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other world could succeed only with a poet who unites with profound intuition of Nature in all her working and producing, such sensuous clearness, and such a deep, pure mind as our Goethe, who awaited the light of another world with still, trustful repose, and with constant, joyful activity in the path assigned him.
“ In whose Faust we possess, in a higher sense than Italy in her Dante, a Divina Commedia, which, amid all the diversity of human endeavors and emotions, directs the presentient mind to the higher home, where that which was here unattainable shall fulfil itself."
ART. II. -COMTE'S RELIGION OF HUMANITY.
Système de Politique Positive, ou Traité de Sociologie, instituant la
Religion de l'Humanité, par AUGUSTE COMTE. L'Amour pour Principe, l'Ordre pour Base, et le Progrès pour But. République Occidental, Ordre et Progrès. Vivre pour autrui. Paris : Mathias. 1851 – 1854. 4 vols. 8vo. pp. 748, 472, 624, 558.
We will spare ourselves and our readers the pains of reviewing M. Comte's opinions in the mass. That task is already done for us in previous numbers of this journal.* It is sufficient to say, in answer to a question which our caption will suggest to some, that those opinions remain unaltered ; and that, when we come from the exposition of philosophy to that of worship and faith, we find only a change of plan, and sentiment, and aim. From critical the work becomes constructive. From exposition it proceeds to application. What before was a doctrine of science appears now as a practical guide of life. The most arrogant of critics becomes the most imperious of dogmatists, yet without yielding in the least from that attitude, which challenges alike some of the most sacred convictions, and the most obstinate prejudices, of the mass of men.
* See Christian Examiner for March, 1851, and May, 1854.
As we might expect, the lonely old man is lonelier now than ever. While, as a mode of thought, Positivism more and more affects the mind of thinking men, (often while they are hostile and unaware,) and has already a considerable body of literature of its own, with groups of professed disciples, a mode of worship and faith it can scarcely be said to have mustered its two or three. There is something that might move the most hostile critic to compunction, in the artless exposure of his intellectual solitude. Many, who have accepted gratefully his services in the domain of science, decline his guidance in the domain of faith. Disciples of his school seek no communion in his church. Of the more eminent expounders of his doctrine, one remains in cultured conservatism; one plunges into revolutionary radicalism; while a third protests, on Christian grounds, against his entire social and religious scheme. Once and again he has designated in his own mind his successor in the high-priesthood of humanity; but each has been found wanting, or else impracticable. Still, with a self-confidence we might almost call sublime, he bates no jot of his faith in his own “unparalleled mission." “ Placed alone at the Occidental point of view," he registers his verdict as absolutely as if he sat on the tribunal of all the ages. Deprived of the last slender stipend of official support, he accepts the friendly contributions for his subsistence, as “a free subsidy, voluntarily founded” for the endowment of his sacerdotal office. Already he has “ solemnized, as Priest of Humanity, the three chief social sacraments,” those, namely, concerning birth, marriage, and death. His religion has already its catechism and creed, its ritual of worship, and its calendar of saints. His modest quarters in the Rue Monsieur le Prince, are “the holy domicile, where arose and was fulfilled the religious evolution of Positivism, whose sacred rites shall continue to be there observed until the completion of a special temple.” Nay, he trusts, “ should he attain the longevity of Fontenelle, or Hobbes, he will complete his career by inaugurating the worship of the Great Being * in the midst of deputations gathered from all the populations of the West.” †
* From the late lamented H. B. Wallace of Philadelphia, whose name, more than any other in this country, has been associated with M. Comte's opinions, we copy the following:
“For the seekers of positive truth to identify themselves with M. Comte's individual scheme of views, would be to act in conflict with the first principles of the positive method, and to fall into a characteristic fault of the exploded metaphysical style. The positive method is a right method ; and the just use of it must lead to the discovery of truth ; and truth has not need of a cabal of persons to sustain or enforce it. . . . . At the same time, his past services have been so transcendent as to give him a title to personal support, whatever hereafter he may do.
In his views on religion, he has been guilty of a complete departure from the principles of the method, and has constructed a metaphysical fabric of error. I am satisfied, however, that the positive method can be brought to bear upon religion with perfect success.”
Instead, therefore, of regarding M. Comte as a theorist or critic, we see him in quite another light, as a visionary, a fanatic, a dogmatist. The interest of the volumes before us will be to most persons less an intellectual than a biographical interest. Even in the former regard, injustice, as we think, has been done them. We have still, in the second and third especially (those on Social Statics and Dynamics), specimens of the author's peculiar mental ability hardly inferior to anything in the former work, —his sagacity, sturdy self-consistency, and breadth of intellectual grasp, in dealing with the conditions and development of political spciety. $ But the main interest is, after all, as a unique and very curious study in psychology. It is difficult, indeed, to clear M. Comte's more recent developments from a tinge of monomania. Most readers will be apt to see symptoms of it, as well in the expressions we have quoted above, as in the very peculiar style of his personal revelations. To these, indeed, we are indebted for the key to these volumes. There never work on so grave a matter more absolutely needing to be judged by our knowledge of the writer. And we make no apology to our readers, if we should treat the exposition of the treatise in a manner quite subordinate to the exposition of the man.
