Supplemental  Research  6







Evenings with the Skeptics  (Owen)








Skeptics of the Italian Renaissance  (Owen)








Skeptics of the French Renaissance  (Owen)








Skepticism and Faith in the Renaissance  (Allen)








History of Christian Theophagy  (Smith)








George Santayana








The Wisdom of George Santayana  (Cardiff)








De Tribus Impostoribus  (authors?)








Clandestine Literature in France  (Darnton)








Treatise of the Three Impostors  (authors?)









from:  Evenings with the Skeptics, or Free Discussion on Free Thinkers, by John Owen [1833 – 1896], Rector of East Anstey, Devon, 'Believe it, my good friend, to love Truth for Truth's sake is the principal part of human perfection in this world, and the seed-plot of all other virtues'—Locke, Vol. I [of 2 volumes], Pre-Christian Skepticism.  London, Longmans, Green, and Co., 1881.



"PREFACE."  ["v"]


            "Genuine Skepticism may be regarded from two standpoints.


            1.  In relation to dogma, it is the antithetical habit which suggests investigation—the instinct that spontaneously distrusts both finality and infallibility as ordinary attributes of truth.  It inculcates caution and wariness as against the confidence, presumption, self-complacent assurance of Dogmatists.  Thus interpreted, it is needless to point out the importance of its functions.  A history of doubters and free-thinkers is in fact the history of human enlightenment.  Every advance in thought or knowledge has owed its inception and impulse to inquiring doubt.  Hence it would be idle to deny or attempt to minimize the historical importance of Skepticism, or the perennial antagonism between doubt and dogma—the dynamic and static principles of all human knowledge.


            2.  Considered in itself Skepticism implies (1) Continuous search, (2) Suspense, or so much of it as is needful as an incentive to search. This is the literal meaning of the word as well as its general signification in Greek philosophy.  We thus perceive that the Skeptic is not the denier or dogmatic Negationist he is commonly held to be.  Positive denial is as much opposed to the true Skeptical standpoint as determinate affirmation.  One as well as the other implies fixity and finality.  Each, when extreme and unconditional, makes a claim to omniscience.  Now it is in order to wean back, if possible, a much-abused philosophical term to its primitive use, as well as to conform to the increasing and true taste of spelling foreign words in their own manner, that the author has adopted in this work the orthography of Skeptic and Skepticism.  Whatever meaning, therefore, his readers may have been accustomed to attach to the more common Sceptic [sic], &c., he [the author] begs them to understand that a Skeptic in these volumes is above all things an inquirer.  He [the Skeptic] is the indomitable, never-tiring searcher after truth...." 







            "A passing reflection is hereby suggested as to the utility of Skepticism, both suspensive and inquiring, in meeting some dogmatic tendencies of our present-day thought.  Notwithstanding no small outcry as to the diffusion of Skepticism, it may be doubted whether the chiefest and most mischievous propensities of our time are not Dogmatic rather than Skeptical.  Certainly a century that has given birth to such dogmas as the infallibility of the Pope and the immaculate conception of the Virgin—that has witnessed the abnormal development of doctrine and ritual which has characterised some professedly Protestant churches, can scarcely be classed as a Saeculum Skepticum.  And even if the complaint of increased unbelief could be shown to be sustained, it might in part be justified on the principle of Sextos Empeirikos [Sextus Empericus, 2nd century C.E.], that Skepticism is always found in proportion to the extent of the Dogmatism that has engendered it.


            Nor is it only theologians that are thus unduly dogmatic.  Our science teachers, with some few exceptions, seem just as liable to assume a tone of infallibility in respect of theories inherently incapable of demonstration; while the Agnostic, who proclaims all truth to be impossible, and thereby seeks to justify intellectual apathy, is in reality equally guilty of arrogating [appropriating] omniscience.  It is doubtful to which of these three types of dogmatists a due infusion of the cautious, self-distrustful, persistently energizing spirit of Skepticism would be most beneficial."  [ix].



"Dr. Trevor [a person of the book's dialogue (retired "consulting physician")] had never been married.  A philosopher, he maintained with Petrarca [Petrarch 1304 – 1374], did not need a wife, or if he did his philosophy was worthless.  His housekeeper and sole female companion was an only sister, somewhat more advanced in years than himself, who superintended his household and cared for his wants with a thoughtfulness and assiduity almost maternal."  [4]. 



            "'To tell you the truth,' answered Mr. Arundel, 'I perceived the self-contradictory nature of the Pyrrhonism of which he [Sextos Empeirikos (Sextus Empericus)] is the great apostle too distinctly, to wish to become his disciple.  Unlike yourself, Trevor, I don't much care for intellectual gymnastics in and for itself, without any definite aim or object.  I don't care, e.g. to go a long day's shooting, climbing hills and wading streams for the mere sake of the exercise or the excitement of the chase.  I want to make a bag of some kind:  I don't mind it being what it mostly is, a small bag, but some amount of actual game I must take home, if I want to look back with pleasure to my day's work.'






            'And thereby,' said Dr. Trevor, 'you evince your utter deficiency in a true sportsman's instinct, to whom his bag is or ought to be of subordinate consideration.  Remember Horace's [65 – 8 B.C.E.] "venator."


                                                Leporem venator ut alta

                 In nive sectetur, positum sic tangere nolit.


I have never been much of a sportsman myself, but I should suppose, in harmony with the opinion I have frequently heard from enthusiasts in field-sports, that its greatest charm consists in the healthy exercise, the free-play of the limbs, the exhilaration of mind, the variety of scenery and the general excitement of he sport, rather than in the bag, as it is called.  I, at all events, am quite content to pursue my intellectual researches—to join in the pursuit of truth—without any selfish regard to the contents of my possible bag of results.  Thereby I enjoy my day's exercise, the free-play of my reasoning faculties, the picturesque diversity of views and arguments (spiritual scenery, so to speak) of the greatest thinkers of all time, without a greedy calculation of what I am likely to gain by my efforts; indeed, without the faintest wish to incommode myself with a burden which I might perchance lack strength to carry home.  Besides,' added he, somewhat mournfully, 'is it not the usual fate of philosophers in search of positive truth to return empty-handed—"to go out for wool and come back shorn," as the old proverb has it.  You, for instance, with all your eagerness to make a bag, must have often wended your way homewards after a long and hard day's work with nothing at all to show for it, and a similar fate must have often befallen you in your intellectual researches:  so far as positive truth is concerned, you have returned bag-less.  Sometimes, too, you must have fired at what appeared in the fog to be a desirable quarry, but which a nearer approach discovers to be perhaps some useless inanimate object.  What have you then for your bag?'


            'The result, to be sure,' replied Arundel; 'I include negative as well as positive results in my definition of intellectual game—the detection of error as well as the discovery of truth.  Perhaps the false appearance by which I was misled may have deceived hundreds of brother sportsmen before me.  By discovering and exposing such a falsehood, I shall have effected a positive service to the cause of truth:  I shall have hunted down an idôlum [meaning:  error?], as your friend Bacon would term it.'


            'For that matter,' rejoined Dr. Trevor, 'I can match your hunting there:  I can make a bag of idôla—detected errors, or negative truths.  Why, here (putting his hand on the folio lying open on the table) you have the largest bag of that sort of game that was every put together, but, like Sextos, I am unable to bag anything better.'






            'Well, take my advice, Doctor [Trevor],' answered his friend, 'don't be too scrupulous in your hunting and in your estimate of game.  If you can't find a blackcock or a pheasant, be content with a rabbit.  Truthseekers, like some sportsmen I have known, lose a great number of useful ordinary certainties from excessive fastidiousness.  Some years ago I had a day's deer-stalking in Scotland, and returned with a single moor-hen; but even so I had something for my labour, whereas, had I disdained moor-fowl until I had bagged the nobler quarry of which I was in search, I should have come home quite empty-handed.  But I must stay no longer at present, discussing a subject so alien to my profession as Skepticism.  I am on my way to the top of West-hill down to see that poor fellow Thompson, who broke his leg the other day.  I called with Fanny's compliments to ask yourself and Miss Trevor [only (older) sister of Dr. Trevor] to dinner the day after to-morrow.  We expect the Harringtons of whom you have so often heard us speak.  By the way, if you want a hearer for your Skeptical opinions you cannot have a better man than Harrington, who unites with a lawyer's acumen, and the deliberative qualities of a judge, a genuine love of culture and philosophy, especially if the latter is tinged with Skepticism after the manner of Mill, of whom he is an enthusiastic admirer.'


            'Thanks; I shall be delighted to come, and so I am sure will Louisa [apparently "Miss Trevor", only (older) sister of Dr. Trevor],' answered Dr. Trevor.  'I have, as you know, long been wanting to make the acquaintance of your friend Harrington as a kindred sportsman in the broad plains of philosophy.  We may compare bags, you know,' added the doctor with a smile...."  [7-9].



            "1.  We commence our philosophical voyage with Greece for more than one reason.  Not that it is the earliest labourer in the field of free thought—for it is certain that Hindoo Skepticism is of a date long anterior to Thales, the father of Greek philosophy—but it is undoubtedly the most remarkable.  With other nations and races pure Skepticism is an incidental and occasional phenomenon.  With Greece it is the normal condition of all her most eminent thought.  To recur to our former simile, while the wild animal is in most cases completely tamed and domiciled, at least only occasionally breaking out into wild gambols and eccentricities—the reminiscences of its natural condition—in the case of Greece it is always untamable; the indomitable spirit, the inborn love of absolute freedom, is a quality never quite suppressed.  Hence ordinary historians of Greek philosophy appear to me to labour under an enormous misapprehension when, following their usual à priori conceptions of growth and evolution, they try to show that Greek thought is essentially dogmatic, that its progress consists in a gradual formation and coherence of systematic tenets and beliefs, and hence that Skepticism is a passing phenomenon in its earlier growth, and serves to mark later on the senile weakness and decrepitude






of its old age.  Whereas the very opposite is the truth.  For Hellenic speculation not only ends in Skepticism, but begins in Skepticism.  The unlimited freedom of thought of which Skepticism is a necessary expression proves not the acute but the chronic and constitutional disease, if you will have it so, of most of the great Greek thinkers.  Nor can it be said that the doubt with which Greek thought begins is of a tentative and rudimentary character.  There is little or no difference in point of quality and fullness of development between its first appearance and its final manifestation.  The unbelief of Xenophanes [c. 560 – c. 478 B.C.E.] and Parmenides [fl. 5th century B.C.E.] is almost as pronounced as that of Pyrrhôn Ainesidêmos [these two names, represent two skeptics] and Sextos Empeirikos."  [99-100].



"I. Hebrew Skepticism.


            Skepticism being a method or, as some would call it, a degree or stage of speculation, it is obvious that it must be limited by the horizon of the ideas and mental characteristics of those who pursue it.  Now the general idiosyncrasy or genius of the Hebrews, in common with the other branches of the Semitic race, is (as we have seen) religious, devout, and uninquiring.1 [see footnote, below]  We might therefore determine the nature of their Skepticism beforehand, and predict its limitation to theology.  Accordingly we find that the unbelief of the Hebrews is only partial or occasional; that it is entirely unconnected with general knowledge, with philosophy, or science in the ordinary meaning of the words, and is applied exclusively to theological and kindred subjects.  We with our Aryan tendencies find it difficult to conceive the mental condition which generally characterizes the Hebrews in the earlier stages of their development.  The careless passivity which accepts theories and dogmas without an attempt to ascertain their value appears to savour of mental indolence.  The serene incuriosity which takes little heed of secular knowledge as a subject of independent investigation seems akin to intellectual vacuity.  The Greek loved to explore the wondrous material world in which he was placed, to evolve existing phenomena from physical or partially physical antecedents.  The Hebrew, with a childlike sense of impotence and dependence, was content to ascribe to Jahve or Elohim the whole sum and order of the universe, and to ask no further...."  [378].


            [footnote] "1 Comp. on this point Renan's Langues Sémitiques, 2nd ed. p. 3, and passim."  [378].






            "There can be little doubt, in my opinion, that the thoughts and reasonings of Koheleth [Book of Ecclesiastes] are derived to a considerable extent from Gentile sources, though the exact amount of such obligations cannot easily be ascertained.  Oftentimes the foreign elements consist rather of a peculiar colouring or tendency that of direct propositions, though of the latter also there is no lack.  There are traces, e.g. of Stoic and Epikourean philosophy in the book,1 but these do not appear to me so pronounced and unquestionable as to exclude their derivation from other and more native sources.  As a whole, the book must be pronounced utterly unjewish; its conceptions of God, nature, providence, humanity, are alien to the genius of a theocracy.  Saving a few clauses, it [Book of Ecclesiastes] might have been written by a Pagan and an Atheist.  And yet we discover among its manifold inconsistencies an undoubted reminiscence of the old Jewish theory of Providence which is discussed in Job,2 and against which Koheleth in its general tenor and spirit is a powerful polemic.  Jewish too are the allusions to the temple service, the payment of vows, offering of sacrifices, &c.  But when all these elements of Jewish faith are collected together, they do not amount to much, not enough to affect in any appreciable degree its Gentile spirit and motive.  As might be anticipated from its complex character, commentators are far from agreeing as to its chief conclusion.  For my part, I am unable to perceive that a single uniform conclusion can with any certainty be ascribed to the book.  Its final determinations appear to me just as multiform and many-sided as its reasonings.  Thus we have repeated inculcations of extreme Epikoureanism, not to use a more forcible term.  We have no less explicit enunciations of Stoical austerity.  We have decided intimations of a very deeply seated 'Weltschmerz [world sorrow, etc.],' occasionally verging on pessimistic despair; and these various tendencies are so commingled and interfused that it is impossible to say which of the incompatible conclusions is that preferred by the author.  Perhaps in interpreting Koheleth we ought to adopt Montaigne's [1533 – 1592] rule in estimating his own diversiform conclusions, viz. that each is to be taken merely as the expression of the writer's mood at the time of inditing [writing] it.  Assuming, however, that a single determination must be arrived at, I do not know that we can select a better than that which has been adopted by so many interpreters of the book, I mean that which affirms as the final guide and principle of all human action, the fear of God.  In this case Koheleth would rank with the many Skeptical thinkers from Sokrates to Kant who, in despair of finding a solution for the puzzles of the universe, and therefore a satisfactory outcome for their speculative faculties, take as a pure categorical imperative the eternal existence of God and duty, and ask no further."  [398-399].






            "Our survey, necessarily brief, of Hebrew Skepticism has brought before us enough of its salient qualities to enable us to place it among the Skepticisms of history.  Until we come to those later developments which Jewish thought received at the hands of such teachers as Maimonides [1135 or 1138 – 1204], until, in other words, it had ceased to be distinctively Jewish, there is no pretence for accusing it of any great excess of philosophic freedom, nothing, in short, which approximates to the Pyrrhonism of the Greeks or the Nihilism of the Hindus.  As represented by the Old and New Testaments and other writings within the same literary cycle, it revolves round its central facts of the existence of Deity, and a supernatural revelation, as a planet does round its central sun.  It has little of the breadth, the versatility, the insatiable inquisitiveness, the dialectical audacity, the intellectual vigour, the serene and passionless temperament of Greek Skepticism; nor, again, has it the daring freedom, the measureless profundity, the metaphysical acumen, the transcendental apperception, the dreamy mysticism of Hindu Free-thought.  It ends as it begins, with theology, and with theology, moreover, of a peculiarly harsh, narrow, and dogmatic type.  While acknowledging the blessings which Judaism has conferred on the religious life of humanity, we must still ascribe to its exclusiveness no small portion of that anti-human feeling which has made the Jewish nation amenable to the charge of 'odium humani generis.'  But notwithstanding the circumscribed character of its operations, inevitable from the limited range of the convictions on which it acted, Jewish Skepticism denotes a clear advance in the mental history of the people.  It was the rejection for at least some time of the theocratic swaddling-bands which kept the nation in political infancy.  The contact of the Jews with the outer world, like Adam eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, if it lost them their terrestrial paradise of the land of Canaan, certainly gave them a higher intellectual status as well as a fuller insight—had they chosen to avail themselves of it—into the actual conditions of political and social existence.  The downfall of the national aspirations, the failure of the long-cherished expectation of the advent of a terrestrial Messias, were compensated in their case, as indeed the destruction of illusions and unveracities must in any case be beneficial, by imparting wider conceptions of the nature of Deity, the scheme of Providence, and the government of the world, and by suggesting a truer because more spiritual standard of human felicity considered as a mark of divine favour.


            Nor for Christians who are so largely dieted on Hebrew history and theology are the manifestations of Free-thought contained in Job and Koheleth [Ecclesiastes] useless.  They represent a vigorous and wholesome reaction against beliefs which, whatever their religious merits, inhibited the teachings of experience and falsified the true method and order of the universe. 






They [JOB AND KOHELETH] evince an inclination to make the reason the supreme arbiter of all truth, and thereby to assert the mental independence of humanity. 


They proclaim, therefore, a warfare against sacerdotalism and all other repressive and dogmatic systems.  In any age and under any circumstances the spirit that inspired Job and Koheleth must have tended to secure freedom both of thought and its expression, even if that freedom did not attain to the unlimited range and scope which is implied in the full meaning of Skepticism."  [405-407].


_____     _____     _____






from:  The Skeptics of the Italian Renaissance, by John Owen, Kennikat, 1970 (1908) (1893).



"It need not therefore surprise us to discover so much of the Italian Skepticism of the thirteenth century attributed to Averroistic influences, nor that Leo X. with all his liberal culture, his profound respect for Aristotle, his  secret sympathy with Free-thought, should have thought it necessary to issue a Bull against the Averroists."  [71].



            "[speaker of the dialogue] MRS. HARRINGTON.  Was there no free section of French Protestants to which Vanini might have joined himself when he found his religious convictions gradually separating him from the Church of Rome and that of England?


            HARRINGTON.  Unluckily not.  Religious liberty and toleration were almost more alien to the feelings and prejudices of the Huguenot than to those of the Romanist; and Vanini might have fared just as badly in Geneva as he did in Toulouse.  In fact, extreme dogmatism, as we too well know, is independent both of creed and ecclesiastical organization; and Luther, Calvin, Beza, and, as Vanini discovered, Archbishop Abbot, were as autocratic and intolerant as a Roman pontiff.1 [see footnote, 592]  Moreover, even if there had been Protestants to whom Vanini's free-thinking tendencies would have been congenial, it is by no means probable that he would have availed himself of the opportunity of joining them.  Malenfant tells us that he [Vanini] entertained feelings of bitter hostility towards the Reformers; and that these sentiments were returned with interest by the objects of them.  There may be so much truth in the report that


Vanini [1585 – 1619], like Montaigne [1533 – 1592] and Bruno [1548 – 1600], found cause to dislike the narrowness and bigotry which generally characterized the Protestants, and was really much more at home with cultured and liberal Romanists. 


