the "modern spirit;" and only one
tendency of the modern spirit--the worship of nature. For Goethe stands
outside all the social and political aspirations of the generality of
mankind; he takes no more interest than Nature herself in the
disinherited, the feeble, and the oppressed....

The restlessness of our time does not exist for Goethe and his school.
It is explicable enough. The deaf have no sense of dissonance. The man
who knows nothing of the voice of conscience, the voice of regret or
remorse, cannot even guess at the troubles of those who live under two
masters and two laws, and belong to two worlds--that of nature and that
of liberty. For himself, his choice is made. But humanity cannot choose
and exclude. All needs are vocal at once in the cry of her suffering.
She hears the men of science, but she listens to those who talk to her
of religion; pleasure attracts her, but sacrifice moves her; and she
hardly knows whether she hates or whether she adores the crucifix.

_Later_.--Still re-reading the sonnets and the miscellaneous poems of
Goethe. The impression left by this part of the "Gedichte" is much more
favorable than that made upon me by the "Elegies" and the "Epigrams."
The "Water Spirits" and "The Divine" are especially noble in feeling.
One must never be too hasty in judging these complex natures. Completely
lacking as he is in the sense of obligation and of sin, Goethe
nevertheless finds his way to seriousness through dignity. Greek
sculpture has been his school of virtue.

August 15, 1871.--Re-read, for the second time, Renan's "Vie de Jesus,"
in the sixteenth popular edition. The most characteristic feature of
this analysis of Christianity is that sin plays no part at all in it.
Now, if anything explains the success of the gospel among men, it is
that it brought them deliverance from sin--in a word, salvation. A man,
however, is bound to explain a religion seriously, and not to shirk the
very center of his subject. This white-marble Christ is not the Christ
who inspired the martyrs and has dried so many tears. The author lacks
moral seriousness, and confounds nobility of character with holiness. He
speaks as an artist conscious of a pathetic subject, but his moral sense
is not interested in the question. It is not possible to mistake the
epicureanism of the imagination, delighting itself in an aesthetic
spectacle, for the struggles of a soul passionately in search of truth.
In Renan there are still some remains of priestly _ruse_; he strangles
with sacred cords. His tone of contemptuous indulgence toward a more or
less captious clergy might be tolerated, but he should have shown a more
respectful sincerity in dealing with the sincere and the spiritual.
Laugh at Pharisaism as you will, but speak simply and plainly to honest
folk. [Footnote: "'Persifflez les pharisaismes, mais parlez droit aux
honnetes gens' me dit Amiel, avec une certaine aigreur. Mon Dieu, que
les honnetes gens sont souvent exposes a etre des pharisiens sans le
savoir!"--(M. Renan's article, already quoted).]

_Later_.--To understand is to be conscious of the fundamental unity of
the thing to be explained--that is to say, to conceive it in its
entirety both of life and development, to be able to remake it by a
mental process without making a mistake, without adding or omitting
anything. It means, first, complete identification of the object, and
then the power of making it clear to others by a full and just
interpretation. To understand is more difficult than to judge, for
understanding is the transference of the mind into the conditions of the
object, whereas judgment is simply the enunciation of the individual

August 25, 1871. (_Charnex-sur-Montreux_).--Magnificent weather. The
morning seems bathed in happy peace, and a heavenly fragrance rises from
mountain and shore; it is as though a benediction were laid upon us. No
vulgar intrusive noise disturbs the religious quiet of the scene. One
might believe one's self in a church--a vast temple in which every being
and every natural beauty has its place. I dare not breathe for fear of
putting the dream to flight--a dream traversed by angels.

"Comme autrefois j'entends dans l'ether infini
La musique du temps et l'hosanna des mondes."

In these heavenly moments the cry of Pauline rises to one's lips.
[Footnote: "Polyeuete," Act. V. Scene v.

