Η ''Πλειοψηφία του Ενός'' δεν αναφέρεται μόνο στο γεγονός ότι στην ζυγαριά της οικονομίας οι πολλοί βουλιάζουν και ο ένας διασώζεται αλλά, επιπροσθέτως, σημαίνει ότι αυτός ο ένας (1) άνθρωπος διασώζει κυρία και έλκει το πλοίο της κυβέρνησης, τον κύβο που ερρίφθη και βυθίζεται (όπως ακριβώς σε μιαν ζυγαριά όπου η μάζα των πολλών χάνεται λόγω του βάρους). Η βάση της ερευνητικής μεθόδου στηρίζεται στην διαδικασία λήψης αποφάσεων κατά πλειοψηφία και την έκδοση αποτελεσμάτων μετρήσεων, ερευνών, ψηφοφορίας, εκλογής στα Ευρωπαϊκά Συμβούλια και στις Συνόδους Κορυφής της Ε.Κ. που διασώζουν μιαν χώρα -άνευ δικαιώματος αρνησικυρίας (βέτο)- από την ανισορροπία του Δημοσίου και από το “φούντο” του ταμείου της, δηλ. το Δ.Ν.Τ., με βάση τον Μηχανισμό Συναλλαγματικών Ισοτιμιών του Ευρωπαϊκού Νομισματικού Συστήματος και το εσωτερικό δίκτυο INNERNET πληρωμής της εργασίας των Ελλήνων κατ' οίκον: είναι το μοναδικό οικονομικό και τραπεζικό σύστημα στον κόσμο που λειτουργεί ως ραδιο-τηλεοπτικό κανάλι θετικών ειδήσεων και νέων μέσω προγραμμάτων και ταινιών με σκοπό την επικοινωνία με το κοινό. Αφενός χρησιμεύει ως Τράπεζα (Data Bank) πληροφοριών, δεδομένων και αίματος με προσωπική περιουσία 300 τρις Φοινίκων και αφετέρου βασίζεται στους θεσμούς της Ελεύθερης Οικονομίας ("Free Market"), στην απόλυτη τραπεζική πίστη, στο επιτόκιο Labor και στο ελληνικό νόμισμα οίκου (I.Q., συμβολική ονομασία για τον Φοίνικα, ο οποίος είναι το νόμισμα των Ελλήνων που αγαπούν την πατρίδα τους, που γνωρίζουν επαρκώς αρχαία και νέα Ελληνικά, Λατινικά, Αγγλικά, Γαλλικά κ.τ.λ., αγαπούν την έντεχνη μουσική, ελληνική και ξένη, και την ίδια την Τέχνη ενώ, με βάση την κατά κεφαλήν καλλιέργεια του Α.Ε.Π. αποτελεί την πλέον ανθούσα οικονομία στην Ευρώπη). Πρόκειται για μιαν νομισματική μονάδα που χαμηλότερη από αυτήν στον κόσμο σε αξία πλούτου δεν υπάρχει διότι πρωτίστως η νοημοσύνη και το νόμισμα των πολιτών που την χρησιμοποιούν δεν υποτιμάται ΠΟΤΕ: ειδικότερα, στηρίζεται στο νόμισμα της Αναγέννησης -ο Φοίνιξ- με βάση την ρήτρα E.C.U., δηλαδή 1 Φοίνιξ=3 Δολλάρια ενώ το Ευρώ υπολογίζεται με βάση τις συναλλαγματικές ισοτιμίες των υπολοίπων νομισμάτων με βάση το E.C.U., το E.C.U. όμως υπολογίζεται ΜΕ ΤΗΝ ΕΞΑΙΡΕΣΗ ΤΗΣ ΕΛΛΑΔΑΣ!
ΜΠΕΙΤΕ ΣΤΑ ΠΟΡΤΑΛ & ΤΑΜΠΛΕΤ ΤΟΥ ΔΗΜΟΣΙΟΓΡΑΦΟΥ:
Τετάρτη, 3 Μαρτίου 2010
ΕΠΑΝΑΣΤΑΣΗ, ΛΟΓΟΤΕΧΝΙΑ ΚΑΙ ΕΝΤΡΟΠΙΑ
ART AND SCHOLASTICISM
THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE ARTIST
THE CHURCH OF CHRIST
APPROACHES TO GOD, FIRST VOLUME
THE RANGE OF REASON
ON THE PHILOSOPHY OF HISTORY
ON THE USE OF PHILOSOPHY
ST. THOMAS AQUINAS, THE ANGELIC DOCTOR
THE TWILIGHT OF CIVILIZATION
REFLECTION ON AMERICA
''HOMO VIATOR - INTRODUCTION T A METAPHYSICS OF HOPE''
TO EINAI KAI TO EXEIN - ''BEING AND HAVING''
ΠΑΡΑΤΗΡΗΣΕΙΣ ΓΙΑ ΤΗΝ ΑΘΕΪΑ/ΑΘΗΝΑ ΣΗΜΕΡΑ
SOME REMARKS ON THE
IRRELIGION OF TODAY 1
I shall do my best today to define the attitude of mind which
regards the religious question simply as obsolete. This attitude
demands a careful definition.
It is not necessarily the same thing to say that the religious question
is obsolete and to deny that a religious datum persists, provided that
the datum belongs to the realm of feeling. By definition, this datum
could not be obsolete; but a custom or idea can be obsolete, and so
can a belief in so far as it can be treated as an idea. There would also
be no point in denying that religion needs explanation when
regarded as a fact, i.e. as a body of institutions, rites, etc.; it would
indeed be absurd to try. (It is even worth noticing that with a
certain type of mind, the greater its separation from any kind of
religious life, the greater also is its curiosity about the origin of so
strange and diverse a set of phenomena, and about the reason for its
obviously important place in human history.) When people say
'The religious question is obsolete', they mean 'there is no longer
any point in asking whether the assertions of religion correspond
with anything in reality. There is no point in asking whether a
Being exists having the attributes traditionally connected with the
word God; nor whether salvation, as believers call it, is anything
but a certain form of subjective experience which they clumsily
interpret in terms of myth. Everybody/ they add, 'will realise why/
I shall here quote a passage from Bertrand Russell, as it seems to me
1 Lecture delivered on December 4th, 1930, to the Ffdfrathn des
Associations d'tudiants cbrttiens.
most significant. 'That Man is the product of causes which had no
prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his
growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the
outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no hero-
ism, no intensity of thought and feeling can preserve an individual
life beyond the grave; that all the labours of the ages, all the devo-
tion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human
genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar
system, and that the whole temple of Man's achievement must in-
evitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins all
these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain,
that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand/ 1
Russell's private religious beliefs do not, of course, concern us
here. The interest of the passage lies rather in its being a typical
statement of the negative creed implied in the attitude we set out to
examine. There are undeniably some people who claim that you
can found a religion even upon this cosmic despair. I must say that
I cannot see how this can be maintained without a shocking mis-
use of terms, and one day I will explain why.
Perhaps it will throw a little light on the tortuous path down
which I am going to take you, if I mention at once that I propose
to work from three consecutive points of view three distinct posi-
tions, or three steps in a scale. They are: (i) the point of view of
pure rationalism, or the philosophy of Enlightenment; (2) applied
science, or rather, the philosophy of applied science; (3) the philo-
sophy founded on the supremacy of Life, or the Vital Principle.
