Jacques Maritain Center : Philosophy of History

Chapter 3


These formulas or laws manifest the variety of ages or aspects in human history. They relate to what may be called vectors of history -- I mean given segments determined in extent and direction and in significance. They relate also to the relationship between one vector and another, given a certain perspective or line of consideration.

I would suggest that the inductive process has a still greater part to play in this kind of law than in the axiomatic laws. One of our examples will be the distinction to be made between the magical and the rational states or regimes of human thought and culture. Here induction appears preponderant. Given the data of anthropology, we are confronted with the inductive fact that there is some big difference between the way of thinking of primitive man and our own way of thinking (so much so that the primitive man's way of thinking was first described as "pre-logical mentality").{1} But we cannot rest on this purely inductive notion. Furthermore, it must be re-elaborated, re-stated, if it is to be correctly conceptualized. For this we have to call upon some philosophical notions or insights -- for instance, the knowledge of certain "natures" like imagination and intellect, and the knowledge of their relationship and connection in the progress of human knowing. A certain universal idea will then emerge, grouping and giving account of the various characteristics of primitive mentality and civilized mentality -- what I call imagination-ruled regime or state, on the one hand, and intellect-ruled regime or state, on the other. And given this notion, which is not a simple induction but rather a rational insight quickening induction, we perceive that there is a certain internal necessity for a historic transition from one state to the other.

The theological notion of the various "states" of human nature

2. Let us first turn our attention to data which have nothing to do with induction, because they are theological data, but which are particularly illuminating and suggestive for the philosopher of history, because they provide him with a basic framework and basic indications about the direction of human history. This is in keeping with, and indeed a particular instance of, the significance these data have for the moral philosopher.

I have in mind the theological notions of the "state of pure nature," the "state of innocence or integrity," the "state of fallen nature," and the "state of redeemed nature." As we know, according to Catholic theology the state of pure nature never existed -- it is a mere possibility; and the state of fallen nature and the state of redeemed nature are to be distinguished, but they are not in succession -- because God never abandoned fallen nature to itself, divine grace never ceased being at work in mankind; in other words, fallen nature was to be redeemed either by virtue of Christ's passion to come or by virtue of Christ's passion already come. Now I would simply propose here a few remarks on two questions suggested by this theological distinction of the states of human nature.

A first question is: can the fact of the original fall of man be proved, demonstrated by reason, brought out by some inductive process? It seems that Pascal would answer in the affirmative. He seems to have thought that given the contradiction, on which he insisted so much, offered by human nature -- unheard-of misery, on the one hand, unheard-of grandeur, on the other -- there must have been in the human past some catastrophe which will account for this contradiction. And therefore the original fall would appear to him as rationally proved by the analysis of human nature in the condition in which it can be observed by us.

I do not believe that it is possible to prove such a thing. It depends on a revealed datum; it does not pertain to the philosophical realm. The original sin, however, did not only deprive human nature of the supernatural gifts proper to the state of adamic innocence; it also wounded human nature. That is a theological datum on which St. Thomas lays particular stress. And these wounds of our nature are a reality always present in the human race. Hence, it appears that if the fact of the Fall cannot be demonstratively inferred, nevertheless there should be signs -- for instance the very ones emphasized by Pascal -- which cause reason to conclude in a probable manner that such an event took place at the dawn of our history. Here we have a problem which is of great import for moral philosophy and the philosophy of history in their own fields.

I have no intention of discussing it here (though, in my opinion, the question should be answered in the affirmative). I would prefer to submit a few remarks connected with the problem.

We might first observe that what we experientially know of man has to do with the real and concrete man, man in the state of fallen and redeemed nature -- better to say, for our present purposes, in the state of wounded nature -- whereas we have no experiential knowledge of what the state of pure nature might have been; we can only depict it to ourselves in an abstract and imaginary manner, on the basis of our concept of human nature. As a result, a special difficulty arises in the discussion of the problem under consideration because we are liable to have our experience of the real man influence too much our very idea of the state of pure nature, so that we shall run a risk of minimizing the difference between the state of wounded nature and what the state of pure nature would have been.

Yet, on further consideration, I would rather believe that the difficulty -- and the risk -- in question occur in a reverse way. It is rather, it seems to me, in terms of our abstract notion of human nature that we have a tendency spontaneously to conceptualize our very experience of the real man, of man in the state of wounded nature, thus making our idea of this state resemble too much what man in the state of pure nature might have been. This is, I think, a deeper view of the matter. I understand in this way the paradoxical fact that, more often than not, when we are confronted in concrete experience with what man really is, we are suddenly astonished to find him, in actual fact, either much worse or much better -- and, in certain cases, much worse and much better at the same time -- than our image of him was. Thus it is that those who have the more articulate and elaborated abstract knowledge of man, namely, the moral philosopher and the moral theologian, are often like infants when it comes to dealing with man in real life and with his resources in goodness and in perversity. Neither philosophers nor theologians, but great sinners and great saints truly know man in the actual state of his nature.

