Jacques Maritain Center : Readings

Jacques Maritain's Notebooks

In order to distinguish them from the notes stemming from inscriptions hastily made at the very moment in the kinds of diaries which I kept after a fashion, I have, in the first five chapters, placed between brackets the notes written according to the present testimony of my memory or expressing my present reflections.

My oldest notebooks were destroyed by me. From 1906 to 1911 my notebooks were quite regularly kept, and are rather voluminous. Afterwards, I used small pocket notebooks, more and more rapid and summary; several of these notebooks have been lost.

(Parenthetical translations of some foreign and classical words and phrases as well as English titles of works when different from the original French are additions of the publisher.)


Chapter One: Old Memories I:
From Before Baptism



[My mother kept for a long time a letter which I had written, at sixteen, to François Baton, the husband of the good, stout and wholly devoted cook, Angèle (for me "Yeuyeule"), who was a pillar of the house and who watched over my childhood. Baton was a laborer, and enjoyed in my opinion all the prestige of the manual worker, the "conscious and organized proletarian"; it was in chatting with him, in the kitchen, where he came each evening with his newspaper, La Petite République, and where I used to take refuge in order to flee from the friends of my mother, that at about thirteen or fourteen I had become a Socialist. The articles of Jaurès and of Gérault-Richard inflamed me. Later a performance of The Weavers, of Gerhart Hauptmann, was to make an extremely profound impression on me. While waiting for me to read the Socialist literature of that time, for example, "Le Droit au Produit Intégral du Travail," of Anton Menger, which was not, I believe, very orthodox, but was one of my preferred books, Baton explained to me that the Revolution would be accomplished when the Socialist deputies in the Chamber would have "half plus one" of the seats.

If I do not deny, far from it, the esteem and the love for the working people which had developed in me and which I have always kept, I abhor the bad passion and the commonplaces of the revolutionary cabarets on which it lived at that time. They appear only too well in the letter from which my mother had copied a long fragment (the original is lost). In spite of its gibberish and its falsity of tone, I publish this fragment here in order to give some idea of the state of mind in which a young "traitor to his class" bourgeois could find himself at the time -- whose desire, moreover, to serve "the proletariat and humanity," while taking, in order to realize itself, very unexpected forms, and while subordinating itself to that of serving God first, has never been revoked.]

From a letter to François Baton:

I will be a socialist and live for the revolution.

There is no merit in working when this amuses you, no more than there is merit in eating when one is hungry. If there is someone whom it is necessary to thank for the progress that I can make, it is precisely the immense crowd of the proletarians who toil while I delight in reading, so that I may have bread and wine, clothes, a roof, a bed, a fire, books and time to read -- it is also all the work of humanity, all the accumulated intellectual labor of earlier and contemporary generations which I can freely enjoy, which I can freely appropriate. Capitalist property will never be able to enroach upon that communism, the sublime and universal communism of human thought and of human suffering and of human hope. But do you think that I am not ashamed when I think that at my age the children of the people toil, sometimes 11 hours a day (only yesterday, 12, 13 and 14 hours a day), and that it is thanks to their work not remunerated at its value that I, idle, without doing anything, without creating anything, without sweating, feed with a lukewarm satisfaction on the bread of the body and on the bread of science! Ah, certainly, this will not be lost, but it is an enormous debt and one which will never be and which can never be paid, that I contract with regard to the proletariat. There are moments when I ask myself if I have indeed the right to be a socialist, to enjoy consequently the blessed socialist hope, I who enjoy at the same time bourgeois privileges, whereas socialist joy, the gaiety of revolutionary hope should be reserved for the oppressed workers only, for those who work, for those who suffer, for those who constitute the sole true humanity. It is for this that at this moment an anxiety and a remorse mingle in everything I do, mingle in the joy that I experience in learning. Most certainly, everything I will be able to think and to know, I will consecrate to the proletariat and to humanity: I will employ it in its entirety to prepare the revolution, to aid, however so little, in the happiness and in the education of humanity.


