Jacques Maritain Center : Philosophy of History

Chapter 2

AXIOMATIC FORMULAS OR FUNCTIONAL LAWS

These formulas or laws deal with any part of the historical development or with the whole of it. They express a functional relation between certain intelligible characteristics, certain universal objects of thought -- a functional relation which exists, and which can be verified in one way or another, at each step of the development of human history.

The law of two-fold contrasting progress

1. I mentioned in Chapter 1 the law that history progresses both in the direction of good and in the direction of evil. By way of elucidating this further, we might meditate on a famous parable in the Gospel. Of course, the Gospel is not concerned with the philosophy of history, but we do find in it the most illuminating statements for the philosopher of history -- statements which we may use from our own philosophical point of view, in applying them to this particular matter, the philosophy of history. I am thinking of the parable in Chapter XIII of the Gospel according to St. Matthew about the man who sowed good seed in his field, only to have his enemy come and oversow it with cockle:

The kingdom of heaven is likened to a man that sowed good seed in his field.

But while men were asleep, his enemy came and oversowed cockle among the wheat and went his way.

And when the blade was sprung up and had brought forth fruit, then appeared also the cockle.

And the servants of the goodman of the house coming said to him: Sir, didst thou not sow good seed in thy field? whence then hath it cockle?

And he said to them: An enemy hath done this. And the servants said to him: Wilt thou that we go and gather it up?

And he said: No, lest perhaps gathering up the cockle, you root up the wheat also together with it.

Suffer both to grow until the harvest, and in the time of the harvest, I will say to the reapers: Gather up first the cockle and bind it into bundles to burn, but the wheat gather ye into my barn.

This parable is a quite striking expression of the law we are now considering. It means that good is not divided from evil in human history -- they grow together. Let us first consider its primordial, its religious meaning. Its proper object is the kingdom of grace; it refers to the ultimate end beyond the world. The evil works accumulated in time will burn in hell, and the good works accumulated will be gathered into the divine barn. But pending the end, sinners and saints will grow together. Thus, from the point of view of the history of the kingdom of grace, or of Christ's mystical body, it may be said that two immanent movements cross each other at each point of the evolution of mankind, and affect each of its momentary complexes. One of these movements draws upward (toward final salvation) everything in mankind that participates in the divine life of the kingdom of grace, or the Church (which is in the world but not of the world), and follows the attraction of Christ, Head of the human race. The other movement draws downward (toward final doom) everything in mankind which belongs to the Prince of this world, head (as St. Thomas says){1} of all evildoers. It is in undergoing these two internal movements that human history advances in time. The Christian knows that, though constantly thwarted and constantly concealed, the work of the spirit is carried out in spite of everything, as history goes on, and that thus from fall to fall, but also from obscure gain to obscure gain, time marches toward the resurrection.

A particular instance of this double movement is pointed out by St. Thomas when he is considering the state of mankind during the time between the original sin and the coming of Christ.{2} Briefly, St. Thomas says that with the development of time sin began to make its impact felt more and more in the human race in such a way that the instinct of natural law became insufficient for man to act rightly, and it thus became necessary to have the precepts of written law. In this increase of the weight of sin we have the movement downward. But we have simultaneously the movement upward: there is the divine gift of the Decalogue; there are the sacraments of the Ancient Law; and there is the progressive increase in the knowledge of divine things; through the teaching of the prophets the elements of faith are disclosed bit by bit -- until the full revelation achieved by Christ. This instance of the double movement concerns, of course, the kingdom of grace and the ultimate end beyond the world.

2. But what I would like to emphasize particularly now is that the parable of the wheat and the cockle has a universal meaning and bearing which is valid for the world as well as for the kingdom of grace. And we must say, from the philosophical point of view, that the movement of progression of societies in time depends on this law of the double movement -- which might be called, in this instance, the law of the degradation, on the one hand, and the revitalization, on the other, of the energy of history, or of the mass of human activity on which the movement of history depends. While the wear and tear of time and the passivity of matter naturally dissipate and degrade the things of this world and the energy of history, the creative forces which are proper to the spirit and to liberty and which are their proof, and which normally have their point of application in the effort of the few, constantly revitalize the quality of this energy. Thus the life of human societies advances and progresses at the cost of many losses. It advances and progresses thanks to the vitalization or superelevation of the energy of history springing from the spirit and from human freedom. But, at the same time, this same energy of history is degraded and dissipated by reason of the passivity of matter. Moreover, what is spiritual is, to this very extent, above time and exempt from aging.

