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Protestantism towards Catholicism, so that it may see the latter
directly, and not across superficial facts, these have had no great
success. 8 Loc. '/., p. 193.



PROTESTANT MANIFESTATIONS 213

" . . . Indeed, unless at least we admit that God
is already c all in all,' we must acknowledge, accord-
ing to St. Paul himself, that the supreme manifesta-
tion of God is yet to come. To-day, the revelation
of the Eternal in history is incomplete : the present
stage of cosmic evolution does not allow us to work
out an adequate concept of divinity. The present
world is an embryonic organism 1 which aspires to
the perfect state; that perfect state is the Kingdom
of God, or the City of Justice, or Humanity. We
may also call it God : for God is the final cause of
the world. Hence, to admit that God exists is only
a first step. We must go further; we must will that
God be. This affirmation and this attitude joined
together constitute faith in God." 2

" . . . To have faith in God is, then, to will God's
full revelation in the future. God is not yet totally
manifested. And that is why it is not strange that
His existence can be doubted; that is why a modern
thinker could write : ' God is the supreme decision
of the soul.' That is to say, we must will that God
be; we must affirm it with all the moral powers of
our being; all our faculties must be accessory to His
advent, allies in His cause. To have faith in God
is no mere intellectual belief; it is an heroic deed, a
personal enlisting in the service of truth, of justice,
of beauty, of love; a free subordination of the present
to the future; a consecration of our body, soul and
spirit to the ideal which God pursues in humanity,
by the Son of Man. Definitively, faith in God

1 " Creation is never done : the best is to be born," Charles
Wagner has said (UAmi, dialogues of the inner life, Paris, 1905,
P- 356).

2 Aux croyants et aux aihees, p. 195.



2i 4 FRANCE TO-DAY

veritably engages our faith, in the mystical and
sublime sense of the term." *

Then, in a kind of paraphrase of the Lord's Prayer,
rising to thoughts which hitherto and upon less
orthodox lips would have been regarded as blas-
phemous, he exclaims :

"Thy kingdom come! that is to say, may the
Messiah triumph! may the Spirit of Jesus bear off
the victory! May economic enfranchisement, intel-
lectual liberation, religious redemption of the human
race, become an accomplished fact and prove the
divine Fatherhood ! O God ! achieve incarnation :
after the divine Man and through Him, give us the
divine Humanity!

" Thy will be done on earth ! In order to conquer
Thou hast need of us. c Behold, I am here to do thy
will! ' Behold, I am here to suffer, love, rejoice,
doubt, seek, succumb, adore! Use me! Help me
to help ! Not what I will, but what Thou wilt. . . .
Or rather, I will what Thou wiliest. Thou wiliest
what I will. Thou wiliest by me, Thou actest, lovest,
speakest by me. Thou art the stem, I am the branch :
it is by the branch that the trunk bears fruit.
Ecstasy !

" Praying thus, I became an organ of the Holy
Spirit : I give Him opportunity to manifest Himself
here below, I enter into His compassionate insight,
I subscribe to His redemptive programme; in other
terms, I accede to God."

1 Aux croyants et aux atkees, p. 195.

2 Some day the theses of M. Monod will be set side by side with
those of M. Marcel Hebert's two articles, Revue de mttaphysique



PROTESTANT MANIFESTATIONS 215

Listening to such new accents, we no more think
of allowing ourselves to be thwarted by M. Monod's
Protestant phraseology than we should think of
wondering at a priest who used Latin to stammer
out the emotions of his soul. Borne along by his
ardent mysticism, M. W. Monod has passed the
point reached on a somewhat different route by
Auguste Sabatier, and has attained a mountain ridge
where he is met by the most living representatives of
Catholicism and of Free-thought. Will this com-
munion of feeling, effort and thought prove to be
only an episode, or is it indeed a presage of a union
of all the spiritual forces of France?



et de morale, July 1902, and March 1903, which made a great
impression both on Catholicism and on the undenominational
world, and led to the author's rupture with the Church.



CHAPTER XIII

ITS MANIFESTATIONS IN FREE-THOUGHT

That Free-thought is not essentially anti-religious Free dis-
cussion according to Seailles : according to F. Buisson Is the
pessimism of Charles Peguy justified ? Significant success of
the Cahiers de la quinzaine The School of Advanced Social
Studies, and its section for the study of religion in its relation
to society The Union of Free-thinkers and Free-believers.

