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Ravaisson, in founding the new spiritual philosophy, professed certain doctrines which were a blending of Hellenism and Christianity. In the midst of thought which was dominated by positivism, naturalism or materialism, or by a shallow eclecticism, wherein religious ideas were rather held in contempt, he issued a challenge on behalf of spiritual values and ideals. Beauty, love and goodness, he declared, were divine. God himself is these things, said Ravaisson, and the divinity is "not far from any of us." In so far as we manifest these qualities we approach the perfect personality of God himself. In the infinite, in God, will is identical with love, which itself is not distinguished from the absolutely good and the absolutely beautiful. This love can govern our wills; the love of the beautiful and the good can operate in our lives. In so far as this is so, we participate in the love and the life of God.
Boutroux agrees substantially with Ravaisson, but he lays more stress upon the free creative power of the deity as immanent. "God," he remarks in his thesis, "is not only the creator of the world, he is also its Providence, and watches over the details as well as over the whole."† God is thus an immanent and creative power in his world as well as the perfect being of supreme goodness and beauty. Boutroux here finds this problem of divine immanence and transcendence as important as does Blondel, and his attitude is like that of Blondel, midway between that of Ravaisson and Bergson.
[Footnote † : La Contingence des Lois de la Nature, p. 150.]
Religion, Boutroux urges, must show man that the supreme ideal for him is to realise in his own nature this idea of God. There is an obligation upon man to pursue after these things-goodness, truth, beauty and love—for they are his good, they are the Good; they are, indeed, God. In them is a harmony which satisfies his whole nature, and which does not neglect or crush any aspect of character, as narrow conceptions of religion inevitably do. Boutroux insists upon the necessity for intellectual satisfaction, and opposes the "philosophy of action" in ils doctrine of "faith for faith's sake." At the same time he conceives Reason as a harmony, not merely a coldly logical thing. Feeling and will must be satisfied also.*
[Footnote * : Boutroux has in his volume, Science et Religion dans la Philosophie contemporaine, contributed a luminous and penetrating discussion of various religious doctrines from Comte to William James. This was published in 1908.]
We have observed already how Fouillée claimed that the ethics of his idées-forces contained the gist of what was valuable in the world religions. He claims that philosophy includes under the form of rational belief or thought what the religions include as instinctive belief. In religion he sees a spontaneous type of metaphysic, while metaphysic or philosophy is a rationalised religion.
Nothing in this connection is more important than a rational and harmonious view of God. This he insists upon in his thesis and in his Sketch of the Future of a Metaphysic founded on Experience. The old idea of God was that of a monarch governing the world as a despot governs his subjects. The government of the universe may still be held to be a monarchy, but modern science is careful to assure us that it must be regarded as an absolutely constitutional monarchy. The monarch, if there be one, acts in accordance with the laws and respects the established constitution. Reason obliges us to conceive of the sovereign: experience enlightens us as to the constitution.
There can be little doubt that one of the world's greatest books upon religion is the work of Guyau, which appeared in 1886, bearing the arresting title, L'Irreligion de l'Avenir. Its sub-title describes it as an Etude sociologique, and it is this treatment of the subject from the standpoint of sociology which is such a distinctive feature of the book. The notion of a social bond between man and the powers superior to him, but resembling him, is, claims Guyau, a point of unity in which all religions are at one. The foundation of the religious sentiment lies in sociality, and the religious man is just the man who is disposed to be sociable, not only with all living beings whom he meets, but with those whom he imaginatively creates as gods. Guyau's thesis, briefly put, is that religion is a manifestation of life (again he insists on "Life," as in his Ethics, as a central conception), becoming self-conscious and seeking the explanation of things by analogies drawn from human society. Religion is "sociomorphic" rather than merely anthropomorphic; it is, indeed, a universal sociological hypothesis, mythical in form.
The religious sentiment expresses a consciousness of dependence, and in addition, adds Guyau, it expresses the need of affection, tenderness and love—that is to say, the "social" side of man's nature. In the conception of the Great Companion or Loving Father, humanity finds consolation and hope. Children and women readily turn to such an ideal, and primitive peoples, who are just like children, conceive of the deity as severe and all- powerful. To this conception moral attributes were subsequently added, as man's own moral conscience developed, and it now issues in a doctrine of God as Love. All this development is, together with that of esthetics and ethics, a manifestation of life in its individual and more especially social manifestations.