"Mon epoux en mourant m'a laisse ses lumieres;
Son sang dont tes bourreaux viennent de me couvrir
M'a dessille les yeux et me les vient d'ouvrir.
Je vois, je sais, je crois----"]

"I feel! I believe! I see!" All the miseries, the cares, the vexations
of life, are forgotten; the universal joy absorbs us; we enter into the
divine order, and into the blessedness of the Lord. Labor and tears,
sin, pain, and death have passed away. To exist is to bless; life is
happiness. In this sublime pause of things all dissonances have
disappeared. It is as though creation were but one vast symphony,
glorifying the God of goodness with an inexhaustible wealth of praise
and harmony. We question no longer whether it is so or not. We have
ourselves become notes in the great concert; and the soul breaks the
silence of ecstasy only to vibrate in unison with the eternal joy.

September 22, 1871. (_Charnex_).--Gray sky--a melancholy day. A friend
has left me, the sun is unkind and capricious. Everything passes away,
everything forsakes us. And in place of all we have lost, age and gray
hairs! ... After dinner I walked to Chailly between two showers. A rainy
landscape has a great charm for me; the dark tints become more velvety,
the softer tones more ethereal. The country in rain is like a face with
traces of tears upon it--less beautiful no doubt, but more expressive.

Behind the beauty which is superficial, gladsome, radiant, and palpable,
the aesthetic sense discovers another order of beauty altogether,
hidden, veiled, secret and mysterious, akin to moral beauty. This sort
of beauty only reveals itself to the initiated, and is all the more
exquisite for that. It is a little like the refined joy of sacrifice,
like the madness of faith, like the luxury of grief; it is not within
the reach of all the world. Its attraction is peculiar, and affects one
like some strange perfume, or bizarre melody. When once the taste for it
is set up the mind takes a special and keen delight in it, for one finds
in it

"Son bien premierement, puis le dedain d'autrui,"

and it is pleasant to one's vanity not to be of the same opinion as the
common herd. This, however, is not possible with things which are
evident, and beauty which is incontestable. Charm, perhaps, is a better
name for the esoteric and paradoxical beauty, which escapes the vulgar,
and appeals to our dreamy, meditative side. Classical beauty belongs, so
to speak, to all eyes; it has ceased to belong to itself. Esoteric
beauty is shy and retiring. It only unveils itself to unsealed eyes, and
bestows its favors only upon love.

This is why my friend ----, who places herself immediately in relation
with the souls of those she meets, does not see the ugliness of people
when once she is interested in them. She likes and dislikes, and those
she likes are beautiful, those she dislikes are ugly. There is nothing
more complicated in it than that. For her, aesthetic considerations are
lost in moral sympathy; she looks with her heart only; she passes by the
chapter of the beautiful, and goes on to the chapter of charm. I can do
the same; only it is by reflection and on second thoughts; my friend
does it involuntarily and at once; she has not the artistic fiber. The
craving for a perfect correspondence between the inside and the outside
of things--between matter and form--is not in her nature. She does not
suffer from ugliness, she scarcely perceives it. As for me, I can only
forget what shocks me, I cannot help being shocked. All corporal defects
irritate me, and the want of beauty in women, being something which
ought not to exist, shocks me like a tear, a solecism, a dissonance, a
spot of ink--in a word, like something out of order. On the other hand,
beauty restores and fortifies me like some miraculous food, like
Olympian ambrosia.

"Que le bon soit toujours camarade du beau
Des demain je chercherai femme.
Mais comme le divorce entre eux n'est pas nouveau,
Et que peu de beaux corps, hotes d'une belle ame,
Assemblent l'un et l'autre point----"

I will not finish, for after all one must resign one's self, A beautiful
soul in a healthy body is already a rare and blessed thing; and if one
finds heart, common sense, intellect, and courage into the bargain, one
may well do without that ravishing dainty which we call beauty, and
almost without that delicious seasoning which we call grace. We do
without--with a sigh, as one does without a luxury. Happy we, to possess
what is necessary.

December 29, 1871.--I have been reading Bahnsen ("Critique de
l'evolutionisme de Hegel-Hartmann, au nom des principes de
Schopenhauer"). What a writer! Like a cuttle-fish in water, every

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