And, of course, in certain periods of history what prevails and is predominant is the movement of degradation, in other periods it is the movement of progress. My point is that both exist at the same time, to one degree or another.

We have here a notion of progress which is quite different both from the necessary, rectilinear and indefinite progress which the eighteenth century dreamed of, and in which future things were supposed to be always and by right better than past ones; and, on the other hand, from that negation of any progress and that disregard for the God-given plan at work in us which prevail among those who despair of man and of freedom.

The deeper our knowledge of anthropology becomes, the more, I think, shall we become aware of the fact that the most telling instance of the law I am discussing took place in the ages when mankind passed from its childhood to its adult state. No progress upward was more important than this coming of human thought and human societies to rational knowledge (as contradistinguished from mythical knowledge) and to political life (as contradistinguished from tribal life). Yet the simultaneous downward movement cannot be overlooked. The concept of the good savage, as cherished by the eighteenth century, was a silly notion of over-civilized people; there was no more innocence, absolutely speaking, in the primitive man than in the child each one of us was. The fact remains, nevertheless, that there was a kind of innocence in both. There were in the myths of primitive man an obscure grasping of essential truths -- in his approach to things a power of imaginative intuitivity and a vital participation in nature -- in his tribal life a real and probably heartening, though slavish, communion with the group, which have been lost in the process.

Shall we look for another instance? Let us think of a few striking features of modern history. On the one hand we have, from the last decades of the eighteenth century on, an awareness of human rights and of the dignity of the human person, a longing for freedom and human fellowship, a recognition of the principle: government of the people, for the people and by the people, a growing concern for civil liberties and for social justice, an assertion of man's power over nature which constitute an exceptionally significant progress upward. But, on the other hand, we are confronted, during the same space of time, with the subjection of all citizens to military service, with more and more destructive wars, with the growth of mercantile materialism, then of nationalist passions, then of communism, of fascism, of racism, and, in those years which will always be alive in our memory, with the mass murder of six million Jews by Hitler; the first half of the nineteenth century witnessed the enslaved conditions of life to which the industrial proletariat was then submitted; and our own times face the threat to human freedom raised by communist totalitarianism thriving in large regions of the earth.

May I now allude to the problem of the temporal mission of the Christian? As I indicated in Chapter I, the philosophy of history has practical consequences, which shows that it pertains to the domain of practical or moral philosophy. From the genuine notion of progress, which I just emphasized, a practical consequence can be drawn with respect to the work of the Christian in the world. The work of the Christian in history does not aim to set the world up in a state from which all evil and all injustice would have disappeared. If it did, then it would be only too easy, considering human history, to condemn the Christian as a utopian, or to say, as some Protestant theologians do, that, given the corruption of human nature, the very notion of a Christian (that is, Christian-inspired) civilization, and of an effort to make Christian justice and brotherhood prevail in the world, is a contradiction in terms.{3} The work of the Christian is to maintain and augment in the world the internal tension and the movement of slow deliverance which are due to the invisible potencies of truth and justice and love, in action in the mass which goes counter to them. And this work cannot be in vain -- it surely produces its fruit. We have no illusions about the misery of human nature. But we have no illusions, either, about the blindness of the pseudo-realists who cultivate and exalt evil in order to fight against evil, and who consider the Gospel a decorative myth which we could not take seriously without throwing the machinery of the world out of order.

Genuine Christianity does not forget the original greatness of man. It abhors the pessimism of inertia. It is pessimistic in the sense that it knows that the creature comes from nothingness, and that everything that comes from nothingness tends of itself toward nothingness. But its optimism is incomparably more profound than its pessimism, because it knows that the creature comes from God, and that everything that comes from God tends toward God.