AT first sight, to speak of religions orientation in
Free-thought looks like a challenge. That there
may remain traces of ecclesiastical habits and a sort
of religious bent among many free-thinkers is wil-
lingly allowed; but some people will find it difficult
to believe that these vestiges will not in their turn
be eliminated by the mere effect of time.

Is not the religious sentiment inexorably driven
back by Free-thought? Has it not taken as its
programme and raison d'etre the substitution of
science for religion?

Well no! These somewhat simplistic views-
very natural when the Church was setting forth to
battle against all scientific freedom, when a professor
of geology was denounced by the College Chaplain
as teaching his pupils things which could not be
made to agree with the story of Genesis these views
are everywhere outgrown. Now and again there are,
indeed, attacks and fits of fury against Churches,
dogmas and rites; but along with these incidents,

216



FREE-THOUGHT 217

which are often somewhat episodical and superficial,
there is a very marked effort on the part of most
of the authoritative representatives of Free-thought
to recover the feeling which created religious
institutions.

Free- thought has not always made war on religion.
It has warred against certain expressions of religious
feeling which, by giving themselves out to be abso-
lute and final, not only acquired authority to be no
longer living and laborious, but claimed to suppress
other younger and more vigorous expressions. It
is not against religious activity that it has risen up,
but against idleness and pride; just as it would rise
up not against ^ience, but against the scientists who
should claim that in them the human intellect had
uttered its final word.

For that matter, it must be recognised that in the
crisis of to-day the plain soldiers and even the non-
commissioned officers of Free-thought often declare
that they are following up the extirpation of all
religion, and that there is no difference between
superstition and religion. But if we have en-
deavoured to judge the Church by her best self, and
not by the manifestations of the Camelots du JRoz, 1
however noisy these may be, we ought to do as much
for Free-thought, and not to judge it by the cases in
which its action contradicts its ideal.

If we do so, we are soon led to state that, far from
opposing science to faith, as in a kind of duel in
which one or the other must give way, the men who
best represent Free-thought desire for science not
only a limitless freedom, including therein freedom

1 Royalist partisans, literally " the king's pedlars." TRANS.



2i 8 FRANCE TO-DAY

from error, but that in its efforts it should be in-
spired with an ardour, a patience, a heroism, which
are nothing else than faith. They do not think of
destroying faith, but, on the contrary, of giving it
better knowledge of itself, of its strength and of the
new labours it must undertake.

Need I say that by Free-thought I mean that in
which, according to M. Seailles' fine phrase, " there
is freedom and thought"? 1

It is only too true that in societies of free-thinkers
a number of persons dwell side by side who under-
stand but little of the very idea which lies in those
two words. But is not this the fate of every human
institution? Do not the Churches swarm with
believers whose lives are in perpetual contradiction
to the faith and morality they profess?

Even in our country districts people begin to dis-
tinguish between thought which is really free and
" Free- thought " conceived as an orthodoxy turned
inside out, which not only denies the results to which
the metaphysics of the past have led, but regards
the effort that produced them as a malady whereof
humanity has been the victim throughout the ages.
This merely negative tendency would indeed consti-
tute a mutilation of human nature, but it is far from
being so widely represented as both its enemies and
certain of its partisans would have us believe parti-
sans who are, like commission agents, busy organising

1 Letter to the International Congress of Free-thought at
Geneva, in 1902, reproduced at length in La Raison for Sept. 14,
1902, and in the volume Les Affirmations de la conscience moderne,
Paris, 1904, p. 225 et seq.



FREE-THOUGHT



219



some new Church whereof they will be the high
priests.

The men who are to-day most attacked as repre-
senting Free-thought Ferdinand Buisson, Jules
Payot, and Gabriel Seailles are of quite another
spirit. 1 Why, it may be asked, do they let them-
selves be compromised by noisy manifestations which
are not always disinterested? The answer is very
simple. The more Free-thought is conscious of its
mission the less does it constitute a Church. Excom-
munication is a weapon it does not use.