1901 - 1902

4th of November, 1901. "Friendship like love supports only beings who cannot fall. These sentiments are always in the measure of the persons who experience them and they are built on sand when on both sides there are not solid bonds of high intellectual conformity and of reciprocal esteem." (Raissa Oumançoff, 22nd of June, 1901).

All of us therefore have only the destiny which we have made for ourselves. It is our soul projected in time which comes back to us under the form of concrete events. We are not deceived. We deceive ourselves.

And then we are wrong to hope. Always, in spite of us, hope insinuates itself. We do not recognize it, but it is there. It takes possession of us gently and hypocritically, so that later it can have a good laugh.

Is it therefore true that we are irremediably mired in baseness and misfortune?

And what does it matter after all? I will always set out. O Death, old captain! It is a sweet assurance to know that you steer the boat and that you will lead us to port.

Wrecks floating along the way. But will in the sails and light in the lanterns.


Impenetrability of consciences. Windows! But always closed. Story of the pike in an aquarium which constantly knocked its head against a glass partition placed in the middle of the water, which it did not see -- but felt. They say it was perceptive enough, at the end of a few months of this exercise, to remain in its little home of its own accord.

But are there not some which would have finally broken their heads? By stubbornness precisely. . . .

The story adds that one day they took away the glass partition. But the pike never touched the fish which had been on the other side, so inseparably associated remained the memory of the shocks it had received.

But will someone ever take away the windows which limit souls? Something or someone, will, friendship, death? But we too, we will have definitively acquired the habit, and we will always strike against each other, we will always collide with the glass, even when absent, always.{1}


From Raissa:

"In order to be everything it is necessary to be able to be alone! and Brand is not alone. He has to inspire him, to guide him and to support him, faith in God, in himself, in the Beauty and the Goodness of his work.

"Nothing of all this can exist for us. We believe that there exists an Unknowable and as such we cannot busy ourselves with it. -- To have confidence in ourselves? What irony! -- In our work? What work? Why?

"We believe neither in duty, nor in merit, that way we lose all support within ourselves (until resurrection).

"I would like us, detached from everything, free from every prejudice, free from duty, disdainful of merit, without any illusion and without any weakness, to find in ourselves the strength to be, for the Beauty of being! to be alone and nevertheless strong!" (22nd of June, 1902)


To leave.

Towards the sun, the countries of life, of refound solitude and of present beauty. In the great unlimited plains with fine sand. In the great shuddering woods. In the immense fields with eternal harvests.

O the steppes; the deserts.
To die in Jerusalem.

"Curious" attitude of people who seem to imagine that something is due to them. Ah yes, I am ready to jump into the water for you: why do you not do it for me? -- Life is an exchange (of courtesies?). One takes offence, one is bitter, and, to be sure, one in truth perhaps suffers when what one "expected" does not happen. Fatuity and insupportable demand.

If one truly understood life, one would see that it is necessary to take what happens each day as a "grace" dispensed from day to day. Evil as well as the good; perhaps especially the good. It is a marvel that such and such a joy has happened to me. Life owes me nothing. No one owes me anything.

No more than I owe something to life.


From a certain point of view, life seems to be a perpetual and disconcerting leap into chance. The unexpected character of encounters, etc.

But on the other hand, what logic. It is something which one has seized in passage, felt in an instant, something imperceptible, unformulable and inaccessible -- which develops with the rigor of an equation, and which, at the end of a more or less long time, succeeds definitely in realizing itself and passes into actual events. Nothing is lost, truly. Destiny proceeds in silence, for a long time, underneath. With great difficulty one can have for an instant a fugitive intuition of it, which one discards immediately. It is more patient than everything. This happens one fine day, because it was necessary that that happen. On what date? I could not say beforehand. But one was able to feel something stronger, which passed -- and which had to materialize.