3. To conclude my remarks on the law of the double antagonistic movement, I would observe that we find a particular application of this law in what might be called the law of the parasitical part played by error in the progress of human speculative or theoretical knowledge, especially in the realm of our knowledge of nature and in the realm of philosophy. What I mean is that great discoveries are usually paid for in human history by the reinforcement that a given truth receives from error preying upon it, and from the emotional overtones that error provides. For instance, the mathematical knowledge of nature -- that great scientific conquest which started in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries -- was stimulated and fortified by a mistaken philosophy (the mecanist philosophy) which preyed upon it and appeared for a long time as inseparable from it. And we may think that without the ambitions developed by mecanist philosophers the human mind would not have been sufficiently enflamed to make the progress that was this discovery of mathematical knowledge of nature. Similarly, we might say that the awareness of science as a knowledge of phenomena, distinct from philosophy, that is, from knowledge of intelligible being, took place at the same time as Kantian philosophy. It is, so to speak, thanks to the errors of Kant that this notion of science (our modern science) as knowledge of phenomena was recognized in human history. Also, we might say that the great psychological discoveries about the unconscious were reinforced and stimulated by the erroneous philosophy of life which prevailed in the mind of Freud.

The ambivalence of history

4. This law is a consequence of the law of the double movement. If human history is subject to the two contrastmg movements noted above, then we may say that at each moment human history offers to us two faces. One of these faces gives grounds to the pessimist, who would like to condemn this period of history. And the other gives grounds to the optimist, who would like to see the same period as merely glorious. Thus, there were many in the nineteenth century -- among them such prophets as Victor Hugo -- who confused the past with darkness and error, and regarded the future as all light and goodness. This condemnation of the past was a foolish mistake in the philosophy of history. But in the same century there were many Christians who condemned modern times as pure and simple aberration. And this was equally a foolish mistake. No period of human history can be either absolutely condemned or absolutely approved. It is as irrational to condemn the Middle Ages, from the rationalist point of view, as to condemn modern times, from a so-called Christian point of view.

There were, to be sure, great spiritual errors in modern times: but great truths were also discovered, which deal with the order of nature and natural reason, and are of importance for the spirit. The Rousseauist errors which, especially in Europe, preyed upon the democratic principle, and the false philosophies with which it was often confused by accident, and which are corroding it from within, ask for a purification of this principle; but they also ask for a deeper recognition of its intrinsic truth, as well as of its vital counection with Gospel inspiration. The hope of mankind as to its temporal life is inseparably tied up with the advent of democratic philosophy in modern times.

An error in spiritual principle bears its inevitable fruit: we must expose the error and avow the loss. During the same period, however, there is an advance in human affairs, there are new human conquests. There are, joined to certain evils, gains and achievements that have an almost sacred value since they are produced in the order of divine Providence: we must acknowledge these achievements and these gains.

The ambivalence of history can be seen in the development of the Roman Empire; or in the post-Constantine mutual embrace between Church and State; or in the various phases of the industrial revolution; or in the present reign of physico-mathematical science and of technology. . . . Today a most obvious example of this ambivalence is offered to us by the advent of the atomic age, with its inherent capacities for the destruction of mankind as well as for an unheard-of improvement of its life.

5. It is in a Christian perspective that I have, for a long time, brooded over my reflections on the philosophy of history. Let me, then, speak in this perspective. St. Gregory wrote: "Men should know that the will of Satan is always unrighteous but that his power is never unjust," for "the iniquities he proposes to commit God allows in all justice."{4} This saying goes a long way. It supplies an important principle of historical exegesis.

The devil hangs like a vampire on the side of history. History goes on, nonetheless, and goes on with the vampire. It is only in the kingdom of grace, in the divinely assisted life of the Church, that the devil has no place. He plays his part in the march of the world, and in a sense spurs it. Is he not eager for the better insofar as in his view the better, as a French saying puts it, "is the enemy of the good"? He does not scruple, on occasion, to court the better in order to destroy some good, not to improve it. And thus he happens to do in his particular way, which is a wrong way, and with perverse intention, what good people omit to do because they are asleep. That which is done is done badly, but it is done. There is a passage full of strange meaning in the hymn of Habacuc (as translated in the Vulgate). It is said there that the devil goes before the feet of God: et egredietur diabolus ante pedes ejus.{5} He runs before Him. With vicious (and ultimately defeated) purpose, he prepares His ways -- as a traitor.

