“Notas” by Nicolás Gómez Dávila (English translation)

An English translation of Notas by Nicolás Gómez Dávila

Apr 19, 2024

I couldn't find an official English translation of "Notas" by Nicolás Gómez Dávila, so I translated it using GPT-4-turbo. Expect a few mistakes as I haven’t edited it.

A few notes about Nicolás and “Notas”

Who is “Nicolás Gómez Dávila”?

Nicolás Gómez Dávila was a Colombian philosopher and aphorist. He was born on May 18, 1913 in Bogotá, Colombia and died on May 17, 1994, just one day shy of his 81st birthday. He’s sometimes referred to as “Nietzsche from the Andes.”[1]

Gómez Dávila is best known for his "escolios" or "scholia", which are brief, aphoristic statements on a wide range of subjects including politics, philosophy, religion, history, and culture. He wrote these aphorisms in Spanish on small index cards which he kept in a wooden box.

Over the course of his life, Gómez Dávila is estimated to have written around 10,000 of these "escolios".

Gómez Dávila was a staunch conservative thinker and a critic of modernity, liberalism, and democracy.

Despite being a prolific writer, Gómez Dávila led a reclusive life and rarely left his home in Bogotá. He spent most of his time reading, writing, and tending to his large personal library of over 30,000 books.

While not widely known during his lifetime, Gómez Dávila's work has gained a cult following in recent years. His aphorisms are admired for their wit, insight, and provocative style.

What is “Notas” about?

"Notas" - the magnum opus of our friend Nicolás Gómez Dávila. Published posthumously in 2003, this hefty tome clocks in at over 400 pages and is a veritable treasure trove of the Colombian philosopher's infamous "escolios" or aphorisms.

The book is essentially a compilation of 2,988 of these escolios, spanning a wide gamut of topics near and dear to Gómez Dávila's heart - from religion and morality to politics and history, from art and literature to the ills of modern society.

In typical Gómez Dávila fashion, the aphorisms in "Notas" are brief, dense, and often cryptic - little philosophical grenades lobbed at the reader, designed to detonate upon impact and leave you reeling. Here's a taste:

  • "Modern man is a prisoner who thinks he is free because he refrains from touching the walls of his dungeon."
  • "The modern world demands that we approve what it should not even dare ask us to tolerate."

Through these pithy sayings, Gómez Dávila mounts his scathing critique of modernity, democracy, socialism, and what he sees as the degeneration of traditional values. He pines for a lost golden age of hierarchy, aristocracy, and Catholic orthodoxy.

While "Notas" is not for the faint of heart (or the politically correct), it showcases Gómez Dávila's unique style and uncompromising worldview in full force. It's a challenging, thought-provoking read that's sure to leave you either inspired, infuriated, or utterly baffled - and possibly all three at once.

So if you're in the mood for some heavy-duty philosophical provocation, give "Notas" a whirl. Just don't blame me if you end up questioning everything you once held dear.

Notas - English translation

Few things die as quickly as ideas and few corpses inspire such indifference. When their freshness fades, ideas decline towards oblivion and only those that express our desires or our rare certainties endure. Ideas tire us; even our own occupy us only as long as they serve our lives and minister to its interests. Intellectual love is rare and generosity rarer still. We men are interested only in other men; our gestures awaken our mutual curiosity; for a trivial anecdote we change the system that took thirty years to build by its author. Only gossip does not wither. A collection of theology books, the bibliographic repertoire of an era's thought, a catalog of political pamphlets, invalidate all ambition. To posterity, only the individual and concrete detail manages to entertain. Ideas are our most vain and futile concern. However, here I do not intend to offer but sketches of ideas, slight gestures towards them.

Rejuvenating wilted ideas is the task of the humanist. His patient reading penetrates to the hardened heart of the idea. Thus, those gratuitous acts of justice are fulfilled, whose very futility seduces a generous intelligence more surely. Every trace of an abolished past holds infinite value for certain pious souls.

The book that neither entertains nor pleases risks losing the only intelligent reader: one who seeks pleasure in reading and only his pleasure. It is true that our duty consists of refining that pleasure more and more until we can find it, rare and pure, in the roughest and most arid places; but any occupation with letters that does not stem from some epicureanism of the intellect and a sensual affection lacks solidity, intensity, and luminous understanding.

If ideas alone interested us abstractly, within a few days we would exhaust the complete repertoire of what man has thought. The meanness of human intelligence is infinite. But what seduces us are the countless variations that these ideas wear in the picturesque diversity of history.

Our civilization is founded on a postulate of discontinuity and knows only fungible goods. None have known, like it, the insatiable itch for the new and the blessed admiration of the merely everyday. We have lived under a primacy of the ephemeral; to the uncertainty of society has corresponded an unparalleled distrust in what man creates. A journalistic spirit triumphs and there is no longer any intellectual attitude that it does not infect, nor work that its implicit presence does not dissolve. We live off what is born today and for today alone we live. What implies some confidence in its duration and demands some faith in the permanence of our actions encounters respectful irony, or manifest sarcasm. Posterity today is an aged myth, incapable of stirring or influencing. There was once a pure pride of the spirit, manifestation of an immeasurable ambition but free of petulance, when striving for the highest did not exclude any humility and when vanity often served to impose the most difficult enterprises. The ambition to create what doubtfully lasts and respect for an indifferent posterity were pretexts for man to demand from himself precision and honesty, self-denial and laboriousness. Perhaps there are works that do not need these virtues, but without them meditation is an ineffective game; although, however, the Meditation without virtues is an ineffective game, though it’s the one most easily simulated.

Every society perishes by abolishing its myths.

Humanity shows a stunning indifference to anything that does not threaten its existence and only tarnishes or degrades it.

Humanity only views with suspicion those who disturb the trivial existence to which everyone resigns.

I quite accept that we may disdain every reader, that our pleasure in writing should be our end, and that we aspire to nothing more than our own solitary satisfaction; but what I cannot tolerate is our indifferent resignation to the mediocrity of our ideas. It doesn't matter if our idea serves no purpose or if no one uses it; let it fade, ignored, and die; if it was more than an empty and resonant proposition, if it crystallized a truth and embodied an essence.

It doesn’t matter that we can't attribute an impersonal valence to our ideas — perhaps none have it — but their value must be independent of what they mean to others, since value exists even when revealed to and culminates for a single individual.

The truth of an idea differs from its life and death. More than the truth, it varies the capacity of man to accept it. Our rejection, perhaps, creates the falsehood of what is rejected.

However, a truth separate and distinct, standing alone in an abstract sky, unrelated to any intelligence, is merely a hypothesis of our ignorance and longing. Every truth is an act of the spirit, its fruit, and its flower.

Thus an immoderate subjectivism, an intemperate relativism, can admit the universality of their values, even as they proclaim that generalization falsifies and that impersonality is a myth.

Whoever dares to expose their ideas must submit to the severity of the listener, but those who value what they say cannot be content with just meeting the demands of the common reader.

It is necessary to write for the most difficult and sternest reader. Let us seek a pure and frank victory over the toughest adversary. Rather than in spectacular victories or defeats, true nobility lies here, in a certain way of conquering or being defeated.

Being satisfied with having done all we could is a disastrous feeling. Authors of abominable confusion, we thus create a murky world where the mediocre and the excellent hold equal value, as do the perfect and the aborted.

Clearly, our duty is to do everything we can, but it's absurd to imagine that mere effort is a value, that aspiring without achieving is different from failure.

Such recognition is truly disheartening, since most of us are merely trials and mere attempts. Our lives are experiments doomed to disaster.

The root and core of being are irrevocably given along with our limited will. If, to avoid perishing from disgust, we invent justifications for our actions, we should not attribute this poor artifice to the structure of the universe.

Perhaps such a rigid assertion of the arbitrary and unjust foundation of all excellence outrages; but if nothing refutes our despair and if we are fruitful only in miscarriages, what do our contentment, our life, and its possible pretexts matter? Pure lucidity, on the other hand, is a value, and humility a virtue.

Let us above all be honest with the universe. If necessary, let the clarity of pride lead us to humility, and love of words deliver us to silence.

Here we are, suddenly constrained to be what we are, handed over to the harsh and cold consciousness of our mediocrity. What secrets did we imagine we had hidden! It was only about being loyal to ourselves, faithful to our purest essence, to achieve a sovereign excellence. But the day arrives, in winter light, when we gaze upon our skeletal nakedness, when we discover the miserable man we are and measure the distance between the greatness we dreamed of and the stark poverty of our humanity.

All that remains is to accept ourselves or eliminate ourselves.

Eliminate ourselves? For such an excessive gesture, we would need a dose of pride that our clear conscience no longer tolerates, we would need to weigh our importance on the scales of a fraudster; when the urgency of the dilemma confronts someone who has measured themselves justly. Accept ourselves? Well; but how, in what way?

Cleanly, of course, without tricks or cunning justifications. But should we be content with surrendering to the thousand everyday circumstances of our lives so that wrapped in dense torpor we walk towards our death?

Are there not menial tasks to which one can commit a healthy and upright mind, upon recognizing its failure? Certainly I could not mock the man who submits so as not to squander himself, but to such resigned wisdom, I can only offer cold tribute.

What then to do, if everything that seduces me flees or rejects me, if everything I might undertake bores and disgusts me? And yet, how to live devoted solely to the task of living? How to pass through my days, forehead bowed over the moment, animal grazing, forgetful of the approaching winter and the pure light that surrounds it?

I long for these notes, tangible proofs of my relinquishment, of my resignation, to save from my shipwreck my last reason for living.

Impossible for me to live without lucidity, impossible to renounce full awareness of my life.

Disheveled actor, I seek a spectator's chair.

Unable to contribute nobly to the drama of the world, I prefer to be retired as inept than to be admitted as an extra or background actor.

Certainly, I believe that to think, meditate, or dream, it is not always necessary to write. There are those who can wander through life with their eyes wide open, silently.

There are spirits sufficiently solitary to communicate to themselves, in their inner silence, the fruit of their experiences.

But I do not belong to that order of abrupt intelligences; I require the discourse that accompanies the soft noise of the pencil, echoing over the untouched sheet.

Ultimate reason for living: the desire to understand.

Secret enduring yearning.

Boundless ambition, yet an ambition aware of the narrow confines destiny grants it. A determined ambition, resolved to occupy the tiny space allowed.

I am under no illusions about the mediocrity of the results that can be achieved, but I am satisfied with the mere activity of the spirit that thinks.

Thus, in these notebooks, I see not the repository of rare revelations; I am content to wrest from my sterile intelligence a few fleeting sparks.

It is easy, in accepting ourselves, to despise ourselves too much. Indifferent now, we resign ourselves to clumsy complicity.

An excess of humility risks dragging us into depths of baseness. Just because we were denied the air of the peaks does not mean we must dwell in swamps.

Condescension towards the world, which debases and corrupts character, may stem from an undue distrust of our own strength.

The gravest sins are not those committed against society. Only punishable is what degrades within us the highest idea of man.

Laziness and wisdom are the alternating offspring of the same root. Indolence is easily satisfied, but easy satisfaction is a sharp form of wisdom. An excessive ambition either culminates in barren sterility or is merely the anxious disguise of impotence.

prepares a theatrical and comfortable excuse for our failure. Ridiculous cunning, because bitterness is measured more by longing than by promise.

Since pride silences me, I will try to surrender to the delights of an unbroken meditation.

Here begins a monotonous parade.

Without assuming any importance these notes lack, I write them with disinterested simplicity, similar to our attitude towards the images that precede sleep. I declare them of no importance, and hence, they are merely notes, glosses, scholia; in other words, the most discreet and closest verbal expression to silence.

The diary, the note, the entry, which betray every great spirit who uses them, as they demand little and do not allow him to manifest either his talents or his rare virtues, assist, on the contrary, like cunning accomplices, the mediocrity who employs them.

They help, because they suggest an ideal prolongation, a fictitious work that does not accompany them.

The generous reader becomes confused before them, hallucinated by the memory of some equally subordinate work, abandoned unsuspectingly by a spirit, in his other works without deception and trickery, sovereign.

I wish I could write with austerity and simplicity. However, I do not entirely detest certain emphasis, sometimes amiable when accompanied by irony and a discreet mockery; but I abhor the sentimental tone, those phrases that sound like a mix of heartfelt sorrow and toothache.

The didactic exposition, the treatise, the book, only suit someone who has reached conclusions that satisfy him. A vacillating thought, filled with contradictions, traveling uncomfortably in the wagon of a disoriented dialectic, barely tolerates the note, to serve as a temporary support point.

Dwell on each idea momentarily.

For meditation, we need willingness and spontaneity to converge, that willingness grants us fully what spontaneity has already given.

Wanting to think when ideas do not offer themselves generously is futile labor; but hoping to achieve it by passively surrendering to ease, is no less vain.

Undoubtedly, we do not create ideas ourselves, nor does their generation depend on our desires; undoubtedly, ideas choose us (and there is no greater injustice than the predestination of intelligence); but, without our collaboration, the gods give us only vague restlessness, thoughtful unease, wavering dissatisfaction.

The idea does not appear as a free and sudden revelation, requiring nothing from us, expecting nothing. Our souls must silently prepare and lurk in darkness for the flash of ideas.

If we do not flee the mortal laziness of the spirit, we smother unsuspected promises.

He who does not rise in the desert of his mediocrity does not discover the living waters, perhaps obstructed by his mere inertia.

Contentment and happiness—and the divine silence of the soul—are reserved for those who resign and accept gently; but discernment and awareness, clarity and light, are the privilege of violent and proud souls.

Intelligence does not manifest itself with a gesture of welcome and affection. Intelligence is sly and treacherous, suspicious and distrustful, always beginning by repelling and refuting, always rejecting and always protesting.

If we cannot endure the tedious hours of intelligence, we remain in a pale spring and our spirit ignores the heat of summer and the full granaries of autumn.

What we seek most anxiously is the significance of events, their meaning.

But if, suddenly, we manage to see what he is in himself, his own and alone, we are amazed to discover a density in every gesture, a fullness in each act.

The significance with which the object internally illuminates itself is not a transitive relation revealing another object for which it exists; it is, on the contrary, the manifestation of its absolute essence, of its irreducible positivity.

The meaning of an object is its absolute position in the system of the universe; it is not a classificatory label or a concept; it is a sensual, burning, and hard presence.

Meaning is not reduced to concepts because the totality it aims at is not a concept but that pure concrete we call God.

Things acquire their meaning when we glimpse them in their divine situation: as they are for God.

That is, as they are in reality; because reality is nothing more than the reference of things to God.

Things have meaning when we see them as God sees them. The meaning of a thing is its reality.

If meaning can never be deduced from a system of concepts nor contains a system, how can we discover it, how do we know that we have found it?

Never with absolute certainty, although often with infinite conviction.

When we feel that facing an object, or a fact, our spirit crystallizes and solidifies; when we feel that our activities fit together; when we feel that a dry and lucid joy invades us; the meaning has exploded into our spirit, like a fruit containing the implacable substance of many suns. The development of philosophy consists, on the contrary, in a sporadic process of eliminating all prior conceptual findings, in a systematic effort to negate them.

False philosophical progress is the development of doctrine by disciples: Epicureanism or Stoicism, Thomism or Marxism; true progress is the betrayal of the disciple, critical injustice, doctrinal hatred.

So much so that science does not systematically reject all its past, but only once in its history: when it is founded, methodologically, with Bacon and Descartes and, experimentally, with Galileo. That is, when it assumes a defined epistemological attitude, when it takes on the character of philosophy.

I often think that there are only two tolerable ways of writing: one slow and meticulous, another short and elliptical. Writing in the first way is to delve delightedly into the subject, to penetrate it deliberately, to surrender without resistance to its meanders, and to renounce taking possession so that the subject rather possesses us. Here, slowness and calmness are suitable; here it befits to dwell on each idea, last in the contemplation of each principle, lazily settle in each consequence. Transitions here are of sovereign importance, for this is above all an art of the context of the idea, of its origins, its penumbras, its connections, and its silent backwaters.

Thus write Péguy or Proust, thus would a great metaphysical meditation be possible.

Writing in the second manner is to grasp the subject in its most abstract form, as it barely emerges, or as it dies leaving a mere outline. The idea here is a burning center, a focus of dry light. From it will come infinite consequences, but it is yet only germ, and promise enclosed within itself. Those who write this way touch only the heights of the idea, a hard diamond tip. Among the ideas, air plays and space extends. Their relationships are secret, their roots hidden. The thought that unites and carries them is not revealed in their work, but in their fruits, skimmed and alone, archipelagos surfacing in an unknown sea.

Thus writes Nietzsche, thus death wished Pascal wrote. The satisfied man is mediocre when his satisfaction stems from ephemeral acts or objects, content with everything that passes and dies, with all that aspires not to pass, not to die. When he seeks nothing that symbolizes eternity, no desire for it, its reflection or image.

But is it really possible to be satisfied with the eternal, to settle in the eternal? ("...who drinks, will still thirst"), perhaps only to occupy ourselves with the eternal.

Yes! The sole nobility of man.

Ah! Heart never satisfied, never weary.

"Ich will dich kennen, selbst dir diennen."

Better to never be anyone, better to never be anything than to kill within us the desire, to extinguish our thirst.

Reading: "opium of the spirit", laziness disguised as activity, a form of fear of oneself and of the world. The book would be a substitute, an alternative; we lose ourselves in reading so that we are not found by the obligation to respond with a new reaction to every novelty in our life.

Indeed, what numbs the activities of the spirit and slowly induces it to live like an automaton, what makes it lose the flavor and meaning of immediate life, what leads it to a vain palace of vulgar concepts and foolish customs, is everyday life with its usual chores, ordinary needs, superficial activity, fictitious intensity. On the contrary, what awakens the spirit from this dogmatic sleep of common living, what throws it into the unknown sea of personal thoughts, original feelings, is reading.

Contact with other spirits, with their strange, harsh, and cutting thought, unsettles our trivial and premature convictions. Finally, the richness and density of consciousness, as well as its subtlety, are not given to us separately from the act through which we take possession of the human portion of our inheritance.

To philosophize is to reject fiction and renounce ease. ### Solitude of Man: No era shows him more separated from everything, from everyone and also from himself.

Undoubtedly, the essence of human existence always occurs in infinite solitude: the presence of death that removes all help from us and that, before taking over our body, delivers us to a terrifying abandonment. Even those gestures of love that make us hope for union and forgetfulness only to throw us back into our disillusionment.

However, until yesterday man believed in the myth of a common action, a deed that allowed him to detach from himself, unite with other men, and fulfill at the same time the deepest and most severe demand of his spirit. But what today, when every common action, every collective gesture, only creates universes where the greatness of man and his nobility are impossible?

Collective action leads him to collaborate in the low and vile; it only allows him to attend to his true duty through harsh selfishness that increases his solitude.

Tragedy of the modern man, who can only be satisfied by a common action with other men but must wish for that action to fail in order to save his own nobility.

In retaliation for Nietzsche's attacks on his disciples, Christ ironically decided to create the Nietzscheans.

Regardless of their origin, their primitive demands, or their hopes of yesterday, communism is just one modality of the economic and social structure to which capitalism also belongs.

The usual contrast between communism and capitalism is based on a legal fact of minor historical importance.

Whether the ownership of the means of production is legally attributed to an individual here and a community there, is a specific difference that does not alter the generic identity of both systems.

Indeed, more important is the relationship between man and the world than the relationship between man and property rights. Communism and capitalism indeed transform the human spirit in the same way.

If capitalism breeds an industrial, urban, and gregarious civilization; if here appears a man separated from the essential routine of things, unable to find in his work a possibility of perfection and a demand for reason, surrendered to the mere desire for comfort, always ready with the basest exegesis to avoid, with the horror of finding something noble, the unsettling yearning to imitate it, abandoned finally to all the demons of collective inspirations; there, the obsolete rhetoric of communist preaching—which deceives intelligences capable of mistrusting bourgeois propaganda—fails to hide the terrible fact that one abominable universe will follow the same abominable universe. Ce mort saisit ce vif.

What does it matter who is going to be the owner of the factory, if the factory is going to continue existing?

Contemporary history, this true prehistory. Nothing is as dangerous as history. The parade of countless lives, endless ambitions that failed, sterile triumphs, and aborted systems leads us to believe that everything is hollow and vain, that only a vulgar skepticism is wise, that all must be summarized in impotent indifference.

Current criticism attributes an incomprehensible importance to the themes and attitude of the poet. The poet creates the theme and the attitude, not the attitude or the theme to the poet. Such an elementary truth it's embarrassing to repeat. It is utter folly to judge literature based on what it represents, reveals, or translates; based on the generosity or fraternity of its author, their modernism, democratic or communist tendencies, their understanding of modern society or industrial civilization. It is equally indifferent for a poet whether to lock themselves in a library or engage in political action, work in a factory or become a monk; what matters is the poet himself.

When I hear about poets who understood their times, who did not renounce their social duties, who went to live among men, I smile thinking that the first two literatures of the West have as initiators of their modern poetry, their most daring revolutionaries and their most desperate explorers, a humble English teacher and a Jesuit: Mallarmé and Hopkins.

When we are only concerned with others, when the future of the world worries us: civilization, society, its fortunes, its destiny, we are fleeing our most certain duty and, forgetting the search for our perfection, we take refuge in the childish vanity of feeling charged with the world.

Our problem isn't the world, it’s our intelligence and our sensitivity, it’s our soul, however insignificant it may be, irreplaceable and unique.

The most serious intellectual fact of this century is perhaps the failure of the excessive ambition of the idea of evolution. The 19th century believed it found in it the definitive explanation of the universe: everything seemed clearer when it could be considered evolutionarily. They imagined that the problem consisted merely in searching, for each autonomous system, the simplest elements and, once found, introducing the idea of evolution.

Such an explanation seemed luminous and sufficient.

Nothing is more mysterious today.

The difficulty does not disappear because it is divided and distributed. Dividing difficulties is a basic methodological precept and perhaps an explanatory principle of spatial reality, but it is an ineffective process where quality reigns sovereign: that is, in our spirit and at the center of the universe.

Pure time, secondly, also explains nothing; and what does evolution mean, but time? What is it, but a mere synonym for time, when we refuse to attribute to it, magically, unknown characters and unsuspected powers?

Finally, the identification process, which Meyerson discovers and points out as the secret motor of scientific thought, is itself the denial of the explanatory value of the idea of evolution. Evolution indeed appeared to be that process which would allow explaining the complex through the development of the simple; but if explanation consists only of the stark identification of the complex with the simple, the complex which is concrete and real disappears so that a mere fiction of the analytical mind might triumph. The evolutionary thesis fails epistemologically beyond remedy.

The problem of the essence of nationality is the most vain of problems. A people that seeks the definition of its being before performing the acts that define them will always live a fictitious existence, incapable of acting for fear of self-falsification, when falsification is that fear itself. If the romantic obsession with the individual already seems excessive, how much more absurd are the modern obsessions with various collectivisms! Only man can concern himself with man without satiety and without danger.

Every country has its own irreplaceable essence, a mysterious and untransferable nature. Each country has its own irreplaceable and mysterious essence—something that sets it apart, something that brings it closer to our hearts. Similarity, identity, commonality repulse us due to their universal blandness. The more a being or an object is intimately unique, the more it identifies with its own essence, the more a secret sympathy arises in our souls for that obscure power.

Belloc rightly says of England: “...that savour of fullness and inheritance which lay fruitfully over all the land”.

The abundance of mediocrity and our own uncertainty advise us not to write or, if we cannot avoid it, to do so discreetly for ourselves alone. Let writing be for us either a game or the most serious of our acts; it behooves us to have the same modesty with what is written as with the gestures of love which satisfy greatly but are repulsive to everyone.

What is most seductive about La Bruyère is the absence of any system. Here there is only pure description: seeing, noting, and indicating. Perhaps this is his true, authentic depth.

Indeed, nothing is easier than a system; any viewpoint can generate one, and while the viewpoint is seldom false or absurd, the system almost invariably is. (Even my own denial!)

The world seems composed of essences so fine, delicate, fragile, and subtle that the very analytical process which allows us to grasp them can deny and destroy them through mere obedience to its logical and autonomous development.

The most horrible aspect of vice is that corruption of the soul which teaches us to forget even our own infamy.

If most writers knew how to wait, if they were not driven by the urge to express themselves, to produce—and perhaps by the fear and dread of themselves that only the act of creation dispels—we might have fewer authors and some excellent works lost, but the density of some books would be incomparable.

Rare is the novelist who writes more than one book, regardless of the number of volumes that appear in his bibliography; only the greatest write several.

A novelist is no more than a theme, something less precise than an idea, like a kind of schema, not pure, nor abstract, but rich in nuances, allusions, references, both notion and feeling at once, capable of various forms, infinite and simple.

Mauriac is a typical example of impatience.

The marvelous book that Mauriac could have written has not been, and probably will never be, written.

We have it scattered across twenty different volumes, all inferior to the ideal book that, behind each one, can be guessed at as a constant, secret, and inaccessible presence. Each novel seems inadequate to the theme it tries to incorporate; but also inadequate is the sum total of the work. A sum of ineffective acts is no remedy for the ineffectiveness of each act. To know how to wait would have been, then, to allow a slow living to fill a single subject with the multiple richness of the theme; to let also that process of selection, which only operates in a soul awake to the world but enclosed within itself, discard the superfluous, the useless, the deficient, the inadequate, so that for the sole theme there corresponds the sole expression revealing it in its totality and purity.

The literature of the last hundred years seemed to contemporaries, and even yesterday, infinitely rich in novels. Not just in quantity, but a strange continuous presence of quality. The novel seemed inevitable: "Taine himself attempts an Etienne Mayran, Renan a Patrice. Perhaps from that kind of immanent literary obligation, the novel from which no one escaped, only endure the Derracinés, a critic’s novel, an essayist's, and the only one that managed to integrate critical intelligence and perpetual commentary into a real novelistic substance.

It appeared that a novel was possible from everyone: from every experience, from every life, it seemed possible to extract a novel: every individual seemed capable of one. Most of this output is, however, already unreadable, and we could almost say that no literary genre has fewer candidates for immortality.

An extraordinary fertility has blinded us, and here we have overlooked a phenomenon familiar to literary history. The classic French tragedy, German idealist philosophy, the Petrarchan sonnet of the Renaissance or the Parnassian sonnet from the day before yesterday, all show an equally thriving germination. In every era there are men endlessly capable of the obvious.

Every philosophy is conceived in the very substance of a language; it is born in a verbal matter. Translating a philosophy is impossible because we destroy its meaning by removing the linguistic order to which it belongs and to which even the most abstract concepts refer to achieve their full value.

As a political doctrine, traditionalism can have no rigor; the mere fact of presenting itself as a doctrine shows the coexistence of two or more trends within the same political body; but by assuming a polemical attitude, by designating something as its adversary, traditionalism proves its incapacity to integrate these different trends; that is, to be a traditionalism, a doctrine of everything that lives in a nation.

Traditionalism can only be a theoretical stance, the doctrine of historical continuity; it will never be a firm basis for action.

Perhaps it means nothing, but it's amusing to see that the huge development of post offices after 1840 corresponds with a clear decline in epistolary art.

Poor 18th century, devoid of all communication facilities, yet the century of Voltaire and Horace Walpole!

The coexistence of freedom and equality is impossible because, clearly, we do not love freedom, but only to be free.

Desire to be free: indifference to freedom itself. Indeed, if we do not know how to respect the freedom of others, the most excessive tyranny satisfies us, and the most absurd, as long as it does not hinder our own freedom. To obtain what we desire, an act of our freedom, we do not mind using any despotism. In a leveled and egalitarian society, power belongs unrestrictedly to the majority, which always identifies freedom with the fulfillment of its desires. The political, economic, and social fact of equality also tends to create spiritual equality, an inability to differ, and therefore weakens the good conscience of those who disagree, the importance and strength of any minority.

Freedom, as a system, is maintained only when people defend it automatically while exercising their most selfish and egotistical rights.

In a society ordered for freedom, there would be a hierarchy of powers, privileges, and freedoms so that such diversity of situations would prevent any uniformity of desires from ever being realized.

What a sincerely liberal spirit should aspire to is the manifest presence in the political body of those incoherent and contradictory appetites for freedom, whose opposition breeds an envious vigilance of freedoms and from whose harmony and balance can only arise the guarantee of real and sovereign freedom.

God is a necessity for the critic, the Versönungspunkt of all the irreducible differences of the universe. The critic is the asymptote of God; what the critic seeks is the point of view of God.

Sad poverty of love. In front of a woman's body, the greatest excesses are insufficient. All obscene gestures, everything that an exasperated imagination suggests, are ridiculously inadequate to the unsatisfied violence of our desire. Not of the distance between beings I speak, of the impenetrable difference that separates them, but of the body with its difficult and hard breathing. What we yearn for, what a naked and abandoned body demands, is something made of all things filthy. The natural, the common, seem unbearably easy. Ah! To lose oneself in a dense, dark, and carnal jungle.

We aspire to demonic possession, but we only make love.

Society is created against the family, and a greater intensity of social feeling corresponds to a greater disintegration of the family complex.

Every moment can be an eternity, for eternity is not of the order of time, but of the order of intensity.

Adaptation is not a mysterious process: it is the disappearance of certain effects when certain causes disappear, and when certain causes appear, the appearance of certain effects.

Its reason is mysterious, but not its nature.

Extreme pragmatism of Goethe: was fruchtbar ist, allein ist wahr. Truth, undoubtedly, is a category of the individual, not because he produces or engenders it, but because he alone perceives it. Spiritual fecundity is not the foundation of truth, merely its sign and its image: was wahr ist, allein ist fruchtbar.

Truth is not, beyond things, their scheme or intellectual formula: truth is the name of the reality that we perceive in its fullness of reality.

Since the economic order is not an independent order, no economic causality is inevitable. Its laws are valid within each temporal system, but there is no continuity from one system to another. Its laws are always realized, but they are not always the same laws: the diversity of historical conditions, which constitutes their concrete axiomatics, engenders a diversity of consequences.

No economic law is absolute, yet it admits no exceptions within a given economic order.

The intervention of facts, which belong to those orders on which the economic order depends, breaks the continuity between temporal systems and creates new universes of economic relations.

A vulgar error is to see spiritual generation in the image and likeness of scientific causality, thus seeking an identity where there is only a relationship of condition to conditioned with all the spontaneity, diversity, and uncertainty such a relationship implies.

Action, more than knowledge, brings man closer to his true being.

Critics err when they become indignant because the life and work of an author differ from each other. They accuse him of irony, duplicity; they declare impossible the sincerity of one who denies, with every one of his actions, each of his words.

However, work and life are not reciprocal translations of themselves: the work does not reveal life, nor is life the substance of the work. Biographical criticism is valuable as a simple approximation but reaches only the first truths.

Work and life are manifestations of a third reality, and it is this reality that each translates, following its own demands and often immeasurable ones to the others. Work and life do not oppose, then, but integrate, and strive to systematically symbolize the essence of being.

Intellectually, fruits do not allow us to induce the tree, nor the tree to deduce the fruits; tree and fruits fulfill, each according to its diverse nature, their duty to realize a secret power that transcends them.

All knowledge has its flavor, its weight, and its smell; when we strip these away, nothing persists but an ineffective and fragile reflection. A novel sometimes awakens more numerous and richer thoughts than a purely intellectual work, perhaps because the novel tends to present something concrete, whereas an abstract work only offers one of the multiple directions of something concrete.

Allegory and symbol denote the same attitude: the symbol that its author considers as such is allegory.

To accurately understand what total personality is, it is advisable not to isolate the self from the indefinite multiplicity of what is mine. The ultimate and fundamental element of the self will always escape, and states of consciousness will seem to be the definitive term of psychological analysis. Being the object of investigation identical in totality to the subject who undertakes it, it can never reveal itself, and will only discover its peripheral elements: that part of the self where the identity of subject and object is only partial.

All scientific psychology is essentially false because it wants to conceive as an object that which by nature consists precisely of being a subject.

The mediocrity of all political life finds some exceptions in our time. Certain men have devoted themselves to political tasks with such absolute dedication that from this unrestricted giving of themselves, from this rejection of anything that could distract them from their goal, emerges the image of a pure life and almost religious recollection. The communist militant, before his victory, is perhaps the only human type of our time that deserves respect.

To be able to think, it seems necessary for thought to be partial, narrow, and unfair.

There is a passion for justice, exasperated and boundless, that paralyzes all action. Thought, finding nowhere but a partial absence of error, becomes restless and resigns.

Philosophical themes admit only ejaculatory lyrics.

The world seduces us primarily when to the vain dreams it offers, it adds the tenacious nostalgia for its non-existence.

Plato’s dialectical process, does it belong to the thinking that discovers or to the thinking that communicates? Socrates says he knows nothing; but if he knows nothing, how does he know that what his interlocutor proposes is false? How does he measure the error? Against what does he compare the truth? What is his “clare et distincte”?

Strange Socrates, were you just pretending to be ignorant? Did the oracle betray your ironic silence?

We should avoid thinking against something or someone; nothing falsifies thought so much, nor ages it so quickly.

Pelagianism is unsustainable, and everywhere we see the triumph of the injustices of grace.

Proofs have neither value nor importance; they are merely the framework of our ideas.

Truth has a thousand aspects, error is single.

There are no absolute errors, only narrow truths. The absolute error is inconceivable, it would be a pure affirmation of nothingness, and thus a nothing itself.

Every meaningful proposition is a truth —truths, however, of different orders and of varying value. But an absurd proposition means nothing and is mere disorder of figures or sounds.

We say that a proposition is false when beyond it we glimpse another proposition of a more general or deeper truth.

The being that scientific psychology tries to build is capable of everything except feeling, wanting, and thinking. Yes, although momentarily we forget the existence of epistemological problems, that is if we come to absentmindedly accept as absolute and ultimate the postulates of science, we will no longer be able to escape its conclusions, nor reasonably reject its results.

The theory of science that carries with it a definitive philosophy determines today its rank and place.

When a single feeling invades us and occupies us, the universe reduces for us to the dimension of that lonely feeling; but it is not only the diversity of the world that struggles, the intensity and richness of that same feeling lean on it, since the vigor of every assertion, even more than what it denies, depends on the need in which it finds itself to maintain its denial tense and vibrant.

The social state does not create, but favors, such or such type of man.

Let us ensure that our love for diversity does not reach the excess of loving, for its novelty, that form which will destroy diversity.

It was not against feudalism that the French Revolution was made, but against its lack.

Among equals, force establishes right, because there, and there alone, is force quality, that is what distinguishes.

For many, communism is a Christianity devoid of transcendence. In reality, it is a mysticism of pure immanence.

Communism, more than the theory of a social class or an intellectual type, is the theory of a part of the spirit, of all spirit. Reason is the act of the spirit that reflects on its previous actions, just as method follows thought and does not engender it, but only justifies it before its own tribunal.

Morality simultaneously emanates from social conditions, the degree of energy of a race, and the irreducible attitude of the individual.

As the state grows, the individual diminishes.

For a false sociological theory to find a society that verifies its claims, it suffices for it to become doctrine and be preached with sufficient vigor.

Every assertion about a way of being of man tends to create in man that way of being.

Our knowledge of nature does not transform nature, but our power over it; however, our knowledge of man transforms man and thus, our definition is enough for the defined object to acquire new characteristics, which modify it and call for a new definition. The definition of man creates man, and is therefore an endless process.

The skepticism of a society and uncertainty about its destiny allow for the existence of the individual. Any society that believes itself to be the owner of its history, secure in its purposes, convinced of the excellence of its principles, and persuaded it possesses the truth, tyrannizes and oppresses. As science already threatens us with an impressive set of truths, the society that embraces them may, by employing some dishonest extrapolations, transform them into the instrument of unlimited despotism. Doubt and a metaphysical irrationalism are necessary conditions for the appearance and survival of the individual.

The giant state is not an abstract entity; it is an immense sum of small wills. If the state is large, it is not because the wills that compose it are large, but because there are many such wills. Wills cannot be large because the more wills there are in the composition of the state, the smaller these wills are, since they mutually hinder, obstruct, and limit each other; but the more numerous and smaller they are, the greater their power and collective force.

Thus, the participation of a large number of wills in the government of a state inevitably engenders absolute tyranny and absolute mediocrity.

Beings who surrender to automatism increasingly resemble each other. It is not impossible to conceive of a limit where unrestricted automatism would produce absolute identity, where "distincti non discreti" would be abolished in a "discreti non distincti," which could serve as a definition of absolute matter.

The logic of systems differs from the logic of notions and concepts. One is the logic of concrete and living thought, spontaneous and unpredictable; while the other is the logic of the results of thought, the logic of its products, necessary logic, abstract and automatic.

If the current totality of the world were identical to its concrete totality, philosophy would be inconceivable. If the concrete totality were given, seeming would be identical to being, and thus, knowledge would lack meaning since the how and why would dissolve into total-being-there.

Seeming is the material of our thought and being its end.

Scientific truths are specific; they are the truths of a particular order; they are not the truths of the entire nature of man, but the truths of a defined methodological scheme. The most significant achievements of scientific psychology have been made in the field of psychopathology, because the distinctiveness of pathological consciousness allows for the omission of subjective considerations.

The transitive relationship of cause and effect is rare in history. The type of historical relationship is the functional relationship that enables us to determine the reciprocal variability of two phenomena and thus suspect their connection with a third term, perhaps unknowable.

As to be heard, it is necessary to repeat and repeat, we who are annoyed by repetition must resign ourselves to not being listened to.

Only glory unjustly acquired is more vain than glory acquired justly. What matters is not to acquire glory, but the things through which glory is acquired.

True greatness does not need others to behold it; its own light suffices and its own fervor.

There is no science but of what is, of the fact; there is no science of the possible. The possible is not an object of science, except when it ceases to be merely possible and being an object of science transforms the possible into fact, into something that is. Pure possibility, what only can be, what by essence is not, escapes all kinds of reason. Reason denies it or ignores it. Yet, possibility is will.

Among two equally possible facts that exclude each other, only one can occur. Science, ignorant of pure possibility, believes that the impossibility of simultaneously realizing both facts subreptitiously affirms the necessity of the very fact that is realized.

Nevertheless, the disjunctive demand is purely formal and refers only to the impossibility of coincidence; it touches nothing of the inherent nature of the facts and demands nothing concerning their existential probability. The error here consists in transforming a mere demand of form into a demand of substance.

The Church Fathers critique wealth from the perspective of the individual; they condemn it not so much because it is unjust but because it is the greatest obstacle to human perfection and salvation.

Socialists, on the other hand, do not condemn wealth itself, but its inequitable distribution, the unequal manner of participating in it.

A society in which all men were wealthy would not only not be repugnant to socialism, but on the contrary: it would realize the ideal it proposes. However, nothing is more repugnant to authentic Christianity, nothing more contrary to its spirit, more foreign to its nature.

More than a critique of wealth, Christianity is a praise of poverty and, above all, more than a critique of wealth, it is a critique of the rich.

Christianity aims to create a society of the poor and socialism a society of the rich; the former sees in wealth its obstacle, the latter its goal.

Certain literature belongs more to sociology than to aesthetics. Purely literary books help understand a political system better even than theoretical books that expose and explain it. For example, "Beaux Quartiers" by Aragon allows us to understand communism better than any book of doctrine or history, because it teaches us what world view engenders it, or the angle under which a certain aspect of the world that demands communism is revealed.

We continually forget the fundamental principle of the universe: ## Page 43

The universe teaches us that balance in everything concrete arises from the fusion of several opposing elements.

Comte's theological state, which he describes as abstract and where "the human spirit primarily directs its inquiry towards the intimate nature of beings... towards absolute knowledge," is more than just a stage in evolutionary terms or chronological phase. It is a psychological or analytical state, a way to be possible at any time. Furthermore, it shouldn't be called abstract or fictitious, but rather concrete and real, because it represents the symptom of certain minds' need to find in each thing a presence more than a relationship.

The sentimental importance of a doctrine depends on the number of consciousnesses that share it, while its intellectual importance depends only on the truth it contains.

Nothing is more terrible in human feelings than the impossibility of eliminating the most criminal without also destroying the promise of the noblest.

True politics is the science of various conditions necessary for the emergence of strong individualities.

Context alone gives meaning to text: the value of a word depends on who utters it.

Metaphysics is both the science of being and the form of individual substance; pure knowledge of ultimate reality and pure biography of its author. This is evident itself, and the apparent contradiction that troubles us stems from an inadequate consideration of the real being. Indeed, the real being isn't the general being of science, the pure generality considered in its sole attribute of existence, but the particular and concrete being, fleshly and impure.

For most people, maturing means not only giving up what they dreamed of but also what they were.

If genius is childhood that lasts, intelligence is youth that does not die.

To live is to compromise, and to compromise is to degrade oneself. Heroism and nobility of the soul are forms of stubbornness. Fanaticism is the root of all greatness.

What's surprising is not selfishness, but its perpetual failure.

Only mediocrity sacrifices itself for others; great spirits sacrifice themselves to their pride, ambition, or dreams.

We should not think for our time or against our time, but outside of our time. And if this is impossible, what does it matter? For it is above all a principle requirement and a method rule.

The value of an idea is not measured by the importance of the role it plays.

True greatness lies only in the man and the work, not in the results. Neither failure nor success, neither truth nor error produce or measure it.

The truth of an idea matters less than the force, sincerity, elegance, or nobleness of its author.

Not seeking the truth is a sign of mediocrity; but finding it is no mark of greatness.

There is a way of making mistakes and erring that reveals the depth and dignity of a soul better than any correctness. ## Page 45

Man does not aspire to be freed, but to submit; the very truth he seeks cannot be anything but the purest face of necessity when found.

Of all despotisms, the most atrocious is that of the truth. What pretexts could we invent to reject it? What justifications could we find for our repugnance?

Our freedom depends on our ignorance as our greatness depends on our weakness.

What we seek makes us great and what we find makes us mediocre.

Philosophy should only describe; but if it wishes to preach, let it preach the eternal.

Seeking the solution to the social problem, i.e., aspiring to a perfect and definitive balance, is an absurd yearning because it presupposes that there exists an essential order of society, when in reality there are as many possible orders as there are societies and almost as many as there are individuals.

A parliament is not an instrument of government, but a mechanism for the acquisition of power. A social class or group of men creates the parliament to wrest power from another class or group, but not to govern. While power is divided, the parliament thrives on this undecided conflict but dies from its triumph when, by taking unrestricted control of the legislative function (the essence of power, according to Bonald), the majority party within it acquires full power. The sovereign parliament is then no longer anything but a superseded stage in the acquisition of power, and the majority party rushes to abolish it, more or less discreetly, to govern directly from the executive power.

To absolve or to condemn, it is not enough to know whether they are oppressors or oppressed. What is necessary to judge them is what they do and above all what they are.

Perception gives us a real object, but not the object in its entirety, and therefore our universe is both real and incoherent.

The catastrophic conception of history, which thinks in blocks of civilizations, seems to me the hyperbole of individual contempt and excessive veneration for the collective.

Humanitarianism is the humanism of fools.

The love they have for the man of the future is made up of their hatred for the man of flesh and bone. Thus, the phantom of the future they dream of is made from the substance of their failures and defeats.

Prophets and reformers always forget that it is the man they criticize who can only create the society they dream of, and therefore the social reality of tomorrow cannot essentially differ from the social reality of today.

Humanity is constituted by the union of something always identical to itself with something essentially diverse. The form of every reality is the synthesis of the temporal and the eternal. Attempting to analyze this synthesis is an absurd endeavor, because reality does not lie in one of the isolated terms, but precisely arises in the concrete presence of the synthesis. Thus, in literature, regionalism fails with its exclusive attention to the immediate and mere surface, as does the neoclassicism of epigones with its empty schematism, where the absurd attempt to realize the human in its purity and generality expires.

Science shuns any explanation of the immediate why. Science justifiably avoids any immediate explanation of the "why", as in its attempt to reduce diversity to unity, "why" only makes sense when it is applied to that unity.

For pluralism, there's a possible "why" for every object; for science, there is only one: that of the entire universe.

Science is a monistic ontology—irrational, contingent, and meaningless.

No doubt science is true, but if it were as definitive as it claims, its very existence would be impossible. Science is the fruit of those attributes of being which it indeed denies: it is engendered by spirit and fertilized by an absolute moral obligation.

Usually, skepticism underpins liberalism, but our uncertainty need not be the sole reason for our intellectual benevolence and generosity. A genuine intellectual liberalism — generous yet strict, broad yet severe — requires a metaphysical pluralism as its foundation.

Contact with a work may not differ from contact with one of those essential human experiences, such as love or death.

A mind has the same fertility as an essence, and the life of a work is more intense than ordinary life.