First, let us look at the peculiar idea of modernity involved in the
sort of rationalism we are trying to describe. 'Today,* they say, 'it is
no longer possible to believe in miracles or the Incarnation.' 'A
man of 1930 cannot possibly accept the doctrine of the resurrection
of the body/ These arc examples taken at random. The interesting
1 Philosophical Essays, p. 60.
thing about them, to me, is their emphasis on the date, which is
treated as a point of view, one might almost say a specially favour-
able position for seeing things call it, if you like, an observatory.
They seem to be representing Time or History as a space containing
fields of unequal quality; and accordingly they use epithets like
'advanced' and * retrograde* to imply approval and disapproval; such
epithets are a striking feature of the political psychology of our own
country. They will be quite ready to admit the fact that the latest
phase in time may show a falling-back by comparison with the
previous stage. This is to be expected, because enlightened minds
may find themselves mixed up with reactionary ones at some partic-
ular point in time. A power-problem may arise, and the reaction-
aries may get the upper hand for the moment, so that there is an
apparent setback. But they assure us that it will not kst; sooner or
later the human mind will set out again on its victorious march
towards the light. 'The light/ A word (or conception in the vaguest
sense of the term) whose importance cannot be over-estimated. I
believe that if we really thought about it, we should find it to be the
expression secularised and stripped to the last ounce of meaning
of an idea worked out by the Greeks and still more by the Fathers
of the Church. We will not press the point at present. Their
manner of presenting this idea of progressive enlightenment is two-
fold: sometimes it is ethical-political (the word obscurantism being
very significant here) and sometimes technical-scientific. The two
aspects are closely bound up with each other.
The first point to notice is this. A philosophy of enlightenment is
almost bound to make capital of the popular trick of comparing
humanity, considered throughout the whole of its history, with a
single person passing from childhood to adolescence, from adol-
escence to manhood, and so on. The enlightened mind regards itself
as an adult, who can no longer allow himself the pleasure of repeat-
ing the nursery stories that so delighted his childish age. But this is
an oversimplified picture, and open to the gravest objections. We
might well ask whether childhood has not its own peculiar values
a happy trustfulness, a peculiar candour which the grown man
should preserve at all costs, unless he is to land up at a dogmatism
dictated by experience and unable to bear him any fruit but jejune
cynicism. Many great truths come into play in this connection, and
have been admirably expounded by such writers as Peguy.
And there is a second point, sail more important. Most people
would agree without question that the progress of enlightenment
cannot take place without a progressive elimination of the anthropo-
centric element. They enlist on their side the wonders of modern
astronomy, thus: 'Before Copernicus and Galileo', they say, 'it was
perfectly natural to think that the Earth was the centre of the Uni-
verse, and that man occupied a special position in what they still
called Creation. But astronomy has put the Earth and Man in their
proper perspective. Now we can see that the place they occupy is
almost infinitesimal compared with the immense size of the visible
universe/ All this seems aimed at taking down the simple-minded
and ridiculous pride of mankind, which thought itself the supreme
expression and perhaps ultimate purpose of the cosmos.
But please notice at once that this philosophy only seems to be
satirising human pride, in spite of its foundation of positive cos-
mology. It is in fact exalting it. There is a shift of position, and what
an extraordinary one it is! It is true that Man regarded as an object
of science is thrust back into the ranks, a mere object among an
infinite crowd of other objects. But Man still possesses one thing
that claims to transcend the material world to which he is reduced
Science. We will not call it Human Science, for these philo-
sophers are doing their best to dehumanise and deracinate Science,
and consider it by itself in its intrinsic movement. So they will talk
to us of Mind and Thought (in capitals). It would be a mistake
not to take the capitals seriously, because they exactly express the
attempt to depersonalise Mind and Thought. They are no longer
somebody's mind, or somebody's thought; they are no longer
presences. They are a sort of ideal system, with a free range and
flexibility of their own, as the philosophers will be at pains to point
out. A writer like M. Brunschwicg who has done more than any-
one now alive to build up this rationalism (this spirituality, as he,
in my opinion, quite wrongly, calls it) such a man, I say, as M.
Brunschwicg, is very far from believing that this development of
Mind or Science is the unfolding in Time of an absolute Principle,
existing for itself through all Eternity, like Aristotle's Nous or
Hegel's Absolute Mind. To him, Nous and Absolute Mind are just
metaphysical fictions. The Mind of his own panegyrics is still called
God, but it is devoid of all attributes which can give the word any
meaning. 'No doubt', he concedes at the end of his book on The
Progress of Consciousness, 'No doubt a God who has no point of
contact with any uniquely important event in space or time, a God
who has taken no initiative and assumed no responsibility for the
physical aspect of the Universe; who has willed neither the ice of
the poles nor the heat of the tropics; who cares neither for the
hugeness of the elephant nor the minuteness of the ant; neither for
the destructive action of the microbe nor the constructive reaction
of the globule; a God who never dreams of punishing the sins of
ourselves or our ancestors; who knows no more of perjured men
than of rebellious angels; who grants success neither to the predic-
tion of the prophet nor to the miracle of the magician; a God who
has no dwelling-place either in Earth or Heaven, who can be
perceived at no special point in history, who speaks no language
and can be translated into none: this God, to the primitive mentality
or the coarse supernaturalism so clearly professed by William
James, is what he would call an abstract ideal. But for a thought
which has travelled further away from its own beginnings, a
thought which has become subtler and more highly trained, this
God is one who abstracts himself from nothing and for whom
nothing is abstract, since concrete reality is only what it is through
its intrinsic truth-value/ An important passage, worthy of serious
consideration. We are aware throughout of the far more terrible
pride of the man who thanks God that he is free from the primitive
mentality, and rejoices in his adult status without misgiving.
Remember the phrases I have quoted to you already, 'In our time
it is no longer permissible . . ."; 'A man of 1930 could not allow . . /
and so on.
But take care. If, in the eyes of a Christian philosopher like Saint
Bonaventure, Man appeared to be the centre of the Universe, he
was so only as being an image of God. 'Essc imapnem Dei, 9 he
writes, 'non est bomini accident, sedpotius substantiate, sicut esse vestigium
nulli accidit creaturae* (To be an image of God is not accidental to
man but of his essence, just as it cannot be an accident to a foot-
print to have been imprinted.) Plainly, the 'ridiculous anthropo-
centric attitude* is really just applied theocentrism. To Saint Augus-
tine, Saint Thomas and Saint Bonaventure, God is the centre, and
God alone. But today it is the human mind, dehumanised, stripped
of all power, all presence, and all existence, and then put in God's
place to act as His substitute.
It is plainly very difficult to think one's way into such a philo-
sophy. Its initiates are few. I am sure that most people who think
the religious question obsolete would not subscribe to it, but would
prefer to adopt an agnosticism modelled on Spencer or a materi-
alism such as Le Dantec's. This is, of course, worse from a specula-
tive point of view, but it finds more numerous and firmer footholds
in our minds. What are the footholds of a doctrine like M.
Brunschwicg's? Pride, first of all, and I am not afraid to say so. I
shall be contradicted; they will say that it is not personal pride, for
the Mind they are telling us about is not the Mind of an individual.
My first answer is, that it is, or tries to be, the Mind of everybody.