In one of those quiet suites of rooms, so pleasant to the memory of the visitor in Paris, with their grave, antique fur
* The fictive conception by which he represents the collective life of mankind. † Vol. IV. pp. 556, 502.
I See in particular the chapters on Language, Human Unity, Primitive Society, and the Science of the Greeks.
niture, and their cool floors of polished chestnut, a few steps from the Odéon and the Luxembourg, dwells this self-chosen Pontiff of the human race. He is a man of not quite sixty, with the short stature, the large black eye, and dark features of Southern France; his manner simple and courteous; his conversation rapid, impatient, and very trying to an unpractised ear; his recreation music, of which he is passionately fond. He imperiously disclaims all half-way discipleship, and is unsparing in his charges of hypocrisy on those who have followed his method but criticised his results.* The slender collection of books shows little else, outside of science, than a few standard authors, selected after a slightly eccentric standard of his own, - almost all phases of contemporary thought being kept systematically out of sight, and men of nearest sympathies (as the Secularists of England), if not disciples of his school, being unknown so much as by name. On the mantel lie the Imitation of Christ” and the “ Divina Commedia,” well worn, — the guide of his morning and evening devotions: for the high-priest of humanity sets his followers the example of spending at least two hours of every day in prayer.f. This daily ritual — which we may best explain as an act of self-consecration to the service of Love and Truth - is rendered in the name of his “ angelguardians,” the chief being his mother, a woman (as we judge) of sincere and fervent Catholic piety, of whom he speaks with a tender veneration in affecting contrast with their disparity of faith, cherishing her early lessons of piety, and desiring to be buried by her side, for an everlasting remembrance of this filial tie.
The other “ angel-guardian” is a name which he has chosen to associate most intimately and constantly with his own, and which, more than any other, furnishes the key to this curious autobiography. At the very outset we find the work dedicated “ To the sacred memory of my eternal friend, Madame Clotilde de Vaux, who died, under my eyes, April 5, 1846, in the beginning of her thirty-second year. Gratitude, Sorrow, Resignation." She is his “unchanging companion,” his “cherished pupil,” his “ worthy colleague,” taking the place, “at once, of sister, spouse, and daughter.” She shall live in history, like Dante's Beatrice, a type of the purest and sweetest womanhood, shedding its angelic influence upon the sterner path of masculine labor. It is difficult not to share the scandal and distaste which some 6 abortive Positivists” seem to have felt at all this sentimental extravagance" in a philosophical treatise. One admires the author's intrepidity in braving a ridicule of which he seems not quite unconscious, which he rather invites, by offering to our enthusiastic admiration a sorry little tale of the Werther type, as the proof of her eminent genius, to which he yields his stronger nature, in passionate and enduring fervor.
* In answer to a rumor that his sect is immoral and scandalous, he says there is no sect; the “anarchic” tendencies of Littré and others have completely divorced them; and his severe stoical morality is what (he adds) keeps them at a distance. Some few in the Provinces, and a club in Dublin, also a school of disciples in Holland, give him most encouragement; but no such thing as a Positivist party exists. The English have disappointed him, adopting the philosophy and disowning the application. His doctrine, he does not deny or wonder, has taken a negative form with many ; but his own real sympathies are conservative.
† For his doctrine of Prayer, see Vol. I. p. 260; Vol. II. p. 76; Vol. IV. p. 120.
A certain mystery seems to hover about the coming and going of this angelic phantom, which we must wait for the promised biography of both parties to clear up. Meanwhile, taking the hints scattered here and there, we find the materials of the following episode in our philosopher's life.
It was during the interval after the great preliminary labor of his Philosophy, preparatory to the social construction that must follow it, that this surge of domestic affection seems to have flooded him unawares, and mellowed the soil for this second harvest. As nearly as we make out, Madame Clotilde was a young woman separated from her husband by the “civil death” of some offence which condemned him to public penalty. Left to the freedom which Paris offers to blooming widowhood, but prevented by the law from. forming a new connection, she falls under the complete influ
-“ a holy intimacy, at once paternal and fraternal” of our stoical recluse, which continued, spite of the resistance of her family, for about a year previous to her death. Apparently, in closeness and tenderness, the union was about equivalent to a betrothal, which (from some hints) might in