Manichaeism is no better philosophy of history than relativism. People who deify human reason are almost inevitably driven to a sort of Manichaean conception of history which Christian thought avoids. When the prime good, when the first and fundamental measure by which all else is measured, is something in the human order, this good will have an opposite; and this opposite, being opposed to the supreme good, can only have the office of pure evil. If the absolute good is political liberty, or political order, there will be in history elements of pure darkness, either the "tyranny" that is opposed to this liberty, or the "utopian dreams" that are opposed to this order. If the primary good is Cartesian thinking, there will be ages and philosophies assigned to utter darkness of which the progress of thought can hope for no good result. It is the old struggle of Ormuzd against Ahriman, the old Manichaean struggle.

The Christian knows that God has no opposite Absolute; there is no opposite prime principle.{6} For the Christian there is indeed a struggle between light and darkness, between truth and error. But there cannot be for him in existing reality pure darkness or pure error, because all that is, in the measure in which it is, is of God, and is good. In the thought of the atheist or, if you will, of the "enemy of God," as Proudhon called himself, it is impossible that God be at the service of the enemy of God; whereas in the thought of the Christian the enemy of God is at the service of God. God has His adversaries, not in the metaphysical but in the moral order. Yet His adversaries are always, finally, at His own service. He is served by the martyrs, and He is served by the executioners who made the martyrs.

Everything that happens in the history of the world serves in one way or another the progress of the kingdom of grace and (sometimes at the price of a greater evil) some kind of progress in the world. Voltaire, while setting out to run down the Church and make fun of religious faith, was nevertheless in Christendom and in the history of Christendom as he was in the created universe and in the order of Providence. He served them in spite of himself. He fought for an error in his campaign for tolerance, since he thought of "dogmatic" tolerance, as if freedom of thought were an absolute end without any law higher than subjective opinion;{7} yet this campaign caused him at the same time to fight against another error, namely the modern error, which has found expression in the formula "Cujus regio ejus religio," that the force of the State and social pressure have of their own nature a right to control conscience. In this respect, Voltaire was striving without knowing it for Article 1351 of the Code of Canon Law -- "No one shall be compelled to embrace the Catholic faith against his will." He was instrumental in making modern societies recognize the principle of civil tolerance.

I find a symbol of the truths to which I just alluded in G. K. Chesterton's invaluable book, The Man Who Was Thursday: there we are shown the police and the anarchists -- who fight each other conscientiously -- obedient to the same mysterious lord whom the author calls Mr. Sunday. . . .

6. Another remark can be made relating to the diverse perspectives or points of view which are peculiar to the speculative theologian, the theologian of history, and the philosopher of history. What about their respective attitudes when they come to deal with an event like schism or heresy in religious history?

The speculative theologian will look for the truth of the matter. He will be busy with analyzing and refuting the errors involved, clarifying and enlarging in this connection the horizons of truth. The schism or the heresy in question will be considered in its intrinsic meaning and abstract essence.

The theologian of history will observe that in the course of time, and despite the permanent impulse of such communities toward separation, a greater and greater number of those who are brought up in the religious communities involved are made, by reason of their good faith, exempt from the sin of schism or heresy, so that these religious communities should not be called "heretical" or "schismatic," but simply "dissident."{8}

The philosopher of history will be mainly concerned with the effects and repercussions of the spiritual events in question on the history of the world and of civilization. And then he will be confronted, on the one hand, with direct destructive results (say, for instance, the way in which the Lutheran rupture ruined the precarious unity of Europe and shut Germany up in her own national dreams and frustrations). But, on the other hand, he will also be confronted with indirect creative repercussions: it was, for instance, in the historical situation resulting from the very state of religious division engendered by Protestantism that in actual fact the great political achievement brought about by America took place -- I mean a Constitution and a civil society which are religiously inspired and cling to the Judaeo-Christian tradition, and which at the same time fundamentally oppose any discrimination among citizens by reason of their religious denomination.{9}

Finally it is not irrelevant to say a few words, no longer about the Manichaean temptation, but about quite another temptation, in full swing today, the Hegelian and Marxian temptation, which makes a number of our contemporaries subservient worshippers of history. They think that the only evil is to resist history; the only doom, to be rejected and repudiated by history. History has become for them the Saviour and Redeemer. The primary moral obligation, then, is to keep pace with history -- and to have historical efficacy and to succeed in history. The one who does not succeed in history is condemned, and justly condemned -- he has sinned against history.