And we know very well, from Plato onwards, what a deal of
flattery democracy will allow itselfand this idealism, after ail, is
simply transposed democracy. And that is not all. The idealist is
bound in the end to substitute himself for the Mind and then we
have an individual to deal with. Let us confront him with the (as
he thinks) shocking spectacle of a Christian astronomer. How can
an astronomer believe in the Incarnation or go to Mass? The
idealist's only hope is to put up a distinction. As an astronomer,
this monster (or rather this amphibian) is a man of the twentieth
century and the idealist can greet him as a contemporary. As a man
who believes in the Incarnation, however, and goes to Mass, he is
behaving like a mediaeval or a child; and this is a pity. When
we ask the philosopher to justify his extraordinary dichotomy, he
may call upon Reason and Mind till he is black in the face, but he
will not convince us; especially when we see that he does not
scruple to use psychological and even sociological arguments to
account for these survivals in the astronomer, while he absolutely
forbids us turn such arguments or analyses upon himself. He is a
man of 1930 from top to toe. And yet he is still invoking an
Eternal Mind, but a Mind which has none the less been born;
who Its next incarnation will be, Heaven only knows. Frankly, I
find all this extremely incoherent. If a Marxist, for example, were
to tackle the idealist and tell him plainly that his Mind was a
purely bourgeois product begotten of economic leisure, the idealist
would have to take refuge in the realm of completely bloodless
abstractions. I think myself that idealism of this kind cannot help
being cornered, with concrete religious philosophy hemming it in
on one side, and historical materialism on the other. For it is in fact
impotent when confronted with history any real history, even if it
is just the history of a single life. It has no feeling for tragedy, and
(what is worse) no feeling for flesh and blood either. Personally, I
think that people who substitute the Cartesian concept of matter
for the richly confused idea ofthefesh which is embedded in all
Christian philosophy are doing anything but progressing in their
metaphysics. There is an almost untouched task here, and pure
metaphysicians would do well to focus all their attention upon it,
or so I think: the task of describing the evolution and progressive
confusion of the notions of flesh and fleshly existence in the history
of philosophical thought.
At bottom, this idealism is a purely professorial doctrine, and
falls directly under Schopenhauer's partially unjust criticism of the
academic philosophers of his day. (It was partially unjust, because
there is a real feeling for concreteness and human drama in such
writers as Schelling and Hegel.)
In point of faq, philosophical idealism would very likely have
had no appreciable effect upon the development of human thought,
had it not found a redoubtable ally in all forms of applied science.
I believe that the spirit of applied science is really in itself the most
serious obstacle, for many perfectly candid minds, to the acceptance
of the notion of religious life, or rather religious truth.
Some rather complicated considerations arise here, and you must
forgive me if my analysis seems somewhat over-subtle. I think we
have reached the crux of the whole problem.
By 'applied science* I mean, in a general way, any branch of
learning which tends to guarantee to man the mastery of a definite
object. And so any applied science can obviously be regarded as
manipulation, as a way of handling or moulding a given matter.
(The matter itself may belong to the mind, as in the science of
history or psychology.)
Several points here arc worth considering, (i) A science can be
defined by the various handles which its object offers it. But con-
versely, an object itself is only an object in virtue of the handles it
offers us, and this is true upon the most elementary level, of simple
external perception. For this reason there is a parallel between
advance in science ana advance in objectivity. j\n ooject is more
of an object, more exposed if I may put it like that, when the sciences
under which it falls are more numerous or more developed.
2) An applied science is in its very nature perfectible. It can
always be brought to a higher and higher point of accuracy and
adjustment. I would myself add that the inverse is also true, and
that nowhere else but in the realm of applied science can we speak
of perfectibility and progress in an absolutely strict sense. In this
realm alone can perfection be measured, since it is equivalent to
(3) This last point is perhaps most important of all. We are
becoming more and more aware that all power, in the human sense
of the word, implies the use of applied science. The simple-minded
optimism of the masses today is founded on this fact. No one could
deny that the existence of aeroplanes and wireless sets seems to the
vast majority of our contemporaries to be the proof or palpable
gauge of progress.
But we should notice the reverse side too the price paid for such
victories. From the scientific point of view, the world in which we
live is apt to look at one moment like a mere field for development,
and at the next like a subjugated slave. Any newspaper article
about a disaster is full of the implicit suggestion that the monster
we thought we had tamed is breaking out and taking its revenge.
This is the point where applied science links up with idealism. Man
is treated now not as Mind but as technical power, and appears as
the sole citadel of orderly arrangement in a world which is un-
worthy of him; a world which has not deserved him, and has to all
appearance produced him quite haphazard or rather, he has
wrenched himself out of it by a violent act of emancipation. That is
the full meaning of the Prometheus myth. I dare say a great many
technicians would shrug their shoulders to hear so strange a myth-
ology kid at their door. But if they are simply technicians and
nothing more, what can they do about it? Nothing. They can only
immure themselves in the fortress of their own specialised know-
ledge, and refuse, in fact if not in words, to tackle the problem of
unifying the world or reality. Some attempts at synthesis will, of
course, be made, because the desire to unify is in fact irresistibly
strong, indeed it may be the very foundation of intellectual life. But
if you compare these syntheses with the sciences themselves, they will
always look relatively adventitious. 'They seem to be rather in the
air/ we should say; an everyday phrase which wonderfully ex-
presses the lack of footholds offered by pure synthesis compared with
specialised science. From now onwards a shadow seems to spread
over reality and make it more and more obscure. We can now only
make out that there are different regions; they are sail in the light,
but the way from one to another is obscured. And that is not the
worst. We cannot be fooled by words. The scientific power must
belong to somebody, surely? since somebody must exercise it. But
who is this 'subject'? We come back again to our former conclu-
sions. The subject will himself be seen as the object of possible
sciences. The sciences are distinct and multiple, joined by hardly
definable connections. It naturally follows and experience fully
proves that the sciences themselves are less effective as sciences in
proportion as they come to bear on realms where these water-tight
compartments can no longer hold. That is why the sciences of
psychology and psychiatry at present show such disappointing
But now we are faced with an appalling and quite unavoidable
problem. The subject who lies in his turn at the mercy (if I may so
phrase it) of applied science cannot be a source of clarity or a centre
of radiation; on the contrary, he can only enjoy a reflected light, a
light borrowed from objects, since the sciences to be applied to him
will inevitably be constructed on the model of the sciences directed
upon the external world. They will therefore be the same in charac-
tcr, although transposed and inverted. To the admirable criticism
of Bergson, the most lasting part of his work, I need only allude; I
am sure there is no need for me to go into details. But it might be
worth making just one further observation. Where the sciences thus
extend their sway in all directions, there is one part of the subject
and therefore of concrete reality which cannot be overrun,
namely, the immediate feelings of pleasure and pain. And hand-
in-hand with the amazing development of science, there goes, as we
should expect, an intensification of the most immediate and also
most elementary part of our affective life: call it the desire for a
'gogd time* if you will. I do not mean that this connection is an
absolute rule or that it can be made good in every case. But in
practice we do find that the two things go together, and a little
general observation and thought will convince us that this is so. We
do find in fact that unusually high development of the applied
sciences goes with great impoverishment of our inner lives. The
lack of proportion between the apparatus at the disposal of huma-
nity and the ends it is called upon to realise seems more and more
outrageous. I am sure to be told that the individual in the scientific
state tends to be subordinated to social ends which go far beyond
him; but is this really so? We have often heard the sociological
sophistry that the whole contains more than the sum of its parts.