Vanini's misfortune, as well as Bruno's, was having been born a century too soon, or half a century too late.  Had they flourished in the earlier half  of the sixteenth century, they might have indulged their passion for Nature and for liberty without much danger.  Their lot was unhappily cast at a period when Romish intolerance, excited by the rapid growth of Protestantism, and stimulated by the zeal of the new-born sons of Loyola, attained an intensity and malignity by which it had rarely been characterized before.






            TREVOR.  In estimating the Reformation teachers, we must not forget the influence of the milder spirits among them.  Erasmus and Melanchthon must be paired off against Calvin and Luther.  The former were as gentle, moderate, and semi-sceptical, as the latter were stern, haughty, and fiercely dogmatic.  Nor in fairness must we overlook 'the rock whence they were hewn.'  In one sense Protestantism [CHRISTIANISM] is the offspring of Romanism [cHRISTIANISM]; and it would have been curious if she had not manifested some of the lineaments of her parent.  To all religious parties alike, the toleration of an adverse mode of thought appeared, at that time, a wanton sacrifice of truth; and therefore criminal.  Of course, as Protestantism grew, it was able in some measure to assert more fully the principle which presided at its birth—the right of private judgment."  [416-417].


            [footnote] "1 'Intolerant as the Italian Inquisition,' says Cousin (Hist. Gen., p. 233) Mr. Harrington's comparison is not quite so severe.  It seems unnecessary at this time of day to adduce proofs of the truth of this statement.  The English reader may be referred to Disraeli's chapter on literary controversy in his well-known work, Curiosities of Literature [a classic!  (see 558)]."  [417].


_____     _____     _____






from:  The Skeptics of the French Renaissance, by John Owen, Rector of East Anstey, Devon, Author of "Evenings with the Skeptics"; "Verse Musings on Nature, Faith and Freedom"; Editor of Glanvil's "Scepsis Scientifica", London, Swan Sonnenschein & Co., New York:  Macmillan & Co., 1893.  [pagination continues from:  The Skeptics of the Italian Renaissance (see 591)].



"Introduction."  [vii]


"With the death of Vanini [1585 – 1619] the history of skeptical free-thought in Italy seems to come to an end.  The 'Catholic Reaction,' as the movement has, with doubtful appropriateness, been described, had already set in.  Popes and Church Councils on the one hand, the courts of princes, the recently awakened splendour of the nobility of France and Italy on the other; the aesthetic culture of academies and learned societies throughout Europe,—all these were causes which drew after them divers effects in harmony with the divine environments in which they operated.  While in Italy they combined partly to dwindle, partly to confine to a narrower grove the outspoken skepticism of e.g. such thinkers as Pomponazzi and Vanini, in France their operation partook of a broader, more expansive, more heterogeneous character. 


Thus Italy, which had been the foremost to occupy the field of the European Renaissance in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, resigns in the latter half of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries its supremacy to France."  [viii].























































"Montaigne."  [1533 – 1592] [423]


"TREVOR.  I agree with Harrington [another speaker of the dialogue], in attributing Montaigne's Ataraxia ["peace of mind"] to his philosophy; and I think you are doing him great injustice.  The constitutional insouciance you mention is a half-brutish stolidity which comes from want of thought.  Now, whatever else Montaigne may have been or not been, he was indubitably a thinker, and that of a very profound and logical type.  Nor was he by any means destitute of feeling.  Indeed, he was endued with sensibility of a very high order.  He tells us that he was so acutely sympathetic, that he could never hear any one cough without feeling a desire to imitate him.  No doubt he succeeded in maintaining a stoical composure towards the ills and vicissitudes of life; but this was attained in the way you commend, by self-discipline, by persistent thought, and reflection, just as in point of fact, his skeptical Ataraxia was the fruit of his antithetical habit, and his endeavour to attain on all subjects a just mean, equally removed from every extravagance and extreme.


            I [Trevor] will now begin my paper:—


            Passing from the Renaissance in Italy, with its many-sided aspects, its wide-spread results, its sudden creation of a national literature and language, and its galaxy of illustrious names, to the chief representatives of the same movement in France, we become conscious both of resemblances and contrasts.  On the one hand some of the general causes we have considered, as contributing to the progress of Freethought in Italy, co-operated also in the growth of Enlightenment in France.  The chief coefficient in the former was also a primary agent in the latter, viz. the study of the classics.  They agreed, moreover, in an antipathy to Scholasticism and dogma, and in a direct appeal to Nature and simplicity.  Both adopted skepticism as a necessary mode of deliverance from intellectual thralldom.  But what first strikes us as in instituting a comparison between them is, the preponderance of contrasts over similarities.  Montaigne's Essais, the first product of the French Renaissance, was published in 1580; and therefore more than a century after the appearance of the classics of the Italian Renaissance.  Indeed the wave of the Italian Enlightenment had lost nearly the whole of its original impetus, and was reduced to a few insignificant eddies when, in reduced volume and energy it began to break on the coasts of France.  But this disparity is not what the general history and prospects of the Renaissance during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries would have led us to expect.  At the commencement of the thirteenth century the country which of all others possessed the fairest outlook, in respect of approaching enlightenment and Free-thought, was Southern France.  It was one of the chief homes of the Troubadours.  Placed midway between Spain and Italy, it received at the same time the declining rays of the now setting sun of






Arab civilization and culture, and the earlier beams of the rising sun of Italian Classicalism.  The Troubadours were not only wandering minstrels, but they occupied to a considerable extent, just as the old Greek rhapsodists did, the position of general teachers and purveyors of Free-thought.  They also cultivated, first in Europe, the graces of style and linguistic expression in a language other than the Latin of the Schoolmen and the Church; and this of itself constituted a breach with the old instruments of dogma.  Their daring spirit in the interpretation of the same dogmas we have already alluded to.  One of the results of their free-culture and humanistic spirit being the birth and development of certain heresies which were peculiarly obnoxious to Rome, not so much on account of their actual conclusions—some of which were sufficiently strange—as because they were permeated by the spirit of intellectual independence and anti-sacerdotalism.


            But this promise of an early spring-tide of Free-thought for France was nipped in the bud by the infamous crusade of Innocent III.  The general bearing of that event, for Italian Free-thought, I have already glanced at, but it possesses also a distinctive meaning in the history of the French Renaissance.  It serves to explain those peculiarities in the progress of the people and the language by which the history of France, from the thirteenth to the fifteenth centuries, is so markedly distinguished from that of Italy.  It arrested completely those growing forces which would else have culminated in a Renaissance earlier even that that of Italy.  It postponed for two centuries the growth of French Enlightenment.  What, left to itself, the many-sided culture of Southern France might have attained, we have no means of knowing, any more than we can predict the definitive results of any other mischievous interference with the advance of human culture and civilization.  It has been said that the Troubadours produced no distinguished name, or epoch-making work.  They did not combine to create a Homer, as did the Ionian rhapsodists of Greece, nor a Dante and Petrarca, like the popular ministrelsy of South Italy.  But such a reproach is both ungenerous and unjust.  Their capacities and possibilities, confessedly brilliant, were cruelly thwarted by Innocent's crusade.  It is idle to speculate on the maturity of a life of which we only possess the data of a youth of extraordinary promise; but the forecast would be nothing less than anomalous that did not augur a ripe development just as brilliant and wonderful.  But this violent suppression of the nascent Free-thought of South France had also the effect of destroying for many  years her commercial energy.  The close connexion of a varied commerce with free culture we have already noticed, both in the cases of ancient Greece and modern Italy.  Before the thirteenth century the greatest commercial rival of Italy was Southern France.  All its chief towns, Marseilles, Avignon, Arles, Narbonne, Toulouse, Bordeaux, were thriving centres of a commercial enterprise which extended its ramifications beyond Italy and Greece to Byzantium and the East; while the trade and other relations between






Southern France and the North of Spain were of so intimate a character that the two districts were often regarded and described as portions of one integral country.1  I need not point out the resemblance in these conditions, so favourable to Free-thought, between South-France and Italy.  Indeed the Provençal poetry often manifests an intermixture of foreign ideas and expressions which proves that the exchange of commodities with foreign nations was not limited to their material products or manufactures.2  But as I have remarked, this commercial activity was almost totally extinguished by the Pope's crusade.  In some of the provinces wasted by De Montfort and his lieutenants, there were hardly inhabitants enough let to carry on the most indispensable of all native industries—the cultivation of the soil.3  Orthodoxy had done its work, and for the time had achieved its aims.  Heresy was extirpated according to the formula which the satirist applied to the Roman armies—'They make a solitude and call it peace.'  …."  [433-435].


            [footnotes] "1 Comp. Aubertin  Hist de la langue et de la litterateur Françaises au Moyen Age, vol. 1. p. 279.


            2 M. Aubertin, op. cit. i. 280.


            3 See on the whole subject, Martin, Histoire de France, vol. iv. chap. xxiii."  [435].



            "….Not that Montaigne ever avowed in so many words his skepticism.  Nowhere does he say, 'I am a professed skeptic,' still less 'I am a disbeliever.'  Anything like a distinct declaration of a conviction, even of a negative kind, involved far too great an effort for the easy cynical indifference which he cultivated.  While he had learnt too well the proper role of a skeptic to commit himself to express negation, he knew that a definite denial was just as dogmatic, just as open to the charge of presumption or omniscience, as a positive affirmation.  Indeed, of the two, he distrusted the negative more than its opposite.  In either case, he disliked the coarse robustness of thought and action which is the accompaniment of intense and overmastering conviction.  His experience of himself showed him the easy conditions on which a placid semi-affirmative might be maintained; and the civil wars of his day demonstrated, as it seemed to him, the excesses which follow in the train of purely negative principles, whether in politics or religion.  Hence, Luther, with his crude unqualified denial of some dogmas, and his obtrusive positiveness with respect to others, was immeasurably more repugnant to Montaigne's temperament than the easy elastic faith of the cultured and refined Romanist.  Erasmus, and not the monk [Luther] of Wittenberg, would have been his ideal Reformation leader, i.e. supposing him to have admitted the need of Reformation.






            Montaigne's position was therefore the genuinely skeptical one of suspense.  He took as his motto, not the absolute assertion of negative skepticism, 'knowledge is impossible,' but the interrogative one of 'Que scais je?'1  This, moreover, is not only his own motto, engraved on his seal, etc., it is inscribed in a variety of forms and characters on the roof-timber of his library.  We find it in the forefront of his Essays, as the human excellence which of all others is most commendable.  It is evidently the cherished persuasion of his innermost being, the only avowed conviction with which he can safely be credited.  The reticence he observed, in the face both of belief and disbelief, he here changes for open-mouthed and fervent profession.  It is the single article of his only creed, the standard by which he estimates both his own wisdom and that of his fellow men.  'The confession of ignorance,' says he, 'is one of the fairest and surest testimonies of judgment that I know.'2  …."  [458-459].


            [footnotes (see above)] "1 It is an interesting example of Montaigne's indifference, and the  cynical contemptuous manner in which he announces his most cherished opinions, that this preference of the question rather than the negation, is made immediately after subjecting it, when considered as the final refuge of Pyrrhonism, to ridicule.  Cf. Hazlitt Trans., p. 244.


            2 Hazlitt Trans., p. 187."  [459].



            "No account of Montaigne's skepticism would be complete that took no cognizance of the unique position occupied by his Essais [1580] in the history of French Literature and Free-thought.  All works of skepticism have, as we know, a peculiarly awakening force; for the reason that all enquiry, as Abelard remarked, starts from doubt.  Hence, in the whole of French literature the two works that attained the most ready and lasting celebrity were Montaigne's Essais and Descartes' Discourse on Method; and of these the former has had by far the greatest influence.  No work written in the language has so much right to the appellation of 'classic,' none has permeated so fully not only the thought and literature, but also the style and language of the most spirituelle nation in Europe.  Nor is this to be wondered at.  It is the outcome of all that is most distinctive in French literature from its very earliest commencement.  It represents the verve and bonhomie, the witty insolence and audacious candour that characterized the French Fabliaux of the middle ages; and which was subsequently reproduced by such prominent writers as La Fontaine and Voltaire.  As the chief product of the French Renaissance it introduced to the French people and their tongue the many-sided wisdom of old Greece and Rome.  In contributing to this popular knowledge of the humanities, the Essais effected more than any work in French literature.  Montaigne's perpetual quotations from classical writers and his pithy comments on them, though






sneered at by Malebranche and others, had the effect of a collection of 'elegant extracts' from all the greatest writers of antiquity, at a time when classical knowledge, as a part of popular education, was in its infancy.  The French seigneur in his chateau, the merchant in his office, the mechanic in his shop, might catch a flavour of them from this 'Breviary of good fellows,' as Cardinal Duperron styled the Essais.  Nor was this all.  To the professional student of classical lore, the lawyer or the cleric, Montaigne's Essais taught discrimination of its rudiments, in ancient learning; for, as Villemain has pointed out, Montaigne is in France the father of classical criticism—'the great critic of the sixteenth century.'  In his well-known chapter on Books (ii. chap. x.), he gives under the form of his own literary preferences a discriminative judgment of the writers of antiquity which, for the most part subsequent criticism has confirmed.  But especially was Montaigne the purveyor to his countrymen of the skeptical thought of the ancients; for we must by no means measure the extent of his obligations, particularly as to skepticism, by his actual quotations.  Indeed, on all subjects Montaigne was better at borrowing than repaying.  Hence the student who comes to the study of the Essais after a wide course of classical reading, is surprised, not at the number of Montaigne's quotations, but at their fewness.  As you remember, he apologizes in one place for his dislike to quotations.  Some might suppose such an apology unneeded or ironical, but in point of fact it is well grounded.  The unacknowledged plagiarisms in the Essais are far in excess of their admitted borrowing.  This is especially the case where the writer has a doubtful reputation.  To take one instance; he often cites Sextos Empeirikos, though generally without naming him.  Indeed, I regard Montaigne as having first introduced the great legislator of Greek skepticism into the French language; just as, according to Bayle, Gassendi introduced him in Latin to the learned.  It may easily have been, however, that Montaigne was indebted for his own knowledge of Sextos to Henry Stephens' translation of the Hypotyposes, which was published in 1562.  At any rate all the more important of Sextos's arguments may be found in the Essais, and not unfrequently whole portions of the Hypotyposes are discovered to have been transferred bodily into its pages;1 and these plagiarisms, though inserted in Montaigne's usual irregular manner, are yet selected with so much skill that they would of themselves enable any diligent reader to gain a fair knowledge of the distinctive qualities of Greek skepticism.  Nor is it only the ancient skeptics whom Montaigne thus lays under contribution.  He is equally prodigal of excerpts and reasonings from those nearer his own time.  Thus Cornelius Agrippa's De Vanitate appears to have supplied him with occasional arguments, though Montaigne never mentions him.1  As thus summarizing the reasonings of most free-thinkers on the subject, and presenting them in a popular form, Montaigne must be regarded as the father of French skepticism.  All subsequent free-thinkers of his own nation have borrowed from him more or less, though in fair requital of his own plagiarisms, not always acknowledging their obligations.  A natural result of this position is that the






Essais may be regarded as a kind of barometer of French skepticism.  It has gone up or come down in popular estimation just as free-thought has been in the ascendant or the contrary—both 'rise' and 'fall,' being also denoted by the number of its published editions.  Immediately on their first publication, contemporaneous as it was with the full tide of the Renaissance free-thought, they achieved a considerable popularity, which continued till about the middle of the following century.  Then, by the united opposition of Catholics, Port-Royalists, Pietists and Philosophers of the Malebranche school, the Essais receded to 'zero.'  But in the eighteenth century, under the reign of the Encyclopaedists, they again rose rapidly, until they stood at a higher point of prosperity than they had yet attained.  With the fall of the Revolution and the rise of the first Empire, there was another declension in the value of the Essais; while a final upward movement set in with the general awakening of interest in her older writers which commenced in France during the third decade of the present century, and which still continues.  At present Montaigne and his immortal work [Essais] stand higher, both in popular and literary estimation, than at any former period, as is amply testified by the recent literature which has grown up around them."  [474-476].


            [footnotes] "1 This is especially true of portions of the Apology chapter.


            2 E.g. in his account of the diversities of opinion as to the seat of the soul, Book ii. chap. xii. he seems to have copied Agrippa, De Vanitate, etc., chap. lii."  [475].



            "But after all, for us as students of French skepticism, Montaigne's importance lies in his own epoch.  Himself and his Essais form the high-water mark of the free-thought of the French Renaissance.  They promulgate its classical enthusiasm, its reverence for Nature, its rationalism and anti-sacerdotalism.  Considered from this standpoint, it is not easy to exaggerate the services Montaigne and his work rendered to the cause of freedom and humanity, not only in France but in Europe.  Amidst the terrible religious bigotry, the cruel civil wars, the persecutions, tortures, treacheries and crimes of the sixteenth century, it was at least some credit, and required no small courage, to rear up a small temple dedicated to philosophy, toleration and mental freedom, which none of these discordant influences were able to penetrate,1 and though the high priest of that temple was not a model of religious sanctity or of moral purity, and though its rites were apt to degenerate into licence, still these excesses were in part only the inevitable extravagances which oftentimes accompany a new faith and new hopes—the natural reaction against a long period of dogmatic tyranny and mental oppression, for which, therefore, these evil agencies are primarily responsible.  The first outburst of liberty, among a






race degenerated by long slavery, is not generally marked by sobriety of thought, propriety of behaviour, or by spontaneous submission to wholesome social and religious restraints.


            [footnote] "1 On this relation of Montaigne to the social disturbances and civil wars of the sixteenth century, see some eloquent remarks in Sant René Taillandier's essay, 'Montaigne in Relation to the Literature of the Sixteenth Century,' Revue de Deux Mondes, vol. xx. p. 510."  [479].


*     *     *     *     *    


            ARUNDEL.  On the whole, Doctor, I agree with your paper.  Montaigne does seem to me precisely that Protean combination of skepticism, cynicism, credulity and immorality, you have delineated.  Of all modern thinkers he is facile princeps in the attributes of instability, and dread of every sort of restraint.  In the latter respect he reminds one of Bacon's 'humorous minds,' which are so sensible of every restriction as they will go neere, to think their girdles and garters to be bonds and shackles….