Someone who, as we have seen, plays his part in history enjoys the show and laughs at them. Those who make it their first principle to advance with history, or to make history advance and to march in step with it, thereby bind themselves to collaborate with all the agents of history; they find themselves in very mixed company.

We are not co-operators with history; we are cooperators with God.

No doubt, to absent oneself from history is to seek death. Spiritual activity, which is above time, does not vacate time, it holds it from on high. Our duty is to act on history to the limit of our power: yes, but God being first served. And we must neither complain nor feel guilty if history often works against us: it will not vanquish our God, and escape His purposes, either of mercy or of justice. The chief thing, from the point of view of existence in history, is not to succeed; success never endures. Rather, it is to have been there, to have been present, and that is ineffaceable.

The law of the historical fructifications of good and evil

7. This law deals with the relation between ethics and politics. I have discussed it at some length in an essay entitled "The End of Machiavellianism."{10} Here I merely sum up some of my observations in this essay.

I would recall, in particular, that the good in which the justice of human societies bears fruit, and the misfortune in which the injustice of human societies bears fruit, "have nothing to do with the immediate and visible results; historic duration must be taken into account; the temporal good in which the state's justice bears fruit, the temporal evil in which its iniquity bears fruit, may be and are in fact quite different from the immediate results which the human mind might have expected and which human eyes contemplate. It is as difficult to disentangle these remote causations as to tell at a river's mouth which waters come from which glaciers and which tributaries. The achievements of the great Machiavellianists seem durable to us, because our scale of duration-measurements is an exceedingly small one, with regard to the time proper to nations and human communities. We do not understand the fair play of God, Who gives those who have freely chosen injustice the time to exhaust the benefits of it and the fullness of its energies. When disaster comes to these victors the eyes of the righteous who cried against them to God will have long putrefied under the earth, and men will not know the distant source of the catastrophe."{11} Let it be noted parenthetically that when these lines were written, Hitler and Mussolini were winning on all scoring boards. . . .

On the other hand, it must be made clear that human communities, nations, cities, civilizations -- all of which are collective wholes incapable of immortality -- and which by essence are at the same time moral and physical, depend on physical conditions. Good or bad, they can, like Atlantis, be victims of a tidal wave. This means that justice and moral virtues do not abolish the natural laws of aging of human societies; they do not hinder physical catastrophe from destroying them. What must be said, consequently, is that justice and rectitude (and this is the law I wish to emphasize) tend in themselves to the preservation of human societies and to a real success in the long run; and that injustice and evil tend in themselves (leaving aside what concerns physical conditions) to the destruction of societies and to a real failure in the long run.

I would like to quote, at this point, a few lines of Chateaubriand which are inspired by genuine political and historical wisdom, and which appear to me as singularly up to date. Speaking of Danton and the French Revolution, and alluding in passing to the judgment and death sentence of Charles the First, "Danton," he said, more candid than the English, said: `We will not try the king, we will kill him.' He also said: `These priests and nobles are not guilty, but they must die, because they are out of place, they hinder the movement of things and get in the way of the future.' These words, which may seem so horribly profound, have nothing of genius in them: because they assume that innocence is nothing, and that the moral order may be cut off from the political order without causing the latter to perish, which is false."{12}