Adventure in a library lacks prestige; however, in the world, adventure is rare, generally mediocre, and usually either avoided or ignored by those who encounter it.

"What life teaches us" is a topic of popular rhetoric; not only does life teach nothing, it muddies and erases the confused yet sharp intuitions of our youth.

It's rare for a man not to sacrifice his unstable, uncertain, treacherous, and noble adolescence for the blind and clumsy security of his mature years.

Influence differs from imitation as gesture differs from the necessity that demands it. One who imitates reacts as the imitated once did; the influenced reacts as might have the one who influenced them.

The purpose of pure prose is to communicate an objective idea, one whose importance is independent of whoever proposes or utters it. The goal of literary prose is to propose a subjective idea, one whose significance depends on what it means to the writer.

The objectivity or subjectivity of an idea are merely directions of the spirit: objectivity and subjectivity are tendencies or nuances, variations in intensity or direction of a thought that transcends these categories. An objective idea originates and refers externally, proposing external facts as such, finding the importance of the referent term predetermined by nature or society—a toothache, an earthquake, a social convention, a political revolution.

A subjective idea has an external referent but an internal origin; it proposes an object solely because the subject implies, requires, and demands it, distinguishing it from Pascal or any generic apologetics manual.

An object becomes poetic if the poet perceives it as belonging to "mine" or "yours"; it turns prosaic when perceived as "his", revealing the third-person pronoun.

The overwhelming satisfaction of the public with a foolish movie is enough to cure anyone of their reformist utopias.

Nothing is more common in politics than the contradiction between desired ends and the means proposed to achieve them; nonetheless, eliminating this inconsistency in any doctrine should be easy indeed.

Indeed, if the reasons leading us to accept certain morals (and politics is but the social aspect of morality) belong to an individual order and are personal categories, the means ## Page 49

To achieve these moral ends, the means are impersonal relationships susceptible to generalized and abstract consideration. Thus, even though the moral stance may elude the jurisdiction of refutatory dialectic, the social mechanism that should be established to fulfill the postulates of such a moral attitude can indeed be subject to precise definitions.

Every speculative system can be extended to its limit in its own domain; but in practical terms, one quickly falls into absurd errors if the interference from different orders is forgotten.

In case there exists an "essential and natural order of human society," it is not an inviolable order like the set of laws governing celestial mechanics.

Therefore, a social institution like the family does not entail a necessity similar to breathing, for instance.

Indeed, this order can only be the condition of a specific social state; violating it, however, might involve the destruction of everything coexisting within it. Thus, this order may not be essential for man as an organism to survive, but it is crucial to all that is distinctly human in man.

Historical materialism is not dangerous because it is false, but because its limited truth is so obvious and clear that next to it, any distinct doctrine seems merely sophistry and subtle deception. The complete truth derives less from its crude evidence than from the fleeting and fragile light of various considerations that nearly eliminate historical materialism when they attempt to complement it.

The truth of a system is immanent to the totality of the system and cannot be extracted by anyone.

The vulgarity of life is, in part, a reflection of the vulgarity of our souls. It is our lazy intelligence, our desire for security, and our horror of the strange, our joyful acceptance of every commonplace, every easy interpretation, every routine triviality that vulgarizes the extravagant and mysterious universe surrounding us.

The impossible fascinates us because it justifies our inertia.

Reading without engagement is nothing more than laborious futility. Every book should present to us the indeterminate face of a destiny, and every reading should leave us richer or poorer, happier or sadder, more secure or more uncertain, but never untouched.

If, upon opening a book, we do not engage with it with either disgust or love, it is better to abandon it until some obscure need or explicit will awakens in our souls the passion illuminated in such reading.

Any book that fails to meet our secret flesh, bare, irritated, and bloody, is merely a temporary refuge.

All wisdom consists in sincerely, freshly, and deeply rethinking commonplaces.

Only to superficial observation do things seem contradictory to each other and mutually exclusive; in truth, everything tends towards its opposite and aspires to realize its antinomic term.

Denial crowns affirmation, which seemingly excludes, so that it might sovereignly fulfill its essence. It is thus in that obscure negative half of the universe that its luminous portion discovers the fullness of its meridian promises.

As the intensity of our occupation with an object grows, the motives that initially sparked our interest fade, to be replaced by different ones, and as our involvement prolongs, by contrary motives.

Every refined passion alters its former nature, so much so that from the most innocent affection arise those aberrations that terrify a people. However, the alteration is apparent, and identity persists beneath the diverse surface. To satisfy the same passion, different objects are required, but in the end it is not enough that they are merely different; it is imperative that they be precisely contrary to the first.

Goodness extends into evil and culminates in it, for every demon is nothing but the excessive and disorderly presence of a god.

Man is incapable of gratuitous acts, incapable of disinterested curiosity. The root of science is not curiosity, but a restless dissatisfaction; all appetite for knowledge dies when man is self-sufficient.

Anything that satisfies us resolves problems with which it has no relation at all.

We are so unhappy that good digestion is enough for all moral nuance or intellectual subtlety to seem fictitious and hollow.

Common sense is the sense we enjoy when we are common and vulgar.

Dignity and love are inversely proportional.

Love grows from all the lowliness it demands, and its intensity is a function of the animality to which it reduces us.

Perhaps love between woman and man arises so that something compensates for the dark acts they have been accomplices in.

The excesses of love stem from its insufficiency, and it is in search of the lying and unforgettable promises of its dawn that we venture into the dense carnal jungle.

A truth clearly perceived exhausts our spirit: once formulated in a few words (and the clearer, the more concise), only rhetorical development and emphatic redundancy remain.

Sophistry is our favorable climate, the soil where our spirit reaches its greatest fertility.

A passion that invents reasons, an unconfessable desire that seeks justification, in short, every secret longing to twist the truth, are the sure springs of our intelligence.

An unlimited contempt for truth as well as undue reverence equally sterilize us.

There are more than one god hidden in the secret paths of hell.

So high are the mountains that surround us that sometimes we must turn our backs on the truth, like the dawn, to see its morning light in the west.

Some confuse life with experience, forgetting that eyes serve men to not see, ears to not hear, and the occupations of life to drown out the memory of those truths that surprised them unawares.

Life is the guillotine of truths.

The difference between the intelligent man and the fool consists only in that the former spends his life trying to provide good arguments for ideas similar to those of the latter.

Men have the same yearnings, but while some simply embrace them, others need to invent reasons to do so.

The depth of our consciousness today hides such cold, definitive, and desolate despair that any meditation on providence seems like an obsolete and cruel game. It is strange that only our skepticism prevents blasphemy, and that faith and piety today do not have a more secure and better ally than the vacillation of our souls.

I have always found it sufficient to glimpse the landscape of desolate consciousness to feel myself drawn by an irresistible wind of confidence to the feet of God. ## Page 53

If all our wisdom lies in accepting the inevitable, then all our nobility consists of rejecting it.

How rare are those who do not declare as trivial the things they are incapable of achieving, using their own impotence as a measure of value.

Nothing reveals the vulgarity of a soul as much as the inability to admire an adversary.

To admire without envy and without hatred is the only way to reclaim the magnificence of the world whose possession was snatched from us by our mediocrity.

But our cunning pride tirelessly conspires to cloud with its slanderous judgments the lucid and cold mirror of that intelligence which alone restores our lost inheritance.

As we begin to age, what displeases us most in the young is our impotence.

No being awakens our hatred as much as the one who fulfills the promises we made to ourselves at the thresholds of life.

To admire greatness when there is greatness in our souls is a natural, spontaneous, and easy gesture. The painful task, the hard endeavor, is to admire it when there is nothing in us but a mere longing and like the hollow form of an absence.

Every baseness of others awakens a secret sympathy because it flatters our pride.

Scoundrels, forgers, cheaters, and generally all those dedicated to the mediocrity of evil, are necessary for the good hygiene of the social body because they allow men to live without having to despise themselves excessively. The new morality is a morality of deeds; the right intention no longer justifies a dissenting attitude, it is not an excuse; and while some may offer benign pity, others condemn its mistakes as if they were the result of the worst intended malice.

Solidarity, reciprocity, sociability, these are the terms used to lend a semblance of reason to the new moral; but they hardly conceal its flaw and central vice: the lack of a final term and an irrefutable basis.

Indeed, if man is the end of man himself, a limitless reciprocity arises from this principle, a reciprocity that comes from nowhere and leads nowhere, since each term exists only for its reciprocal term which in turn exists only for the former, like the indefinite mutual reflection of two empty mirrors.

Man can never truly believe that serving another man constitutes the total fulfillment of his essence, because the other man is essentially identical to him, and he finds nothing within himself that could merit the service of another. Either an immeasurable self-sufficiency underlies the new moral, or it inevitably perishes. To exist, it requires a monstrous selfishness that is the very negation of its principle.

The pagan moral or the Christian moral, the moral that some of us still hold inscribed in the deepest secret of our flesh, starts from the individual, from his perfection or salvation, from the nobility of his soul or his immortality.

We must act, because we must be; our soul lives in an endless process, yet it has an aim in each of its victories. Every moment can be its peak moment. Nothing can abolish the fullness achieved at each instant, even though a richer fullness always awaits. Ultimately, this old moral is founded on the personal existence of each being and thus acquires the unassailable solidity of its own foundations.

Its purpose is a value, distinct from itself, but realizable only in the soul: it is greatness, or goodness, or the will of God.

We aspire to our own good, undoubtedly; but this good is not our earthly and mundane existence, it is what in it can partake of an absolute essence. ## Page 57

What awakens our admiration, stirs our envy, and to all greatness we offer the tribute of a jealous vigilance. We meditate upon ourselves, on our powers and weaknesses; our current being is never enough for us, in our eyes we are merely promises. But every young egoism is an egoism rich with future prestiges, it is love for upcoming harvests and secret vintages.

Adolescence is perpetually restless because it lives an incessant adventure; our ambition demands tenacious and diligent occupation. No being, no thing, no event is indifferent to the young, as everything can divert them from their secret enterprise. Everything thus becomes a problem.

Life is a secret liturgy that the officiant must discover while officiating.

Dangerously confusing civilization with the tools that facilitate the utilization of the world, we have come to attribute to its fragile substance the robust and tenacious life of these tools.

Man hardly forgets or loses the various techniques he invents; too many reasons conspire to save them, but the impersonal nature of the technical fact and its susceptibility to be transmitted without residue from one intelligence to another rescues them from any shipwreck.

Civilization, however, is fragile with all the fragility of feelings, ephemeral like them, unimitable like them; no one can teach it and only those who are born loyal to its light learn it.

We could witness an unsuspected fading of civilization amidst an unparalleled flourishing of techniques, because civilization is merely a quality of the soul, a spiritual temper, it is like a direction or course of being, like attention and intention.

Vulgarly, we believe ourselves heirs of all ages because we have collected their remains; but he who seizes a corpse does not own the spirit that inhabited it, nor is the vagabond lodging in ruins lord of their extinguished splendors and dead prestiges. 59

Even if I imagine them fulfilled, not the deeds in their lamentable earthly reality, but the promises in the infinite seduction of their mornings, I see nothing but new mediocrities and fresh ashes upon the ashes of other centuries.

More than any other human activity, political activity seems to me devoid of any hard substance; even in the most vain intellectual activity lies a more ardent fruit. Perhaps everything we can do despairs the cold spirit capable of abstracting itself momentarily from the routine task of living, but even certain failures leave with their bitterness a secret pride, and only political activity is mediocre in what it achieves and mediocre in what it aspires to.

It is common to confuse our ideas with our feelings and believe, thus, that we have said something new, when we have only expressed our love or our antipathy.

Life and art are, above all, techniques of suggestion, and supreme skill consists in compelling the viewer to complete with his imagination the gaps in the object we present to him. Since no material object can compare to the object of the imagination, rich in prestige and unlimited in promises, the cunning of the artist always uses the richness of others' imaginations to clothe the nakedness of his work. The social prestige of an individual and the importance of the place he occupies in the imagination of men are acquired through allusion and suggestion, more easily than through authentic virtues and undeniable merits. He who aspires to create himself into a character and fulfill himself in myth must practice a hypocritical technique of premeditated reticence and studied confessions, to awaken the dormant swarm of the imagination.

Every triumph that is prolonged culminates in a failure, and only he who dies in the meridian exaltation of his victory ignores the horror of surviving his stellar hour.

A mysterious law dictates that the full significance of a gesture precedes its material fulfillment and that all value is nullified in the total realization of the acts that embody it.

Intellectual analysis, by proceeding unrestrictedly, eliminates its own object.

The pleasure of writing, when we lack all talent and ambition, is the pleasure of clearly knowing our ideas. To put down our thought is perhaps to create it; at any rate, it is to acquire full awareness of it. The vague and confused idea is merely a promise; a promise unfulfilled and soon forgotten if words do not detain and fix it. It is true that almost all our ideas seem diminished when written, and when extracted from the changing, rich, and fertile context of thought, they lose the life that stirs them in the warm shadows of consciousness; but it is only when clothed in verbal flesh that we can know them and thus either reject or embrace them according to their excellence.

Pleasure or duty satisfy equally; what annoys without remedy is the imposed obligation, the irresistible necessity, everything that does not arise from one's own demand or one's own destiny.

Our ignorance is the fundamental reason for the inevitability of history. Its course is necessary, not because it is impossible for us to modify its laws, but because, by ignoring them, we submit to them blindly. Changing the course of history is easy if we direct our action towards true principles. The power that many men have had would have been enough to produce the most vast transformations if they had applied it to alter certain elementary relations instead of surrendering themselves to thousands of occupations as spectacular as they are vain. Humanity lacks science rather than power, and before its weakness, It is their ignorance that delivers them to the murky demons of history.

The ambition to systematize my ideas intermittently seduces me. However, the evident arbitrariness of all systematic will prevents me from succumbing to a temptation in which I find nothing but the violation of the fragile truth I have perceived.

Every idea is an ephemeral attitude of the spirit.

The truth of an isolated idea does not imply the truth of the method that engenders it or the system that contains it.

A collection of isolated truths is merely the intellectual expression of a sensibility.

If we renounce all systems, we must also renounce attributing importance to our ideas.

Denying every system can be a rational attitude, but being content with merely fleeing from any system is an attitude I consider not rational, but merely my own.

A partial skepticism, stirred by a thousand different convictions, can be refuted in many ways and seems merely whimsical. Yet, a whim is not necessarily an act without reason, but an act whose reason, being singularly profound, eludes us.

My skepticism is not a rejection of all principles, norms, or rules, but the impossibility of accepting rules, norms, or principles from others, and the necessity to create them slowly within the process of my immediate living.

From Pyrrho to Descartes' Discourse on Method, Western thought reveals the same mistrust and suspicion towards societal demands.

The man of spirit refuses to deal with public affairs and demands that he be granted the right, or given permission, to privately engage in his personal task.

Whether for some "Buwweóeiv 21M and Ónuoatebei" is primarily a precautionary measure; for others, "who are neither called by birth nor fortune to handle political affairs," there is true indifference and, finally, in others, we would find manifest hostility.

In any case, social indifference is one of the most respectable positions of our dying civilization and should be defended today as its enemies attack it with unprecedented fury and its defenders abandon it.

Arguments against slavery are valid for those concerned about the condition of the slave; but ineffective in proving the degradation of the civilization founded upon it.

A political system like an aesthetic doctrine has no tribunal other than history: the work itself—its beauty or excellence—is the standard that condemns or absolves them.

We do not ask a political system to bring happiness to mankind, but to contribute to its greatness or, at least, allow it.

Perhaps, after all, the best defense of aristocracies is the evident need to have specialists in the art of living.

The art of living, like all arts, requires some natural disposition, extensive training, and independence from what subjects man to the vulgarity of his animalistic demands.

Living well means turning every necessity into a game adorned with grace, delicacy, and discreet irony.

The most powerful argument in favor of democracy is the failure of its opponents to find a system that replaces it. Despite the impotence of its supporters to discover valid reasons that justify it.

All those whom a god, or a demon, stirs and guides must give up vain political gesturing; and therefore prefer the whims, even wise ones, of the crowd, to the constancy, even clumsy, of an oligarchy.

Political theory is as distinct from creative political activity as aesthetics is from artistic creation. The political theorist who preaches a norm of action imitates the critic who orders and commands.

It's worth remembering here that classic prose tragedy that Brunnetiere recommended and that only Hervieu attempted to write...

Neither ascetic nor aesthete, the humanist secretly respects the former and secretly despises the latter.

To be a humanist is to love men and things without being quite sure they deserve love, and to respect them without being quite sure they deserve respect.

Irony is uncertainty penetrated by sympathy.

When in a society the prodromes of a revolution appear, the disinterested observer finally sees, stripped of disguise and mask, the things that individuals threatened truly value and love.

Our fear betrays our secret loves with precise cruelty.

In order to save his money, the bourgeois begins by sacrificing all possible instruments of his salvation; then he sacrifices that very money to save himself; until his naked stupidity and stupid nudity drag him, both lamentable and comical victim, to a deserved scaffold.

During its one hundred and fifty years of hegemony, the bourgeoisie has not known how to make a single generous gesture. Everything it has conceded to the people, it has done reluctantly and only when the people have been strong enough to demand it.

It has always refused to make those concessions that a minimum of political spirit would have advised.

On the other hand, it has always been ready to abandon, through incompetence or indolence, the most secure levers of power and to grant, out of fear, what was demanded without firmness.

The people have no reason to be grateful to the bourgeoisie: it used them as an instrument in their struggles, exploited them mercilessly, and governed them with bad conscience. If the life of the people has improved during the bourgeois hegemony, and if the improvement is not just a deceptive appearance, its causes have been impersonal, or at most, the work of some bourgeois who left his peers and discovered within himself the irresistible light of new demands.

The bourgeoisie does not know how to command, because it has in its blood the hatred for those who commanded and thus bears, deeply imprinted in its flesh, the scars of its millennial inferiority.

The bourgeois hates power because he knows himself incompetent to command.

The bourgeois knows, though he cannot admit it, that his lifestyle belongs to a politically subordinate type and, unable to consider himself as the end of political activity, either renounces power without resistance or uses it with the cynicism of an insolent slave.

Great souls consume power and wealth to refine the subtle matter of their sovereign exaltations.

A life without principles and rules, subject to mere material needs, subjugated by every whim, is unworthy.

of a rational being and proper to the animal that persists in ignorance of all reason.

Even one who finds no imperative to submit to, my doctrine that can order their conduct, must strive to reduce the chaotic and capricious diversity of their actions into concepts. If a transcendent norm to our existence seems like a mere myth, the intellectual construction of our everyday life, free from any normative tendency, is enough to preserve the dignity of our spirit.

Man does not aspire to be free until he has managed to satisfy his material needs and desires for security. The lowest level of political life is concern for food, shelter, and security, but these are at once its base and its foundations. To achieve them, man sacrifices everything, and it is when they are threatened that deep popular unrest and genuine political anxiety among the masses arise. Freedom, on the other hand, is a subordinate aspiration, a secondary desire; it is the political passion of the rich, the powerful, and the great. The mass, always living on the edge of misery, in an unstable and fragile balance, only when enjoying transient prosperity can become enthusiastic about freedom. The French Revolution is the best argument in favor of the Ancien Régime.

This popular enthusiasm then lacks deep roots; a slight wind stirs it, the mere fear of the storm uproots it. The people are always ready to legitimize any despotism, not only because freedom is usually a useless luxury to them but also because the confidence and firmness that every tyranny needs to feign and the very vigor with which it governs, satisfy the popular hunger for security. Despotism is the natural political form for the crowd.

The ownership of the means of production is the sole guarantee of freedom. Let us say, even excessively: those who do not own land, do not have freedom.

Property, however direct and not indirect; property that the owner manages and not merely possesses through a legal fiction; property that their hands touch and over which their will disposes. All collective wealth, therefore, is an ineffective foundation and nugatory support for individual freedom, since it is not properly wealth that liberates us but its appropriation.

The true owner is not so much the one who transiently uses or abuses, as the one who regulates, limits, determines, and grants the abuse and use. Thus, if a legislative omnipotence capable of constantly modifying customary rights is combined with the collectivization of property, only the community alone or its shameful masters are free, while the individual remains supremely subjugated and subjected.

Freedom is born not just in abundance but in the security of abundance. The well-fed dog dares not be free because the master can condemn him to fast; only the wolf is free during the summer, in the forest populated by defenseless animals.

The spirit tends not to think freely and disinterestedly except when devoid of fears, and thus in our time we are only aided in meditating honestly by cold stoicism or studied frivolity.

Tolerance, benevolence, indifferent sympathy, breadth, and plasticity of intelligence may imply a lamentable degradation of characters.

It is in the harsh features of the face of some excessive adolescent and in the fanatical integrity of his dreams that the purest light of the spirit reveals itself.

When we return from a long journey through various political utopias, we finally recognize with evidence the lamentable insufficiency of all supposed definitive abodes for man. Not only what truly allows the rough and rebellious matter 67

Not only the matter we must work with but also what we invent when a defeat irritates us or a victory exalts us is of insufferable poverty; yet, what frightens us is that these dreams attempt to become reality and seek to abominably prolong themselves in a history eventually subdued.

All value fades away where man settles down. Subjected to time and slaves to its cruel demands, we cannot escape and flee. The eternal dies when it tries to continue in time and merge with our misery.

Man lives in his aspiration to partake in the eternal or from his memory of having participated in it, but his life never identifies with that participation, as he truly achieves it only fleetingly and ephemerally, when, abstracted from all necessary and common life, a mysterious presence enlightens him.

The easy naturalist morality of our vulgar times infallibly trivializes both bodies and souls. An unlimited trust in the benevolence of nature makes us believe that resisting our primitive instincts is an aberration and that asceticism is a harmful and sickly proclivity. Thus, a kind of hygienic paganism has arisen, a rationalistic eudemonism, a doctrine that aims not so much at man's happiness as at his tranquility and comfort, namely, the absence of conflicts. Perhaps this doctrine allows man to be happy, for above all, man flees responsibility since his ambition is satisfied with merely unrestricted indulgence in his material appetites. But those who seek a more noble exaltation and know a nobler idea of man are repulsed by a doctrine that makes intelligence and spirit mere slaves to our elemental animality.

The souls of our contemporaries all identify in equal ease, nothing distinguishes one from another, and they all seem equally neutral, flaccid, and soft. Only those tormented by the multiple demands of the spirit achieve true personality; they alone have strength and rigidity, elasticity, and hardness.

Even the body imitates the soul and receives from it its supreme form: thus we see there insipid bodies in their organic perfection and faces empty of expression or devoid of any disquieting beauty. In contrast, even twisted and deformed bodies reveal the passion that agitates and dominates them. In the features of the face, in the cruel edges, in the hard lines, the spirit betrays its presence and its work, like the water of summer torrents marks the ground with its irresistible erosion.

Praising morality for its aesthetic results is the most impertinent form of immorality.

When an object, a feeling, or an institution has no other argument than its beauty to justify its existence, it heralds its decline and predicts its death. Existence is a merciless struggle of appetites, a devouring hunger, an ambition without rule, shame, or end. The human miracle consists in embroidering, here and there, over this monotonous, bloody, and bestial fabric, some fragile arabesque of beauty or some noble image.

When we are young, we eagerly aspire for morality and history to ratify our ideas; later on, we merely hope they do not refute them.

And when our principles and ideas triumph, nothing disturbs us as painfully as the instability of history; when we find ourselves utterly defeated, the fragility of human affairs and the shifting sands of life are our most secure sources of consolation and confidence.

The victor, or the one who already glimpses his victory, believes in the inevitability of the course of things; the defeated, or the one who senses his defeat, believes, on the contrary, in sovereign chance, in the cunning of existence, and in the miraculous efficacy of the irrational and the free. Every human activity seems capable of generating value, even when we suspect no potential in it, nor find anything that prefigures or announces it. Thus, sexual instinct gives rise to love and war to heroism, like a leafless, dry, and hard tree that appears in the morning light pregnant with unexpected fruits.

Power will always belong to a minority, because there is no comparison between what it means for a thousand individuals to each lose one-thousandth part of an object and for one individual to gain all thousand thousandths of that same object.

The defender defends only an insignificant fraction of power, while the attacker may seize the entire body of total power.

Nothing is less generous than human intelligence; like a cunning and lazy slave, it never works spontaneously but waits to be whipped by necessity or driven by will.

Nothing has been more useful to true philosophy than materialism, because the impropriety of its postulates and the vigor of its assertions, forcing it to examine itself and become aware, have stripped away all its fat and unhealthy corpulence.

True wisdom and true love are a state, a way of being, an attitude, and a situation of the soul; they are neither ideas, principles, nor systems. Undoubtedly both can be translated into words, rise to expression; but if only a great poet can speak of love and only a great writer can convey wisdom, the poet is not necessarily he who has loved most, nor is the writer necessarily the wisest.

He who cannot express himself is not only unknown to the world but also obscure to himself.

Words cleanse the spirit of its confusion and fog. The necessity of a fact is its possibility to be foreseen, and the verification of a forecast engenders necessity.

Chance tends to diminish as predictability increases, and it would be nullified if in the pure intentional act it did not find the perennial and generous spring of unpredictability in the universe.

Chance does not consist in the interference of several independent causal series; the result of that interference is a fact identical to any term of the series and, as a mere result of that interference, has no notional privilege. Chance consists in the interference of one or more causal series with an intentional act.

Perhaps there are two kinds of generalities: one internal to things, the other external to them. One is natural and the other social. Let's call the first idea and the second concept. In the idea, the particular reassumes the fullness of attributes from which its concrete realization strips it; in the concept, the particular is reduced to the attributes chosen by a classificatory purpose.

Anarchic liberalism is that which is based on abstract individuality. Reduced to his schematic individuality, to his pure essence as an individual, man finds himself opposed to any totality, since his definition implies rigorous isolationism. But opposed to everything, man finds himself thus outside of everything, consequently lost in a social world where he can find neither shelter nor refuge, where nothing protects him and where nothing channels, systematizes, or orders his life.

We must never tire of repeating that freedom is not a good in itself but a good as a condition for all greatness, and therefore it is an evil when its facilities authorize the relaxation of the soul. The idea that endures and lives carries the impurity of fact.

The concept is not constructed by elevating a multitude of individual terms to a single notion, but rather by abstracting analytically what is common among them.

The conceptual process aims to create an essence and only achieves a definition.

The point of view of pure criticism, that is, from which everything that exists finds justification, is merely a hyperbole of reason. Practically every viewpoint, when formulated, when existing concretely, opposes and by opposing integrates itself as a new term, but only as a term, in the series of possible positions. History is the theodicy of criticism.

Sensualism ends in atomism because it analyzes sensations, but if it accepts sensation as a total datum, it is susceptible to legitimate metaphysical construction.

In our absurd universe, the denial of the natural and spontaneous course of things is the sovereign source of value. Contradicting nature is the supreme rule and all that constitutes human greatness stems from rejection. Man is great because he is capable of aberrant and perverse acts.

When a relationship is established between two beings, a portion of their freedom disappears, and a portion of the relationship becomes impersonal.

Scientific assertions are true or false because they are statements of facts, judgments of existence, and truths of being; philosophical assertions are neither true nor false, but simulated or authentic. They refer to a meaning of things, to a sense, which cannot be refuted or refute, because it is a perception of essence. As the perception of one essence contrary to a previously perceived essence does not annul it, nor does the perception of an identical essence verify it, since the evidence of each essence's perception is internal to the act itself that perceives, the criterion for philosophical assertion is the authenticity of the spiritual experience that engenders it.

The historical importance of a being and its intimate nature are not necessarily identical.

There is an abstract historical determinism, an inner necessity to the act, an analytical conclusion of a concrete postulation.

Pure historical determinism and its logical schematism are falsified when realized through the individual.

A scientific morality, morality as art dependent on a science of customs, is absurd because the moral imperative commands not a pure act, but a meaningful act. “Every moral judgment presupposes the perception of an essence and therefore something that transcends mere knowledge of existence.

There is no truth independent and distinct from the effort through which it is achieved.

It is true that the universe presents itself as a system of thesis and antithesis, but it is false that contradictions resolve harmoniously into progressive syntheses.

The synthesis is not the conclusion of the dialectical process, but its starting point. The synthesis is the concrete object itself, dense reality rich in contradictions, and the dialectical process follows it as an attempt at constructive analysis of the object. Thus, synthesis is a union of opposites prior to the dialectical act and not a resolution of opposites into a term that transcends them. The dialectical analysis of a concrete situation is a methodological artifice of a historically informed investigation. The internal multiplicity of synthesis is susceptible to an infinity of hypothetical constructions.

Concrete synthesis is at once the problem and its solution.

If essence does not imply existence, if every ontological argument fails, perhaps pure existence does not imply any essence either. Pure being is external to everything, since it lacks all attributes, and a metaphysics of pure being would be mathematical spatialism.

The influence exerted is what places a philosopher in time. The essence of all thought is eternal, but its influence, that is, what the mediocre grasp, falls among temporal things.

There is a concrete adherence to the idea that places us beyond all consideration of motives.

Everything we contemplate from the outside falls under number, and is mathematical.

The ultimate fact is not thought itself, but something that precedes it, a kind of pure passive consciousness, merely "awareness," like a flickering light over an abyss.

When the solutions proposed by a philosopher seem confusing, we must, to understand them, strive to determine the concrete and fully individual problem that the philosopher wanted to answer.

He who neither aims to teach nor preach need not worry about science itself but only about his own science. It's not what man knows but what I can know that should matter to me. Knowing is an ambition that any intellectual hypocrisy falsifies, as this purpose is fulfilled only when the problem completely dissolves into intelligible meanings. I believe that knowledge is only experimental, yet I think the total experience differs from common experience and requires a new theory of perception.

The individual in science is merely the point of intersection of countless causal series; the individual in philosophy is an absolutely given reality.

In the silence of satisfied flesh, the powers of the spirit awaken.

Every error, like every truth, brings its own certainty; for those who err, a pure light illuminates their mistakes.

The philosopher, within the state, is either king or parasite; he is made to command and govern supremely or to live indifferent to everything.

The work of art is an absolute in our world, independent and autonomous, without roots and connections, a pure object offered to our hunger for God.

To militant politics, as to aesthetic controversy, we escape only when we understand that no ideal endures over time, and therefore, it is not worth fighting for such wavering victories.

Political action can be justified when the necessity of events seems to allow a state according to our secret desire; but neither the struggle against the inevitable nor the effort to maintain a state indifferent to all nobility deserve to distract us from our secure pleasures.

Reformers are only bearable when dead. "All life 'imperializes'. Everything that lives aspires to live infinitely. Nothing spontaneously sets limits for itself:

No harmony results from mutual respect or reciprocal restraint; harmony arises from hostile interference and a transient balance of forces.

Feelings aspire to unlimited satisfaction, that is, they aspire to subsist alone.

Everything 'autocratizes' in the world and everything 'absolutizes'; each thing longs to possess the totality of things, to be the totality of things, to be everything, and to be alone.

Everything tends not towards God, but to be God.

Those who initiate revolutionary movements and achieve the first triumphs are generally incapable of maintaining power. The enthusiasm necessary to rebel is not enough to consolidate a government.

A lengthy revolutionary period with its multiple vicissitudes and changing circumstances successively eliminates the various revolutionary attitudes until only those men capable of circumstance remain, that is, those in whom not an idea but an intelligence, a power to be everything to everyone, predominates.

Mediocrity does not consist in accepting the commonplace as a destination, but in taking it as a starting point. It is not mediocre who ends up there by his own paths, but he who settles there, lives there, and dwells there.

Perhaps it is a vain endeavor to yearn for realities that transcend that brilliant and polished surface of the world where colors, sounds, and words establish their sufficient architectures.

Originality sometimes arises from the scarcity, stinginess, and meanness of our nature; it comes not so much from what we are, as from what we cannot be: not so much from what we do, as from what we cannot do. Impotence, by limiting, creates and transforms an impossibility into a positive characteristic.

The interest of certain styles stems from the writer's inability to say certain things or to say them in a particular way. Believing in progress, in the realization of a state that becomes more perfect each day, closer to our desires, is impossible for me. This is because I see that the noble qualities of man, far from forming a system and converging towards a single point, are contradictory and divergent, mutual enemies that require the death of one another to flourish. Thus, every progress and prosperity entail decay and regression.

Man does not achieve nobility without suffering, nor happiness without mediocrity. But as suffering soon drives him away from nobility and mediocrity quickly tires him of happiness, he ceaselessly rebels only to ceaselessly submit again.

Humanity oscillates between mediocrity and horror, and from horror back to mediocrity.

The narrow streets of the city show puddles of blood coagulated under the relentless sun, and heavy peasant carts carry heaps of corpses like a monstrous and lamentable fertilizer.

But more than those drained bodies, more than the abolished brotherly laughter, and even more than the stifled hopes, it is the agonizing certainty of having seen a way of life—noble, generous, and fruitful—perish, which torments the refugee on the path to exile.

Not all deaths are equally mortal: a divine corpse refutes death, and the corpse of a victor ennobles the sadness of triumph.

Men only know the icy chill of defeat when the ideas they sanctified with their blood perish. When high walls crumble, when reddish glows illuminate the squares, when screams drown out other screams, but when there still persists in the folds of history the ideal city that sought realization in the burned city, man suffers and weeps before the scattered human ashes, yet he does not despair in his agony. Only those who witness with their mortal eyes the irremediable sunset of an idea and the shipwreck of a civilization taste the dregs of disasters and hear the laughter of infernal gods.

Pride is the restorative residue of our abolished glory.

What guides the historian is the structure of the society to which he belongs. In a matrilineal society, the initial chapters of biographies would differ from those in ours.

We should not accept that what lasts a day despises what lasts an instant. Lacking a scale to measure the absolute importance of things, let us declare that everything that provides beauty, or merely interest, to existence is worthy, if not of our respect, at least of our gratitude.

Everyday life, with its family obligations and professional duties, is generally so monotonous and bland that many, upon hearing news of a war, feel confusingly and deliciously exhilarated.

The most serious error we commit in judging political events is to imagine that when a particular doctrine can alone solve the problems posed by men's desires to society at a given time, this doctrine must necessarily triumph. Thus, even though today communism may seem the only adequate solution to the appetite for equality of modern man and the demands of an industrial economy, its victory is not inevitable, since the mediocrity of human ambitions is only comparable to the infinite capacity of man to disregard the instruments apt to satisfy them.

Not only does the moral value of an act depend on the intention with which it is performed, but also its aesthetic and intellectual value. intellectual. The true essence depends on the intention.

The ritual murder, for example, is not an ordinary murder, which its religious intent suggests judging with some benevolence; it is, on the contrary, a sui generis act, with its own meaning, with a particular value, and more akin to a liturgical ceremony like mass than to a vulgar stabbing at a corner.

A man's opinion about his actions is part of the essence of those acts as much or more than the physical gestures in which he performs them.

There are not, in parallel, two distinct universes of human acts: one always identical to itself, composed of the same material realities; another always changing, always diverse, made up of the multiple opinions of men. What exists is a single universe in which these supposedly parallel series intersect, confuse, amalgamate, and mutually determine each other.

There is no Unterbau that opposes an ideology except as a transitory fiction of an analytical purpose.

If mediocre books seem increasingly unbearable to us perhaps it is not so much because our taste is refined and intensified, but because our imagination weakens.

Our youth knows how to read a mediocre book with such rich and generous imagination that the most vulgar matter is clothed in reflections and fires. A common and used adjective then has the freshness of dawn and every noun identifies with the object it designates.

As we still do not live in a universe of pure symbols, of abstract characteristics, any word evokes its sumptuous cortège of images and sensations. A child plays with a broom or a chair because the sclerosis of the imagination has not begun.

The pleasures of literature demand to subsist that the object that produces them emits its radiations with increasing intensity, i.e., that the book is better written, the work more beautiful. And just as at first a few drops of laudanum or a pipe of opium suffice, later, like Thomas de Quincey with his thousands of drops, we find ourselves unable to read anything but Dante or Racine, Milton or Sophocles.

Just as criticism began by dealing with what the poet says and many centuries passed before it became interested in the way he says it, so have we seen in literature the springboard of our dreams before discovering... literature.

The people never rebel against despotism, but against the slavery in which they are poorly fed.

The perfections we find in the beings we love are not fictions of our imagination, but realities whose knowledge is granted as a gift to the intelligence that loves.

The "genius of the species" is not realized through our ignorance but through a fleeting vision granted to us.

Every object contains unsuspected splendors. In all sleeps a god that our love awakens.

To prolong in the gray world of everyday acts the pure vision of a moment, so that it remains tangible and dense, free from the whimsy that granted it and that takes it away...

That this body sleeping abandoned next to ours and that sweet curve that arises from the nape and flows to the belly does not perish.

The criticism that deals with minutiae and details is the only true criticism. When it treats books globally and speaks of authors en bloc, it is nothing more than ineffective rhetoric.

Reducing to a kind of intellectual hedonism the satisfaction we find in understanding, in knowing, in thinking, is an endeavor that seduces us when emphasis and presumption repel us. 83

We explain our hobbies with a minimum of grandiloquent words, without resorting to considerations of boastful sublimity.

But this honest fear misleads us, because mere hedonism is not enough to systematize our stance.

These hobbies and pleasures are not separate from an incessant activity of the spirit that, unsatisfied with passive contemplation, endlessly aspires beyond itself to an ideal of truth, clarity, sincerity, and nobility.

There is something in hedonism that rejects all effort, something that demands we see it as the lowest level of conscious activity, like the step immediately above the tepid waters of unconsciousness, and thus it is difficult to conceive in that state of barely lucid passivity, the agitation, tendencies, and conflicts inherent in intellectual life, even in its most contemplative, isolated, and secluded form.

The loving, attentive, and serious study of nudity contributes as much to our intellectual life as the most severe meditation.

Love that fears certain gestures prepares for its own destruction.

The noble words arranged and ordered by a sovereign spirit hold a sure and evident prestige; but when they pass into our hands, they are glimmers of precious stones in the night, and only our fervent love knows how to extract those fires that illuminate our barren island peace.

The ritual gesture is not symbolic but technical. The gesture is motivated and aimed at an almost pragmatic efficacy. It's not about remembering or suggesting—there’s no aesthetic element here—but about avoiding, allowing, producing, or nullifying concrete effects.

Beauty seems to us like an attribute, a characteristic of certain things, something these things apply, wear like an adjective whose noun they would be; until the unexpected moment when, on the contrary, beauty appears as an autonomous essence, as a reality, as an object, something that exists in itself, an individual concrete, almost tangible, almost material: for example, when we encounter Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F Major, Shelley's Epipsychidion, Racine's Phedre, or the Nike of Samothrace.

Most political doctrines suffer the redhibitory vice of having been born as protests and developed in a polemic climate.

These doctrines are usually the moan of injured interest or the cry of trampled conviction, and like a reflex gesture unaware of its reach, have always extended beyond their initial purposes.

Occupied moreover with the sole adversary, they are constituted in function of him and give more importance to what serves their hostility than to what suits their own essence.

Only the praise that the defeated offers the victor is more beautiful and noble than the praise the victor gives the defeated.

The intellectual precocity of peoples called primitive allows the young to rapidly ascend to full social manhood. In our civilization, conversely, the preparation period is prolonged, and here the child is more childish and the youth more juvenile. Among the varieties of the human species, the prolongation of youth seems to indicate cultural status. Thus, virile precocity seems to define the primitive state and delayed maturity the civilized state.

But this is not without dangers.

Indeed, here a prolonged infantilism can acquire serious social preponderance, that is a state where intellectual and moral puerility is indefinitely prolonged, where maturity, the goal and end of the process, is never achieved.

Our civilization already reveals alarming symptoms of the severity. ## From the Threat to Class Struggle and Beyond

from the threat. The political primacy of youth, seriousness in play, pleasure in mere novelty, inconsistency of gesture, appetite for violent sensations, innocence in cruelty, naive trust in the future, allow us now to conceive of a civilization rotten before it has matured, a social senility of a perverse adolescent.

Class struggle is only possible where the border between classes is sufficiently fluctuating that individuals from lower classes find it difficult, but not impossible, to move to higher classes. Where social structure is rigid, where transitioning from one class to another is improbable, impossibility, far from fueling discontent and increasing nonconformity, creates boundless resignation—a resignation not stemming from stifled desire, but from the absence of desire. Proust tells us: "la difficulté d'atteindre l’objet d’un désir l’accroît (the difficulty, not the impossibility, because the latter eliminates it)."

Every policy that disregards human imperialism, believing that order—that is, a constant relationship between unity and plurality—can be constructed without coercion or violence, solely through education or a specific economic distribution, inevitably fails.

Ronsard may be a more important figure in literary history, but Du Bellay’s lack of fanfare and trumpets, and his discreet presence of the continuous murmur of inner life, are what most surely seduce us.

Certain vices of style cannot be corrected by the writer using new adjectives or different verb tenses, but only by changing their life.

One who vehemently proclaims their opinion does not demonstrate the strength of their convictions, since those who do not doubt they possess the truth feel no need to defend it.

The apostle and the fanatic are not hypocrites; they are not individuals who knowingly preach falsehoods, but they do suspect the inadequacy of their beliefs.

Indeed, suspicion is the secret spring of both apostleship and fanaticism. Hesitation, doubt, transform the frightened neophyte into either a fanatic or an apostle.

To convert, or to kill, are the only ways to eliminate that indifference or hostility, whose very existence seems to confirm the suspicions we harbor and that terrifies us.

Conversely, those who feel secure in the truth generally suffice to manifest it quietly.

The furious rejection of truth, or the glorification of error, elicits from them only a faint smile or a gesture of compassion.

There is no rhetoric of the truth. Eloquence is a symptom of wavering faith.

The truth of man is nothing but a sincere conviction. Truth is what we judge to be true after weighing reasons, considering arguments, and basing our conviction on the broadest base of sincerity and honesty. Truth is a virtue—like the flower of certain tough and knotty moral roots. Perhaps it makes sense to see logic as merely a chapter of ethics.

Novelists, with the technique of internal monologue, boast of reproducing exactly the flow of consciousness with its rapid mutations, unexpected leaps, equivocal connections, diversity, and contradiction.

However, what they achieve is merely a crust of spiritual life, certainly psychological and thus more intimate, closer to being than the social shell which suffices for the common novel; yet despite everything, it remains surface and merely anecdotal mantle, arbitrary, empirical, of a reality whose deep waters hum in deeper caverns.

The life of the spirit lies beneath psychological life.

Inaccessible perhaps to the momentary consciousness obscured by The flickering of psychological life, the life of the spirit only reveals its existence through a systematic investigation by reason, because it is eminently systemic and more akin to the activity of armed reason than to the activity of our daily psychological consciousness.

The spiritual life of a being, from birth to death, does not unfold with the rigidity of a theorem that develops its conclusions in an impersonal and relentless manner, but neither with the bustling disorder of psychological life. It is reason, free reason, autonomous reason, capable of spontaneously flourishing, rich in the forces it contains, rich in a power to adapt to things, to yield to overcome, to be docile to be irresistible.

Spiritual life is constructed through psychological life. Sometimes indifferent to the ephemeral swarm occupying consciousness, sometimes attentive to its most fleeting illuminations, it weaves the tough fabric of our essence in its sunken caverns.

Our empirical existence with its defeats or triumphs, virtues or vices, is like the alluvium deposited in their course by the hidden glaciers of the spirit.

Our spiritual life fulfills a destiny, that is, an obligation—a duty to be distinct from mere actual being; a destiny clear, other than the external and mechanical Fate, a destiny that partly receives and partly shapes and creates, a destiny that partakes of necessity and freedom, a destiny that is order and rule, not violence or coercion.

Thus, it better suits the deep nature of being to systematically expose and seemingly inadequately analyze traditional psychological analysis, better the old novelistic construction.

The Idea, in the Platonic sense, is the true substance of our lives, and thus the reason that penetrates into this universe of intellectual species is a more appropriate tool for revealing our essence than empirical observation, which only owns twilights and storms. Dionysian and Apollonian, religion and science, individual and community, etc., or the other thousand possible concepts.

Forming these concepts, or thinking about certain concrete facts in their place, is not wrong; the error lies in believing that these concepts have a purely historical value, that they designate an essence of history properly.

Every historical problem is a temporary and transitory configuration of facts, in which an essential trait of man manifests. However, considering one of these essential traits apart from the impurity and complexity of concrete relations is insufficient to write the history of an era; nor does the exclusive effort of placing it only historically, mere historical knowledge of them, provide us with a clear notion of what they are in themselves—an adequate science of their nature.

Time, which is the proper category of history as well as historiography, is powerless before a problem of essence, by nature timeless, and can only deceive the spirit, suggesting that mere temporal relationships suffice to enclose the explanation of a problem that transcends them.