A second question has to do with the notion of moral philosophy adequately taken. To my mind, it seems clear that moral philosophy must take into account these theological data relating to the various states of human nature. For, in fact, as a result of the present state of human nature, man has more propensity to evil than the man of pure nature by reason of the original sin and of the concupiscence which remains even in the just; and, on the other hand, he has incomparably stronger weapons for good, by reason of divine grace, with the organism of internal energies and the change in moral climate involved. Therefore, if the moral philosopher is to deal with the existential, the real man, he has to take this situation into account. He must not deal only with a man of pure nature -- the man of pure nature is a mere possibility, an abstract possibility; he is not the man who actually is.

The theological notion of the various "states" in the historical development of mankind

3. Here again, as in the next section also, we are learning from theology; yet, this time, we are coming closer to the subject matter of the philosophy of history. For we have to do no longer with the various states of human nature with respect to sin and to divine grace, but with the various historical states of the existential man, as theology sees them: the "state of nature," for instance, the state of Abraham -- that is, the moral regime or state of human kind before the written law; the "state of the Ancient Law"; and the "state of the New Law." The second state concerned especially the Jewish people, the two others have a universal bearing. The distinction between these three historical states, which is rooted in St. Paul's teachings, and in which mediaeval theologians were deeply interested, refers to the theology of history. We may say that St. Paul was the founder of the theology of history, especially with his basic doctrine (Rom., 3, 4) on the transition from the state of the Law (the Ancient Law) to the state of Gospel freedom (the New Law.)

To sum up St. Paul's teaching:{2} the Law is holy because it is the revealed expression of the wisdom of God. But while the Law makes us know evil, it does not give us the strength to avoid evil. And by making evil known, the Law is, for evil, an occasion for tempting us; and the wages of evil is death. In short, the Law is holy but it bears death with it. And Christ has freed us of the regimen of the Law because His grace, which makes us participate in the very life and sanctity of God, has now become revealed and manifested. We are no longer held to the multitude of ceremonial precepts nor to the juridical rules of the Mosaic Law; we are held to other ceremonial precepts less onerous and less numerous. And while we are ever held to the moral precepts of the Law, we are held thereto as to the requirements of the very life and freedom which are within us, not as to requirements which (as long as only the Law, and not Christ's grace, is relied upon) do us violence and exceed our capacity. Thus the New Law is less burdensome than the Old Law, though it prescribes a more difficult purity and holiness. If the New Law requires many less things beyond the prescriptions of the natural law, and many less ceremonial observances than the Old Law, in return it requires that which is the most difficult of all: purity in the hidden movements and internal acts of the soul. (And it demands that we nurture the spirit of the counsels of the Gospel.) But love makes light the yoke of this higher perfection.

Thus it must be said that we are no longer "under the Law," which is to say that we are quit of the regimen of the Law. We are quit of that condition of humanity wherein the government of its actions had, as its basic rule, no longer the natural light and the internal promptings of conscience, as in the days of the Patriarchs, and not as yet the promulgation of the Gospel, as after Christ's coming, but the promulgation of the written law transmitted by Moses. We have passed under the regimen of the New Law, which is a law of freedom.

This is the teaching of St. Paul. And it is the first great teaching -- a divinely inspired teaching -- about the direction and meaning of the historical development of mankind.

The destiny of the Jewish people

4. The problem with which we are confronted here deals with a particular segment of human history: the history and destiny of this particular people which is the Jewish people, and the part played by them in the history of mankind. In fact, there are really two problems to be considered. The first is theological in nature; it is the problem -- or, rather, the mystery -- of the destiny of the Jewish people with respect to the Kingdom of God and the order of eternal salvation. The Jews did not understand the transition from the regimen of the Ancient Law to the regimen of the New Law, which is a law of freedom; they stuck to the regimen of the Mosaic Law. And, according to St. Paul, we have here two main points: first, their misstep or lapse was permitted for the salvation of all mankind; and, second, they will be finally reintegrated. Let us read a few passages from chapters nine, ten and eleven of St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans:

"What then shall we say? That the Gentiles who were not seeking after justice have attained to justice, but the justice that is of faith. But Israel, by seeking after the law of justice, is not come unto the law of justice. Why so? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were of works. For they stumbled at the stumbling-stone. As it is written: Behold I lay in Zion a stumbling-stone and a rock of scandal. And whosoever believeth in him shall not be confounded."{3}

"But I say: Hath not Israel known? First, Moses saith: I will provoke you to jealousy against that which is not a nation: against a foolish nation I will anger you. But Isaias is bold, and saith: I was found by them that did not seek me. I appeared only to them that asked not after me. But to Israel he saith: All the day long have I spread my hands to a people that believeth not and contradicteth me."{4}

"I say then: Did God cast off his people? God forbid. . . .{5}

"I say then: Have they so stumbled, that they should fall? God forbid! But by their lapse salvation is come to the Gentiles, that they may be emulous of them. Now if the misstep of them is the riches of the world and the diminution of them the riches of the Gentiles: how much more the fulness of them? For I say to you, Gentiles: As indeed the Apostle of the Gentiles, I will honour my ministry. If, by any means, I may provoke to emulation them who are my flesh and may save some of them. For if the dispossession of them hath been the reconciliation of the world, what shall the reintegration of them be, but life from the dead? For if the first fruit be holy, so is the lump also: and if the root be holy, so are the branches. And if some of the branches be broken and thou, being a wild olive, wert ingrafted among them and with them partakest of the root and of the fatness of the olive tree: boast not against the branches. And if thou boast, still it is not thou that bearest the root, but the root thee. Thou wilt say then: branches were broken off that I might be grafted in. Well: because of unbelief they were broken off. Thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear. For if God hath not spared the natural branches, fear lest perhaps also he spare not thee. See then the goodness and the severity of God: towards them indeed that are fallen, the severity; but towards thee, the goodness of God, if thou abide in goodness. Otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in; for God is able to graft them in again. For if thou wert cut out of the wild olive tree, which is natural to thee; and, contrary to nature, wert grafted into the good olive tree: how much more shall they that are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree?