The law of the world-significance of history-making events

8. I was somewhat at a loss for the proper words to express the law I have in mind. In fact, I am still searching for the proper expression of a truth which I think I perceive, but which seems to me to be rather difficult correctly to formulate. My main difficulty has to do with the notion of the "unity of the world" or "unity of mankind" and its true meaning. We have, it seems to me, a hint that there is some sort of formless and structureless unity of the world as a whole, and that every human community, people or nation, at every point on the earth, is affected, be it in a most remote way, by what happens to the other human groups. There is in the world, however, nothing akin to the spiritual unity of the Church, and we must take care not to think of things which belong to the natural order in terms of theological concepts like that of the "communion of saints." I should like to be able to delineate the possible rational meaning of the mysterious unity of the world as a whole; I am sorry I did not arrive at any satisfactory formulation, though, given the modern network of economic, intellectual and political communications, encompassing all peoples, such a concept, so far as it is equivalent to that of universal interrelation, may obviously be translated into quite rational terms. Yet I was thinking of a more vital and secret kind of solidarity, as old as mankind is. . . .

Under these circumstances, and pending further elucidation, I shall say "the world" only in a restricted sense, using this word as synonymous with a given ensemble of peoples in which, different as they may be, a certain community in spiritual and cultural background, and in historical experience, hope, and suffering has been at work for a sufficiently long time.

Well, what I have in mind is that the world (at least in the sense I just indicated) has a kind of vital unity -- not political, not organized, not manifested, but real nevertheless. And by reason of this vital unity, when a history-making event, a big event for mankind, an event which carries to actuality century-old potentialities and aspirations, occurs at a particular point in space, say, in a given nation or a given people, it does not occur only for this nation or this people, but it occurs for the world. It is not only an event or a change for this particular nation or this particular people; it is an event or a change for the world -- I mean, of course, with most diverse, contrasting and opposite effects. It has happened for the world, though it will affect the other parts of the world in ways quite different from the way in which it has taken shape at its point of origin. And at the same time it has exhausted, so to speak, the quantity, the amount of creative energy which was required for its occurrence in human history. It has no longer any significance for the making of history; it is already in the past.

Let us think, for instance, of the French Revolution. Looking at the previous centuries -- especially the times of the baroque age, the absolute monarchy, and the social order, founded on inequality, peculiar to the Ancien Régime -- we see that a creative change, a history-making change had become necessary. When it took place, with all the human hopes it carried in itself and the stains it was soiled with, it took place in France. Yet it happened not only for France, but for the world as well. Those parts of Europe which escaped it in its inborn and typical, revolutionary French forms, and which fought it with the greatest energy, had nevertheless their own way of digesting its historical content, and adapting, for better or worse, their own structures and traditions to the new phase of history. On the whole, the attack of the brass and the counter-attack of the strings were but one theme in the concerto. At the same time, the creative historical energy which had brought about the French Revolution was exhausted. Both historical creativity and historical necessity shifted to other changes in preparation.

9. Not to speak of their intrinsic features, there is, from the point of view of our present considerations, a basic difference between the French Revolution and the Russian Communist Revolution. Spoiled as the French Revolution may have been with Rousseauist philosophy, Jacobinism, the crimes of the Terror, and the hatred and persecution of the Church, the true principles and the message of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity that it conveyed asserted themselves for their own sake, independently (as to their very essence) of the vicious trends which preyed upon them. Contrariwise, the elements of truth contained in the Soviet Revolution are inseparably engaged in a false and totally dogmatic system of the world which rivets them to error, and does not even permit them to assert themselves in the open (thus it is that the very notion of social justice has no recognized status in the ideology of dialectical materialism). Only if the system breaks into pieces can these elements of truth be set free.

Now my point is that, the basic difference in question being taken into account, the historical law we are discussing is also to be verified in the case of the Russian Communist Revolution. If we consider the sequence of previous centuries, we realize that some history-making change was necessary in the social order. We have only to remember the fortune of the word "revolution" in Europe before the First World War -- everybody was speaking of revolution. And Charles Péguy, who was an old Proudhonian revolutionary, said that the social revolution would be ethical or it would not be at all -- "la révolution sociale sera morale ou ne sera pas." Now it was, it occurred; and it was not ethical. But suppose that at that time, before the First World War, there had been in Europe a Christian Gandhi, a man equipped with a more complete social philosophy than Gandhi's but possessing Gandhi's spiritual energy, and capable of grouping together the forces of the most active parts of the working classes. Then the historically necessary change of which I am speaking could have occurred in the form of a Christian social revolution. From an abstract and theoretical point of view, it is a possibility that instead of Marx we might have had another thinker and social leader, of Christian persuasion, criticize the forms of the industrial civilization of his day, and set out to change them, in the name of justice, freedom, and love, not of hatred and social war, and the myth of the deification of man through the messianic advent of the proletariat.