The Free-thought professed by the eminent men
I have just named, far from being a denial of the
past labour of humanity, is an effort to continue it,
and an invitation to every man to collaborate therein.
It is the virile assertion that the past is neither error
nor pure truth, but a dazzling series of human en-
deavours to conquer truth. The time has come
when, for us, this idea consecrates the past with a
power quite other than a kind of ritual canonisation;
it makes us feel therein the life that we have re-
ceived, whereby we live, and which, in our turn, we
transmit. By this, Free-thought puts us into inti-
mate and real contact with the life eternal; causes

1 This spirit not merely of toleration, but of intelligence and
respect, manifests itself also in the groups of young free-thinkers.
Here is one declaration of many that may be read even in militant
publications : " Many professed free-thinkers may be found who
are nothing but fanatical sectarians. For them, Free-thought
is not a method, but a doctrine, an intangible and sacred dogma.
They take to themselves the Catholic formula, ' Outside the Church
no salvation,' and treat with puerile contempt feelings and beliefs
which their vulgar censure cannot touch." Annales de la jeunesse
laique, the organ of the Federation, in the issue for Sept. 1910,
p. 123.



220 FRANCE TO-DAY

us to touch it in some way; constitutes it a fact of
experience which goes beyond us in every direction,
and becomes as real to us as our own personality.

It is said in the Churches that " Man can only
attach himself with love to that which is eternal " :
and, in answer to this desire, the old metaphysics
offer intellectual constructions which have only this
defect they lack a fulcrum, unless there comes an act
of will to offer them one by a kind of coup d'etat.
Free-thought, on the contrary, by setting us before
the stream of life whose momentary expression we
are, presents this eternity to us as an elementary fact
to be ascertained. Free-thought awakens in us the
sensation which, for long ages before Christ, was
preparing his spiritual cradle the sensation enunci-
ated by the prophets of Israel in the phrase which
dominates all the Old Testament " God lives," and
which forms, as it were, the leitmotiv of the early
Christian preaching. 1 ^u<erere Deum si forte attrec-
tent eum aut inveniant, quamvis non longe sit ab
unoquoque nostrum. In ipso enim vivimus et
movemur et sumus; sicut et quidam vestrorum
poetarum dixerunt: Ipsius enim et genus sumus.

The French language, even at its most flexible and
finely shaded, lends itself but ill to render what in
the original Greek, and in the Latin of the Vulgate,
is here so living and dramatic. How splendid

1 Acts xvii. 27-9, Paul's address on the Areopagus. " [It was
God who planted in the nations the instinct of] seeking after
God to see if they might find Him [which they have not been able
to do] though He be not far from each one of us. For it is in
Him we live, and move, and have our being ; as some of your
poets also have said : ... Of His race are we." After Renan's
translation, Saint Paul, p. 196.



FREE-THOUGHT 221

and moving is this advance of humanity towards a
divine it does not see a divine it forebodes and
creates !

It is an experimental philosophy of life that Free-
thought brings us a philosophy which brings us
into communion of feeling and action with all the
past.

" Free examination," writes M. Seailles, 1 " is not
the right to decree one's opinion, to proclaim one's
infallibility; it is the duty of doubting where one
must; of avoiding precipitation; of curbing one's
passions and prejudices; IT is THE MERITORIOUS

EFFORT TO OBEY GOD BY REDISCOVERING HIS
THOUGHT. 2

" But in obeying God, we submit ourselves to our
own reason, for our reason is joined to the divine
thought; truth is not imposed upon us from without;
it is within that we discover it as our law, as our
good, as that which realises us, fulfils us, gives us
veritable existence. 3

1 Les Affirmations de la conscience moderne, Paris, 1904, p. 185.

2 The capitals are ours.

3 Is not this, in a way, the theory of religious experience as
William James has summarised it ?

''.The individual, so far as he suffers from his wrongness and
criticises it, is to that extent consciously beyond it, and in at least
possible touch with something higher, if anything higher exist.
Along with the wrong part there is thus a better part of him, even
though it be but a most helpless germ. With which part he should
identify his real being is by no means obvious at this stage. But
when stage two (the stage of solution or salvation) arrives, the man
identifies his real being with the germinal higher part of himself ;
and does so in the following way. He becomes conscious that this
higher part is conterminous and continuous with A MORE of the
same quality, which is operative in the universe outside of him, and
which be can keep in working touch with, and in a fashion get on