It is the purpose of Guyau's book not only to present a study of the evolution of religion in this manner, from a sociological point of view, but to indicate a further development of which the beginnings are already manifest—namely, a decomposition of all systems of dogmatic religion. It is primarily the decay of dogma and ecclesiasticism which he intends to indicate by the French term irréligion. The English translation of his work bears the title The Non-religion of the Future. Had Guyau been writing and living in another country it is undoubtedly true that his work would probably have been entitled The Religion of the Future. Owing to the Roman Catholic environment and the conception of religion in his own land, he was, however, obliged to abandon the use of the word religion altogether. In order to avoid misunderstanding, we must examine the sense he gives to this word, and shall see then that his title is not meant to convey the impression of being anti-religious in the widest sense, nor is it irreligious in the English meaning of that word.
Guyau considers every positive and historical religion to present three distinct and essential elements:
[Footnote * : L'Irréligion de l'Avenir, p. xiii; Eng. trans., p. 10.]
By these three different and really organic elements, religion is clearly marked off from philosophy. Owing to the stability of these elements religion is apt to be centuries behind science and philosophy, and consequently reconciliation is only effected by a subtle process which, while maintaining the traditional dogmas and phrases, evolves a new interpretation of them sufficiently modern to harmonise a little more with the advance in thought, but which presents a false appearance of stability and consistency, disguising the real change of meaning, of view-point and of doctrine. Of this effort we shall see the most notable instance is that of the "Modernists" or Neo-Catholics in France and Italy, and the Liberal Christians in England and America.
Guyau claims that these newer interpretations, subtle and useful as they are, and frequently the assertions of minds who desire sincerely to adapt the ancient traditions to modern needs, are in themselves hypocritical, and the Church in a sense does right to oppose them. Guyau cannot see any satisfactoriness in these compromises and adaptations which lack the clearness of the old teaching, which they in a sense betray, while they do not sufficiently satisfy the demands of modern thought.
With the decay of the dogmatic religion of Christendom which is supremely stated in the faith of the Roman Catholic Church, there must follow the non-religion of the future, which may well preserve, he points out, all that is pure in the religious sentiment and carry with it an admiration for the cosmos and for the infinite powers which are there displayed. It will be a search for, and a belief in, an ideal not only individual, but social and even cosmic, which shall pass the limits of actual reality. Hence it appears that "non-religion" or "a-religion," which is for Guyau simply "the negation of all dogma, of all traditional and supernatural authority, of all revelation, of all miracle, of all myth, of all rite erected into a duty," is most certainly not a synonym for irreligion or impiety, nor does it involve any contempt for the moral and metaphysical doctrines expressed by the ancient religions of the world. The non-religious man in Guyau's sense of the term is simply the man without a religion, as he has defined it above, and he may quite well admire and sympathise with the great founders of religion, not only in that they were thinkers, metaphysicians, moralists and philanthropists, but in that they were reformers of established belief, more or less avowed enemies of religious authority and of every affirmation laid down by an ecclesiastical body in order to bind the intellectual freedom of individuals. Guyau's remarks in this connection agree with the tone in which Renan spoke of his leaving the Church because of a feeling of respect and loyalty to its Founder. Guyau points out that there exists in the bosom of every great religion a dissolving force—namely, the very force which in the beginning served to constitute it and to establish its triumphant revolt over its predecessor. That force is the absolute right of private judgment, the free factor of the personal conscience, which no external authority can succeed, ultimately, in coercing or silencing. The Roman Church, and almost every other organised branch of the Christian religion, forgets, when faced with a spirit which will not conform, that it is precisely to this spirit that it owes its own foundation and also the best years of its existence. Guyau has little difficulty in pressing the conclusions which follow from the recognition of this vital point.
Briefly, it follows that the hope of a world-religion is an illusion, whether it be the dream of a perfect and world-wide Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity, or Mohammedanism. The sole authority in religious matters, that of the individual conscience, prevents any such consummation, which, even if it could be achieved, would be mischievous. The future will display a variety of beliefs and religions, as it does now. This need not discourage us, for therein is a sign of vitality or spiritual life, of which the world-religions are examples, marred, however, by their profession of universality, an ideal which they do not and never will realise.
The notion of a Catholic Church or a great world- religion is really contrary to the duty of personal thought and reflection, which must inevitably (unless they give way to mere lazy repetition of other people's thoughts) lead to differences. The tendency is for humanity to move away from dogmatic religion, with its pretensions to universality, catholicity, and monarchy (of which, says Guyau, the most curious type has just recently been achieved in our own day, by the Pope's proclamation of the dogma of papal infallibility), towards religious individualism and to a plurality of religions. There may, of course, be religious associations or federations, but these will be free, and will not demand the adherence to any dogma as such.
