Eliphas Levy

THE objections which one may make against religion may be made either in the name of science, or in the name of reason, or in the name of faith.

Science cannot deny the facts of the existence of religion, of its establishment and its influence upon the events of history.

It is forbidden to it to touch dogma; dogma belongs wholly to faith.

Science ordinarily arms itself against religion with a series of facts which it is her duty to appreciate, which, in fact, she does appreciate thoroughly, but which she condemns still more energetically than science does.

In doing that, science admits that religion is right, and herself wrong; she lacks logic, manifests the disorder which every angry passion introduces into the spirit of man, and admits the need that it has of being ceaselessly redressed and directed by the spirit of charity.

Reason, on its side, examines dogma and finds it absurd.

But, if it were not so, reason would understand it; if reason understood it, it would no longer be the formula of the unknown. {82}

It would be a mathematical demonstration of the infinite.

It would be the infinite finite, the unknown known, the immeasurable measured, the indicible named.

That is to say that dogma could only cease to be absurd in the eyes of reason to become, in the eyes of faith, science, reason and good sense in one, the most monstrous and the most impossible of all absurdities.

Remain the objections of dissent.

The Jews, our fathers in religion, reproach us with having attacked the unity of God, with having changed the immutable and eternal law, with adoring the creature instead of the Creator.

These heavy reproaches are founded on their perfectly false notion of Christianity.

Our God is the God of Moses, unique, immaterial, infinite God, sole object of worship, and ever the same.

Like the Jews, we believe Him to be present everywhere, but, as they ought to do, we believe Him living, thinking and loving in humanity, and we adore Him in His works.

We have not changed His law, for the Jewish Decalogue is also the law of Christians.

The law is immutable because it is founded on the eternal principles of Nature; but the worship necessitated by the needs of man may change, and modify itself, parallel with the changes in men themselves.

This signifies that the worship itself is immutable, but modifies itself as language does.

Worship is a form of instruction; it is a language; one must translate it when nations no longer understand it. {83}

We have translated, and not destroyed, the worship of Moses and of the prophets.

In adoring God in creation, we do not adore the creation itself.

In adoring God in Jesus Christ, it is God alone whom we adore, but God united to humanity.

In making humanity divine, Christianity has revealed the human divinity.

The God of the Jews was inhuman, because they did not understand Him in His works.

We are, then, more Israelite than the Israelites themselves. What they believe, we believe with them, and better than they do. They accuse us of having separated ourselves from them, and, on the contrary, it is they who wish to separate from us.

We wait for them, the heart and the arms wide open.

We are, as they are, the disciples of Moses.

Like them, we come from Egypt, and we detest its slavery. But we have entered into the Promised Land, and they obstinately abide and die in the desert.

Mohammedans are the bastards of Israel, or rather, they are his disinherited brothers, like Esau.

Their belief is illogical, for they admit that Jesus is a great prophet, and they treat Christians as infidels.

They recognize the Divine inspiration of Moses, yet they do not look upon the Jews as their brothers.

They believe blindly in their blind prophet, the fatalist Mohammed, the enemy of progress and of liberty.

Nevertheless, do not let us take away from Mohammed the {84} glory of having proclaimed the unity of God among the idolatrous Arabs.

There are pure and sublime pages in the Qur'an.

In reading those pages, one may say with the children of Ishmael, "There is no other God but God, and Mohammed is his prophet."

There are three thrones in heaven for the three prophets of the nations; but, at the end of time, Mohammed will be replaced by Elias.

The Mussulmans do not reproach the Christians; they insult them.

They call them infidels and "giaours," that is to say, dogs. We have nothing to reply to them.

One must not refute the Turks and the Arabs; one must instruct and civilize them.

Remain dissident Christians, that is to say, those who, having broken the bond of unity, declare themselves strangers to the charity of the Church.