"For I would not have you ignorant, brethren, of this mystery (lest you should be wise in your own conceits) that blindness in part has happened in Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles should come in. And so all Israel shall be saved, as it is written: There shall come out of Zion, he that shall deliver and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob. And this is to them my covenant: when I shall take away their sins. As touching the Gospel, indeed they are enemies for your sake; but as touching the election, they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are without repentance. For as you also in times past did not believe God, but now have obtained mercy, through their unbelief: So these also have not believed, for your mercy, that they also may obtain mercy. For God hath concluded all in unbelief, that he may have mercy on all."{6}

Thus St. Paul states, apropos this particular mystery of Israel, a basic law (it is a revealed datum; it has nothing to do with philosophy as such) in human history -- a basic law which he considered the most profound secret of divine Providence, and the meaning of which we can grasp only in the light of the infinite transcendence of Subsisting Love. You remember his saying: "Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! How incomprehensible are his judgments, and how unsearchable his ways!" (Rom. 11, 33). And he insists on this in three texts: "the Scripture shut up all things under sin, that by the faith of Jesus Christ, the promise might be given to those who believe." (Gal. 3, 22); "where the offense has abounded, grace has abounded yet more." (Rom. 5, 20); and, at the end of the long passage cited above, "God hath concluded all in unbelief, that he may have mercy on all." (Rom. 11, 32).

This law, which made St. Paul kneel down in adoration before the inscrutable wisdom of God, appeared to him, in a flash of light, especially with respect to the mystery of Israel. But it has a universal import. It is the most important datum of revealed wisdom with respect to human history, the unique key to the whole business of our long agonies, an insight into the relationship between the advance of mankind in time and the eternal purposes of the transcendent God, which the philosopher of history, too, should look at with clear-sighted awe, and hold as absolutely fundamental.

Hegel completely misunderstood this law, but he was aware of it in his own perverse way. He understood it in the very sense against which St. Paul took care to put us on our guard -- that is, in the sense that evil would be necessary from a superior point of view, a divine point of view, in order to have good; sin would be necessary, from the point of view of the wisdom of history, in order to have this superabundance of goodness of which St. Paul speaks. And thus God -- Hegel's immanent God, making himself through human history -- would be the prime initiator of evil, entirely steeped in the mud and blood of the self-movement of mankind, because in the last analysis He would need evil in order to be; and the existence of evil -- of evil to be overcome and reconciled -- would be as necessary as God is.

But St. Paul does not speak of any necessity, and the very idea of a necessity for evil involved in God's purposes -- and then let's do evil in order to cooperate with God and his highest purposes{7} -- is in his eyes sheer blasphemy. Absit! What he means to say is that God turns to a better purpose evil which He permits but in no way wills or causes, and whose first initiator is only the freedom of the creature. And this is the very triumph of God's wisdom and love, and the supreme meaning of human history, to have grace and mercy superabound there where, through the free nihilation of the human will, frustrating God's "antecedent" will, the offense abounded.

The prophetical element -- that of the final reintegration of the Jewish people -- contained in St. Paul's aforementioned texts played a great part in the theological speculation of the Middle Ages and in every discussion of Christian eschatology. In his commentary on the Gospel of St. John,{8} St. Thomas explains, in connection with the running of the Apostles Peter and John to the tomb of the Lord, that the two peoples, the Jewish people and the Gentile people, are symbolized at the tomb by the two Apostles. They simultaneously run to Christ through the ages, the Gentiles by their natural law, the Jews by their written law. The Gentiles, like Peter, who arrives second at the sepulchre, arrive later at the knowledge of Jesus Christ. But, like Peter, they are the first to enter. The Jewish people, the first to know the mystery of the Redemption, will only be the last to be converted to the faith of Christ. `Then,' says the Gospel, `John went in.' Israel shall not remain eternally at the threshold of the sepulchre. After Peter shall have gone in, John himself will go in, for at the end the Jews also will be gathered into the faith.

The coming of this future event was considered unquestionable by the mediaeval theology of history. Let us add that in the second commentary on the Song of Songs, attributed to Thomas Aquinas, the author admits a division of the history of Christian times into three ages: first, Christian antiquity, which lasted about eight centuries; then, the Christian modern age (he speaks of the thirteenth century Church as "the modern church"); and, finally, the third age, not yet begun, whose most characteristic sign will be the reintegration of Israel.

5. The second problem having to do with Israel is the problem of the destiny of the Jewish peole with respect to the temporal history of the world and before their own final reintegration. And here we have an aspect of the mystery of Israel that is more philosophical than theological. What is the meaning of the Diaspora? What is the meaning of the persecutions the Jews have suffered in the Christian world? What is the meaning of their own mission in the world? I think it is possible for philosophical reflection, under the guidance of St. Paul's doctrine, to get at some conclusions.