As a matter of fact, the revolution in question occurred in the form of a Marxist atheist revolution in a given part of the world, in Russia. There the revolution took place, and it was an internally corrupted revolution -- not Péguy's ethical revolution, but the dialectical-materialist revolution of Lenin. The history-making event was intrinsically rotten; yet it had happened, and it had happened not only for Russia, but for the world. I mean that the possibility of having now a Péguyistic, if I may put it so, a Christian social revolution take place -- this possibility was blotted out. It is too late. The act of the historical drama has been performed; we are now at another step in history. What Christians have to do is not to dream now of a Christian social revolution, but to endeavor to make the Christian ideal prevail in the gradual adjustments through which a non-Communist world (whose social structure and life, at least in the United States, is already beyond capitalism and beyond socialism) will bring about the changes required by that social justice which the Communist revolution was forbidden by its own ideology even to mention -- though the yearning for it among the masses was the real incentive it traded upon.

On the other hand, it is clear that the Communist revolution can expand in some other parts of the world, as it did in China. But such a change, serious as it may be, can only have the meaning and value of a local change -- not of a change "for the world." And the Communist revolution cannot win the world, not only because of the resistance of the non-Communist nations, aware of the danger and determined to check it, but also because this revolution has no longer any possibility of bringing about, in any given spot in the world, a break in universal history, a history-making change. The Communist agitators are now men of the past. Their effort to upset Western civilization and to introduce the Communist regime into it is but an effort to subject it to what is in reality a past event, a dead event, in human history. It is a vital necessity for freedom-loving peoples to fight and block this effort. Yet in so doing they are not struggling with a threatening novelty, but with a threatening past. There was much wisdom in the old Chinese fear of the dead. Corpses may be pernicious enemies. For all that, they lack the breath of life. The Communist revolution has lost its historic steam. It is to new problems and new changes to come that the creative energy of history has shifted, thus rendering necessary new history-making events. And it is the job of human free will to prepare and bring about these events in the right direction and under an inspiration really worthy of man.{13}

The law of prise de conscience

10. This is the law of growth in awareness as a sign of human progress, and as involving at the same time inherent dangers. I think that this law of progressive prise de conscience is linked with the history of civilization in general, but it takes place very slowly. And while it takes place in one area, another area may be completely immune to it. In Greece, for instance, there was an awareness of the political freedom of the citizen, but not of the spiritual inner freedom of the human person with respect to the city. For the Greek conception of the city was a kind of "hieropolitical" conception, disregarding the emergence of what is eternal in man above the temporal community. In philosophy, the awareness of the theory of knowledge as a particular discipline came very late. Of course, Aristotle and all great philosophers had a theory of knowledge. But it was necessary to wait for Kant to have the theory of knowledge built up into a special theory, a special discipline. And this was a progress in the structure of the body of philosophical disciplines.

The law of the hierarchy of means

11. We really have two laws here. The first is the law of the superiority of humble temporal means ("moyens pauvres") over rich temporal means, with respect to spiritual ends. We may describe as rich temporal means those which, implicated in the density of matter, of their own nature postulate a certain degree of tangible, visible success. Such means are the peculiar means of the world. It would be absurd to despise or reject them; they are necessary; they are part of the natural stuff of life. Religion must consent to receive their assistance. But it is proper for the health of the world that the hierarchy of means be safeguarded in their proper relative proportions.

There are other temporal means, which are the peculiar means of the spirit. They are humble{14} temporal means. The Cross is in them. The less burdened they are by matter, the more destitute, the less visible -- the more efficacious they are. They are the peculiar means of wisdom, for wisdom is not dumb; it cries in the marketplace, it is its peculiarity so to cry, and hence it must have means of making itself heard. But the mistake is to think that the best means for wisdom will be the most materially powerful means, the biggest and the most expensively equipped as to mass-communication and propaganda.