Rarely have I been deceived in these dangerous intuitions, which reveal themselves by quite particular characteristics. Precisely because they are an immediate view of a latency at work, they absolutely escape language and verbal affirmation, they remain outside acted life and beliefs, they float, so to speak, a moment on consciousness, and we refuse to admit them into the system of our opinions -- precisely because it is an unseizable force, like the enormous machines which turn in my feverish nightmares.

It could be indeed, finally, that I had an intuition of this kind some years ago, at Crécy, when I had such a horrible fear{2} -- like those fears in the dark in which one does not dare to cry out -- such a horrible fear of life, of my life which was coming.

But now, truly, I no longer have fear. Destiny can pass that way. Destiny surely passes that way. But we shall be stronger than it.

For it can do nothing, nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing against us and our will.


The poor cripple goes on.

He is ugly and disgusting to see. He is pitied and allowed to think that he is as beautiful as other men.

He is wicked without knowing it. He is pitied; he is allowed to think that he is good, that he loves and that someone loves him.

He limps and stumbles at all the brooks. He is pitied; and he is allowed to think that he walks straight, as other men walk straight.

He is blind and sees only foolish hallucinations. He is pitied; he is allowed to think that he sees as other men see.

He is deaf and hears only foolish hallucinations. He is pitied and allowed to think that he hears beautiful harmonies, and that such are the harmonies that other men hear.

He is mute and utters only inarticulate sounds. He is pitied; he is allowed to think that he speaks, and that such is the speech of other men.

He is sick. He is pitied and allowed to think that he is healthy as other men are.

He is dead. He is pitied; he is allowed to think that he is living, and that such is true life.

But sometimes does he not hear, far away, something like a laugh?


See, the garden is dying slowly under the rain;
        Do you see the great holes forming?
We shall bury there our soul and our life,
        Darkness will sleep near us.
See the flowers fading slowly under the rain.
See, the water runs through the broken roads
        Carrying along rotted leaves.
Such will be indeed the river in which our felicities
        Will scud along to the blessed cities.
See us pass among the broken roads.

See us pass amidst wasted youth.
        The fruits of the orchard have fallen.
The sun has set at the bottom of the valley.
        I hear freezing winds run
And I am afraid to leave towards the wasted dawn.

[I was passionately fond of Baudelaire. But this wretched pastiche expressed the very real background of my state of mind at that time.]


The void. Heap of combined forces. I am worth more than them, since I know them; and they do not know me.

Failed universe. What a poor instrument is the human brain! What good can one do with it? Animals, animals. . . . In perfecting itself humanity perfects the vices and ugliness which are proper to it -- by definition. Suffering, grief, shame, always at the bottom. To shake that off! To feel the burden weigh upon oneself. We wish to seize beauty, to seize happiness, like a breath of breeze with a pincers. To make the beautiful with the ugly, this is still possible, since they are of the same order. But to make the successful with the failed, to transform one order into another order -- something "supernatural" What is to be done with the infinite? Peasants, to make fun of me, called me "the apostle". . . .

And then, always the void, ignorance. Objective truth fleeing like objective beauty. Doubt. True doubt, even concerning doubt. Reason revolting upon itself. Coffee mill which idles.

I pulled myself up by the hair. High. High towards countries which my eyes created, towards songs which my ears produced.

I made a great city on the void, a great brightness on the night. My will supports itself in nothingness.

And then I gave my soul and it is more beautiful. We are two to live in the eternal vibration which passes through the night. Alone!

But how can we reanimate this void below? Conquer, in their order of action, the brutal forces? I can scorn the universe, we laugh at it in our home, in which it can do nothing against us. NOTHING.

But it holds us by other bonds. Struggle! Struggle! It is necessary to be stronger than the infinite. Integrate everything to oneself.

But everything that remains outside. . .


From Raissa:

L'Étivaz, 14th of August, 1902. Presence of the soul at each instant of life.

in order to create the golden atmosphere of Swedenborg, environment of the soul and of sincerity.