I have already tackled this problem in an essay, "The Mystery of Israel," in my book Ransoming the Time. My point is that Israel is, analogically, a kind of Mystical Body; it is not only a people, but a people endowed with a mission which pertained to the very order of the redemption of mankind. And Israel's mission continues in a certain manner -- no longer as an "ecclesial" mission -- after its lapse, because it cannot help being the chosen people, for the gifts of God are without repentance, and the Jews are still beloved because of their fathers. So we might say that whereas the Church is assigned the task of the supernatural and supra-temporal saving of the world, to Israel is assigned, in the order of temporal history and its own finalities, the work of the earthly leavening of the world. Israel is here -- to tell the truth, it is not of the world, but it is at the deepest core of the world -- to irritate the world, to prod it, to move it. It teaches the world to be dissatisfied and restless so long as it has not God, so long as it has not justice on earth. Its indestructible hope stimulates the live forces of history.

Of course, this aspect does not make us disregard the sociological, economic, and other empirical aspects that we have to take into account when we try to understand the earthly destinies of Israel, or the moral cancer which is anti-Semitism, or the meaning of Zionism. But the philosophical aspect I just stressed -- for it is philosophical, though enlightened by St. Paul's teaching (it's an example of what I have called moral philosophy adequately taken) -- remains primary, and it casts light upon the other aspects. It cannot be disregarded.

New problems (I merely mention them) of great importance for the philosopher of history relate now to the founding of the State of Israel; its relation to the Diaspora -- the relation between the Jews who are citizens of the State of Israel and the Jews who are citizens of other nations; its relation to the Moslem and the Christian areas of civilization; and the chances for and against its possible development as a state at the same time secular, democratic, with equal rights for all, but also religiously inspired and entrusted with a spiritual mission.

The false Hegelian and Comtian laws of various states or stages

6. Both Hegel and Auguste Comte made use of this notion of states or stages which I employed above. Though their views relate, in my opinion, to a false philosophy of history, I would at least mention them here, for we can be instructed by wrong views, too.

According to Hegel, there are the three stages of the objective mind or spirit -- the stage of abstract right; the stage of morality of conscience or subjective morality (Moralitäaut;t); and the stage of social morality (Sittlichkeit) or of the advent of the State. Now, of course, for Hegel these three stages are more metaphysical than historical. They don't refer essentially to historical succession. Yet such dialectical progress is revealed or manifested in the consciousness of mankind in a particularly significant manner at certain moments of the historical evolution. For instance, abstract right was typically manifested at the time of the Roman Empire; the morality of conscience or subjective morality in the centuries of Catholicism, and still more in the eighteenth century Enlightenment; whereas the third and final stage, the stage where all antinomies are resolved, appears in history when the German Protestant community takes political form, and the State emerges as the objectivation of the Divine -- of that Divine which the young Hegel contemplated in Napoleon, the old Hegel in the Prussian State.

Another erroneous notion of the various states in human history -- a notion which was quite famous during the nineteenth century -- is Auguste Comte's notion of what he called "la loi des trois états," the law of the three stages or states. For Comte, mankind and the human mind passed successively through the theological, the metaphysical, and the positive state. In the theological state, everything was explained by supernatural beings and wills; in the metaphysical state, abstract occult causes took the place of supernatural beings, and everything was referred to vital forces, substantial forms, etc.; and finally, in the positive state, science is the unique rule -- everything is to be understood in the light of sense-verified science, and both "wills" and "causes" must be replaced by "laws" or invariable relations between phenomena.

I would merely remark that this is indeed a quite interesting false generalization: on the one hand it was possible to find inductively (as regards the ways in which the human mind endeavored to interpret the phenomena of nature and to decipher sense-experience) some indications for such a construction; but, on the other hand, any inductive result was understood and conceptualized in the light of an erroneous philosophy, namely, positivist philosophy, for which "everything is relative, here is the only absolute principle," and there is no other knowledge than the knowledge of phenomena and the deciphering of sense-experience. From a genuinely historical point of view the loi des trois états is, even in the field of the knowledge of phenomena, a questionable and oversimplified generalization. But it is pure sophistry to claim that theology and metaphysics are done away with because a thunderbolt is not to be explained as an effect of some supernatural anger or of some "occult qualities."

The law of the passage from the "magical" to the "rational" regime or state in the history of human culture

7. This distinction, which I simply indicated at the beginning of this chapter, refers -- at least, I think so -- to a genuine philosophy of history. It is a philosophical distinction founded on, and interpreting, inductive data afforded by anthropology.{9} In an essay on Sign and Symbol,{10} written many years ago, I submitted that a distinction should be made between the logical sign, which speaks primarily to the intellect, and the magical sign, which speaks primarily to the imagination. My working hypothesis was the notion of functional condition or existential state, in the sense in which I have used the term "state" in this book. I was pointing to a fundamental distinction between the state of our developed cultures and another state or existential condition in which, for psychic and cultural life as a whole, the last word rests with the imagination, as the supreme and final law. In this latter state, the intellect is doubtless present, and with all its inherent principles and laws, but in a way it is not free -- it is tied up, bound to the imagination. That is the state I am calling the magical regime or state of psychic and cultural life.