You cannot be sure of his sincerity even when he seems most unreserved and explicit.  It might be fairly open to argument whether his genuine convictions should not be interpreted in the inverse ratio of his ostensible professions.


            TREVOR.  So his skepticism would become the ironical expression of secret but firm conviction; as in the popular estimate of Sokrates.  You would in such a case have no difficulty in proving Montaigne a dogmatist and an orthodox believer.  The process of course is both artificial and misleading. 


Tying a weather vane in the direction you wish does not tell you which way the wind blows. 


In this respect Montaigne is like Sokrates, a conspicuous instance of the power of irony, Nescience ["ignorance", etc.], and intellectual many-sidedness in enabling men to cherish in reserve and seclusion their favourite sentiments and convictions far from the prying gaze of their fellow men.


            MISS LEYCESTER.  Admit irony in this sense, and we might have a pendant of Rochefoucauld's maxim:  As language was given to men to conceal their thoughts, so creeds were devised by men to hide their beliefs.  But frankly, Dr. Trevor, I think it is you who have been tying the weather vane in order to predicate a definite direction of a wind blowing from every quarter.  We are all agreed, I think, that Montaigne truly describes himself as 'divers et ondoyant';






but the fact seems to me at least partially to disprove his skepticism.  If he was really so inconstant, why should we lay more stress on his skepticism than on any other phase of his mind-sided character?  The Essais should in my opinion be taken as a whole; and as constituting what Montaigne himself calls his universal being.  But thus regarded they do not impress one more with their skepticism or their cynicism than they do with their strong common sense, or their occasional orthodoxy, or any other of their innumerable qualities.  The Essais is like a dish prepared of many various materials, and flavoured with many condiments, but all so harmoniously blended that it is impossible to say of any one ingredient or flavour that it predominates over the rest.


            HARRINGTON.  Then instead of calling Montaigne a skeptic, you would, I presume, say that he was a cypher—a mere sign, of which nothing definitive could be asserted; or like the scholastic 'substance,' an imaginary entity in which qualities inhere.


            MISS LEYCESTER.  Not so; Montaigne represents the mutability of every man who has sufficient introspective insight to discern, and sufficient candour to acknowledge it.  Pascal said of the Essais that he never opened them but he discovered himself, i.e. the image of his own mutations and inconsistencies.  Introspection, you remember, led Sokrates to doubt his own identity; and to profess himself uncertain whether he were not a multiform serpent of Typhon; and Hamlet describes the result of his own self-analysis almost in the very words of Montaigne:—'I am myself indifferent honest, but yet I could accuse me of such things that it were better my mother had not borne me:  I am very proud, revengeful, ambitious, with more offences at my beck than I have thoughts to put them in, imagination to give them shape, or time to act them in.'


            TREVOR.  In some cases, no doubt, the different qualities in a composite character may be so evenly blended that not one is prominent above the rest; but Montaigne, in my judgment, is not one of them.  That he had some settled convictions I have never denied.  He was fully convinced, e.g. of the benefits of toleration, of the superiority of his favourite mode of education, of the necessity of religious and moral restraints for ordinary folk, etc., etc.; but I still maintain that the ground principle of his intellectual character was skepticism; and that this is evidenced by his religion, his philosophy, his political conduct and his morality.  Hence accepting your simile, I think that skeptical suspense, with its allied qualities of moderation, equanimity, etc., constitutes the preponderating flavour in his mental dish….  Besides, our investigation of skepticism considers it in relation to dogma.  But the latter implies fixity, permanence, steadfastness; and a mind antagonistic to those qualities, i.e., wavering, doubtful, suspensive, not in action perhaps so much as in speculation, must needs be skeptical.  Montaigne himself was at least clear-sighted enough to perceive that his waywardness and






vacillation must needs bear a skeptical construction.  You remember the beginning of the 3rd chapter of the 2nd Book:  'Si philosopher c'est doubter, comme ils disent, à plus forte raison niaiser et fantastiquer, comme je fois, doibt estre doubter.'


            HARRINGTON.  The point in Montaigne's character that most impresses me is what has been rightly called his Paganism.  Setting aside a few casual remarks on Christian dogmas, enunciated with a coldness very unlike the ardour of his commendations of Pyrrhonism, there is nothing in the whole of his Essays but what a cultured heathen might have written.  They might stand for scraps of Plutarch, Lucian or Theophrastus, or for fragments of letters by Pliny or Seneca. 


I have read the Essais [1580] pretty thoroughly, and I have been unable to find any allusion to the Founder of Christianity, or to its primary records.


            TREVOR.  Paganism was, of course, the atmosphere, if not the very life-blood of the Renaissance.  When Roman pontiffs were themselves heathen—a combination of Bunyan's giants Pope and Pagan in a single Janus-like personality—it was not likely that minor personages would be uninfluenced by the prevailing passion for pagan culture.  As to the other characteristic, it is common to all the literature of the period, theological as well as lay. 


The beginnings of Christianity, the personal character of the Founder, etc., had in fact long since passed, if not out of human knowledge, at least out of human consciousness, buried under the continual accretion of ecclesiastical and dogmatic developments.  


Even Luther, and Calvin, notwithstanding their undoubted services to the cause of Christian freedom, contributed very little to direct men's attention to this the first and most essential aspect of Christianity.  They too must needs systematize.  From this point of view there is but little difference between Calvin's Institutes and the Summa of Aquinas.


            ARUNDEL.  Is there not a considerable parallelism, I do not mean altogether as to genius, although Montaigne was undoubtedly a poet, but as to character, temperament, etc., between Montaigne and Goethe?  Both cold, unimpassioned intellects; both hiding a considerable amount of vanity under a semblance of indifference to human opinion; both loving freedom after a manner,






but with a careless Epicuraeanism which refused to hazard anything in her cause; both lovers of Nature and realistic in their conception and interpretation of her; both enamored of inconstancy, for Montaigne confessed that in all subjects he felt 'the delights of changeful desire.'


                        'Da fühl ich die Freuden der wechselnden Lust.'


            Allowing for differences in race and circumstances, the two men seem cast in nearly the same mould.


            TREVOR.  No doubt there are points of similarity, but Goethe had too much innate reserve to imitate Montaigne's outspoken and outrageous frankness.  Compare for instance the reticence of the Autobiography with the excessive candour of the Essais.  Goethe's general demeanour is that of a king on state occasions, conscious of being the observed of all observers.  Montaigne, on the other hand, is like a performing clown or street-tumbler displaying his quaintest antics and postures to public gaze, and delighted when a more uncouth gambol than usual obtains its meed of public recognition and applause.


            HARRINGTON.  Montaigne's highest claim to complete skepticism appears to me to rest on his avowal that, like Lessing and others, he would rather always inquire than discover—start on a kind of Columbus-voyage, neither hoping nor expecting to see land—not that I think he felt much interest in any enterprise of the kind."  [479-483].



"Charron."  [559]


            "TREVOR.  I however concur with Harrington.  Charron's conception of Nature as a moral agency does not seem to have had much influence.  His own power, as that of Montaigne's, must be sought in another direction.  Both are leading names in an unbroken succession of free-thinkers.  Montaigne we may take as the legislator, while Charron—as became his office—was the high priest of early French Skepticism, or if you will allow the doggerel we might say, 'As Moses to Aaron so was Montaigne to Charron.'  To these two thinkers succeed Le Vayer, and other names of less note.  What these early free-thinkers effected for French philosophy was in preparing the way for Descartes.  The consequence being that when Descartes issued his proclamation of skepticism, in the Discourse of Method, he was only propounding that principle of individual autonomy in all matters of belief which was the root-thought both of Montaigne's Essais and Charron's Sagesse.  These two writers, with their successors, also occupy in the history of French thought a somewhat similar position to Luther in






Germany.  They represent that phase of freedom and anti-sacerdotalism that were outcomes of the Renaissance in France as in Germany; but without the vehement religious feeling and dogmatism that characterized the movement in the latter country.  Their co-operation in the common cause of religious liberty was none the less effective because it was rendered quietly and unconsciously.  Instead of violently breaking up the ice of ecclesiastical dogma with hammers and iron bars as the German reformers did, they, together with Ramus, merely insinuated a few warm currents of free-thought, liberal culture, rationalism and humanity beneath its surface, well knowing that if they succeeded in that, the ice would break up of its own accord.  An indubitable advantage also pertained to Montaigne, Charron and others, from the fact of their not having broken off openly and finally from the Romish Church.  They thereby ministered to the freedom of thought which, as we know, had already sprung up and assumed rather portentous dimensions, within that communion.  They were purveyors of intellectual necessaries to their beleaguered brethren, who had no wish, and but little opportunity, to buy of the enemy who was surrounding and threatening their holy city.  Hundreds would read Montaigne's Essais or Charron's Sagesse, to whom a work of Luther or Calvin would be an accursed thing.  While as to their effect on the later stages of the Renaissance, considered as the general progress in Europe of free-thought and modern science, these writers, and especially Montaigne, contributed by their breadth of view, their classical

learning, their freedom from prejudice, their genuine love of liberty, to aid the movement to an extent not easy to overstate; not however that I myself share on this point the enthusiasm of a friend who once remarked to me, 'I believe that


Montaigne's [1533 – 1592] Essais [1580] has done more for


European free-thought than any work of Luther's

[1483 – 1546].'" 


[612-613] [end of Chapter III., Charron].


l l l l l






from:  Doubt's Boundless Sea, Skepticism and Faith in the Renaissance, by Don Cameron Allen [1903 – 1972], Johns Hopkins Press, 1964.  [Must see!  Erudition, humor (reminds me of Erasmus), rare perspectives, etc.].  [See:].



[from:  dust jacket]




Skepticism and Faith in the Renaissance


By Don Cameron Allen


            This dialogue among atheists and theists during the Renaissance in England, France, and Italy reveals the beliefs of unbelievers.


            In the Renaissance an atheist was one who could not accept some religious principles shared by Christian creeds.  At times, the definition became so narrow that, to many Protestants, the Pope was the chief of the Roman Catholic atheists; to many a Roman Catholic, Canterbury was the head of the Anglican atheists.


            To quote the author, "The dike of faith was going down as the sea of rationalism burst through."  For many, the sea that roared outside the wall roared more violently in their minds.  Believers realized that they must fight the atheism within themselves.  "Renaissance atheism was really a rational questioning of Christian or sectarian principles."


            In effect Professor Allen's theme is the trepidation of the orthodox; he portrays profiles of men unsure of themselves and the world in a period of revolutionary change.


            The subjects of these literary portraits were not selected for their uniqueness of opinion; each was chosen because his unpopularity with orthodox believers was enormous.  Professor Allen allows his subjects to speak for themselves.  Borrowing a seventeenth-century expression, the author says, "I am the tuba through which their voices come.  I have not consciously employed my stops; their measures breathe forth according to their interpretation of the score."  The result is a clever and frequently witty account of an erudite topic.






            Six chapters discuss atheism and atheists in the Renaissance; three Italian atheists:  Pomponazzi, Cardano, Vanini; three French atheists: 


Montaigne, Charron, Bodin; rational theology against atheism; reason and immortality; and the atheist redeemed as seen through a portrait of the Earl of Rochester who renounced his doubts on his deathbed.


DON CAMERON ALLEN is the Sir William Osler [see 1899] Professor of English Literature at the Johns Hopkins University.  He edited The Moment of Poetry and a volume of lectures from the first Hopkins Poetry Festival, Four Poets on Poetry.  He is the author of Image and Meaning, The Harmonious Vision, and numerous other books and articles.'  [dust jacket].



"Preface"  [v]


            "In the present volume I hope to display the profiles of some of these atheists and record the beliefs of unbelievers.  For the Renaissance, in general, an atheist was one who could not accept any religious principle shared by all Christian creeds.  A Jew, a Mohammedan, a deist was an atheist, and the definition could be narrower:  to many Protestants, the Pope was the chief of Roman Catholic atheists; to many a Roman Catholic, Canterbury was head of the Anglican atheists.  None of the men in my present study called himself an atheist, none denied the existence of God.  With very few exceptions, this statement holds true for all the atheists indicted by the orthodox opposition.  I have not had the space or patience to write about all of them; but here, as a preliminary illustration, I should like to bring forward the views of that Royalist, Episcopal atheist, Thomas Hobbes [1588 – 1679], who was detested and attacked both at home and abroad for his irreligion."  [vi].



            "The Pope, Hobbes writes, takes his title from the pagan, Roman Pontifex Maximus (III, 660-61), and derives his "fulmen excommunicationis" from Jupiter (III, 509).  The Roman Madonnas and Bambini are only the pagan Venuses and Putti (III, 660).  In the same fashion, one may equate holy water with heathen "aqua lustralis," wakes at funerals with bacchanalia, maypole dancing with the rites of Priapus, and the Papacy itself with the ghost of the deceased Roman Empire (III, 663)."  [viii].



            "The utterances of Hobbes, the gentile Spinoza of England, while not utterly Anglican are hardly atheistic.  With Herbert of Cherbury and John Toland, he [Hobbes] furnished for the godly the trinity of atheism; yet any one of






these men could occupy a modern seminary chair, although he might not be liberal enough for some of his colleagues.  What can be said for and against these atheists can be repeated about the others whose theologies I have surveyed in the following pages.  None of them has been selected for the uniqueness of his opinions; each has been chosen because his unpopularity with orthodox believers was enormous.  I have tried to present them fairly.  I always let them speak for themselves; in fact, to use a seventeenth-century expression, I am simply the tuba [Latin:  trumpet] through which their voices come.  I have not consciously employed my stops; their measures breathe forth according to their interpretation of the score.


            Although I have centered my attention on nine men, I have occasionally quoted others—Bruno, Telesio, Campanella, Cuperus—for illustration rather than emphasis.  Twelve years ago when I began to read all of this literature, I imagined a wider canvas; the passage of time showed me the absurdity of this plan.  Some of my reading has gone into the waste of footnotes; most of it has gone into the waste.  With it went essays on other atheists who have, in my opinion, been well treated elsewhere.  I have done similar destruction to many of the apologists; but I have carefully divided my book between both sides.  I hope that I have allowed the orthodox opponents of atheism enough space to make their attitudes clear.


            Actually, it is the orthodox thinkers who trouble me most.  How can their spiritual panic be explained?  Why must the existence of God and human immortality be expounded every thirty days for almost two centuries?  Religious men let the heathen rage and never raged back at them.  The answer to my questions may in some instances be the natural lation[meaning?] of professional vanity, but the real reason, I expect, was otherwise.  The dike of faith was going down as the sea of rationalism burst through.  Christians realized that when it had overwhelmed the steeples and drowned the cocks, it would sweep all men into a materialistic skepticism or, at best, into a rational theism.  For many of them the prospect was undoubtedly frightening, because the sea that roared without the wall roared more violently in their minds.  They had to fight the atheist within them!  Some of them dug in their heels and shouted for the dike-members; others would gladly have gone with the tide, but they had never learned to swim.  My sympathies go out to these spiritual ambivalents [?].  They might give Bruno and Vanini a hot hour at the stake, but they, in their turn, must burn for a lifetime [?].


The trepidation of the orthodox is, I suppose, the theme of my book, but I also intend to provide a background for students of literature, who may find passages that elucidate the poetry and prose of the Renaissance."  [ix-x].






"Chapter One


Atheism and Atheists

In the Renaissance"  [1]


            'John Calvin [1509 – 1564], who burned the "speculative atheist" Gruet and beheaded the "practical atheist" Monet,16 wrote on the disease of disbelief in Des Scandales and Contre la Secte des Libertins.17'  [7].



            'The first modern history of atheism was written by an English clergyman, Jenkins [Jenkin] Thomas Philipps [died 1755], tutor to the children of George II.  Philipps' Dissertatio Historico-Philosophico de Atheismo sive Historia Atheismi was published at London in 1716 and is the fruit of its author's extensive readings, not only in the books of well-established atheists, but also in those of British philosophers of the empirical school and those of empiricists who were also theologians….


            "I [Philipps] must first define an atheist because Julian [Emperor 361 – 363 (331 – 363)], Erasmus [1466 – 1536], Grotius, and other men are lumped carelessly together under this title."  An atheist has either never heard of God or has convinced himself God does not exist.  Philipps knows it is also customary to call a man an atheist who does not believe in Providence, immortality, or the resurrection of the body.38  He sees atheism as a product or urban life.  Cain, the first city dweller, was an atheist; his example was followed by a long procession of Athenian infidels.  Of these, Thales, Anaximander, and Anaximenes were not true atheists, but Anaxagoras [c. 500 – c. 428 B.C.E.] surely was.  The irreligious Democritus and Leucippus were merely materialists.  Epicurus [c. 341 – 271 B.C.E.] may have been an atheist, but it is also true that many things he never said are credited to his discredit.  His poet laureate, Lucretius [c. 99 – c. 55 B.C.E.], was certainly an atheist.39


            When the ruling religion of antiquity, Epicureanism, was disestablished by Christianity, atheism [publicly] disappeared for a time from the world.  The cult of fine letters vanished at the same time; but when humanists rediscovered the old literature, the old frivolities, scorned by Christians, gleefully returned.  Italy is, of course, once again at fault.  In that unfortunate land men swallow the idea of immortality with a grain of salt and are more easily convinced of a hereafter by Homer or Virgil than they are by the Bible.  Philipps knows and repeats the tired anecdotes associated with the Italian atheists Bembo, Poliziano, Ficino, Pomponazzi, Simone Porzio, Caesalpino, Beauregard, Cardano, and Vanini.40 






He is probably the first theologian to proclaim Machiavelli, "whose commentary on Livy is filled with piety," as blameless of the charge of atheism;41 and though he was one of the few historians to read Bodin's Heptaplomeres, he tags the Frenchman as nothing worse than a convert to Judaism.  He writes Hobbes down as an atheist but spares Herbert of Cherbury.  He concludes his book happily with a stirring account of the sinful life and deathbed conversion of the eminent atheist and libertine, the Earl of Rochester.'  [14-16].