Raissa and I clearly felt, after the reading of Maeterlinck, when we had returned into the room, and were resting on the window, penetrated with buoyant air and with the indistinct colors of the mountains, and with the pale and continuous and living line of the road, we both clearly felt -- our souls happy -- our truth, our definitive truth. I write this in order to fix in my memory the congenial setting and the external situation; but what took place on the inside is ineffable and divine. The absolute sincerity, the profound harmony of our souls filled us with an inexhaustible happiness. Life appeared to us, our life, such as it should be, and in silence we promised each other irrevocable promises. Fortitude, the luminous and clear School, the School of life, of sincerity, the School in which we will animate souls, in which we will cause by appeals, songs and rays, the soul and real life to come to the surface of existence. The School from which men and women of truth and of harmony will emerge. The School in which we shall do the divine, necessary expression of our life, and of the constant power which animates it. Clear!


Voulangis, 9th of September, 1902. What Maeterlinck says of silence applies to many other things. It seems that men are afraid of what is great, profound, violent and definitive. Their whole art contrives to avoid it.

Thus for the union of souls.

That is the real reason for moral chastity, and, insofar as it is implied by the latter -- physical chastity. It is a question of preserving intact this gift of supreme intuition through which souls communicate.

This communication of souls is a desire of our nature. Dissipation in boys, upbringing in girls, the experience of adults aim only at spoiling and rendering impossible such a desire. Shameful prudence and fear of great things. The consequence is that in losing their beauty so many human beings lose the sense of beauty. Doors close. There are things which they can no longer see and which they will never be able to see. A base practical approximation of experience has replaced truth. Will, desire, profound wish, satisfy themselves with chance encounters and external illusions. The external from now on has established itself at the very interior of being.



The idealists.

Either they affirm nothing concerning existence but solely concerning our possible knowledge. Their discovery is then only this affirmation: "We know only the known, and we will never be able to know anything except the known." Let them say therefore what it would be to know something which is not the known, which is not known.

Or else they are not content with this tautology, and affirm something concerning being: "There is only. . . ." I stop them. They do not have the right and go infinitely beyond their premises.

If we wish to speak of being, it is necessary to posit other postulates.




So there will never be any means of being free! No sooner are three or four individuals together than the same bonds of authority and the same servitudes appear. The least group becomes a small family. One takes the place of the father, the other of the brother. . . . -- This community has all the vices of bourgeois marriage.

The theoretical claim of solitude holds against those on the outside. But you do not notice that, practically, it is null in the small circle of which you are a part.

Same essential misappreciation of values, same loss of duration, common stupidity, same falsehood, same enroachments of authority, same closing of horizon, preconception, cliquishness, practical agreements, same mode of language and of thought by customary allusion and ready-made sympathy, same indulgences, same obtuseness, same servitudes as in the family (and without the household gods of the family). Same absence of shame. Same facility. Same attachments. Same neglects.


It is necessary to bear death with gaiety. He is happy forever; wants to dance always.

And perhaps there will be beautiful days; the games of life will want to imitate the memory.

His suffering is his own, it is the nothingness of the work, for the past, the present and the future.

His infinite suffering is the fury of servitudes, which arisen from the ages, make God Himself weep.

His will belongs to God. His liberty is total.

All that God gives, he receives with happiness. If one day God believes him to be in His image, and calls him, then, he will come.

Thus he is dead, and almost nothing is changed in his life, nor in his action, nor in his happiness. It is like a man who would continue wakefulness by dream, and would go on doing the same things. He dreams nevertheless.

That's enough for him.

It is necessary that God be free.


26th of November, 1904. Marriage of Jacques and Raissa.



Raissa, 5th of June: "All men are made of the same clay, but not of the same breath."

Raissa, 9th of October. In the middle of the night she was awakened by these words which she heard: "You are always looking for what must be done. There is only to love God and to serve Him with all your heart."


Began to recite the Lord's Prayer at the beginning of November, 1905.


30th of November.