With the decay of dogmatic religion the best elements of religious life will have freer scope to develop themselves, and will grow both in intensity and in extent. "He alone is religious, in the philosophical sense of the word, who researches for, who thinks about, who loves, truth." Such inquiry or search involves freedom, it involves conflict, but the conflict of ideas, which is perfectly compatible with toleration in a political sense, and is the essence of the spirit of the great world teachers. This is what Jesus foresaw when he remarked: "I did not come to bring peace, but a sword." More fully, he might have put it, Guyau suggests: "I came not to bring peace into human thought, but an incessant battle of ideas; not repose, but movement and progress of spirit; not universal dogma, but liberty of belief, which is the first condition of growth." Well might Renan remark that it was loyalty to such a spirit which caused him to break with the Church.
While attacking religious orthodoxy in this manner, Guyau is careful to point out that if religious fanaticism ls bad, anti-religious fanaticism is equally mischievous, wicked and foolish.* While the eighteenth century could only scoff at religion, the nineteenth realised the absurdity of such raillery. We have come to see that even although a belief may be irrational and even erroneous, it may still survive, and it may console multitudes whose minds would be lost on the stormy sea of life without such an anchor. While dogmatic or positive religions do exist they will do so, Guyau reminds us, for quite definite and adequate reasons, chiefly because there are people who believe them, to whom they mean something and often a great deal. These reasons certainly do diminish daily, and the number of adherents, too, but we must refrain from all that savours of anti- religious fanaticism.† He himself speaks with great respect of a Christian missionary. Are we not, he asks, both brothers and humble collaborators in the work and advance of humanity? He sees no real inconsistency between his own dislike of orthodoxy and dogma and the missionary's work of raising the ignorant to a better life by those very dogmas. It is a case of relative advance and mental progress.
[Footnote * : He cites a curious case of anti-religious fanaticism at Marseilles in 1885, when all texts and scripture pictures were removed fromthe schools.]
[Footnote † : Guyau's book abounds in illustrations. He mentions here Huss's approval of the sincerity of one man who brought straw from his own house to burn him. Huss admired this act of a man in whom he saw a brother in sincerity.]
It is with great wealth of discussion that Guyau recounts the genesis of religions in primitive societies to indicate the sociological basis of religion. More important are his chapters on the dissolution of religions in existing societies, in which he shows the unsatisfactoriness of the dogmas of orthodox Protestantism equally with those of the Catholic Church. As mischievous as the notion of an infallible Church is that of an infallible book, literally—that is to say, foolishly-interpreted. He recognises that for a literal explanation of the Bible must be substituted, and is, indeed, being substituted, a literary explanation. Like Renan, he criticises the vulgar conception of prayer and of religious morality which promotes goodness by promise of paradise or fear of hell. He urges in this connection the futility of the effort made by Michelet, Quinet and, more especially, by Renouvier and Pillon to "Protestantise" France. While admitting a certain intellectual, moral and political superiority to it, Guyau claims that for the promotion of morality there is little use in substituting Protestantism for Catholicism. He forecasts the limitation of the power of priests and other religious teachers over the minds of young children. Protestant clergymen in England and America he considers to be no more tolerant in regard to the educational problem than the priests. Guyau urges the importance of an elementary education being free from religious propaganda. He was writing in 1886, some years after the secular education law had been carried. There is, however, more to be done, and he points out "how strange it is that a society should not do its best to form those whose function it is to form it."* In higher education some attention should be given to the comparative study of religions. "Even from the point of view of philosophy, Buddha and Jesus are more important than Anaximander or Thales."† It is a pity, he thinks, that there is not a little more done to acquaint the young with the ideas for which the great world-teachers, Confucius, Zoroaster, Buddha, Socrates, Mohammed, stood, instead of cramming a few additional obscure names from early national history. It would give children at least a notion that history had a wider range than their own country, a realisation of the fact that humanity was already old when Christ appeared, and that there are great religions other than Christianity, religions whose followers are not poor ignorant savages or heathen, but intelligent beings, from whom even Christians may learn much. It is thoroughly mischievous, he aptly adds, to bring up children in such a narrow mental atmosphere that the rest of their life is one long disillusionment.
[Footnote * : L'Irréligion de l'Avenir, p. 232; Eng. trans., p. 278.]