History does not solve any of the problems it poses. Every historical problem is perpetually current and continues to exist even when no one thinks about it anymore, just as it existed before appearing and being thought.

What we call history is a pure phenomenon of consciousness, and thus the substance of history is the historical problem that occupies, at a given moment, the field of consciousness. Since man is incapable of dealing with more than one of these problems at the same time—when all are always present—history is this successive occupation, but the problem has not been created, nor will it be solved within the scope of history.

The interest of history stems, fundamentally, from its essentially anti-historical nature.

No serious, significant event ever ceases to fascinate us, because what occurred there happens perpetually; in the eternal present of history, the eternal present of our human essence manifests. Undoubtedly, the novel requires commentary, but we already work with it on a plane familiar to the spirit.

The instability and anxiety of the modern world are the result of a very noble spiritual attempt, but one that has been imprudently publicized.

Forgetting that humanity needs a spiritual world as rigid, firm, and constant as the material world to live, an attempt has been made to make it dwell in the very instability of the spirit. It was desired that everyone partake in an adventure suitable only for a few, and the ambition to keep the spirit loyal to its essence forced the rejection of useful and fruitful betrayals that allow it to fulfill its function in history.

In its millennia-long effort, biological life has managed to construct, upon the fluidity of reality, the universe of common perception. A constant and ordered universe, whose purpose is to serve as support and foundation, with the routine repetition of its material acts, to the organic act of life itself. Similarly, spiritual life attempts to build an intellectual universe over the fluidity of the spirit.

Once the first of these tasks is accomplished, organic life robustly subsists on the surface of the earth; however, it must pay for security and solidity with ignorance of reality, since perception is limited by the necessities of existence. The second task of vital falsification has only achieved provisional forms, forms that last for a while and then dissolve. These forms, these universes, are the great systems of ideas that organize spiritual reality, they are the ideological structures in which humanity tries to settle.

Structures necessary for spiritual life, because they define, fix, and immobilize the changing, elusive, and subtle reality.

On the other hand, it is evident that they are arbitrary constructions, refuges, and instruments at once, organs of social reason, of concrete life; in no case, works of pure reason.

Those who dwell in them evade the real world.

Every intellectual propaedeutic seeks to free reason from the conceptual framework and the capricious perspectives imposed by these ideological structures.

But escaping this comfortable prison is a task for the few men capable of living in the unstable freedom of the spirit, in its incessant spontaneity, in its perpetual novelty, in the unlimited process of its own creation.

There is no adventure riskier than constraining everyone to this transient life of spiritual nomadism. Forced into this existence, people feel the ground disappearing beneath their feet, and caught in a horrendous vertigo, they spin wildly in a desert expanse, aimless and without mission.

Humanity needs a system of concepts, an ideological structure. When the imprudence of a few has destroyed the system in which they lived, humanity does not cease to convulse violently until it finds a new system where it can rush in search of shelter and refuge.

For five hundred years, there has been an attempt to force humanity to reject any system of concepts, to admit nothing but the pure intellectual effort that constructs these systems.

Instead of doctrines, what has been taught to respect is the impulse towards truth; instead of a determined artistic style, the pursuit of beauty; instead of a defined set of norms for action, the good will to realize the good. What is alarming about this preaching is not that its theories are false—on the contrary, they are evidently the only true ones—but that it proposes and teaches a truth too abrupt, a venomous truth for most intelligences.

Humanity needs systems of concepts, permanent homes, stable refuges. Spiritual life, in its fullness of freedom, with its secret skepticism and its mysterious trust, suits only the intelligence capable of hoping in despair and persevering in disaster.

It's a noble error; but an error nonetheless. Sin of angelism, like all intemperate liberalism; interregnum in which the advent of the tyrant is prepared.

Humildemente acepto que me circunde un ancho silencio; but grant, oh my God, that words may populate my solitude and open their rich honeys within it.

Literary texts are incantatory formulas that transport us to various intellectual climates. When we have given up on finding the truth in the world, thought appears to us only as a delicious form of existence. Intelligence is no longer anything but an attribute of certain souls, and we seek it in them like the irreplaceable flavor of certain fruits.

Truths of today, yesterday, or tomorrow would rest in the wastebasket if the intelligence that creates them did not remain intact and untouchable, distinct from those truths themselves.

Then it does not matter what is written, as long as the spirit of its author is delightful and intelligent. A text is a formula that grants us entrance into the precinct of a soul.

Thus, being is all that matters, and all rhetoric is vain if it attempts anything other than to help clear the fogged glasses of expression.

"xar0ave ka! Tlárpoxkos S rep ato roAhov agevov" still seems to me the best consolation. I do not believe that the serenity provided by its meditation comes solely from the equality it proclaims, from the privilege it excludes. Above all, it moves us with the suspicion of finding something positive where everything positive is consumed. That beings in whom values exist die indicates that death must be a new dimension of the spirit. I know of no better sign of man's dubious immortality than the impossibility of conceiving a value that is not eternal, coupled with the inability to dissociate the value from the concrete individual who realizes it.

To objective values such as beauty or truth, we must add subjective values, which cannot be separated from man.

Perhaps we can say: the moral act is the condition of immortality because by performing it we identify ourselves with a value, eternal by essence.

A theology of values might be the form of religious thought most likely to move us. The theology of being is shrouded in too many doubts, but who would dare deny the evidence of a value? It behooves us to oppose the Mosaic ontologism of "ego sum qui sum" with the Johannine axiology of "ego sum lux et veritas et vita." Being dissolves into relationships, and we no longer find the hardness of stone except in the apparent fragility of beauty.

The historian is a creature of disintegrating civilizations. Historical knowledge is analogical knowledge, starting from what we are to interpret the activity of others. Our explicit or tacit knowledge about ourselves determines the scope of our historical consciousness. Now, since a civilization is an attitude towards the world, an attitude that selects reality according to the demands inherent in the notion of man that engenders it, in its ascending period, the civilization excludes from consciousness anything that does not agree with that notion. Limitation is the price we pay for those moments of splendor. At the dawn of a civilization, when a new notion of man replaces an obsolete one that perishes, we witness a fleeting awakening of historical consciousness. Thus Christianity introduces the notion of historical time in the static universe of Hellenism. But the avid demands of a nascent civilization, the dense sap that swells it, drive it toward its own task, far from the disinterested contemplation of attitudes and gestures that it precisely intends to replace. Only when a civilization disintegrates, when some of these transitory structures of man collapse, does the teeming The diverse and formless variety of human nature reveals itself anew to our eyes.

Then we feel disgusting larvae boiling in our decaying flesh; then the imprisoned lemures invade the nocturnal enclosure of the soul. Man, stripped of the norm that ordered his being and his actions, becomes aware of a more complex and richer human nature; in his immediate present, a plenitude of contradictions prepares him for the understanding of a thousand enigmas. Then the historian is born, the critical taster of souls, the master of invocatory gestures, the Ulysses who quenches the dead with whom he dialogues from his own blood.

Perverting the natural ends of things is man's own task, and the sole basis of his dignity. Nature creates no value. A brutal causal necessity and a strict teleological utilitarianism build here a closed system of objects. In that monotonous spinning of gears and wheels, the spirit intervenes to discreetly divert the proper fulfillment of certain functions. Thus, it miraculously erects a universe of values on the deaf foundations of biological necessity; thus, human cunning completes perverted acts by adding arbitrary significations. Indeed, one should admire the richly embroidered veil that man has woven with his subtle impostures. That the stupid necessity of a collective rule of action culminates in the jurisconsults of Rome; that the annoying necessity to tolerate the neighbor culminates in the charity of religious orders or in the miraculous balance of an eighteenth-century salon; that the zeal of the primeval forest culminates in a sonnet by Louise Labé; all this is an incomparable victory of man's strange ability to betray nature. Thus, the lips of a beautiful woman are not snout, nor esophagus opening, nor even sexual enticement, but just that: lips. Those analyses, sometimes subtle, sometimes crude, with which some have wanted to denigrate or humiliate the highest human activities, even though they are not devoid of truth, lack intelligence. They do not err in assuming a dark and somber origin to the noblest feelings, but they err heavily in imagining that the value of a feeling disappears before the proof of its humble origin. Singular snobbery of the bourgeois intellect!

Cynicism, too, of a teenager who discovers his parents' submission to eternal animal appetites; as intolerable as the idyllic sentimentalism facing a maternal nature.

Man has not yet measured the full depravity of his soul. I do not suggest there exist unknown lands, but rather untriangulated territories. Indeed every vice, even those we call rare, is a suburban park frequented by family groups on Sundays. Yet, the professors of ethics are unaware of the vices that escape their classifications and perhaps moralists have shunned describing those that do not lend themselves to a subtle play of words. But the real cause is rather a disguised shame. Theatrical and splendid vices or squalid and amiable ones do not humiliate the speaker who implicitly recognizes participating in them in some way. But there are others, vile, small, oblique, like an impotent person's glance, viscous, sticky, greasy, grayish. These, we prefer to silence, we prefer our silence to seem naive, we prefer to be deceived than to declare with a precise and cutting phrase both our lucidity and our complicity. And here I myself speak only in general and vague terms.

In our time, where yesterday’s prestige crumbles and tomorrow's barely sketches, I find no more uncontested prestige than that of the physician. (Was not the cult of Asclepius a cult of decay?)

Only he manages to have his errors forgiven and forgotten, he alone whose authority is unquestioned, he alone whom we tolerate the gravity of his gestures and the pomp of his demeanor. (Every era reserves severity to judge those it does not love and to measure things in which it does not believe.) His authority is already absolute. The only laws obeyed are his.

A cunning despotism could be founded with unanimous consent. ## The Hygienist Tyrant

Yes, proclaiming all freedoms, but content with decreeing as hygienic and prophylactic measures his most arbitrary whims. Behold a new character in the Commedia dell’Arte we are preparing: the hygienist tyrant.

This cult of medicine is not absurd in an era that can only find reality in its body, having lost the values of other centuries. Everything may be uncertain, fleeting, doubtful, vain; this pain is not, nor is this old age that threatens me. How can I not bow down before someone who offers relief, who promises tranquility?

The old miracle worker resurrects, and the lamentable procession abandons the sacred caves, the miraculous trees, the temples lit by trembling candles, to head towards where the new shaman awaits, replacing his outdated feathers and furs with a white coat, tortoiseshell glasses, and a stylus pen.

To me, however, the doctor absurdly inspires a secret contempt. A slave’s job—I mutter; like a coarse patrician from Rome before the gesticulations of the perceptive Greek attending him, I'm just a petty bourgeois with aspirin and pantopon.

Yet perhaps deep down I am not mistaken. The veneration of the doctor symbolizes the ultimate submission of the spirit. Here, the health of the body is seen as the proper end of human activity, and I cannot accept it as more than a tool. An old Platonic habit urges me to "Kebe TO coya", so that “pad Soov Ovvaras (ah! here's the point) the soul ‘un kowWwWwvonre avTo uno’ UTTOLEVY OPEYYTAL TOV vos”.

Even though perhaps not everything has been said (with apologies to Ecclesiastes and La Bruyère), what we would often like to say has indeed been said.

Commonplaces: suddenly, I feel an immoderate appetite for them. What a delight to wander through the sea of the obvious, to approach the marvelous continent of trivialities. Ah! To discover love, pain, death, loyalty or patriotism, war or peace, etc., etc., and the inevitable paradoxes and expected bold moves! But what can we do; there Cicero stands, and Isocrates, and Plutarch.

I am not mocking; the commonplace is not an error; on the contrary, it is perhaps the greatest truth. If it has any flaw, it is its excessive familiarity. With it, we have marital relations; but this does not mean that the unknown smile that moves us, that the forgettable gesture of some fleeting traveler, promise us a more secure happiness. Elle trouvait dans l'adultère toutes les platitudes du mariage.

Without ambition, the soul becomes neglected and abandoned. Indeed, the reformer entrusts the fulfillment of the desired social ends to the noblest passions of man and his highest sentiments. The complex structure he aims to build requires that man renounce greed, ambition, selfishness, that the will for the collective good subjugate private interest, and that perverse intentions, dark appetites, and irrational passions fade away like the gray mists of dawn.

In other terms, the society envisioned by the reformer presupposes — and assumes already realized — everything that, after countless efforts and labors, might perhaps become the effect and result of a patient, cunning, and slow social organization.

That the social virtues which a type of society may produce are necessary to bring about that society, where the effect must generate its cause, presents an insoluble contradiction that renders the reformist attitude futile.

Yet in the face of failure, the reformer does not resign.

However, the persistent unruliness of human material does not suggest to his mind that more agile techniques should be applied; the reformer does not suspect that above all, it is urgent for him to reform himself, to reform his principles and norms, to reform his abrupt imperatives, his excessive claims, his dogmatic demands.

Faced with his failure, the reformer blames humanity.

Everywhere he discovers perverse wills, twisted and malicious intentions. Humanity seems to conspire in favor of evil. Then from his very love springs the severity of an irritated father who chastises and punishes.

His thwarted ambition, his wounded feelings, his shattered dreams, exacerbate his keen emotiveness.

In this harsh climate, the reformer proves singularly capable of violence and cruelty. Among statesmen, he then stands out for the extreme energy of his actions and the fanatic integrity of his decisions. Thus, confidence in the rectitude of his purposes and in the disinterest of his conscience allows him extremes that a selfish person would reject in terror.

Nevertheless, the new stance of the reformer is no less vain than the first.

Revolutionary violence builds trivial triumphs on horrendous piles of corpses.

The human mass seems to yield to the vigorous pressure exerted by the resolute, cold, cruel, and shrewd revolutionary. In the face of the apparent and temporary docility of history, a barren enthusiasm fills the soul of the victorious revolutionary. Prophecy, embodied in police and military tactics, believes it can mock skeptical spectators. Grateful humanity prepares to erect the shadow of a cenotaph, where lie the propitiatory victims sacrificed to a finally triumphant endeavor.

But the tenacious routine of history undermines these proud and arbitrary constructions.

Tension, effort, constant vigilance soon tire and dull the upright powers of the soul.

People adapt to the new ease that arises. Slowly everything returns to ancient millennial customs. Time regains its lost power. Historical continuity invades, with its powerful waters, the wide cultivated lands, and over this soil trodden by human pride, posterity discovers nothing but the corpse of an innocent tortured.

Undoubtedly, only because we lack imagination can we endure the injustices of which we are all involuntarily guilty, but any intolerance of injustice that does not culminate in sanctity only serves to agitate the world. ## The Philosopher's Task

The task of the philosopher does not so much consist in inventing ideas as in preventing ideas from forming a crust over thought. Destroying all systems is his true systematic task. Essentially, a philosopher’s system is nothing more than a war machine to combat ideas that obstruct him, and it is the disciples who transform this combative apparatus into a comfortable dwelling.

Philosophy tirelessly aims to place us, without prejudice, before naked reality. Every solution is merely the dissolution of a previous solution. The extravagant enthusiasm that a philosophy can inspire comes from the intoxication of finding ourselves anew in open field. Each new philosophy liberates because it poses the same eternal problem again.

True problems do not change, nor find resolution. The duty of philosophy is to tell us: this solution is invalid, here is the problem again.

Adolescence achieves without having desired; youth desires and achieves; old age begins by desiring without achieving and ends by desiring to desire.

An exaggerated and excessive opinion often gains our agreement simply because we have previously heard someone obstinately and stubbornly uphold the contrary opinion.

The intelligent man, like the artist, is capable of dealing with only a limited number of themes. Each intelligence has its repertoire. However, each person proposes many other ideas with their own developed thoughts, which, in truth, are only repeated; like a fool endowed with excellent memory.

True intelligence is not so much the faculty of having intelligent, accurate, just, or correct ideas, but an indefinable attribute of certain spirits.

Intelligence is like a special resonance, a particular density, a unique tonality, a distinctive atmosphere. There is more intelligence in erring in a certain way than in succeeding differently.

Today, the real problem of man perhaps lies in the ironic fact that his current power is capable of realizing his desires. Man seeks pleasure and avoids pain—a truth whose triviality does not erase the evidence—but his ignorance and the inefficiency of his technique have until now transformed the most reckless ventures for material well-being into foolish and noble aspirations.

Failure has been the condition for the most exalted virtues.

That the precision, the clear contours, of every desire that manages to inscribe itself in the relentless space of history, has not managed to replace the indecisive confusion, pregnant with contradictory promises, filled with tacit gifts, of the desire that endures in its pure potentiality, is the most evident cause of human dignity, and today this possibility is its most evident threat.

To create around me a zone of silence and tranquility necessary for a life that wants to find in itself alone the cause of its occupations and tasks, I have found education and bad faith most useful.

What displeases me is not selfishness, but the naivety with which certain selfishnesses ignore themselves and, disguised with generous pretexts, dare to demand from us something they need, with the good conscience of one who asks for alms for pious works.

There exist fundamentally two different types of arrogance, presumption, and irresistible self-confidence. A good example of one type is the North American and of the other, the South American.

The first type of arrogance is impersonal. It stems from a singular certainty of the excellence of the ideas, norms, principles, purposes of the society in which we were born, of the social class... We belong to a certain social class, in a country of which we are citizens. More than an unshakable certainty that we cannot err, there is here a fundamental incapacity to suspect that an error could occur there, or that a different attitude could be conceived with equal or similar rights. Dogmatism, therefore, and not fanaticism, since fanaticism is only the dogmatism of those who secretly doubt what they preach emphatically. Thus, such excessive confidence in what one is and believes admits a certain benevolent condescension, though not devoid of a generous zeal for apostolic altruism. A comical attitude, clearly, but moving because of its very naivety.

Such an attitude easily aligns with real personal modesty and even with the knowledge of one's own insignificance.

On the other hand, the other type of arrogance ignores the existence of any impersonal excellence of which we can boast, and is based solely on a vain appreciation of one's own merits. Here the arrogant person does not try to impose compliance with any norm, but merely seeks admiring recognition of the rare virtues he attributes to himself. Virtues that, in truth, are simply the same attributes he possesses. Individual and rigorously gratuitous arrogance; insecure therefore and uncertain, suspicious and distrustful, ready to defend itself, equipped with arguments and stratagems, prone to the worst excesses of irritated and emphatic rhetoric.

The only book for which I have enough material would be the autobiography of a mediocrity; but unfortunately, even such a book requires talent to write.

The worst situation: feeling the impossibility of our ambition simultaneous with the impossibility of giving it up.

The most difficult thing: to resign without bitterness, and live with dignity a life that fate keeps away from any noble endeavor.

I have never asked that external circumstances favor me, like those who complain about the environment they were born into; my only ambition has been that of solitary greatness.

  • Almost rich, almost handsome, almost intelligent, almost talented; my life has been a perpetual missing of the train by just a few minutes.

Blessed are those who can attribute to malevolence or hostility from the world the reasons for their failure. As far as I am concerned, all whom my ambition summoned came to the meeting, I was the only one to fail to show up. You are but a part of the world, a fragment of society, and an element of the human spirit. The foolish pride of the soul, which bristles at any limitation, tempts you to forget your human condition. But by doing so, everything becomes painful for you, and it suffices that something effectively asserts its existence for you to feel nullified.

I do not ask that knowing yourself as only part of a whole that encompasses you, you should be content with the mechanical activity of a machine part, or that your partial function should satisfy you until you are exhausted by it. The place you occupy, the situation in which you find yourself, must be accepted as points of minor significance within an immense territory. Having made this act of honest acceptance and loyal orientation, you can devote yourself to the delightful task of exploring the vast universe. In short: renounce the comical ambition of conquering; be content with the ambulatory function of a curious traveler.

Philosophy may seem to some like a purely intellectual discipline, a body of knowledge, a group of investigations—a peculiar aberration.

Philosophy is life. Philosophy is a way of living deeply imbued with intelligence and reason, fully lucid and oriented towards the proper objects of the spirit.

The scope of the spirit depends on our care not to admit into our memory data that are unconnected and unrelated to any system.

Words are but promises of themselves, and they only deceive those who imagine that the world is more than the pretext for a noble and pure phrase.

The notion of well-being is not an abstract concept but a historical one. Defining human well-being in itself serves no purpose other than completing a myth: that of the abstract man with his impersonal needs. The entirety of the universe with its historical weight, its political and social urgency, determines the proper form of our well-being.

To live is to live in a determined world, not just any world; it is to be concrete and unique, in a specific and unique situation.

A true norm of life is one that we receive not with passive inertness but with joyful respect; one that is nothing more than the crystallization into formulas of those rare moments when we perceive a value.

Thus, the happy moment governs the monotonous stretches.

Grace arises from all slow, continuous action, precisely aimed at its own end.

Nostalgia for past eras is a product of historiography. The present imposes on us the totality of an era, while historiography preserves from past times only their extremes of horror or beauty.

In the face of humanity's accumulated knowledge, the only thing preventing our ignorance from overwhelming us is the remembrance of the unlimited zone of darkness that surrounds it.

Recognizing that if we throw ourselves out of a high window we will crash to the ground is not vilely renouncing the rights of our souls, but beginning a meditation on the conditions of flight.

Lack of ease in a spirit is not a sure symptom of irremediable impotence. There are rough and hard soils, resistant to the plow that breaks them, fertile in thorns and weeds, but whose subterranean layers hide heavy promises. Sometimes, it is enough to dedicate oneself to tireless and humble work, for one morning to see arise, in these ## The Green Mantle of Autumn

In the barren wastelands, a green mantle heralds the hard grains of autumn.

There is no better substitute for thought than a good library.

To effectively defend myself against the oppression threatened by the vast world, unlimited time, and the relentless society with its rigid laws, I have always invoked the consideration of radical vanity upon which everything is based; so that it all collapses into insignificance equal to our own. However, this might be too high a price to pay for desolate serenity. With my anguish, I have simultaneously erased from the face of the world its fleeting but real splendors. Not only the horrible and mediocre vanish, like deceptive storm threats; the noble and beautiful also dissipate, like the illusory consolation of summer clouds over thirsty crops.

The full density of life demands that we grasp it with determined eagerness. Whoever cunningly withdraws sacrifices the soft body of things to the hardness that wounds them.

Is it wisdom that sacrifices the evident excellence lying in the world? Or is madness not to fear the harsh stones if the path leads to a noble enclosure?

Love adds a profound dimension to eroticism. Eroticism and love are not identical; the similarity of gestures they demand should not hide their deep difference. But if it is common to practice them separately, their conjunction provides the most severe trembling. It's not difficult to find the reason for such intense emotion. While eroticism could be defined as pleasure devoid of feeling; love is precisely pleasure suffused with and saturated in feeling. If we manage, therefore, before the same object of flesh to place ourselves in the contradictory attitude that paradoxically makes us perceive it as a sentimental object conducive to erotic pleasure, our sensitivity finds, in this fusion of hostile attributes, a singular commotion.

Hence, they serve as symbols, and it is in the fruition of intellectual species that this intellectualized desire is satisfied. This is the conjunction where spectral larvae are born.

Nothing strengthens laziness as much as an unsuspecting look at the futility of everything.

We call those who consciously, and without deceit, do what others do with full unawareness, cynics.

Truth does not need our passions. What exists is indifferent to our opinions. Indifference to error is certainty of truth.

The adherents of certain vices tend to form tightly closed groups, similar to philosophical or religious sects. A similarity that does not stem from analogous social circumstances, for this sectarian character originates not from being minorities, but primarily from the possession, exclusive to the group, of a particular conception of the world or, more precisely, of a particular experience.

Every vice is an organ of knowledge, an instrument that reveals a new aspect of the world. All knowledge implies a unique way of living and being.

Writing to preach the truth, what we perceive as the truth, why? Another book that will die. Fatigue; weariness; futility. It's not the same with a work of art. Here there is something new, unique; something that does not exist unless man creates it. It is not lying available to wide-open eyes. Its existence is immeasurable. To question whether a work of art should exist is as absurd as questioning whether a being should exist, or as reasonable. The uselessness of the work, its inefficacy, its non-recognition, or its oblivion, do not serve to value the act that engenders it.