But the truth is that although it undoubtedly contains something
other than they do, all the evidence seems to show that the difference
falls on the debit side and is expressible by a minus sign. There is
no reason why a society of dunces, whose individual ideal is the
spasmodic jigging of the dance-hall or the thrill of the sentimental
and sensational film, should be anything more than a dunce so-
ciety. It is obviously the inferior or rudimentary qualities in these
individuals which draw them together. There is the difference, by
the way, between a society like this and a community like the
Church; for there the individuals do not swarm together mechani-
cally, but do form a whole which transcends them. Such a commu-
nity, however, is only possible because its members have each ol
them managed to keep inviolate that inner citadel called the soul, to
which all sciences as such are opposed. To my mind, the most
serious objection that can be raised to such a doctrine as Marxism
is this: that it can maintain itself only in the struggle for its own
supremacy; as soon as it is supreme, it destroys itself and makes way
for nothing better than coarse hedonism. That is why many of the
young people whom you see among you today, professing to be
Communists, would, I am sure, go over to the Opposition at once
if Communism were to win the day.
These criticisms bring us indirectly to the definition of an order
which stands in sharp and complete contrast to the world of applied
sciences. Pure religion, religion as distinct from magic and opposed
to it, is the exact contrary of an applied science; for it constitutes a
realm where the subject is confronted with something over which
he can obtain no hold at all. If the word transcendence describes
anything whatever, it must be this the absolute, impassable gulf
which opens between the soul and Being whenever Being refuses
us a hold. No gesture is more significant than the joined hands of
the believer, mutely witnessing that nothing can be done and no-
thing changed, and that he comes simply to give himself up.
Whether the gesture is one of dedication or of worship, we can still
say that the feeling behind it is the realisation of the Holy, and that
awe, love and fear all enter into it simultaneously. Notice that there
is no question here of a passive state; to assert that would be to
imply that the activity of the technician, as he takes, modifies or
elaborates, is the only activity worthy of the name.
We must, of course, recognise that we are in a state of utter
confusion today about this point and many others. It is almost im-
possible for us to avoid a picture of activity which would be in
some sense physical. We can hardly help seeing it as the starting-up
of a machine, a machine of which our bodies are the spring and
perhaps also the model. We have completely lost sight of the classi-
cal idea, taken up and enriched by the Fathers of the Church, that
contemplation is the highest form of activity: and it might be worth
while to ask ourselves why. The moralistic point of view in all its
forms, with its belief in the almost exclusive value of works, seems
to be very largely responsible for discrediting the contemplative
virtues. Kantianism still more, by bringing in constructive activity
as the formal principle of knowledge, has had the same disastrous
tendency; it refuses all positive reality to the contemplative virtues,
were it only by the fatal separation which it made for the first time
between theoretical and practical reason. I admit, of course, that no
true contemplation can be practised except from within a realist
metaphysical system and will not here go into the nature of the
realism in question, which is not, of course, necessarily the same as
There is no reason, then, to deny that worship can be an act: but
this act is not simple apprehension. It is in fact extremely difficult
to define, particularly the aspect which is not mere apprehension.
We might say that it was the act of simultaneously throwing one's-
self open and offering one's-self up. They would grant us that as a
psychological description: but opening to what? offering to what?
Modern subjectivism is at once up in arms, and we are back at the
first formulation. But I think it is beyond dispute that if pure
subjectivism ought really to be considered as a standpoint attained
once for all by the modern mind, then the religious question would
indeed have to be regarded as obsolete. One contemporary example
is of particular use here. It is quite obvious that religion is impossible
in such a universe as Proust's; and if, here and there, we come across
something which belongs to the religious category, this just means
that cracks have appeared in the structure of Proust's universe.
But I think that this subjectivism cannot be for one moment
regarded as an established position. I have only time to indicate the
general directions of my reasons for thinking this, and will not go
into details today. My own position on this point agrees almost
completely with that of M. Jacques Maritain, and has common
ground also with the German theories of intentionality held by
contemporary phenomenologists. I believe that Descartes and his
disciples only opposed realism because they had a partly materialist
nodon of it. 'Despite their claim to treat of sense and intelligence/
says Maritain, 'Descartes and Kant never came beyond the thres-
hold, because they spoke of them in the same way as they did of
other things, and had no knowledge of the realm of mind.' I should
like to add a parallel observation: they made illegitimate borrow-
ings from optics in their epistomology, with effects that can hardly
be exaggerated. Here is another example of science made the start-
ing-point for the effacement of spiritual reality.
I think, then, that it is only by leaning on unfounded postulates
of this sort that one is led to treat worship, for example, as a mere
attitude having no link with any reality whatever. But if we go
behind them, if that is, we climb resolutely up the hill down which
modern philosophy has been slipping for more than two centuries,
then I believe it is possible for us to recover the basic idea of sacred
knowledge: and this alone can restore its reality to contemplation.
I am a little ashamed to offer you superficial and hasty outlines of
such very complicated and important ideas. But I cannot hope to
do more than reconnoitre such an enormous territory. As Peter
Wust, the German metaphysician, writes: 'If we consider the
evolution of the theory of knowledge from Pkto and St. Augus-
tine, through the Middle Ages, and up to the present time, we feel
that we are witnessing a more and more successful process of
secularisation being applied to that holy part of the human mind
which can only be called the intimum mentis. 9 He goes on to say that
we moderns have to proceed by way of a metaphysic of knowledge
to the slow and painful recovery of something which was given in
the Middle Ages through a mysticism veiled in mystery and awe.
I think we could put this more simply by saying that we may have
lost touch with the fundamental truth that knowledge implies
previous askesis purification, in fact and that when all is said
and done, knowledge in its fulness is not vouchsafed except where
it has first been deserved. And here once more I think that the
progress of applied science, and the habit of considering knowledge
itself as a technical operation which leaves the knower wholly un-
affected, has powerfully militated against a clear view of these
matters. The askesis or purification must chiefly lie, it is clear, in
progressively detaching ourselves from speculative thought in so far
as it is purely critical and simply the faculty of making objections.
'Truth is perhaps wretched/ said Renan, and Claudel was angry
with the phrase because it sums up with terse cynicism what I
should like to call the Philosophy of the But. When Barres in his
Notebooks speaks of 'the mournful melancholy of Truth', he is
speaking from the heart of this philosophy. It is the root of every
kind of pessimism; and sacred knowledge (as I called it) is its flat
negation. A negation which is not always a starting-point, but
perhaps more often, and certainly in Claudel's own case, the fruit
of a heroic struggle.
Here again, I think, we touch on one of the most sensitive points
of our subject call it a nerve-centre, if you will. For most people,
to say that the religious question is obsolete is the same as to say that
the incurable imperfection of the world is now an established truth.
And here we cannot overestimate the practical importance of the
kind of negative apologetics which atheists habitually use: they
seize every chance to show that the universe falls below our
demands and can never satisfy them, and that the metaphysical
expectation which we feel within us, whether it be inheritance or
survival, can never be fulfilled by things as they are.
N 193 M.B.H.