[Footnote † : Ibid., p. 236; Eng. trans., p. 283.]
With particular reference to his own country, Guyau criticises the religious education of women, the question of "mixed marriages," the celibacy of the Roman Catholic clergy, and the influence of religious beliefs upon the limitation or increase of the family.
After having summed up the tendency of dogmatic religion to decay, he asks if any unification of the great religions is to-day possible, or whether any new religion may be expected? The answer he gives to both these questions is negative, and he produces a wealth of very valid reasons in support of his finding. He is, of course, here using the term religion as he has himself defined it. The claim to universality by all world-religions, the insistence by each that it alone is the really best or true religion, precludes any question of unity. As well might we imagine unity between Protestantism and the Roman Catholic Church.
In the "non-religious" state, dogma will be replaced by individual constructions. Religion will be a free, personal affair, in which the great philosophical hypotheses (e.g., Theism and Pantheism) will be to a large extent utilised. They will, however, be regarded as such by all, as rational hypotheses, which some individuals will accept, others will reject. Certain doctrines will appeal to some, not to others. The evidence for a certain type of theism will seem adequate to some, not to others. There will be no endeavour to impose corporately or singly the acceptance of any creed upon others.
With Guyau's conception of the future of religion or non-religion, whichever we care to call it, we may well close this survey of the religious ideas in modern France. In the Roman Church on the one hand, and, on the other, in the thought of Renan, Renouvier and Guyau, together with the multitude of thinking men and women they represent, may be seen the two tendencies— one conservative, strengthening its internal organisation and authority, in defiance of all the influences of modern thought, the other a free and personal effort, issuing in a genuine humanising of religion and freeing it from ecclesiasticism and dogma.
A word may be said here, however, with reference to the "Modernists." The Modernist movement is a French product, the result of the interaction of modern philosophical and scientific ideas upon the teaching of the Roman Church. It has produced a philosophical religion which owes much to Ollé-Laprune and Blondel, and is in reality modern science with a veneer of religious idealism or platonism. It is a theological compromise, and has no affinities with the efforts of Lamennais. As a compromise it was really opposed to the traditions of the French, to whose love of sharp and clear thinking such general and rather vague syntheses are unacceptable. It must be admitted, however, that there is a concreteness, a nearness to reality and life, which separates it profoundly from the highly abstract theology of Germany, as seen in Ritschl and Harnack.
The Abbé Marat of the Theological School at the Sorbonne and Father Gratry of the Ecole Normale were the initiators of this movement, as far back as the Second Empire. "Modernism" was never a school of thought, philosophical or religious, and it showed itself in a freedom and life, a spirit rather than in any formula;. As Sorel's syndicalism is an application of the Bergsonian and kindred doctrines to the left wings, and issues in a social theory of "action," so Modernism is an attempt to apply them to the right and issues in a religion founded on action rather than theology. The writings of the Modernists are extensive, but we mention the names of the chief thinkers. There is the noted exegetist Loisy, who was dismissed in 1894 from the Catholic Institute of Paris and now holds the chair of the History of Reli-* gions at the College de France. His friend, the Abbé Bourier, maintained the doctrine, " Where Christ is there is the Church," with a view to insisting upon the importance of being a Christian rather than a Catholic or a Protestant.
The importance of the Catholic thinker, Blondel, both for religion and for philosophy, has already been indicated at an earlier stage in this book. His work inspires most.Modernist thought. Blondel preaches, with great wealth of philosophical and psychological argument, the great Catholic doctrine of the collaboration of God with man and of man with God. Man at one with himself realises his highest aspirations. Divine transcendence and divine immanence in man are reconciled. God and man, in this teaching, are brought together, and the stern realism of every-day life and the idealism of religion unite in a sacramental union. The supreme principle in this union Laberthonnière shows to be Love. He is at pains to make clear, however, that belief in Love as the ultimate reality is no mere sentimentality, no mere assertion of the will-to-believe. For him the intellect must play its part in the religious life and in the expression of faith. No profounder intellectual judgment exists than just the one which asserts "God is Love," when this statement is properly apprehended and its momentous significance clearly realised. We cannot but lament, with Laberthonnière, the abuse of this proposition and its subsequent loss of both appeal and meaning through a shallow familiarity. The reiteration of great conceptions, which is the method by which the great dogmas have been handed down from generations, tends to blurr their real significance. They become stereotyped and empty of life. It is for this reason that Le Roy in Dogme et Critique (1907) insisted upon the advisability of regarding all dogmas as expressions of practical value in and for action, rather than as intellectual propositions of a purely "religious" or ecclesiastical type, belonging solely to the creeds.