I find no satisfaction in the middle lands, in the extensive plains, cool and sweet. Perhaps for this very reason, I long to dwell in them, to build there a house of lime and song, a lasting abode that ties down a fleeting passerby. My being is fulfilled only on the barren summit of the idea or in the low and stifling valley of eroticism. The most abstract meditation on the spirit, its standards, its principles, or the warm jungle of voluptuous gestures. Only the livid dawn that finds me desperate before an insoluble problem or before an inviolable body, which betrays not even its complicity, moves me. What makes us believe that the irresistible course of things drags us along and that catastrophes catch man, already powerless and defeated, is not the awareness of our weakness, nor the certainty of a causal necessity that refutes and ridicules our naive faith in freedom. The reason is more modest. Our effective decisions are not the contemplated decisions of solemn hours, of moments when, forewarned and prepared, we make the spectacular gestures of choosing and rejecting. The decisions that govern our life are the timid and silent choices of everyday hours. The pregnant moments of our future slip quietly amidst the noise of the fair. The corner we cross, the friend whose invitation we accepted, the curiosity we rejected, the slight gesture of vanity or pride that we yielded to, all the trivial routine of our existence, are the springs of our fate. Therein lie the smallest beginnings of the vastest consequences. Necessity is the face of our ignorance and the intellectual misery in which we indulge. Metaphysical treatises are the favorite diversion of angels. When a subordinate angel brings them a new green book from Alcan, the cherubim joyously flutter their Assyrian monster wings. Irony consoles us for our failures. Only thought that accepts and prolongs itself, that rejects what denies it, and asserts itself, independent, secure, sovereign, subsists and endures. I would like, conversely, to erase with each thought the previous one, and I long for each affirmation to already contain the negation that eliminates it. What separates me from everyone else is my lack of opinions. In truth, sooner or later everyone forms a repertoire of opinions, and rests. Some opine about God and the world; others, more meticulous, have their favorite remedies and certainties about how to greet and say goodbye. I lack opinions; I only have brief, transitory, and fleeting ideas, more akin to the ramshackle inns where we rest for a night than to the splendid mansions, where we do not know well if we dwell, or if we are prisoners of their same magnificence. I have not wanted to travel because before every landscape that moves me, my heart tears up for not being able to dwell there eternally. I have accepted my life with the passivity of stone because everything in life equally seduces me. Unable to exclude, I have not known how to choose, and I have contented myself with the mediocre existence granted. Nothing more vain, nor more delicious, than talking about oneself. The only thing of which I have never doubted: the existence of God. Before a corpse, it is not so much the nonsense of death that impresses me as the indifference of men. That nature maintains its impassive course neither surprises nor outrages me, for this is the brute fact given to us in its absolute irrationality. However, I cannot comprehend our lack of basic dignity to protest against the unjust judgment that condemns us all. I wish that around any corpse the entire city would stop, silent, and every man would be an accomplice in the impotent rebellion of those who mourn. A stable political regime is nothing more than a group of enduring families. It is difficult to get indignant about an opinion that does not affect our well-being. Impartiality triumphs when our interests or our vanity are not compromised. Tolerance has never been exercised except in regard to obsolete doctrines. If the brute fact of existence precedes all determination of consciousness, the fact of surviving presupposes it. Life is founded on an affirmation of value. Whoever prolongs it from one moment to another chooses; since even the briefest interval allows for the suicide that suppresses it. The instinct for self-preservation actualizes the gesture with which life is accepted and each moment it lasts ratifies. The explanation of even the simplest human act requires that we bring forth an abundant multiplicity of motives, reasons, and causes. Yet the demon of ease, the subtle god of laziness, discreetly inclines us to favor any thesis that reduces the complex motivation of an act to a short repertoire of motives. Nothing is more seductive—or false—than these ingenious intellectual games that, by omitting a nuance here and adding a shade there, extend beyond their legitimate effectiveness the explanatory principle. The apparent elegance of a well-symmetrical thesis distorts truth as much as a metric clause that seeks only to restore rhythmic balance. Eager to understand and remember, intelligence sacrifices the irreducible multiplicity that opposes its efforts, erecting a simplified and transparent schema over the opaque and dense matter of the world. But intelligence itself soon discards that apparatus of polished, rounded, and symmetrical concepts, which, when applied to the rough surface of things, do not embrace its protuberances nor penetrate its cracks and crevices. We thus allow ourselves to be deceived by a false intelligibility, born from the ease with which intelligence moves through the conceptual chambers of a palace of definitions, created by itself for its own comfort. However, the comfort provided by this unencumbered movement, free from obstacles and unhampered by the presence of autonomous objects, is not enough for intelligence. False intelligibility does not seduce, except because it simulates true intelligibility. The deep and tireless yearning of intelligence is real, full, rough, hard intelligibility. To distinguish each thing from the confused background where it blends with others, it needs to establish the complex system of connections that bind and link it to the rest of the universe. But above all, it seeks to penetrate to the sealed center where its irreplaceable unity resides, and where its mystery is hidden. The spontaneous fecundity of intelligence is a gift granted to few. Intellectual parthenogenesis is rare; almost all of us require encountering the brief vibratile body that triggers us, like ovules immersed in pleasant torpor, towards active proliferation. We need something to happen, distinct from what long familiarity superimposes, identifies, and cancels, for intelligence to ## Page 115 abandon its tracks and run, cross-country, in pursuit of hares and deer. I do not know if every man contemplates himself with the irony with which I contemplate myself. The attitude we assume towards others—our official stance—may deceive, and perhaps that pompous and solemn gesture, which leads us to suspect that its author is a fool, conceals the sarcasm and discreet mockery of someone who understands that many desirable goods are purchased with certain paper currency that any clever person knows how to issue. There are two privileged ways to bore in telling a story: the meticulous particularity of the individual and the unlimited generosity of the concept. Perfection resides, in that intermediate space, where events seem to awaken and illuminate with intelligence and where ideas walk with the sensual heaviness of satiated animals. I aspire to keep my thought stuck and adhered to everyday reality. Let it find in it both its starting point and its endpoint, like a closed curve drawn by a movement that culminates in the same object that engenders it. Personality is the timeless face of the universe. The constant presence of certain discreet facts flows beneath a life like the musical silence to which it owes its pure resonance. I do not know if I never make decisions because I believe in the wisdom of the decisions that life makes spontaneously, or if I believe in the wisdom of life because I am incapable of making decisions. Our qualities are often the reverse side of our defects, and our defects the shadow of our qualities. Opinions are not the result of meditation but the proof of its abdication. Tired thought resigns and coagulates into opinions. I have always reserved my highest praise for those who have been most unjust to me. Almost angrily, I set out to search for their most hidden qualities and merits. But I do not do this out of charity but out of pride: I refuse to let anyone think there exists a man capable of hurting me, nor to imagine, if I criticize, that I use pretexts for revenge. I prefer to absolve the guilty if someone doubts the impartiality of my justice. To sacrifice our vanity on the altar of our lucidity. God is the being for whom the humblest and most common of men is a person. God is the being who does not think with general ideas. We must place all our hope in the injustice of God. All our efforts aim to tear ourselves away from the anonymity of class, race, species, or genre, to ascend to individuality. Every traveler flees, but it is grim not to be able to leave at the station the true being from whom we long to distance ourselves. We do not consider just those who estimate us at what we are worth, but at what we believe we are worth. Anyone can look, but few see. The journey is the voluptuousness of the sedentary. Every dawn cleanses even the most vulgar landscapes. 117 To tolerate them, one must integrate travelers into the landscape. To avoid the anguish of feeling merely one unit in a statistical table, it is advisable to compile the statistics oneself. The only substitute for greatness is lucidity. It alone consoles us for the greatness that fate denies us. It is a virtue of disillusioned ambition; it is the humility of the proud who, without abdicating, resign themselves. The intelligent recounting of defeat is the subtle victory of the vanquished. Expression is the measure of consciousness. Our interest sets the boundaries of our field of vision. We require learning to see, and our most urgent task is to invent questions. It is appropriate to cut off an idea’s verbal roots: all the dirty matter that ties it to the ground. Let the sentence burst forth like a flower, forgetting the dense gloom of roots and stems it required. Transitions bore those who think, but they are the culmination of the art of writing. They are also the ultimate courtesy of the writer to his helpless reader; let's say they are his good education. A writer without transitions either subjugates or repels us, seldom seduces us. The height of art is to restore to thought through words the simplicity that words strip away. Every city is a hypothesis that intelligence constructs around a street. Intelligence tends toward immobility as bodies toward the center of the earth. A rare word can be indiscreet, while a common term only propagates vulgarity. When the causes of a life’s failure are mere social conventions, we cannot speak of tragedy, but rather of pathetic events. If the essential multiplicity of the universe’s nature establishes the impossibility of a coherent and total system of laws, the no less essential unity of the cosmos implies the existence of universal constants. The law is not an impersonal, abstract, and sovereign generality, but a concrete demand, a fact not superior in moral or logical dignity to the chaotic multiplicity of history. The immobility of the meridian hours applies a new layer of oily, thick silence to the fervid landscape we traverse. It is a narrow strait of marine waters colored like coagulated blood, between two walls of purplish and coppery rocks. No vegetation refreshes the steep slopes of the cliffs; the cruel transparency of the air seems devoid of wings, like the mineral realm of a diamond; and the greasy waters suffocate all life. The ship sails slowly; the smoke from its chimney lingers white and compact in the motionless air, as if a brush with thick bristles were dragged across a framework of blue silk. The god of blasphemous demands, the god to whom we render our most fervent worship. In the contemplation of things, each person finds and achieves what they discreetly contribute. While we are young, it does not matter that trivial and common motives excite and enthuse us. While we are young, it doesn't matter if trivial and common things excite us. We can afford to be extravagant. Later on, such wastefulness becomes dangerous; one does not recover what is squandered. Perhaps intelligence grows with age, but what good is a cold light? If reason isn’t soaked in sensitivity, ideas are like playing cards in the hands of an old man, diversions for someone waiting for death. I do not wish the awareness of life's fleeting nature and the lurking threats of death to lead us to underestimate the poignant beauty of youth. Indeed, youth is terrifyingly fragile, as its fragility surprises us even against the backdrop of life’s frailty. But even though death awaits us—and indeed, awaits the entire universe—the only undeniable fact remains that this flower, this dawn, this promise, does not cease to exist because it does not persist or endure. Our longing for eternity, our disgust for the ephemeral, might be the most real manifestation of our deep essence, yet sometimes I suspect a tragic deception. Perhaps everything passes irrevocably; perhaps supreme excellence does not hide in that depth of being which our anxiety uncovers and where it waits; maybe the momentary beauty of a gesture is all that aligns in the universe with the dark desire of our souls. The pursuit of originality weakens in the most sincere spirits; it is not rare that thought, whose long genealogy can be traced back to fragments from the Pre-Socratics or to the Upanishads, or even to the myths of primitives, inspires us with more than secret confidence—a feeling of veneration and respect. All political thought is the fruit of oppressed minorities. The new world emerging seems not merely a form of the one just deceased. We stand before one of those broad fissures in history, where formal continuity of time cannot hide the collapse of the substantial continuity of events. Philosophy should no longer concern itself so much with understanding the world as some desired, nor transforming it as others preached, but rather in constructing shelters to protect humanity from the harsh reality of the times. Only action reveals the essence of certain objects. The passivity of the lower social classes is nothing more than the difficulty of imagining redemption. An attitude is not so much a form as it is a bundle of virtues. One can be a communist without thereby having a perverted intellect; but only a perverted intellect would want both communism and freedom of spirit simultaneously. Freedom is usually just ignorance of the necessity that compels us. However, if there is a principle of freedom in identifying our will with the law, obeying our inner self is the true fullness of freedom. Plato's theory of ideas is not a methodology. Bergson and Natorp are mistaken in attributing to it a purely logical character. In truth, it is not a method but the result of a method, the ontology at the culmination of a quest for essence. The theory of ideas is not a theory of definition through concepts, nor the limit of pure conceptual dialectics; it is a theory of essences that builds a dialectic of concrete intuition of essence. Ontologically, perception precedes sensation, although logically it is posterior to it. The elements of any totality are subsequent to it. ## Perception and Knowledge The usual perception is one in which abstraction already begins. It's a second-degree perception that virtual action determines. From total perception arise two series of knowledge: aesthetic, metaphysical, and mystical knowledge; practical, conceptual, and mathematical knowledge. Aesthetic knowledge or knowledge of the object in its individuality; metaphysical knowledge or knowledge of the object in itself and in its system of relationships; mystical knowledge or knowledge of the object as a total and transcendent object. Practical knowledge, common sense, or knowledge of the immediate object as an object of immediate action; conceptual knowledge or experimental knowledge of the object as a taxonomic system and as causal series; mathematical knowledge or knowledge of the object as a system of equations of transcendent geometry. The first series of knowledge stems from an increasingly broad and deep experience of total perception, while the second is the systematic development of one of the elements of this same perception. A philosophical assertion affirms being, asserting as it has consciousness of being: from the possession of being arises the affirmation. Denial, on the other hand, asserts an absence, affirming the unachieved possession of being: it is the protocolization of a failure. Therefore, a philosophical denial does not equate to a philosophical affirmation, since one refers to the being that manages to possess, while the other refers only to the failed act that did not reach it. The contradiction of philosophical systems is not the product of subjective attitudes but depends on the very nature of Being. Science constructs a system of pure relations between objects external to each other. However, as perception gives us a universe in which object and subject reciprocally and alternately contain one another, aesthetics and metaphysics build systems of internal relations, whose validity is internal to the form within which they are given and incommensurable to any external term whatsoever. If a cone rests its tip on a cylinder, knowing the diameter of the cylinder does not allow us to deduce the base of the cone. However, if we remove the cylinder, the cone falls. To add to the catalog of metaphors against psychophysical parallelism. Matter is partial and isolated perception, the viewpoint of action, the perennial habit, the interference of essences, the shadow of beings. Synthesis builds the vulgar concept, analysis the scientific concept, and intuition builds the idea. If full understanding of a philosophical system requires considering it in close relation with its author, let us be cautious not to transform it into mere biographical documentation. Not only does the existence of impersonal truth compel us to systematic judgment, the importance of the author, and his biography are reflections of the presumed truth there. The construction of a total realism demands the prior postulation of absolute idealism. Only by reducing the entire universe, with all its possible explanations, to ideas or acts of the spirit, can we place on an identical plane the naively realistic universe of common sense, the conceptual universe of science, and the extravagant universe of the poet or mystic. Having achieved this egalitarian reduction, the spirit can postulate that total universe as its objective. Considering the universe as a concrete datum eliminates the insoluble dilemma: idealism or realism. To resolve this dilemma would require possessing a third term. that, when compared to the terms of the dilemma, would determine their nature. Without this possibility, none of the terms can be compared to the other, as each one absorbs the other and contains it as an element of its own universe. Therefore, the postulatory position of the spirit determines the solution it accepts, without being able to provide any justification. Only an epistemological concretism escapes the dilemma, since the universe as a concrete and total datum is self-sufficient. Unconsciously, we slide a humanity eternally diverse over the backdrop of a universe eternally identical. But perhaps the universe and its laws vary; perhaps irreversibility is not only a thermodynamic phenomenon; maybe the laws themselves are over time a variable more in the equations of an unsuspected science. Were perhaps the concepts and myths of primitive man an adequate response to his universe? It is not simply by praising what is usually condemned, or showing that what deserves condemnation causes what is worthy of praise, that we can justify certain acts that offend common sensitivity but possess a dark and ominous importance. Their true justification lies within themselves, in their own essence, in their individual existence, maybe in the very characteristics that make them repugnant or hateful. It is possible to conceive the limits of science, because science is a work of the spirit. If science were a magical repository, an unpredictable finding, all epistemology would be vain. If in the Upanishads the knowledge of advaita allows us to escape samsara, it is because this knowledge is ontic and not noetic, knowledge identical to the act by which it is known and inseparable from it, knowledge that is effort, knowledge that is action, knowledge of what is similar by what is similar to it. Only thus can knowledge be a transcendent act. Time, as a projection of movement and action, is inherent to knowledge, and vanishes when the acquisition of knowledge is complete. All truth is timeless. In addition to the theory of knowledge as knowledge of the identical, we should include a theory of knowledge as knowledge of the different. To knowledge through love, add knowledge through hatred. The most beautiful books, like the stupidest ones, generally have the same theme but different authors. If the principle of causality is merely a form of the principle of identity, and if realities—the data—are specific, then any attempt to understand these through that is absurd and contradictory, since it, by definition, essentially negates “these.” It’s a gross methodological error to forget that even though we live amidst lies, these lies transform into our very flesh and substance. Science is a moral discipline; it demands genuinely moral virtues for its construction because conception without the effort of will that seeks an ideal and orders its passions is not possible. History is the ultimate science because only it can fully grasp the total object by integrating it within the subject who conceives, thinks, and creates it. The universe we construct with opposing contradictory terms is not logical, but it is human. The notion of total experience should be the epistemological foundation supporting a philosophy of history that aims to preserve the rich, sensual world. The idea is the form of reality: the idea of love is the form, the schema of all love. Philosophy does not create experience but prepares, refines, purifies, enlightens, and ultimately verifies it. Philosophy is a perception in the concrete of the ideal scheme that underlies it. The possibility of thinking about any object from within depends on the total experience, which precedes the division introduced by the categories of objective and subjective. Everything alarming and terrifying in our era, everything fueling the pessimism of our prophets of doom, is nothing more than the permanent presence of human nature in a world where certain material progress should have, in the eyes of an intoxicated humanity, transformed entirely. The desire to be oneself seems important, not so much for the value one might have, but for the effectiveness with which it sweeps away the impostures hiding within souls. Sincerity with oneself is the gateway to truth. It's impossible to give a moral sense to the universe if difference is an effect and not the cause of space. Every a priori is a conquest of intelligence. Every principle is the conclusion of a process. The starting point is the historical situation, the impurity of the moment. Reasoning progresses because the major premise of the syllogism is a hypothesis that seeks confirmation in the conclusion. There is no syllogistic rigor except where reasoning is tautological, but the rigor of an effective syllogism is only an anticipation of what may confirm a finally closed system of knowledge when coherence of attributes and their reciprocal determination are achieved. Reducing thought to the category of ideology may be an interesting historical enterprise, but it holds no epistemological value. Origin does not determine worth, and motive does not dictate outcome. Logical norms differ from psychological laws. Axiological validity is independent of the historical act in which it is revealed. Intellectual facts are primarily conditioned by intellectual events; religious facts by religious events; aesthetic facts by aesthetic events; and similarly for economic, political, or social facts. While there is undoubtedly interaction and constant reciprocal determination among different orders, all hermeneutics, after acknowledging the individual and concrete being as a cause, must seek in the previous facts of the same system the primary condition of those facts it interprets. The most general formulation of the critical problem is: "Why do men react differently to the universe?" There are four classic responses: Syncretic (Herodotus, etc.), others do not think differently, they merely express the same thought differently, thus the object is one, the multiplicity of the subject is only apparent. Dogmatic (Tertullian, etc.), others think differently because they are stupid, wicked, or perverted, thus the object is one, the subject is multiple but its multiplicity has only external justifications. Psychological (Sainte-Beuve, etc.), others think differently because they are psychologically distinct, thus the object is one, the subject is multiple and its multiplicity is internal. Skeptical (Renan, etc.), others think differently because the object is complex and because the psychologically diverse subject considers in the object only what suits him, thus the object is one but complex, the subject is psychologically multiple. For all these positions, the object is one, the diversity of opinions arises only from the diversity of minds; but since every opinion refers to the object, the different opinions have only approximate values. In theory, there always exists a single coherent thought capable of comprehending the object. But what if the object itself is also multiple? Civilized eras are those in which the values of the typical average man do not contradict the highest values, and where the traits, the characteristics of the former can be intensified into those of the greatest. In a barbaric age, greatness, to assert itself, must reject what the average man represents and is. In a civilized era, the great man is representative; in a barbaric era, the representative man is the average man. Journalism is a function of time. It seeks to discuss the issues of the day with the spirit that prevails on that day—ephemeral commentary on ephemeral events. No writing starts with such vigor, yet none dies so quickly or is so swiftly forgotten. However, there are two types of journalism aspiring to the same immortality as other literary genres. One, a commentary on eternal matters with the spirit of the day; and another, a commentary on daily matters judged by eternal principles. On one side, essayistic journalism, like that initiated by Addison, Steele, Johnson, where moral themes are subjected to the spirit of the century. And on the other, the grand Catholic journalism, which views everything transient and immediate in light of constant principles. This is the most interesting. The lineage of great Catholic pamphleteers from Pascal to Maistre, Veuillot, Barbey, Bloy, Chesterton, Bernanos, has produced one of the most necessary groups of books in any intelligent library. The unparalleled clarity of reactionary thought is only matched by its practical sterility. That the absurd can be thought, that a false proposition can have necessary consequences, is something to marvel at. Privilege of man: to create. Reading Bossuet is difficult. A century of sensual, visual, and sonorous prose still dazzles us, and we need certain obvious and spectacular beauties to be moved. We find it hard to love severe beauty. Beauty of order, of stripping away, of intellectual relation between parts. Beauty of solidity, of the integrity of spirit. Beauty of a firm and secure soul. But to those who come to know it, all else seems vulgar. The notion of evolution involves positing that the placement of beings in time, their posteriority or anteriority, is an essential attribute of beings; in other words, that their temporal situation absolutely determines them. Any anachronism would nullify possible intelligibility, since being later or earlier is part of the very essence. However, if life is merely the product of physical-chemical forces, the concept of evolution is inapplicable to biological phenomena. Indeed, if only the arrangement and disposition of their parts define organisms, there is no necessary temporal relationship among them, and their placement in time is purely accidental. Chance alone constructs the phylogenetic scale, which then lacks any evolutionary character whatsoever. Different forms of life could have been contemporary, or could have altered the order of their appearance. If, on the other hand, an intelligible necessity—distinct from mere brute fact—demands that the succession of organic forms be ordered according to coherent relationships in the direction of time; then reduction to physical-chemical constants is insufficient, and biological life requires, like spiritual life, that we grant it an experience of time in which its being is elaborated and created. From his works emerges a tragic and stark play: drama where the characters are abstract and where primitive, indestructible feelings thrash about. A universe where man finally confronts the abyss. What usually stops us is fear. It's not life that falsifies our being, but our immortal laziness. However, when our actions involve other lives, prepare sufferings we have no right to provoke, giving up is not laziness, but an acute form of responsibility. Let's avoid the lamentable comedy of trickeries, motivations, reasonings. May the renunciation of voluntary, systematic, and solemn deceit compensate for the renunciation of certain extreme forms of life. Every man can be satisfied, meaning all that is vile in man can be satiated. Ah! If only we could sometimes return to our madness, shed a premature wisdom that debases, feel again the body of our eager pains, our rough pleasures. In a communist society, the State exists alone and transforms into Society; in a bourgeois democracy, State and Society oppose each other; in a healthy society, Society transforms into the State, creates it, secretes it, and builds itself within it, just like European society before the catastrophe of 1789. Like classical tragedy, the bourgeois novel eliminates the material needs of our common life to set the stage for an authentically human play. At least two generations are necessary for ideas to become commonplace and influence the people. Every era thrives on what is already obsolete for those who think. The authentic thought of an era is always different from what the contented citizen believes. Doctrines of today, truths of yesterday. Thinking collectively means thinking what the most intelligent men of our generation already consider false. Truth of the crowd, obsolete truth. Vox populi... vox, et praeterea nihil. Ethnology errs when it seeks the explanation of certain elements of civilization in acts or in material realities. An abstract requirement may be the root of a thousand different activities. It’s not because it shines or because it is rare that gold is a tradable value; it is because economic life demands a tradable value that gold is valuable, perhaps that gold shines. Many things seem more important than others, when they are merely more urgent. Nothing more absurd than considering it an objection to a doctrine that it is dogmatic. The only objection one can make is that it is false. All truth is necessarily dogmatic. Objection of crippled spirits who dare not meet the demands of thought or of lazy spirits whom the rigidity of logically constructed thought alarms. For the uneducated, literature is an album of old portraits. The gravity of the current historical situation lies in its very essence, which demands from every individual sound and upright economic and political activity, while simultaneously denying them the possibility of doing so. It demands this, first, theoretically, as the current state, whatever its superficial appearance, is a democracy, that is, a state where the individual is both object and subject of sovereignty. Every individual is thus theoretically compelled to full political awareness. ## Contradiction and Challenge in Political Engagement Secondly, it is demanded concretely since the individual must be a part of the political body and not merely exist within it. However, conversely, it denies him the possibility of doing so, and does so doubly. Firstly, by democratically demanding intelligent participation from individuals in societal life, the current state forces all to confront issues many are unprepared to solve; this then breeds a chaos of opinions, setting the stage for disorder and the decline of the state. Thus, it denies individuals the chance for healthy, upright, sensible, and fair political activity. Secondly, as the state aims for technical competence to govern all its activities, individuals find themselves sacrificed to the pragmatic partiality of the expert. Their deepest needs are beyond their control, determined instead by external rationale or standards whose justification eludes their understanding. Lost in a magical universe constructed of mysterious formulas and requirements, the individual reverts to an old primitive mentality. A radical contradiction, rooted deeper than any political error, in the ground of our industrial civilization and its fundamental democratic enthusiasm. --- Every spirit thrives on few themes, and its talent lies in skillful orchestration. Originality depends on the subject; novelty on the object. An object becomes novel when seen for the first time; originality springs from the impression made upon the soul through intimate contact with the object. The one who first introduces a new literary theme brings novelty. One who can deeply engage with any topic demonstrates originality. Originality is nothing but deep emotion. --- Any system can be summarized in a few words, encapsulated in a movement, a specific rhythm of the spirit. Systematic works, therefore, are difficult to read, as we quickly anticipate the inevitable course of the themes. --- In every work, there is an obsolete part that the author is unaware of and which almost any stranger can diagnose. Every work seems capable of surpassing itself. --- The most admirable aspects of the Aeneid are its maritime landscapes, its freshness, its taste of clean, salty air: *Adspirant aurae in noctem, nec candida cursus Luna negat, splendet tremulo sub lumine pontus.* (The breezes blow towards the night, and the white path of the Moon denies not, the sea gleams under the trembling light.) --- Dryness and sterility of those who feed only on general ideas. --- That Sainte-Beuve could be so frequently and grossly mistaken without diminishing his greatness, isn’t that the best proof of his magnitude? --- From one era to another, what changes is the “tempo” of events. --- The polyphony of history conceals its melodic monotony. --- The task of the critic is not to teach others what they should be. The critic is not a customs officer of essences, nor a metaphysical midwife. No logical demand can dismiss a concrete and carnal presence. The critic is a compiler of catalogs, not a usher of hypothetical courts. 'Toda civilización es la matriz de una raza nueva. Nothing seduces me as much as the lack of "importance" in Stendhal. That upon arriving in Milan he exclaims: jamais des airs importants! That he hates that gravité, which according to La Rochefoucauld, only serves to "hide the defects of the mind!" For the leaders of the party and their technicians, communism is a struggle against property, but for the masses, it is a struggle for property. The absence of property is the cause of all tyranny: be it in the communist society where freedom, without the support of indisputable property, vanishes; or where the majority, lacking property, forces the minority to tyrannically defend theirs. Every man is born with his own duty, and his only pleasure lies in fulfilling it. The fullness of existence escapes us when we perform acts other than those for which we were born. But if one day we find that duty and commit ourselves to the activity it demands, our being achieves, in that favorable climate where difficulty exists only to heighten our pleasure, a remarkable fullness of life. The gravity and difficulty of any political or social organization lie in the impossibility of methodically constructing the fundamental situations of these systems. To command, for example, is a reality and a social necessity, but commanding is an attribute of certain individuals, a quality that only action reveals. Therefore, every methodical attempt to organize command will fail due to the impossibility of foreseeing who possesses the qualities that justify and allow it. Nada más terrible que la facilidad con que la mediocridad imita al talento, Good education, excellent memory, the use of skilled rhetoric can parody intelligence. With some cunning, it is easy to exploit brilliant literary schemes to suggest that the genius of those who invented them is reborn in those who employ them. Such-and-such discovery, at a particular moment, proclaimed the presence of genius, indicated it, signified it, revealed it, seems to us, when used anew, to repeat the same revelation. Belief, undoubtedly fleeting, ephemeral impression; soon we realize that it is a mere gesture, meaningless, insignificant, and unnecessary. But a gesture that unsettles us because it suggests that what we write, to which we attributed, despite our mediocrity, some value or some importance, is, like that inept and ridiculous simulacrum of genius, a sad and lamentable imitation. Great philosophers frighten us, and we prefer to open a book by a historian of philosophy or commentator. But doctrines, opinions, theses, here assume such gratuitous incoherence that these books soon repel us. Indeed, a mediocre spirit does not modify nor alter its baseness by dealing with noble and serious themes. Our timidity, on the other hand, before the work of the philosopher himself is a clumsy mistake, for nothing welcomes with greater generosity than true greatness. Purely contemplative pleasure is a myth of busy man. At a given moment, a nation may produce a set of facts, institutions, or concepts that are summed up in a great political idea: English parliamentarianism, bourgeois liberalism of 1789, Russian communism, national-socialism, etc. Ideas that belong indissolubly to the country where they are born, like a system to its author. Spreading them is a seductive task but Success is rare. Imitation quickly degenerates into simulation, and the only thing that can be definitively copied is a new vocabulary and some nugatory constitutional provisions. Political authenticity is as difficult as aesthetic authenticity. South American history is an example of painful and comical pertinence. There are phrases by Nietzsche which hardly seem possible from Homais. For instance, when he claims that believing himself to be the son of God allows Christ a “Gefühl völliger Sündlosigkeit, völliger Unverantwortlichkeit” (feeling of complete sinlessness, complete irresponsibility), which today, he adds, anyone can obtain “durch die Wissenschaft” (through science). Such crude ignorance of the essential difference of moral stances can depend in such a noble soul as his only on special motives. Perhaps what Nietzsche seeks at that moment is the systematic and violent destruction of all value, a clean slate. Therefore, mere controversy is not enough; cruelty is necessary and even stupidity. No injustice then seems sufficient. To show how disgusting existing values fill us, mere negation does not satisfy our irritated sensibility, skepticism seems laughably moderate, and the crude dogmatism of science suits only our vengeance. Where everything is hollow and low, the worst baseness is just enough. Every idea I examine increases my ignorance and extends my uncertainty. Frequently, injustice is the cause of justice; fanaticism breeds clarity; from party spirit arises light, and from dogmatism truth. The theory of progress allowed Mme. de Staël and Auguste Comte to discover the Middle Ages. The rejection of classical theory allowed Chateaubriand to understand what the seventeenth century owes to Christianity. Materialism enabled Marx to discover the importance of economic facts. The reaction against democracy creates the principles of political science. The growing incomprehensibility to the common man of the laws, theories, and principles of current science rapidly transforms them into mysterious formulas. The primacy of science prepares a pre-logical mindset. Science threatens to lead man to unsuspected depths of degradation. Firstly, because scientific propositions—indicative propositions—are susceptible, as the prestige of science grows, to being arbitrarily and craftily transformed into imperative propositions. Thus, any fact refutes or justifies any norm. Secondly, because the morality inherent to science hides in its farthest limits: scientific thought, experimental research, and the qualities they demand. Thirdly, because the epistemological placement of science, determining its jurisdiction and rights, will appear increasingly suspicious amid the evident successes of science due to its subtleties, which will seem arbitrary, and its complex reasoning, which will seem interested sophisms. Science as an absolute system is the abdication of the human. The error of most reformers is to believe that humanity will obey principles to which even they do not adhere—Utilitas, justi prope mater et aequi, says Horace, rule of most men. Ultimately, physical force, brutal and shameless, is the most common reality of history. Without a doubt, it is not the sole reality; but nothing is rarer than the man who recognizes abstract demands, demands of his intelligence or his sensitivity. For our ignorance, which oppresses without managing to satisfy a majestic and proud science, it is sometimes sufficient consolation to note the permanence of problems. ## The Meaningfulness of Meaninglessness The just act exists — independent of all utilitarian consideration —, but it is not realized unless the power falls into the hands of those whom it favors. Philosophy attempts an empirical construction of what man gradually comes to know, until he finally knows that he knows what he knows. Every possession is a sensation enriched by intelligence. The scientist proceeds undaunted to reduce all objects of the universe to energy and space; until the spirit, which he also wants to fit into his senseless machine, cries out: enough! Humanism was, at its inception, a protest of man's sensual attributes against religious denial; today humanism can only be the protest of man's spiritual attributes against scientific denial. Lost before the omnipotence of divinity, his concrete individuality denied by the impersonal demands of religion, despised and vilified everything in him that is purely earthly, man rebelled and asserted with pride and violence his sensuality, his individuality, his importance. Today, lost before the omnipotence of matter, his individuality denied by the impersonal demands of science, despised and vilified everything in him that is purely spiritual, man must rebel and assert with pride and violence his spirituality, his individuality, his importance, or surrender to despair and anguish. In ideal humanism, spirituality and sensuality are reconciled. Our ideas are generally nothing more than the intellectual expression of our desires and hopes; yet such ideas are so totally ineffective that they are not worth clouding our spirit with them. Since our impotence is absolute let us seek, at least, the cruel pleasure of truth. One of the most serious difficulties in the genealogy of feelings is the confusion of appetite or tendency with evolved and complex sentiment. Here appears a new essence. The mountain is a conglomerate of rocks, sand, and earth, sublimated mole-hill, but the feelings of a well-born soul have only brief resemblances to the animal passions of the Paleolithic jungle. There is inertia in the proliferation of ideas: it either does not start or does not end. Political conservatism has a dual root and there are two distinct kinds of conservatives. Some are conservative because the laziness of the spirit, satisfaction with oneself and one’s situation, prevent them from desiring any change. To the second class belong the authentic skeptics or those who are captivated by an unrestricted need to think. These latter, above all, require external tranquility, incapable of simultaneously enduring uncertainty, disorder, agitation, chaos of their thoughts and of the world. Revolutionary, on the contrary, is the unsatisfied or, rather, the one who forms opinions easily, thinks superficially about the complex structure of things, and does not doubt the ideas in which they believe. Perhaps we can say that, among the mediocre, those who are less so will be revolutionaries; and that, among great spirits, those who are more so will be conservatives. 141 Humanism is the attitude of one who contemplates and enjoys, not of one who creates, and even less so of one who works and acts. My incapacity terrifies me; I am unable to realize any of my hopes, nor even to recount the process of their dissolution. Perhaps the greatest seduction of Homeric style is the mix of stereotypical elements, almost ritualistic, nearly hieratic, with ceremonious and solemn formulas, alongside the extraordinary freshness of its comparisons, its pure naturalism, its capacity for concrete precision, its verbal adherence to the described object. The morning reading of Homer, with serenity, tranquility, a deep sense of moral and physical well-being, of perfect health, infuses us with the best viaticum to endure the vulgarities of the day. The descriptive part of philosophical systems rarely ages, while their explanatory part soon becomes obsolete. Perhaps systems are only valuable as arbitrary hypotheses that manage, with their oblique illumination, to highlight features of reality that lay confused in homogeneous indifference. Science of the moment, the only science. The specialist, who must be ignorant of everything else to truly be wise about a single point on a single subject, seems to me as admirable as incomprehensible. Let us thank God there are men who resolve to know one thing well and thus can prepare and elaborate our pleasures, for us who have untamed curiosity. I do not know how a great intelligence functions, I am unaware of the resources of its activity; but a small intelligence demands that we be impertinent and pedantic with it: casta quam nemo rogavit. French moralists observe man, subject of a king, citizen of a monarchical state. Rivarol, first, observes the democratic man. Rivarol is the great moralist of political confusion. Epistemology: the only satisfying science; the only one where an unexplained residue does not disturb at every moment, perhaps because, in truth, it is the science of the residue of all thought. The great problems posed by history and for whose various solutions men die are never resolved by anyone, but forgotten; like the problems of our adolescence which the old age of our organism is charged with consigning to oblivion. The unmistakable proof of greatness is the impersonal longing of the work. Any ambition for mere personal grandeur, indifferent to its cause as to its form, is excessive greed of vanity. The scholar who devotes his life to studying the work of a single author loses all critical sense. Not only does a kind of proprietary vanity cloud him, impartiality ceases to be a virtue for him and transforms into a horrendous vice: lack of loyalty. Reading Ortega y Gasset I seldom have the impression of being before a mature and meditated thought. He appears to me as a fertile intellect, but lacking spontaneity. Cunning rather than filled with meditation. Intelligence awakened to circumstance, but dependent on it. Motivated by the external. In Ortega, I do not feel the inner abundance of a dense, fulfilled, and slow thought. He is subtle, nimble, skillful; an excellent writer, and deceptive initiator of themes he does not treat and ideas he does not conclude. Montherlant in "Les Jeunes Filles" delights me with his clean, open, sunlit cynicism. It is a singular pleasure to meet someone who accepts themselves without hesitation and without shame, yet does not constantly congratulate themselves on their candor, nor boast about their sincerity. What usually bores me about this attitude is the modest and self-satisfied contentment of the author with themselves for the daring of their confessions and the meticulousness of their immodesty. Moreover, the ad hoc metaphysics they invent to justify, praise, and caress themselves. Montherlant is fresh and robust like a zoo monkey, naively masturbating in front of confused, curious, surprised, and outraged spectators. Feijóo's prose is excellent; there lies a maturity, a fleeting moment of perfection, a wise balance, an equal distance from opposing vices. The Frenchification of Spanish life temporarily promised the integration of Spain into the cultural life of Europe. The Bourbon dynasty attempted to open the door that was closed by the Counter-Reformation and the harsh genius of Philip II, doors that nail and bolt the surly and rugged particularism of Spain. The Ciceronian redundancy, the hollow metrical resonance, the meticulous and sonorous fondness for tropes, the baroque nature inherited from the Italian Renaissance, only managed to pervert the innate vigor and tough sobriety of the language. Undoubtedly, this prose, which the invasion of pedagogues, rhetoric masters, sharp and subtle canons, verbose theologians, and clever but empty versifiers had not disturbed, retains an archaic flavor that makes it curious and interesting, but it is too national, too redolent of soil and people, to serve the more impersonal tasks of thought. Spanish prose has not been through the mill of a demanding and cultured society, has not been polished by the discreet and acid conversations of men and women seeking intelligent amusement. It lacked being the instrument of a society whose intense social life familiarizes with the subtlety of moral issues and psychological enigmas; that knows how to listen to grand sacred oratories, or engage in theological disputes, or discuss points of science, without losing its natural aversion to pedantry, to the heavy pedagogical insistence. A society hostile to coarse burlesque, mocking laughter, indecent exhibitions, and the crude familiarity of inns and taverns. Thus, the language of Rabelais needed to pass through the defile of the Provinciales and the salons of the Hotel de Rambouillet, to transform into the incomparable instrument of French classicism. Unfortunately, what awaits Spanish prose after Feijóo, after the sprinkling of pleasant Gallicisms over the ample castizo purring, is the great invasion of romantic rhetoric, culminating in the political eloquence of a Castelar or the versified oratory of a Núñez de Arce. However, rhetoric is not the worst vice of Spanish prose, even among the writers of '98 it is impossible to ignore an irreducible provincialism. Provincialism stemming from the marginal situation of Spanish history and thought. Indeed, Spanish writers have until now been proletarians of European intelligence. Reduced to this secular proletarianization, Spaniards have had to seek outside their linguistic tradition the springs of living thought. Now, here is where the tragic situation of Spanish prose arises: from the absence in Spain of a grand intellectual tradition. Therefore, its prose lacks the very skeleton of prose: the idea. It has no more noble prose than its mystical prose. Spanish literature consists of two or three mystics and a multitude of orators. Literature of such eloquence that the other muses were frightened. Indeed, the presence, even unknown, of a vibrant, strong, and passionate thought, exerts a catalytic influence on the most exclusively literary prose. Only the idea maintains the tension and preserves the dignity and austerity of the prose. Satisfaction does not come from doing great things, but from the perfect execution of any task. Those seeking serenity, tranquility, and peace should set themselves very easy tasks. Over all wisdom hovers the shadow of Flaubert's Binet. The laws of nature are objects of a certain order of generality, and material objects are laws of a specific order of particularity. A law is the description of the behavior of a concept; every concept is an aspect of an object. The law describes the configuration of an aspect of an object, which, when separated from the object, is comparable to that of other objects. The object, in turn, is the configuration of a multitude of laws; it is their real synthesis. The true law of nature is the concrete object, in the full actuality of its being. The world always punishes those who forget their pride. The object of our reason, substance, is a permanent configuration of attributes. The object of our intelligence is a transitory configuration of attributes. Every "thing" is nothing more than a name; the one we give to a configuration within the limits of our perception. The name creates the thing, as far as our perception can identify two or more of its successive acts; if the mobility of the object exceeds the identifying capacity of perception, we speak of flow and not of object. The relationship between the mobility of the object and the identifying capacity of perception is where “things”, “events”, and “substances” arise. Intimacy between man and woman begins with love and ends in complicity. Sheer longevity is sometimes enough for the politician to triumph over his adversary. Thus sheer stubbornness, the obstinacy of an opinion that remains unchanged over several centuries and endures without modification, inspires rare confidence and acquires singular prestige, opposed to the countless contradictory opinions passionately pronounced and violently rejected, which faltering efforts towards truth abandon in their relentless march. An error that lasts resembles the truth. Truth is an error that lasts. When nothing interests us, we declare ourselves impartial. Fatigue is one of the parents of justice. Everything is so unstable in the universe that any dogmatic intemperance seduces us, not by the truth it may contain, but merely by its dogmatism. Thought is the only thing that saves us from despair because it is the only diversion that does not weary. Laziness limits our action: our inertia circumscribes the territory of human intelligence. Ideas and works of art are generally created by the old, but only enjoyed by the young. To live after thirty years requires either becoming dull in daily chores or desperately inventing a thousand different and equally fictitious reasons to live. Every young person is immortal, The young do not despise death, they ignore it. Older people love life because living is the only good that life has not yet taken from them. Marriage corrupts everything it touches. Marriage was founded so that men and women could be unharmed and satisfied accomplices of all pettiness, injustices, and vileness; to be without fear, greedy, hypocritical, and selfish. Nothing disgusts me as much as that warm atmosphere of satisfied sexuality exhaled by a married couple. Errors do not corrupt the truth; they only pervert our behavior. People suffer from errors others make as if those errors harmed the truth, forgetting that the error infects only its author. Denying God seems to many an insult to God when God has nothing to do with this matter. What we do not see does not cease to exist; we simply do not see it. An error is a lack of vision, not an act that spoils the truth. Greater tolerance would exist in the world if compassion replaced efforts to avenge a truth that does not need avenging. Those who seek approval hardly return to their solitude without regrets, grudges, and bitterness. No one knows how to rightly approve us: bland praise wounds more than criticism. Only we know the extent of our faults and suspect our qualities. Our hands alone could weave crowns and there is no greater triumph for us than the solitary ovation of our souls. What do I care about your praises if I condemn myself, or your disapproval, if I absolve myself? Ah! If those who observe us, surprised or indignant, knew what pitiable uncertainty our pride tries to hide. When a Spaniard thinks, he always watches himself think. Selfishness is the sin without remission. Every intellectual failure comes from the inability to forget oneself, from the vicious habit of considering oneself the end of every action. Hypocrisy, hollow thought, and rhetoric are the triple face of selfishness. Hypocrisy is the attitude of those who see in the public ends of their actions only secret means of some personal benefit. Hollow thought is that which, not knowing how to be humble before the object and detached from itself, never embraces nor clings to it, for it is never wholly devoted without reservations. Rhetoric, finally, is the phrase that seeks not only to adhere to what it wants to signify but also aims to enjoy itself and contemplate its own beauty. When someone, whose intelligence we trust, praises someone whom we judge inferior to ourselves without hesitation, our vanity enjoys a delicate satisfaction. To appreciate our inferiors is to tacitly admire ourselves. That a mediocre person succeeds exalts us, for it places us beyond the very triumph. Sociology tirelessly demonstrates the obvious. Every work done slowly acquires a special flavor. When we only encounter ignorant interlocutors, our conversation becomes a monotonous didactic exposition of elementary topics. Genius does not require a favorable social environment to flourish; it is self-sufficient and solitude comforts it. However, there are noble and exquisite intellectual virtues, albeit subordinate, that demand a favorable social milieu and an appropriate spiritual temperature. Profound and refined erudition, a delicate and subtle intellectual tact, a sensual and rich appreciation of life and the arts, a deep yet measured, ironic and discreet fondness for ideas, a refinement opposed to any ostentatious display in the art of living, a lucidity capable of cynicism and compassion—these virtues are tarnished, dulled, undermined, and destroyed by daily contact with coarse and vulgar beings. The vices we acquire transform the moral universe in which we lived. We begin to absolve actions we once condemned; the harmlessness of those who seduce us seems evident, and a new innocence thus invades fresh territories. Familiarity with vice dresses it in the humble and gray garb of everyday and insignificant acts. The universe of a devilishly vicious man would be one of lamentable triviality and routine innocence. All the cunning of evil lies in transforming itself into a domestic and discreet god, whose presence no longer disturbs. Moral autonomy arises for us when we have learned to condemn what does not repulse our sensibility. A man who effortlessly leans towards good cannot know the intellectual austerity of moral problems. The discrepancy between a judgment and a preference is the matrix of morality and aesthetics. ## Page 151 Objectivity is defined there as what is identical for all. In other terms, ontological reality becomes, if not a social function, at least an unavoidable attribute of social consent. Measuring is an essential act. Measurement transforms an individual characteristic into a personal requirement. But by obtaining impersonality, measurement automatically creates objectivity. Metaphysical value of measurement. Pure contemplation tires. To successfully culminate contemplation requires a minimum of action, even if it is just a verbal formula. A consistent idealism must regard history as the only system capable of encompassing the totality of the real. The dignity and nobility that arise from a constant tension to subdue the elemental brutality of human nature have no sufficient motives other than ambition and the hope of reaching the objects of our longing. When man despairs, humanity collapses. Any pedagogy aiming for a goal different from the ends of the historical society in which the student lives is ineffective. Pedagogy is futile because it is social contagion that educates man. What shapes man are social routines. Men who seek more than just entertainment, information, or data from books are rare. Rarely does a book educate. Each person reads with their own spirit. In books, we discover nothing but the confirmation of our prejudices. Books do not educate except for those to whom they are a living presence, an immediate and fleshly existence. ## Characteristics of the Colombian: impossibility of the concrete; in their hands everything becomes vague; lack of morality; the notion of duty is unknown to them; the only rule is the fear of the policeman or the devil; in their soul no moral, intellectual, or social structure; they ignore all tradition; passively submitted to any influence, nothing marks them; nothing bears fruit, matures, on that soil of formless, shifting, plastic, and inconsistent texture. Extending in philosophical thesis the universe depicted by Velázquez, Chardin, and Vuillard. There is no greater nobility than that of denying what the heart desires and reason rejects. May God defeat us or may we conquer Him. Violence alone delivers us to God or hands Him over to us. Thought that is not pain, but pleasure; that is not a goal, but a path; that is not a means to a truth, but a perfect and sufficient end. The subject of the poem is never beyond the poem. Where Barrès speaks of emotion, Gide speaks of sensation. Brothers, perhaps, separated by vocabulary. Colette's prose achieves the noblest classical balance, as it expresses the most evident voluptuousness through the clearest intelligence. Charles du Bos or "On the formation of the soul through the assimilation of authors". But the mere existence of a person indicates the existence of a structure, and therefore of a system, or an order in whatever momentary state, of their ideas. If what we are determines what we think, we should start with ourselves and center our meditation on the attributes we consider central to our being. But I dare not exclude so radically all notion of spiritual progress. If our being is capable of enriching or impoverishing itself, nothing indicates that its center of gravity is always the same and that what we are not (and perhaps will never be) does not constitute the true driver of our thought and the real center from which we must trace the circumference of our ideas. It is not necessary that life be explained exclusively by its history, and indeed authentic history exceeds what merely happens. No relief is comparable to what we feel when we give up our pretensions. How the body rests when we cease forcing it to maintain a posture, a seriousness, or a stiffness that is not natural to it; similarly, the obligation that we had imposed upon ourselves leaves, upon moving away from us, a void where the spirit moves freely. The book we read yesterday with difficulty, because we sought in it tools to fulfill the obligatory task, swells anew in our hands with all its weight of pleasure or enchantment. Thinking, writing, everything is easier and simpler when we no longer believe ourselves dedicated to high enterprises. The spirit, previously constrained by what it expected of itself, seems to flow anew and unleash itself, like a river in spring. Such are the compensations for our lost dignity. What despairs me when I write is not so much the sterility of my spirit, its extreme greed, its reluctance, its repugnance to generously grant the flow of words where the embryos whose agitation unsettles and discomforts me may take shape; no, it is rather the ugliness of what I write, the hardness and rigidity of my sentences, their lack of elegance, charm, grace. I do not believe there is any man endowed with less ease than me. Everyone