Wasn't it required that some hundreds of years before the Incarnation of the Word, the necessary preparations be completed in Greece 4 on the side of Reason, as in Israel 5 on the side of Prophecy?
Here is a useful place to pause for a moment and consider that astonishing period of human history from the beginning of the sixth century until the close of the fifth century b. One would say that in the major cultural areas of the world the human spirit was then going through its crisis of adolescence, and made choices that were to be decisive for the future. With the Buddha , 6 the Orient decisively confirmed the choice it had made long since for the great "bound" wisdoms in which reason, a captive of sacred traditions, remained united to the nocturnal or twi- light world of myths and of magic.
At this price, it entered into certain secrets hidden in the recesses of the universe and of the human being, it went deeply into the ways of natural mystique, and attained a lofty peace.
He was dead when the fourth century began; Plato, ; Aristotle, But these great wisdoms received so many riches from the world of dreams that reason was unwilling to emerge completely from the night. The human mind lived under the sway of the indefinite. The possibility of a wisdom which should at the same time be a purely rational knowledge remained totally un- recognized.
These latter would doubtlessly continue to haunt the temples and the mystery cults, but adult thought would no longer believe in them. At the beginning, things had almost gone askew, with the intellec- tual intoxication of the sophists, and their reason dedicated solely to Verisimilitude. But Socrates saved at once reason, the future of cul- ture and the rights of Truth.
He died for it, not on the cross, as the Word who became man in Israel did, but by taking hemlock, and repaying his debt to Aesculapius, like a good Athenian pagan. A supreme Wisdom of reason, a Wisdom which was also Scientia or Knowledge, Metaphysics was founded; and Physics, a science of the observable world— which, confusing the philosophy of nature with the science of phenomena, believed itself in respect to phenomena to its unhappiness as well as ours in continuity with metaphysics.
The great error of Greek reason for which the supernatural Wisdom of Israel, with its infinite and infinitely per- fect God, providentially compensated was to confuse Finitude and Perfection, and to pretend to make the spirit live under the rule of the finite. In an impulse arrested too soon, and for a fleeting, unforgettable moment, it had the sense of being; it was able to see that the human intellect, in identifying itself immaterially, intentionaliter , with the being of things, truly reaches that which exists outside our minds, beginning with the world of matter to which, through our senses, we are naturally adapted.
From the begin- ning, doubtlessly, it also entailed losses: in Hellenic and Hellenistic thought itself it was accompanied by grave shortcomings, which the Christian centuries have remedied in the light of the revelation re- ceived in Israel. No doubt Western culture, which has its point of departure in this adventure, has experienced in the last four centuries more and more grave crises in the intellectual order— with Descartes, Kant, Hegel, and finally with those who today propose to place us under the sway of Phenomena. The fact remains that in the com- monplace assertions irritating like all commonplaces of the Greek miracle , there is a fundamental truth which we have a duty to recog- nize.
At the same time, to return to the pre-philosophy of common sense discussed previously, we must equally recognize that even if, as I have said, it is a gift of nature, it depends not only on nature, but on cul- ture as well. In other words and nothing is more in keeping with our nature, which itself demands the developments of culture , this pre- philosophy is a gift of nature received through the instrumentality of 9 Cf. Louis Gardet, op. This means that the pre-philosophy which is or was— -I have noted that it is in the process of disintegration a gift of nature for the man of our Western culture, is the result of a two-fold privilege which this culture has enjoyed and more or less squandered.
Each age, yes, even the most primitive, has its worth, to which it is imperative to render justice.
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And if the age which follows is a superior one, in reaching it man sustains certain losses. But the gains are greater. That there is a scale of values is implied by the very no- tion of progress. There are ages more or less fortunate, more or less privileged. There are civilizations, human groups, and individual men, who for a given work in a given connection, are the object of a certain election— I am speaking of a natural election or of the chosen ones of History, as one would say today. Christians who are nurtured on the idea of an election of grace the chosen people, Abraham, Moses, John the Baptist, the Virgin Mary, and all the saints of heaven would be misguided indeed if, because of their own good nature and their desire to be kind to everyone, they were scandalized by the idea of such a natural election or vocation, for God is the God of nature, too, and every artist chooses to his liking in order to create and perfect his work.
I apologize for using so many words.