"Chapter Two


Three Italian Atheists:

Pomponazzi, Cardano, Vanini"  [28]


            'It must, however, be admitted that in spite of his learning and his often able ideas—he [Girolamo Cardano [1501 – 1576] ("physician"; "polymath")] was, for example, one of the first to argue that not everything was made for man and that flies could have been made for themselves83—he was often confused and contradictory.  This is, of course, one of the penalties paid by the voluminous philosopher [this reminds me (LS) of Erasmus], but Cardano was one of the earliest of autobiographers.  He wrote two books about himself, the De Vita Propria and the De Consolatione, in which he revealed his habits, thoughts, and experiences with a frankness that may have charmed some readers but armed the hunters of atheists.  The contents of these books almost justify J.C. Scaliger's observation that Cardano was "a learned man with a child's mind"; but Scaliger, who set down a thousand other objections to Cardano in his pettifogging Exotericarum Exercitationum Liber XV de Subtilitate, did this learned child no favor when he devoted a large section of this work to Cardano's views on immortality.84  Scaliger's readers would probably not remember the multitude of defects he found in Cardano's book, but his accusation of atheism had wings and nested in men's minds; and though Cardano printed a mild and kindly reply, Actio in Calumniatorem (1560), Scaliger's implications were of the sort that denial only verified.'  [46-47].



            'The books of Cardano are filled with pious utterance and religious veneration, but his real feelings are hard to ascertain.  In the De Sapientia, he discusses theological matters on both pagan and Christian levels, but he slips from one plane to another so quickly that one is pressed to know whether he is now a Christian or a pagan.  Religion, he states with a coolness of prose that would make Machiavelli shiver, is of the highest importance to those who govern; in fact, there has been no successful state without one.  A false religion, consequently, is better than none.107  In the same volume, he advises kings






against allowing too much power to the church because, religion having great authority among the plebeians, an unbridled priesthood can be politically dangerous.108  The doctrine of immortality also has for him a political utility.  No sensible person, he states, will take the risk of saying whether there is an afterlife or not, but it is his impression that people who believe in immortality are happier than those who do not.109  If civil contentment and a theory of postmortem existence are concomitants, then there should be a government bureau for the propagation of the theory.  On all these ticklish questions [reminds me of Erasmus], he advises, the wise man keeps his true opinions to himself and approves openly what the public believes.  "Sed tamen omnes sapientes, etiam si id non credant, vulgo plaudant."110'  [51-52].



'Maybe, as he [Cardano] says later in the De Sapientia, it is prudent to express a belief in immortality.  "Ergo animum affirmare immortalem, non solum pium et prudens est, sed irreprehensibile, ac multorum honorum causa."138  It is, after all, in a good cause.  But how about Cardano?  In the last pages of the De Subtilitate, where he is making one of his careful excursions into the nature of God and good and evil, he observes that hatred of death makes men love to beget children [the "push" by "nature".  Why the planet has been overpopulated with Homo-sapiens—for centuries].  "They are from us; they preserve our countenances; they restore us."139'  [58].



            'No one can fail to see what a pious and orthodox age found objectionable in the writings of this Italian triumvirate [Pomponazzi, Cardano, Vanini].  Pomponazzi's unreadiness to accept philosophical responsibility for the Christian doctrines of Providence, immortality and free will is hardly excused by his rhetorical genuflections to Christian revelation [Christian tradition!  Christian mumbo jumbo!  Christian hocus-pocus!]; and this is especially so when he suggests, even though he is certain of its Platonic reoccurrence, that the faith begotten by this revelation diminishes as its stars fade.  Cardano, more prolix than Pomponazzi and a man of apparently wider interests and certainly of more tangled emotions, does no better than his fellow countryman when he also stares at the human soul and the doctrines men invent for its permanent perpetuation.  The doubts and restrictions of both men are put into agreeable prose by Vanini and salted with wit.  Erasmus could be witty about Christianity, but he could hide his jests in a corner.  In his Colloquy of the Shipwreck, one of the sailors regrets that Stella Maris, no sailor herself, had replaced as the seaman's saint the Lady Aphrodite [Latin:  Star of the Sea.  A title of the Virgin Mary], sea-born herself.  "Ah, yes," says a fretful companion, "in place of the mother who was not a virgin, one has supplied a Virgin who was a mother." 






No one complained about this, but even theologians could understand Vanini's humor.'  [74]. 



"Chapter Three


Three French Atheists:

Montaigne, Charron, Bodin"  [75]


'Charron [1541 – 1603] now gets Calvin in his gun sights, and this change of quarry permits him to discharge his doubts against the value of the human mind.  There is, he insists, no religious reality outside the Gothic walls of the Roman Church; moreover, this "inner light," so highly regarded by the Protestants as a bright form of illumination, is really a private and very eccentric lamp, not likely to help in the dark.  It is clear to Charron that Protestants, by stepping away from authoritative tradition, have really moved into the shadows of religious skepticism [absolutely!].'  [90-91].



"Chapter Five


Reason and Immortality


            For the opponents of atheism, the proof of God's existence was inseparably bound with the proof of the soul's immortality.  Each hypothesis supported the other and required the other's support.  The concept of a life after death was, of course, a pre-Christian belief; and the earliest Christians, aided by revelation, improved, though not without intramural quarrel, the cruder speculations of pagan philosophers.1  St. Augustine's [354 – 430] stubborn conviction that immortality was a truth beyond question satisfied most early theologians;2 nonetheless, they were all happy to recount the guarantees that the simple, central, spiritual substance lived consciously after the material body disintegrated.  To sustain this assurance, Albertus Magnus recited proofs of the soul's existence,3 insubstantiality,4 immediate creation,5 and incorruptibility6 and though his clever pupil, Thomas Aquinas [c. 1225 – 1274], nowhere presents a formal demonstration, it is clear he held immortality a Christian essential.  The soul is for him the first and eternal principle of life, the act of the body;7 and his successors accept immortality as an essential Christian premise in the same way that the Euclidians must admit the dogma of the first theorem."  [150-151].






            "The question of the soul's origin was variously answered throughout the seventeenth century; but while theologians took sides, they always presented a solid front against atheists who doubted the soul's existence and immortality."  [162].



            'The name of Hobbes [Thomas Hobbes 1588 – 1679] appears for the first time in any of More's writings in The Immortality of the Soul.  The Leviathan, which inclined so many men to include Hobbes in the sour society of non-saints, brought no protest from More [(Sir) Thomas More 1478 – 1535], who actually respected Hobbes and with whom he had much in common.  Both were Anglicans, anti-Romans, haters of religious enthusiasm, and monarchists.  When More criticizes Hobbes' ideas in the first and second books of The Immortality of the Soul, he paused to call him "a grave philosopher" and to agree with Hobbes' self-estimate "that his peculiar eminency lies in Politics."128  Later, Richard Ward wrote that Hobbes in his turn preferred, if his own system were untrue, "the philosophy of Mr. More of Cambridge."129  More vigorously attacks Hobbes' theories of spirit, matter, free will, the location of the common sensorium, and second notions, describing his comments on the last concept as a "witty invention to befool his followers";130 but never once does he [More] insinuate that the sage of Malmesbury [Hobbes] is an atheist.  Until this moment, More's adversaries were the Greek and Roman atomists and the religious enthusiasts of his own day; now he saw in Hobbes' materialistic philosophy a dangerous doctrine that might not be intentionally atheistic but could lead to disbelief.'  [179].



"Chapter Six


The Atheist Redeemed:

Blount, Oldham, Rochester"  [186]



'Most of the foes of atheism held that no man ever died an atheist and, then, emphasized this observation with lists of men dead in atheism and accounts of the violent conclusions of atheist lives.  Mauduit, for example, compares the deaths of an atheist and a Christian centenarian.  The atheist leaves pleasure to begin pain; the Christian dies happily because he is through with pain.4  The misery of the atheist's death is described by Jean Cousin:  "Having lived as an animal, he dies as an animal."5  The death throes of these men are approved by Martin Fotherby, who describes the dreadful atheist deaths of Pharaoh, Socrates, Epicurus, and Bion.  All of them, with the exception of the tyrant of Syracuse, Dionysius, died horribly, and, as for "this last; whose damnation yet






slept not; being, though respited, yet not removed [?]."6  The same sad story is told by Bonhome of some seventeenth-century atheists known to him but never introduced by name to us.  One wrote a dialogue against religion, but soon "grew Frantick" and died insane.  Two others argued with Bonhome about the existence of God; the first "fought a duel and died upon the place"; whereas the second "in as short time he died (fearfully mad) with the Plague."  He knows many other atheists besides these, but they all either "died very strangely" or

"suffered violent Deaths."7  Snatched away in sin, none of these faceless atheists is given, as Eugenes is, a chance at Christian rehabilitation.


            The foes of atheism seem to have had no better results with named atheists.  Of course, these godless men often died violently on the block, at the stake, or with a rope round the neck.  This final misery might be providential planning, but it is difficult at this distance to say.  Vanini went out to a violent death saying, "Come let us die like a philosopher."  But this was not to be the case.  "He died," said one reporter, who may have read Cousin, "like an animal, bellowing like an ox when his tongue was cut out."  Other atheists, less sensational than Vanini, died, contrary to Mauduit's belief, "safely in their nests."  On his deathbed, Prince Maurice of Orange rejected the comforts of a religion in which he saw nothing of "mathematical certainty."8  The Mercure Français relates the final blasphemies of the well-known atheist Ruggieri,9 but there is no hint of misery or violence.  Estienne, a man of orthodox beliefs, sets down the agnostic remarks of Marechal Strozzi, who died well enough.


            [Estienne, on Strozzi] He often admitted that he would like to believe in God, as others did, but could not, and in spite of this desire, it was his delight to utter such blasphemies against God that those of Julian [Emperor 361 – 363 (331 – 363)] the Apostate seem in comparison to be nothing…He was not ashamed to say that God was unjust when he condemned mankind for a piece of apple and that he had learned nothing in the New Testament except that Joseph, being so old, and she, being so young, was a fool not to be jealous of his wife.10


            The English casebooks reporting God's judgments against sinners can be compared with anthologies of pious deaths like the Abel Redivivus, but, even then, the facts are embarrassing.  True enough, atheist Marlowe died with a knife in the eye, and atheist Raleigh with an ax in the neck, but St. Thomas More [beheaded] died no better.  The records of conversion are so sadly limited in number that the atheist hunters found in the happy-miserable end of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester [1647 – 1680], the perfect example they wanted.'  [189-191].






'In Lucretius [c. 99 – c. 55 B.C.E.], Rochester found some lines, as he did in Seneca [Lucius Annaeus Seneca c 4 B.C.E. – 65 C.E.], that suited his personal convictions and were, consequently, worth translation.


            The Gods by right of Nature, must possess

            An everlasting Age of perfect Peace:

            Far off removed from us and our Affairs;

            Neither approached by Dangers, or by Cares;

            Rich in themselves, to whom we cannot add:

            Not pleased by Good Deeds; nor provoked by Bad.34'  [201].





De Tribus Impostoribus


            Few imaginary books, even those in the collection of Jean Nepomucene Pichauld, comte de Fortsas, have been sought with such diligence or discussed with such pious fascination as the De Tribus Impostoribus.  This famous, but invisible, polemic against the three major religions of Europe was assumed by men of the Renaissance and the early eighteenth century to be the charter of the atheists' confederation, a truly horrid protocol awaiting the signatures of the godless of all nations.  It was a book to be talked about whenever two or three nervous citizens of the Christian community were gathered together, and witnesses could be found of "an agreeable veracity" who had seen the book in some obscure library or in the possession of someone of dubious orthodoxy.  In spite of this visual testimony to the book's existence, it was a long time before a responsible person admitted any knowledge of its contents.  After more than a century of pious clamor, the book, which by then had been attributed to many pens, finally got written in several forms.  Thus, unlike other mortal things, it put off immortality to put on corruption and became more confusing in its incarnation than it had been in its essence.  Its genesis began in the thirteenth century.


            Pope Gregory IX, who had excommunicated his obdurate temporal opponent, Frederick II [Holy Roman Emperor 1194 – 1250 (as a falconry enthusiast in the 1950s and 1960s, I remember (saw) the classic, by Frederick II:  The Art of Falconry (De Arte Venandi cum Avibus))], in 1229, only to be immediately humiliated by the Emperor's divinely sent victory over the Turks and miraculous recovery of the Holy Lands, decided in 1239 once again to cut his mighty opposite's spiritual throat.  This time he denied him the sacraments on the ground that he had incited the rebellious Romans to rebellion.  The Papal pretext was so thin that it was generally regarded as the sort of pious hoax only an






Italian could invent; hence, Frederick, speaking with the angelic tongue of his chancellor, Pier della Vigna, had no trouble clearing himself before the Parliament of Padua.  The rhetorical coup was so brilliant that Gregory lost all restraint and issued an encyclic:  "A beast rose from the sea filled with the names of blasphemy, furnished with the claws of a bear, the jaws of a lion, and a body resembling a panther."  The letter maintained the tone of its incipit, going on from its apocalyptic preamble to accuse the Emperor [Frederick II] of blasphemous utterance.  He had described the world, it stated, as deceived by three worthless fellows (baratatores), Jesus Christ, Moses, and Mohammed.  To this foul observation, the Pope continued, the Emperor had added a fouler biological suggestion that virgin birth was incredible because no woman had ever conceived a child without first enduring the shattering experience of sexual congress.  To offset the bad publicity of this letter, Frederick replied, in full imperial innocence, that it was downright malicious to say he had called the founders of the religions "three seducers" when everyone knew he openly and regularly confessed there was only one Son of God



            It is not improbable that Frederick, who was one of those men who find the orthodoxies of their age outmoded and irrational, said in private exactly what the Pope reported. 


[compare:  attributed to Leo X:  '"What profit has not that fable of Christ brought us! "  [see 13-18]]



But even if he did, there is no evidence he ever wrote an unorthodox book; on the other hand, it is obvious that when the notion of a De Tribus Impostoribus was invented, he [Frederick II] was an excellent candidate for authorship.2  The Papal charge against Frederick was such a fine example of political mud-slinging that it was not only recorded by ecclesiastical chroniclers but applied in turn to other possible victims, such as Averroes, Simon de Tournai, Thomas Scotus, Zanino da Solcia, and Diego Gomez, who were, then, held up for the abhorrence of religious men.  Most of these tarnished names were also to be credited in due course with the writing of the wicked manifesto of the atheists.  Considering the eventual title of the book, it is surprising that none of these villains were alleged in the initial indictments to have used the term impostors.  With great care, they all seem to have avoided the word and described Christ, Moses, and Mohammed as "worthless fellows" (baratatores), "mountebanks" (truffatores), or "seducers" (seductores).






Once, however, news of the book's existence was noised about, almost anyone—and Pomponazzi is a good example—who mentioned the three religious leaders in one breath was accused of calling all of them impostores.


            The teasing question, which can only be satisfied by whispered conjecture, is who started the rumor that a book about the Three Impostors existed.  This question is, however, no more troublesome than those about the authorship of the texts that now exist.  Brunet, who edited the Latin De Tribus Impostoribus in the middle of the last century, thought that the existence of the book was first mentioned in 1611 by Geronimo de la Madre.3  This is a strange statement because it is clear from his essay that Brunet had heard of the "ridiculous Florimond de Raemond," who claimed in a treatise against heresy, published in 1623, to have seen a copy of the horrible book, when he was a student at the Collège de Presle, "entre les mains de Ramus."  He states that he would not have mentioned the matter at all if Genebrard and Osius had not earlier testified to its existence.4


            If we follow De Raemond's lead, we can come to a preface written in 1581 by Gilbert Genebrard for François Jordan's critical commentary on Lambertus Danaeus' theories about the Trinity.  In this preface, Genebrard defends Guillaume Postel, who had been charged with heresy, and observes that his doctrinal errors, unlike those of Calvin, did not convert some men to Islam and others to atheism.  It is Calvin, he thinks, who is responsible for the fact that some "unknown author" wrote a "little book, the De Tribus Impostoribus, about the Lord Jesus, Moses, and Mohammed."5  This preface is dated 1581; and La Monnoye, who wrote the earliest bibliographical essay on the De Tribus Impostoribus6 thinks he has found a mention of the book in 1543.  I am inclined to be a little more cautious and to date the first sound reference to this book in the second half of the sixteenth century.  It is quite possible a rumor about the existence of such a book [in manuscript form] might run about for several decades [centuries?] before it got fixed in print [printing flowered in the 16th century]; but, even then, I cannot assume a book existed unless I have the ocular testimony of a reliable authority….'  [224-228].


l l l l l






from:  A Short History of Christian Theophagy ["ingestion of divinity"; "eating the body of a god"; etc.], by Preserved Smith, Open Court, 1922.





            Those who have attended the celebration of a mass have witnessed the most ancient survival from a hoary antiquity.  There, in the often beautiful church, in gorgeous vestments, with incense and chanted liturgy, the priest sacrifices a God to himself and distributes his flesh to be eaten by his worshippers.  The Divine Son is offered to the Father as "a pure victim, a spotless victim, a holy victim,"1 and his holy body and blood become the food of the faithful.  The teaching of the church is explicit on this point.  The body eaten is the same as that once born of a virgin and now seated at the right hand of the Father ["spookdom"!]; the sacrifice of the mass is one and the same as that of the cross, and is so grateful and acceptable to God that it is a suitable return for all his benefits, will expiate sin, and turn the wrath of the offended Deity "from the severity of a just vengeance to the exercise of benignant clemency."2'  ["23"].


            [footnote] "1The Missal:  Canon of the Mass."  ["23"].



            'As men became softer and more fastidious, substitutes were found for the raw flesh and blood which were originally elements of their communion.  Thus the sacred Ivy, regarded as an impersonation of Dionysus was substituted for his flesh,87 and wine for his blood.88


            The connection of wine and blood was as familiar to antiquity as it is to us through the eucharist.  It was often an offering to the gods and a means of communion with them.89  The blood was the life; who imbibed it absorbed the spirit.  A Greek word for soul,…[Greek word], is etymologically fumus, the hot "steam" from blood.90  The Romans sealed their oaths by drinking a mixture of wine and blood called asseratum.91  Among the Hebrews, too, wine was called the "blood of the grape."92  Offerings of bread and wine were made to Asklepios, the god of healing.93


            It must be remembered that this tradition of the eaten god was kept up by the mysteries among the lower strata of society only.  In the world of art and letters best known to us there prevailed an enlightened skepticism.  Not many wise, not many noble, were called to salvation by the blood of Bacchus or of Attis.  The expressed opinion of a Roman philosopher [Cicero] as to the Real Presence is very much what the expressed opinion of a modern scientist is now: 






"When we call corn Ceres and wine Bacchus," says Cicero,94 "we use a common figure of speech; but do you imagine that anybody is so insane as to believe that the thing he feeds on is god?"  The answer then, as now, was in the affirmative.'  [end of Chapter I.] [41-42].