Métiers. Is is necessary, above all, to be a man. This is the métier. This is the real place of human natural communion, communion of action. The humanitarians make me laugh. Let them begin by properly exercising their métier. True definition of métier, would be approximately this: To contribute, as far as one's body is concerned, (practical activity), to the life of men, and to draw one's life from it. That which remains is for us and for God. But it is on another plane. It is necessary that there be a point of attachment, a point of resistance and a point of support, through which the point of our action is attached to the duration of all men, to the practice of all men. To contribute to the life of men, I say, in all the meanings of the word "life." To give the bread of the body and the bread of the soul.

Parody of métier: luxury.

Corruption of métier: lucre. The "métier" of the coupon clipper. To earn money, as prime end -- the contrary of métier.

What is bad in industrialism is not the machine, it is the bourgeois spirit.


5th of December.

Method in history, In the sciences, a forgotten fact, a fact not considered by us, does not prevent the other facts from being valid. It spoils only the theory, not the other facts. Reality is present, and one takes successively different points of view concerning it, one knows successively parts of it. In history it is entirely different. A forgotten fact, an unknown fact, prevents the other facts from being "true." It is necessary to recast them. For here one works on wholes, not on parts. The facts do not have therefore the same signification as in the sciences; because in the sciences the present reality is infinite, so that the ensemble of known facts is only a very small part of reality; whereas in history, reality is past; it is therefore, as it were, a limited whole, which has taken place, so that the ensemble of known facts is thought to present an image of reality, an image of the whole. So that a new fact does not superadd itself to the others while extending their field, but is forced, taking its place in a limited circumference, to repress all the other facts. As in a trial.

All of which amounts to saying that historical reality is altogether different from scientific reality. And that history is not a science and has no need of the symbolical. And that in the end it presupposes a metaphysics.

[It is not for their intrinsic value that I have drawn these notes of youth from the jumble of my old notebooks. It seems to me that they give some idea of the state of a soul which searches in the night, and of the spiritual journey of a young man hungry for the absolute who, until his meeting with Léon Bloy (1905), believed himself an atheist or completely agnostic (if he then happened to sometimes use the word "God," the meaning of this word remained for him merely poetical or mythical).

It is once again as a document that I have noted in the following fragment (drawn from the notebook of 1906) some of the arrogant and naive lucubrations which in reality bear witness to the torment which my intelligence endured in the months prior to our conversion, in trying to find, in the very midst of the errors in which it was engaged, a path towards the truth of which God caused it to feel the attraction, but to which it did not wish to give itself right away. It was a question, to tell the truth -- for up till then everything had been suspended for me to this absolute end: humanity, and to its temporal salvation symbolized by revolution -- it was a question of changing ultimate end, and of justifying this act which entirely rent me. Hence the theories which I constructed in a little treatise, from which I copy a few paragraphs below -- I was there trying to rediscover, with the help of a clumsy and sometimes ridiculous{3} vocabulary, the ancient distinction between the spiritual and the temporal, and I still clung for a few moments to the old socialist Manichaeism of my student years in order to condemn those whom I called with disgust "the Christians" (while mixing together in the same confused ideology Nietzsche, Proudhon, Marx and Léon Bloy) at the instant when a supernatural thirst was carrying me towards the Church. To enter into the one and to remain separated from the others, standing like a beggar on the threshold without entering into the choir -- such was the absurd notion of which I dreamed at that time, but which helped me to cross the bridge, to thread my way towards God.]



January-March. On human action.

I. Human duration knows two states which differ by nature: the state of peace and the state of war. The first proceeds as if salvation were assured, requires of each one that he contribute for his part to maintain, to continue salvation, already acquired (for example, in society, practice of métiers; in religion, practice of "religious duties," going to Mass), tend to an organization, a regular functioning, a harmony, in which immediate salvation is no more than a condition of that which flowers above it. On the contrary, the state of war proceeds as if salvation were absolutely jeopardized, always in question, and requires of each one that he abandon everything in order to find salvation.