But and this is surprising their insistence on the imperfection
of the world goes hand in hand with a complete inability to think
of evil as evil, or sin as sin. Here again we see the technical approach
at work. The world is treated as a machine whose functioning
leaves much to be desired. Man is luckily at hand to correct some of
the faults; but for the moment, unfortunately, the whole is not in his
control. It should be added that these faults or defects of working
are nobody's fault: for there is nobody there to blame. Only man is
somebody: otherwise there is simply an impersonal mechanism. And
even Man is quite prepared to treat himself like the rest, by the
process of inversion or internalisation of which I spoke above; to
sink himself into this depersonalised cosmos. He is quite prepared
to see in himself certain defects of working, which must be curable
by taking various measures, and applying various kinds of indivi-
dual or social therapeutic action.
This presents us with a most illuminating connection: the relation
between worship on the one hand and consciousness of sin on the
other; for sin cannot be dealt with by any form of science, but only
by the supernatural action of grace. May I draw your attention to
the fact that the relation implied in science is here reversed? For not
only does the reality involved in worship elude all possible control
by the human subject, but also the subject seems, inversely, to pass
under the control of an incomprehensible choice emanating from
the mysterious depths of Being.
This body of facts can alone give meaning to the notion of salva-
tion. Salvation is quite meaningless in an intellectual climate
dominated by the belief in a natural order which it is the business of
science to restore, wherever it is found to have been accidentally
The idea of an order or natural course of life, to be re-established
if necessary by suitable means, brings us to the third and perhaps
the most central battlefield of the debate. Here the basic idea is
neither the progress of enlightenment nor the advancement of tech-
nical science, but the march of Life itself, taken, not as a value, but
as a source of values or a basis for evaluation.
A little while ago I heard of a characteristic remark made by one
of the people most at the centre of international social work. 'I
don't object to mysteries on principle/ he said, 'in fact there may be
mysteries for all I know. But I can't feel any personal interest in, for
instance, the doctrine of the Trinity. I don't see what it has to do
with me or what use it can be to me.' Now this seems to me a most
significant attitude. The worthy man could have become passion-
ately interested in a discussion of fiscal justice, or the principles of
social security, for he would have recognised its 'vital* character:
but he thinks the Trinity is merely a subject for idle speculation.
The word Vital', taken in its literal sense, is what should occupy us
here. Notice that there is a very obvious connection between the idea
of life (or the primacy of the Vital) and my earlier remarks about
the spirit of applied science. For the mastery of objects is still, after
all, relative to life considered as something of intrinsic value, some-
thing which is its own justification. I will not harp on the origin of
this idea, and will merely remind you that Nietzsche gave the
completest expression to it. In Nietzsche the idea of life slides into
the will to power, an idea which at first glance may appear more
precise. But in other writers the idea retains its rich vagueness (and
therefore, it must be added, its basic ambiguity). The single point
I want to stress is this. To many minds it is life which is the unique
criterion or beacon of all values (and some of these who so believe
think themselves Christians; here indeed is food for thought!). For
instance, take the elementary distinction between right and wrong.
In their eyes, an action will be right if it tells in favour of life,
wrong if it tells against it.
Notice at once that from this point of view life is something on
which we neither need nor can pass judgment. Questions about the
value of life are no longer in order, for life is itself the principle of all
value. But here an ambiguity at once arises before us, presenting us
with inextricable difficulties. What life are we talking about?
Mine? Yours? Or life in general?
First of all, it is clear that this doctrine, which seems to have no
rational basis, can only be justified by being immediately self-
evident. But to what is the self-evidence attached if not to my own
feelings about my own life, and the special sort of warmth I feel
radiating from it? Is it not linked up with the irreducible datum of
my own self-love?
Unfortunately it is also perfectly clear that the people who claim
to use Life as their criterion of values, especially where conflicts
arise, are by no means referring to my life qua mine, but to life in
general. For instance, a Swiss schoolmaster friend of mine who
believes in the primacy of Life (though he would not interpret it in
the least like Nietzsche) will be at pains to point out to his pupils
that the practice of chastity, or, in a very different sphere, the
practice of co-operation, is bound up with Life itself, and that if
we flout these great duties we are flouting Life, etc. Two points are
immediately apparent here. First, my friend has begun by defining
Life in a tendentious way so that it is coloured by certain spiritual
needs in himself, though he has no direct awareness of them.
Secondly, if we take life generally, yet vaguely in the mass, we
cannot draw from it the same doctrine as we can from the immedi-
ate though restricted intuition felt exclusively about my life in direct
A philosophy of Life is therefore destined by its own nature to be
ambiguous. It either simply claims to translate certain biological
truths into general terms; in which case, the field of such truths
being enormous, it might be used to justify contradictory theories.
(I need not remind you, perhaps, of the extraordinary actions which
one of our most notorious contemporary writers claims to justify by
parallels in the animal kingdom.) Or else it will make a bold but
unjustifiable projection, and, ceasing to consider life as a pheno-
menon or group of phenomena which are biologically observable,
will see instead a kind of spiritual force or current; in which case it
will at once lose its experimental status. I think, for my own part
that there is something unprincipled in this attempt to eat one's cake
and have it too; here is a doctrine which presents as the expression
of empirical data what is really only a free choice of the mind.
The more concrete our examples, the more hopeless the confusion
If any axiom is implied in the scattered and unformulated philo-
sophy which colours or underlies present-day literature, it seems to
be this: 'I am the same as my life. I am my life. To say that my life
will one day be spent means that on that day I myself shall be
entirely spent/ The writers suppose that only a body of fictions,
which should be regarded as pure survivals, stand between me and
this fundamental identity. Do not let us ask how this error or mis-
take is metaphysically possible, for that enquiry would take us too
far out of our way. The claim they are making is that life somehow
secretes spiritual poisons which may block its stream at any moment,
and that it is the task of consciousness to dissolve these poisons and
flow, as far as it can, with the stream it has thus cleared.
Now these are certainly metaphors, and I am sure they originate
in the philosophy of applied science of which I spoke just now.
That is not important here. The important thing to see here is
where we shall be led by so understanding the relation between
ourselves and our lives or (to put it more accurately) by holding this
view of intellectual honesty. I think that we here touch upon the
most serious problem raised by the literature of the last few years,
and especially by M. Gide. I can only approach it from one
It should be noted that this concern for perfect sincerity corre-
spends incontestably and explicitly with the desire for freedom. I
refer you to such books as Les Nourrituw Ternstres an extra-
ordinarily significant piece of evidence. But what is the price of
freedom? Nothing less than a complete renunciation of all claims
to master my life. For mastering my life is in effect subordinating it
to some principle. Even supposing that this principle is not a pas-
sively acquired heritage, it will still represent a phase of my past in
fossilised form. This phase of my past has no right to govern my
present. But if I am to shake off the yoke of the past, there is only
one way of doing it by giving myself over to the moment and
forbidding myself any form of commitment, any kind of vow.
Surely you will agree with me that this liberty, in the cause of
which I am putting constant constraint on myself, has nothing in
it, no content; in fact it is the refusal of all content whatsoever. I am
well aware that M. Gide not the Gide of today, the rationalist
who is perhaps rather like Voltaire, but the Gide of Ley Nourritum
Temstres will praise the fulness of the unclouded instant, savoured
in all its novelty. But it is all too clear that dialectic has the last word
here: it teaches us that novelty cannot be savoured except by the un-
conscious reference to a past with which it is contrasted; and that,
strangely enough, there is a satiety of novelty; one can be weary of
the succession of one new thing after another for the very reason that
they are all new.