has some “talent,” some “grace”; I was born devoid, naked, astonishingly defenseless. Most people who write books do so because they lack confidence in themselves, because they do not trust their own opinion. The mediocre, indeed, secretly knows himself to be mediocre, but hopes he is mistaken and interrogates himself stealthily: might I have talent? Nothing would empty the shelves of libraries as much as confidence in the glaring evidence of our eyes wide open. Learning to be mediocre is a difficult task. We are all born candidates for the Parallel Lives and it is hard for us to content ourselves with appearing only in civil registries. From the romantics, we have inherited the love of spectacular greatness. There is no modern man who resigns himself to being what he is, from those who aspire to unattainable greatness to those whom their human condition wounds and irritates. Even the current mediocre man, satisfied with himself, longs to transcend his human condition and hopes that technical progress will redeem him, eliminating all limitations inherent to man. Stupidity, cruelty, pain, old age, death, all seem contingent and remediable to him, but unlike the Christian, he does not want to pay the price for his redemption. Our romanticism is a secularization of Christianity. The millenarians of the early Christian generations must have been as unbearable as our contemporaries. I believe that only the French of the seventeenth century have known how to see the man in man, have known how to be men strongly settled in the center of humanity. They are the only men who have suffered from what they are, not from what they are not or cannot be. Nothing more intolerable than the sufficiency of one who rates his opinions so as not to err. ## Page 159 Spending a day absorbed in spirit by any triviality that presents itself, reduced almost to the mere function of a mirror, elucidates for me the mystery of the common life of men, whose unparalleled emptiness should devour them in fits of boredom and tedium. Forcing ourselves to put into words all our ideas, even the most insignificant and faint, is to set up the verbal machinery and smooth it out so that it can be effortlessly started by an idea that, due to its difficulty or unique value, requires all our feeble attention and all the energy usually dissipated in the hunt for words and syntactic schemes. The idea of perfection is the stumbling block of those who have not understood that all perfection is the product of a thousand inefficient and impure acts. Excluding a few sublime spirits, people's opinions on contemporary events are so similar from one era to another, from one day to the next, that one could conceive of an ideal newspaper written once and for all, which intelligent people would be content to read just once, but which would be published daily for everyone, with only the names changed each day. Critics spontaneously divide into two classes: those who write for a reader unaware of the book they discuss and those who write for a reader who is familiar with it. Both are disloyal to their true critical duty. The former fall into the error of wanting to replace the book with its description, believing in the possibility of translating a work of art into different verbal material to make it more accessible. The latter, unable to recount the book which they unconsciously assume already known, indulge in more or less agreeable confidences about what the book suggested to them, leaving us merely listeners to the resonance it awakens in them, simulating criticism of the themes of the book. To undertake the noble tasks of the spirit, good will alone is not enough, nor does fervent and passionate affection help us accomplish them. Being chosen is the only infallible recipe. Nothing here is more lamentable and ridiculous than meritorious conduct devoid of the anointing of talent or genius. Those who imagine that sacrifices, self-denials, or laborious efforts deserve reward do not recognize the implacable austerity of the universal order. The spirit endowed with noble and high qualities achieves its salvation by fulfilling its intimate demands. It needs not stray from itself or reject its ambition and desires to achieve sovereignty. The excellence of its work allows it to enjoy the fullness of its destiny. Not so the mediocre, who in everything they undertake sin inexorably due to the weakness of their acts, tarnish what they touch, and diminish the great. Only the religious life is for everyone, great or mediocre, the sure path to salvation. Here the demands made on us, though harsh, rough, abrupt, require nothing but effort, will, and patience to fulfill. Truth or beauty are miraculously granted to some rare souls, perfect and unblemished, or they are not; whereas the works of religion admit a charitable scale of perfections. Holiness, at which they culminate, is not the untouchable condition of all merit. To the humblest incredible rewards have been promised, and the most mediocre can find their rightful place without their resignation degrading them. An unlimited path stretches before them; whoever walks it never arrives, but their failure is natural. Failure here does not bring about that relaxation of the soul and hopeless despair typical of the ridiculous shipwrecks of those who venture into waters reserved by God for the predestined, chosen for noble joys and sufferings. no tangible object, separated from me by prohibitions and defenses that emanate from the existential root of things. My poor human self may suffer or enjoy, become exalted or depressed, in the contemplation of this spectacle, but only a ludicrous myth, born from eloquent outbursts of the soul, tries to persuade us that we participate in the magnificences of nature. I certainly do not maintain that our being stands before the world as an independent and autonomous spectator of a heterogeneous object that neither surpasses nor is more important than it. On the contrary, I see man immersed in the world, situated among things like stone or water. Man rises from the ground of nature itself and is merely one of the accidents of the landscape. But this community of man and things never turns into communion. Our natural poverty can never be enriched with the abundance and splendor of those aspects that nature has not treated with the miserliness that presided over our birth. Thus, we connect with the very foundation from which things spring forth, but we are born limited and confined within our fleshly contours, reduced to mechanical action, that is, to external contact, to an approach that cannot penetrate, to the ironic appropriation of a place always empty. Our natural destiny, indelibly imprinted from the moment of conception, unfolds relentlessly without anyone twisting or diverting it, and like a stone thrown into the void or the conclusion of a syllogism, it unfailingly fulfills its law. Nature in its aspects of singular splendor oppresses and despairs us. Our feeble forces, weakened each day, would find here inexhaustible springs. An incomparable longing shakes us before the absurd dream. That the sun, which caresses and burns our naked skin, might penetrate our veins, infuse our innermost tissues, become the marrow of our bones, and flow golden and thick instead of vile blood. Our turbulent, murky, and fragile life could partake of the powerful and profound serenity of things. In the terrible storm, in the incessant activity of the sun, in the furious agitation of the sea, in the dull murmur of the sap, in all this tremendous living, I feel a serenity and unlimited rest that arises from the secure possession of strength. Being here spreads and spills, pours out, spends, and consumes itself in blind waste that causes it to explode into millions of forms of unprecedented magnificence. But if being grants itself in gratuitous gestures, if it gives itself without limit or measure, in its ineffable center endures a sovereign majesty, an inexhaustible source of power, a profound immobility, stable, enduring. We, however, only perceive; ah! ironic perception, merely a simulacrum of possession, a tempting promise that cannot be fulfilled. In a fortress of unbreakable crystal, abandoned sentinel, without password or orders. Our strength falters, anguish invades us, but we are forbidden to seize the ineffable abundance of the sun, rain, wind, sea; that abundance that would rescue us from our clumsy and lamentable decline to deliver us clean to a noble death. It is impossible to move someone when we only activate one of their many mechanisms. An action rich in accidents and consequences always emanates from various and distinct causes. Herein lies the impediment to easily penetrating the structure of political and social facts with intelligence. It is easy for us to discern in our adversary the interest that impels them or the necessity that drags them, because we all equally rely on the same web of causes and are driven by identical passions. However, those regions of the spirit that are most intimate and subtle, even though common to all, differ in their climate, constitution, and structure. The validity or effectiveness of a political sermon radically varies according to its nuances and resonances, even if it is based on similar needs and aims to evoke identical interests or passions. Here what repulses there captivates, and there moves what here seems cold, insipid, or absurd. Nothing is commonly more insignificant than the refutation of a political doctrine, because, almost by definition, it stems from ignorance of those hidden resonances of the doctrine, which are its true meaning and the legitimate cause of its successes. The political vocabulary has a magical significance rather than a rational one. The term is used here as a spell to invoke a particular response, to produce a certain state of mind; hence the repetition of the same ideas and phrases, which tires the indifferent listener, is neither tedious nor monotonous for those who find in them the appropriate stimulant for certain areas of their sensitivity. Not only do obvious and plausible motives govern human acts. In all men, there are yearnings and revulsions, enthusiasms and hatreds, arising from the different structures of each being and the different histories of each life. Thus, new values are born that we cannot measure simply by comparing them with the standard developed to judge general needs and common interests. Knowledge presupposes similar sensibility, analogous history, and passionate participation in the same object. Politically speaking, one does not convert but the already converted. Political discourse is a liturgical ceremony commemorating the significant events of a cult, or perhaps a magic operation to infuse new vigor into the faithful. Philosophy has thus managed to pose its problems in a more succinct and strict manner, with a precision and meticulousness that divides it into distinct specialties. As for history, we see that only the monograph has freed it from vague philosophical or moral considerations, allowing it to be filled with the dense substance of concrete facts. The arts, on the other hand, have attempted, almost senselessly, to bring about the culmination of this same process, and the aesthetic history of our days is the account of the attempt to isolate the essence of each art, to free it from all subordination to activities other than those exclusively its own, to reject the heterogeneous that wants to interfere with it. Thus it was possible to achieve a purer lyric, devoid of didactic or moral elements, heading towards its own end with sure and firm step; so too a painting that scorns the anecdotal or photographic or literary and is content with volumes and forms, with purely pictorial values. Each spiritual activity has enclosed itself within its own scope and each has been developing its own technique, free from any foreign consideration. Philosophy, for example, as a modern conceives it differs from what the Greeks called by the same name. The philosophical life preached by the Pythagoreans and whose notion reaches fullness in Plato's philosophy is, despite the intellectualism of the Aristotelian school, the very axis of ancient philosophy. The process of philosophical knowledge, for Plato, necessarily involves a process of purification and asceticism; for him, as for the mystics, knowledge is a total function of the person. Indeed, these are theses that for a modern lack meaning and which radically refute, in their eyes, the enrichment, development, and multiplication of sciences, arts, and letters. However, I am beginning to believe that those who seriously discussed the moral qualities of the speaker or the poet were right. In fact, by separating everyday human life, with its chores, obligations, sufferings, and pleasures, from its highest spiritual acts to achieve greater efficiency for these, what we are achieving is the "barbarization" of man. As a result of this attempt, we already see the life of modern man, his everyday life, his personal and concrete life, the one that each individual lives with all his emotions, passions, instincts, immediate ideas, flowing in a solitary channel, far from his spiritual activity. Two planes of existence, without any contact, have appeared in man; the plane in which his life takes place, and the plane in which his spirit's activity develops. We have cut all ties, all bonds, all connections. What happens there has no influence over what happens here. The spirit, in its most daring and pure act, never concerns itself with each man's personal life to penetrate it with light and permeate it with intelligence. Abandoned by the spirit, everyday life loses all nobility and gives itself up to the countless demons of personal whim and collective inspirations. While plunging his head into a pure sky, purior aeter, his body indifferently engages in the clumsiest gestures. The source of all nobility is evidently the spirit: daily acts, material chores, do not shed their innate vulgarity unless the spirit arranges and orders them. To abandon, thus, our everyday life to its biological automatism or its social automatism is to prepare for the triumph of barbarism. True barbarism is the absence of spirit, the full development of animality, such that where we encounter acts prompted and directed by the spirit, as in the matrimonial institutions of Australians, we hesitate to use that concept, even though a thousand repulsive gestures urge us to employ it. Barbarism thus threatens us because it is no longer the spirit in its purest exercise that guides us, but the elemental simplicity of our 167 Our instincts, constant social needs, and the inert automatism of customs guide us more than the pure exercise of spirit. Perhaps our pleasures and amusements are the sharpest symptoms of this split, this schism. The ease with which individuals, extraordinarily insightful and subtle when they are in their laboratories or handling their statistics and special concepts, accept the triviality of a book, the foolishness of a movie, the vulgarity of entertainment venues, or the childishness of sports reveals the absence of spirit, immersed in segmented occupations and disdainful of its highest, albeit most impure, duty. The spirit withdraws from life and takes refuge in its obscure manipulations. Life diminishes, deteriorates, and impoverishes. Action, stripped of its grandeur, sheds its possible perversions, its unheard-of depravations. Gods and demons flee from man in whom the moist snout of the beast appears. However, everyday life, left to itself, is not the only victim of the isolation of the spirit. The spirit also loses the vigorous essence that life communicates to it. But what is serious is not only that philosophy becomes a logical formalism, that sciences accumulate mere technical recipes, that literature gets lost in pure verbal incoherence, that an aesthetic formalism devours the arts; nor is it only, reciprocally, that eloquent verbalism replaces philosophy, that vulgar and inept use degrades science, that childish sentimentalism substitutes for literature, that painting and music pleasing to the crowd exist alongside true painting and music; the gravest issue is that this degraded and diminished man will tomorrow be the sole creator of philosophies, sciences, arts, and letters, and thus, all these activities will merely express the debased nature of a debased man. Sooner or later, what man is and what he does reflects in his works; nay, they reflect! They are the very substance of his works. The being of man is the profound and real material of what he creates, not the objects he handles, the species he elaborates. Ultimately, the spirit cannot escape from the man in whom it dwells, the impure flesh where it has its seat, its root, and its end. If, forgetful of the eternal law that binds it to life, it tries to soar to a pure intellectual heaven, the watchful avenging justice, guarding the essence of things, punishes it by delivering it to the barbarism its clumsy daring engenders. A Louys, a Wilde, with that divorce they attempt to implant between art and morality, are the least Hellenic, least pagan spirits conceivable. They are like those engravings and paintings from the end of the last century that depict scenes of Greek or Roman life, whose nude female figures always seem encircled by an invisible corset. They are comically of their time. In essence, there are but two major political parties. Humanity politically divides into two camps: those who are more content than discontented and those who are more discontented than content. One group tries to prevent a change they fear, the other to promote a change they desire. This is the entire secret of the left-wing and right-wing parties, which would better be named with their old nicknames: conservatives and progressives. I don't believe there are abstract or impersonal reasons for choosing one party over another. "Everything is a matter of convenience, personal circumstance, or historical situation." Sometimes I have been troubled by the difficulty of reconciling this opinion with a fairly vivid and persistent impression: the greater generosity of the left-wing or progressive parties. Indeed, if this is so, there would be strong reasons to opt for these parties. However, it seems evident to me that this is only an optical illusion, a vision in time, resulting from the very nature of time, the medium in which we inevitably contemplate every event or any opinion about an event. 169 Concrete, hard, with edges; it is thus something personal, inseparable from a place, an individual, an act. The past has its own name. On the contrary, the future is vague, uncertain, nebulous; it is abundant in promises, rich in possibilities. It cannot be defined or determined. There, the individual is submerged in the general, the concrete in the abstract, the species in the genus. Therefore, those who defend the past (or the present which is here the same) always appear to be fighting for something specific: a privilege, a concrete situation, a material good; while those who are concerned about the future, even when they long for the most personal and selfish good, can only fight for the common, for the universal, but not because generosity, detachment, or apostolic zeal motivate their acts, but because the future lacks individual features, personal traits, the rough appearance of reality. The generosity of progressive parties is only apparent and stems exclusively from the unpredictability of any future event. We do not live peacefully unless we believe that nobody exists. Certainly, it is rare that we dare to sustain such sharp solipsism, but the unpleasant surprise caused by a patent and undeniable existence is proof of our secret conviction. Deep down, our education, our respect for others, the careful attention with which we listen to opinions of others, our reluctance to hurt any sensitivity, the precautions we take to not annoy or bore, are nothing more than tricks and ruses that we devise to avoid violent contact with others, the abrupt gesture imposed by the irrefutable reality of a person. Humility and discretion are attitudes of someone who shrinks and diminishes themselves to not bump against objects, not because they fear breaking them, nor even because they fear injury, but because their very real existence terrifies them. Pleasure is merely the perception of that music to which the Scriptures admonish us: Non impedias musicam. Seeing pleasure only as the permission and occasion for some vulgar orgies is like seeing heroism only as the occasion and permission for some filthy murder. Without complete possession, there is no total gift, and only a soul sovereign over itself can surrender to pleasure without diminishing its dignity. A humanist is one who refuses to tolerate his actions having motives unrelated to the intimate needs of his being. There is no humanism that does not carry with it a critique of humanism. Neither universality in itself nor singularity are signs of value. The value lies in the facts themselves and not in position relations. It is inconceivable that humanism could be abolished in favor of another purely human activity, but it is susceptible to religious enrichment that transcends and at the same time fulfills it. The humanist refuses any action that has an end other than self-knowledge through action. Knowledge is the purest face of pleasure. In a perfect soul, perfect pleasure is nothing but perfect knowledge. Knowledge is that pure use of reason that gives us possession of the object, not in the definition elaborated by an abstract dialectic, but through the intuitive construction of the object in the spirit. Perceiving, contemplating, and knowing are degrees of pleasure. Pleasure does not consist in adapting things to our spirit, but in adapting our spirit to things. Pleasure is not an element that belongs to certain things, but an attitude of the spirit. Indeed, it is not about seeking only pleasure, but about seeing only pleasure. Since pleasure is a pure form, all matter suits it, and all life. Happiness does not differ from pleasure. Happiness is that state of the soul where all things are naturally thought under the sole category of pleasure. Pleasure is more intense when the enjoying being forgets itself; more exquisite when a sharp awareness of itself accompanies it in the very fullness of its ecstasy. Authentic voluptuousness extends physical commotion into intellectual schemas. Well-being is the pleasure of those who are unaware of pleasure. Pleasure is the balance that, through knowledge, the world temporarily achieves in our spirit. Both the deliciously flavored fruit and the intelligent idea are sensual delights. The most abstract idea contains the succulent substance of the world. All joy transforms into an idea of joy, and reciprocally, every idea of joy transforms into joy. In that pure place of the spirit, the concrete and the abstract merge into one identical carnal presence. The lowest form of knowledge consists of abstract elements and draws hypothetical lines for the possible use of the object. Intermediate knowledge seeks to integrate objects into a logical universe. Superior knowledge recognizes each object as unique and seeks nothing beyond the object itself. Total bliss of the soul is found when it reaches maturity and perfect fullness. If we prevent our activity from having goals other than its own fulfillment, we will achieve bliss, which is nothing but the feeling of something being adequate in itself. The soul can reach its fullness at any moment because fullness is the harmony of what is and what one possesses with what one desires and creates. Nothing is more noble or beautiful than the fullness of a soul, particularly when this fullness is not static, but a fullness in motion. That is, when its harmony is unstable, being the harmony of a being that grows with its creations and desires. Conversely, when a being is satisfied with the first balance it achieves, when its will for fullness transforms into a will for a determined form of fullness (instead of persisting as a will for fullness in pure form), the fullness that such a being achieves and with which it is content is an unequivocal sign of mediocrity and pettiness of spirit. To yearn for a balance between desire and possession is not to renounce those objects beyond man whose pursuit is essentially human. It is merely learning to desire the pursuit of the object and the possessions that precede the possession of the object. If we know how to analyze our sufferings, that knowledge gives us the heroic and harsh pleasure of a spirit suited to its own pain. The truths of our souls are those whose opposite term is an absolute impossibility. It is a mistake to want to buy happiness; let transient contracts suffice. Irrenunciable happiness is a trap in which intelligence gets entangled. Nothing is more dangerous than identifying our pleasure with its conditions at any given moment. A fully voluptuous soul knows alone how to limit itself. What separates us from pleasure sometimes only separates us from our satiation. An easy pleasure turns into a common necessity. When a persistent and elusive idea finally yields to our loving patience, it is not so much pride or vanity that fills us as the confused emotion of witnessing the appearance of something noble. A voluptuous body wears the splendor of the desires it arouses. Being sincere with every moment of our life can dangerously mean insincerity with our life itself. The humanist is not one who has only one idea of their life, an ideal, nor one who only lives in the present moment, but rather one who weaves the idea of their life on the warp of the concrete moments of their existence. The purest joy of the spirit is the fruitful serenity after effort. Premature expression of thought founders near the coast. The unmistakable flavor of beings is the drink of the gods. The pleasures of intelligence lie, on one hand, in objects and their relationships, and on the other hand in the clear awareness of feeling oneself each day more subtle and stronger. The greatness of beings depends on our own greatness, and their mediocrity is but a reflection of ours. Some find greater pleasure in analyzing action than in action itself. The idea wants us to know it both in its isolated essence and in the connections that tie it to other ideas, which prolong and complete it. A certain rusticity of spirit prefers the robust beauty of the body to the beauty of the face; however, it is only in the features of a restless or triumphant beauty that voluptuousness reveals its most secret richness. We will not have learned to sensually enjoy the world until the gesture that feels extends into an arabesque of intelligence. When the immediate objects of the senses and the immediate objects of reason do not differ, we have finally built a sensual universe. Intellectual freedom is something we should not possess, but acquire. What is given to us is merely an invitation to acquire it. It is not the importance for life that gives value to certain acts; it is from the value of certain acts that life takes its importance. Mediocre is the wisdom that censures pleasures that are not within its reach: to contemplate without envy is the only thing that diminishes the bitterness of lost possession. Things seduce us by the dreams they allow. Our intoxication before the world should be nothing but the instrument of our intelligence. Lucidity demands that beings be ends, and not means, of our activity; but if we do not know how to use beings as means, our lucidity becomes clouded and our intelligence gets entangled. What seems devoid of all pleasure is only empty of the defined pleasure we demanded. The smallest things are often capable of more intense pleasure than great ones because they do not overwhelm the spirit, which can thus devote itself to them with attentive and perfect clarity. In the face of certain things, it is necessary to assume a dogmatic attitude in order to understand them. Our search for a system should not be a fondness for the comfort of the spirit, but a love of the unstable that endures through transient equilibriums. Without great superiority, an impartial spirit is mediocre; but mere partiality is not enough to escape mediocrity because it is subjugated and dominated partiality that serves as a spring to the spirit, not the partiality that subdues us and to which we weakly surrender. The demands of voluptuousness and serenity are often contradictory, and there is no rule that allows us to systematically reconcile them. Let us be content, then, with a lucid moderation that consents to the gift or prepares for rejection. Those who yearn to live according to the exact logic of the principles they have chosen will sacrifice the principles themselves to their logical consequences. To enjoy those things that everyone condemns, it is not necessary to seek justifications and pretexts, but to love the elements in them that precisely make them condemnable. From every thing, not only its irreplaceable individuality should intoxicate us, but also the general, the universal that it encompasses. Very young women add to the charm that is their own the moving and deceitful promise of what they probably will not be. There are powers of sensitivity that only move the ugly and the vile. Even though there are rare sensations that strange and monstrous circumstances awaken, only those women whose spirit and body, each on its own and together, achieve a balance that simple words could describe, yet it is above humanity’s noblest and highest success. Wisdom finds in its duty the most subtle disguise of its pleasure. The price of things arises from their fleeting and vain duration. Nothing equals the sweetness of twilight when we even strip ourselves of the vanity of being sad. There is a certain harmony, a certain density, a certain spiritual fullness that can only be achieved when the soul grows amid beauty, when it opens in pleasure like a flower. Anyone who does not fully commit to any task undertaken is bound to fail. In the dense shadow of actions, in their nocturnal aspect, lurk lemurs and gods. The voluptuousness of letting go and dissolving; the voluptuousness of possessing oneself and building oneself up. To understand and interpret what they do in light of what they intended to do: the golden rule of the critic. My desire is not to avoid judging but to avoid being ignorant. Truth is to intelligence what bliss is to sensibility; truth is the bliss of intelligence. It is not advisable to identify ourselves with the acts our powers ordain, but with the order that constitutes them. A free act is not the conclusion of meditating on principles, but the act in which the entire being affirms itself. What matters is not to tear ourselves away from our duties; what is important is not to let them bind us. Neither the smallness nor the greatness of the objects an intellect deals with prove its pettiness or grandeur; it is in the intensity, strength, power, and tenacity of the occupation itself that we discover its true measure. No one makes promises of voluptuousness comparable to those of a woman, whom everything distances from us except her will. Moments of perfect happiness are moments of perfect availability. The contemplative life is not the life determined by the contemplated object, but the life lived according to the purest essence of the spirit. As the spirit matures, the importance it attributed to systematizing its ideas diminishes. The contradiction of a new idea with an already possessed idea is not enough for it to reject the new idea, nor is its conformity with the old idea sufficient for accepting it. Every day it becomes more evident that the idea must justify itself and that nothing authorizes us to believe in the deductibility of the world. Love is usually the promise of what it does not give. Taking an idea to its end falsifies it, but we also falsify it if we stop it at intermediate positions. Therefore, it is necessary to exhaustively explore different ideas and various aspects of each idea successively, without fearing contradiction, because true accuracy lies only in the movement of the spirit. Time ripens thought so that will may harvest it. If fulfilling our being is merely fulfilling our destiny, our destiny, however, is just an invitation to be, since we have the abominable power to be nothing but the rejection of ourselves. Spirit, to whom every thought suggests the system it implies, spirit that seeks to connect its thoughts and tie them together in systematic knots; yet, a spirit to which no truth suffices, for whom every truth demands the opposing truth, and to whom every affirmation seems to deny something else. 181 that does not affirm and thus demands the negation that denies it; a spirit that wants no synthesis, but tension of opposites. The critical spirit rejects all determination and aspires to reach beyond the fragmented and broken universe, the unity where multiple appearances are engendered. The spirit attempting to understand gives itself without reservation to the object, like the spirit that merely approves and affirms. However, while the latter stops and forgets in this self-giving, the former regains its lost possession, to incessantly devote itself to new objects. Beautiful things are not the only objects of critique, but they are its purest objects. Daily use dims the colors of a world that only recovers its splendor when desire invades us. We should despise all principles that sacrifice the splendor of our life for its balance. There is no complete humanism if all its acts do not reveal the familiar presence of sensuality. Physical love, indeed, but more than these gestures that destroy their own prestige, it is the presence of the woman, her sensual and obscure magic, the emotion aroused by those limbs ordered for dark demands whose power exceeds mere beauty, which the spirit needs to add to its rigor and natural austerity the most intense density of intelligence. In the political realm where only opinions that can be transformed into forces count, we must avoid the childishness of purely correct and just opinions. Systematic importance alone saves the honor of intelligence. When the obsession with the present distresses us, reason must have the courage to flee from its apparent duty. There is a certain flower of intelligence, a certain smile, a certain dawn, a certain fresh irony, that all who are not stripped of irredeemable modern barbarity by familiarity with Greek letters lack. Beyond this immediate life where we find our easiest pleasures, there arises a total stripping of being amidst dry and pure bliss: Quam suave mihi subito factum est carere suavitatibus nugarum. Everything depends, we have been told, on social and political conditions; but since they in turn depend on everything and since we cannot contribute to their practical solutions, it is better to turn our backs on them and dedicate ourselves to meditation, which impotence does not nullify. Friendship is interested; instead of being outraged, let us satisfy it. Manure is useful, the important thing is not to use it as food. The people are always vile; but let us not forget that those who believe themselves less so, generally are more so. Nowadays only one social class remains: the bourgeoisie. The nobles? Ashamed bourgeoisie. The proletarians? Proletarians exasperated at the bourgeoisie. Wealth serves modern man only to multiply his vulgarity. The bourgeois's alms are not an act of charity, but of social defense. The bourgeoisie is not a monstrous social species, but merely the average satisfied man. The future communist bourgeoisie prepares feasts of hilarity for the infernal powers. It is not that communists have a right or reason to demand equality; it is that the bourgeoisie has neither the reason nor the right to deny it. It is not necessary for a man to be superior for me to find it just that he is above another; it is enough that he is different. What I find intolerable is that having more is sufficient. Do men want inequality? Well, let them prove they are unequal. Between you, lying down, my dear friend, and the servant who, standing, serves you, since both of you have the same pleasures, equal ignorance, similar superstitions, analogous customs, and identical ambitions, what difference, I ask, what difference is there, if not purely geometric? Bourgeois, my brother, you can don the livery of the servant and you will find no more difference in your life than having to go now to cheap cinema halls; but do not worry, you will see the same films. Since the fragility of man is more fragile in our time, the threats greater, his works more ephemeral, we must prefer slow and patient labor, meticulous tasks, ambition that dreams of eternity. Disgust is, today, the only guarantee of nobleness. Paternal love is the scandal of the world. Without it, it would be possible to build a coherent universe. But it exists, and installs an unmistakable reality at the center of universal indifference. Telling God: Father; we never reflect sufficiently on the enormity of the claim or the magnificence of the promise. The city has slowly acquired a purely bourgeois character. The new districts lose the vague remnants of placidity and monarchical majesty that the constructions of the Second Empire still manage to simulate. The buildings monotonously repeat the test of the lack of style of the society that builds them. But now, the bourgeoisie itself begins to disappear. The wealthy bourgeois conceals himself; the ranks of the nineteenth-century bourgeoisie no longer exist. A new gray and insignificant social species occupies the streets. Whether employees or workers, their social ethos predominates. The rest is theatrical wardrobe used for acting, not for living. It seems as though the suburbs have extended to the city center. Europe lives off its past, like certain descendants of illustrious men live off the pension granted by some generous congress. The French countryside fills the relentless economist with happiness. Wealth of the earth, incomparable fertility of the soil, and above all admirable and meticulous cultivation of the land that does not allow even the smallest corner to be wasted. This spectacle overwhelms me. Despite the beauty and diversity nature granted these landscapes, man has imposed upon them an enervating monotony. The implacable rectangles of different crops obediently follow one another and stretch to the horizon. Trees lined up hide behind each other, at equal distance, and vary their rows with the passing of the car with a precise and mechanical gymnast's gesture. If suddenly we find a small forest, it is not difficult to guess what practical purpose this apparent piece of freedom forgotten on a subdued land serves. And the vineyards, the vineyards of mystical vines, which finally invaded the landscape with industrial severity. Soon comes the moment when we yearn for a piece of sterile and free land, land saved from human tillage. This French field is pitiful. Land submissive and servile. Nature that man subjugated. Soil tamed, incapable of rebelling; more akin to a food factory than to the rustic and sacred countryside where man used to dwell. The wealth of mythical Pomona turns into a vast pantry of grains and vegetables. The field in France is not a garden, but a vegetable patch. Faced with this gigantic display of food, I dream only of barren moorlands, icy peaks, and the warm jungle of my Andean rivers. I do not know from what my repugnance arises; whether innate sobriety, or love of a certain Jansenist austerity, or enforced frugality of a citizen from a poor country? Ah! old swampy grounds of Port-Royal, wastelands of Castile, ah! my rugged hills. 187 abandons and that perhaps contain a heavier, more mature grain. Memories are the true bearers of experience. In the purest light of memory, nuances reveal their subtlest variations, and all life seems to soak in a meaning that immediate existence sadly lacks. Hope creates the prestige of things, and memory breeds their meaning. The present is the place of pure acts, where only a complex mechanism is revealed. Immediate life does not tolerate accompanying disinterested thought; it demands technical thinking: considerations of means and not meditations on ends. Perhaps the urban beauty of France, the beauty of its gardens, the beauty of its roads, stems from the happy harmony between its two constitutive elements: the bourgeoisie and the monarchy. In its monarchical element, it found majesty, breadth of horizons, noble repose that its bourgeois element kept tied to human soil. It seems that every state has an individual form that cannot be altered without destroying everything that seems to constitute its value. The physical continuity alone is not enough to console us for a shipwreck in which the irreplaceable individuality of a nation is lost. The reality of Italy was the city. In that land, all authentic life germinated within the closed confines of a city wall. From the Hellenic colonies of Magna Graecia to Rome, monstrously expanded city that created an empire as a conglomerate of municipalities, to the cities of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. The Italian unity was an artificial work, suggested by nineteenth-century European nationalism and carried out by foreigners: Piedmontese border dwellers. That many Italians had dreamt of unification for centuries is insignificant if we remember that Machiavelli had to invent the Spanish Borgia as a hero and that it required French, Spaniards, and Austrians to smooth over differences so that the idea of union ceased to be merely the longing of some dissatisfied and irritated youth. Italy is a country that dies from existing as a nation. However, I do not claim that reverting it to its pristine pluralism is sufficient to revitalize it because at any historical moment not just any political form can exist, but only in a historical juncture that tolerates the form proper to it can Italy flourish again. The Spanish landscape reveals that, above all, the history of Spain is a phenomenon that generates demographic pressure on geographical aridity. Spain is a system of fertile valleys enclosed by barren sierras. Its history is like a hydraulic phenomenon, the tale of one valley filling up and spilling into another. The reconquest is the name of this process. The Spanish tragedy has Italian origins: it's called the House of Aragon and Christopher Columbus. The policy that Ferdinand the Catholic inherited from his family directed Spanish activities towards Italy, which the taking of Granada had left idle, and introduced Spain into the chessboard of European politics. On the other hand, the discovery of America diverted successive generations of Spanish emigrants toward the new continent. In 1492, the rational policy for Spain would have been the conquest and colonization of Morocco. Africa was the place chosen by the gods of its geography and rejected by the demons of its history. An Spanish empire from Casablanca to Cyrenaica and from Algiers to Senegal or Cape would have made Spain the most powerful nation on earth. Indeed, it would have allowed it to play a role similar to Russia, which did not impoverish itself by expanding through neighboring countries, unlike England, which stretched itself to break into a thousand pieces. The sad Moroccan wars of the dying monarchy are the The remorse of a Spain that failed to choose its true destiny is apparent. European virtues seem tied to political forms that current historical circumstances do not support. In France, the most significant phenomenon of recent decades is the definitive imbalance between the two elements that have shaped its political form. I believe that for future historians, the most meaningful date in French history will be January 21, 1793. When Louis XVI's head solemnly falls into the basket, France loses its balance; its bourgeois scale irresistibly drags it down. From the 18th of Brumaire to May 16th, the nineteenth century was a desperate attempt to restore broken equilibrium. However, monarchism, which the French political body longs for and demands, fails to survive neither in Bonapartist ventures nor in the weak pulses of the wave leaving behind foam on the sands of French history — an Orleanist Mac-Mahon, a radical Boulanger, a conservative Petain, or a nationalist De Gaulle. The last one hundred fifty years in France represent the story of a permanent Restoration that always fails. The bourgeoisie, triumphant, took power: first, the grand bourgeois dreaming of a Venetian republic; eventually, the petty bourgeoisie with their ideology of a haberdasher and the sensibility of someone living in a ubiquitous suburban landscape. Here ends the social evolution in France. A proletarian revolution would not mean the takeover by another social class but rather by another political group. The people have vanished as an independent class and only persist as a crowd of candidates to the fullness of bourgeois rights. The enrichment of the peasantry, industrial and urban concentration, mandatory education, and the industrialization of entertainment are the fundamental factors in the demise of the people. France is a bourgeois nation, and therein lie the elements of its own tragedy. The civil strife in Spain during the 19th century stalled the evolution of society and prevented it from developing at a pace identical to that of other European nations. Consequently, the historical phenomena of Spain in the 20th century are analogous to those of 19th-century Europe. The current regime cannot be compared to fascism or Nazism, despite all its borrowed trappings, but rather to the French Second Empire. Disregarding the sentimental and historical prestige that contributed to the presidential election of Louis Bonaparte, both the prince-president and Emperor Napoleon III are products of the terror instilled in the bourgeois and peasant classes by the socialist rhetoric of the founders of the Second Republic and the sinister upheaval of the June Days. The Spanish regime is then a pure and simple bourgeois reaction, without complications and almost devoid of ideology. In communism, it's essential to distinguish a multitude of elements; any opinion on communism that isn't complex is false. It's obvious that the strength of the communist idea does not derive from its scientific value. Other theories with equal or greater truth content fail to evoke the slightest passion or the appetite for martyrdom, which is the most noble element of contemporary communism. The heart, the central engine, the essential and intimate core of communism is the idea of justice. Thus, to a world that rejects all transcendence, communism explains that all injustice stems from economic causes, earthly and historical reasons, and that simply eliminating these causes will establish the realm of justice. Preaching, therefore, not dissimilar to Christian preaching, as both proclaim the advent of a Regnum Dei; however, Christianity is precisely a messianism whose mystical dimension transforms it completely. Atheism is intrinsic to Marxism; with it, it lives and dies. A response to an era of despair, and a desperate response at that, its assertion of pure immanence is simultaneously its origin, its engine, and its goal. Marx crowns the vulgar atheism of his time with a gesture of metaphysical pride. As the trustee of the bankruptcy of Hegelian philosophy, he hands over to mankind the remnants of the squandered goods of the spirit. A disciple of Ricardian economics or French socialism, a spectator of English proletarization or the Bonapartist reaction, Marx is above all the epigone of German idealism. The Communist Manifesto formalizes the philosophical exhaustion of the century and the great religious aftermath of modern history. To a disoriented society, Marxist atheism teaches the doctrine of terrestrial fulfillment. Moreover, it is undeniable that, by preaching the abolition of private property, communism collaborates in a task of our time. The Marxist explanation here is entirely valid: industrial forces only achieve full development in a society where the obstacles of private property have been abolished. Indeed, property is freedom; freedom is disorder; but the industrial exploitation of nature cannot tolerate disorder since technical progress consists precisely of imposing rationalization on the process we subject to industrialization. Private liberty and rationality are antagonistic. This is, then, the second reason for the strength of communism: its authentic coincidence with a historical process that unfolds independently and proceeds from different causes. The independence of the process corroborates the scientific claims of the doctrine, whose preaching in turn favors the process, a process that, by precipitating, ratifies the tenets of the doctrine. The clientele of communism is enormous, as the diversity of its two basic factors allows it to satisfy the most diverse types of humans and the most contradictory needs. Firstly, all those whose genuine religious sensitivity is unsettled and troubled, but whom the vulgar naturalism of our society has convinced of the impossibility of any transcendence, find in communism a way to satisfy ## The Transformation of Communism into a Church Communism has transformed into a church, its doctrines becoming dogmas, its congresses turning into councils, its expulsions akin to excommunications, its dissenters treated as heretics, and its governance resembling papal absolutism. Debating with the religious-type communist is intriguing because one encounters either their inflexible sweetness or their charitably harsh demeanor, much like that of a Christian. This includes compassionate cruelty, apostolic intolerance, and paternal severity from those who believe they hold the truth amidst a world mired in its errors—a world that turns away from light to seek darkness. Communism also satisfies those who only consider the effectiveness of actions and who, faced with any force, do not think about the purpose it should or could achieve but focus on the realization itself. Thus, they support any system that allows for the full utilization of any forces capable of being utilized. To these two fundamental types, we must add all those dissatisfied with their social situation, those who see in a powerful doctrine the tool of their ambition, those disoriented individuals attracted by the solid, compact mass of a doctrine that asserts without hesitation and rejects without concessions—the majority of men in a disordered world, covered in ruins and devoid of horizons. The way in which communism has partly identified itself with a national state has allowed its opponents to employ old nationalist triggers against it, reciprocally identifying certain social structures with the nationality of the country that feels threatened by communism. Some reject communism because it is Russian; others reject Russia because it is communist. In this fertile and favorable confusion, politicians navigate and maneuver comfortably. The fate of communism likely depends on its identification with Russia. It now seems difficult to dissociate them, as the evolution of both the communist doctrine and the Russian nation have been preparing for centuries, with their converging directions, this tight union. The autocracy that dialectically emerges from the doctrinal demands of communism; the bureaucratic tradition required by its economic organization; the ignorance of freedom needed for its political stability; the intellectual rusticity conducive to accepting its doctrines—only Russia could spontaneously provide all this to communism. Here, in turn, a deep longing secretly summoned such a doctrine. This longing expressed the vigor of a young nation and the congenital messianism of Russian thought. A hidden ambition to be the third Rome, the city of a new Constantine. Marxism promises a triumphant conclusion to the secular rivalry that pitted Kievan Rus against Byzantium. The dazzling presence of Caesaropapist social integration that Sviatoslav discovered on the shores of the Bosphorus dominates the vast Slavic plain. Thus, Marxism identifies itself with the hereditary enterprise that Muscovite Russia transmits to the communist dynasts along with the symbolic blood of the Byzantine basileis. He who ignores the fundamental ways of human nature exposes himself to ironic punishments. Today, communism, where all centennial efforts culminate to free man from religious submission, asserts itself as a new religion, complete with its faith, dogma, and councils, its inquisition, and its bloody anathemas. ## Forces of Democratic Ideas and Industrial Revolution Thus, we see the combined forces of the democratic idea and the industrial revolution exerting influence over the diverse matter of English history and French history. Despite predictions by someone like Taine, this culminates in the same abolition of the political prestige of social notables roughly at the same time (the failed coup d'état by Mac-Mahon in 1877, the English electoral reform of 1884), an analogous extension of popular suffrage, the same predominance of legislative assemblies, a similar system of fiscal and tax expropriation, and a comparable hegemony of trade union institutions, etc. More importantly, then, than the conscious will to realize in history a determined system of social relations (here justice born from the independence of each being; there justice arising from their subordination) is the fact of being within the same autonomous system of intellectual facts with its social consequences. The Russian ideology and the American ideology, one with its complex system of theses, corollaries, and consequences, the other with its intellectual bareness of pure affirmation of individuality, will be forced to submit to identical necessities and, under different names, to settle for similar and indistinguishable societies. I do not believe that an impersonal and mature thought would bother to choose between these two ideological systems, as they are but transient foams on the crest of waves driven by identical forces. For each individual, our choice is reduced to preferring either the remnants of freedom that the American ideology, aware of its essence but ignorant of its destiny, still allows and defends, or the intoxicating promises of a millennium that sustain communist enthusiasm while its remnants of old prophetism and humanitarian ideals do not flounder in the realization of the industrial bureaucracy in which both systems inevitably culminate. For the historian, the significant fact of modern history is the colossal task initiated in the nineteenth century and continued into the twentieth: installing man in a new cosmic environment. Symbolically, humanity is transitioning from the rural milieu where it was born and lived to an urban environment where it will exist in the future. English translation of the middle page: 199 favor no task, where seasons slip over sealed walls that exclude them, where human endeavor gathers fruits from both midday and the north, where races mix and particularities fade. Man is creating a world porous to his action. It seems now that nothing can resist human will, and as in ancient millennial prophecies, we might see deserts bloom. But it is here, when it appears that the fulfillment of the oldest hopes is nearing, that from the vague limbo, where a progressive Prometheus had relegated it, the lamentable mask of human tragedy emerges. Science has miraculously proven capable of teaching us how things are done but is utterly unable to tell us what we should do. Indeed; the values, the purposes that guide man's activity, humanity discovered them in the process of a life integrated into the system of natural forces. His actions depended on goals determined by contact with these forces that dominated, enveloped, and dragged him towards transcendence. But today we already see that man is able to master these forces, which are now subjected to the material action of his technique or the intellectual action of his calculations, and therefore, they can no longer determine as before or inspire the ends of his action. The new cosmic environment in which technical intelligence is installing man is gradually revealed as a barren landscape empty where man loses all reason to live. We can compare yesterday's humanity to a man in a boat, lost without compass or oars in a shoreless sea. Undoubtedly he does not know where to go, nor could if he knew, but currents drag him, winds push him, and one day he will reach a reef that will make him shipwreck or some island floating like a basket of flowers on the waves. But if, in that same boundless sea, we imagine a ship, also without a compass but miraculously free from the action of currents and the force of winds, with an engine moving it in any direction, it is not difficult to understand the despair Trees that stand tall on soil richly prepared by centuries of cultivation, yet needing storms and the sultry air before tempests to ripen their fruits. As it collapses, an aristocracy bursts into a thousand vigorous individuals who violently shoot across history; a democracy, when it vanishes, deflates like a rubber balloon. The soul must remain still, at the center of perpetually agitated intelligence. Only ignorance and stupidity are criminal. Elegance consists in the perfect adequacy of spirit with things. We must always be sincere with ourselves, and never with others. Society more easily punishes naivety than hypocrisy. We must "become" what we are; but with wise moderation. We should pretend to let go and never actually do so. We must know how to be lucid when convenient, and also when not. We must free ourselves from everything; firstly, from ourselves. We must be consciously unjust. There is a theoretical hierarchy of ends; there is no practical hierarchy. The most potent stimulant is life. Goodness is a cunning that goes unnoticed. Love suits those who find themselves unbearable. The equivalency of purposes is doctrine and experience of every well-born soul. To live is indifferent; what matters is to be. I do not know if life has any purpose, but I do know that it is not its own end. Waters untouched by intelligence are pure, but tasteless. Let us maintain the rights of today against those of yesterday, and the rights of yesterday against those of today. May the hope for fruit not veil the beauty of its flower. True cynicism is that which hides. Diogenes was a shabby actor. Be hard! Ah, no. On the contrary, be flexible, let yourselves be bent, but be ready to harshly whip, upon straightening, the hand that tames you. It's appropriate to know how to transform vices into virtues. Every custom is a vice. Being eternally another is man’s most secret desire. One must hierarchize the universe, provisionally. He who finds is he who forgets to seek. Hating is more useful than loving because hate pushes away. Every doctrine that endures is a thousand equally interesting doctrines that fail. Nature is the least simple thing in man. There is intellectual gluttony. True depth deceives itself and is unaware of it. Life has no substitutes. We must stand upright, without resting our head on anything; every comfortable opinion is the grave of intelligence. "Every virtue is the reasoning of a vice." True wisdom lies beyond conscious and voluntary meditation. That admirable Jesuit-style cathedral: Sainte-Beuve's Port-Royal. Toulet, incomparable virtuoso of the comma. Valéry Larbaud, the most subtle teacher of voluptuous humanism. Culture is the creation of an optic. Man is free; humanity is not. The realm of individual freedom is vast, but collective necessity limits it. Its independence drowns in the causal complexity of history. Necessity is not a metaphysical law, but the result of human actions. Each new action starts a causal chain, until the multiplication of actions and series, the diverse links established between them, weave the warp and weft of universal necessity. Each real act cancels an infinity of possible acts. Each moment abolishes universes. In the complex fabric of causes, in the abundance of reciprocal determinations, in the suffocating jungle of universal necessity, perhaps a sharper and broader intelligence than ours can astutely lay the foundations for a more potent and firmer freedom. Beauty is a psychic orgasm. Breton or the aesthetics of the miracle; Valéry or the aesthetics of the solution. The presumptuous criticize fanaticism. How, they silently exclaim, can there be a world where I have discovered nothing! Criticism is the mine of creation. Intelligence constructs art and remains oblivious to it. Beauty is the immobile symbol of mobility. Beauty is what creates unity within us. History is the definition of humanity. There are works of art in which beauty exists as if in potential, enclosed in its germ, underlying the expression like underground water, like a spring hidden under grass and moss. There are others in which beauty spreads and extends, coextensive with its expression and surface, existing in action, in immediate and full actuality. These seduce us more easily, but their enchantment is transient, their influence ephemeral; whereas those that initially leave us indifferent acquire over time an infinite power over us. Sobriety, both in thought and in action, is not wisdom itself but an indispensable condition for it. The only things we can describe well are those we no longer see; the only feelings we truly feel are those we no longer feel. Literature is the impotence of the present. A novelist must infuse his work with his personality so completely that his own universe becomes evident to the reader as the only real universe. If the novelist doubts, his reader apostatizes. Stupidity only surprises the stupid, and corruption only shocks the corrupted. Intelligence and innocence are less easily bewildered. Having been smarter yesterday or thinking that one day we will be, humiliates us just as much today. Among those spirits lacking balance are the greatest; but lacking balance is not, by itself, a sign of greatness. The balance of the classical writer is essentially unstable and fragile. It is a balance conquered over the forces of disorder, a miracle, a dance on the edge of the abyss, an always imminent failure yet always avoided: it represents the utmost rigor combined with the utmost lyricism. A particle of common sense appears genius in a woman. No man is capable of the selfishness and indifference with which a woman views everything she does not love. Every thought about women is triviality wrapped in vulgarity. A woman's reason is the arsenal of her passions. The truth of a woman is the lie of that day. A woman’s loyalty is the constancy of the same caprice. Despite everything, the most incredible thing about women is they can endure and love men. More than the man himself, a woman loves his caresses. Every woman uses men. Love and happiness fill a woman, as intelligence fills a man. Modesty is the uncertainty of a woman. The certainty of her beauty, or confidence in the love she inspires, unleashes her natural immodesty. Every man secretly despises the woman he manages to possess because none is proud enough or vain enough to believe that she has given herself or will give herself only to him. The only things we passionately desire are those we do not deserve. Every woman needs to be violated a little. Vanity brings beings together, binds them, and separates them. There is no good deed without punishment, nor bad deed without reward. Tenacity is often merely the weakness of a will unable to curb its momentum. When we say someone is too intelligent, we are subtly suggesting they are not sufficiently so. There are classical spirits and romantic spirits, but beauty is neither romantic nor classical. The most difficult task of the critic consists in cleaning a work from the thick and dirty layer deposited on it by foolish admirations. It's not worth learning things that can be taught to us. Pedagogy is the art of teaching what is not worth learning. Important things, we either are born knowing them or we learn them miraculously. But there is no teacher except for trivialities. Those who criticize erudition and culture because they stifle originality undoubtedly call ignorance alone originality. It is not freedom but liberation that intoxicates, as it is not health but convalescence. "Il y a ce besoin de l'homme qui est d'échapper au bonheur." All happiness