The pure essence of the spiritual is to be found in wholly immanent activity, in contemplation, whose peculiar efficacy in touching the heart of God disturbs no single atom on earth. The closer one gets to the pure essence of the spiritual, the lighter and less palpable, the more spontaneously tapering become the temporal means employed in its service. And that is the condition of their efficacy. Too tenuous to be stopped by any obstacle, they pierce where the most powerful equipment is powerless to pierce. Propter suam munditiam. Because of their purity they traverse the world from end to end. Not being ordered to tangible success, involving in their essence no internal need of temporal success, they participate, for the spiritual results to be secured, in the efficacy of the spirit.

12. The second law having to do with the hierarchy of means may be called the law of the superiority of spiritual means of temporal activity and welfare over carnal means of temporal activity and welfare. Here it is a question of means with respect to a temporal work, not to a spiritual end -- let us say, to a social or political work which has, for the sake of the highest interests of man, justice, freedom, peace, fraternal love, to overcome prejudice or egoism, greedy ambition or oppressive power. And let it be added, that which bore witness to the law I have in mind was more often than not the self-sacrifice of magnanimous men who were also forgotten men. In other words, the law in question was at work in human history in a particularly humble and hidden way, more or less in the manner of a ferment -- never in the foreground, except as regards a few shining examples in our century.

Here I think it is relevant to examine the example and the testimony of Gandhi. In my opinion, this testimony is particularly significant for Christians. As a matter of fact, Gandhi was inspired both by the Indian Scriptures and by the Gospel -- he read the Gospel a great deal. His originality was to set apart the means of patience and voluntary suffering and to organize them systematically into a particular technique of political action. Now we might relate this technique to the Thomistic notion that the principal act of the virtue of fortitude is not the act of attacking, but that of enduring, bearing, suffering with constancy. A Thomist would elucidate what Gandhi called non-violence by the notion of the means pertaining to courage in enduring. And the question would be to apply these particular means to a temporal end to be achieved.{15}

Gandhi himself was convinced that these means can be applied in the West as they have been in the East. To my mind, whether they follow the method of Gandhi or some method yet to be invented, men who are fighting in the temporal field and who attach importance to spiritual values, especially those who struggle for the advent of a Christian-inspired civilization, are likely to be led willy-nilly to a solution along these lines. It seems to me to be significant that this new awareness of the power of the means of love and of spiritual means in the temporal order took place in our century at the same time as the power of the state developed, and even was contemporary with the appearance of the totalitarian states. Once again, it is always the same law of dual, contrasting motion -- a development in one direction, and another development, which compensates for the first one, in another direction. We are now waiting for the manifestation of the full dimensions of Christian temporal activity.

I would now remark (and this seems to me particularly important from the point of view of the philosophy of history) that Gandhi was not only an exceptionally great and prophetic figure. He should be considered the founder of a school of thought. He left disciples. I am thinking especially of Vinoba, who now has a tremendous influence in India. There is, thus, a continuity in this use of spiritual means tending to some temporal transformation. Vinoba was successful in obtaining from land-owners considerable changes in the division and distribution of lands to poor farmers. He is a real continuer of Gandhi.{16} To conclude, the question I am merely posing is whether some kind of similar activitiy can develop in the Western world. Up to now we have very few signs of it. But what may appear impossible now can become possible in a future less distant perhaps than we imagine. I do know that there are now in France a few people (and people of real intellectual stature) who have started, with some friends abroad, a common effort in fast and prayer either to obtain, in such or such a given case, more justice from governmental policies, or to bring about more mutual understanding and peaceful cooperation between various groups, such as the Moslem, Jewish and Christian groups; the initiator is Louis Massignon. In Sicily there is the collective non-violent struggle led by Danilo Dolci. A few sporadic attempts to put Gandhian methods into application are also appearing here and there in this country; and particular importance must be attached in this connection to the great example given by the Negroes of Montgomery and Reverend Martin Luther King, their religious leader.{17} This is not the place to discuss the specific purposes which are being pursued in these various instances. The thing I am interested in is the fact of their existence, and their historical meaning. Such beginnings are very small, almost imperceptible. Their prospective significance is, I believe, not small.

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