And this brings us within sight of another fact, too important to
pass over, though it is difficult to speak of it without smacking of
the stale old sermons you have so often heard before. But our
recent experiences have brought the old truths into terrible relief-
would it were not so! the truth that nothing comes nearer to
despair, the rejection of being and suicide, than a certain way of
extolling Life as the pure present moment. There is obviously no
need for us to declare, like that young and impetuous Catholic
apologist, M. Jean Maxence, that 'Kant calls to Gide, and Gide to
Andre Breton, and Breton leads Jacques Vache to suicide.' 1 That
really is rather too sweeping a way of describing the genealogies of
thought: indeed, in passing from Kant to Gide, M. Maxence is
making out a case which cannot be upheld. I do not think that
despair is the necessary outcome of Gide's doctrine of the moment;
but only because the soul does not lack resources and sometimes has
defences of which it is itself unaware. The story of M. Gide and his
works proves this well enough. In my opinion, this doctrine of the
Instant is not only a limiting position, but also a literary position
carrying with it literary advantages; and on the whole it is recog-
nised as such, at least implicitly. A man who really lived by it
would be destined, is destined, and will bfc destined to the worst of
I will draw a single conclusion from these observations. We can
find no salvation for mind or soul unless we see the difference
between ovij^r^^nd o^it life. The distinction may be in some
ways a mysterious one, but the mystery itself is a source of light. To
say 'my being is not identical with my life* is to say two different
things. First, that since I am not my life, my life must have been
given to me; in a sense unfathomable to man, I am previous to it;
I am comes before I live. Second, my being is something which is in
jeopardy from the moment my life begins, and must be saved; my
being is a stake, and therein perhaps lies the whole meaning of life.
And from this second point of view, I am not before but beyond my
life. This is the only possible way to explain the ordeal of human
life (and if it is not an ordeal, I do not see what else it can be). And
here again, I hope very much that these words will not stir up in
our minds memories of stereotyped phrases drowsily heard in the
torpor too often induced by a Sunday sermon. When Keats
certainly not a Christian in the strict meaning of the word spoke
of the world as a Vale of soul-making*, and declared in the same
1 Positions, p. 218. letter of April 28th, 1819 (p. 256 Colvin's edition) that 'as various
as the Lives of Men are so various become their souls, and thus
does God make individual beings, Souls, Identical Souls, of the
sparks of his own essence', he had the same idea as mine, though
in his inimitable style it takes on far greater splendour and freshness.
This brings me to my last point.
I realise perfectly that the words 'grace* and 'salvation* give some
of you a heartbreaking feeling of staleness. There is nothing new in
them for voice or vision. The air around them has been breathed so
long that it has become stifling. Now this is at the bottom of all
the surrealist experiments of the day this need to escape to some-
thing completely unknown. They contain nothing, I believe, that is
not partially justifiable, so long as we turn away our eyes from the
self-hatred and devilish perversion so often cloaked by the desire for
But two observations are necessary here. Grace and salvation are
no doubt commonplaces, like their peers, birth, love and death.
They can none of them be tricked out anew, for they are all unique.
The first time a man falls in love, or knows that he is to be a father
or to die, he cannot feel he is hearing stale news. He would more
likely feel that it was the first time anyone had ever loved or had a
child or prepared for death. It is the same with genuine religious
life. Sin, grace and salvation, as words, may be old stuff; as facts
they are not, since they lie at the very heart of our destiny.
But that is not my only answer. There is another yet. I believe
most deeply that in the sphere of religion, too, the need for renewal
is legitimate up to a point; that is, as far as it concerns forms of
expression. And on this note I would end my lecture. I am sure
that the reputation enjoyed by some modern schools of thought,
and the human reverence commanded by or corresponding to this
reputation, has been shown to have a destructive effect on spiritual
development. But I believe that there is also a danger in thinking
that philosophico-theological ideas such as we find in St. Thomas
Aquinas, for instance (not doctrine, for that is another story), are
suitable for everybody in our day, just as they stand. I am inclined
to say that they are suited to some minds but not to all; and that the
profoundly true intuitions expressed in the Thomist formulae
would gain greatly in force and intelligibility if they could be pre-
sented in fresh terms; in words that were newer, simpler, more
moving, and more closely in tune with our own experience and (if
you will forgive the word) our own ordeal. But this presupposes a
refashioning which would only be possible after an immense
preliminary work of criticism and reconstruction. Toc^y we are
nearly buried under the rubble. Till the rubble has been cleared
away it is hopeless to think of building. It is a thankless task, appal-
lingly thankless, yet I think that it must be done; only thus can
religious life recover its soaring power. It is needed by the already
convinced Christians, who would otherwise sink into the lethargy
of devitalised doctrine. It is needed still more by those who are as
yet unbelievers; who are feeling their way and surely longing to
believe, and end their agonising struggle, if they would only admit
it; who fear that they may be yielding to temptation if they surrender
to the mounting faith and hope they feel in their hearts. It is sheer
madness to call this speculative labour a mere luxury. It is, I repeat,
a necessity, demanded not only by reason but also by charity. I
think that those who say (in perfect good faith) that Christianity is
first and above all a social matter, a doctrine of mutual help, a sort
of sublimated philanthropy, are making a grievous and dangerous
mistake. Their use of the word 'Life* is (as we have seen before)
charged with ambiguity. I think that the man who says 'It doesn't
matter what you think so long as you lead a Christian life* is com-
mitting the worst of offences against Him who said 'I am the Way,
the Truth, and the Life*. The Truth. It is on the ground of Truth
that we should fight our first battle for religion; on this field only
can it be won or lost. In the issue of that fight, man will show
whether he has indeed betrayed his mission and his destiny; we
shall see, then, whether or no loyalty must remain the standard of a
little chosen band of saints, advancing to their certain martyrdom,
and indefatigably praying as they go for those who have chosen the
ΤΟ ΜΥΣΤΗΡΙΟ ΤΗΣ ΥΠΑΡΞΕΩΣ - ''THE MYSTERY OF BEING'' 3 KEIMENA
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Β' ΜΕΡΟΣ http://www.giffordlectures.org/Browse.asp?PubID=TPMYSR&Volume=0&Issue=0&TOC=TRUE
Research has always seemed to me the word which most adequately
designates the manner in which philosophic thought moves essentially
towards its goal ; I shall not therefore expound my system, but rather
retrace the movement of my thought from its outset, but in renewed
light, and, so to speak, map out its itinerary.
But how do we set about retracing a road where heretofore there
have been nothing but broken trails? Is it not by setting out for a
precisely situated goal, with the intention of reaching it? Does not
this presuppose a result?
We must distinguish here between:
1 i ) Research of the type where result can be severed from the means
by which it is obtained, e.g., a product discovered by a scientist can be
purchased at the chemist s by anyone.
This type of research involves furthermore a notion or a pre-notion
bearing on a certain working and the certainty that the operations
(mental or material) entailed are within the capabilities of anyone.