To Blondel, Laberthonnière, and Le Roy can be added the names of Fonsegrive, Sertillanges, Loyson and Houtin, the last two of whom ultimately left the Church, for the Church made up its mind to crush Modernism. The Pope had intimated in 1879 that the thirteenth-century philosophy of Aquinas was to be recognised as the only official philosophy.* Finally, Modernism was condemned in a Vatican encyclical (Pascendi Dominici Gregis) in 1907, as was also the social and educational effort, Le Sillon.
[Footnote * : This led to revival of the study of the Summa Theologiæ and to the commencement of the review of Catholic philosophy, Revue Thomiste.]
Such has been Rome's last word, and it is not surprising, therefore, that France is the most ardent home of free thought upon religious matters, that the French people display a spirit which is unable to stop at Protestantism, but which heralds the religion or the non-religion of the future to which Guyau has so powerfully indicated the tendencies and has by so doing helped, in conjunction with Renan and Renouvier, to hasten its realisation.
A parallel to the "modernist" theology of the Catholic thinkers was indicated on the Protestant side by the theology of Auguste Sabatier, whose Esquisse d'une Philosophie de la Religion d'après la Psychologie et l'Histoire appeared in 1897† and of Menegoz,‡ whose Publications diverges sur le Fidéisme et son Application a l'Enseignement chrétien traditionnel were issued in 1900. Sabatier assigns the beginning of religion to man's trouble and distress of heart caused by his aspirations, his belief in ideals and higher values, being at variance with his actual condition. Religion arises from this conflict of real and ideal in the soul of man. This is the essence of religion which finds its expression in the life of faith rather than in the formation of beliefs which are themselves accidental and transitory, arising from environment and education, changing in form from aee to age both in the individual and the race. While LeRoy on the Catholic side, maintained that dogmas were valuable for their practical significance, Sabatier and Ménégoz claimed that all religious knowledge is symbolical. Dogmas are but symbols, which inadequately attempt to reveal their object. That object can only be grasped by "faith" as distinct from "belief"—that is to say, by an attitude in which passion, instinct and intuition blend and not by an attitude which is purely one of intellectual conviction. This doctrine of "salvation by faith independently of beliefs" has a marked relationship not only to pragmatism and the philosophy of action, but to the philosophy of intuition. A similar anti-intellectualism colours the "symbolo-fidéist" currents within Catholicism, which manifest a more extreme character. A plea voiced against all such tendencies is to be found in Bois' book, De la Connaissance religieuse (1894), where an endeavour is made to retain a more intellectual attitude, and it again found expression in the volume by Boutroux, written as late as 1908, which deals with the religious problem in our period.
[Footnote † : It was followed after his death in 1901 by the volume Les Religions d'Authorité et la Religion de l'Esprit, 1904.]
[Footnote ‡ : This is the late Eugene Ménégoz, Professor of Theology in Paris, not Ferdinand Ménégoz, his nephew, who is also a Professor of Theology now at Strasbourg.]
Quoting Boehme in the interesting conclusion to this book on Science and Religion in Contemporary Philosophy (1908) Boutroux sums up in the words of the old German mystic his attitude to the diversity of religious opinions. "Consider the birds in our forests, they praise God each in his own way, in diverse tones and fashions. Think you God is vexed by this diversity and desires to silence discordant voices? All the forms of being are dear to the infinite Being himself!"*
[Footnote * : It is interesting to compare with the above the sentiments expressed in Matthew Arnold's poem, entitled Progress:
"Children of men! the unseen Power, whose eye
For ever doth accompany mankind,
Hath look'd on no religion scornfully
That men did ever find.]
This survey of the general attitude adopted towards religion and the problems which it presents only serves to emphasise more clearly those tendencies which we have already denoted in previous chapters. As the discussion of progress was radically altered by the admission of the principle of freedom, and the discussion of ethics passes bevond rigid formulae to a freer conception of morality, so here in religion the insistence upon freedom and that recognition of personality which accompanies it, colours the whole religious outlook. Renan, Renouvier and Guyau, the three thinkers who have most fully discussed religion in our period, join in proclaiming the importance of the personal factor in religious belief, and in valiant opposition to that Church which is the declared enemy of freedom, they urge that in freedom of thought lies the course of all religious development in the future, for only thus can be expressed the noblest and highest aspirations of man's spirit.
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