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I was only wanting to justify my assertion that, just as Western culture really is or was a privi- leged culture, so the pre-philosophy of common sense proper to the man of that culture is or was a privileged pre-philosophy, in which the notions of common sense actually common to all men have 10 Cf. Quatre ettau sur tnpril, op. This is what is disappearing before our eyes. They are passing into the technocratic age and into Western culture at the very instant, alas, when the latter seems to be degenerating; they bring their tribute to the Greek achievement of liberating adult reason at the very moment when this achievement is in jeopardy.
And so we see them exposed to incalculable losses out of necessity but for a questionable gain. In entering modem civilization they leave the cultural regime of their own former wisdoms, but the world they are entering is itself turning away from the lofty rational and supra - rational wisdom to which it was called. It can no longer offer them either theological rationally elaborated wisdom which its culture claims it can do without , or metaphysical rational wisdom, or phi- losophy worthy of the name its philosophers, to distract it from its labors, make it hear the plaintive ballade of a being which is not being and a knowledge which is not knowledge.
What such a world can offer is the magnificent ersatz of the science of Phenomena, and along with it, power over matter; a dream of complete domination of all visible things even of the invisible and also the abdication of the human mind, renouncing Truth for Verification, Reality for Sign. One would hope that the new arrivals who flock from the ends of the earth to take their part in the progress of modern civilization would bring us— but nothing is more doubtful, except perhaps for some of them who might turn to the Christian faith and the rational wisdoms it has nourished— help and assistance against the powerful Disgust with Reason, the joyous no, it is not joyous logophobia which is festering before our eyes.
Besides, these trends are sometimes— what a pity! Long ago, I wrote a short book 12 in which I spoke of the mysteri- ous cleavage indicated by these terms, which refer not only to parlia- mentary benches, but to all the citizens. It is useless, in that meaning of the term, to pretend to be neither right nor left. All one can do is to correct one's temperament and bring it to an equilibrium which more or less approaches the point where the two tendencies converge.
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For at the extreme lower limit of these tendencies, a kind of monstrosity unfolds before the mind— on the right a pure cynicism, on the left a pure unrealism or idealism, in the metaphysical sense of this word. The pure man of the left detests being, always preferring, in principle, in the words of Rousseau , 13 what is not to what is.
The pure man of the right detests justice and charity, always preferring, in principle, in the words of Goethe himself an enigma who masked his right with 13 Lrttre tar I'lndSpendanct Paris: Dcscl6e De Brouwer, Nietzsche is a noble and a beautiful example of the man of the right, and Tolstoy, of the man of the left. In the second sense, the political sense, left and right designate ideals, energies, and historic formations into which the men of these two opposing temperaments are normally drawn to group themselves.
Here again, considering the circumstances in which a given country finds itself at a given moment, it is impossible for anyone who takes political realities seriously not to orient himself either to the right or to the left. Yet things get so confused in this matter that men of the right sometimes practice a politics of the left, and vice versa.
I think Lenin is a good example of the first case. There are no more dreadful revolutions than revolutions of the left carried out by men of rightist temperament. There are no weaker governments than governments of the right run by leftist temperaments Louis XVI. But things look completely spoiled when, at certain moments of deep trouble, the political formations of right and left, instead of being each a more or less high-spirited team held in check by a more or less firm political reason, have become nothing more than exasper- ated affective complexes carried away by their myth-ideal; from that point on, political intelligence can do nothing but practice ruses in the service of passion.
Under those conditions, to be neither right nor left means simply that one intends to keep his sanity. But let us leave this digression. It comes down to knowing if Christianity should incarnate itself to that extent, if the temporal mission of the Christian should go that far, if the witness of love should descend that far; or whether we must abandon the world to the devil in that which is most natural to it— civic or political life. If we believe in the possibility of an authentically and vitally Christian politics, then our most urgent temporal duty is to work for its estab- lishment.
A healthy Christian politics that is a politics of Christian inspiration, but one which calls to itself all non-Christians who find it just and humane would undoubtedly seem to go pretty far to the left as regards certain technical solutions, in its appreciation of the con- crete movement of history, and in its demands for the transformation of the present economic regime. In reality, however, it would have absolutely original positions, proceeding, in the spiritual and moral order, from very different principles than the conceptions of the world, life, the family, and the city, which prevail in the various parties of the left.