[colleagues in the priesthood (A Latin Dict.)]"  ["43"]


            'What is Paul's understanding of the words "This is my body?"  It is certain that he took them literally.  The "hoc est corpus meum" [Latin:  "this is my body"] which has been decisive for the Catholic church, and which, Luther declared, was "too strong" for him, meant exactly what it said.  The reason why many Protestants have maintained the contrary is simply that they believed it impossible themselves.  Of course it is impossible—but that does not mean that Paul did not believe it.  Kirsopp Lake [1872 – 1946] puts the point aptly:  "Much of the controversy between Catholic and Protestant theologians has found its center in the doctrine of the eucharist, and the latter have appealed to primitive Christianity to support their views.  From their point of view the appeal fails; the Catholic doctrine is much more nearly primitive than the Protestant.  But the Catholic advocate in winning his case has proved still more:  the doctrine which he defends is not only primitive but pre-Christian."62  And again:  "It is necessary to insist that the Catholic is much nearer to early Christianity than the Protestant."63'  [53].



'In classical antiquity symbol and reality were not separated as we separate them.73  To Greek philosophy words were things, and that was its greatest weakness.  So the personification of bread, wine, war and love as Ceres, Bacchus, Mars and Venus seems to us mere figure of speech, but to the ancients implied a good deal more.  Even so a child will now say of her doll "This is my baby," and if you insist that it is not her baby, but only the symbol of one, will not be convinced, and will even begin to cry [and Christians "cry"] if you press the point.  So to the primitive Christian the breed [bread] and wine simply were the body and blood of his Savior; words could not make it plainer to him than that.  They just were.'  [55-56].



            'Clement of Rome [Catholic tradition:  fourth pope] in the first century calls the communion an offering and a sacrifice.127  By making it the "liturgy" par excellence of the church, he puts it in the place of the highest form of divine worship which it has ever since held in the Roman church.






            Ignatius [c. 35 – c. 107 [?]] also thinks of it as a sacrifice, and as charged with a magical quality for keeping both body and soul deathless.  "The bread," says he, "is the medicine of immortality, the antidote preserving us that we should not die, but live forever in Jesus Christ."128  This is but a literal interpretation of John's teaching by a younger contemporary.  Ignatius also states plainly that the body is the same as that which suffered on the cross.129'  [71].






            'Ambrose was the father of transubstantiation in the West….the doctrine of conversion, in exactly the style later prevalent.  The change, according to him, is caused by the words "this is my body."11


            But in that very age there were great Fathers of the church who endeavored to give a more spiritual and therefore a more symbolic meaning to the mode of the real presence.  In this as in so many other things Jerome and Augustine were the precursors of the Reformation.  Their language dimly, and not without ambiguity, sowed the seeds which ripened more than a millennium later.  Jerome speaks of the bread as "showing forth the body of the Saviour," and as "a memorial of redemption."12  Augustine [354 – 430] went deeper, to the very foundations of religion.  Like Luther [1483 – 1546] he believed that faith was the all-important element in salvation, and thus he necessarily relegated ceremonies to a somewhat subordinate position.  "Crede et manducasti "13 is his justly famous application of this principle to the Lord's Supper ["Lord's Supper.  A Title for the Holy Communion, now used esp. among Protestants.  It is taken from I Cor. 11: 20" [?  I Cor. 11:20:  "When you come together, it is not really to eat the Lord's supper."  (New Ox. Annotated Bible, c2001, page "284 New Testament")].  Faith, therefore, is essential; not the actual eating of the bread and wine, for these are but "signs of the body and blood," and the whole rite but "a sacrament of commemoration of Christ's sacrifice."14  This is all implied in his definition of sacrament, later universally adopted, as the outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.  And yet he was not always consistent in his language.  Like Luther later he [Augustine] at times felt the necessity of maintaining a double, and really self-contradictory, thesis, that both faith and the bread were necessary; that Christ was "offered up once for all in his own person, and yet was offered up daily in the sacrament among the congregations."15'  [80, 81-82].






"It is remarkable that Aquinas has so little to say about the sacrifice, and, on the whole, conceives it so differently from Chrysostom.  The reason is to be found in the change of emphasis in religion between the fourth and the thirteenth century."  [84].



            "A brief résumé of official Catholic dogma gives but a faint picture of the importance of the mass throughout the Middle Ages.35  It was the focus of religion and of life.  It was a main factor in determining the constitution of the church.  Control of the sacraments as the necessary means of salvation made possible the interdict and the crusades, the humiliation of Henry IV at Canossa and the sway of Innocent III.  Penance and excommunication were realities; the priest could open the gates of heaven and consign to hell."  [87].



            'As a magic talisman the eucharist became a favorite means of detecting crime.62  Rudolph Glaber, for example, tells of a criminal in clerical dress who swallowed the eucharist, but who, when it immediately emerged from his navel, confessed.  Pope Gregory VII cleared himself of the charge of simony in 1707 by taking the eucharist.68


            But with all its machinery of heaven and hell, with all its apparatus of myth, magic and miracle, the church was not able to produce reverence for the most awful of her mysteries.  Swearing by the mass and thus "tearing the holy body of God omnipotent" was common in the age of faith.64  Such proverbial phrases as "sacrificing the tail of the host," meaning to complete a job, surely show little respect.65  Nay, the holy drug of immortality [sacramental wine] became a favorite vehicle for shortening the life of enemies by poison.  Thus, among many examples, the Emperor Henry VII is said to have been murdered in 1313.66


            On the art and literature of the later Middle Ages the doctrine of the eucharist had a powerful influence.  The Gothic cathedrals were consciously built around the Lord's Table.  The missals bloomed with many a rare flower of illuminated letter and headpiece.  One of the greatest paintings of the Renaissance, Raphael's Debate on the Sacrament, represents the supreme mystery of the Catholic faith, the Triune God hovering above the sacred bread.67  And the paintings of the Last Supper ["Last Supper.  The final meal of Christ with His Apostles on the night before the Crucifixion.  The institution of the *Eucharist is seen in the symbolic acts which He performed with the bread and wine at this meal."  (Ox. Dict. C.C., 1997, 953)] are countless.






            The popular literature of the later Middle Ages is full of stories of Jesus appearing in the host….'  [91-92].





            But though the church might, and did, delay the progress of enlightenment, she was fortunately unable to stop it altogether.  As in other dogmas, so in this of the God made bread, there were always doubters.  Skepticism in Italy went so far that even the priests who celebrated mass would say, instead of "this is my body," "bread thou art and bread thou shalt remain [this makes me (LS) laugh!  Also, concerns about defecation of the host]."1  ["95"].


            [footnote] "1Luther says he heard this at Rome in 1510; Sermon of April 19, 1538, Buchwald, 338."  ["95"].



"V.  LUTHER"  ["99"]


'It has often been recognized that the Reformation was in point of dogma a singularly conservative movement.6  Even Harnack admits that the one trenchant reform Luther did make in ecclesiastical doctrine, that of the sacramental system, was not due to his special enlightenment, but to "his inner experience that where grace does not endow the soul with God, the sacraments are an illusion."7


            But when a doctrine, for which no unmistakable proof could be found in Scripture, appeared to him not only illogical, but absolutely incomprehensible, and immoral as well, he naturally rejected it.  Thus his early opposition to the sacrifice of the mass was not due to any philosophical speculation about its intrinsic impossibility, but to the fact that conditions had changed so much since the doctrine grew up that it became almost incomprehensible to him.  The Catholic church, indeed, was so deeply committed to the dogma that it kept on repeating the words asserting it, long after their original import had been totally forgotten.  The change from the time of Paul, whose language and thought were moulded by the Mysteries, or of Chrysostom with his "priest reddened with the blood of the immolated Christ," to that of Aquinas and Luther, was immense.'  [100-102].






'Luther's doctrine of the real presence.  This, like most of his dogmas, was deeply rooted in his own [and common to mankind] subjective need.  Theology, as he often said, was for him not a speculative but a practical science, the object of which was the then so seemingly vital one of winning grace and of escaping hell.  Luther approached all questions from the point of view of the sorely tried conscience.20  What agonies he went through, not only in the cloister but later, by reason of dread of everlasting torture it is difficult for us to imagine.  Luther was fairly obsessed by it,21 and groaned in spirit, "Who shall deliver me from the wrath to come?"  At the same time, he undoubtedly had a sufficiently disinterested moral sense to desire goodness and God's favor for their own sake.'  [103-104].



            'The preface to this work, and letters of the same period, show that Luther was pleased with the steps taken at Wittenberg, in their earlier stages, both to abolish private masses54 and to institute a simple communion service.55  When, however, in a manner presently to be described, Luther saw that the reforms at Wittenberg went considerably beyond his own views, he was both alarmed at the outbreak of independent and subjective religion and nettled that others seemed to be wresting the leadership from him.  Returning, therefore, from the Wartburg in March, 1522, he [Luther] abolished the communion service started by Carlstadt and Melanchthon, and reintroduced the mass with almost all the old forms.  As Carlstadt had objected to the word "mass," Luther said he would use it for that very reason.  Forgetting the anathemas he had launched against those who added to Scripture by calling the host a sacrifice, he says that now, "to spite the mob-spirits," he will "dub the sacrament anew a sacrifice, not that I hold it for a sacrifice, but that the devil, who is the god of this mob-spirit, may beware of me."  In like manner he reinstated the elevation of the host, remarking that both the command to elevate, by the pope, and the prohibition to do so, by Carlstadt, were infringements of Christian liberty.56  He was in a sad dilemma, for he wished to give it up to "go against the papists," and to retain it "to go against and annoy the devil."  He finally decided that the latter was the more important duty, for, says he, "I would not then, nor will I now, allow the devil to teach me anything in my church."  He even says that if necessary he will have the host elevated three, seven or ten times.57  He also defended the use of Latin in the service by a questionable reference to I Cor. xiv. 26 ff.58'  [112-113].



            "On the other side Luther came out with a treatise on Private Masses and Parsons' Ordination.84  It is couched in the form of a dialogue with the devil, a method chosen, as he explains to a friend, in order to bring home to the papists the full horror of their position, when, at the moment of death, they will






themselves [be?] unable to answer the accusations of the Adversary.85  The realism of the picture is, however, extraordinary; Luther describes how, on the appearance of Satan, his heart stopped beating, sweat broke out on his brow, and he understood how men had been found dead in their beds.  Supported as this passage is by numerous sayings in the table talk describing conversations with the devil, it cannot be doubted that the Reformer [Luther] objectified his foe in a very literal manner.86  The substance of the work is the most complete repudiation of the Catholic position Luther ever attained."  [118-119].



"VI.  CARLSTADT"  ["122"]


'Against Carlstadt's claim that I Cor. x. 16 did not refer to communion at all, Luther calls it "a very thunderbolt on the head of Dr. Carlstadt and all his horde, and a lively medicine for the heart tempted about the sacrament."  He advances the theory, borrowed from Scotus, of the ubiquity of Christ's body.  The tone of the pamphlet is of the rudest.  Carlstadt is called "a murderer of souls and a spirit of sin."  Other phrases are:  "the devil rides him;" "the ass's head will master Greek;" "he tattles and tittles, cackles and cuckles;" he has "a lying, evil spirit," "a deceitful, clandestine devil, who crawls into corners to do damage and spread poison."'  [131].



"IX.  BUCER"  ["167"]


            "Sensitive as Luther was to the slightest shade of difference from his own opinion, the utter obsequiousness of the South German clergy, who prostrated their private judgment before his infallible decisions, finally convinced him that it would be safe to sign an agreement with them.  A conference was therefore arranged at Wittenberg, and took place at the Black Cloister, during the days May 21-29, 1536.  The discussion was largely on the question of whether the unworthy received the Lord's body and blood, for this was considered the final test of the real presence.  Luther maintained that as the body was truly there, it made no difference who ate it; Judas might partake as well as Peter.  The Zwinglian doctrine had been that, as the participation was an act of faith, only believers might enjoy true communion with their Saviour.  Bucer, at this conference, made one of those fine distinctions in which he was an adept.  Those, said he, with a glance at the Catholics, who perverted the institution of Christ, did not partake of the body and blood, but those in a lesser degree of unworthiness might receive it.35"  [174-175].






"XI.  CALVIN"  ["190"]


            'It was Farel, the first evangelist of French Switzerland, who secured the abolition of the mass at Aigle, Ollon and Bex in 1528.28  In 1530 he tore the host from the priest's hands at Valangin, and said to the people, "This is not the God whom you must worship; he is above in heaven, in the majesty of the Father."29


            Not many years after this the Reformation began to make headway in France.  On the night of October 17-18, 1534, Antony de Marcourt posted throughout Paris a number of placards attacking the mass.  He proclaimed that Christ's sacrifice could not be repeated and that the wretched mass had plunged the world into idolatry.  The papists, said he, were not afraid to say that rats, spiders and vermin partook of the Lord's body if they ate a bit of the bread, as is written in their missals in the twenty-second rubric.  Though he admitted the real presence he denied transubstantiation.30'  [197].



            'All approaches of the Lutherans were rebuffed.  In June, 1550, Calvin was so exasperated that he called the Lutherans "ministers of Satan" and "professed enemies of God," seeking to bring in adulterine rights and vitiate the pure worship of God.39  Bullinger also wrote Calvin that the "Lutherans were an obstinate and pernicious race of men, without judgment or humanity, persecuting us more violently than the papists themselves."40  Blaurer informed Bullinger that the Saxons said they would rather fight with the Calvinists than with the Turks.41  In the matter of the sacrament said Schenck, the error of the papists is rather to be borne than that of the Saxons.42  It was a moot question whether a Calvanist [Calvinist] could receive the sacrament at all from a Lutheran.43'  [199].



            'When the Calvinists came to power in Hesse in 1600 they abolished the wafers used in communion because the people believed them ["THE WAFERS"] the body of Christ and substituted for them heavy, hard round crackers, baked from the coarsest flour, to convince the people that they had "bread, bread, and nothing but bread."  "The cursed wafers," said they, "are a birth of the Roman Antichrist," and one of them derived the word host from the Latin os porci, pig's mouth.45


            What was the result of this long, long battle of words, of all these discussions and arguments, of all this hatred and bigotry centering around the Lord's table?  The answer must be that it did not, directly, advance the cause of truth one whit.  Sturm and Lazarus in 1600 were no nearer squaring the circle






than were Luther and Carlstadt in 1524.  The more rational spirits, Carlstadt, Zwingli, and Oecolampadius, had been crushed and were anathematized by Lutherans and Calvanists [Calvinists] alike.  As in the Roman Church, so in the Protestant, purely internal forces consistently made for reaction, ecclesiasticism, intolerance, and superstition.  Protestantism became, as Dr. McGiffert46 has repeated after Harnack, "as blighting to intellectual growth as Roman Catholicism at its worst."


            The internecine wars of the Protestants weakened them as the Thirty Years war weakened Germany.  The benefit accrued partly to Catholicism, partly to skepticism.  The former foe was the only one they envisaged.  Thus as early as 1530, Queen Margaret of Navarre wrote to the Strassburg clergy that the schism caused great scandal in France.47  Twelve years later the Protestants of Italy wrote Luther:  "There is a second thing which threatens the daily destruction of our churches.  It is that question about the Lord's Supper, which first arose in Germany and was thence carried to us.  Alas, how many commotions it has excited!  How many discussions it has caused!  How much offense it has given to the weak!  What damage it has done to the Church of God!  What an impediment is it to the spreading abroad of Christ's glory[nightmare!]."48'  [200-201] [end of Chapter XI.].



"XIII.  THE LAST PHASE"  ["212"]


'The Socinians, in the Racovian Catechism of 1609, expressly rejected the Catholic, Lutheran, and Calvinistic doctrines of the eucharist, and called the rite merely symbolic and memorial.  The Quakers, in order to put the whole emphasis on faith, abolished the rite altogether.  When Ralph Waldo Emerson proposed to do the same, on the ground that the material act was now a positive hindrance to piety, he found the Unitarians unable to follow him, and therefore gave up the ministry.12  But though they still celebrate the Supper, the Unitarians demand no article of faith on this or any other subject from their adherents, and other churches, such as the Baptists and Congregationalists,13 seem to be completely silent on the question of the real presence, which is doubtless answered in the negative by nearly all of their members.14  The Christian Scientists, under the influence of the New England transcendalists [transcendentalists], use no bread and wine in their communion, but teach:  "Our bread is truth.  Our cup is the cross."14a


            In churches of the Anglican communion there is a large body of evangelical members who interpret the eucharist symbolically….'  [216].






"….The sacraments, it is said, express the great truths of the inner life in outward form. 


The error in this view, as Professor [Kirsopp] Lake [1872 – 1946] pointed out, lies in the limitation of such values [sacraments?] to a few things; any experience in life might have such a value. 


 More and more, the rationalist would add, men are finding the needs of their inner life supplied, and their value-judgments given, in poetry, in art, and in science, and less and less in the repetition of


outworn survivals from a primeval state."  [end of Chapter XIII] [218] [end of text].


l l l l l






from:  Encyclopedia of World Biography, Second Edition, [Volume] 13, Gale, c1998.



'George Santayana


George Santayana (1863 – 1952), Spanish and American philosopher, developed a personal form of critical realism that was skeptical, materialistic, and humanistic.


            George Santayana was unique among American and European philosophers during his long lifetime.  While others strove to make philosophy "scientific" and to apply philosophy and science to society, Santayana proclaimed, "My philosophy neither is nor wishes to be scientific."  He rejected the inherited genteel tradition in American thought as well as his contemporaries' pragmatism, idealism, and positivism.  He openly disliked the liberal and democratic drift of Western civilization.  In his philosophy he strove to combine philosophical materialism and a deep concern for spiritual values.  A prolific writer with a graceful style, he also published several volumes of poetry, and his most popular book was a novel, The Last Puritan (1936).  He [Santayana] is singular among American philosophers for the special flavor of his thought and for his treatment of religion and art.'  [475-476].



'His Philosophy


            Santayana's true life was intellectual.  "My career was not my life," he wrote.  "Mine has been a life of reflection."  His philosophy reflected the diversity of his own experience.  Spanish Catholic by cultural inheritance and personal inclination, Protestant American by education and environment, disengaged by circumstances and temperament, he regarded his philosophy as a synthesis of these traditions.  It is not surprising that his philosophy is full of ironies and ambiguities.  At the same time, he was consistent in his concerns, if not in his opinions, and in the mood and tone of his philosophy.  His primary orientation was spiritual, although not in the conventional sense, and his primary interest was moral, in the broadest sense.