But there is in human actions another division, according to another dimension. Not having the time to seek the suitable words, I shall call one of these parts prattique, or earth; the other, zôtique, or religion. The actions which relate to prattique, to earth, tend always to a result, must succeed, cause to take root: always an earthly interest. The actions of the zôtique, of religion, bear on the essence itself, consequently do not tend to any external effect, do not cause to take root; they do not have any earthly interest, but the absolute interest of the salvation of the essence. There is between the zôtique, and the prattique a relation analogous to that of the soul and of the body: a relation of whole to part, this part being the point through which this whole realizes itself in action.

This being given, the earth is either in a state of peace or in a state of war. Religion is either in a state of peace or in a state of war.

For the earth, what is excellent in the state of peace is the exercise of métiers -- baker, philosopher or poet. The state of peace divides then into two: time of work (tension, it is necessary to succeed) and repose after work (free exercise, sheer play). In the state of war all the privileges of métiers are suspended, in the state of war there are also two times: battle and camp-life.

In human life, intermediate by nature, the state of peace and the state of war compenetrate each other. War is always subjacent to peace; misery lies in wait behind the métiers; and wars have always a substructure of peace and of organization.

One could say that the natural state of the earth, the natural tendency of prattique, is the state of peace. The state of war is forced, foreign. On the contrary, the natural state of religion, the natural tendency of the zôtique, is the state of war. There is no true peace for it except absolute triumph, which is not of this life in any case.

The state of peace is a state of liberty. One is free when one recognizes by reason a certain order, which one respects and which one wishes to obey. Then everything can develop in harmony. And thus the more there is of liberty (true), the more there is of authority (true). The earth tends towards liberty and authority -- towards peace.

The state of war is a state of force. The natural state of religion is force, the state of war. It pains it to undergo peace, not to always burn. The force of arms is a caricature of force, the true name of force is Love. The true name of liberty and of authority -- Justice.

Mortal error to confuse the earth and religion, the prattique and the zôtique. Neither peace nor war on earth will ever be Salvation. Neither métiers nor combats will bring about Salvation. (This is, however, what this century believes.)

Métiers will always bring about a particular work, wars a particular salvation, which will never replace salvation. It is necessary only to ask that they be the instruments of the zôtique. (Excellence of métiers, the cathedrals; excellence of war, the Crusades.) Everything in Socialism and the class-struggle which aims to replace salvation and to establish universal Happiness is false. But there is an unassailable truth: it is that the present condition of the earth is such that war against social iniquity is an absolute necessity.

Bourgeois peace is not a peace. We recognize nothing of their order.

A god descending upon earth preaching benignity brings however war, not peace.

. . . .

II. I have spoken of human action in general. The zôtique, which I have also called religion, is a certain universal typical mode of human action. Accordingly it is a question here of the religious function in general; in this sense, there is no man without religion. If you say that you do not have any religion, it may be that you have a religion of the stomach, or of money, or of nothingness.

But by definition the zôtique presupposes that there is only a single true religion. The true life of the soul. The word "religion" then designates no longer a mode of action, but a particular concrete reality, a given reality. Religion which one does not "choose," which one does not invent, in which one is born in spirit (and of the Spirit, ex aqua et Spiritu). The Church, body of Jesus Christ, renders the zôtique present to earth. Cuts out in the prattique a prattique which is the pure expression of the zôtique.

It is on the plane of the zôtique, not of the prattique, that priests differ from other men -- through function. Such and such act of zôtique, for example, a sacrament, requires two agents: one in order to give it, the other in order to receive it. A bad priest can give it; if he is bad, he will go astray himself, but will not alter the act of zôtique, whose efficacy is no more in him than the efficacy of a remedy is in the doctor. Likewise, if one of the faithful is bad, he will go astray himself; but will not alter the act of zôtique in receiving it.

The nobility or the ignominy of the priest does nothing for or against the truth of religion, no more than that of the faithful.