From now on, in the most barren conditions, and with the awkward- ness of first beginnings, the signal has been given. Even though the invisible flame of the temporal mission of the Christian, of that Christian politics which the world has not yet known, should burn in some few hearts only, because the wood outside is too green, still the witness borne in this way would at least be maintained, the flame handed on.
liagenosnacount.cf And amid the increasing horror of a world where justice, force, liberty, order, revolution, war, peace, work, and poverty have all been dishonored, where politics does its job only by corrupting the souls of the multitude with lies and by making them accomplices in the crimes of history, where the dignity of the human person is end- lessly flouted, the defense of this dignity and of justice, and the political primacy of those human and moral values which make up the core of our earthly common good, would continue to be affirmed, and a small ray of hope would continue to glimmer for mankind in a rehabilitation of love in the temporal order.
The principle of the lesser evil is often, and rightly, invoked in politics. There is no greater evil in this field than to leave justice and charity without witness within the temporal order itself, and in regard to the temporal good. In France, rightist extremism has been invaded by cruel frustrations and bitter resentments, owing as much to a nostalgic memory of the old Marshal as to the disappointments of the Algerian War, not to mention the unhealthy feeling of belong- ing to the vanquished who are seeking some kind of revenge.
Leftist extremism has been invaded by a fever of demagogic excess and ag- gressive conformism, which protect themselves poorly against the great amount of illusion and the bit of meanness that gregarian Idealism carries inevitably with it— not to mention the unhealthy feeling that one belongs to the victors and everyone should be made to know it. None of this is very encouraging or enlightening. How do we even find names for sociological forma- tions which catch our attention first of all because of a certain reli- gious attitude, but whose staunch background is a certain politico- social attitude, as if, by declaring a given religious position, one was necessarily announcing in the same breath a particular political posi- tion, and vice versa?
We can get out of such a fix, if we try' to designate these two vast trends, whose intelligibility is so feebly established and includes such a confusion of aspects, only be constructing a kind of Ajrchtype to which we will give an allegorical or mythical name here is a good case for this word. This will have the advantage of offend- ing nobody: consequently, as the prudent authors of certain mystery stories warn us, any resemblance to any person living or dead should be considered purely coincidental, and no one should feel he has been alluded to.
To designate the Archtype of leftist extremism, then I will speak of the Sheep of Pannrge; and for the Archtype of rightist extremism, I will say the Ruminators of the Holy Alliance. I am quite ready to evince my esteem and brotherly respect for them, and I would be sincerely happy to unite my prayers to theirs, and to go with them to receive the Body of the Lord.
All the same, if I happen to find myself in agreement on some point, either philosophical-theological, or politi- co-social, with either the Sheep of Panurge or the Ruminators of the Holy Alliance, I feel a serious uneasiness. Such accidents are nevertheless inevitable. We should recognize, moreover, that in its zeal neither camp gives first place to the service of pure truth. It is, above all, the alarms of Prudence that stir the Ruminators of the Holy Alliance: to bar the way to threatening dangers, to lock the doors, to build dikes. What stirs the Sheep of Panurge more than anything else is Deference to public opinion: to do as everyone does, at least as all those who are not fossils.
By and large, the two extremisms whose Archtypes have just furnished me an excuse for some bad jokes, characterize but two minorities, although for the moment the Sheep are clearly more numerous than the big Ruminators, and can boast of a much vaster influence, especially among clerical professors. The people are troubled and unhappy because they feel that something great is in the offing and they do not know how to partici- pate. They are groping, and submissively lend themselves to attempts of groupings which are often disappointing.
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They conform willingly not without nostalgia among some elderly lovers of beauty in the Church to the use of the vernacular in religious ceremonies, but complain of the miserable translations which they are forced to recite, as well as of the disorder temporary, no doubt which accompanies liturgical innovations.
It is the truth they are seeking indeed, yes , and the living sources. There is no shortage of guides, judging from the noise they make, and surely all of them have the best intentions. No doubt a few of them know the way. Let us hope that those who do can give us some inkling of what it is "to accept as a child the kingdom of God," with- out which, Jesus said, no one can enter it 20 — and it is certainly not a question of closing our eyes, for a child looks. We must at all costs know a little what it means to look at divine things with the eyes of a child, and in what school this is taught— and that God alone can teach us this.
I will begin this chapter by looking at this ambivalence again. To do this, it is enough to refer to the assertions of the Gospel. These are essential assertions; if we forgot them, we would be mere shadows of Christians; because they give us not only what Jesus knew, but what he lived, in the very depths of his experience— what he lived in his life, what he lived in his death. All my readers are in the habit of reading the Gospel, I am sure.