Greek orthodoxy, that twin of the Roman Church which has not grown greater since its separation, which counts no longer in religion, which, since Photius, has not inspired a single eloquence, is a church become entirely temporal, whose priesthood is no more than a function regulated by the imperial policy of the Tsar of All the Russias; a curious mummy of the primitive Church, still coloured and gilded with all its legends and all its rites, which its popes no longer understand; the shadow of a living church, but one which insisted on stopping when that church moved on, and which is now no more than its bloated-out and headless silhouette.

Then, the Protestants, those eternal regulators of anarchy, {85} who have broken down dogma, and are trying always to fill the void with reasonings, like the sieve of the Danaides; these weavers of religious fantasy, all of whose innovations are negative, who have formulated for their own use an unknown calling itself better known, mysteries better explained, a more defined infinite, a more restrained immensity, a more doubting faith, those who have quintessentialized the absurd, divided charity, and taken acts of anarchy for the principles of an entirely impossible hierarchy; those men who wish to realize salvation by faith alone, because charity escapes them, and who can no longer realize it, even upon the earth, for theirpretended sacraments are no longer anything but allegorical mummeries; they no longer give grace; they no longer make God seen and touched; they are no longer, in a word, the signs of the almighty power of faith, but the compelled witnesses of the eternal impotence of doubt.

It is, then, against faith itself that the Reformation protested! Protestants were right only in their protest against the inconsiderate and persecuting zeal which wished to force consciences. They claimed the right to doubt, the right to have less religion than others, or even to have none at all; they have shed their blood for that sad privilege; they conquered it, they possess it; but they will not take away from us that of pitying them and loving them. When the need to believe again takes them, when their heart revolts against the tyranny of a falsified reason when they become tired of the empty abstractions of their arbitrary dogma, of the vague observances of their ineffective worship; when their communion without the real presence, their

churches without divinity, and their morality without grace finally frighten {86} them; when they are sick with the nostalgia of God --- will they not rise up like the prodigal son, and come to throw themselves at the feet of the successor of Peter, saying: "Father, we have sinned against heaven and in thy sight, and we are no more worthy to be called thy sons, but count us among the humblest of thy servants"?

We will not speak of the criticism of Voltaire. That great mind was dominated by an ardent love of truth and justice, but he lacked that rectitude of heart which the intelligence of faith gives. Voltaire could not admit faith, because he did not know how to love. The spirit of charity did not reveal itself to that soul which had no tenderness, and he bitterly criticized the hearth of which he did not feel the warmth, and the lamp of which he did not see the light. If religion were such as he saw it, he would have been a thousand times right to attack it, and one would be obliged to fall on one's knees before the heroism of his courage. Voltaire would be the Messiah of good sense, the Hercules destructor of fanaticism. ... But he laughed too much to understand Him who said: "Happy are they who weep," and the philosophy of laughter will never have anything in common with the religion of tears.

Voltaire parodied the Bible, dogma and worship; and then he mocked and insulted that parody.

Only those who recognize religion in Voltaire's parody can take offence at it. The Voltaireans are like the frogs in the fable who leap upon the log, and then make fun of royal majesty. They are at liberty to take the log for a king, they are at liberty to make once more that Roman caricature of which Tertullian once made mirth, that which represented the {87} God of the Christians under the figure of a man with an ass's head. Christians will shrug their shoulders when they see this knavery, and pray God for the poor ignorants who imagine that they insult them.

M. the Count Joseph de Maistre, after having, in one of his most eloquent paradoxes, represented the hangman as a sacred being, and a permanent incarnation of divine justice upon earth, suggested that one should raise to the old man of Ferney a statue executed by the hangman. There is depth in this thought. Voltaire, in effect, also was, in the world, a being at the same time providential and fatal, endowed with insensibility for the accomplishment of his terrible functions. He was, in the domain of intelligence, a hangman, an extirminator armed by the justice of God Himself.

God sent Voltaire between the century of Bossuet and that of Napoleon in order to destroy everything that separates those two geniuses and to unite them in one alone.

He was the Samson of the spirit, always ready to shake the columns of the temple; but in order to make him turn in spite of himself the mill of religious progress, Providence made him blind of heart.