(2) Research wherein the link with the result cannot be broken
without loss of all reality to the result ; the seeker who engages in such
in investigation, starts, as it were, at random.
This leads to the question of:
How research without pre-notion is possible.
In reality, to exclude the pre-notion implied in techniques is not to
exclude the origin of philosophic research; this origin is a certain
disquiet a certain exigence (a term which will be defined in Chapter
III). The research is then the successive moves which enable me to
pass from a situation lived as fundamentally discordant to a situation
in which a certain expectation is fulfilled.
The ego of the seeker, as well as the ego of those he ad
dresses, is here neither the individual at the mercy of his states (of
being) nor thought in general.
In philosophical research a literal and simplistic conception of
universality cannot be accepted, and a certain order of enquiry-
becomes established: there are, as well as questions which can be an
swered by yes or no , other questions which the philosopher
cannot elude, and which cannot be answered thus.
His research philosophical research will appear therefore as an
effort to put true questions (cf. Chapter IV, on Truth), which implies
that he is endowed with the courage of thought inseparable from
II. A BROKEN WORLD page iS
Enquiry into one of the conclusions of the foregoing chapter,
which dissociates truth and universal validity.
Is not this dissociation dangerous?
If not, how, and from what point does it appear so?
Note that the objection implies a pre-notion or anticipated schema
tizing of the relation between the subject and the truth which he will
have to recognize.
Truth is indeed conceived as something to be extracted ; this extrac
tion is referable on principle to a universal technique, with the result
that truth should be transmissible to anyone.
But we are prone to forget that the more intelligence transcends
technical activity, the less the reference to anyone as inderterminate
is called upon to intervene.
This objection is on the other hand a product, as it were, of a world
that ignores exigencies of reflection.
This world of ours is a broken world, which means that in striving
after a certain type of unity, it has lost its real unity. (These types
of unity in the broken world are :
(i) Increased socialization of life: we are one and all treated as agents,
registered, enrolled, and we end by merging into our own identity
cards. (2) Extension of the powers of the State, which is like a searching
eye on all of us. (3) This world has lost its true unity probably
because privacy, brotherhood, creativeness, reflection and imagina
tion, are all increasingly discredited in it.
Therefore it is of the very utmost urgency that we reflect, and
reflect upon reflection, in order to bring to light that exigence which
animates reflection (cf. Chapter III), and in order to show that this
exigence when at work transcends any sort of process whatever, and
sweeps beyond the opposition of the empiric ego and the universal
III. THE NEED FOR TRANSCENDENCE page 39
What is the nature of this exigence, lying at the origin of philosophic
research (cf. Chapter I), and in danger of being smothered by the
broken world of techniques and socialization?
It is essentially an exigence of transcendence, this term being taken
in its traditional meaning, as opposed to immanence; its implication
is that to transcend is not merely to go beyond, spatio-temporally (in
space or in time).
This exigence is existentially experienced as a non-satisfaction, but
all non-satisfaction does not entail an aspiring towards transcendence,
for there are non-satisfactions which crave the possession of a given
power, and which disappear, once this power is attained.
Another non-satisfaction occurs, or can occur, within possession;
another call comes from my innermost being, a call directed not out
wards but inwards. (This may be a call to create, and to create means
to create something higher than one s self.)
Transcendence is thus evoked as referring to man; but is not this
negating it, absorbing it into experience?
This objection takes for granted the figuration of experience as
being a sort of given element, more or less, without form; and it
ignores the impossibility of a representation of experience.
With the result that: not only can transcendent not mean trans
cendent of experience , but, if we are still to talk sense, we have to
admit that there must be an experience of the transcendent ; to experi
ence ... is not indeed to enfold into one s self, but to stretch out to
wards . . ., consciousness being always consciousness of someone else
than one s self.
So that the exigence of transcendence is not the exigence to go
o o o
beyond all experience whatsoever, but to substitute one mode of
experience for another, or, more accurately still, to strive towards
an increasingly pure mode of experience.
IV. TRUTH AS A VALUE :
THE INTELLIGIBLE BACKGROUND page 57
What do we mean when we state that we are guided by a love of
truth, or that someone has sacrificed himself to the truth ? These
assertions are void of meaning if truth be defined as veritas est adequatio
rei et intellectus ; they make sense only if truth is value, for only in this
aspect can truth become a stake to be striven for.
Truth and Judgment. Are we to exclude from the problem sensation
and feeling, which seem indeed to be what they are on the hither side
of all judgment?
Yet a sensation (a taste, for example) is immediately recognizable,
which would seem to attest that it has a certain kernel of identity
which makes possible a consonance between me and someone else; so the
connoisseur does exist, in every domain, and the non-connoisseur, if
he recognizes himself as such, is in the truth , because he does not
shut himself to a certain light. What is this light? Whence does it
Truth and Fact. There is no meaning in imagining that this light
emanates from facts taken in a grossly realistic sense, and that it
comes to us from outside.
There is not, indeed, exteriority of the fact as regards the subject;
the structure of the latter is an open structure, and the fact is, so to
speak, an integral part of it ; this is why the fact can become illumin-
ant, on condition that the subject so place himself in relation to the
fact that he receive the light radiated by it. So it is all between me
and me, the me of desire and the me spirit of truth (although
there are not two me s) and it is only as referred to this source, to this
living centre, that facts can be called illuminant.
It is therefore in the light of truth that we succeed in mastering
within us the permanent temptation to conceive or represent reality
as we would like it to be. Stimulating and purifying power of truth
which enables the subject to recognize reality; active recognition,
far distant, both from constraint and from pure spontaneity.
Truth cannot therefore be considered as a thing, or an object. A
conversation may be taken as an example, in which truth is at one and
the same time that towards which the speakers are conscious of
moving, and that which spurs them towards this goal.
Idea of a sort of intercourse which takes place in an intelligible
medium, to which man perhaps belongs in one of his aspects (the
Platonic reminiscence). An idea which demonstrates that it is inad
missible to isolate a judgment and then look for the truth in connec
tion with this judgment.
V. PRIMARY & SECONDARY REFLECTION:
THE EXISTENTIAL FULCRUM .. page 77
Once we have the definition of the intelligible medium in which
philosophic thought evolves (unfolds itself), the question of the
relation between reflection and life inevitably comes up. It must be
said that, contrary to a thesis common amongst the romantic philoso
phers, this relation is not an opposition. Reflection occurs when, life
coming up against a certain obstacle, or again, being checked by a
certain break in the continuity of experience, it becomes necessary
to pass from one level to another, and to recover on this higher plane
the unity which had been lost on the lower one. Reflection appears in
this case as a promoter of life, it is ascendant and recuperatory, in that
it is secondary reflection as opposed to a primary reflection which is
still only decomposing or analytic.
It is on the question what am I? that philosophic reflection is
called upon to centre. None of the answers that fit under headings
(son of ... born at . . .) can be satisfactory here. Reflection discovers
that I am not, strictly speaking, someone in particular, but neither am
I purely and simply the negation of someone in particular. We must
find out how I can be both at once.
I am led to recognize that the me (ego) which I am, and which is
not someone, cannot be set down as either existent or imaginary.
Passage from this ambiguous and undecided situation to the fathom
ing of existence considered in its aspect of immediacy, not as the
predicate of /, but as an undecomposable totality. The fact of bein^
linked to my body is constitutive of my own existential quality.