222 FRANCE TO-DAY

"If by reflection we perceive ourself, not as a
being of desires and sensations, a solitary individual
opposed to all that is not he, but as a person, made
that he may think and will the universal, and thus
join himself with all reasoning beings in the truth
and good which are their law and their common
reality, we shall come forth from among the contra-
dictions that render us unintelligible to ourself. We
have not to choose between anarchy and despotism,
to sacrifice one of the two terms which all true life
ought to reconcile order and liberty, free examina-
tion or harmony of mind, the individual or society.
We are not forced to submit to an outer authority
without discussion, our only chance of agreement
lying in silence : we may hope that through many
mistakes and momentary divisions, from the progress
of thought, from the provisional contradictions it
implies, unity of spirit will, little by little, disengage
itself. Free examination does not condemn us to
reject tradition with scorn, because tradition ex-
presses an instant of that pious effort whereby men
strive towards a truth they will never possess save
under imperfect symbols."

Is not this, indeed, the sequel to St. Paul's address
on the Areopagus, which we quoted above? Are
not those who, after reading such pages, can treat
their authors as sectarians, atheists, and anti-religious
persons, the heirs and successors of those heathen
who accused the first Christians of atheism ?

In a little volume which marks an epoch in the

board of and save himself when all his lower being has gone to pieces
in the wreck" Varieties of Religious Experience, London and
New York, 1903, fifth impression, p. 508. [M. Sabatier quotes
from the French translation of M. Abauzit, Paris, 1908.]



FREE-THOUGHT 223

history of French Protestantism, 1 Ferdinand Buisson,
another of the masters of present-day Free-thought,
wrote in the same spirit, recalling Marcel Hebert's
words : " ' The ideal God of the good and the true,'
far, indeed, from being a vain and shallow conception
of the human spirit, is the supreme reality it is force
and being par excellence. Is there anything more
alive than the laws of the spirit which are the very
soul of our soul those laws of nature which are the
most eternal and eternally active things in the uni-
verse, infinitely more existent than our paltry and
ephemeral existences? "

Ferdinand Buisson notes the tendency and policy
of the Churches to identify themselves with religion,
and then adds :

" Yet we need not let religion be thus indefinitely
confiscated by the religions.

1 Libre-pensee et protestantisme libral y by F. Buisson and
Charles Wagner, Paris, 1903, p. 54.

The book was written under the following circumstances :
Ferdinand Buisson, having accepted the presidency of the National
Society of Free-thought, and participated in various anti-clerical
ceremonies, many Protestants, of various tendencies, blamed him
strongly for it. The honourable member for Paris seized the
opportunity for an explanation with his co-religionists ; and, in
four letters written to the paper Le Protestant, advised them with
great energy to become more open towards Free- thought. He
showed them that they are free-thinkers without knowing it, and
that for them to meet their unsectarian fellows would lead these
to correct certain faults of theirs, while giving themselves a chance
of acquiring new vigour in actual life.

The paper charged Pastor Charles Wagner with drawing up
a reply; it is enough to say that it was worthy of the speaker.

It constitutes a conclusion of non-acceptance very dignified
and even amiable, but categorical. The whole is collected in
the volume cited.



224 FRANCE TO-DAY

"There is only one religion; there has ever been
but one under the numberless forms corresponding
to the different ages of human civilisation. This is
the religion of goodness : or, to analyse it more
deeply, the religion of the spirit aspiring to fulfil its
function of spirit; to know the true, love the beau-
tiful, and do the good, the last term summarising
the two others. It is the effort of the human soul to
realise its law, to live its normal life, to attain its
natural purposes. Religion, which is nothing else
than the instinct and urge of humanity pursuing its
destiny; religion, which man draws out of the depths
of himself, and which he represents to himself as
coming to him from the deep of heaven, so authorita-
tively does it command him, so much does it appear
to him as the supreme law of the universe.

" It takes more or less long to disengage itself in
its purity and simplicity, to avow that it is the voice
of his conscience, and that all its majesty comes pre-
cisely from its being Nature herself his own nature
that which is at once most familiar and most
mysterious in his being."