Only one must not forget that the function of the priest is essentially a function of war (in the order of the zôtique). But since the law of war is force (love), there can be between the function of the priest and that of the faithful only a relation of force. This is why the faithful owe obedience to the priest. Through a consequence, a necessity of the function. Saints obey bad priests.

There is another division between men than that of priests and of faithful. The division between "public men" and "private men." A "public man" differs from a "private man" in the order of the prattique, not in that of the zôtique. It is necessary that there be men, special servants of the communion of métiers, who undertake to maintain or rather to create the state of peace, the other men practicing only the state of peace. This creation of peace is a métier; but a métier which differs from all other métiers; two kinds of complementary métiers.

Only, the métier of the public man is almost entirely masked by war (just as the function of war of the priest, in the order of the zôtique, is masked by the peace of worship and of organized works). The greatest part of their activity is employed in force. And their name itself is borrowed from war ("public man" is indeed ridiculous. They are "governors," they hold power). And yet in reality, it is not war, but peace, which is the essential thing for them. They are organizers and night-watchmen.

III. The preceding analysis shows that the pursuit of power in the things of earth is a corruption for the priest.

It would be absurd to say that the Church is corrupt, that she is no longer with Jesus Christ. In order to say this it would be necessary at one and the same time to assert oneself a Christian (in order to believe in Jesus Christ) and to deny oneself a Christian (in order to condemn the Church; but if you condemn the Church you can no longer believe in Jesus Christ). It is the misery of Protestantism.

One does not choose a religion for good reasons. One is born into the true religion through grace.

All that I write here has to do with men, and with the difficulties of the world. But in order to speak to God it is necessary only to say: O my Father, give me the faith of a little child.

The great obstacle to Christianity is the Christians. This is the thorn which pierces me. The Christians have abandoned the poor -- and the poor among the nations: the Jews -- and Poverty of the soul: authentic Reason. They horrify me.

Bloy is in the Christian people like a prophet in the Jewish people: in a fury against his people. (But all the same in this people.)

In such a situation, it is necessary to redouble one's interior submission and one's waiting, and one's love for the Church.

The model to which reason tends is the life of the ancestors of Jesus, the life and the religion of Mary. But what reason thus requires is a supernatural life. The whole tree of Jesse is a continous miracle; and Mary was miraculously contemporary with Abraham and separated from the corrupted Jews. It would be necessary to be separated in the same way from the Christians of today. With a body present to this current age of the world, it would be necessary to really live with the first Christians, to rise above all the Christians of this time. Kind of miracle; supernatural operation. Tolstoyans or Protestants, those who think to effect this right off, easily and naturally, and while separating themselves from the Church, are silly idealists.

Reason requires that one be baptized, because it is necessary that life have its center in faith, and because to ask for baptism is the sign that one would like to live this way. What will happen after is the affair of God. For the moment, I do not know if I believe . . .

Since worship stems so to speak from the conjunction of the absolute life of the soul with earthly life and earthly practice, it is necessary that acts of worship be sensible acts (to the body) -- since it is earthly life; and that they be at the same time a "celestial" reality, acting according to the laws of absolute truth, not according to the laws of earth, a work of God, not of nature. We see, therefore, that the operations of worship must not be images or symbols, but real operations. Thus for Christian faith, God is really present at the sacrifice of the Mass, and the Mass is the center of the whole of Christianity. "I alone," said Jesus to St. Mechtilda, "I alone understand perfectly in what manner I immolate myself every day on the altar for the salvation of the faithful; neither the Cherubim nor the Seraphim, or any celestial power can grasp it entirely."

In religion, therefore, in this unique and complex essence, there is nothing which I reject, but everything is equally accepted, without restriction or mental reservation. But this faith is indigent in me, repelled and thwarted by the consent of Christians to earthly injustice and by the horror which their history, their inclination, inspire in me. It will be necessary to be in the midst of them like strangers, come from elsewhere. Far from fleeing the earthly house of God, we shall turn towards it, and we shall enter it. But how can one mingle with the horrible children who feast in it? We shall remain separated, on the threshold. We do not reject any truth, we do not separate God from His Church, charity from worship; we keep the whole of the faith. But what is to be done in order not to enter at the same time into the family of the satisfied, who in the name of their eternal salvation have taken sides against the temporal salvation of the world?