            The philosophy of Santayana is characterized by its skepticism, materialism, and humanism.  His skepticism is evident throughout his writings:  "My matured conclusion has been that no system is to be trusted, not even that of science in any literal or pictorial sense; but all systems may be used and, up to a certain point, trusted as symbols."  His materialism or naturalism was "the foundation for all further serious opinions."  Unlike that of so many






contemporaries, Santayana's materialism depended not on science but on his own experiences and observations, for which he found philosophical confirmation in the works of Democritus, Lucretius, and Spinoza.  In addition, in Greek ethics he found a vindication of order and beauty in human institutions and ideas.  His systematic reading and thought culminated in the writing of his masterwork, The Life of Reason (5 vols., 1905-1906), which he intended as a critical history of the human imagination.  He developed his philosophy further in Scepticism and Animal Faith (1923), which served as an introduction to his philosophical consummation, Realms of Being (4 vols., 1927-1940).'  [476].



'….Santayana was not a practicing Catholic and did not believe in the existence of God.  


He [SANTAYANA] considered religion a work of the imagination [WHICH—OF COURSE—IT IS!]: 


"Religion is valid poetry infused into common life."  The truth of religion was irrelevant, for all religions were imaginative, poetic interpretations of experience and ideals, not descriptions of existing things.  The value of religion was moral, as was the value of art.


            Beauty, to Santayana, was a moral good.  He valued the arts precisely because they are illusory.  Like religion, he explained, genuine art expresses ideals that are relevant to human conditions.  "Of all reason's embodiments," Santayana exulted, "art is…the most splendid and complete."  "This is all my message," he wrote by way of summary, "that morality and religion are expressions of human nature; that human nature is a biological growth; and finally that spirit, fascinated and tortured, is involved in the process, and asks to be saved."'  [477].


_____     _____     _____






from:  The Idea of Christ in the Gospels, Or God In Man, A Critical Essay by George Santayana, Scribner's Sons, 1946.





            'Why have we not laughed from the beginning at any rationalist or rationalizing "Life of Jesus"?  Because neither the author nor the public were really emancipated from the magic of Christian faith.  They were Protestants or free-thinking Catholics, and they retained unwittingly, if not avowedly, a substantial residue of trust in inspiration, either in the literal and verbal infallibility of the Bible, or in the amiable figure of Jesus, conversing with his disciples or with Mary Magdalene or laying his hands on little children's heads.  Sensibility, which would have been a virtue in them as literary critics, became the cause of an enormous blunder of theirs as historians.  For a sympathetic humanist and unprejudiced man of letters, there is no more reason for swearing by the letter of the Gospels than by that of Homer or the Upanishads or the Koran.  We may prefer the spirit of one or another, but the moral beauty in them all is equally natural, equally human; and nothing but custom or a mystical conversion can lead us to regard the inspiration in one case only as miraculous, and a revealed mirror of the exact truth.'  [5].



            "The Resurrection and Ascension of Christ, as related in the New Testament, thus leave us still full of expectation.  Far from being the end, they announce fresh trials and make new promises.  They ["RESURRECTION AND ASCENSION OF CHRIST"] do not open paradise to us, but, on the contrary, establish the Church militant:  on the whole not a pleasing prospect.  The interval was at first expected to be short, and the spirit of that expectation survives in the individual Christian, in as much as however long the troubles of this world may last for mankind, for each man and woman they are soon over.  Partly for that reason, and partly by a cheerful anticipation of that glorious liberty of soul which the Passion of Christ has made possible for us in heaven, Easter and the spirit of Easter seem, in some parts of Christendom, the crown of the ecclesiastical year.  It is indeed, not by accident, the season of rejuvenation; and people who meet in the street cry to one another, Christ is arisen; to which the response is, Alleluia. 






By a genial fiction people imagine that the new year will be freer and happier than the last; that life henceforth will be mystically clear and beautiful.  The Kingdom of Heaven, they say to themselves anew, is at hand.  At least, it may now begin to exist within us.


            The Easter sunshine and the peal of bells thus come to promise to the Christian the satisfaction of


a sentiment perennial in the human mind:  nostalgia for paradise…."  [166-167].


_____     _____     _____






from:  George Santayana [1863 – 1952], a biography, John McCormick, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1987.





The book in hand is the result of four decades of acquaintance with Santayana's writing, and of bewilderment that so moving and powerful a figure, justifiably famous in his own day, should have been so unjustifiably neglected in ours.  That neglect strangely accompanies a growing consensus that Santayana was indeed a great man, yet only a few recent scholars have bothered to read his philosophical work.  His verse is known only in a half-dozen anthologized sonnets; The Last Puritan, his extraordinary novel, is unavailable as of 1985 and has been so for years; his literary criticism, his political and sociological works, like his general essays, which are among the finest in English, are ignored.  Once known for his charming, if veiled, memoirs, now his name is attached only to an epigram bout history become a journalists' cliché ['"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Life of Reason, Reason in Common Sense, Scribner's, 1905, page 284' (from:].

            Over the course of his eighty-nine years, Santayana had three distinguishable and distinguished careers.  His first, as Professor of Philosophy at Harvard, ended with his resignation and move to Europe at age forty-nine.  His second career ran from 1912 to World War II, when his voluminous publication of those years came to a forced halt because of his residence in Italy.  His third career began with his rediscovery in Rome in 1944-45 by numerous Allied soldiers and journalists, together with the simultaneous appearance of his memoirs, Persons and Places.


            Continental readers recognized in Santayana a more or less familiar spirit.  Jacques Duron, for example, called him one of the most important and best writers of his epoch, comparing him in philosophy to Montaigne and Alain (Émile Chartier), and in the novel to André Maurois.  If only for his hostility to empiricism, however, American and British academic philosophers were never at ease with Santayana's thought.  It was skeptical, original, comprehensive, and so beautifully written as to seem mere virtuoso work.  He refused to argue, and argument is the staff of the life of academic philosophy.  For his part, Santayana found most conventional philosophy circular and tautological, "proving" only what it set out to prove and having little to do with anything that mattered.  The academy itself became odious to him and he left it.  By the 1930s, when the world both in and beyond the academy had become politically engaged, Santayana remained detached.  To followers of the dominant movements of his






lifetime, whether romantic metaphysicians, pragmatists, positivists, phenomenologists, Marxists, or symbolic logicians, the reach of Santayana's mind seemed threatening, and his detachment either frivolous or proof of sympathy to fascism.


            For a generation, roughly from 1950 to 1980, there seemed to be a conspiracy to forget Santayana.  At one level, the Dictionary of Biographical Quotations (1978) contained wisdom ranging from such as Edmund Burke, to Clark Gable, Charles Ives, Marilyn Monroe, Hannah More, and Al Capone, but not a word of Santayana's, the master of epigram.  At another level, that period saw the appearance of numerous compendiums and commentaries on history, social thought, and philosophy from the minds of some intensely minor masters (as well as from some genuine authorities), but neither breed made any reference to Santayana, who may well come to be seen for what he was, the master of them all.  Between 1959 and 1966, Professor Sidney Hook edited the proceedings of six symposia in which continental, British, and U.S. scholars presented 175 papers, most of which were on topics that Santayana had treated at one time or another.  No reference was made to him [Santayana] or to his works.1  Such neglect is a scandal, but one for which Santayana was himself partly responsible, thanks to his lifelong refusal to leap into the philosophical pachanga ["lively party"; "binge" (Collins Dict., 2002)].


            I have not written simply to correct a wrong or to place Santayana historically.  My first and enduring motives were delight in his character and in his eloquence, agreement with his naturalistic philosophy, and joy at the prospect of a man of his stature who refused to puff himself and forbade others to pound the Santayana drum.  Some philosophers can bring a smile, William James and Ludwig Wittgenstein among them.  Some, like Nietzsche, terrify, although not for the reasons he thought he was terrifying.  Only Santayana can make us laugh aloud.  Insofar as a biographer can determine, he was a happy man, and his happiness was contagious.  Is skepticism nevertheless made him seem chilling to the fervent, and his range of mind and of subject caused him to seem to others superficial, elusive, or merely iconoclastic.  He was not elusive but fastidious, one whose distinctions were subtle but wonderfully available, and not only to specialists.


            Santayana cannot be summarized briefly, and those who have made the attempt have come to grief.  In a word unfairly tinged with ideology, Santayana was "authentic," remarkably whole in a time of bits, pieces, and particles, utterly honest and serene.  As philosophy returns to such matters as ethics (which Bertrand Russell said does not really belong to the province of philosophy), and as a new generation looks to comparative religion, to all manner of terrestrial and extraterrestrial experience for its own sources of authenticity,






Santayana's writing may come to be seen in its proper perspective.  It is not a relic of the recent past, but a system without mysticism, based in nature, and capable of accounting for the human and animal spirit.  In brief, we need Santayana, badly.


            I do not apologize for extensive quotation.  To paraphrase Santayana is to butcher him.  He wrote for a wide public, clearly, logically, without behaving like a learned clown, but in his own key, ironic, serious, amusing.  If my book leads the reader to Santayana's writing, I shall have succeeded.  I shall have failed if, as Santayana put it to a correspondent, quoting Spinoza:  "Peter's idea of Paul expresses the nature of Paul less than it expresses the nature of Peter."2


Princeton, New Jersey   July 1985'  [xiii-xv].







            "After a month at the Danieli in Venice, he [Santayana] moved to the Grande Albergo in Rome for a year, and on October 14, 1941, he went to the Clinica della Piccola Compagna di Maria, known familiarly as the Blue Nuns, for their habit, in whose care he would remain until his death."  [395].







'Santayana mentioned the "demented" letters he had received from Ezra Pound, and he [Santayana] spoke of death, saying, "My life is my only immortality."34'  [492].







            'By Cory's account, two days before Santayana's death, when asked if he were suffering, he answered, "Yes, my friend, But my anguish is entirely physical; there are no moral difficulties whatsoever.'"28  On Friday, September 26, Santayana's suffering had exceeded by far Dr. Sabatucci's prescribed anodyne. 






The dying man had neither eaten food nor taken liquid for days.  Whether by intention or oversight, Sabatucci prescribed a heavier than usual dose of morphia, so potent that the young nursing sister on duty did not want to give Santayana the injection.  Cory said to the sister, "'You put the needle in; I'll pull the trigger.'"  The deed was done, and without drama Santayana died between ten and eleven o'clock in the night.29  There had been no Extreme Unction and no deathbed conversion.  Cory's act was not only compassionate, but also, given the times and the place, brave.


            In his will, Santayana had not specified where he wished to be buried.  When Cory raised the matter with him in 1951, he was firm about not wanting his remains to be sent to the United States, irrespective of anything the Sturgis family might expect.  Cory suggested the Protestant Cemetery in Rome, but Santayana demurred, saying, "That would be unfair to all my Catholic friends, and while I have always loved Shelley and Keats, I have no desire to be permanently next to them."30  Since he was a Spanish subject, the consulate at Rome sequestered his personal effects and relieved Cory of the difficult task of finding "neutral" burial ground for the remains of an adamant atheist.  On Tuesday, September 30, in intermittent rain and in the presence of Daniel and Margaret Cory, two Spanish officials, and three casual friends, Santayana's body was placed in the tomb reserved for the Spanish in the huge Campo Verano Cemetery, and there his body remains, in the "Panteon de la Obra Pia [Obra Pia:  (complex) ecclesiastical institution in Rome] Espanola."  No religious ceremony took place.31  Cory read stanzas from "The Poet's Testament," a poem which Santayana had written as a final affirmation of naturalism, of his ultimate return to the earth.  The first (and best) stanza is:


            I give back to the earth what the earth gave,

            All to the furrow, nothing to the grave

            The candle's out, the spirit's vigil spent;

            Sight may not follow where the vision went.32



Poetic tributes came from several hands, some distinguished:  Jorge Guillén [1893 – 1984] republished his fine translation of Sonnet Fifty, "Though utter death should swallow up my hope," inscribing it "A la memoria de don Jorge Ruiz de Santayana." 


He [Jorge Guillén] also wrote "Huésped de Hotel," ("Hotel Guest"), all the more a tribute for its Spanish toughness, its acceptance of the phenomenon of Santayana:








            Among strangers who do not know him,

            An old bachelor almost always alone

            Lives—unconvivial—among foreigners,

            With as little company as possible.

            If fortunate financially, the perfect artist.




            In his anonymity a master of monologue,

            Precise thought, frustrated love,

            Independent in method, seriously skeptical,

            Guest of a star pointed toward nothingness.




            He looks to matter for his faith,

            And Spanish by birth, English by language,

            In the solitude of his eminence

            Untrammeled, he is aware of the lay world

            Without gods.  Truth gives him serenity.33'  [504-505].


_____     _____     _____






from:  Persons and Places, Fragments of Autobiography, George Santayana, edited by William G. Holzberger and Herman J. Saatkamp, Jr., with an Introduction by Richard C. Lyon, Critical Edition, c1986.





A Change of Heart"  ["417"]


[[margin] "My attachment to Catholicism always poetical."]


"I had never practiced my religion [Catholicism], or thought of it as a means of getting to heaven or avoiding hell, things that never caused me the least flutter.  All that happened was that I became accustomed to a different Weltanschauung, to another system having the same rational function as religion:  that of keeping me attentive to the lessons of life.


            Each religion, by the help of more or less myth which it takes more or less seriously, proposes some method of fortifying the human soul and enabling it to make its peace with its destiny.  A philosopher may perfectly well cultivate more than one Weltanschauung ["world view", etc.], if he has a vital philosophy of his own to qualify his adoption of each, so as to render them complementary and not contradictory.  I had, and have, such a vital philosophy; and the movement of my mind among various systems of belief has tended merely to discover how far my vital philosophy could be expressed in each of them.


            My variations therefore never involved rejecting any old affection, but only correcting such absoluteness or innocence as there may have been about it, and reducing it to its legitimate function.  So in 1990 I published the result of the gradual transformation of my religious sentiments.  Religion was poetry intervening in life."  [419-420].



[[margin] "My gradual retirement from the world."]


            "That nevertheless, as a sentiment, my eventual metanoia ["fundamental change of character"; "spiritual conversion or awakening" (] was sincere, may be seen in the slow change that appeared in my way of living.  Old age contributed to it; on the other hand, I had larger means and easier access to the great world, had I been in love with it.  But I have ultimately become a sort of hermit, not from fear or horror of mankind, but by sheer preference for peace and obscurity. 






Fortune has become indifferent to me, except as fortune might allow me to despise fortune and to live simply in some beautiful place.  I have cut off all artificial society, reducing it to the limits of sincere friendship or intellectual sympathy.  Instead of collecting pictures and books, as I had a tendency to do in the early 1890's, I have distributed my few possessions, eschewed chattels of every kind, a fixed residence, servants, carriages, or anything that would pin me down materially or engulf me in engagements.  I have indulged rather freely at certain times in good food and good drink; but I think the glamour of those pleasures was due almost entirely to conviviality, that is to say, to a momentary imitation of friendship.  In themselves, when I was alone, food and drink were never important to me.  I was almost happier when I could be frugal, as at my father's in Avila, in the Duval restaurants in Paris, in the teashops in London, or now, where I write these words, under the drastic restrictions of war, in the clinic of the Blue Sisters [also, Blue Nuns] upon the Caelius.  I am happy in solitude and confinement, and the furious factions into which the world is divided inspire hatred for none of them in my heart.


[[margin] "Sobering experiences in the year 1893:  The end of youth."]


            It should be normal, at least according to the ancients, for a philosopher to reach this moral settlement in old age; but why did the idea and the need of it come upon me powerfully at the age of thirty?  There were various reasons.  For a poet and a lover of youth the age of thirty is itself a ground for metanoia.  Being a teacher had been forced upon me by the necessity of somehow earning my living; but being a student was my vocation, and I had been living among students, interesting myself in their sports and their pleasures, and loving their quick and unprejudiced minds.  Still this second vicarious adolescence had a rift in it:  my sympathy with the young and theirs with me had limits that were growing narrower and sharper.  My young friends seemed to me every year younger and younger, more and more standardized and generic.  They could no longer be my friends, but only boys at the school where I happened to be one of the masters.  That chapter then had come to an end:  yet youth, in the world and in the poet's eyes, is perpetual.  The platonic transition was therefore at once spontaneous and inevitable, from the many to the one, from the existent but transitory to the ideal and eternal.


[[margin] "The death of Warwick Potter."]


            This transition may be called philosophic metanoia.  Like the tragic catharsis, it turns disaster into a kind of rapture, without those false comforts and delusions by which religious metanoia is often cheapened.  This philosophic insight was now brought home to me by the unexpected death of Warwick Potter.  Though seven years younger than I, he






had been a real friend, and as I now felt, my last real friend.  I have already mentioned that I was surprised by the effect that the news of his death had upon me.  Why did it move me so much?  Though he was a general favourite and a long procession of us walked behind the bier at his funeral, there was after all nothing extraordinary about him.  The cause of my emotion was in myself.  I was brimming over with the sense of parting, of being divided by fortune where at heart there was no division.  I found myself, unwillingly and irreparably, separated from Spain, from England, from Europe, from my youth and from my religion.  It was not good simple Warwick alone that inspired my verses about him.  It was the thought of everything that was escaping me:  the Good in all the modes of it that I might have caught a glimpse of and lost."  [422-423].





Travels"  ["447"]


[[margin] "I renounce travel except in thought."]


            "I left Greece disappointed, not with Greece but with myself.  I should have been young and adventurous, knowing the language well, both ancient and modern, and traveling alone, with indefinite time before me….


[[margin] "Impressions of St. Sophia."]


I took ship from the Piraeus for Constantinople.  Galata, where the hotels are, was nothing; but I could walk across the bridge, guided the first time, afterwards alone, to St. Sophia, the other mosques, and the stray sights of the old city….






[[margin] "All roads lead to Rome."]


            After this, at once surfeited and disappointed, I wanted to see nothing more, suppressed my love of new places, and stopped only to rest at Buda-Pesth and Vienna.  I meant to leave Vienna, at least, for another occasion, when I might make a long stay, and see the Catholic, gay, and courtly aspects of Germany, so utterly ignored in the view of Germany obtainable from America:  but I have never been in Vienna again.  In fact, I have never again travelled for the sake of travelling.  My orbit has become narrower and narrower, dropping one loop-line after another:  somewhat as the ball at the gaming-table runs round in smaller and smaller circles, more and more slowly, hesitates at the edge of this socket and that, and finally flops down and settles comfortably into the predestined ["predestined", but, not singular] resting-place.  And the predestined socket in my case was Rome:  omnium urbis et orbis ecclesiarum, says the inscription at the Lateran, mater et caput.  Mother and head of my moral world, surely, and central enough even today:  balmy also, humanly habitable at all seasons, full of ancient and modern and even of recent beauties, and inhabited by a people that more than any other resembles the civilized ancients.  I could not be more at home anywhere, while preserving my essential character of stranger and traveler, with the philosophic freedom that this implies.  Thus I renounce travel here [Rome], where I may still continually travel in thought to all ages and countries and enjoy the divine privilege of ubiquity without moving from my fated center of gravity and equilibrium."  [466-467].