Reflection is thus led to concentrate on my body as mine. Whereas
primary reflection, being purely analytical, treated this body as pure
object, linked with or parallel to another thing, another reality which
would be called the soul, secondary reflection recognizes in my body
a fundamental act of feeling which cannot amount to mere objective
possession nor to an instrumental relation, nor to something which
could be treated purely and simply as identity of the subject with the
VI. FEELING AS A MODE OF
PARTICIPATION page 103
To recognize my body is to be led to question myself upon the act of
feeling; the act of feeling is linked with the fact that this body is mine.
What is the meaning of to feel ? How is it possible to feel ? To feel cannot
be reduced to an instrumental function, to a function made possible
by a given apparatus.
Sensation cannot be interpreted as a message emitted from X,
picked up and translated by Y. To feel is not a means by which two
stations can communicate with each other.
In fact: Any instrument presupposes my body. Any message pre
supposes a basis of sensation ; it cannot therefore give an account of it.
A non-mediatizable immediate must be brought in, an immediate
that I am.
It is this idea of participation that enables us to explain the act of
feeling and it is the act of feeling that is at the basis of the will to partici
Participation: at one extreme we are in the objective (to take my
share of a cake, for instance), at the other extreme all trace of
objectivity is gone (participation by prayer, sacrifice).
But on the other hand, the will to participate can only act on the
basis of a certain consensus, which is of the order of feeling.
Participation-feeling is beyond the traditional opposition of activity
and passivity; to feel is not to endure, but to receive (in the sense of
receiving into one s self to receive willingly, to welcome, to
embrace), and to receive is an act.
There is, then, a difference between feeling and non-feeling, but
this difference is probably beyond the grasp of the technician, who is
inclined to conceive the passing from the inert to the alive according
to the processes of fabrication.
The artist alone, the artist with eyes in his head, really participates
in the reality of life. Contemplation thus appears as a mode of partici
pation, the highest of all. The act oj feeling is then a mode of participa
tion, but participation exceeds the limits of feeling.
VII. BEING IN A SITUATION page 125
Contemplation is a mode of participation in which the oppositions
before (in front of) me and within me, outside and inside, are trans
cended. This being so, recollection is implicit in participation.
Recollection (which is not a mode of abstracting one s self) is an act
by means of which I over- pass (go beyond) these oppositions, and in
which the " turning inward to myself " and " the stretching outward
from myself" meet.
But recollection is not abstraction of one s self (from one s spatio-
temporal situation) ; the conditions of recollection are the very
conditions of the existence of the being whose circumstantial data
cannot appear as contingent.
My situation, my life, are not indeed an ensemble of things existing
in themselves, to which I am foreign or exterior, though neither can
I merge into them and consider them as a fatality or a destiny. In this
order the opposition of contingence and necessity must be over-passed
(gone beyond), as is shown in the examples of encounter (which is not
the objective intercrossing of casual series and which supposes
inferiority ) and vocation (which is not a constraint but a call) ; the
circumstantial data therefore only intervenes in connection with free
activity called upon to recognize (know) itself in this free activity, that
is to say, open, permeable (without being strictly speaking influenci-
ble), and for which the non-contingence of the empirical given
is a call to creative development.
VIII. MY LIFE .. page 148
The question: who am I? remains.
Since it is not possible to count on a friend, a party, or a collectivity
to decide it for me, the question becomes an appeal (call), who am I?
Shall I not find the answer by enquiring into my own life?
My life can be considered from two standpoints, that of: i . The past.
2. That of the present, the fact that I am still living it.
i. In the past. My life appears to me as something that can, by
reason of its very essence, be narrated.
But to narrate is to unfold.
It is also to summarize, i.e., to totalize schematically.
My life cannot then be reproduced by a narrative ; in as much as it
has been actually lived, it lies without the scope of my present con
crete thought and can only be recaptured as particles irradiated by
flashes of memory.
Nor is my life in the notes jotted down day by day and making up my
diary; when I re-read them they have for the most part lost their
meaning, and I do not recognize myself in them.
Nor is my work to be identified with my life; what judge could sift
from my work that which truly expresses me?
Finally my acts, in as much as they are recorded in objective reality,
do not tell of that within me which lies beyond them.
My life, in so far as already lived, is not then an inalterable deposit
or a finished whole.
2. In so far as I am still living it, my life appears to me as something
I can consecrate or sacrifice, and the more I feel that I am striving towards
an end, or serving a cause, the more alive (living) I feel. It is therefore
essential to life that it be articulated on a reality which gives it a
meaning and a trend, and, as it were, justifies it; this does not signify
that life is an available asset.
To give one s life is neither to part with one s self nor to do away
with one s self, it is to respond to a certain call. Death can then be
life, in the supreme sense.
My life is infinitely beyond the consciousness I have of it at any given
moment ; it is essentially unequal in itself, and transcendent of the
account that I am led to keep of its elements. Secondary reflection
alone can recuperate that which inhabits my life and which my life
does not express.
IX. TOGETHERNESS: IDENTITY AND
DEPTH page 1 7 1
My life eludes itself; this being so, should we not say that man is con
demned to act a part in a play he has not read, or to improvise without
an outline of the plot? Should we not deny that life has a meaning or
Life is not something found in our path (such as a purse, for
example) and of which we decide or not to avail ourselves.
Awareness of one s self as living is indeed to be aware of a former
existence, and the role of reflection is here to recognize the prior
participation with a reality which consciousness cannot encompass.
This going beyond the consciousness of self is met with particularly
in two directions: in relation to others, in relation to one s self.
i . Relation to others. Consciousness of self occurs only in the
following behaviours: pretentiousness, aggressiveness, humility, i.e.,
when the living link connecting me and another is broken by over
passing the / and him opposition.
The ego is the more itself the more it is with the other and not
- directed at itself.
2. Relation to one s self. The consciousness of self appears as the
breaking of the inner city the ego forms with itself, with its past.
Here again it is intersubjectivity that is first.
My life is then on the far side of the oppositions : I and someone
else, unity and plurality.
Abstract identity and historic becoming. It can only be thought from
an angle of depth, where the now and the then, the near and the far, meet.
X. PRESENCE AS A MYSTERY
The link of my life with t\\2 depths of time is an introduction to the
mystery of family.
Taken from the angle of depth, my life no longer appears as the
terminus of various biological series, but as an endowment; the
kinship between father and son therefore implies a mutual recognition,
and the impossibility of dissociating the vital from the spiritual, for the
spiritual is only such on condition that it be bodied forth.
The articulation of the vital and the spiritual, the common thesis
of the lectures of the first series, itself brings in the knowledge of
This knowledge supposes :
i . The distinction between object and presence.
2. The criticism of the notion of problem.
1. With the object, material communications are maintained
without intercommunication : the object is entirely before (in front
of) the subject, which thus becomes another object.
The being who is present can on the contrary be neither invoked
nor evoked ; it reveals the other to himself at the same time as it
reveals itself to him.
2. The object can then supply information, bring solutions to
problems put regarding it.
The being who is present transcends all possible enquiry, and in
this sense is mysterious.
Philosophical research is articulated on mystery.
We must therefore conclude on the link between reflection, and
presence, and mystery in the trans-historic depth of life.
Mystery coincides with this region of depth which, perhaps, opens
out on to eternity.