[Three months after I had written these things the mirage which stopped me on the threshold had lost its force and only troubled me vaguely in my first steps with the priest who was to baptize us. Baptism immediately swept it away; I understood that the image of "Christians" which I had fashioned for myself during my years of unbelief was a myth,{4} and that it is they -- to the extent at least that they know of what spirit they are, and show themselves faithful to it, and it is no doubt not the greatest number -- who work in the most profound and the truest manner for the "temporal salvation of the world."]


Beginning of 1906. [From a Bergsonian essay presumptuously entitled "Preliminary Discourse on Intelligence and on Order:" and which came to a standstill, I retain these lines which show that under the mask of Bergsonian duration it was indeed the intuition of being which preoccupied me from that moment. (And I already related it to the intelligence.)]

As soon as leaving the surface he penetrates in depth -- reality, living and substantial, astonishes him and takes possession of him. There everything is reciprocal compenetration and movement; yet not confusion. . . . The more he descends, the more he proceeds towards solitude, where his person is in its entirety -- solitude full of echoes; and the more he proceeds also towards the intuition of a duration in which the instants do not follow one upon the other, which does not at all admit of separated instants, but which completely conserves itself in the powerful simplicity and the expansion of its inconceivable unity. He cannot express this or communicate it directly; but whoever, sufficiently endowed and exercised, will follow the same path, will arrive at the same point; and will feel, like him, that he is in the presence, not of an idea which seems true by its convenience, to be handled in discourse and explication, but of the real itself, which asserts itself royally, and makes itself known by its force, through which it enraptures the mind, and by its absolute nature, into which the most agile rapidities of thought hurl themselves in vain. He is like a swimmer who, having left the surface of the sea, plunges into the deep water, and who feels himself caught between powerful currents, irresistible and warm internal torrents, which ravish his body, all of whose agility -- though swift as an arrow -- cannot equal them in speed or break them apart. Thus in the violence of the intuition, duration takes possession of the intelligence.

Of this primary intuition he will retain, when he has returned to consciousness, only a primary truth, and he says: I exist in an absolute manner, that is to say, I perdure. . . .


10th of April. Philosophers play with fire (poets also). Nothing is as comical as a course at the Sorbonne, in which an enervated professor expounds his historical views to some dunces, and discusses David Hume as peacefully as Plato. Does this seem dead to you? Fortunately, not the slightest spark flies! But just remember all that this has raised up!


Thurdsay evening, 19th of April. Death of Curie, skull crushed by a truck. Brief notice in the Temps: "A pedestrian was run over on rue Dauphine. Cards found on him bore the name of M. Curie." The imbeciles who laugh at Pascal and at his carriage accident! -- This means that the man of genius must be ready to die like every man -- as a poor person; that is to say that intelligence is NOTHING before death. But no one believes it except the Christians.


11th of June, 1906. St. Barnabas. Baptism of Jacques, Raissa and Vera, in the Church of St. John the Evangelist (Montmartre).

{1} The majority of the fragments contained in these ancient notebooks carry mention neither of the month nor of the day of the month.

{2} [No doubt during vacation when one day, in a moment of bravado and of irrepressible dream, I wanted to escape by the window, by means of bedsheets tied together. They became untied while I was suspended in the air -- I was badly hurt by the fall.]

{3} It was not without embarrassment that I copied the words of this unfortunate vocabulary. At least inventions like prattique and zôtique were droll enough for a comic to appreciate.

{4} A myth of bourgeois origin to tell the truth; for it only reflected the caricature of religion, as guarantee of the established order, which the practical atheism of the bourgeois world introduced for a time, in thousands of archetypes, into the reality of human history.

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