_____     _____     _____






from:  Santayana:  The Later Years  A Portrait with Letters, by Daniel Cory [close friend of Santayana], George Braziller, New York, c1963.



'Sixteen:  1951–52


[Santayana] I prefer to be frankly poetical and say I am content to rest in the bosom of Abraham.'  [306]


            'One afternoon, about a week before he [Santayana] died, I found him awake and for a moment free from pain.  I urged him not to talk if it would tire him, but he said there were a few things he would like to remind me of while there was still time.3  ….


            He was speaking very slowly and seemed to weigh each sentence.


            "Always bear in mind," Santayana continued, "that my naturalism does not exclude religion; on the contrary it allows for it.  I mean that religion is the inevitable reaction of the imagination when confronted by the difficulties of a truculent world.  It is normally local and always mythical, and it is morally true. 


People really believe in their native myths."'  [322-323].



"Epilogue"  [328]


            'Since his [Santayana] death I [Daniel Cory] have returned to Rome nearly every year for a few months.  The "Eternal City" is now as cosmopolitan as Paris, with English and American newspapers on sale the day of their publication.  Some of the cafés and restaurants we used to frequent have disappeared, and it seems rather affected to ride in a carrozza nowadays.  But the opera we enjoyed on Sunday afternoons together is still extremely popular, and the lofty cypresses that encircle the Piazza Siena are unperturbed by the puffs of excitement from Hollywood.  Out in the quiet Cimitero Monumentale al Verano, the work on the "Tomb of the Spaniards" has now been completed.1  ["1The former Panteon de la Obra Pia Espanola in the same cemetery had been damaged during the war."  [329]]  My old friend [Santayana] has been honored with a large separate stone on which is engraved quite simply: 








16 – 12 – 1863


26 – 9 – 1952


            Close by is an upright slab with a design in bas-relief of wings and hands aspiring upward, and inscribed below is a quotation in Spanish from one of his books:


            Cristo ha hecho possible para nosotros

            La gloriosa libertad del alma en el cielo.


            [my (LS) literal translation:


            Christ has made possible for us

            The glorious liberty of the soul in heaven]


            It is rumored that some visitors to the tomb have objected that this passage has been extracted from its context and conveys a misleading impression of Santayana's official tenets.  I realize that it is embedded in an impartial exposition of the Christian concept of the Resurrection.  But would Santayana have been shocked


[my guess:  Santayana would not have approved.  It is a Christian message, taken out of Santayana's context, and reflecting (the Christian?) Daniel Cory]


if some pious Spanish widow, bent on laying a few flowers above the vault where her husband was also interred, had been "misled"


["'misled"' how?  Because Santayana was an "atheist"?  Here, I find Daniel Cory, annoying (what else?)]


in reading on a nearby memorial slab of "that glorious liberty of soul which the Passion of Christ has made possible for us in Heaven"?2 


["2 The Idea of Christ in the Gospels, Part First, Chapter II, "The Resurrection," p. 167."  [330]] 






The initiated know that "heaven" for Santayana was only an imaginary extension of the natural world, and that Christ, in overcoming the embarrassments of a human career, had demonstrated—like other masters of the "inner life"—how we may also achieve a "glorious liberty of soul" here and now and apart from whatever may be in store for us afterward.  If Santayana was right in believing that all sense experience and language are symbolic, there is no necessity in this instance to wrangle over levels of interpretation of an isolated sentence.  In our more systematic efforts to describe a primordial reality, he did not demur if sometimes we spoke of Nature and sometimes of God.  The important thing was to retain a sense of piety [?].  It was inevitable that different religions (including "naturalism") should prescribe different remedies for the material complications of an embodied spirit.'  [329-330] [end of text].


_____     _____     _____






from:  George Santayana's America, Essays on Literature and Culture, Collected and with an Introduction by James Ballowe, University of Illinois Press, 1967.



'[Santayana] wrote that religion expresses "destiny in moral dimensions, in obviously mythical and poetical images….


Religions are the great fairy-tales of the conscience."'  [10].


_____     _____     _____



from:  Selected Critical Writings of George Santayana, Volume I [of two volumes], edited by Norman Henfrey, Assistant Professor of English, Laval University, Cambridge at the University Press, 1968.





"'Santayana', said a friend, 'believes God does not exist, and that Mary is His Mother'"


[laughing!  I see no problem with this.  Consistent with the Christian genre of the trinity, etc.] [elsewhere, reported to be apocryphal (more!, of the same theme (bullshit!))] [23].


_____     _____     _____






from:  The Wisdom of George Santayana, selected and edited by Ira D. Cardiff. The Citadel Press, c1964.



"Introduction"  [xiii].



            '"In attempting to capture the spirit of antiquity, he (Santayana) does not discuss the truth or falsehood of any religious dogma; indeed he takes it for granted that none is literally true.  Religion, to him, is essentially myth, which may be useful or harmful, noble or ignoble, beautiful or ugly, but which is somewhat Philistine to regard as true or false."*'  [xiv-xv].


[footnote] "*Bertrand Russell"  [xv].



"Sources of Quotations


(Following each quotation will be found a letter and a number.  The letter refers to the volume from which the quotation was taken, as shown by the list below; the number refers to the page in that volume where the passage quoted may be found.  There is no significance to the order of arrangement.)



Luc—Lucifer, a Theological Tragedy


A—Reason in Common Sense

P—The Absence of Religion in

B—Reason in Society

            Shakespeare, New World, 5-681

D—Reason in Art

Q—Philosophy of George Santayana

DP—Dominations and Powers

R—Skepticism and Animal Mind

E—Reason in Science

S—Obiter Scripta

F—Dialogues in Limbo

T—Soliloquies in England and Later

G—Winds of Doctrine


H—Egotism in German Philosophy

U—The Realm of Truth

I—The Genteel Tradition at Bay

V—Poetry and Religion

J—Character and Opinion in the

W—The Idea of Christ in the Gospels

            United States

X—Three Philosophical Poets

K—The Last Puritan

Y—Platonism and the Spiritual Life

L—Persons and Places

Z—The Realm of Matter

M—The Middle Span

Mis—Miscellaneous (taken from various

MH—My Host, the World

            magazine articles and numbered

N—Some Turns of Thought in

            serially from 1 through 23)"

            Modern Philosophy










            There is nothing people will not maintain when they are slaves to superstition; and candour and a sense of justice are, in such a case, the first things lost.—A-56"  [11].



"Spiritual tyrannies

World's conventions


            Common men accept these spiritual tyrannies, weak men repine at them, and great men break them down.  But to defy the world is a serious business, and requires the greatest courage, even if the defiance touch in the first place only the world's ideals.  Most men's conscience, habits, and opinions are borrowed from convention and gather continual comforting assurances from the same social consensus that originally suggested them.  To reverse this process, to consult one's own experience and elicit one's own judgment, challenging those in vogue, seems too often audacious and futile; but there are impetuous minds born to disregard the chances against them, even to the extent of denying that they are taking chances at all.—B-194"  [37].



"Creation of gods.  Fear


            That fear first created the gods is perhaps as true as anything so brief could be on so great a subject.—C-28"  [42].





            Israel, like every other nation, thought its traditions divine.—C-74"  [47].



"Jews, Christianity, Mohammedanism, Illusions of religion


            No civilized people [Jews] had ever had such pretensions before.  They all recognized one another's religions, if not as literally true (for some familiarity is needed to foster that illusion), certainly as more or less sacred and significant.  Had the Jews not rendered themselves odious to mankind by this arrogance, and taught Christians and Moslems the same fanaticism, the nature of religion would not have been falsified among us and we would not now have so much to apologize for and to retract.—C-77"  [48].






"Paganism in Catholicism


            Another phase of the same natural religion is seen in frequent festivals, in the consecration of buildings, ships, fields, labours, and seasons; in intercessions by the greater dead for the living and by the living for the lesser dead—a perfect survival of heroes and penates on the one hand and of pagan funeral rites and commemorations on the other.  Add Lent with its carnival, ember-days, all saints' and all souls, Christmas with its magi or its Saint Nicholas, Saint Agnes's and Saint Valentine's days with their profane associations, a saint for finding lost objects and another for prospering amourettes, since all great and tragic loves have their inevitable patrons in Christ and the Virgin, in Mary Magdalene, and in the mystics innumerable.  This, with what more could easily be rehearsed, makes a complete paganism within Christian tradition [see, Links:  Caricature by Max Beerbohm], a paganism for which little basis can be found in the gospel, the mass, the breviary, or the theologians.—C-102-103"  [50].



"Protestantism, character of


            It is a part of Protestantism to be austere, energetic, unwearied in some laborious task.—C-124



Negative phase of Protestantism


            Hence, in spite of a theoretic optimism, disapproval and proscription play a large part in Protestant sentiment.—C-124"  [52].



"St. Augustine's effect upon Luther and Calvin


            It was Saint Augustine, as we know, who, in spite of his fervid Catholicism, was the favourite master of both Luther and Calvin.  They emphasized, however, his more fanatical side, and this very predestinarian and absolutist doctrine which he had prevailed on himself to accept.—C-171"  [54].



"Population control


            The passion for a large and permanent population in the universe is not obviously rational.—E-93-94"  [77].






"Buddhism compared with Christianity


            Christianity persecuted, tortured, and burned.  Like a hound it tracked the very scent of heresy.  It kindled wars, and nursed furious hatreds and ambitions.  It sanctified, quite like Mohammedanism, extermination and tyranny.  All this would have been impossible if, like Buddhism, it had looked only to peace and the liberation of souls.  It looked beyond; it dreamt of infinite blisses and crowns it should be crowned with before an electrified universe and an applauding God.  These were rival baits to those which the world fishes with, and were snapped at, when seen, with no less avidity.  Man, far from being freed from his natural passions, was plunged into artificial ones quite as violent and more disappointing.  Buddhism had tried to quiet a sick world with anaesthetics; Christianity sought to purge it with fire.—E-286"  [87].



'"Ages of Faith".  Thirteenth century


            The ages of faith, the age of Christian unity, were such only superficially.  When all men are Christians only a small element can be Christian in the average man.  The thirteenth century, for instance, is supposed to be the golden age of Catholicism; but what seems to have filled it, if we may judge by the witness of Dante?  Little but bitter conflicts, racial and religious; faithless rebellions, both in states and in individuals, against the Christian regimen; worldliness in the church, barbarism in the people, and a dawning of all sorts of scientific and aesthetic passions, in themselves quite pagan and contrary to the spirit of the gospel.  Christendom at that time was by no means a kingdom of God on earth; it was a conglomeration of incorrigible rascals, intellectually more or less Christian.—G-36'  [104].



"Italian Renaissance.  Catholic tradition


            Similarly in Italy, during the Renaissance, the Catholic tradition could not be banished from the intellect, since there was nothing articulate [of custom] to take its place; yet its hold on the heart was singularly relaxed.  The consequence was that humorists could regale themselves with the foibles of monks and of cardinals, with the credulity of fools, and the bogus miracles of the saints; not intending to deny the theory of the church, but caring for it so little at heart that they could find it infinitely amusing that it should be contradicted in men's lives and that no harm should come of it.—G-202"  [121-122].






"Kant, Fichte, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche


            Kant was a puritan; he revered the rule of right as something immutable and holy, perhaps never obeyed in the world.  Fichte was somewhat freer in his Calvinism; the rule of right was the moving power in all of life and nature, though it might have been betrayed by a doomed and self-seeking generation.  Hegel was a very free and superior Lutheran; he saw that the divine will was necessarily and continuously realised in this world, though we might not recognise the fact in our petty moral judgments.  Schopenhauer, speaking again for this human judgment, revolted against the cruel optimism, and was an indignant atheist; and finally, in Nietzsche, this atheism became exultant; he thought it the part of a man to abet the movement of things, however calamitous, in order to appropriate its wild force and be for a moment the very crest of its wave.—H-25"  [126].



"Rational animal.  Greeks


            Hardly anybody, except possibly the Greeks at their best, has realised the sweetness and glory of being a rational animal.—J-18"  [144].



"Slavery in America


            America is all one prairie, swept by a universal tornado.  Although it has always thought itself in an eminent sense the land of freedom, even when it was covered with slaves, there is no country in which people live under more overpowering compulsions.—J-209"  [148].



"Puritanism vs. purity


            It's a popular error to suppose that Puritanism has anything to do with purity.  The old Puritans were legally strict, they were righteous, but they were not particularly chaste.—K-8"  [149].





            People wouldn't become ministers unless they had rather second-hand minds.—K-19"  [149].  [See:, 64 ("Holy Clerks")].






"Romanism, Protestantism and Anglican

traditions compared


            Originally, Christianity was partly poetry and partly delusion.  The Roman Church clings to both parts equally; Protestantism has kept the delusion and destroyed the poetry; and only the Anglican tradition is capable of preserving the poetry, while sweeping the delusion away.—K-475"  [156].



"War compared with football

Moronic psychology


            When a private at first in the ranks, and soon in various more responsible posts, he realized how exactly war was like football.  He remembered all the false reasons which his mother and other high-minded people used to give us to justify that game:  that it was good for the health, or for young men's morals, or for testing and strengthening character; whereas he knew by experience that after the playing season every blackguard was as much, or twice as much, a blackguard as before, every sneak a sneak and every rake a rake.  So now the same outsiders apologized for this war, saying that poor Serbia had been outraged, or poor Belgium invaded, or the Lusitania sunk; all of which might be grounds for resentment.  Yet the soldier feels no resentment—except perhaps against his own officers—and has suffered no wrong.  He simply hears the bugle, as it were for the chase; endures discipline, when once he is caught in the mesh, because he can't help it; and fights keenly on occasion, because war is the greatest excitement, the greatest adventure in human life.  Just so, in little, football had been an outlet for instinct, and a mock war.  The howling crowds were stirred vicariously by the same craving for rush and rivalry, and were exactly like the public in time of war, cheering each its own side.  Oliver, in his secret mind, perfectly perceived all those pathetic but normal necessities; and he could acquiesce in them with a smile, because the physical man in him was engaged healthily, and seemed to move in unison with the world.  It was a comfort to run in harness, and to wear blinkers, fatigue shutting out the irrelevant prospect on one side, and public opinion shutting it off on the other.—K-541"  [156-157].



"Soldier vs. hangman


            I am glad that our son has no inclination to be a soldier.  No career displeases me more, and if I were a man it would repel me less to be a hangman than a soldier, because the one is obliged to put to death only






criminals sentenced by the law, but the other kills honest men who like himself bathe in innocent blood at the bidding of some superior.  Barbarous customs that I hope will disappear when there are no Kings and no desire for conquest and when man has the world for his country and all his fellow-beings for brothers.  You will say that I am dreaming.  It may be so.  Adieu.—L-22"  [159].



"Religion and philosophy


            Now I was aware, at first instinctively and soon quite clearly on historical and psychological grounds, that religion and all philosophy of that kind was invented.—L-85"  [161].  [excepting "soon", describes my (LS) history].





            Catholicism is the most human of religions, if taken humanly:  it is paganism spiritually transformed and made [other] meta-physical.—L-91"  [162].



"School time waste


            In the best schools, almost all school time is wasted.  Now and then something is learned that sticks fast; for the rest the boys are merely given time to grow and are kept from too much mischief.—L-154"  [164].



"German characteristics


            This joy in simplicity, this nostalgia for childishness, in highly educated, rich and terribly virtuous people surely is thoroughly German.—M-15"  [172].



"Catholicism.  Whiskey


            Perhaps, too, being Irish was closer to his inner man, and certainly more congruous with Catholicism and with whiskey.—M-55"  [172].








            Now laughter, as I have come to see in my old age, is the innocent youthful side of repentance, of disillusion, of understanding.—M-109"  [173-174].



"Absence of religion in Shakespeare


            If, therefore, we were asked to select one moment of human civilisation that should survive to some future age, or be transported to another planet to bear witness to the inhabitants there of what we have been upon earth, we should probably choose the works of Shakespeare.  In them we recognize the truest portrait and best memorial of man.  Yet the archeologists of that future age, or the cosmographers of that part of the heavens, after conscientious study of our Shakesperian autobiography, would misconceive our life in one important respect.  They would hardly understand that man had had a religion.


            There are, indeed, numerous exclamations and invocations in Shakespeare, which we, who have other means of information, know to be evidences of current religious ideas.  Shakespeare adopts these, as he adopts the rest of his vocabulary, from the society about him.  But he [Shakespeare] seldom or never gives them ["exclamations and invocations"] their original value.—P-681.




            Oaths are the fossils of piety.—P-682



Shakespeare's choice


            In all this depth of experience, however, there is still wanting any religious image.  The Sonnets are spiritual, but, with the doubtful exception of the one quoted above, they are not Christian.  And, of course, a poet of Shakespeare's time could not have found any other mould than Christianity for his religion.  In our day, with our wide and conscientious historical sympathies, it may be possible for us to find in other rites and doctrines than those of our ancestors an expression of some ultimate truth.  But for Shakespeare, in the matter of religion, the choice lay between Christianity and nothing.  He [SHAKESPEARE] chose nothing; he chose






to leave his heroes and himself in the presence of life and of death with no other philosophy than that which the profane world can suggest and understand.— P-684"  [188-189].



"Lucretius compared with St. Augustine


            My enthusiasm was largely dramatic; I recited my Lucretius with as much gusto as my Saint Augustine; and gradually Lucretius sank deeper and became more satisfying.—Q-24"  [193].





            I believe there is nothing immortal.—R-271"  [203].



"Catholic church, its origin


            The whole body of Catholic doctrine may have been contained in the oral teaching of Christ; or, on the other hand,


a historical Jesus may not have existed at all,


or may have been one among many obscure Jewish revolutionists, the one who, by accident, came afterward to be regarded as the initiator of a movement to which all sorts of forces contributed, and with which he had really had nothing to do.  In either case the fact remains which alone interests us here; that


after three or four centuries of confused struggles, an institution emerged which called itself the Catholic Church.—V-81-82"  [230-231].