I would note that this working hypothesis succeeded in reconciling opposed points of view in a particularly controversial field. A few years before his death, Professor Lévy-Bruhl was so kind as to write and express his agreement with me on this point: "as you put it quite rightly, primitive mentality is a state of human mentality, and I can accept the characteristics through which you define it."

Allow me to quote now the testimony of the great Polish anthropologist, Bronislaw Malinowski: "I have chosen to face the question of primitive man's rational knowledge directly: watching him at his principal occupations, seeing him pass from work to magic and back again, entering into his mind, listening to his opinions. The whole problem might have been approached through the avenue of language, but this would have led us too far into questions of logic, semasiology, and theory of primitive languages. Words which serve to express general ideas such as existence, substance, and attribute, cause and effect, the fundamental and the secondary; words and expressions used in complicated pursuits like sailing, construction, measuring and checking; numerals and quantitative descriptions, correct and detailed classifications of natural phenomena, plants and animals -- all this would lead us exactly to the same conclusion: that primitive man can observe and think, and that he possesses, embodied in his language, systems of methodical though rudimentary knowledge."

And Malinowski continues: "Similar conclusions could be drawn from an examination of those mental schemes and physical contrivances which could be described as diagrams or formulas. Methods of indicating the main points of the compass, arrangements of stars into constellations, co-ordination of these with the seasons, naming of moons in the year, of quarters in the moon -- all these accomplishments are known to the simplest savages. Also they are all able to draw diagrammatic maps in the sand or dust, indicate arrangements by placing small stones, shells, or sticks on the ground, plan expeditions or raids on such rudimentary charts. By co-ordinating space and time they are able to arrange big tribal gatherings and to combine vast tribal movements over extensive areas. . . . The use of leaves, notched sticks, and similar aids to memory is well known and seems to be almost universal. All such `diagrams' are means of reducing a complex and unwieldy bit of reality to a simple and handy form. They give man a relatively easy mental control over it. As such are they not -- in a very rudimentary form no doubt -- fundamentally akin to developed scientific formulas and `models,' which are also simple and handy paraphrases of a complex or abstract reality, giving the civilized physicist mental control over it)"{11}

The intellect in primitive man is of the same kind as ours. It may even be move alive in him than in some civilized men. But the question with which we are concerned is that of its existential conditions, the existential regime or state under which it operates. In primitive man the intellect is in a general way involved with, and dependent on, the imagination and its savage world. This kind of mental regime is one in which acquaintance with nature is experienced and lived through with an intensity and to an extent we cannot easily picture. I observed in the previous chapter that in passing from the myths of the primitive man to our rational or logical regime there were surely losses, compensating for the greater gains achieved by such a progress.

The magical state is a state of inferiority, but it is by no means despicable. It is the state of mankind in its infancy, a fertile state through which we have had to pass. And I think that anthropologists should recognize that under this regime humanity enriched itself with many vital truths, which were known by way of dream or divinatory instinct, and by actual participation in the thing known -- not in a conceptual, rational manner. It is extremely difficult for us to imagine now what can have been the functioning of the human mind in such a state. It is a difficulty analogous to that which we experience when we try to penetrate the mental life of animals. Whatever we picture to ourselves is in fact bathed in intelligence, and in intelligence which is free, which has the upper hand over imagination. Therefore we have great trouble in depicting to ourselves any state in which -- in the case of primitive man -- imagination had the upper hand over the intellect; or in which -- in the case of the animal -- there is knowledge, but merely sensitive knowledge: knowledge by way of the senses, which admittedly are capable, in superior vertebrates, of resembling intelligence to a great extent. It is really impossible for a man to imagine how a dog is "thinking." But nevertheless there is a dog-knowledge which exists as a matter of fact, and is the object of the psychology of animals. We experience a similar difficulty when it comes to the magical state proper to the mental activity of the primitive man, a state utterly different from our logical state, and in which the imagination was the queen of the human mind. We might call our present state a daylight or solar state because it is bound up with the luminous and regular life of the intellect. And the magical state might be called a nocturnal state, because it is bound up with the fluid and twilight life of the imagination.

&. Here I would like to propose some remarks on positivism and Comte's law of the three states. From the positivist point of view one is led to say that the mathematical and physico-mathematical sciences, and all the multifarious sciences of phenomena, constitute the only function of truth and real knowledge in human thought, and that, therefore, religion, mystical experience, metaphysics, and poetry are, in the civilized mind, an inheritance from the primitive and "pre-logical" mentality. This is a major tenet in the positivists' philosophy of history. These types of mental activity are but metamorphoses of ancient magic -- perhaps justifiable in the practical and emotional order, but directly opposed, as is magic itself, to the line of science and truth.{12} The era of science has succeeded to the era of magic, and magic and science are essentially inimical and incompatible.