deceives, either because it flees or because it bores. In our arms, its prestige fades away leaving only the useless knowledge of our madness. Invention of our misery to quench a thirst that devours us; tragic simulacrum of a nobler longing. Longing for other worlds and other heavens and not the desire for a peaceful and gentle dwelling on earth. Every transient image of the eternal repulses; every human possession wounds. Ineffable charms of desire! The charms of happiness are nothing but theirs. The splendor of the world is the reflection of our desires. Let happiness tell desire: I am the ashes of your flame. No work is possible without the collaboration of evil, subdued and subjected evil. Creating transcendence from the very bosom of empirical existence is the enterprise that throws Nietzsche's corpse onto the bare beaches of insanity. We do not possess the idea of perfection, but its concept. Objective is not what is outside of us, but what we judge to be outside of us. The hardness of a stone is a concept against which we stumble. Great culture requires for its birth a soil enriched by dense layers of civilization. Gods germinate in suburbs where civilizations decompose and rot. Every new civilization is the irritated answer of those excluded by the preceding civilization. An ecumenical civilization without disenfranchised classes risks prolonging itself indefinitely with monotony and blandness, its power exhausted, its vigor spent, its springs and sources dried up. Every beautiful work is the total act of a life. Beauty is the proof that something has been created; an ugly object is merely a redistribution of matter. Fulfilling our human nature can only be the propaedeutic to fulfilling our divine portion. He who fears cannot think impartially. Among all qualities and all defects, we authentically have only those we believe we do not possess. How admirable would be the book that could give style to the most trivial and common sensations and feelings. ## Page 209 Behaviorism can ignore the reality of consciousness because it overlooks the epistemological conditions of psychological research, focusing solely on its scientific conditions. Those who confuse divine personalism with anthropomorphism, whether denying or affirming, are spouting nonsense. Nietzsche's concept of eternal recurrence is the only hypothesis that saves the concrete totality of the universe from death. The fear of losing freedom is one of the causes of tyranny. It is not freedom that the slave longs for, but the slavery of his master. Constitutional law is the gown with which a nation disguises its political incapacity. Today, it is serious that to judge the needs of civilization, no one conceives that there could be viewpoints different from those of "the convict in the galleys of Actium." In large cities, where men are crammed into suffocating neighborhoods, the very agglomeration creates anonymity for all, mutual indifference, and consequently, a freedom and independence unknown to rural inhabitants, where scattered dwellings minimize human contact. However, urban freedom is an external and physical freedom, independent of actions and gestures, which does not exclude internal submission, a subjection to secret collective inspirations. This very freedom prepares beings for a psychological similarity that levels all diversity and prevents the emergence of strong personalities necessary for greatness. There is no refutation per se; every refutation exists within a systematic structure of postulates. Totality can only exist within a hierarchical order, where infinite coexisting terms can endure without excluding or nullifying each other if they belong to different orders. The world lacks meaning unless we imagine, underlying everyday reality, a totality of which this reality is but a bastardized portion. Feelings are the colors of the moral universe. Man yearns for a world where the soul can create its own necessity. Gide is a critic whom his era prompted to write novels and a humorist whose Protestantism led him to preach. Taine's style is the perfect style of demonstration. Every new idea is a prepared conclusion, every conclusion is the slow and methodical culmination of a complete and eloquent reasoning. Despite their incomparable vigor and strength, Balzac's muscles have an excessive amount of fat. A book by Proust is the perfect reading of a Joyce book. Giraudoux or the intelligence that pathetically simulates sensitivity. The charm of Laclos, as well as his limit, is the dryness of his passion. His lucidity is immense, but he fears getting lost and maintains his distance from the object. Stendhal's lucidity ventures into a thousand enterprises, but even when in comical posture, always ends up mastering herself. Warm, voluptuous, enthusiastic intelligence that allows one to give oneself entirely without getting lost, because it has an infinite awareness of giving. Static lyricism of Mallarmé's poetry. The verse seems to reach its end, stop and contemplate itself, reabsorb into itself, deepen within its pure enclosure in infinite resonances, spread, inversely to the circles on water, towards its own center. Bergson’s style is not an intellectual style but a style of intellectuality. Intellectual style should be sought in Montesquieu, in Saint-Evremont. An artist cannot refuse to conclude; the mere presence of the work is a sufficient conclusion. A passionate and dry style has only been achieved in French. The intellectual harmony of a work may demand logical contradiction among some of its parts. To explain when it is possible to suggest implies an excessive contempt for the reader. The obscurity of a text is generally nothing but an exaggerated confidence in the intelligence of the reader. Clarity is the good manners of the writer. The being we love most sometimes appears to us merely as the prohibition of running toward new joys. To love; not to love: how those things seem, at times, to merge! The ship sank its sharp prow into the waters. The white sail, billowing, slid over the sea and petrels twirled around the mast, surrendered to their long wings. The coasts of the islands began to blend with the sea and only "on the highest peaks did the sun settle. The cliffs glowed one last time and the night took over, sovereign violet color, of the silent sea. Sitting at the prow of the ship, Ulysses watched the slow stars, lost in the bright and pure sky. The Greek, deceitful and cunning, meditated; his small mobile eyes scouted the dry mountains of Ithaca, dense masses in the darkness of the night. But Ulysses feared that the gods would favor his prayers and that he might have to again govern his filthy peasants and his sailors reeking of fish and sea salt. Ah! divine cowherd! Castor and Pollux! What tedium to return to this harsh soil, to hear in the evenings praises of Ithaca, its women, and its vineyards. Tomorrow I will be no more than King Ulysses, nothing; whereas today I am still Ulysses, adventurer and unfortunate, a man whom happiness flees, who visits the dead and sleeps with goddesses. On these treacherous waters, everything can be expected—life, death, and a thousand new Ulysses. Metaphysics of everyday life. Every thing aspires to its own essence. The universe starts from synthesis and concludes in analysis. The idea is the act of the spirit, and matter its lethargy. Matter is not the residue of acts, but the zone of inaction surrounding them. As long as the act lasts, matter is merely its threat. The act that repeats prepares the matter. Matter is repetition, i.e., the form of death that an immortal being can assume. One act does not prolong another act unless it differs from the previous one. Every civilization is the irrational fusion of certain contradictory terms. A logical civilization is either a utopian concept or a premeditated barbarism. Its incomparable value lies in that unpredictable concrete union. For example, if modern man fails to give peace "the moral intensity of war," we will only have a civilization interrupted by episodes of military barbarism, or alternatively, an existence of a suburban bourgeois, satisfied and sentimental. There might be emancipation of slaves; there is no emancipation from slaves. Civilizations are distinguished by how they treat their slaves, not by whether they have them or not. Sociology is not merely a matter of lexicon. Civilized politics, the politics of every civilization, is the politics of historical continuity. Politics that ignores the past can spectacularly inscribe itself in the sky of history but is irremediably barbaric. If acquired traits are not hereditary, no technical pride can save tomorrow's industrial civilization from a catastrophe that avenges us. Personality requires obstacles, impediments, hindrances for its birth. Every society, or social group, that attempts the rigorous application of a conduct norm, that subjects the individual to its abstract demands, that decrees obedience to austere principles with severity, is the conducive environment for the vigorous and healthy development of human personality. To consider that merely living “life” as they say, should be the only goal humanity should propose, one must have been abominably abandoned by the gods. It suffices for a man to have glimpsed the nobility some men are capable of, for everything else to seem insipid to him. The notion that work is a pleasure is an invention of desolate and ingenious workers. Everything that distances man from his noblest demands is vile. We must not forget that working is a curse. Only voluptuous and subtle leisure has worth. Life holds no more importance than being able to lend its coarse fabric so that human cunning may embroider upon it the incomparable arabesques of pleasure and intelligence. The trivial neurological experience on the frog leg subjected to an intense electric current, which rather than maintaining the initial direction of the leg movement reverses it when prolonged, should serve as a theme for meditation when we do not tremble for good or when we despair of evil. Character is inescapable and the worst mortgage of life on our freedom. Luminous images that dream brings forth beyond the torrent of life, as symbols of the possible being that sleeps within us and that our fervent love longs for. "We are all the promise of something higher." A civilization without routines is a soul without a body. Nature never succeeds flawlessly. In philosophy, proving is wasting time that could be devoted to thinking. Seeking an agreement with our nature should only serve to install a more subtle imbalance. The impossible has no efficacy and the possible has no interest. Perfection, like happiness, is only achieved in the work which separates from us and leaves us to our barren solitude. Artwork does not preexist in the spirit; it is born from the clash with matter. Art is, above all, sensuality. No dialectical demonstration convinces; we are only moved and transformed by those that arise from the soul like the cry of a wounded passion. Beauty is not "a promise of happiness," but the fulfillment of that promise. A coherent life leaves the empirical plane to settle in the empyrean of Ideas. It is not so much happiness or misfortune that matters, as intelligence and grace, energy and tension. Any philosophy that avoids the problem of evil is a fairy tale for foolish children. The chaotic development of the powers of being is the death sentence of culture. A severe and silent music is its condition. Science, which teaches us to see in each being a mere transient example of a general and abstract principle, chills me. Nothing degrades us so much as the urge to be, that sudden appetite for life that prevents sacrifice. Without divine personalism, all mysticism, pure emotion of the divine, culminates in the most comical aberrations. Mysticism is the empiricism of transcendent knowledge. Civilization is not a necessary result of the evolution of the human species, but an adventure. The spirit, as we know it, as it reveals itself to us, is not something "immaterial," an empty form, a mere potential; the spirit has substance, matter, pulp, flesh, yes, the flesh of the spirit. Aesthetics is the point of convergence of various attitudes and the nexus of numerous problems. The most perfect work: a sensual metaphysics. Every act tends towards its repetition; automatism narrows it down; but every repeated act overlaps and denies itself. Civilization borne of technique is the product of needy intelligence. True civilization is the product of the decomposition of a thousand cultures into a soul enlightened by reason and passion. The soul develops concentrically: it gains depth and density. To save both the integrity of the individual and erect a structure that prevents society from becoming an amorphous mass and melting away is a privilege of an aristocratic state, and only such. Individuality is a slow conquest. Man constructs man, nature only provides the raw material. Only where Christianity has passed is there a sharp and profound understanding of the sidereal aspect of man and his nocturnal face. 217 A keen and profound awareness of the sidereal aspect of man and his nocturnal face is only found where Christianity has spread. Those spirits impervious to Christianity exhibit a hilariously naive nature. There are follies that only a Christian would not know how to say. The Christian imprint is the sole guarantee of intellectual maturity. The great enemies of Christianity are not those spirits impervious to its light. Blindness towards Christianity, culminating in hostility or indifference, is the privilege of fools. A great intelligence hostile does not ignore it, nor is unaware of it when attacking. One should never imagine, even for a moment, that the devil does not believe in God. Love for the people is an aristocrat's calling; the democrat sees in them only a crowd that can elect him. Popular election is the spring of the democratic soul, as it is the axis of its system. That society is aristocratic, where power resides in the hands of those who have the maximum duties. Aristocratic governance prepares the individual to be self-sufficient. Thus, the anarchy of a revolutionary episode following an aristocratic period, when restrictive institutions disappear but their effect persists in the extraordinary intellectual and moral vigor of the citizens, sets the stage for spectacles of singular magnificence. I cannot adhere to a philosophy that does not teach in some form: nunc est vobis regnum... Every promise that is not a promise of an eternal present is the cruelest deception. History is man's struggle for life; but man's life is not limited to his contours of flesh. A way of feeling, a moral nuance, the idea expressed in the conception of the world, forms part of his life perhaps more than a limb of his body or a fertile province. Imagination is the function of the concrete. It is easy to formulate the rule of political efficacy: to create in certain men a blind will for sacrifice. And difficult to implement. The guardians of freedom are the aristocrats, the enemies of Caesar. The original philosopher ponders realities, the epigone on concepts. To replace the impersonality of law with the personality of man; to substitute abstract relations between rights and duties with concrete relations among concrete values embodied in men; to exchange the cold presence of things for the warm emotion before the presence of man. The perfect civilization would be one that could unite the notion of the individual from the Italian Renaissance with the notion of order from French Feudalism. There is no intellectual originality except within the historical continuity of a spiritual tradition. "Every culture submits to enrich itself and rebels to enrich." Every defect is endearing if it belongs to someone we love. The beloved is nothing more than the springboard of our love. Somewhere a god is born when beauty reveals itself. The unity of the spirit, like the unity of matter, is a working hypothesis, but there is no reality in that sort of naked dummy we invent for history to dress up in picturesque outfits. If the diversity of history consisted only of the diversity of hat forms or economic structures, it would not be worth an hour of trouble. The diversity of history is the diversity of a thousand different universes and the diverse men who inhabit them. In future histories of the Church, the characteristic doctrines of the last centuries will be cataloged among the heresies against original sin. A well-born soul does not need the involvement of external circumstances to create a heroic climate for itself. In philosophy, in ethics, in aesthetics, in politics, we should try to replace the impersonality of reason with the personality of the spirit. Every philosophy of the unitary Spirit serves, sooner or later, as justification for some cunning despot. Between Descartes and Hegel exists the same relationship as between Racine and Hugo, distinct from that which exists between Lamarck and Morgan. In others, we know the diversity of the spirit; in ourselves, its unity. But it is in our diversity that we discover the diversity of others, and it is in the unity of others that we discover our own unity. The explanation of matter tends towards Mayersonian identification; the explanation of the spirit towards internal coherence and reciprocal hierarchy. Intellectualists see beauty as a complex term that must be broken down, while the former view it as a simple term to be integrated with movement, life, and the spirit's impetus. Every man is an unstable, momentary, and transitory synthesis of his past, present, and future. No excellent thing is necessary. All that is great and noble can be omitted without harm to life. It is possible to live, and live happily, in complete degradation and ignorance of excellence. Willpower, not life, is the matrix of greatness. A flexible acquiescence to the hints of life sometimes saves the most authentic consequences of those very principles that it seems to betray. Life often looks with irony at those who reject its modest gifts with overly grand gestures, as it does not tend to announce its rare moments of generosity and munificence with fanfares. Like milk teeth, there are ideas of milk. At what age do we begin to change them? Honest fanaticism obscurely believes that truth suffers if men are unaware of it. Only a Christian can logically be a fanatic, and if he ceases to be one, he ceases to be a Christian. All journeys are vain if they are not like the slow, laborious walk that introduces us, with sweet rigor, into the secret life of a landscape. Memory is too cunning and capricious for a repertoire of descriptions or a catalog of facts to save from the shipwreck of time and deliver intact, wrapped in its protective packaging, the dense, fleshy, juicy memories of lived hours. Memory does not tolerate being coerced. It is better to leave it to its own wisdom. I do not long to harvest memories to console monotonous evenings. If days bring baskets full of thick clusters of grapes, we should eat the grapes and wipe our fingers, without thinking that delicious fruit deserves more than the grateful eagerness of our mouths. Let us aspire only for the pulp of the present to swell with its pure juice; let each moment open its heavy petals. We must force ourselves to be lucid to prevent things from slipping over us like on an oiled stone. Before any spectacle, facing any circumstance, the spirit should look out from its own windows, eyes wide open, nostrils flared. I don't want to pass my eyes over things like the light beam that makes a fleeting object emerge from darkness and then leaves it untouched in its pristine silence. I don't want to be like virgin light, which is unaltered by what it illuminates. Pain sometimes awakens us from the winter slumber in which we live and claws at us so we may be born into awareness. But pleasure merely elicits a gesture and a joyful spasm. In pleasure, consciousness becomes clouded and lost. It seems to pour madly into that state where our miserable desires are fulfilled. Consciousness then gets in the way, and we throw it aside like a useless garment onto the cold ground, next to the threshold of the room, where a naked body awaits our most fervent desire. If acquiring consciousness of pleasure afterward is impossible, being conscious of our lives and the world around us is already difficult and challenging. However, it is a delightful task, and an occupation that does not weary. But only the obligation to bring every experience to verbal maturity compels us to lean carefully over it. ## Page 223 to touch it, to penetrate it, and thus lend to the senses the collaboration of intelligence. Lord Acton's prose seems translated. Without a religious interpretation, life is reduced to its mere actuality. Life lacks meaning when we passively welcome it in its pure unfolding and accept it with the resignation of those who renounce imbuing it with values. Then, the only proposition we can state, the proposition that summarizes science free from all axiological interference, is a tautological one: What is, is. Substance and accident are ways of thinking about the object, they are attitudes of the subject, of thought, and nothing more. A thought, for which everything is an accident, concludes in pantheistic monism; and a thought, for which everything is substance, in irrationalist pluralism. The various systems are positioned between these two extremes, depending on where they place the boundaries of accident and substance. Nothing is more natural than the stagnation of experimental sciences in an era overly preoccupied with logic. There is something so absolute in the study of logical relations, since man cannot think outside them, that studying and handling them seems equivalent to possessing the entire world. The spirit that orders, places, and arranges logical concepts feels master of thought and the world. How much presumption reveals the mere act of writing! The brief note does not abuse the reader’s patience, and at the same time allows what we wish to write to be concluded before the awareness of its mediocrity prevents us from continuing it. In lengthy discourse, the mind travels from idea to idea across a thousand miles of desert. Omitting among ideas the cement of commonplaces is proposing to the reader to collaborate in the same architectural enterprise. Everything accepted is noble; everything imposed is vile. Action recognizes no guilt other than failure. In unconsciousness, there is something low, animal, and vile that repulses every noble soul. In the world, the height of intelligence sometimes consists of having none. In life, as in art, simplicity is the product of extreme skill. Simplicity is something artificial, arbitrary, systematic, and exquisite. It is not difficult to be sufficiently clever so that others do not deceive us; but who does not deceive himself? The aphorism assumes that author and reader live within the same universe of discourse. Therefore, from country to country and class to class, only abundant oratory can build bridges. Speaking is interesting only when we can omit intermediate ideas. All somewhat eloquent; but for someone indifferent to convincing, it suffices to present and propose. What persuades us is the fruit of secret elaborations; consciousness merely illuminates these abyssal blooms. To whom dialogue becomes indifferent, writing seems futile; one can only be led there by a cunning labyrinth of traps. When we have finished discarding the various known reasons for writing, and refuting the various received reasons for doing so, the most amusing thing is that we keep trying it, as if we had embraced and approved reasons and motives. Being incapable of what we desire does not solve our problems but poses new situations. Thinking is such a delightful activity that it makes us endure the mediocrity of our thoughts. Dreaming distracts, but tires; what we grant ourselves in dreams bores as quickly as what reality grants us. Writing, unless a true god commands us, is to let the trivialities of our feeble intelligence invade that limited enclosure of days which we could occupy with what the greatest and noblest have created. There are things susceptible to explanation and others capable of meaning. The former can be broken down into simple elements and submit to the principle of identification; the latter are indivisible, absolute blocks that we can only place, orderly, in the universe. The universe is a system of ineffable terms; or in the universe absolute presences are revealed that impose themselves; or the spirituality of the universe belongs to the order of concrete spirit and not abstract spirit; or there is no identical generality of reason but a distinct generality of the individual; or the universe is a system of individuals whose spiritual identity does not eliminate irreducible difference. Or an essentially pluralist monism. What differentiates the individual is not an individual characteristic superimposed on specific characters; the individual is, in the species, an unpredictable and total transformation of specificity. Let us oppose the notion of a transparent and fluid universe, a universe reducible to the unity and leaden simplicity of a single principle, the notion of a resistant and rebellious universe, a universe of flesh, of trembling and of anguish. To a scientific universe an aesthetic universe, a total universe. The work of the poet, like his life, only prepare the germination of poetry. Alongside beauty, the spirit discovers in the work of art qualities capable of satisfying it aesthetically. Distinct from essential beauty, these qualities belong to the aesthetic sphere because they are not autonomous objects, but relations that the spirit establishes and creates. Thus, intellectual-type qualities such as harmony, adequacy, sobriety, precision, justness, or sensible qualities such as sensuality, life, passion. There are qualities of a strictly human order that deeply move us, but qualities within our reach and whose true power is, after all, the ineffable beauty that thereby conceals itself from our spirit. The work of art has some resemblance to the human being. A structure of sounds, words, images, ideas sometimes appears to us as the total reality of the poem, sometimes only its transient flesh. Poetry is a soul whose existence is as evident as ours, and as doubtful. Each work of art projects onto the intellectual sky the shadow of a distinctive and unique aesthetics. Absolute aesthetics is the dream of a weary critic or the ambition of a despotic artist. There are no exclusively necessary conditions for the advent of beauty, but rather increasingly favorable conditions. These were discovered by Poe, Baudelaire, Mallarmé, Valéry. Didacticism is not essentially anti-poetic (De rerum natura proves it), since there is nothing essentially poetic. Let's simply say that didacticism is opaque to poetry. The universe is constituted by terms that complement each other rather than oppose each other. Every abrupt contradiction comes from an arbitrary abstraction of elements. Every identification from an arbitrary suppression. Reality neither contradicts nor identifies; reality orders itself. There is a possible interpretation of the material universe that transcends, without denying, the scientific interpretation. A miraculous, useless, and gratuitous interpretation, superimposed on a deterministic interpretation, useful, and submissive to our action. An interpretation that restores to reality, diminished by the biological necessities of our perception, the rich penumbrae of sensual experience and mystical experience. Philosophy is, in our time, the instrument of man's liberation. To escape from the barren coordinates of science, as well as from the oppression of collective myths, is the current task of the spirit. We want something that returns us to our nakedness before God. Compared to the vivacity and freshness of Platonic dialogues, all literature seems like a conversation among notaries, during a condolence visit, about the virtues of the deceased. The individual alone, concrete, rich, and dense captures our passionate interest. Being authentically who we are is not only more entertaining than thinking, but it is also a better ticket in the lottery of immortality. Perhaps ideas have no other purpose than to enrich men with all the nuances that human existence entails. Like a householder, who does not propose topics of conversation except to make his guests shine better. The true meaning of our opinions lies in the delicate system of tacit reticences in which we envelop them. Those who imagine that we believe ourselves to be uttering oracles, sharp-edged, linear, and without penumbras, consider us more foolish than we are. If irony consists in thinking that the truth is precisely the opposite of what we are thinking, but that simply reversing our thought is not enough to grasp it—as the opposite sidewalk is always where we are not—I ask to be admitted as an ironist. Brutish as a professional. Scientists are like animal species whose excessive adaptation to the environment, namely the perfection of their biological instruments, halts their development if the environment does not change, or, if it changes, extinguishes them. Confidence—even when deserved—in a repertoire of concepts, stupefies. The cruelest irony of the truth is that it transforms its servants into labor beasts. A technician is a pawn whose shovel is a formula. Technicians are like worms that, unknowingly, produce silk. A healthy state will feed technicians, but will not respect them. Every task is vain when it proposes something different from determining the relations of man with God. There are no false gods, just partial hierophanies. Perfection is the privilege of unconsciousness. Consciousness installs failure at the center of the universe. Man's greatness is his deep submission to adventure and risk. The first man who invented a tool already possessed the necessary faculties to construct the most complicated machine. Technical invention only requires a stockpile of practical experiences, and therefore, given favorable social conditions, the proliferation of discoveries assumes surprising proportions. Genius intervenes each time, in ways unexpected and unpredictable. Each act is not the beginning of a series, but the term that prolongs the previous terms. To philosophize, our entire body and spirit barely suffice. In love, human problems temporarily disappear and find a mysterious and specific solution. Just as in mystical union, the problems of the universe dissolve into ineffable harmony. Vauvenargues said that “we enjoy only men”; but indeed, it should be said that we only enjoy concrete presences. Every appellation is fraught with ambiguities. We must seek, grasp, know, possess, the essence of religion. Without such knowledge, doubt creeps into every doctrine, and tranquility is but a transient indifference. But this knowledge alone is not enough. We require a concrete religious form, even if it is absurd and impure. The essence is a Kantian Idea, both compass and spur of our actions. The contradiction in which we are placed by the urgency to satisfy simultaneously our spirit and our humanity. The mystery of individuation is the mystery of the full realization of being. As characters in a novel are the stifled possibilities of the author. Things are "different," but not "separate." To the "nothing in excess" let us oppose a "nothing is enough", but may the soul always remain empty. The conceptual apparatus of philosophy is necessary, but not essential. Intuition takes shape in concepts; however, distinct and even contradictory concepts can serve the same intuition. "Spiritualism" is a mystique that forgets all preparatory asceticism. The notion of spiritual phenomena is absurd. There are only material phenomena, and spiritual meanings. The spirit is a reality that does not appear, but that we are; and an interpretation to which we submit appearances. Denial is not the way to mystically mock the obstacle. Organizing the universe is the only way to transcend it. The spirit introduces into matter a ferment of decomposition that exalts and ennobles it. We call destiny the resistance that the universe opposes us, its density, its thickness. In every object lies a reality more authentic and deeper than its phenomenal and terrestrial reality; but this reality is not pensile, beyond the object, but in the object itself. The meaning of a poem is the poem itself. Each poem has a unique, distinct sense, its own irreplacable individuality, yet all poems have but one and the same meaning. "Dialectics" is the last attempt of rationalist conceptualism. To think "dialectically" about the movement of the spirit is to have acquired, confusedly but anxiously, awareness of the irrational and contradictory abundance of spiritual life. Before resigning itself to admitting the spirit as an irreducible absolute, "dialectic" philosophy attempts to make contradiction, disturbing and demoralizing, the engine of its conceptual process. A cunning enterprise to tame the wild colt of the spirit. All dialectical philosophy prepares a philosophy of concrete existence and historic spirit. In the love of earthly things, the soul is satisfied, without pausing on the path that guides and carries it beyond the objects it loves. But it does not continue its path by discarding them, rather by deepening, expanding, ennobling its love for them. Modern philosophy begins when the knowledge of ## 233 The concrete individuality as a properly philosophical function of the spirit is affirmed against any theory that proposes the exclusive science of Thomistic "quidditates". The opposition of two ideas does not find resolution in a third term that synthesizes them. It is appropriate to seek this solution by reducing each idea to the individual who creates it, replacing this absolute and dialectical opposition with an opposition from individual to individual—a genetic and historical opposition that resolves the interpretation of the concrete conditions in which it arises. Hatred of freedom; hatred of a satisfied slave. The will to persevere in being and the will to transcend being are complementary aspects of the same will. Indeed, all transcendence stems from a fulfillment of being that only those who persevere in their essence can achieve. Necessity, instinct, will, and reason are the fourfold root of the state. Relativism is not dangerous unless it is partial when the possibility of a truth, however trivial, indifferent to the placement of any observer, degrades distinct truths that contradict or ignore each other to mere opinions. Absolute relativism, which seemingly transforms every truth into the plain assertion of an individual, restores, on the contrary, its full meaningfulness to the universe. Indeed, contradiction, a stumbling block against which the sense of the world founders, loses its unlimited jurisdiction. The coexistence of opposing truths limits the deducibility of the world but does not despair us with futile meditation on the limits of our human knowledge. That everything is relative suffices to allow us to postulate that each of our truths is absolute. The soul is the asymptotic point of psychology, as of our earthly life. Philosophy is an attempt to discover absolute ends, acts that exhaust and conclude, boundaries where being rests. A system of critical-mystical philosophy might manage to prove mystical-type conclusions through reasoning based on rational principles of a Leibnizian type. Thus, the principles of causality and sufficient reason would prove the existence of concrete presences; the principle of continuity the mystical nexus of the total universe; the principle of contradiction the autonomy of individuals in the universal fabric of being, etc., etc. Compared to the Total Being we are matter, just as matter is not matter except compared to us. Every being is infinitely unique and infinitely common. The paradox of individuality consists in its uniqueness, its totality, its indistinguishable reality, and at the same time the presence of elements that resemble everyone, integrate it into the human community, and prepare the hermeneutics of history. The Self resembles a sphere constituted by an infinite series of concentric layers. Each lower layer represents more precise psychological characteristics (that is, more unique, because if it were a question of logical precision the direction would be inverse), until reaching a hypothetical center, a symbol of irreducible individuality. Hypothetical center, without substantial existence, because there is no zone where general characteristics are exhausted and only individual traits subsist. This center is both here and there, present everywhere, assignable nowhere. But what I call the center is not merely a coloring of general facts; it is the very home of force, the diffused and secret nexus of the soul, the actuality of a transcendence within empirical existence. The principle of intellection is identity and the principle of perception is diversity. Explanatory intellection cancels out the products of perception; only a comprehensive intellection (Verstehen) attempts to elaborate perceptual inputs into intellectual species without violating the perceptual categories. The educational value of art exists only for the artist. Art is too delicate and subtle a nourishment for the crude and robust appetite of the people. More than an attempt at explanation, a philosophical system is an attempt at integration. The triple mystical way is the perfect application of a method to the creation of a total state of being. Aspiring to its full reality, every being aspires to the complete total reality, to God. All philosophy is a numenal psychology. The Socratic doctrine is a hindrance to philosophical thought. Conceptual philosophy is the preparation for science. Only there what one longs for is fulfilled. The Socratic problem consists in the difficulty of creating a philosophical structure on conceptual bases, a justification of the universe founded on a system that annuls it. The interest in speculative mysticism comes precisely from its conscious struggle against the inadequacy of the conceptual system. To understand a doctrine that eludes us, we must bring it closer to its author, integrate it into his life. Thus we move away from the icy rigidity of theses, to stand before a throbbing and trembling presence, before a being. In response to the modern proclamation: "If a philosophy is not scientific, it is nothing"; let's answer: "If a philosophy is scientific, it is nothing." Science enriches our action and limits our knowledge. The universe of science contains only pragmatic values (we call fact, thing, what is susceptible to behavior), while the natural universe it tries to replace contains rich series of values. What painting gives me above all is sensual enrichment. Perhaps the only thing that is not vanity is the sensual perfection of the moment. Tired of vainly seeking to suppress one of the two terms that my spirit spontaneously affirms, I believe I should decide to maintain them both, firmly grasped in my hands, untroubled by the contradiction that everyone proclaims, but which I do not feel. That is, sensuality and religion. Various problems arise only from the impossible union of our rich experience of the spirit with our abstract and partial notion of matter. If man fails to engage the physical universe in any metaphysical adventure, the importance of his proudest material enterprises is laughable, it is null. Not to save the world, but in the world the promise of what could be. Moments of deep moral shocks, when the spirit stirs, is troubled, hollows out, and opens like water. ## MIDDLE PAGE: 231 The abyss yearns; when the spirit witnesses the spectacle of an unknown nature, where unknown forces emerge, where unsuspected powers manifest. Every analogy fails due to the excessive way it relates everything to exclusive intellectual constants, when the intellectual species themselves may be but transient symbols of other things. Matter is not spirit, but if it is different, it is not entirely other. A metaphor is not an illustration, nor an illumination, but a penetration; the metaphor discovers in another field, in another order, under different forms, the same reality. What does not aspire to destroy itself is not capable of perfection. Selfishness is the popular and low form of individuality. The scarcity of men capable of sovereign and orderly fulfillment confirms the severity of the social norm. The system of ordered and rational relationships that law externally establishes is vain; if the reason it longs for does not lie in the heart of man, the universe remains rigid and empty. To know is to recognize or recreate the act that engenders the object. If time is not a category of things, if the universe has no history, things are at each moment what they can be, and the failure of an explanation, its logical impossibility, demonstrate that the universe is absurd. But if history is a category of the universe, as it is of man, the current impossibility of a logical and satisfactory solution demonstrates only the current loss of a historical reason, of an event where lie the seeds of current facts as well as intellectual absurdities and logical impossibilities. ### The universe is either historical or absurd. It is false that every philosophy has only biographical value; indeed, every well-made biography projects the shadow of a possible metaphysics. Every certainty leaves us melancholic. A furtive bitterness hides in every abolished mystery; every piece of knowledge distresses us. Happiness is longing, search, desire, love. Certainty saddens us because it is purely formal, merely the refutation of a false assertion. Coherence of propositions, deductive conviction of postulates, tautological enrichment of an incessant analytical process, or certainty of the impossible, conviction of the absurd, conclusion in which a contradiction reveals itself. Our earthly certainty evidences an absence. Science is a power, capable of exalting only a youthful soul, or a austere reticence before any assertion that moves us. However, there is a concrete certainty, a robust and sensual certainty, an aesthetic certainty, a mystical certainty. Certainty untransmittable and refutable, certainty intolerant of the logical apparatus that raises propositions to impersonality and necessity, certainty that does not remain rigid and constant like the cornerstone of a future building, dazzling and ephemeral certainty that imposes on the soul, but which the soul welcomes or rejects, certainty in which the will quiets down, in which the heart calms, in which the satiated intelligence stops and rests. Certainty that the happiness of hope only prefigures. Happiness that all happiness emulates and plagiarizes. Consider the history of philosophy under the categories of art history, attributing to each system organic unity, essential independence, individual justification. ### Essential Independence and Individual Justification The number of its adherents grows with the superficiality of the system. At the limit, we can imagine a theory adopted by everyone that has only minimal contact with reality. Every attitude, every gesture, if we extend the lines that outline them, traces a system. The aesthetics of perception (art: deeper perception), isolated like the aesthetics of expression alone, fail in a similar manner. The problem of perception as well as expression are the dual aspects of aesthetics. The theory of error, which every system contains, is the explanation it proposes for the existence of other systems. This is not a problem posed to the philosopher by vanity or pedagogical zeal, but by the same rigor with which they adhere to the object of their intuition. The most generous spirit can only modify its own vocabulary and tacitly call what it perceives as errors different intuitions. Intellectual liberalism is the politeness of intelligence. All stupidity is an imprudent generalization. The mystical via negationis, like the Eleatic dialectic, concludes in being. But the logical process of Eleatism proposes an abstract and empty being, while mysticism finds a concrete and dense being. It's not about defining, but constructing the object that we should seek. ### Construction versus Definition Definition translates the object into concepts, subjecting it to the grid of customary categories—a sufficient operation if the table of logical categories contained, as postulated, all predicates, but truly just a preliminary operation since the authentic task of the sciences of the spirit is the ceaseless creation of irreducible predicates, specific categories for the particular systems that the sciences develop over their history. In contrast, construction attempts to recreate, with the spiritual movement that discovers it, the fullness of the object. Any object that exists for the spirit, as far as it exists for the spirit, is nothing but a sum of acts of the spirit itself; hence, the concrete fullness of the object is not an impenetrable and obscure reality, but an opaque reality, difficult to penetrate, demanding and rebellious, yet secretly compliant to a violent and methodical action of the spirit. Systematic comparison is only capable of trivialities, whereas poetic imagery can reveal extravagant analogies. The harmony we should desire between the results of our investigations into realities of different orders should not come from the unity of method, but from the unpredictable fitting together of results from diverse methods suited to different orders of reality. Intelligence is satisfied when the synthetic process reconstructs the object with the products of prior analysis. However, before this operation that delivers the object, the restless spirit pauses, fearing it may have deceived itself. All efficacy is secretly fallacious. The true atom is nothing more than the mathematical formula of the most general concept of existence. Any philosophy that uses predetermined scientific concepts biases its conclusions. Philosophy does not build with concepts, but rather constructs conceptions. The inferior does not explain the superior unless identification proceeds unrestrictedly. In other terms, the simple explains the complex, but not the 'different'. Every morphology of history, every comparative study of civilizations, only serves to obscure the most important thing: the individual essence of each civilization. The individual is not known through a perceptual act that compares and highlights, but through an intuition that adheres to its object. Individual and atom are merely fulcrums of action. Elements of a richer reality. An empirical philosophy overlooks the problem of our destinies. Let us be content to postulate that what awaits us cannot be less interesting than our extravagant terrestrial adventure. Mysticism is the path, and metaphysics the labyrinth. The conceptual systems of religions differ from philosophical systems because they contain, above all, an eschatology and a cosmology, while philosophy is essentially ontological. Each thing has several reasons for existing. The discovery of a new reason should not blind us and lead us to deny the others. One interpretation does not oppose another interpretation, but is superimposed upon it. Education will never achieve the highest, but perhaps it can prevent the lowest. The primary function of philosophy is the knowledge of realities, and systematization is only a secondary function. Science serves action because it is an ontology, a search for being; its desire is a definition of being. Metaphysically speaking, victorious science will only manage to prove the existence of the world. The mere existence, bare, sheer existing there empty. The search for type, species, genus usually culminates in a construction of abstract generality, in a taxonomic enterprise. However, Platonic dialectic was an investigation of essence, a perception of irreducible generality. Every generalization born from the juxtaposition of individual terms is scientific; only the generality that comes from impenetrability to analytical pressure is philosophical. Every scientific proposition is essentially an equality, whereas every philosophical proposition is an equality accompanied by a denial of that equality. Every fact lacks value when it is merely the product of the conjunction of present circumstances with the residues of past circumstances. The mythopoetic faculty is the ability to sculpt, in the material of powerful emotions and deep feelings, the figures of divine beings, whose existence depends on ours and yet is real. A work that may be philosophy or apologetics of any religion. 243 When one buys a book of maxims, in truth, they are purchasing two books, for there may not be any maxim that, when inverted to state the opposite, does not proclaim a truth equally evident and just as vain. The philosophical ideas of scientists are almost always childish, while the ideas about science from philosophers are never childish, even though they may be mistaken. We spend our lives constantly knocking at the same closed door. In the solitary night, we regain our lost dignity, and rediscover all the reasons for anguish hidden by the day's dispersal. Our misery is revealed in moments of meditation; perhaps thus, man's activity consists less in attempting to reach a goal than in trying to escape. That labor is a curse and punishment is a poignant declaration of trust in man’s essential nobleness. In truth, labor is a blessing. Without it, man could not endure an existence which continually inclines him over his own abyss. That pleasure is not our own but rather the pleasure of another seems an unexceptionable truth, until suddenly, in a moment, pleasure appears dissociated from others' pleasure, and almost demands revulsion. Contradiction within the same feeling is the best propaedeutic to the antinomianism of truths. When I encounter a person notably impervious to certain dazzling evidences, I hasten to suspiciously feel myself, fearing that I too might possess hardened and insensible areas. Any intelligence that is not like the intellectual form of a specific sensitivity chills me. There is a spontaneity of taste in certain ignorant and naive beings that refreshes like a piece of virgin sensuality amidst cold intellectual considerations. A certain fullness, a certain intellectual density, seem only granted to those who have touched, with fever and method, a beautiful naked body. I do not understand how reason can turn someone away from Catholicism; if anything could hold me at its thresholds, it would be its rationalism and excessive confidence in reason. The comparative history of religions is not religion's worst enemy but the richest arsenal of solid apologetics. No era is richer than ours in religious teachings. Those who proclaimed the death of religion seem to me as comical as those who announced that locomotives would kill poetry. To think, without first understanding what mathematics are, without being able to live in them, seems the most futile attempt since nothing is more exclusively proper to the spirit than mathematical reasoning and nothing delineates more clearly the line of its ultimate frontiers. Perhaps mathematics is not important compared to other spiritual activities, but how can I know? And how can I not suspect that my suspicion is just a way to indulge my ignorance? The problem of final causes remains unresolved... The mere fact of proving that nothing requires final causes to be explained does not solve the problem of final causes. Indeed, the very existence of the problem, that is, the fact that the mind conceives the final cause, constitutes the gravity and significance of the problem. Believing in the numerous social fictions is foolish, but necessary; thus, fools who believe in them are needed. Our skepticism and clarity require these fools to take on this role, without which our clarity and skepticism would themselves be foolish. The greatest pleasure provided by an intelligent book is showing us a piece of evidence loaded with opaque questions that seemed trivial before. The mystery residing in nearby things is denser than that of surprising things. Benda's hostility towards Bergson is the antipathy of a clergyman for a non-priestly tribe prophet. No political species seduces me as much as those liberal aristocrats whose sharp sense of freedom comes not from murky democratic longings, but from the unalterable consciousness of individual dignity and the lucid notion of the duties of a ruling class. Tocqueville is their most noble representative. Often we interpret as a cause of existence what is merely a condition of perception, thereby believing something is born or dies when it only reveals or hides itself. We should avoid the systematic confusion of certain needs of thought with needs of being. The ironic and mocking tone of some "authentic" Spanish and South American writers is unbearable. It seems they feel ashamed to write and need that mocking tone to indicate they are above what they do. ## Historiography of Religions In the historiography of religions, it is possible to distinguish three main stages: 1. The historian, starting from what exists and in what they believe, interprets myths and customs based on their own mentality. If the facts are appealing, they proclaim them as allegories of truth—that is, of the thesis they trust; if unappealing, they denounce them as inventions of priestly cunning. 2. The historian recognizes the autonomous character of religious facts, keeps them within their own sphere, independent of any rationalist contamination, and seeks specific interpretations; however, they oppose the totality of religious events with their own intellectual universe as the only valid one when moving beyond mere historical description to engage in critical interpretation, a determination of "truth." 3. The historian acknowledges the specificity of religious phenomena and does not globally oppose them to their intellectual universe. Instead, they gather them to construct a complete repertoire of attitudes. Thus, the historical relativity of religious facts does not confront the supposed absolute that the historian's universe naively aims to represent; here everything is relativized, and the discrimination of truth does not automatically spring from the mere coexistence of an intellectual structure of the historian. It is not the ideas that easily lead to a formula that are most important in our intellectual life, but those diffuse and vague, slight yet persistent, which nothing precise motivates and everything suggests. What distances us most from a person is feeling them satisfied with themselves. I am only interested in those who strenuously try to differ from themselves and who long to change something about what they were each day. The only adventure interesting and amusing is the one we undertake when trying to discover or create a secret and new being in our souls. The only routine without monotony is that of ascetic life. In Catholicism, what seems shocking at first sight is what later most surely seduces. Catholicism is built precisely not as abstract reason confident in itself, which would set out to construct a religion, would ever proceed. Everything here is casual, accidental, unpredictable, fully historical. It lives and grows as real things live and grow, not as we imagine things should live and grow. It is contradictory, absurd, mysterious, like life; it lacks the schematic clarity of arbitrary inventions, dreams of a lazy imagination unbound by any pragmatic obligation. To hate the sin and not the sinner is also one of the fundamental rules of hermeneutics. This rule means that every idea against which we must fight and reject from the precincts of our system for being false, absurd, or ugly still holds its importance, dignity, and meaning when part of the concrete structure of a real being. The demand for understanding thus wants the idea to be considered not in its abstract being and its relations solely with our own concrete system, but within the relations with the concrete system of the individual to whom it belongs. Planning implies order; order implies predictability; and predictability repudiates the capricious act. Yet, despite all subtlety in definitions, freedom is whimsy. The true intellectual sterility is not that of one who is held back by their mediocrity, but that of one who even grows weary of their own excellence. The limitation that causes distress is not the one drawn by each person's mediocrity, but that of man himself. It is not bitter to exclaim: none of what I do is worthwhile; rather, it is to confess: nothing is worthwhile of what man can do. There are no wise opinions that would suffice to accept to find ourselves filled with wisdom. Wisdom does not consist of certain opinions, but in a certain way of holding almost any opinion. When we believe we have given up everything, we have usually only relinquished the usual way of possessing things, and deep down we hope that everything, in a more subtle way, will be returned to us. The ease of sleep, like that of generalization, presents us with a bloodless world. But a smile or a stone are enough to make our hearts beat. That a woman waits for us, and the world seems imbued with unlimited gravity. Nothing makes us feel more acutely the narrowness of the enclosure in which we all live than the curious, welcoming, open, clear gaze with which beings regard each other when circumstances exclude any probability of social contact. Society transforms us into islets, visited only by the same ships prescribed by an unchangeable and monotonous itinerary. To love is to see a being as God sees them. The beauty of a being does not surprise us, but fills us. Our exhilaration comes from finding what we had been waiting for throughout eternity. Naturally and unconsciously, we judge that every beautiful being belongs to us, and thus, before passing beauty, we feel unjustly robbed and dispossessed. If players do not play to win, the game loses its interest. Likewise, meditation, conversation, or a book lack all importance when those who meditate, speak, or write, convinced of their inability to find the truth, do so out of vanity, distraction, pedagogy, or mere habit. Thinking, like writing, is a craft that requires the routine patience of the artisan. If we await sudden enlightenments, we only prolong periods of sterility. We must daily demand of the spirit, knowing however that what it gives usually lacks value, and that, indeed, it is a kind of liturgical gesticulation conducive to the appearance of authentic mystery. To order ourselves to be what we are is dangerous doctrine, since many are capable of some nobility only by deceiving themselves about who they are. Resigning ourselves to what we are may not always be so much to fulfill God's will as to collaborate with the obscure will that degrades His works. Every ethical principle has two faces and dual potential. In each being that listens and obeys, there are causes that unleash one or another consequence. The unbearable monotony of pornographic literature stems from the strictly physiological character of the eroticism it describes. Books purely "behaviorists"; indeed, a failed attempt to exhaust man in the description of his pure behavior. It is also ineffective the formula of certain erotic books from the 18th century, in which eroticism serves as a vehicle for an anti-religious preaching or condenses into intellectual themes, replacing the coldness of physiological gesture with the conceptual chill. Perhaps only a starkly psychological eroticism, rich in its authentic and murky density, could be the subject of legitimately artistic pornography. There is a clarity that comes from analysis, from dividing an object into its constituent parts, and which, even if it never reaches the last elements and stops at intermediate stages, satisfies us because it replaces a confusing totality with systematic multiplicity. There is also another kind of clarity that comes from an intuition of the object, not analyzing it but possessing it wholly; more akin to the knowledge a painter has of a nude body than that of an anatomist. This clarity has the flaw of being difficult to transmit, unable to pass, like the former, from one spirit to another with the integrity with which a mathematical proposition or a technical procedural rule is transmitted, and requiring more like a contamination of one spirit by another, similar to lighting one torch from another. Every feeling we are incapable of feeling is an obstacle to the attempt of a systematic theory of the world, since we can never know if the key to the system is precisely what remains opaquely inviolate. The world of the animal, of every animal, perhaps contains the very data which, added to such other patent, grave, solemn data, would dizzyingly turn the collection of known data until establishing the totality in its authentic structure of systematic relations. All thinking proceeds through deductions and inductions, meaning: in a world where each object is infinitely dense, all thought rests on its rare direct knowledge a structure of lines, lines that truly indicate only the connections of our knowledge but not those of things. The desire to escape historicism and the inability to think historically manifest themselves, each day, with greater clarity. Attempts to define eternal man, what of man lies outside history, or attempts of millenarianism hidden under the process of a suddenly interrupted dialectic, all reveal a great indifference toward the historical, which seems superficial and adventitious. Perhaps the resurgence, in our time, of a series of phenomena that the past century imagined overcome and obsolete has erased, along with progressive optimism, the notion of a difference among individuals who reveal themselves capable of equal extremes of animality. In the face of a humanity for whom hunger, anguish, and cruelty are the only relevant realities, the spirit doubts whether other things, or their nuances, mean anything compared to a bloodied body, trembling with anguish and hunger. Ancient madness possesses a certain majesty. It is not, like the modern phenomenon, a closeness of man to his animal nature or, better said, to his biological reality devoid of spiritual culmination, but rather a kind of possession, like a diabolical intrusion, or like placing the madman before unknown precincts. Here, the madman engages in gesticulation in which we suspect a meaning, whereas there gestures only awaken our pity. The presence of beauty seems to reveal a structure of the universe which, however, the observation of pain refutes. But the presence of pain seems also to reveal an essence. ## The Structure of the Universe The presence of pain seems to also reveal a structure of the universe which, in turn, the observation of beauty refutes. Given the importance of a valid intellectual interpretation of the world, I used to disregard the possible significance of various sentimental interpretations that we suddenly find ourselves within, as if inside new universes. However, today it is the former that I am indifferent to, primarily because I understand that it does not exist separately, alone, isolated, independent, or unique, but rather it depends on those sentimental interpretations. These determine it, and even its most abstract propositions acquire, according to the sentimental interpretation they are immersed in, the most distinct meanings, and even more antagonistic ones. To the reader of ancient historians, modern warfare is familiar territory. Total war is the war that humanity has always known. Having managed to subject war, for some centuries, to the fulfillment of certain moral and aesthetic demands was a miraculous and fragile enterprise. Today's man shudders at the same horrors that age-old humanity viewed with anguished resignation. We could almost say that sensuality sees in women more of a pretext than an object. When we begin to feel that language submits to us like an obedient, flexible, and plastic material, we must be wary of what we write because, by managing to express adequately what we think, our approval can only come from the similarity between the thought and the written, whereas it is only worthwhile if it comes from the exclusive excellence of both the written and the thought. All ease can seduce us, and, diverting us