O ESPÍRITO DO SÉCULO XVIII RESUMIDO POR JOSEPH DE MAISTRE:
- Publicado em 20/06/2017
- Por Diogo Rafael Moreira
There have always been some forms of religion in the world and wicked men who opposed them. Impiety was always a crime, too. Since there can be no false religion without some ingredients of truth, all impiety does attack some divine verity, however disfigured. But only in the bosom of the true religion can there be real impiety. From which it inevitably results that impiety has never produced in times past the evils which it has brought forth in our day, for its guilt is always directly proportional to the enlightenment which surrounds it. By this rule must we judge the eighteenth century, for in this respect it is unlike any other. It is often said that all ages are alike and men have always been the same. But we must beware of these general maxims, which are invented by the lazy and frivolous to spare themselves the trouble of thinking. On the contrary, every age and every nation has a special distinctive nature which must be carefully considered. Undoubtedly, vice has always existed in the world, but it can differ in quantity, essence, dominant characteristics, and intensity.* Although impious men have always existed, there never was before the eighteenth century, and in the heart of Christendom, an insurrection against God. Never before, above all, has there been a sacrilegious conspiracy of every human talent against its Creator. For this is what we have witnessed in our time. Vaudeville has blasphemed, as well as tragedy, and the novel, along with history and the physical sciences. Men of this age have prostituted genius to irreligion and, according to the admirable phrase of Saint Louis on his deathbed, THEY HAVE WAGED WAR AGAINST GOD WITH HIS OWN GIFTS.** Ancient impiety never becomes angry. Sometimes it reasons; usually it jests, but always without bitterness. Even Lucretius seldom descends to invective, and although his brooding melancholy temperament led him to see. the dark side of things, he remains calm, even when he accuses religion of generating great evils. The ancient religions were not considered sufficiently important to enrage contemporary skepticism. [* One must be aware of the mixture of virtues, whose proportions have infinite variation. When the same sorts of Vice have been discovered in different times and places, some men believe they have the right to conclude judicially that men have always been the same. There is no more common, no grosser sophism.]
[** Joinville, History of Saint Louis, CXLV.]
LXII. When the good tidings were first broadcast throughout the universe, the attack became more violent. Nevertheless, the enemies of Christianity always retained a certain moderation. They appeared in history at great intervals and invariably alone. They never formed a union or a formal society. They never abandoned themselves to such fury as we have witnessed. Bayle himself, the father of modern disbelief, was unlike his successors. Even in his most reprehensible errors he does not show a great desire to proselytize, even less a mood of irritation or a factious spirit. He denies less than he doubts. He speaks on both sides. Indeed, at times he is more eloquent for the good cause than for the bad.[* For example, see with what powerful logic he attacked materialism in the article LEUCIPPUS in his Dictionary.]LXIII. Not until the first half of the eighteenth century did impiety really become a force. We see it at first spreading in every direction with amazing energy. From palaces to hovels, it insinuates itself everywhere, infesting everything. It follows invisible paths, acting secretly but infallibly, so that the most acute observer, seeing the effect, cannot always discover the means. By an unimaginable delusion, k even wins the affections of those to whom it is most deadly, and the authority it is preparing to sacrifice embraces it stupidly before receiving the blow. Soon a simple scheme becomes a formal association, which by degrees rapidly transforms itself into a confederacy and at length into a grand conspiracy which covers all Europe.
LXIV. Then that species of impiety which belongs only to the eighteenth century discloses itself for the first time. It is no longer the cold tone of indifference, of, at worst, the malignant irony of skepticism. It is a mortal hatred, the tone of anger and often of fury. The writers of that period, at least the most distinguished among them, no longer treat Christianity as an unimportant human error. They pursue it like a formidable enemy. They oppose it to the last extreme. It is a war to the death. What would seem incredible, if our own eyes had not seen the sad proofs of it, is that several of these men, who call themselvesphilosophers, advanced from hatred of Christianity to personal hatred of its Divine Author. They truly hated Him, as one would hate a living enemy. Two men especially, who will forever be covered with the anathemas of posterity, have distinguished themselves in this form of villainy, which seemed beyond the powers of human nature, however depraved.
LXV. Since, however, all Europe had been civilized by Christianity and its ministers had obtained high political prestige in every country, the secular and religious institutions had blended and, as it were, amalgamated in a surprising manner, so that one could with more or less accuracy say of every state in Europe what Gibbon has said of France, that this kingdom was founded by bishops. It was inevitable as a result that the philosophy of the age would unhesitatingly detest the social institutions, from which the religious principle was inseparable. This is what actually occurred. Every government and all the institutions of Europe displeased it because they were Christian, and in proportion as they were Christian, an inquietude of belief, a universal discontent, invaded every mind. In France, especially, the philosophic frenzy knew no bounds, and soon a single powerful voice, formed from many voices in chorus, cried out in the midst of guilty Europe:
LXVI. "Depart from us!* Must we then forever tremble before the priests, receiving from them such instruction as they are pleased to give us? Throughout Europe, the truth is hidden by the fumes of burning incense. It is time that she emerge from this poisonous cloud. We shall no longer speak of Thee to our children. It is left to them, once they become men, to know if Thou exist, what Thou art, and what Thou ask of them. All that exists is distasteful to us, for Thy name is written over all. We wish to destroy everything, rebuilding it without Thee. Depart from our councils, our schools, and our homes. We can act alone; reason is all we require. Depart from us!"
[* Job 21:14. Therefore they say unto God, Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of Thy ways.]How has God punished this execrable raving? He punished it as He created the light, by a single word. He said, "SO BE IT!" - and the world of politics crumbled.See, then, how the two kinds of proof unite to strike the least discerning eyes. On the one hand, the religious principle presides over all political creation. On the other, everything disappears as soon as it is withdrawn.
LXVII. Europe is guilty for having shut her eyes to these great truths, and she suffers on account of her guilt. Yet still she rejects the light and does not acknowledge the Arm which strikes her. Few men, indeed, of this materialistic generation are in a condition to recognize the date,, the nature, and the enormityof certain crimes perpetrated by individuals, by nations, and by sovereignties. Still less are they able to understand the sort of expiation which these sins demand and the worshipful marvel which compels evil to purify with its own hands the place which the eternal Architect has already measured for His marvelous constructions. The men of this age have chosen their lot. They have sworn to fix their eyes upon the earth.* But it would be useless, even dangerous perhaps, to go into further detail. We are exhorted to profess the truth in love.** Moreover, on certain occasions we must speak it only with respect, and despite every conceivable precaution, this step would be slippery for even the calmest and best-intentioned author. Besides, the world still contains a countless horde of men so perverse, so profoundly corrupt, that if they should bring themselves to suspect the truth of certain things, their wickedness might redouble in consequence, making them, so to speak, as guilty as the rebel angels. Oh! May their brutishness become instead even greater, if possible, in order that they cannot become even as guilty as men can be. Surely blindness is a dreadful punishment Sometimes, however, it can still recognize love. That is all that can be usefully said at this time.