For Bergson, I may add, magic and science are similarly inimical and incompatible. "Magic is the reverse of science," he wrote in The Two Sources because, for Bergson, also, science consists entirely in the mathematical explanation of matter. Yet in Bergson's view, science, at least science in the process of being born, always co-existed with magic. And science does not exhaust the function of truth and real knowledge in human thought. Other functions -- religion, mystical experience, metaphysics, and poetry -- are also functions of truth, and more profound ones. But for Bergson, as for the positivists, these things are at right angles to the line of science, and they spring from the same vital centre as magic. Magic and religion have a common origin, from which they developed in opposite directions -- magic in the direction of illusion, myth-making, and laziness; and religion (what Bergson called "dynamic religion") in the direction of heroism and of truth.

Now the distinction which I have proposed between the magical and the rational states of the human mind and culture differs at once from the positivist and from the Bergsonian positions. To my mind, our modern science of phenomena is only one of the possible forms of science, only one of the degrees of knowledge. Moreover, science, philosophy, metaphysics, like religion and mysticism, and like poetry, are destined to grow up together. In the nocturnal state, the magical state of the primacy of the dream and of the imagination, they were inchoate, more or less fused or confused, but they were there. Once the threshold of the daylight state of the primacy of the intellect and the Logos was passed, they became more and more differentiated from each other. It is not true that "the era of science has succeeded the era of magic" -- what is true is that the state of Logos has succeeded the state of Magic -- for all the mental and cultural functions of the human being existed in the state of magic, and they now exist in the state of logical thought. Science, like religion, existed in the nocturnal state before it existed in the daylight state. So, one cannot say that there is nothing in common between magic and science, and that magic is the reverse of science. One can only say that the magical state of science -- of that rudimentary science of the tribal man which was alluded to in Malinowski's remarks quoted above -- is in opposition to the logical state of civilized man's science.

Thus my point is that all human thought, with its great and at first undifferentiated primordial ramifications, passes through a diversity of existential conditions or states. The science of the primitive man was science, and it was such in the state of magic -- primitive man had a certain knowledge of nature, real and workable, though different from ours. This knowledge made use of certain connections of physical causality, and it formulated them in an intelligibly manageable manner, all the while immersing them in a kind of sacral empiricism, and in a general way of thinking dominated by the magical sign. Science left this condition when it passed over the threshold of the Logos-dominated regime of thought and of culture. Now, in our civilized times, the residues of magical knowing are taken over, by virtue of a process of abnormal integration, by a pseudo-science -- the occultism, or the occult "sciences," of civilized man -- utterly different from the magic of primitive man, and which will carry with it certain pathological characteristics for intellectual life (as happens for affective life in certain cases of infantile retrogression among adults).

Similar observations may be made with respect to religion. Religion was at first in a magical or nocturnal state, and then it passed under a new regime, the daylight state of human thought and culture. The religion of civilized humanity crossed the threshold of this daylight state either by a transformation into more or less rationalized mythology (as in Greece), or by a process of metaphysical elaboration (as in India), or by forms of revelation adapted to such a state (as in Judaeo-Christian monotheism). And, just as in certain forms of pseudo-knowledge, so in certain pseudo-religious phenomena to which the civilized man is liable to fall prey, residues of the magical state will appear, taken over, by virtue of a process of abnormal integration, by superstitious notions and imagery, wherein the part played by pathology is far greater than in magical religion itself.

The law of the progress of moral conscience

9. I consider this to be a most important law in the philosophy of history. In its essence and even in its value, the rectitude and purity of moral conscience are independent of the explicit knowledge of all particular moral laws. We realize this if we think, for example, of the three states distinguished by theology in the history of mankind.{13} Abraham was a great saint, a saint of incomparable stature. But he did not know that certain actions which we condemn today were prohibited by natural law. Hence we must conclude that mankind's state of nature was not a state in which natural moral laws were perfectly known and practised.{14} As a matter of fact, the precise knowledge of these natural moral laws -- with the exception of the self-evident primary principle, good is to be done and evil to be avoided -- is acquired slowly and with more or less difficulty. I would say that the equipment necessary to know the particular precepts of natural law exists within us -- it is made up of the essential tendencies and inclinations of our nature. But a very long experience is required to have the corresponding knowledge through connaturality take actual form.

In other words, our knowledge of moral laws is progressive in nature. The sense of duty and obligation was always present, but the explicit knowledge of the various norms of natural law grows with time. And certain of these norms, like the law of monogamy, were known rather late in the history of mankind, so far as it is accessible to our investigation. Also, we may think that the knowledge of the particular precepts of natural law in all of their precise aspects and requirements will continue to grow until the end of human history.

I think that this progress of moral conscience as to the explicit knowledge of natural law is one of the least questionable examples of progress in mankind. Allow me to stress that I am not pointing to any progress in human moral behavior (or to any progress in the purity and sanctity of conscience, for Abraham, again, was a very great saint, with an absolutely pure heart). I am pointing to a progress of moral conscience as to the knowledge of the particular precepts of natural law.{15} This progress in knowledge can take place at the same time as a worsening in the conduct of a number of men, but that is another question. Take, for instance, the notion of slavery. We are now aware that slavery is contrary to the dignity of the human person. And yet there are totalitarian States which enslave the human being. But, nevertheless, they would not like to acknowledge this fact -- that's why propaganda is so necessary -- because there is a common awareness in mankind today that slavery is contrary to the dignity of man.