from what it allows, satisfy us with itself alone. Perhaps the only extreme and excessive attitude that does not change or become a different, repugnant, and contradictory attitude, is sanctity. There are no limits, nor excess in its extremes. Commonplaces are the sanity of intelligence, but resigning ourselves to them is to collaborate in our brutishness. Therefore, reading Greek and Roman classics is so necessary, as there we find the commonplace exposed with calm fullness and the delightful awareness of a fresh discovery. Only among moderns have Italians and French known how to see women and speak of her appropriately. Fantasy, lack of foresight, whimsy—these are things I am devoid of; however, as I do not dispute their necessity for a wise balance, I try not to forget how they modify life's accents. Similar to indifferent recommendations, which we remember only to immediately disregard. Re-reading the books that seduced our youth is impossible. Either the patent mediocrity of the book disheartens us, or we confuse the author’s text with the text that our marvelled and fresh imagination superimposed. In the face of the effervescent agitation of vast Asian crowds, yesterday's Europe resembles the brief pause of the Antonines. The most serious historical fact of our time is not Russian communism, but the creation of a new Chinese state. The communist dynasts of China establish an empire whose political and social structure is still unpredictable, but whose ponderous entity requires no prophets. If Russia turns every doctrine it assimilates into religion, the secular and civil genius of China processes religious products into social and political kinds. Stripped of religious superfluity, freed from its substitutive function in the transiently decentralized soul, communism might there achieve a valid approximation to its original purposes. In the upcoming Russian-American conflict, future historians will see the last fratricidal conflict of the white race. The history of Political Economy suggests a rheumatic hand struggling to grasp droplets of mercury. The true history worth knowing is not the history of what men do, nor even the history of what they think, but the history of what they feel. What do I care, indeed, if the hordes of Gobi have invaded China or Persia? But ah! A night of victory, among the flames and screams, amidst the looting of the imperial palaces of Si-gnan, after long years of thirst in the desert. I believe that the only science on which treaties written by Colombians exist is Political Economy; therefore, I doubt it is a science. There is a satisfaction that history seldom denies us: seeing the most humble triumph, that which announces itself with fewer trumpets, preceded by fewer bugles. Thus, state socialism, the poorest of economic doctrines, lacking grand and beautiful theories, whose theorists are drab, is nevertheless the one threatening to make its mark in history, assuming the form all others kick and deny. I only value the poor and wealth; I detest poverty and the rich. That an illness be cause, condition, factor, or function of a particular manifestation of the spirit should not surprise us, nor raise doubts about its value or importance, since the concept of disease is purely statistical and, from the point of view of animality, the spirit is nothing more than a hereditary disease. Error is the condition of truth. The possibility of discovering certain truths depends on the intensity with which, by asserting certain errors, we refuse to consider the truths whose shadow darkened and hid their presence. If all truths were located on the periphery of a circle whose center we occupied, ignorance of one truth would not condition the knowledge of others. But, being truths placed in hierarchical series, not being moreover the cognitive process an atemporal act but a historical adventure, and finally, the spirit being incapable of perceiving unlimited simultaneous and connected truths, the spiritual life finds and loses, discovers and abandons, loves and hates, the successive truths it faces. The progress of knowledge is more akin to romantic life than to any cumulative process. Scale: those who struggle to subdue others; those who strive to free themselves; those who fight to free others; those who fight to submit. It's more pleasant to deal with the defeated because their pride vanishes and they become intelligent. A great book is one that, at any age, causes an impression similar to the impression any book made on us during our childhood. The cynic is someone who, no longer believing in his right, does not renounce it. The conviction of the preacher usually follows the preaching, not precedes it. Everything I do not know oppresses me, and my most apparent evidence suffers from the shadow cast by the suspicion that my ignorance may conceal a purer evidence that nullifies them. To the eternal tragedy of not being able to possess all the knowledge the spirit longs for, the intellectual wealth of our era adds the denial to the individual of possessing all the science that the spirit already holds within itself. I see that the vast majority is capable of initiating a thought where their predecessors concluded it, thus comfortably integrating themselves into the chain of successive generations. Being modern is, fundamentally, this ability to prolong yesterday's thoughts, to accept as a starting point the thought of the previous generation. But I am incapable of this. I care nothing for yesterday's problems if they are not my own; nor their solutions, if they are not mine. Today's problem, born from the problem or solution of yesterday, does not necessarily solicit me, it is not enough that its question assumes monstrous proportions for me to feel compelled to find a solution. I need it to be my problem, born from what I was yesterday, not from what others were, or what the world was. My problem can be so elementary that it is no longer even mentioned, but it interests me. What do I care about the appetite of others? I only know how to eat when I am hungry. Political extremism does not stem from doctrinal conviction; it is merely the verbal formula of an emotional itch. Attending, with meticulous care, to reasoning whose foundations seem false to us is the heroism of intelligence. Just as the work of art is indifferent to the subject because the aesthetic fact resides in a certain specific attitude, culture perhaps consists in substituting the pleasure of thinking pleasant things with the pleasure of thinking for the sake of thinking alone. The study of philosophy can become, like science, an occasion for amusement and thus forgetting our legitimate task of thinking. Being matters to me only, and truth for what it allows not to be unfair. Attributing vices, defects, perversions, solely to society, to a particular social structure, is the only way to ignite hope in hearts that the absence of God delivers to despair. To historical materialism, to the economic interpretation of history, we must substitute a religious interpretation, not perhaps as a new providentialism, but as an infrastructure of categories of religious sociology. Every great revolutionary movement, whatever its programs and doctrines, suggests sooner or later to its historians the methodical employment of a metaphorical vocabulary plagiarized from religious history. The most elementary and common emotions are those we feel most intensely; but, since what we feel most intimately seems to us most personal and proper, it is obvious that each person imagines that emotion which is common to all is exclusively their own. An interesting political discussion consists in the historical analysis of completed political events; and a foolish political discussion in prophecies and horoscopes expressing our fears or hopes. Above all, my spontaneous reaction to any human being is to welcome, accept, believe; thus, no one is more easily seduced than I, nor more deceived. I welcome, accept, and believe in every human being; thus, no one is more easily seduced or deceived than I am. Yet, no one remains less stubbornly loyal to these errors. Any being whom I naively accepted with the absolute and unmistakable value they assigned to themselves soon whirls dizzyingly in my spirit, inevitably placing themselves where mediocrity, relativity, and historicity of all life reside. To greet a hypocritically kind individual with hypocrisy a thousand times greater than theirs is a delightful game that greatly disconcerts the hypocrite, who leaves us confused and doubting their own insincerity. All my lucidity fails before those I love, and I prefer to be blind rather than measure the insecurity of our earthly love. Any heroism against our love appears —despite the vulgarity of opinion— merely as a symptom that our love is dying. Those women from the royal family of Macedonia seem like drunken beggars possessed by a god. Being absolutely honest with oneself is a task that no one can fulfill unless they resolve to so many betrayals and contradictions that even the mere mention of someone attempting it suggests an image of a fickle and deceitful soul. At its core, the only possible honesty is with the character we portray to others, and any “natural” and “logical” life assumes an extraordinary tenacity of the actor. Like that "nature" of aesthetic doctrines, which art should not forget or must achieve, but which truly is found only at the end of a long process of artifices, voluntary operations, and recipes, man's "nature" is an essence that man realizes through and by means of a thousand obligations, projects, values, and rules. For teaching philosophy, what is required is a systematic doctrine; it does not matter if it is foolish, but only that it is complete. I think we should suspect stupidity in any serious man, but intelligence always fails when it lacks austerity. History is a repertoire of exhilarating, heroic, or sensual images. That a book is a “Prix Goncourt” is enough reason to run away. The curious pessimism of South American "intellectuals" about Europe’s destiny is like the glee of an ugly woman at the illness marring a beautiful woman. An intelligent man often fails because his intelligence surprises and seduces him, as if he suddenly finds himself holding a marvelous toy. Incapable of accepting it as if it were his natural way of being, as a simple function of his spirit, he applies himself to playing with it and, enchanted by the thousand pleasures it provides, forgets to employ it honestly, trivially, to think about his life and live his thought. Money prevents no failures, but it hides them. The foolish part, then, is not using it to protect from the satisfied smile of others our delicacy or vanity; the foolish part is imagining that it could give us anything our heart desires. Nothing manages to abolish the memory of what we were not. As we age, what surprises most is the scant attention dedicated to what precisely occupies the largest part of life. 261 They have dedicated those who write to what precisely occupies the majority of the life of all men. Modesty or fatigue, literature remains, as old historiography, a chronicle of battles and royal weddings. Conrad's prose has a noble sonority of bronze. Perhaps Conrad is the most authentic ethical sensibility of his time. The world is indefinite, lacking in system, posing an abrupt initiation, a brutal first term, and does not conclude but extends with sketches of pauses, like the conversation of a fool. Every system is transcendent to the world; every system is a metaphysics. Man is made so that little suffices him, but that little is denied to him. I am the caricature of great intelligence. In the Catholicism of the last one hundred and fifty years, the most interesting phenomenon is the sudden importance of lay religious thought. The intelligence of the church, its intellectual ferment, has been the lay doctor, the theologian without hierarchical mandate. The fear of heresy, the vigorous censorship that this fear exercises, suppresses all religious thought in the ordinary Catholic, but contribute to enriching, with all these vacant forces, the religious sensibility. Catholicism practically achieves the elimination of dogma through the same extreme rigidity with which it constitutes it. Thus, paradoxically, in a wavering world, it restores the simplifying unity of religious feeling. Dialectical interpretations of history have the convenience of the old exegeses of the Apocalypse; they can be applied to everything with a bit of ingenuity. The class to which the great books of a literature belong is of utmost importance for their intellectual destiny. To pass from the classics of the seventeenth century, or from the 1611 Bible and Shakespeare, or Dante, or Goethe and German Idealism, to Cervantes, Quevedo, and Lope de Vega, is to measure the intellectual significance of these literatures. Spanish literature retains the indelible mark of having, as its matrix book, a satirical novel, namely: despite everything, a book that belongs to an inferior literary genre. The a priori element of independent exegesis of the New Testament is scandalously evident. An a priori consisting of postulating a logical and non-contradictory nature of men and events. Thus, based on what is considered essential to a man or an event, any contradictory trait is dismissed. An evidently valid a priori if the universe lacked surprises for us, but purely prejudicial since even a fleeting glance at the fickle heart of man suffices to determine its invalidity. Young Goethe, the only modern who recalls the Macedonian. Between reality and myth, intelligence establishes a distance perhaps nonexistent. If what the myth affirms does not exist in the creator of the myth, how can the myth arise? Indeed, I can invent an extremely heroic character, but my invention will be a lie, not a myth. If, on the other hand, I can create it alive, animated, immortal, its extreme heroism exists in me, and the myth merges with the reality that I am. What exists in the myth is neither less nor more real than the man passing by on the street. The dulling of sensitivity that leads us to the Classics, because they alone possess sufficient artistic intensity to move us, also leads us to sexual perversions. A heavy digestion recreates the universe of Maine de Biran's diary. History does not teach the futility of individual action, but its vanity. What it shows is not the inefficacy of actions, but the often comical discrepancy between intended goals and achieved results. Religion tirelessly formulates the problems that our frivolity attempts to evade. That prostitution could have been a religious fact should suffice to reject any exclusively economic or physiological explanation of the phenomenon. In the twilight of temples, a miserable prostitute assumes a liturgical function. Having been in love is enough to refute all epistemological realism. For so many years, politics has been conducted with such skill, technique, cynicism, eagerness for effectiveness, a strict consideration of means based solely on their capability to achieve a determined result, and with so few or ironic successes, that I do not understand how anyone is tempted by the idea of trying to be stupidly honest, foolishly pure and upright. Yes!, since so many assured victories have ended in failure, why shouldn't a certain failure culminate in victory? The worst crime of those who employ vile means is that they induce, seduce, and compel us to use vile means as well. If we could be sure that voluntary defeat is not sheer stupidity, what joy it would be to let ourselves be defeated where triumph can only be achieved through vulgar gestures, cruel acts, ignoble thoughts. If being is the great superiority, then everything abject is permitted. Mathematics is a way of talking about certain things to satisfy certain needs of the intellect. Mathematics seem to me to be a method for solving problems, that is, they arise from a specific case, an empirical urgency, from considering a fact. Hence the difficulty in their logical foundation. Investigating what a particular concept is amounts to investigating the process that generates it, i.e., transforming an empirical perception of similarities into a genetic definition. Du Bos's essay on literature reveals the duplicity of the Christian attitude towards the literary fact. Compared to the fullness of religious life, the clear insignificance of literature compels one to seek an interpretation that can integrate it into the former. But the imperious presence of God empties all human activity so effectively that a justificative aesthetics seems like the gesture of a child who, facing death, clings to his favorite toy. Nothing is easier than solving problems that are not posed to us. It is evident that Barrès is mistaken, but oh, how nobly! How to explain that Stendhal delights me while perhaps not a single one of his ideas seems anything but absurd? Is it not worth contemplating the moral and intellectual consequences that the use of radio will likely engender? Living within a continuous musical audition, as if in a humid atmosphere, a thick vapor of sounds conducive to certain stupor, a heavy dulling brutishness of spirit, prepares docile souls for the most extravagant demands. There are paintings that offer us such an intense vision of a unique and singular universe that we would like to penetrate into the painting and partake in that way of life. All of philosophy is a marginal commentary on Plato's dialogues. The concept capable of differentiating human history from natural history, the historicity of man from the historicity of nature, is the concept of autonomous action. In other terms, the cause of variability is external to the subject, within the historical process of nature; on the contrary, this cause is internal to the subject, in the historical process of mankind. As the first corollary of this thesis, let us propose that proper human history should be juxtaposed with a natural history of man. Human history is properly about volition. It is comical that after two hundred years of incessant and methodic controversy, the notions vilified and ridiculed fiercely are the ones that alone seem to us today, capable of supporting the intellectual edifice of human reason. Circling around an idea like a donkey around a post. A landscape not beheld by intelligent eyes remains anonymous, replaceable, and confusable. Between the beauty of natural things and the beauty of art lies the same difference as between a meaningful gesture and a blow to the solar plexus: both move us, but in diverse ways. The world, without the interpretation of art, would be like photographs of the moon's surface. A political party: a nucleus of ambitious individuals surrounded by a group of greedy people, joined by some vain individuals followed by many frightened ones. Knowing what such an individual thinks, or would think, if his various interests did not influence his opinions, has always fascinated me, but I have never been able to know it. The worst disillusionment: the individual whom we judged interesting because their opinions seemed to contradict their nature and interests, and who suddenly forces us to understand that all along they believed themselves to be different, distinct from what they evidently are, and therefore this way of thinking about themselves ordinarily and vulgarly implies what they say. Many people reveal genuine intelligence in what they do and say; however, they have a way of being aware of their actions and judgments, of formulating the theory of those judgments and actions, that is stupid, trivial, and vulgar. There is a primary intelligence and a secondary intelligence. The former concerns everything external to it, the latter concerns the former. Any being incapable of this second intelligence seems to us to operate mechanically, mechanically, like an efficient device triggered on an object by a vis a tergo foreign to it. Writing without believing in oneself is impossible. ``` When we come to believe that what we call truth is our current confusion, writing becomes impossible. What seems to make my truth intransmissible is that each of its evidences is born within a personal context, in a unique order of experiences, never stemming from principles nor deduced from rules. A deduction may subjugate me, but it does not submit me. Yet, a mere gesture is enough for total conviction to invade me. Where demonstration can be made in the most rigid, severe and exact manner, my mind abounds in hesitations, exceptions, scruples, and eventually abstains; where reason finds only impurities, where every progress is a risk, every assertion a daring, my spirit feels truths and rejoices in an abundance of light. Every rule, every norm, every principle awakens in me an absurd desire to violate them. Everything formulated seems worthy of being slain. I can admit no other norm than that consisting in the sole life of a spirit that ceaselessly works upon the world and itself. Intellectual anarchy stems from disdain for principles; but to submit ourselves to principles we can formulate, might this not attribute to our daytime reason a privilege that perhaps belongs to nocturnal reason? Our power extends far beyond our knowledge especially since this knowledge is merely a repertoire of cooking recipes, that is, something resulting without anyone truly knowing why. A treatise on philosophy is a book that, in order to lead its reader from one truth to another, needs to construct a complicated scaffolding of erroneous propositions. To meditate is to translate truth, given to us as a sudden and spontaneous enlightenment of the spirit, into the language of the usual concerns of an era and the lexicon of a professional guild. What degrades us is not the unavoidable human condition in which we all find ourselves, but the resigned and compliant acceptance thereof. When our attitudes and gestures already allow us to glide smoothly among things, without friction or collision, we have lost all nobility. Nobility is the impossibility of accepting as absolute the ordinary demands of human existence. The allure of youth comes primarily from the integrity it aspires to, from the naive and proud belief in the possibility of avoiding the resignation typical of middle age. Youth is nothing if not rejection; but in that rejection lies its nobility. A cunning adolescent adept at life is one of the most miserable spectacles one can behold. Love, which debases man, appears to be the sole nobility of woman. Before experiencing love, a young girl seems like a fresh and untouched animal, something sub-human, akin to just a mere preparation for humanity. She needs the wound, the bleeding, to leave behind the limbo she inhabits, the primal garden of innocent animal existence. That the era of the novel may have been transient is suggested by the ease with which any good novelist from the last century slips into their narrative, and the heavy framework of critical presuppositions and aesthetic principles required by today's novelist. Science, philosophy itself in its purely technical aspect, only enrich our personal universe, expand it, diversify it, but they do not take us out of it. Only art, literature, place us within new and different universes, tearing us away from the enclosure determined by our usual coordinates. Only they restore to us the freshness of the world that in the mornings of our childhood amazed our eyes with its novelty. The biographies that seduce our adolescence are those of people we will never resemble; later, only those of people we have more in common with attract us. The patriotism of critics of a poor literature prepares the worst confusion of taste. The ideal of the heroic tale: the "Thermopylae" in the seventh book of Herodotus. Nobility, simplicity, and without needing emphasis, a full awareness of the greatness of the deeds. Measuring a man is such a complex task that we choose to accept as accurate what each one claims or suggests about themselves. Thus triumph the foolishly vain and the impertinently self-assured. Insolence earns the respect of others. The stupidity of men allows us to reduce to a single precept the science of social success. Here it is: “To achieve all that society can offer, it is necessary and sufficient to do everything condemned by healthy conscience and good taste.” Perhaps the greatest advantage afforded by great fortune and a distinguished name is being able to be kind, polite, and simple towards others without being despised. Most men do not desire equality except to exercise more effectively the superiorities they believe they possess. At twenty years old we possess a woman; later, what matters to us is possessing the idea that a woman suggests to us. A naked body is the key to a new universe. Pleasure lies not so much in itself as in the yearnings that precede it and the regrets that follow it. The failure of pornographic literature stems from the triviality of mere sexual pleasure. Establishing a table of categories of historical reason is perhaps an impossible task. The historical categories of each epoch are born with it, and its very history engenders them. Thus, the system of historical categories seems to be nothing other than intellectual history itself. A Geistesgeschichte is the true Critique of Historical Reason. Ah! The general ideas of a mediocre writer, let him give us facts, short and hard, or let him be silent. Poorly written and poorly made books are sometimes more interesting than a perfect book. The satisfaction the latter gives us seems to exhaust its power, while the former prolong on in the thousand variations that our imagination invents to correct them. ## Page 271 Every flaw attracts us like the hollow or mold of an unsuspected perfection. Youth, usually, lives on water and dry bread, but can expect everything and believe that all will be given to it. Old age, on the other hand, is often not the deprivation of what youth desires, but the prohibition of hope. The deeply religious spirit does not know old age; for it, approaching death is not moving toward despair, a state that nullifies all hope, rather it is approaching the fulfillment of its deepest longing and the full possession of the total object of its desire. Old age is only a reality for the spirit confined within the limits of its earthly existence. The problem of old age and its tragic condition becomes serious only in irreligious societies, and perhaps the insistence on the problem De Senectute, or indifference towards it, are the most suitable instruments to measure the religiosity of a society or a man. The political and social dominance of youth in our time may have its roots solely in the anguish of death. The horror that death inspires makes everyone seek refuge in what most starkly opposes it: the vigor of youth, its blunt assertion of vital force. The deepest anguish before death is not revealed in those stone skeletons, in those Medieval Danse Macabre scenes of a dying Middle Ages, but in the childish entertainments of our contemporaries, in their abuse of everything that promises to stop or hide the decay of the body, and in the youthful groups that proudly march by. Just as the ascetic does not turn to God unless he flees from the world, so the modern man does not derive towards life unless he flees from death. In the existence of each one what matters most is what they flee from, and the complicated apparatus they build barely hides that it's only that from which they flee and hide. Any truly modern man who does not commit suicide by forty years old is an idiot. To become weary! As if one could become weary! What happens is different: other things call us, others provoke us. Desire does not die; and when we believe it has died, it is because a new desire, still unsuspected, already possesses us. The serenity that tries to express itself in formulas, maxims, principles, not only does not move us, but makes us suspect that it proposes to fearfully disguise an anguished disquiet. The only moving serenity is the one born from the whole of a Work or a life as its diffuse expression, as its unsuspected principle of harmony. A literary theme is interesting at the beginning and end of its career, when it still retains its first freshness, and when, vulgarized by use, a skilled writer employs it with irony and sarcasm. It is regrettable not to live in strictly Puritan times to be able to devote oneself delightfully to pure Cyrenaicism. That in a history of religion in China several chapters can be dedicated to Chinese philosophy and not even mention its painting seems absurd to me. Philosophy, theology, or mythology, are to religion what aesthetics are to the work of art, and frankly, replacing eighteenth-century art with Le Batteux or Baumgarten would be eccentric. In contrast, just as a history of eighteenth-century art requires a history of religious sentiment in that century, or rather The great Sung landscape is a better introduction to the mystical sentiment in China than Taoist and Buddhist scholasticism due to its absence. Desire is the father of ideas. When our soul resigns and gives up, intelligence slumbers. Wisdom, that fatigue of the soul, leads us to a foolish emptiness of spirit. True wisdom should not aim to eradicate our passions but rather to cleverly cultivate them so that our vices bear fruit in an abundance of ideas. Passions invent ideas to attack, defend, disguise, or understand themselves. A slight event altering the routine of our existence, like a beloved voice that life has stripped of power unexpectedly recovering its forgotten modulation, can make our youth reach us through the layers deposited by the triviality of daily life as a distant cry, wounding us like a sharp arrow shot by a dying sun. What's terrible is that we are not expelled from our paradises by an angel with a flaming sword; instead, a discreet path gently moves us away. We suddenly look back, and the paradise we thought we were still in stands on a distant horizon, behind high walls. Love is immobile, unchanging, and constant. However, its object is a concrete being situated within a specific set of circumstances. What happens is that the inevitable alteration of the object snatches away what was loved. Whoever loves once loves forever. But they love that concrete being they once loved, not the arbitrary being our convenience creates, assigning a single name to an indefinite successive multiplicity of beings. Modern bibliophilia, for which the rarity of copies is the most important factor in the value of a book, seems to me merely a symptom of the dominance of economics in our era since truthfully the intrusion of an economic category into a field that should only be determined by aesthetic considerations is palpably absurd. The satisfaction of having qualities that everyone respects does not console us for lacking those flaws that everyone envies. Virtue consoles us for the vices that are beyond our reach. A truth isn't true until it appears as the abstract formula of one's own experience. Suddenly understanding what was sealed off to us with seven seals is a delightful sensation. Yet I am always frightened by the evidence of this new truth—now obvious, tangible, luminous—when I think that everything I do not understand today, everything I do not even know about, contains truths equally obvious and clear, equally tangible, equally luminous. It is terrifying to think that many of our so-called truths exist only because we are incapable of those truths that perhaps refute them. Every truth, however, possesses its own light and is irrefutable within its own precinct. Let us fear only extending a truth beyond itself. From every statesman who errs, from every politician... ### 275 I uncomfortably feel like a brother to any weak statesman overwhelmed by events. Unlike many who, upon hearing a tragic or shameful story, exclaim with spontaneous contempt: "Ah! If it had been me! If I had been there!"; I always murmur: "Ah! I would have found a way to make it worse!" The need for ethics, that is, a system of action rules, appears late in individual life. Often it doesn't even appear late, and the individual settles with a different principle for each type of action. A bread loses as much when aging as a novel does. Surviving is extremely difficult. Perhaps only lyrical poetry and philosophical meditation do not require, after a century, a firm purpose of generous pity and a strong dose of curiosity to be read with ease. Aesthetic judgment is essentially presbyopic; it requires distancing from the object to focus on it clearly. Despite what is usually thought and the examples cited thousands of times of modern art, contemporaries are not so mistaken because they ignore or scorn exceptional works, but because they appreciate, admire, approve, and love mediocre works which they equate and confuse with those. What primarily escapes the contemporaries is not so much the work itself but the rank of the work, and their mistakes lie not so much in each individual value judgment as in establishing a satisfactory scale of values. Refuting a theory we know only vaguely, a common... and comical fault. A professional is someone who must be interested even in what does not interest him; an amateur is someone who is only interested in what interests him. Literary history, critical studies, abundant over the last hundred and fifty years, induce the writer to consider himself under the perspective of his potential historians. Thus all simplicity and naturalness have disappeared. No one writes anymore without tacitly applying to themselves a series of adjectives suitable for dead writers whom posterity places in their proper place and rank, but ridiculous on any other occasion. Honor is the respectable cloak of vanity. Doctrines are like attempts to find the center of gravity of the spirit. Each tries to define and locate it. We can only reach a positive determination of this center of gravity through an explicit doctrine; however, it seems we are capable of a kind of negative determination since a certain intellectual tact recoils in disgust from doctrines placed beyond a certain limited precinct. The center of gravity seems to be within that space outlined by our repugnance, and the genuine intellectual task consists of precisely determining its position there. The preference for literary or philosophical obscurity is not mere perversity; its secret motive is a certain natural humility that leads us to undervalue what we easily understand, as if mere adequacy to our miserable intelligence were proof of triviality or superficiality. Every period seems to have a generative principle that acts as the axis of history at that moment. Thus, only nations through which this axis passes are capable of significant literature. No one has considered that perhaps one of the best arguments in favor of the existence of a privileged social class is the: The convenience of being able to confine in a single class the repugnant spectacle of a satisfied humanity. It is not so much that certain political and social movements transform into religions, but rather that being movements of crowds, tumultuous, imparts characteristics similar to those of religions and social movements. Popularity is vile. Meineke, Hazard, Trevelyan, judicious minds, balanced, perhaps slow but serious, grave; the best and most typical fruits of high European university culture. Anxiety arises from an exaggerated faith in the stability of things. Supreme quality of a politician: to be energetic in the defense of moderation. It is childish to grant intellectual primacy to political activity. Just listen to the desires, ambitions, intentions of a politician to understand that his activity is subordinate. The politician serves, not so much the state, as all those occupied by other interests. The origins of Christianity and the French Revolution are the only events somewhat studied and elaborated into concepts; everything else remains untouched. To despise or to be despised is the alternative that social life proposes to us. Thus, to be respected, we are required to be unjust. All our impartiality, our justice, our love should be reserved for those moments of nocturnal solitude when we weigh and measure the day's events. To sincerely despise others requires such obfuscation that a statesman, whose success necessarily depends on possessing a vast capacity for contempt, must essentially be a fool. A generous intelligence is perhaps even rarer than great intelligence. Learning to read: interrupting the reading of one book with another is to disrespect the author. Every book that legitimately deserves that name is a closed system, whose total meaning depends on the joint action of all its parts. It thus requires an almost simultaneous perception of its successive aspects, achieved only through systematic attention that fuses into a unitary act a temporal multiplicity. Love and hate are the great springs of the dialectic of the spirit. Our love creates a system to defend what it loves, and hate destroys it to create, in turn, a system capable of defending what it loves; a system which, reciprocally, love with its hate will try to destroy. German pornography generally consists of a study or treatise on French pornography. I have to conclude that in agriculture I think like Xenophon and in Political Economy like the Physiocrats. That Fichte’s political system, founded on freedom and for it, culminates in the meticulous preparation of a distressing state of social tyranny, closed, narrow, tight, confirms once more the singular and contradictory nature of the dialectic of freedom and the urgency of an apparent illogicality to establish it. The error of democratic thought: attributing to each individual the totality of attributes proper to the concept of man. The difference between the man of science and the philosopher lies in that the former advances from triumph to triumph, keeping from each victory only a vain ash, while the latter enriches his soul with the substance of each failure from defeat to defeat. From Thucydides to his successors today, an imperial lineage of sovereign intelligences, cold and impassive observers of history, highlights by their mere presence the irremediable stupidity of our miserable race. Perhaps it is not so absurd to imagine that, in a few centuries, our entire contemporary age, with its philosophies, social and political movements, utopias, and catastrophes, can only be understood and integrated into a historical system as an episode in the history of the Church. What is not religious is not interesting. Everything interesting is or comes from a religious fact. History politics: historicism involves a policy (Burkean and Burckhardtian conservatism), just as Philosophie der Geschichte entails its own (Marxism), and as Encyclopedism also carries its own (liberal democracy). The idea of writing a life of Jesus presupposes the prior elimination of all Christological speculation or, if you will, a special Christological theory that denies the divinity of Jesus. The reason for this postulate lies in the nature of history, whose methodology is fundamentally analogical and thus has hermeneutic consciousness of itself as its basis. All history is human history. It is not impossible that the attempt to write a life of Jesus, necessarily based on the denial of his divinity, might culminate, given the repeated evidence of its failure, in an affirmation of the historicity of Jesus, and thus, far from denying his reality, in an orthodox Christological theory. 281 No human intelligence can compare to the olympic, serene, sovereign intelligence of Thucydides. The basic spring of Soviet communism is the following principle: Achieve maximum efficiency in economic activity. Anyone who always refers to this principle will never be disconcerted by communist phenomena, nor deceived by any of its aspects, nor disillusioned by others. Words, verbal expression, can only save us from the mediocrity that drowns the trivial substance of our lives. Speaking nobly rescues us from the worst disaster. Rhetoric as a tool for ennoblement. Whoever seeks to hide their misery or flaws with solemn grandiloquence quickly falls into the ridicule of betraying themselves more rapidly, but whoever expresses their meager truth with crystalline purity mysteriously transcends it. Through a thousand pages thought flows to condense into a golden drop of pure essence... which the thinker generally forgets to collect. Perhaps that ease of writing whose absence I lament, that flow of phrase that twists and coils like a vine’s arabesque around any object, perhaps that is precisely the same ease, the same triviality, the same superficiality, that repulses me in others. And perhaps thus the gods have denied me... precisely what I would have never wanted to have. Intelligence does not punish the lazy by taking away what it gave them. It merely contents itself with letting them be just intelligent. Intelligence is a homeland. Intelligence alone, devoid of what the labor of thinking adds, is admirable only in the adolescent. Later on, nothing is less interesting, nor, fundamentally, more stupid. A piece of furniture suddenly creaks in the night silence and, like a tumult of overflowing waters, ancestral fears resurrect in the anguished palpitations of the savage fleeing in the primeval forest. That a slight agitation touches a soul or a society is enough for pieces of the millennia-old work of man's civilization to crumble. For every man there is a special type of rhetoric and a set of allusions that move him. I also have mine; but the serious thing is that they are precisely those that do not move my contemporaries and those that move them lack all prestige for me. Perhaps the recipe for happiness is the same as that for stupidity: to feel like our contemporaries. The terrible thing about stupidity, bad taste, baseness, is that neither our arguments nor our sarcasms wound them. In our contemporary society, an “honnéte homme” discovers several times a day appetites of a Mongol conqueror. How not to succumb under contemporary stupidity, undermined by the doubt of being right alone against everyone, if we did not know ourselves supported by all great spirits, by all great intelligences? Our resistance is thus, in its apparent presumption, but the humble compliance with what was ordered by the noblest, and our rejection serves to maintain, amidst the "anarchy", the throbbing and alive conscience of a higher human truth. The martyr is the apostle who resigns. When every effort to triumph truth is futile, the mere assertion—plain, unadorned, emphatic—creates in the universe something new and indestructible, an object that no one can hide or evade. Asserting, even secretly, is never in vain because even the most harmless and trivial gesture betrays an unmistakable allusion to the asserted truth. No human life consists of isolated acts but rather a system of actions that binds and determines the fundamental affirmation of each man's spirit. A lascivious page, a virtuous life—it's possible, but then the chastity of that life is anecdotal and reveals only a special form of lasciviousness underlying it. Cynicism is a philosophy for intelligent adolescents. A healthy culture of intelligence demands that cynicism destroys the respects of childhood, but also, as maturity approaches, it requires that a broader and deeper understanding of things destroy the insufficiency of all cynicism. All desire, longing, and anguish disappear when we embrace a naked body in our arms. The interest in the subject matter of many mediocre books induces us to waste our time with them. We forget this elementary principle of all aesthetics: that only the genius of the author matters. Naively believing that a recent book, rich in documents and equipped with some new categories of interpretation, deserves to be read without hesitation, when in truth it would be better to reread the old but intelligent book. Life is too short to read all the glosses accumulated by unlucky candidates for immortality. The bibliography of works written about a work is almost a list of what is not worth reading. Any mediocrity imagines that by speaking about a genius their mediocrity diminishes due to the importance of their topic. However, talking about Goethe is the best way not to have to imitate him. Understanding an idea means being able to repeat the different intellectual acts that culminated in the idea. Making our interlocutor understand us is placing them in a position to repeat our thought. The art of understanding is partly speculative and partly mimetic; mystery is consciousness. Generally, men tolerate with difficulty those who differ from them, those whose qualities and defects are different. Difference breeds hatred. Conversely, I am irritated by those similar to me. I know their defects too well because they are mine, and I measure too accurately the insufficiency of their qualities because they belong to me. On the other hand, those who are nothing like me inspire great sympathy in me, because their qualities possess the allure of the unattainable and their defects the harmlessness of the impossible. Reading a book on the history of aesthetic, ethical, logical philosophy, or even philosophy in general leaves me deeply unsatisfied. This succession of opinions, even when attempted to be connected by a more or less subtle dialectical principle, saddens me with its futility, leaving me with the vague impression of an elusive wealth or a clear but palpably arbitrary schema. The history of a spiritual activity makes no sense isolated from the history of the spirit itself in all its concrete and individual richness. Writing one of these histories means starting from the object that occupies the spirit and submitting to its demands, admitting as autonomous the portion of the spirit that the object externally sections off and circumscribes, forgetting that the history of the spirit is the history of the subject which its object does not determine. In other terms, what is for the spirit only the momentary point of greatest attention becomes a faculty of the spirit, that is, an attribute susceptible to autonomy. This type of history is a survival of the classical psychology of faculties, from an insufficient and obsolete conception. Ultimately, every error in historical matters depends on a misconceived notion of man. Psychology is indeed at the base of history as Dilthey wanted, but not exactly empirical psychology, rather a table of concrete categories. Facing an individual with well-defined opinions (communist, catholic, or other) it's extremely easy to appear intelligent. It suffices to apply the basic concepts of the system in which our interlocutor has settled to the immediate fact or idea being discussed. Moreover, nothing more boring. If intelligence does not invent and does not discover, any sensual contact is less vain. Write like Mérimée, but about ideas. German books: raw material. Until recently, finding my ideas confirmed by a famous book filled me with pride, today such concordance automatically degrades the book, the idea, and its author; truly, I tell myself, what can this fool be worth if he thinks the nonsense I think? True boredom does not stem from exclusive occupation with a single object, but from superficial and transient occupation with a multitude of objects. Laborious familiarity with an object brings us closer to its essence, to its richness, to its inner abundance. An intimate abundance that concepts fail to expose, labeled and numbered on a pedagogical table, yet this feeling of its richness is certainly something intellectual, even when it does not bear fruit in concepts, but in acts, in works, in spiritual progress. Moving from one object to another we crash against their crystalline surface that defends them; our desire bounces back unsatisfied and all possession eludes us. What mostly falsifies all political foresight is our reluctance to attribute a sufficiently irrational character to effective motives. We always deceive ourselves because we spontaneously believe in an unjustified prestige of reason. Transient beauty seduces, but true beauty falls upon us and overwhelms us. Youngsters are only interested in contemporary authors, immediate literature, but as we age certain immovable books alone manage to allure us: the few great ones, those that remain while everything else passes. Our literary tastes are like the airplane that requires a dirt runway to take off, running along it, clinging to it; but suddenly it separates, leaves it behind, and flies towards the sun. Having abandoned both allegorical and literal exegesis of the Bible in favor of historical exegesis, Catholicism no longer appears as a childish and simple doctrine, but a subtle one. The difficulties encountered by common sense in these conditions are more akin to those of the theory of relativity than to those of the cosmogony of Beroso. Considering that when our youth has died, and with it what it alone permits, we have nothing left to hope for, is a repeated and tenacious temptation. But we must resist such trivial and cruel wisdom. If the studious austerity of our youth, the repugnance to any false gesture, to all ostentation, to all premature and hollow affirmation, were more than a deception, they were seeds of a 287 Slow wisdom that our mature years must ripen—we cannot be satisfied with a notion of existence that reduces it all to its morning bloom. Traditionalism in the manner of Burke, conservatism in the manner of Taine, or continuism in the manner of Burckhardt were still acceptable doctrines yesterday. Today, anyone starting from premises similar to those men must advocate for revolutionary violence akin to what they criticized. We must force ourselves to fully develop every idea verbally, so as not to rely on a vague richness that sometimes dissipates by merely trying to draw a check against it. The meaning of things perceived during the day disturbs and concerns me less than the significance of trivial things present in dreams. Dreams imbue some of their objects with a strange inner light that reveals in them a "strange capacity for importance" which daytime vision does not perceive. With the fading memory of the dream, its unsettling sense disappears, but perhaps we judge too easily that we have regained the right view of things, when we have only lost a genuine understanding that requires its own form of experience. The only important things are those that do not depend on us. What is given freely, and taken freely away, alone, is worth pursuing. The rest, whatever is within our power, does not merit a moment's attention. Genius, beauty, happiness: the portion of our lives subject to our will serves only to prepare us to nobly receive these gifts. We can only decorate the room where, perhaps, some capricious god resides momentarily. The prosperity of recent centuries allowed the importance of philosophy to be forgotten. One believed thinking was a mere intellectual function, that the philosopher's truth was an equation or formula. Faced with the relentless threats of catastrophes, today's man rediscovers in philosophy the “magister vitae” that Stoicism of the Empire invoked to quell the noise of the centurion’s approaching steps. Thinking is more than judging; it is assuming an attitude. “S'engager” is the naive formula of the philosophy that rediscover its essential ethical root. Believing in the importance of man while walking amidst the throng of a populous city is impossible. Abundance degrades. This century’s cruelty stems from a sensitivity blunted by excessive human presence. When in the Paleolithic jungle, one human group stumbled upon another, I believe that rather than ferocity or dread, what occurred there was a terrible shaking of total sensitivity, a panic-stricken anguish. Once a certain familiarity with those disquieting surrounding presences was established, greed or envy could breed bestial acts; but the foreigner was always a sacred being, his unusual existence partook, unlike the ordinary neighbor, in that distinct universe enveloping the profane enclosure. All cruel civilizations have been civilizations of crowds. Those who seek in religion a solution to their problems are mistaken. Religion is not a set of solutions, but a set of problems. To the multiple issues that distress mankind, religion may offer some solutions, or rather, some promises of resolution, but it is not its proper function to provide us with a system that integrates our worries and satisfactorily orders them; rather, it is to awaken us to new presences and cast us among new problems. Religion is not a theory of the world, but an experience of it. 289 its insufficiency, that is, an experimental acknowledgment of a strange presence in usual things. Religion does not arise from human life but is introduced into it. The religious man is not one who is pushed towards religion by the contradictions and practical or theoretical absurdities of life, but rather one to whom purely religious facts pose a new problem and compel him to assume the intellectual and moral attitudes characteristic of the new universe in which he finds himself. May what most exalts us be the same for the humblest animal! Chaste or libertine, the same anxiety shakes us before the miserable being that subjugates us. Reduced to its pure physiological expression, the act is so inferior to the importance it assumes in our lives that, to justify ourselves, we would require a new systematic vision of the universe. I propose to some serious intelligence, yet devoid of irony, the task of writing a Critique of Erotic Reason. Those who have accepted a definitive vision of the world, with its consequent scale of values and rigid imperatives, are enviable; their serenity only suffers slight storms. They have no more problem than knowing which concept suits a given fact; the real problem, the problem of concepts, no longer arises for them. Indeed, they have symbolically exchanged the idea of justice for the code, compact and immobile, and have submitted to the human condition with excessive deference; but those who live in constant instability cannot help but enviously gaze at the pompous gesture of those fools. “In its creative aspect art is a limited activity that is to say, it is confined to special individuals who have special faculties —not of feeling or of thought— but of expression, of objectivation” (Herbert Read: Art Now p. 47). Interesting statement from a pontiff of modern art, and perhaps naive confession. Art, as the pure expression of someone lacking special faculties of feeling and thinking, would be the mere manifestation of the desire to create a work of art when nothing compels or drives one to do so. Almost abstract desire to do something that seduces us, without any concrete determination. It would be akin to that love of love, to being in love with love without being in love with any woman, a pure yearning towards a pure form, towards a category of existence, a craving devoid of roots, lacking the only appropriate and valid motive: the possession of an individual, concrete, unmistakable form of existence. Just as military music that inspires some heroism in the hearts of city dwellers, only awakens a weak appetite for heroism, devoid of authenticity and incapable of culminating in heroic acts, since heroism is born only amid perfectly determined circumstances, but usually unsuspected by the astonished hero to whom the spectator throws the palm and the lemniscus, perhaps the abundance of works of art, their high social value, and the exaggerated respect for cultural activities awaken an appetite for art, an undifferentiated desire, an empty form of precise demands. Modern art and the expressionist aesthetics that attempt to justify it are, perhaps, products of a humanity richly endowed with means of expression, but to whom an artificial affection for the arts only allows expressing in a thousand ingenious ways its patent sterility. If during the slow and gray hours we kept the memory of our momentary exaltations, we would less easily fall into the clumsy disgust of life that prejudices our justice. Every era has its religion and its god; and those who think otherwise have merely exchanged the god they had for a darker and more ominous one. How often have we been told that providentialism stems from ignorance of natural laws; however, the laws The laws of nature may be nothing more than an easy interpretation of the persistent presence of a miracle. Every global notion has a religious character; in every unitary and total theory, a religion germinates. Science only knows fragments, and philosophy only establishes provisional bridges. Thus, anything that forgets the fragmentary nature of knowledge is the insidious suggestion of a demon, or a god, eager to reveal itself. In every explanation of the world, a hierophany prepares itself. Defending important things is extremely difficult. Arguments are ineffective, and we must resort to the rhetoric of emphatic words. Indeed, what we would like to prove escapes not only our arguments but also eludes any formula. We cannot even clearly state what it is precisely that we try to defend. It’s natural for the adversary to smile since at least he knows what he attacks and defends. Our exasperation at his sufficiency, our faltering exasperation, our confused speech culminating in broad and vague gestures, must seem supremely comical to him and the best confirmation of his rejection. Truly, important things cannot be defended. They cannot be defended with arguments. They cannot be defended with education and good manners. With insolence, yes. I just need to approach things to feel repelled. Sometimes the very tone of the word spoken to call me pushes me away; a smile can tarnish the splendor of lips, a gesture can abolish the grace of an admirable body. But, in the room where I have taken refuge, the appetite for life is reborn, and greed sprouts more vigorously. Interest and desire do not die; the craving is relentless, and the urge is unlimited. 