Did not the author of the Fourth Gospel catch a
glimpse of some analogous truth when he put into
the mouth of Jesus, as he talked with the Samaritan
woman by the well of Sychar, the words, " Woman,
believe me, the hour cometh when neither in this
mountain nor in Jerusalem shall ye worship the
Father. Ye worship that which ye know not; we
worship that which we know, for salvation is from
the Jews. But the hour cometh and now is, when
the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit
and truth; for such doth the Father seek to be his



FREE-THOUGHT 225

worshippers. God is a Spirit, and they that worship
him must worship in spirit and truth."? l

The great crisis through which the Church is
passing at this moment does not arise out of the
incredulity of a few men, nor even from I know not
what plot concocted by secret societies a puerile
explanation which one wonders to see put forward
so often 2 but from the fact that the official morality

1 John iv. 21-24. R.V.

2 The notion of a plot does not cease to haunt the mind of some
members of the clerical party, and perhaps it is this that renders
them most alien to contemporary life and thought. Dangerous
in their natural milieu, they are infinitely more so if by misfortune
they leave it and go over to Free-thought, for then they carry
over with them this unwholesome habit of mind.

Even a man of the intellectual and religious worth of the Comte
de Mun writes that " Universal Free Masonry, whereof formerly
philosophy was the intellectual cloak as science is to-day, exerts
its powerful influence upon governments. Master of all the forces
that shape the world's opinion, it pursues the same object, the
annihilation of the Church, her organisation and social influence ;
and to attain this, makes war on the Papacy, the head, heart and
intelligence of the Church. To separate the Catholic peoples
from the Papacy by denouncing its blindness and intransigence,
and by this means to lead them into apostasy, such is the plan
followed with untiring perseverance, sometimes openly, sometimes
by crooked paths. Thus the drama which is now beginning in
Spain reproduces even in detail the one whose melancholy scenes
we have known, and whose obscure vicissitudes are not yet unfolded."
Gaulois, Aug. 13, 1910.

Elsewhere, a bishop, Monsignor Touchet, Bishop of Orleans,
recounts unhesitatingly strange stories which make one think of
Leo Taxil and certain veiled women of sad memory. See Univers
for Oct. 12, 1910, article on " A Masonic Plot." (Cp. in La Croix
for Aug. 21, 1910 : " Free Masonry against Canada. History of
a conspiracy and its original discovery.") The scholastic laws are
also the result of a plot, and U Entente cordiale, Jan. 8, 1911,



226 FRANCE TO-DAY

of the Churches has suddenly found itself lagging
behind that of men's consciences.

It is true that pessimistic voices make themselves
heard here and there. M. Charles Peguy, for
instance, wrote not long ago : -1

" We do not yet know whether our children will
knot together again the thread of tradition, of re-
publican conservation; whether, joining themselves
across the intermediate generation, they will main-
tain and rediscover the sense and instinct of repub-
lican mysticism. What we know, what we see, what
we perceive with absolute certainty, is that we are for
the moment the rear-guard.

"Why should we deny it? The whole inter-
mediate generation has lost the republican sense, the
taste for the Republic : the instinct surer than any
knowledge the instinct of republican mysticism. It
has grown totally foreign to this mysticism. The
intermediate generation and that makes twenty
years. Twenty-five years of age, and at least twenty
years of duration.

"We are the rear-guard; not only a rear-guard,
but a somewhat isolated, sometimes even an aban-
doned rear-guard. An unsupported troop. We are

writes : " What is moving and dramatic in the last plot concocted
by the sect against the French soul is that it will inevitably drive
Catholics into prison and to the shedding of blood." See also
in La Crotx, Jan. 28, 1911, under the heading "Certain Plot."

We have felt it necessary to give a few recent and precise examples
of this curious mental attitude, less to show how distressing it is
in men who have a great influence over Catholic opinion than to
indicate how difficult it is for Free-thought to maintain discussions
in the serene region of ideas and of deep personal respect.

1 Notre jeuncsse^ p. 13.



FREE-THOUGHT 227

almost specimens. We are about to be, we ourselves
are about to be archives, archives and tables, fossils,
witnesses, survivors from these historic ages, tables
which will be consulted.

" We are extremely ill situated in chronology and
in the sequence of the generations. We are a rear-
guard badly connected, unconnected with the bulk
of the troop, with former generations. We are the
last of the generations that retain the republican
mysticism. And our Dreyfus affair will be the last
performance of republican mysticism.

" We are the last. Almost the leavings (les apres-
derniers). Directly after us begins another age, an
entirely other world the world of those who no
more believe anything, who make that their glory and


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