We may cite a few of the other examples of this progress in moral conscience. One is the notion of the treatment to be given to prisoners of war. For many, many centuries, and even Christian centuries, it was considered quite normal to kill prisoners of war. No difference was recognized between an enemy soldier in combat and one who had been taken prisoner. If a prisoner of war was granted life, this was considered a favor which was legitimately paid for by slavery. But now we have a completely different view of our obligations towards prisoners of war. Another example is the notion of child labor. At the beginning of the industrial age, child labor was considered quite legitimate. But now we have other ideas about this matter, and they are surely more conformable to natural law. Still another example is the notion of human labor itself. The notion that human labor is impossible without the whip of destitution -- a notion quite widespread in the nineteenth century -- seemed at that moment to be in accordance with natural law. Even religion and a misreading of Adam's punishment in Genesis, were made to contribute to this notion. But now we realize the great error in such a conception. And again: the notion that authority cannot be exercized without a lot of ruthlessness, and without the suppression of any human fellowship between the one who commands and the one who obeys, is another notion which seemed obvious at one time, and which is now considered wrong by a progress in our awareness of what human nature basically requires in our mutual relations and in the moral atmosphere of our living together. Finally, may I say that we probably are still in the dark about the part normally to be played in temporal and political matters themselves by laws which deal directly with spiritual life, such as the law of mutual forgiveness.

10. So much for the progress in our awareness of the more and more particular requirements of natural law. If it is a question, on the other hand, of a certain primal, extremely general and undifferentiated knowledge of the basic precepts of natural law, we have to elaborate in connection with anthropology the notion of what I would call the fundamental dynamic schemes of natural law, the meaning of which is highly undetermined. They are but general tendential forms or frameworks, such as can be obtained by the first, the "primitive" achievements of knowledge through inclination. We may think, for instance, of such general and undifferentiated principles as: to take a man's life is not like taking another animal's life; the family group has to comply with some fixed pattern; sexual intercourse has to be contained within given limitations; we are bound to look at the Invisible; we are bound to live together under certain rules and prohibitions. I think that these five general regulations correspond to the basic inclinations of which St. Thomas speaks in his treatise on natural law.{16} And they are subject, I would submit, to a much more universal awareness -- everywhere and in every time -- than would appear to a superficial glance. It is true that there is an immense amount of relativity and variability to be found in the particular rules, customs, and standards in which, among all peoples of the earth, human reason has expressed its knowledge of these most basic aspects of natural law. But if we consider the dynamic schemes in their entire generality we see that they were always recognized in one way or another.

And now, as a corollary to my reflections on the progress of moral conscience, I would emphasize that moral philosophy presupposes moral experience, the historical experience of mankind. Moral philosophy, as indeed all philosophical knowledge, comes about through concepts and judgments. It supposes a developed rational knowledge. It entails a scientific justification of moral values by a demonstrative determination of what is consonant with reason, and of the proper ends of the human essence and of human society. But it is a kind of afterknowledge. The moral philosopher submits to critical examination, elucidates, sorts out, justifies, re-interprets, formulates in a more systematic or more pungent manner the natural morality of mankind, I mean the moral standards and regulations which are spontaneously known to human reason in such or such an age of culture. As a result, it is rather infrequent that a moral philosopher is in advance with respect to his time.

In other words, moral philosophy is a reflective knowledge, and in this we have a token of its difference from metaphysical knowledge. Metaphysics is not a reflective knowledge -- it is not a reflection on common sense. It states its own truths, and nobody can judge a metaphysician, except in the name of a higher wisdom. But any kind of virtuous man, even one completely ignorant in philosophy, can judge a moral philosopher, if the moral philosopher teaches something wrong. I see in this a sign that moral philosophy is a reflective knowledge. And therefore, while it can happen, of course, that a moral philosopher may have broader horizons than the common people of his time, and may see things that they do not see, nevertheless, in general, the work of theoretical reflection cannot replace in moral matters the slow advance of consciousness, conscience, and experience in mankind. And this means not only an advance in rational knowledge, but primarily an advance in our lived awareness of our basic inclinations -- an advance which may be conditioned by social changes. Thus for many centuries moral philosophers and common consciousness stressed the obligations of man prescribed by natural law. But there are also rights of man, which were, of course, implicitly recognized, especially by Christian thinkers. Yet it seems to me that it was necessary to wait until the eighteenth century, and the related social changes in human history, to have the basic inclinations on which an explicit awareness of these rights depends liberated in us -- a fact which had an impact both on the common consciousness of mankind and on the rational consideration of moral and social philosophers.

The law of the passage from "sacral" to "secular" or "lay" civilizations

11. The distinction between "sacral" and "secular" civilizations has a universal bearing. Yet -- by reason of the very distinction between the things that are Caesar's and the things that are God's -- it is with Christianity that this distinction has taken its full historical importance. It is, therefore, but natural that in the present discussion I should refer to sacral Christian civilization and to secular Christian civilization. There was a sacral age, the age of mediaeval Christendom, mainly characterized, on the one hand, by the fact that the unity of faith was a prerequisite for political unity, and that the basic frame of reference was the unity of that social body, religio-political in nature, which was the respublica Christiana; and, on the other hand, by the fact that the dominant dynamic idea was the idea of fortitude at the service of justice. The modern age, on the contrary, is not a sacral but a secular age. The order of temporal society has gained complete differentiation, and full autonomy in its own sphere, which is something normal in itself, required by the Gospel's distinction between God's and Caesar's domains. But that normal process was accompanied -- and spoiled -- by a most aggressive and stupid process of insulation from, and finally rejection of, God and the Gospel in the sphere of social and political life. The fruit of this we can contemplate today in the theocratic atheism of the Communist State.