293 The instinct to demean humanity, which we all conceal deep within ourselves, is not only satisfying our quest for truth but also flatters that secret desire. It's an amusing game, yet far too easy; it embodies the kind of wisdom that triumphs over social rhetoric yet fails under serious consideration of matters. Indeed, it is clear that humans live in perpetual falsehood, identifying with what they are not. However, it is equally evident that it is impossible to find a basic manner of being to which one could identify after shedding every artificial attribute. Authenticity isn't found in the arbitrary being that dictates any given ethics, but rather beyond any abstract ideal, when through this repertoire of ethical imperatives, our being genuinely identifies with the ethical framework it adopts. Human authenticity is not a given nature, but a proposed task. To be authentic is to achieve the perfect creation of a character, transforming into lived life a random longing of the spirit. Literature often envies qualities inherent to other arts. At times, it seems unable to be content with its primary function and sees, in its prerogative to be the most complete expression of man, merely a limitation imposed by its general nature, which does not allow the construction of certain restricted, yet tremendously intense aspects of the world. Thus, Mallarmé's envious anguish towards music and his competitive meditations on Wagnerian orchestration. Also, certain perennial and classical aesthetics of "representation" reveal an obsession with functions that predominantly belong to painting. The image, the metaphor here lose their literary value of fleeting brilliance, of ephemeral vector of an expression stream, to transform into a picture, a static plastic object. All this is easy to criticize, but how can one not be irritated by the inability to achieve purely literary modulation, the richness of Chardin's subdued self-portrait or Watteau's works from his final years, like the "Enseigne de Gersaint"? Philosophy for every poet consists always of a more or less naive Platonism. The problem of philosophers' hermeneutics appears to be a problem abandoned by God and men. For the philosopher, the primary issue is not to understand what other philosophers have said but to think through their own philosophy. Regardless of the importance of philosophical tradition and even if it persistently refers to the history of philosophy, each philosopher uses themes or vocabulary of their predecessors as, in an ordinary dialogue, each speaker uses the terms or ideas of another just to support, hang, or connect their own. From philosopher to philosopher, the same apparent theme hides a different subject, and the same word refers to a different reality. On the other hand, the historian of philosophy is a professional and therefore lives the history of philosophy as a career and not as a life. If he were to live it as a life, he would then live it as his own philosophy and falsify it as spontaneously as any philosopher does. Between falsification and superficiality oscillates the history of philosophy. Perhaps the difficulty of philosophy lies in its extreme subjectivity. Compared to a philosophical meditation, the purest lyrical ejaculation has the objectivity of a mathematical theorem. Philosophy is the most accurate expression of the person and their unmistakable situation. It holds the indefinite validity of the purely concrete, the irreplaceability of what exists autonomously. Asking philosophy for truth is like asking for the truth of the evident, obvious, palpable existence of a being. In front of an individual, the basic categories are acceptance and rejection; further inquiries are subsequent. To understand a philosophy, it is necessary to coincide with it, to try to identify ourselves with the individual movement of thought in which it authentically consists. Undoubtedly, the first stage of understanding is to translate into the language of our concerns the themes particular to a philosophy, but neither that reduction to a personal denominator nor even less so to the common denominator of an era suffice; full intelligence is given only by the contradictory attempt to be another while remaining oneself. Among modern utopias, it is difficult to indicate the most dangerous, but none may become as formidable as the naive belief that culture is a luxury activity, a game suitable for relaxation. A humanity that works a few hours and dedicates its leisure to culture: sciences, arts, letters, in a suburban landscape of public libraries and hygienic parks is the ideal cherished by current progressives. It is surprising that the apostles of democratic culture do not suspect what dismal future they prepare, since the spectacle of activities in which current bourgeois and proletarians find their rest should be enough to understand that the best this future promises is an abundance of cheap detective novels, light comedies, sentimental movies, or propaganda theater and thesis-driven plays, or a plethora of popular science lectures. Culture, great culture, is not an activity that rests. It is, on the contrary, a laborious task, a harsh demand. It requires extreme dedication and does not tolerate being served with divided will. It better flourishes in a society light-hearted, occupied with its own pleasure, devoted to voluptuous or trivial games, than in a society of honest and serious workers, of peasant and artisan people. Culture seeks a leisured society, not because it is an ornament of leisure, but because in leisure it rests from its industriousness. It also seeks it because only there is it allowed for an individual to specialize in the task of acquiring or creating a great culture. The man dedicated to mechanical tasks or the meticulous administrative work of a modern society, does not ask in his moments of rest to be entertained but rather engages in childish occupations. Tired, we always opt for the stupidest book, for the silliest show. Great culture is then a parasitic phenomenon, and a policy that eliminates drones will eliminate the products of the idle’s activity: sciences, letters, arts, since they are not, as the unrepentant democrat imagines, simple products of leisure, but of the labor of the idle. The critic is not merely a spectator of literature but an active participant. They are part of a natural group, belonging to a spiritual generation, sharing in the doctrinal symbols of a sect. The involvement of the critic in their subject is not just an attitude or stance, akin to a hunter's mimicry of a predator bird, nor simply a simulation of sympathy and flexibility that aligns with the spirit and rhythm of the work. It involves methodological empathy (Einfühlung), and the patient humility of intelligence submissive to its object. The critic's participation is existential; it is a communion of essence, like a leaf trembling in the forest under the blasts of the same storm. Thus, there is no isolated critic, no solitary critic. A critic always appears as a prologue, a perpetual commentary, or an epilogue of a major literary movement. Therefore, the critic does not embody the timeless consciousness of literature but rather the consciousness of one of its most splendid historical moments. For the greatest critics, there exist closed aesthetic spaces, unavoidable injustices, inevitable enthusiasms. Critics do not wander through literatures as tourists stroll indifferently through museums. Certain rooms reject them, others intrigue them, some outrage them, and yet others they dwell in and inhabit. Born alongside a literary movement, within the heart of that movement, the greatness of a critic depends on it, limiting their impartiality. Aristotle or Horace, Boileau or Dryden, Goethe or Coleridge, Sainte-Beuve or Thibaudet, Eliot or Gundolf: indeed, it is classicism, neoclassicism, romanticism, or symbolism that necessitates the emergence of a genuine critic. There are great literary movements without great critics, but no great critic exists without a great literary movement. A critic from impoverished and deprived times is merely a silent reader, or if writing, a monotonous and verbose chronicler of their own emptiness. During a period of political stability, that is, while the hegemony of the same party is maintained, political life possesses characteristics that hide its true nature. Only transition periods are revealing. Indeed, a party that remains in power not only loses its bellicose sharpness and becomes civilized but also, now secure in its dominance and sustenance, begins to acknowledge the importance of general problems devoid of immediate interest. The opposition party, in turn, aware of its temporary impotence, places at the forefront of its concerns principles and demands of a speculative nature, since merely asserting its ambitions would discredit it before an indifferent public and weaken the good conscience necessary for the full efficacy of the most straightforward political selfishness. Ideologies are war machines, but they are constructed during periods of social peace when a marked predominance of one party endures. Eating is the genuine political imperative. The very difficulty of an enterprise, which seems the greatest obstacle to its success, is, on the contrary, generally its condition. A healthy country is one that can be governed peacefully by fools. A country needing intelligent people is in full decline. Non satis est pulchra esse poemata, dulcia sunto; modern literature forgets this, but will this not suffice for them to forget it tomorrow? Understanding is an irrational act, A new idea, like a new author, presents itself as a closed precinct. To enter, one must jump inside. The only possible method is purely external and consists in jumping from one nearby precinct to more distant ones. There is no rational transition nor logical deduction. Statistics is the true instrument of servitude. It effectively reduces to the category of an object, and treats as such, the only evident subject – man. Freedom is only perceived as an internal fact; it is the form that every act perceived as one's own assumes for the subject, it is the very form of subjectivity. Therefore, anything that leads us to see the subject as an object prepares us to accept reductions in freedom. The worst mistake is not to meditate sufficiently on commonplaces. Truth always consists of returning to the evidences of yesterday after traveling many miles of tortuous path. Dispelling the foolishness that obsesses us to replace it with a worthy and serious concern is a demand we perpetually make upon ourselves and a difficulty before which we perpetually succumb. When everything is easy for us, we swell with intellectual pride. Indifference to the trivial: a virtue learned through rigorous study. Neither writing a truth nor thinking it suffice; any truth that is not flesh, bone, and blood, how does it differ from an error? Contemplating is not abstaining; it demands a broader confirmation of our premature ideas. Learning to die; learning to live: aren't they the two sides of the same demand? Is it fear, or a dark rebellion of immortal beings, that keeps us from considering death? ## General Theory of Dogmatics, or better in German: Allgemeine Theorie der Dogmatik. Hearing South American "intellectuals" speak, I sometimes think that literature is not for the poor South American but a substitute for the trips to Europe of the rich South American. When I hear two South Americans talk about Europe, I immediately want to board a ship to Australia. The rich discredit wealth. The eminent dignity of poverty lies in being the impediment that prevents most men from showing their vulgarity. Ideas are the only thing in the world that can only be possessed by those who are worthy of possessing them. Everyone believes they can buy a book if they have enough money. But books know very well that this is not the case. The neighbor is irreplaceable; his beam is the only way to discover our straw. What repulses us in others should make us tremble with horror, because we are only hurt by the flaws we are implicitly capable of. Flaws that are not, nor can be ours, seem to us merely charming eccentricities. Ridicule is our caricature; the eccentric is our antipode. The vehemence of the apostle betrays an implicit heretic. Our sincere polemics never have but one target: ourselves. Admirable Eliot! Did any poet ever achieve such truthfulness? The trivial seems to need, to ascend to aesthetic status, some lateral illumination: tenderness, love, simplicity, humor, transparency of the divine, etc. He alone takes the trivial as trivial, concrete, dense, impure, and nails it right into the poetic sky: Or clasped the yellow soles of feet In the palms of both soiled hands. The Waste Land with its notes —an attempt similar to the reconstruction of Lamartine's text starting from the specks on the Lanson edition. Excessive critical consciousness of a poet: a distinguished anatomist who does not know how to dance. Modern art recalls the donkey from the fable who, when he finally learned not to eat, died. Not being a professional of literature grants me the rare privilege of exempting myself from the obligation to read the books of my compatriots. Fear of the system: rejection of shackles and fetters, or cunning of our indolence? Rejecting every system because we suspect its insufficiency to encompass the full complexity of reality, is to covet God’s very position; and what then leads us to settle for an emotive impressionism that keeps us in positions even lower than those we could assume as men. All genuine philosophy is constructed against skepticism, and through it. The idea that is born as an illumination and whose evidence refutes all doubt, lacks philosophical importance. It can only be asserted when its evidence encounters a questioning that disturbs it yet manages to assimilate. All evidence not showing a secret wound and some kind of human fragility is merely an impertinent assertion. Thinking does not consist in asserting truths but in living them as we live a love that everything contradicts. The history of Alexander, like the history of the Italian Campaign, are the only subjects that transport the mediocre historian beyond his own mediocrity. To understand a philosopher, what is important is to know his way of doubting. What seems to an impatient theologian as a hostile charge is sometimes just the desperate form of an apologetic overflowing with love. Instead of a gloss, our contemporaries often dedicate an entire book. Give us, Lord, our daily bread, and our everyday evidence. The trivial is what intelligence has forgotten to think about. A sharp, vivid, deep awareness of spiritual realities sometimes seems to drag along with it a curious naivety, a surprising childishness of the intellect. Conversely, a quick, agile, unguarded intelligence sometimes seems to imply ignorance or incomprehensible disdain for these realities. It seems that man is presented with an ironic dilemma: either to be aware of the problem lacking the tools to solve it, or to have the tools lacking the awareness of the problem. We are so poor that intellectual stubbornness is not so much perversity as fear of losing the convictions, the truths, that we acquire with such difficulty. Spiritually no one can enrich us, and each person must give themselves the goods they can possess. Vulgar Epicureanism is irrefutable, but it is only an accommodation to failure. If others knew what each of us sometimes dares to think about ourselves, they would die of laughter or commiseration. There is no being miserable enough to desire to change entirely into another being. Thus, a secret tenderness for something of what we are, however minimal and imperceptible, prevents us from collapsing within our own void. Conservatism is the liberalism of the intelligent man. Burke founded conservatism because he was the most intelligent of the Whigs. Men's eagerness to be guided, led, redeemed, is only matched by their hatred for those who guide, lead, redeem them. History is the field of subtle truths, where, however, philosophers of history install themselves smugly, crudely, clumsily. Where the eclipse of French science is most noticeable is in the prose of its scientific writers. The French do not need to cross the Rhine to find poorly written books. Since the last Roman aristocrat died in Capri, only the Venetian patriciate and the English oligarchy of the 17th century have known the grand style of political existence. Perhaps there is no more common nor greater vanity than feeling capable every day of freely and autonomously expressing one's opinion, as if what we are does not make us appear to those who know us as some kind of predictable machine. Refusing on principle to be consistent with oneself is merely a polemical attitude, a way to systematically escape any contradiction we might be boxed into, but it is an unsustainable stance because the limited repertoire of postulates of each intelligence reveals itself to be relentlessly identical through the disordered gestures of any dialectical acrobatics. Anyone who retains adolescent opinions at forty years old is unbearable. The impertinence of youth is uncertain of itself, while the petulance of mature men does not suspect its own vacuity. The only interesting criticism is negative, and it only gains full importance when it is palpably absurd. Retz, Saint-Simon, Chateaubriand, Tocqueville — the range of the highest peaks. To express an idea discreetly and then remain silent is as good as hiding it in a well. Memoirs and maxims seem to be distinctly aristocratic genres. It is fearsome to solicit confidences. Once the need to maintain certain social coherence disappears, man uncorks a bottle that unleashes a thousand demons. Our selfish tranquility demands that everyone impeccably play their social role. The disguise that man dons each morning to perform his customary role in the commedia dell'arte allows only for the coexistence of society without excessive disruptions. In philosophy, only the excessive, the extreme, matters. Truth seems more likely to reside in an absurd but vehement assertion than in a nuanced proposition full of prudent concessions. Those who fear the absurd lack philosophical genius. Only the system that unflinchingly develops the conclusions of a principle persists; the systematic attempt to coordinate distinct truths and heterogeneous evidences soon falls into oblivion. Injustice with ideas in philosophy, like injustice with people in politics, is the condition for success. Do we write for others? Perhaps not; if one has a true calling. But if others did not exist, we would not write. One who believes in God is never completely lost in the world. Even the absurd acquires a semblance of meaning if we can consider it as determined by a will. Pure absurdity is not logical or ethical contradiction, but pure objective existence, the fact that has not been posited by any subject, nor conceals any subject. Absurdity is what lacks cause—if cause is the relationship between the will and its object. Scientific causality is the method for establishing an internal classification of the absurd. It reduces the multiplicity of the absurd to a single absurdity: existence. And there it rests. A pure existentialist philosophy is properly a contradiction, because all philosophy implicitly or explicitly starts from the subject, while pure existence, raw existence, is an exclusive attribute of the object. The writer who advises, commands, forbids, or prophesies is the one who captivates and excites; the one who only observes does not inspire passion. But the former soon tires, while the latter interests us indefinitely. True literary criticism consists not in a discourse, but in a timely adjective. Tomorrow's anxiety: "Das Gesetz des Herzens ceases to be the law of the heart through its realization. For in this it assumes the form of being and becomes just a general power, indifferent to this heart, so that the individual no longer finds his own order as his own." (Hegel: Phenomenology of Spirit, 269). No utopia can withstand such lucid argument. Wordsworth and Léautaud seem to me necessary, both, for a sane intellectual balance. Knowledge seems, soon, a vain thing. What interests us, what we long for, is the possession of certain intellectual and moral attitudes, rather than that of a thousand objects of knowledge, eternally distinct. Science is, perhaps, merely the occasion to exercise certain intellectual virtues. Being interested only in what interests us is not a virtue unless it is a conquest. We must first submit to what is foreign to us, have humility before what denies us, believe that the importance of a thing does not depend on our spontaneity to attribute it to ourselves. But it is appropriate, afterward, to renounce everything that is not intimately urgent and indispensable. The authentic importance of important things that do not belong to us or are indifferent to us can be recovered in the importance of what is our own if we manage to penetrate it to its deepest strata. Nothing in the world is lost to us if we have deep possession of one thing. In the world, everything can be given in each of its parts. The totality of the universe exists as much in the entire universe as in each of its apparent fragments. To believe that the universe is the sum of its parts is to succumb to the illusion of multiplicity. It is to prepare to despair. It is to believe that a law is nothing more than the examples of the law. Beside Chinese painting, the pictorial tradition of the West seems like mere brilliant vulgarity. Every pedagogue is a shameful pederast. The racist theories of National Socialism were nothing but mythology, but I do not imply that they were a mere mistake, but rather the perennial process that, in the hands of the people, transforms every doctrine into stupidity. That biological politics is necessary, if we do not want to fall into unsuspected abysses, the shortest walk through a farm, among herds, teaches us. The Nazi stupidity did not consist in proclaiming the urgency of the problem, but in declaring that only the lion (assuming it was a lion) and its supremely leonine qualities should be preserved, purified, exalted. The truth seems to consist here in accepting that along with the lion, tigers, panthers, elephants, eagles, and doves coexist, but also in affirming that it is wise to seek the perfection of each species. Replace a doctrine of the lion with a doctrine of the zoologist. The old society possessed the tact of the old peasant who without agronomists, technical books, or statistics, proceeded slowly to do what reason demands. The old society was organized to allow and favor excellence; the new society collaborates in the production of mediocrity. The terrible thing about modern errors is that, sooner or later, atrocious violence will eradicate them. A certain healthy biological reason to which the old society submitted—without the need for greater violence—simply through the play of its institutions and customs, will require tomorrow, when its urgency becomes unavoidable, a surgical coldness that terrifies me. Spanish literature retains in all its corners, indelible, the echo of a certain ecclesiastical laughter with its scatological jokes. The past of reactionaries is surely idealized; but, after all, in that fantasy past, it would have been delightful to live. Contrarywise, more than the future we can already foresee, what frightens is the idealized future of our progressive prophets. From our probable future, the most distressing aspect is even its very ideal repels. Error. Truth. Perhaps, subordinate categories. An 18th-century stupidity possesses a grace that redeems it, a discreet elegance that partially rescues it from the superficiality to which it inclines; an error from the 19th century has weight, richness, abundance, moving certainty; but even our correct decisions are desolate. In our time, institutions do not function to protect the individual against the state or other institutions, but rather to prepare them more effectively for submission. In the history of psychology, "progress" consists in the successive elimination of every theory that has been considered definitive. The passion to degrade oneself cannot subjugate anyone who does not long for infinite purity. The importance of considering only severely limited problems does not depend on the significance of the possible solutions to these problems, but on the extreme likelihood of finding in such solutions, discovered at great depths, indications favorable to suggesting new ways of seeking solutions to boldly general problems. I do not understand how those who do not outright reject all modern civilization, those who glimpse within it the seeds of a happy fulfillment, can fail to be Marxists. To refute a doctrine, there is no argument comparable to the history of its triumph. I do not call someone intelligent who confirms my prejudices, but someone who denounces them and thus helps me discover them. All legitimate power is a power founded upon a religious conception. "Legitimacy" is the political form of the sacred. Perhaps Dilthey's mistake lies in not having considered philosophy as one of his Systems of Culture, implicitly thinking that its function was exhausted by playing its epistemological role. Philosophy grounds all knowledge and, in turn, grounds itself—a notion absent in Diltheyan thought. Crowds are not fanatical but impulsive. Fanaticism requires persistent meditations and an intense love for ideas. Fanaticism is the form taken by intelligence lost within its own works, unable to acquire that awareness of its own nature which separates it from mere action, thus attributing importance only to its pure essence. Truth or error are merely the most common products of intelligence. Neither those who have never been tempted by communism nor those who have succumbed to the temptation interest me. A Christian humanist is conceivable; I am not sure if a humanistic Christian is equally feasible. When the opportunity arises to commit a base act, Colombians rarely pass it up. Regarding Christianity as a "scandal": the common unbeliever stumbles over the "scandal," becomes indignant, and turns away; a more subtle minority steps aside precisely because they do not see a "scandal," but rather a complex event that history can explain. Yet, what moves me there is that it simultaneously is and is not a "scandal." Christianity makes no sense outside the religious history of humanity, nor solely within it. The beauty of the Virgin's figure stems both from the sacred entourage of vanquished goddesses she evokes or replaces, and from how she transcends them. Christian worship originated in Paleolithic caves, and the theology of the Australian or Pygmy is just as much the cornerstone of the Catholic cathedral as is Alexandrian theology. The theory of revelation as a heterogeneous doctrinal block, independent, isolated, belongs to a set of pedagogical systems wherein ideas transfer from one spirit to another like a material object passing from hand to hand. Every revelation demands a slow maturation of souls, an autonomous preparation of the spirit, a convergent evolution creating similar intellectual appetites; without precursors, there is no advent of messiahs. To perceive it is not enough to be present with the object; it requires the organ of perception; moreover, the will to perceive that channels attention and prepares reception. After reading several memoir books, it is inevitable to conclude that any life not illuminated by great intelligence is trivial and useless. Will the novels of our time that will endure, that will enter into literary history tomorrow, be those written with artistic ambitions, or perhaps certain adventure stories—maybe some detective novels—short, abrupt, concise, sharp? Writer without talent; enamored eunuch. All logical ethics are absurd. What reason can exhaust lacks life. Sade’s work is the sole coherent attempt to construct a universe rigidly empty of the three Theological Virtues. ## Page 315 The universe of Sade is the universe of absolute "finitude." Sade does not belong to hell, but to a world without future, without past, without present, to a kind of abstract eternity, akin to mineral time. The universe of Sade belongs to the genre of "utopian" universes: it is the universe after the death of God. Pure sexuality, at its extreme limits, utters a theological accusation and poses a problem of religious rivalry. Religion must subdue or utilize sexuality, but it cannot abandon it on its own. Sexuality is the refuge of man dispossessed of God, the ultimate enclave where his despair confronts the divinity that abandons him. There dwell the nameless larvae that even infernal spirits themselves look upon with dread, for they still lack the passions to which they succumbed and which are, in their dark splendor, the indelible mark of their luminous origin. When we approach the extremes of the human soul, demonology and angelology become the spontaneous categories of intelligence. We are not before God responsible for our actions alone; what we are is perhaps the most serious mandate we have received. That if God does not exist, any duty is nonsense. But—they may tell us—what if duty clearly exists? What will you do? What you suggest: obey; because if a duty exists, so does God. What do we call God? The fundamental fact that, even if the world makes no sense, I can declare it so: that it does not. Personality of God is nothing more than the impossibility of conceiving the meaning of the world as lesser than the miserable personality of man. Every political constitution is good, if we manage to make it last. The worst political foolishness is the reform of a Constitution, because life itself, and use and wear, make the necessary modifications. Reforms only lead to new reforms, since the mere act of intentional change suggests indefinite changes. Instability, restlessness, transience, provisionality come to constitute fundamental attributes of the social structure. That all politics imply an idea of man, as Valéry said, is evident; but what is fundamental is that all politics implies an idea of God. Rome under Augustus; France under Louis XIV: times of great imperial establishments are like the calm, serene, slow, healthy breathing of a broad-chested athlete. We no longer know what that is. Modern philosophy is merely a series of appendices to Kantian thought. Understanding the tremendous social power of the most abstract ideas seems impossible when we see the animal indifference of the vast majority of men and think about the painful daily labor that distances them from any disinterested activity. The only plausible explanation is the extraordinary social efficacy of minorities. A few thinking individuals suffice to modify the social environment. The gestures that the crowd imitates, the movements they copy, and the attitudes they mimic are subordinate yet authentic products of subtle and abstract ideas that will always remain unknown to them. The danger of solitary thought, of dialogue-less thinking, and of reasoning not born from robust dialectical engagement is that it settles for overly general truths. Only vivid dialectics create nuances. Precision arises from adjustments, concessions, crafty advancements, cautious retreats, implicit denials, and limited affirmations. Every truth in its pristine candor and morning innocence appears broader, vaster, more fruitful than it genuinely is. Every truth "imperializes" like a vigorous shrub, and only dialectics prune it. History is a creation of the “conservative” consciousness. When stirred by revolutionary thrusts, this conservative consciousness rises to self-awareness and begins to recognize itself as an autonomous way of thinking about the world. The development of its categories is slow, because it comfortably yields to the temptation of constructing a system out of a mere collection of propositions starkly antagonistic to the revolutionary system. However, history, with all its richness of nuances and shades, is the obscurely sought system, which is ultimately found. To emerge, it requires social stability which revolution disturbs but which the inertia of events still maintains. Subsequently, a period of marked mutability, of permanent transition, allows the conservative consciousness to perceive itself as an obsolete stance, dragging along with it the awareness of history. Without vanity, no intellectual work is possible. Ceasing to believe in the importance of what we think leads us to stop thinking. It is beneficial to think extensively during our youth, when myriad desires propel us, to acquire the habit of thinking that will keep us pondering through our old age, when all passion has died. Science seeks to transform life into ideas, and history seeks through ideas to recreate life. As the possibility of performing any particular act recedes from us, large blocks of thoughts sink into total insignificance for us. Perhaps nothing has disturbed and exasperated me as much as the fact that life seems to have no other purpose than life itself. To live just to live! Without being able to erect on the shores of time a sanctuary dedicated to gratuitous gods? Maybe it is not sheer mediocrity that silences many, but finding themselves infinitely close—yet short—of the very limit of pure excellence. The pleasures of intelligence are given to us, those who manage to perceive them without being able to partake in them, as a malicious torture. The only nobility granted to us lies in not denying true greatness. The labors of moral perfection can only console us for lacking the noble gifts of intellect. Eradicating a flaw or subduing a vice may be the only pastime left to us. Active life serves to brutalize, and moral life to console those of us not participating in the life of the intellect. Writing is the best way to prevent our fleeting moments of lucidity, those days we have managed to occupy nobly, from blending into the irredeemable trivialities of our life and flowing, lost in their course, towards the oblivion they deserve but which a secret longing within us rejects. Writing is about highlighting a value so that life drags it less easily into oblivion. These notes do not aspire to teach anyone anything, but to maintain my life in a certain state of tension. Fighting to save or impose an idea is relatively easy; what's difficult is fighting to save, within ourselves, something like a pure capacity for ideas. The dignity of one who suspects what intelligence is consists of nothing other than remaining in perpetual readiness, so that the intelligence denied to them appears as an unjust rejection. Our dignity lies in always maintaining ourselves worthy of possessing the intellectual gifts that have been denied to us. When refuting the ideas of a philosopher, generally what is refuted are the ideas that the course of history has come to designate with the words that philosopher used. In other terms, what is refuted are today’s ideas. Every book written clearly has infinite value even if it says only stupid things. An author who clearly exposes his mistakes, errors, misunderstandings, helps us more than one who proclaims a truth confusingly. Every error that has not been analyzed and broken down into its constituent parts remains a threat of failure. Yet, at the very moment we feel entangled in them, their meaning emerges, perfectly clear and precise. Resigning oneself to mystery is not a religious attitude but the prelude to positivist agnosticism. The truly religious attitude involves a kind of sacrilegious daring, an almost impious boldness, a relentless effort to penetrate the mystery, to conquer fragments of reason amidst this darkness, to advance, laden with indiscreet questions and filled with absurd inquiries, towards the temple's ultimate penumbra. Anyone who harbors certain contempt for human nature, or distrusts it, or even views it with irony, regardless of their ideas, intentions, or reasons, is somehow Christian. The distressing problem is not that truth is opposed by error, but that truth is opposed by an error fraught with truths. Undoubtedly, the problems that occupy us today are the same ones Plato dealt with. Perhaps history gives us more varied ways of formulating them, but they always concern the same issues, and it is possible to translate different formulations into each other without any remainder. The essential problems of man do not change, and there is no solution that allows us to declare a problem definitively obsolete. However, neither the unchangeability of the problem nor our stubborn consideration should be turned into a cliché to demonstrate the vanity of philosophical thought. From repeated consideration, from incessant meditation, from tireless and applied reflection, springs an indefinite enrichment for the spirit, an acquisition of density, a slow accumulation of substance. The true work of philosophy is a life, not a collection of recipes. "It seems that conventionalism suits historical languages, but there appears to be a sort of 'natural' language whose proper function is to allow us to speak truthfully about things. From Cratylus, who suspects, through Leibniz, who formulates, to modern science—mathematical physics and symbolic logic—which attempts, Condillac’s 'science, well-made language' achieves a Platonic glimpse." The error of Marxism lies in maintaining that every idea is part of an ideological structure. Conversely, its greatest merit is having taught us that the ideological structure is fundamental. Most "ideas," "opinions," in the vast majority of people, and even a considerable portion of those held by the coldest, most impartial, and disinterested individuals, are mere ideological fragments; yet the possibility of an idea as opposed to an ideology is a fact not smothered by the abundance of Idola. In other terms, we must grant the Marxists that they are right, if they allow us to exempt Marx, for example, from such conditioning. Sociological considerations in art only serve to permit us to speak when we have nothing to say. American literature ceases to be literature when it begins to be American. To last, hatred requires the absence of our enemy. In the physical presence, before that miserable reality of flesh and bones, before that pitiable and helpless object which the entire universe threatens and oppresses, I do not know how one can feel anything but infinite pity as our hatred transforms. Enemies of God! —the height of comedy!— if a speck of greatness suffices to ignore the possibility of an enemy. ``` ## Middle Page Translation Irritating like insects with their annoying buzz and persistent insistence, the defense we pose against them is a hygienic measure; our hostility should be reserved for more noble adversaries. The gesture that outrages us, the attitude that disgusts us, if we consider the poor soil from which they have sprouted, what sad, dull, stupid lives determine them, it seems that our indifference is not enough, and that to our worst enemy we owe even the help of our most vigilant charity. A well-born soul does not know how to hate its superior, but to admire him, nor its inferior, but to have compassion for him. Our hatreds are the exact measure of our rank. Pampered gentlemen, old and ruined, these petty Catilines of private life, are the most repugnant product of bourgeois decadence. Communists do not really understand the capitalist bourgeoisie; if they did, they would hate it much more. It's not that the bourgeoisie has vices never seen or unsuspected baseness, no, everything is common with the rest of humanity, except its singular incapacity for nobility. Years later, a cathedral or a palace will excuse feudalism in medieval times or seventeenth-century absolutism to a rabid radical during his moments of lucidity; but a residential neighborhood in a suburban area will suffice to refute any justifying rhetoric of bourgeois society. The aesthetics of Marxism is like the repetition of certain theses by Taine by a disciple who is more systematic and less intelligent than his master. The silliest woman is capable, when she wants, of a moral delicacy next to which the most intelligent man is a brute. Every conversation limited by personal considerations makes us appear stupider than we are. Refusing the inevitable is the root of ridicule, and the source of all nobility. Horror of spinning, like an animal caged, within the confines of my own intelligence. Trivial distinguished—will we achieve only this? When one lives to think, there is a danger of feigning a thought that eludes us. Every profession has its specific hypocrisy. The most lamentable hypocrite is not the one who tries to deceive others, but the one who suffers from deceiving them and yet cannot renounce simulating, perpetually, the obligations he assumed. Hypocrisy is sometimes merely a high sense of professional duty. Sincerity may be just the most comfortable way to break solemn commitments. There is the truth of the moment, but there is also the truth of a whole life. Abominable hypocrisy is methodical hypocrisy, not the hypocrisy that our weakness imposes as a temporary escape. No one knows exactly whether in justifying a vice, they do so out of self-interest or benevolence towards a neighbor. Living is a pleasure that life snatches from our hands. ## Happiness Happiness is that state teetering on the edge of boredom. To sincerely hate the flaws in one's spirit or vices is dangerous because it leads us to believe we don't possess them. The sincerity of our hatred seems proof enough of our integrity. Neither love nor hate signify anything. We may love what we are not and hate what we are, or vice versa. Clarity disturbs the soul. Aesthetic problems have never been solved by a theory but rather by a work of art. An old age stubbornly focused on the promises made to oneself in adolescence is an admirable sight. The humblest place is the center of the world if there resides an alert intelligence. There are no solid convictions, only rigid and compact doctrines. The edges of words, the stability of syntactic structures, suggest a firmness of principles, a continuity of convictions, which the soul, unable to translate its undulations, its perennial hesitations, mute, gagged, silent, cannot deny. Every assertion, like every rejection, and like all reticence, always exaggerates and involuntarily betrays. Forgiveness, redemption, glory—what foolish longing they reveal, what extravagant confidence they are founded upon! Christianity so perfectly fulfills human yearnings that man could not have been its inventor. What the enemy of Christianity hates is his own doubt. The atheist is either a fool or a believer without humility or patience. Not wanting to teach God how to do things is the origin of wisdom. Modern politicians think they are the successors of God. Every modern man is a candidate for the vacant throne of divinity. In times when God dies, man becomes beastly. We must do nothing less than we can, nor think anything less than we can think. Political optimism, in our times, is a precursor to general paralysis of intelligence. One can say Alexander, Dante, Pascal, Goethe, and simultaneously say: Saint Teresa. Communist politics tend to sacrifice today's man for tomorrow's society, while socialist politics tend to sacrifice tomorrow’s society for the immediate comfort of today's man. The first culminates in tyranny and the second results in misery. Both Drews' and Couchoud's demonstrations are valid: independent criticism fails when it starts from the historical Jesus to explain the figure of Christ. However, their reverse operation, starting from a god to reach a purely ahistorical, mythical Jesus, can be dismissed with the same arguments they used. What remains? Probably christology. No! What genius does is not useless. But how much genius is required to achieve even the slightest gesture of nobility in the world! The idea of death oppresses and disturbs us; but without death, without the dense penumbra at the edges of life, without that unknown and mysterious region, how could we bear life, tolerate the endless repetition of trivialities we know? There, the dream of vague hopes stirs; there, imagination promises the secret fulfillment of abolished promises; there, perhaps, longing wildly leads into an eternal luminous morning. Trust in life? No, trust in death. Life does not fulfill its promises; perhaps death does not fulfill its threats. With the fleeting beauty of certain moments, we would like to craft the substance of eternity. Mornings, childhood, the first glows of glory, oh, if we could only stop our steps before the shadow line of the porticos. Intelligence is the only thing we hope to save from the decay in which life dissolves. There is no other grain but the spirit, promise of pregnant ears. Physical ugliness, unredeemed, betrays those who loved their fleeting youth too passionately. The only second-rate authors worth reading are the French. A German of the second order is completely unreadable. Compared to Plato's prose, all other prose is coarse, heavy, and barbaric. The moment following failure: the moment before success: when human life seems to brush against a divine presence in the midst of things. The only ethics that require no discourse is the ethics of magnanimity. The generosity of great souls is the fullness of spirit, the shadowless instant. Political doctrine that is only proclaimed and refuted is insufficient. Without prior justification of the rejected stance, every statement is trivial. To be indifferent without cynicism, and passionate without enthusiasm. The only effective tyranny is one exercised in the name of freedom. Without an affirmation of destiny, i.e., without a religious theory of man, there is no way to explain obvious mistakes, harmful choices, situations that man clearly chooses and which clearly destroy him. The honest opponent is the only lucid witness to a doctrine. Socialism is the philosophy of someone else's guilt. That every problem depends on a social structure leaves us, at once, deliciously justified and redeemed. Socialism is the theory of those who dare not accuse themselves. The socialist attitude cancels out all possible literature by shifting conflict outside the character. Every tale of external conflict belongs to the zoological genre. The seriousness, depth, and nobility of the communist problem make sense only within universes defined by postulates contrary to communist ones. The authentic greatness of the communist demands its definition by its adversary. Communist theses vulgarize the attitudes of both their defenders and their adversaries. The eagerness for action reduces consciousness to a trivial repertoire of motifs favorable to its endeavor. The desire for efficacy in each isolated act prepares for the destruction of man. Life perpetually bribes us. Everything given to us is the price of our silence. Each gift is payment for a past betrayal or an obligation to future betrayal. Our lucidity defines goals that our cowardice swears not to reach. Man lacks not science but daring. Dispossession is a condition for all fruitful clarity. Being the devil is, fundamentally, a great folly. Every meditation is a dialogue with some dead. Asceticism, more than an ethical process, is propaedeutic to reason. Rhetoric lurks around every idea that transcends the limits of a phrase. Nothing costs the writer as much as resignation to their qualities. Our flaws delightfully move us. What our critical conscience forces us to erase is usually what we have written with our most satisfied smile. From a corrected book, only what escapes our immediate approval deserves to survive. Vanity makes us erase what vanity has made us write. From any published book, the true parents are desperation and fatigue. The pride of an author is inversely proportional to the abundance of his work. The sentence should end when verbal tension reaches its maximum intensity, a petrified wave when it bristles, not when it spreads over the sand. He who does not keep silent only despises by halves. To have sacrificed everything to oneself, only to hear upon approaching the sanctuary's veil the legendary grunt! Political cynicism achieves its immediate purposes momentarily by destroying the fragile ethical structure that humanity laboriously builds. The theater is the literature of the illiterate. Give the themes so others may preach. Authors of books that the general public avoids and the cultivated reader despises, only pretend to own an excellence they do not reach and proclaim themselves indifferent to a popularity that eludes them. Prolixity does not arise from an abundance of words, but from a lack of ideas. Beings whose monosyllables are verbose. Every simple act is the impoverished manifestation to which a multitude of diverse motives resigns. In the clamor of the fair, one who respects himself remains silent. The most subtle truths require more words. Their context is less familiar. Pomp does not falsify if we reserve it for holiday ideas. There is a rhetoric of simplicity that seeks to suggest with its sobriety the same false richness that oratorical rhetoric does with its abundance. To manifest the truth requires vigilant employment of all means that usually only serve to falsify it. Every method is the artifice of an intelligence preparing to sleep. “Pointillist” philosophy: it asks the reader to kindly merge the pure tones. Every peace is bought with vilenesses. ## Political Theories of the 19th Century The political theories of the 19th century consisted in demonstrating the apparent futility of constitutional deceits. Both Joseph de Maistre and Marx refer to social structures what liberal thought imagined as a pure act of human will. The echo of those one hundred and fifty years of political eloquence is, in the 20th century, laughter among ruins. Metaphysics has been buried so often that it must be judged immortal. Live our yesterday's life with today's consciousness. Transforming the idea of service into an ethical norm is the surest way to abolish all noble endeavor. The mediocrity of men and the triviality of existence demand that only useless and gratuitous affirmation endure. Anything that requires a social justification is trivial or stupid. The passion that lasts is the construction that builds a patient will on the foundations of sensuality. Love is a whim that will transforms into method and norm. A great love is a sensuality ordered towards a single object, enriched by meticulous contemplation, and disciplined by carnal meditation to assume and integrate the total individual and concrete reality of the object. True love is not love of attributes, but of beings. The beloved is not analyzed in qualities and defects; everything in him is lovable and loved. What is a defect for an indifferent gaze is, in whom we love, a new reason to love them. Every love begins by loving what it prefers to end up preferring what it loves. Triumphant love is the miraculous fruit of a germ sown by chance, cultivated by reason, protected, nurtured, labored over, and harvested by sensuality. Man is so vile that he suffers more when the being he loves leaves him than when his own love fades. Sensuality is the origin of love and its supreme fulfillment. Love is a lottery, where cheating is not impossible. There is a greatness that ambition only reaches and a greatness granted solely to resignation. Man is made so naturally for happiness that he only becomes aware of it when he loses it. It is a grave error to believe that every man is virtually capable of everything that the human species is capable of. Humanity is not the indefinite repetition of the same type but perhaps an unlimited plurality. Every political philosophy that starts from a specific definition of man necessarily fails, either because it demands from everyone what suits few, or because it suppresses in many what exceeds the definition from which it starts. Double democratic tyranny. Human nature does not exist. What establishes man in his quality as a human is not a nature, but a will. On the foundations of animality, man appears when a norm of life, a will of style, disciplines and organizes his acts. The task that man proposes, the obligation to which he submits, the moral evidence that subjugates him, draws from animal nature the virtual humanity that lies there. Not only is man what his requirement is, above all, man is a requirement. A severe doctrine and a gentle practice, here lies not the formula of hypocrisy, but the secret of every ancient civilization that is rich and mature. Love is a feeling that can be nourished by the juice of poisonous plants. In politics, only illogical doctrines are healthy and fruitful. The success of decisions made despite all indications of reason does not reveal, in the person who thus risks and triumphs, a mysterious faculty to intuit evidences too subtle or complex for reason. What truly happens is that the total situation, on which success depends, is not fully determined until the decision and the act are made, which then become an integral part of the situation itself. Thus, the quality of the act, its daring for example, partly determines the quality of the situation. The success of the act depends on having contributed to building the concrete fullness of the situation. Everything humanity does seems, at certain moments, to be only a desperate enterprise to dispel the boredom that suffocates it. Life is too short to carefully listen to the melodic variations of an obvious error. The alteration of economic relations brings about a change, but only an ideology steers, shapes, and defines it. German literary criticism generally understands admirably, but ignores or forgets that the definition of a concrete value is completed only with the difficult determination of its rank. Every structure is a refined experience. Beware of the work of art that seduces us without resistance, from which our inertia does not create a barrier so that the abundance of its evidence overwhelms it. Authentic techniques accumulate successively; conversely, so-called “artistic” techniques replace each other. A misleading homonymy suggests various non-existent aesthetic problems. Insufficient grammar prepares confused philosophy. We call someone selfish who refuses to sacrifice themselves to our egoism. Modern painting is like a sentence, whose meaning cannot be grasped by considering each word in isolation. More than any other painting, modern painting requires its history to be transmitted with full intelligibility. Monologue of a collective entity that questions itself, answers itself, contradicts itself, ratifies itself, and continually engenders itself. The aesthetic concepts accompanying modern painting, on which it believes to rely, are elementary discourse. The presence of the people is always tumultuous and apocalyptic. It only creates the clean slate for a future building. Like the noise of larvae in an unburied corpse, it merely returns what was organized matter to the circulation of the universe. The surprising prophetic capacity of certain political considerations depends on the absence of any concrete example illustrating them. Every prophecy must be vague so that its unlimited application awakens our benevolent admiration. Valéry is the sole genius poet of the eighteenth century. Every idea must resolve into possible actions. An unrealizable demand exalts the contemporary but only amuses posterity. Great works are not those that start, but those that conclude. Perfection is historically sterile. Subjects lack importance, yet they are not infinitely substitutable. The poet selects the one that suits his purpose because, even though any could serve, an impersonal affinity that collaborates with the sought effects distinguishes them. Laughter testifies to a barbarism always current. From civilization, the smile is the dawn and its clear noon. The insolence of certain Catholic writers is, for the profane, the salt that preserves their works from the decomposition in which their contemporaries already blend. In the face of human stupidity, the antagonism of great works among themselves dissolves into identity. All greatness is secretly sisterly. The perpetually sustained note of Miltonian perfection. In daily chores, intelligence becomes calloused like the hands of a laborer. A noble verse awakens the passions that life suffocates and irritates an appetite for living we believed satiated. Daily life sterilizes. Amidst the modest occupations imposed by economic activity, intelligence loses its agility, forgetting its old love for useless problems. Two or three elementary and purely pragmatic considerations exclusively solicit us. We forget even the nostalgia for intelligent life. If suddenly the vanity of our lives disquiets us, we can no longer discover anything but the trivialities that our monotonous existence erected as the only attributes of the world. The phrase that tightly sketches an object or the one that stirs under its verbal burlap an anxious flutter may be equally beautiful; but we must beware of the phrase that cowers in soft and spongy generalizations. Both the idea of a natural religion and of a natural right as well as the thesis on primitive man are the secularization of notions that theologians of grace applied to the supralapsarian state. Herbert of Cherbury, Grotius, and Rousseau dream on the fringes of Jansenius or Baius. Intellectual activity would be a game if it did not have theological projections. What a horrible thing it would be a world in which the naive and foolish illusions of others did not intimidate our desolate experience. Mme. de Staël (de Launay): the first humiliated bourgeois. Of the race of Chamfort. Seed of Girondins. The purest prose of French literature. Freedom is the myth of unoccupied souls, empty, devoid of vocation. When nothing guides us, freedom seems an admirable action program. Indeed, freedom does not solve the problem of the soul lost in a universe of pure contingency, but rather protocols it. Arguing with the dead is extremely easy since the mere fact of living seems to grant us a comical superiority. The silence of the dead simulates, before posterity, the quiet confusion of the defeated interlocutor. Only when a stranger adopts and proclaims one of our truths do we discover with amazement its insufficiency, its vulnerable and fragile body. All idealism explicates the methodological principle of Vico according to which intellection and creation are necessarily acts of an identical subject. The War in the Vendée is the only political conflict that awakens my unrestricted sympathy without troubling my reason. I have never known how to be a supporter except of lost causes. The importance of all contemporary literature exists only for the second-class writer, as it is in function of this that he can write. The great writer ignores it, since he creates it. Finally, for the reader, that importance is nothing more than a prejudice, because any literary movement, from whichever era it belongs, is irrefutably his contemporary if it interests him. Socialism is the communism of the bourgeoisie. Superiority of the living critic over the dead writer. Evident superiority, but one that a few years mellow and erase. Things are given to us only as an invitation to their true possession. Meditation is our act of possessing the world. Does what is created distance us from God? Perhaps. But it is through what is created: through the beauty of a phrase, a form, a volume; through what a serene authority of human presence imposes, through its nobility, pride, splendor, suffering, joy; through the partial truth that is not self-sufficient; through the intellectual passion that yearns for a harsh, abrupt ascent; thus, through a carnal dialectic, God appears to my reason in a way as irrefutable as it dazzles my faith. The most trivial form of existence is social activity. It is less vain to confine oneself to a purely animal existence, satisfying only physiological activities. Indeed, it is only intelligence that saves us from mediocrity, boredom, and indignity that lurk around us. Nothing is more self-assured, more dogmatic, more humiliating than the superiority with which one speaks of a science or writes about it when ignorant of it. We, the uninformed, do not tremble before the wise but before the emphatic ignorant. Poetry is the quality of certain works of art that require the collaboration of the viewer's imagination. Poetic is the work of art that completes itself in the imagination of the beholder. The fragment simulates, with its physically mutilated form, the internal and voluntary inconclusiveness of the poetic work. Sociological generalizations are mere transcriptions in technical language of misleading immediate evidence. Practical intelligence is capable of moving from one concrete fact to another without the intermediary of any generalization. Theoretical intelligence, on the other hand, can move from one generalization to another without needing to rely on a concrete fact. Moreover, practical intelligence discovers the concrete application of an abstract formula, while theoretical intelligence rises from the concrete fact to the general formulation. Ethics is the intermediate stage between the mystical and the secular. If man by his mere affirmation creates the meaning of life, nothing justifies choosing the low and vile. A universe defined by freedom cannot find an excuse for the misery of its choices. The economic power of the Church during the Middle Ages depended on its power over the spirits. Theology was the basis of its wealth. When its intellectual hegemony declined, so did its economic significance. Youth is happy because it honestly blames others for its own mediocrity. What defines modern art is its inability to choose. The modern artist gives us everything. With all past norms vitiated and decayed, the artist knows himself only as an artist internally, but is unaware of what deserves selection or rejection. Thus, only his presence remains, and the act of creation assumes the importance that the work loses. In the end, aesthetic subjectivism rationalizes the unimportance of defining the work objectively. I would like to force myself not to let a single day die in the stupefied unconsciousness with which I live it. I wish that at night its essence could be concentrated into a pure drop of lucidity. Trivial or serious, nothing is entirely vain to an awakened soul. The desire to please, to seduce, limits us. Respecting the interlocutor is the betrayal that neither forgives nor respects the respected interlocutor. Kind laughter is a prostitution of the soul. Society recognizes no triumphs other than those purchased with a currency that the lucid and noble soul despises. All greatness is difficult and harsh; therefore, we should prefer that whose most trivial and monotonous tasks seem worthy of love. Intelligence in social life is merely familiarity with the trivialities of the day. In a salon, the one who proposes an authentic idea soon feels as uncomfortable as if they had brought in an elephant. Great ideas are coarse and simple like a healthy, straightforward peasant. Our sharpest intuitions pass over the interlocutor, who carefully picks up the mediocrity we inadvertently utter. The great make us great with all the generosity of their greatness. The fool makes me foolish. In his presence, I feel no superiority, only immense surprise at my hidden stupidity. The soul, in solitude, finally fills its own limits. Nothing is as difficult as responding intelligently to pretentious stupidity. When circumstances deny a passion any possibility of satisfaction, feelings reach such intensity that the soul dissolves in bursts of musical emotion, as if seeking to ascend to different forms of being. Only the passion that ignores the inevitable mediocrity of what it longs for is capable of greatness. "True greatness is tied to failure." Humans do not desire earthly things except as simulations of a reality they are unaware of. The desired simulation that we manage to conquer ridicules the passion that wanted it. Only ambition that fails ignites the unquenchable ardor of the soul. The impartiality of the historian empties history of meaning. His inhuman stance as a frozen archangel allows him to give us an impartial and fair account, accurate in terms of events occurred and likely to contain a detailed repertoire of motives and causes, but akin to an entomological monograph. Through a truthful exposition, an irreversible process of falsification occurs. The panoramic view of events, the vertical encompassing, reveals itself as a desperate artifice to establish an absolute viewpoint. But by attempting to exempt himself from all subordination to the facts he relates, under his eyes the facts lose their fullness of meaning, their density, their gravity, their weight, which are given only to those immersed in them. The rich material of history transforms into an abstract schema, a landscape without relief, without edges, without shadows. The rule that should guide the doctrinal choices of those attempting to build a new society consists solely of poignant meditation on the situation that this new social form prepares for them when their adversaries succeed them in power. Atheism is primarily a definition of God. That is, a definition of the relationship of God with the world. The God of the atheist is the God who does not intervene in the world, who leaves man to himself, who abandons him to his fate. The atheist is the man abandoned, subjected to the icy and blind omnipotence of things. He is the worshiper of a relentless, terrible, inexorable God. The atheist resurrects the bloodthirsty idol of obsolete cults. May the new generation not lose what the generation that begot it conquered; may the son prolong the father and rise. ## Page 345 Upon what the father builds, may privilege keep a transient victory intact so that man need not be born anew each morning, shipwrecked by the imperious night. Thinking that everything is vanity is a wisdom that only satisfies us while we still believe that it's not vain to think everything is vanity. All is not lost when we still have enough energy to proclaim our disgust or our boredom. Quiet despair, icy, radical, lurks when even the slightest gesture revealing it tires us. The failure is total when even recounting it no longer interests us. Waiting for days to pass, without hope but with fear; without illusion but with angst. A time filled only with monotonous repetitions or monsters. A tomorrow identical, or a tomorrow terrible. Both the simple man and the genius have something to do, a task that occupies their lives, an object that fills their souls. But the mediocre forgets the taste of humble occupations, while noble occupations reject him and throw him out humiliated. Boredom is an indelible sign of spiritual mediocrity. Tedium is to sensitivity what talent is to intelligence, something beyond the common and short of the sublime. Boredom separates us from the crowd, but it halts us at the thresholds of greatness. Vices are the occupation of hours of boredom. Vice is the refuge of a stifled appetite for greatness. That someone depends on us might be enough to save us. It is not horrible not to find someone we need, but rather not to find someone who needs us. Only perfect maturity fulfills the promises of the flesh; only perfect old age the promises of the spirit. Vice redeems the mediocre beings, as it is in them the unique way they can assume the presence of the spirit. The ethical judgment is absolute. Once the characteristics of the act being judged are defined, that is, identified and recognized, the judgment is formulated implacably. Every historical consideration, which tries to explain, situate, integrate, is irremediably vain. Neither what society is, nor what I am, nor what man is, nor what happened previously has any relevance whatsoever. Our guilt or innocence are conclusions of a process enclosed in an abstract universe of ethical considerations; before each act our stance is absolute, independent of anything, referring to nothing; it seems there we are born from nothing, suddenly. The ethical intention is an attribute of an absolute will. The will creates the act, ethically, outside of any causal link with any psychological or physical necessity. The horror of the ethical judgment (decretum horrendum) lies in its mysterious capacity to escape history. In front of a naked body, in the splendor of its midday maturity, a veneration almost sacrilegious subdues us. Writing novels and stories can save us from the lethargy into which life flounders. Perhaps the world was born in a fit of boredom of the Creator. The popular novel is merely a substitute for yawning. ### 347 With accommodating ethics, mediocrity attempts to veil the evidences that accuse it. The universal valence of an idea is merely a historical fact, and not a criteriological demand. The universality of values is an illusion of young apostles. Historical immanence does not eliminate transcendence. It is in history itself that transcendence arises, when an event suddenly acquires irresistible weight, irrefutable gravidity, unmistakable density, transforming it into value. That the process remains incomprehensible does not lessen its evidence. History is the tireless matrix of the repeated incarnation of the spirit. Christianity is a metaphysics of the concrete. Intelligence refines itself to find exalted and perfect pleasures in barren climates. The humanist is a miracle-worker of the cemeteries of the spirit. A man doubts everything when a social structure wavers. Without trust in the permanence of things, intelligence resigns. Intelligence is laborious, precise, and honest only when it believes itself situated before a supreme tribunal. Only silence purifies resignation to mediocrity. Man is the only being who knows he must die; this awareness of death is his deepest difference, and what eminently separates him from the animal that persists in ignorance of its future decay. Man stalks every metaphor that refutes his knowledge of death, and already the mysterious germination of grains was identified with gods who die in winters to resurrect with the new vegetation in successive springs. An empty tomb. Every system implies an act of will and demands that the spirit accept conclusions that belong only to the logic of the system. The assertion of every systematic spirit exceeds its personal evidences. I seek to adhere to each of my incontrovertible evidences. Confident in the intimate coherence of all accepted thought without reservations, I do not fear that a radical contradiction may nullify me.

Get the latest from me

If you want to hear about updates about this place (new posts, new awesome products I find etc) add your email below:

If you'd like to get in touch, consider writing an email or reaching out on X.

Check this site out on Github.