Yet the fact remains that, as a result of the process of differentiation I just alluded to, the dominant dynamic idea of modern civilization is not the idea of fortitude at the service of justice, but rather the idea of the conquest of freedom and of social conditions conformable to human dignity. On the other hand, the root requirement for a sound mutual cooperation between the Church and the body politic is no longer the unity of a religio-political body, as the respublica Christiana of the Middle Ages was, but the very unity of the human person, simultaneously a member of the body politic and of the Church. And the unity of religion is not a prerequisite for political unity. Men subscribing to diverse religious or non-religious creeds have to share in and work for the same political or temporal common good.

This distinction between sacral and secular civilizations is a quite simple distinction. But once it has been formulated in rational terms, it provides us with a key to interpret the life and cultural standards of the Middle Ages in comparison with our own ways of life and cultural standards.{17} In other books (especially True Humanism and Man and the State) I have laid stress on its importance with respect to a correct interpretation of the relation between Church and State in our times, and to a correct formulation of the concrete historical ideal appropriate to the coming age of civilization.

I would suggest that the same distinction could also serve as a key to the discussion of other areas of civilization. Thus, if we were dealing with a complete philosophy of history, we should consider in what sense Indian civilization is a sacral civilization. This is a great problem. Another great problem -- one with practical as well as theoretical implications -- is whether a sacral civilization like the Moslem one can become secular. Is it possible to have the same kind of development or evolution in the Moslem world as in the Christian world? Still another problem, which has already been touched upon, has to do with the State of Israel. As a State, a modern and democratic State, it cannot be sacral. But, on the other hand, to be a Jew means essentially to belong to a certain religious tradition, which is still at work hiddenly -- even in those who have repudiated any definite creed -- and which will probably take some kind of newvitality in many of the Jews who are now re-grouped in the Promised Land. Now, how will the State of Israel solve this question? Can it be at the same time Jewish and secular? What kind of freedom will the Israelian citizens who have embraced the Christian faith enjoy in such a State? This is a big question, and one that relates both to the philosophy of history and to political practice.

Finally, I think that the distinction we just discussed may help us in our approach to antiquity. We know that in antiquity there was no distinction between the things that are Caesar's and the things that are God's. Religion was embodied in the gods of the city. So we cannot speak of Greek civilization, for instance, as a secular civilization. Nor was it sacral in the strict sense of this word. It was sacral, I would say, in a different though analogical sense, peculiar to polytheism, and moreover rather difficult to characterize. Some writers, for instance Henri Marrou,{18} are apt to speak of the early Greek conception of the city, even of the Platonic utopia, as "totalitarian." To my mind, this is an erroneous wording. I think that we should coin a special concept -- Greek civilization was neither "totalitarian," nor "secular," nor "sacral" in the Christian or Moslem sense, but rather, I suggest, "hieropolitical."{19} It was hieropolitical because, on the one hand, the body politic was supreme in dignity (though bound to venerate the unwritten wisdom embodied in the cosmos), and, on the other hand, there was something sacred, something hieratic in the very notion of the political city, which was itself in charge of religious functions. This is but another example of the kind of questions which are within the province of the philosophy of history.

The law of the political and social coming of age of the people

12. This law, which I shall point to in a brief manner (because in order to be fully elucidated it would require an entire book) deals with the progressive passage of the people, in the course of modern history, from a state of subjection to a state of self-government in political and social matters, in other words, to a regime of civilization characterized by the democratic cast of mind and democratic philosophy.

The change in question is, I think, still in its first phases, and in relation to it nations which are de facto contemporaneous find themselves at quite diverse historical stages. It was but natural that it should appear in political life before extending step by step to social life. Moreover, a normal development, called for by deep aspirations in human nature, was there preyed upon by a lot of wrong or perverse ideas which finally instigated the very opposite of democracy -- the totalitarian State -- and which imperil the democratic principle itself as long as it does not free itself completely of them.

The remark I wish to submit is that, considered in its normal and essential features, the political and social coming of age of the people was in itself a natural development -- I mean, one which answered deep-seated demands of the order of nature, and in which certain requirements of natural law came to the fore; but in actual fact it is only under the action of the Gospel leaven, and by virtue of the Christian inspiration making its way in the depths of secular consciousness,{20} that the natural development in question took place. Thus it is that the democratic process, with its genuine, essential properties, and its adventitious ideological cockle, appeared first in that area of civilization which is the historical heir to mediaeval Western Christendom -- and it was the more genuine, and is now the more live, where the temporal life of the community remains to a larger extent Christian-inspired.

But once the democratic process had appeared and prevailed in the area in question, it spontaneously spread, and keeps on spreading, over all other areas of civilization (except in those places where it is blocked by totalitarianism).{21} Such a spontaneous universal spreading of the democratic process is an obvious sign of its basically natural character, in the sense I pointed out a moment ago.

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