"Christ—a product of the imagination


            Let not the reader fancy that in Christianity everything was settled by records and traditions. 


The idea of Christ himself had to be constructed by the imagination






in response to moral demands, tradition giving only the barest external points of attachment.—V-92"  [232].



"Fourth century compared with the sixteenth century


            What the Fathers did for the Church in the fourth century, the Reformers did for themselves in the sixteenth, and have continued to do on the occasion of their various appearances.—V-112"  [234-235].



'Character of the Gospels


            Many a "Life of Jesus" has been composed in the effort to recast the narratives of the four Gospels into one consecutive and credible history. 


For a believer, if he were greatly inspired, such an understanding might be legitimate; yet it would be hardly required, since the narratives, though independent, fall together of themselves, in the pious mind, into a total and impressive picture.  The history of Christian faith and of Christian art sufficiently proves it.  But this presupposes an innocent state of mind that accepts every detail, no matter how miraculous, with unhesitating joy, and is ready sympathetically to piece out the blanks in the story, and to imagine ever more vividly how everything must have happened.  So ever orthodox preacher does in his glowing sermons, and every devout soul in his meditations.


            If, however, the would-be biographer of Jesus is a cool critic, with no religious assumptions, his labours will be entirely wasted, because he has mistaken the character of his texts. 


The Gospels are not historical works, but products of inspiration. 


They are summonses and prophecies, announcing the end of this world, or at least of the present era, and prescribing the means by which individual souls may escape destruction, and enter into a Kingdom of Heaven which is at hand.  Essentially, then, the Gospels are prophetic; they bring "glad tidings"; yet they are not written by the prophets themselves, but gathered together a generation or two later from oral tradition or from the inspirations of the Apostles and of anonymous believers through whom the spirit had not ceased to speak:  nor is it excluded that the Evangelists themselves should have had original inspirations.  In the Gospels, the unction, the freshness, the life-like details in many






places are so many proofs of their poetic source.  The writer is telling of something now standing before his eyes, of which his heart is full.  He is not collecting reports, he is not remembering events that he himself has ever witnessed.  If he overhears those discourses, it is by telepathy; if he sees those scenes, it is in a vision; if he knows those truths, it is by faith.—W-3-4.



Are the Gospels inspired?

Gospels, Homer, Upanishads and Koran compared


            For a sympathetic humanist and unprejudiced man of letters, there is no more reason for swearing by the letter of the Gospels than by that of Homer or the Upanishads or the Koran.  We may prefer the spirit of one or another, but the moral beauty in them all is equally natural, equally human; and nothing but custom or a mystical conversion can lead us to regard the inspiration in one case only as miraculous, and a revealed mirror of the exact truth.—W-5





            What is inspiration?  We see in the Gospels that madmen were conceived to be possessed by devils; and antiquity in general regarded originality or genius in mankind as something infused by a magic spell, by the Muses, or by the spirit of some God; …  Nevertheless, everybody knows…that the wilder inspiration produced by opiates and toxic gases, as well as that of spiritualist mediums, shows a strange mixture of dreamlike incoherence with bits of supernatural perception and prophecy.—W-7'  [238-239].



"Gospels and the church


            The Gospels that we possess were…composed in the Church, by the Church, and for the Church.—W-14"  [240].



"Evolution of the Christ idea


            Preachers, prophets and evangelists would conspire to put into the mouth of Christ whatever words their inspiration thought to be worthy of him:  the more memorable and impressive of these words would be retained and repeated; and the idea of Christ would grow and solidify in the minds of the faithful under the control of the very faith that evoked it.







"Christ and Christianity


            The idea of Christ is much older than Christianity.—W-42"  [241].



"Origin of myths and gods


            Expectation, memory, and dialogue transcend themselves in still another manner.  The actual datum is a fictitious object like a person in a novel; but it is taken for evidence of a fact:  and the credulous intellect is launched upon a sea of conversations with its past, its future, and an entire imagined society of gods and men.—W-241"  [242].



"Unfit.  Proletariat


            There have always been beggars and paupers in the world, because there is bound to be a margin of the unfit—too bad or too good—to keep in step with any well-organized society; but that the great body of mankind should sink into a proletariat has been an unhappy effect of the monstrous growth of cities, made possible by the concentration of trade and the multiplication of industries, mechanized and swelling into monopolies.—Atlantic, Jan., 1949. Mis. 9


            (Is it possible there could be too many people?—Ed.)





            A child educated only at school is an uneducated child.—in "Why I Am Not a Marxist", Modern Monthly 9:77. Mis. 10"  [259].





            The Jews, says Spinoza, whenever they think something, say God told them.—MH-3"  [262].






"Peace with Destiny


            Each religion, by the help of more or less myth which it takes more or less seriously, proposes some method of fortifying the human soul and enabling it to make its peace with its destiny.—MH-4"  [262].



"Ever the Learner


            On, no:  I had never wished to teach.  I had nothing to teach.  I wished only to learn, to be always the student, never the professor.  And with being eternally a student went the idea of being free to move, to pass from one town and one country to another, at least while enough youth and energy remained for me to love exploration and to profit by it.—MH-98"  [267].





            Christianity is a revealed and militant religion.  It would die out at once if it were not expressly inculcated.

—DP-288"  [279].





            All the doctrines that have flourished in the world about immortality have hardly affected men's natural sentiment in the face of death, a sentiment which those doctrines, if taken seriously, ought wholly to reverse.—LE-50"  [288].



            "In spite of the theologians, we know by instinct that in speaking of gods we are dealing in myths and symbols.—LE-55"  [289].



"Materialism and Morals"  [292]


            "So men have feverishly conceived a heaven only to find it insipid, and a hell to find it ridiculous.—LE 278"  [296].


l l l l l






from:  De Tribus Impostoribus, A.D. 1230 [entirely backdated?].  The Three Impostors, Translated (with Notes and Comments), From a French Manuscript of the Work Written in the Year 1716, With a Dissertation on the Original Treatise, and A Bibliography of the Various Editions, by Alcofribas Nasier, The Later.  Privately Printed for the Subscribers.  1904.  [See:  online].  [See:  666].  [Note:  this work is an amalgam, with contradictory opinions, etc.].











            However important it may be for all men to know the Truth, very few, nevertheless, are acquainted with it, because the majority are incapable of searching it themselves, or perhaps, do not wish the trouble.  Thus we must not be astonished if the world is filled with vain and ridiculous opinions, and nothing is more capable of making them current than ignorance, which is the sole source of the false ideas that exist regarding the Divinity, the soul, and the spirit, and all the errors depending thereon.


            The custom of being satisfied with born prejudice has prevailed, and by following this custom, mankind agrees in all things with persons interested in supporting stubbornly the opinions thus received, and who would speak otherwise did they not fear to destroy themselves.




            What renders the evil without remedy, is, that after having established these silly ideas of God, they teach the people to receive them without examination.  They take great care to impress them with aversion for philosophers, fearing that the Truth which they teach will alienate them.  The errors in which the partisans of these absurdities have been plunged, have thrived so well that it is dangerous to combat them.  It is too important for these impostors that the people remain in this gross and culpable ignorance than to allow them to be disabused.  Thus they are constrained to disguise the truth, or to be sacrificed to the rage of false prophets and selfish souls.








            If the people could comprehend the abyss in which this ignorance casts them, they would doubtless throw off the yoke of these venal minds, since it is impossible for Reason to act without immediately discovering the Truth.  It is to prevent the good effects that would certainly follow, that they depict it as a monster incapable of inspiring any good sentiment, and however we may censure in general those who are not reasonable, we must nevertheless be persuaded that Truth is quite perverted.  These enemies of Truth fall also into such perpetual contradictions that it is difficult to perceive what their real pretensions are.  In the meanwhile it is true that Common Sense is the only rule that men should follow, and the world should not be prevented from making use of it."  ["38"-39].















            Those who ignore physical causes have a natural fear born of doubt.  Where there exists a power which to them is dark or unseen, from thence comes a desire to pretend the existence of invisible Beings, that is to say their own phantoms which they invoke in adversity, whom they praise in prosperity, and of whom in the end they make Gods.  And as the visions of men go to extremes, must we be astonished if there are created an innumerable quantity of Divinities?  It is the same perceptible fear of invisible powers which has been the origin of Religions, that each forms to his fashion.  Many individuals to whom it was important that mankind should possess such fancies, have not scrupled to encourage mankind in such beliefs, and they have made it their law until they have prevailed upon the people to blindly obey them by the fear of the future.




            The Gods having thus been invented…."  ["44"].






"all final causes are but human fictions."  [47].













            Before the word Religion was introduced in the world mankind was only obliged to follow natural laws and to conform to common sense.  This instinct alone was the tie by which men were united, and so very simple was this bond of unity, that nothing among them was more rare than dissensions.  But when fear created a suspicion that there were Gods, and invisible powers, they raised altars to these imaginary beings, so that in putting off the yoke of Nature and Reason, which are the sources of true life, they subjected themselves by vain ceremonies and superstitious worship to frivolous phantoms of the imagination, and that is whence arose this word Religion which makes so much noise in the world…."  ["56"].





            These causes of Religion, that is, Hope and Fear, leaving out the passions, judgments and various resolutions of mankind, have produced the great number of extravagant beliefs which have caused so much evil, and the many revolutions which have convulsed the nations."  [59].







"….there being no reputable scholar who would offend by saying that


the A [see footnote, 660] history of Jesus Christ is a fable,






and that his law is but a tissue of idle fancies that ignorance has put in vogue and that interest preserves.





            Nevertheless it is pretended that a Religion which rests on such frail foundations is quite divine and supernatural, as if we did not know that there were never persons more convenient to give currency to the most absurd opinions than women and idiots.


            It is not strange, then, that Jesus did not choose Philosophers and Scholars for his Apostles.  He knew that his law and good sense were diametrically opposed.A [see footnote, 661]  That is the reason why he declaims in so many places against the wise, and excludes them from his kingdom, where were to be admitted the poor in spirit, the silly and the crazy."  [78-79].


[footnote (see 659)] 'A.Vide Boniface VIII. (1294) and Leo X. (1513) Boniface said that men had the same souls as beasts, and that these human and bestial souls lived no longer than each other.  The Gospel also says that all other laws teach several virtues and several lies; for example, a Trinity which is false, the child-birth of a Virgin which is impossible, and the incarnation and transubstantiation which are ridiculous.  I do not believe, continued he, other than that the Virgin was a she-ass, and her son the issue of a she-ass.


Leo X. went one day to a room where his treasures were kept, and exclaimed


"we must admit that this fable of Jesus Christ has been quite profitable to us.["]






[footnote (see 660)] A The belief in the Christian doctrine is strange and wild to reason and human judgment.  It is contrary to all Philosophy and discourse of Truth, as may be seen in all the articles of faith which can neither be comprehended nor understood by human intellect, for they appear impossible and quite strange.  Mankind, in order to believe and receive them, must control and subject his reason, submitting his understanding to the obedience of the faith.  St. Paul says that if man considers and hears philosophy and measures things by the compass of Truth, he will forsake all, and ridicule it as folly.


That is the avowal made by Charron in a book entitled "The Three Truths," page 180.  Edition of Bordeaux, 1593.


This inserted note is written on the back of a portion of a letter addressed to "Prince graaft by de Sepigel straat.  A  Amsterdam," postmarked "Ce 4e. Aout. 1746."'  [78-79].


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from:  The Corpus of Clandestine Literature in France 1769–1789, Robert Darnton, Norton, c1995.





The following list provides a guide to the literature that circulated outside the law in France from 1769 to 1789.  Although it does not cover every book sold "under the cloak" (sous le manteau) during those years, it offers a fairly complete view of the entire corpus of illegal literature, 720 works in all; and it indicates the relative importance of the demand for most of those books, the 457 ordered on a large scale by booksellers who drew their stock from the Société typographique de Neuchâtel, (STN).


In order to complete the picture that can be sketched from the archives of the STN and to correct for any bias inherent in those documents, information has been culled from three other sources:  publishers' catalogues of their illegal stock (1772–80); inventories of books seized in police raids on bookshops (1773–83); and registers of books confiscated in the Paris Customs (1771–89).  Each of these sources has peculiar strengths and weaknesses, and none is exhaustive in itself.  When taken together, however, they provide an overview of the whole range of forbidden books in pre-Revolutionary France....'  [3].



"720 Forbidden Books"  [11]


"689.            Traité des trois imposteurs.  [Jan Vroesen? [d. 1725]]  Yverdon, 1768.  Originally printed from an [a] MS treatise with revisions by Jean Aymon and Jean Rousset in La Vie et l' esprit de M. Benoît Spinoza [1632 – 1677], 1719. 


At least 5 editions between 1768 and 1780...."  [180].






"General Pattern of Demand by Genres


Category and


Number of Titles


Number of Copies Ordered









I. Religion





















Satire,  Polemics







Irreligious Ribaldry,
























II. Philosophy





















Collected Works,














Satire, Polemics












*Rounding creates the discrepancy in the subtotals of percentages.











General, Social,







Cultural Criticism










































Topical  Works







Libels, Court








































































































































Most Frequently Ordered Titles in Each Category and














    A.  Treatises








Système de la nature.  [d' Holbach [1723 – 1789]]




Histoire critique de Jésus-Christ... [d' Holbach]




Christianisme (le) dévoilé...[d' Holbach]




Bon-Sens (le)...[d' Holbach]




Contagion (la) sacrée...[trans. by d' Holbach?]




Cruauté (de la) religieuse. [trans. by d' Holbach]




Examen critique des apologistes de la religion




chrétienne ...[Lévesque de Burigny?]




Lettre de Thrasibule à Leucippe...[Fréret,  




d' Holbach, or Naigeon?]




Lettre d' un théologien à l'auteur du Dictionnaire




des trois siècles littéraires.  [Condorcet]




Militaire (le) philosophe...[d' Holbach and Naigeon]










    B.  Satire, Polemics








Essai philosophique sur le monachisme...[Linguet]




Dissertation sur l' établissement de l' abbaye




de St. Claude...[Christin]




Antiquité (l') et perpétuité de la religion








Théologie portative...[d' Holbach]




Compère Mathieu...[Du Laurens]




Chrétien (un) contre six juifs.  [Voltaire]




Examen important de Milord Bolingbroke...












Traité des trois imposteurs.  [Vroes?












Histoire de Jenni....[Voltaire]




Dialogue entre un évêque et un cure...[Guidi]













    C.  Irreligious Ribaldry, Pornography








Arrétin (l').  [Du Laurens]




Lettre philosophique...Anon.




Pucelle (la) d' Orléans...Voltaire




Lauriers (les) ecclésiastiques...[Rochette de La








Histoire de dom B..., portier des Chartreux...




[Gervaise de Latouche or Nourry?]




Chandelle (la) d' Arras...[Du Laurens]




Monialisme (le)...Anon.




Vie (la) voluptueuse entre les Capucins et les








Histoire de la tourière des Carmélites...[Meusnier




de Querlon]




Nouvelles monacales...Anon.










II.  PHILOSOPHY...."  [202-204].






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from:  The Treatise of the Three Impostors and the Problem of Enlightenment, A New Translation of the Traité des trois Inposteurs [Imposteurs] (1777 Edition), With Three Essays in Commentary, Abraham Anderson, Rowman & Littlefield, 1997 (1719) (dates of sources (to 1230?)?).





Of God."  ["3"]





Of the Reasons Which Have Led Men to Imagine

an Invisible Being Which is Commonly Called God.


§ I.


            Those who are ignorant of physical causes have a natural fear (*) which proceeds from uneasiness & from the doubt they are in, if there exists | [the vertical line represents a page change, in the original] a Being or a power which has the capacity to harm them or to preserve them.  Thence the penchant which they have to feign invisible causes, which are only the Phantoms of their imagination, which they invoke in adversity & which they praise in prosperity.  They make themselves Gods out of these in the end, & this chimerical fear of invisible powers is the source of the Religions which each forms after his own fashion.  Those to whom it mattered11 that the people be contained & arrested by such dreamings have fostered this seed of religion, have made a law of it, & have finally reduced the peoples by the terrors of the future, to obeying blindly."  [7].



"....They consult the Bible as if God & nature were explained there in some particular fashion; although this book is only a tissue of fragments stitched together at different times, collected by | different persons, & published on the authority of the Rabbis who decided according to their fancy what should be approved or rejected, as they found it in conformity or opposed to the Law of Moses.  (a)  Such is the malice & the stupidity of men.  They pass their lives in quibbling & persist in respecting a book in which there is no more order than in the Alcoran [Koran] of Mahomet; a book [the Bible], I say, which no one understands, it is so obscure & ill conceived; a book which serves only to foment divisions.  The Jews & Christians prefer consulting this book of spells to listening to the natural Law which God, that is to say Nature, insofar as it is the






principle of all things, has written in the heart of men.  All other laws are but | human fictions, & pure illusions given birth, not by Demons or evil Spirits, which never existed but in idea, but by the politics of Princes & of Priests.  The first wanted thereby to give more weight to their authority, & the latter have wanted to enrich themselves by the retailing of an infinity of chimeras [illusions] which they sell dear to the ignorant.


            All the other laws which have succeeded to that of Moses, I mean the laws of the Christians, are supported by nothing but that Bible the original of which is nowhere to be found, which contains supernatural & impossible things, which speaks of rewards & punishments for good or bad actions, but which are only for the other life, for fear that the trick be discovered, none ever having returned from there.  Thus the people always floating between hope & fear is retained in its duty by the opinion it has that God has made men only in order to render them eternally happy or unhappy.  This is what has given rise to an infinity of Religions."  [12-13].



"§ XII.




            "Being born of a Virgin by the operation of the Holy Spirit then, is no more extraordinary nor more miraculous than what the Tartars tell of their Gengiskan, of whom a Virgin was also the mother, the Chinese say that the God Foë27 owed his birth to a Virgin made fecund by the rays of the sun.


            This prodigy happened at a time when the Jews tired of their God, as they had been of | their Judges (a) wanted to have a visible one like the other nations.  As the number of fools is infinite, Jesus Christ found Subjects everywhere; but since his extreme poverty was an invincible obstacle (b) to his elevation, the Pharisees, sometimes his admirers, sometimes jealous of his audacity, lowered him or raised him up according to the inconstant humor of the Populace.  There was rumor of his Divinity; but stripped of forces as he was, it was impossible that his design succeed:  Some sick persons whom he cured, some pretended dead people whom he resuscitated brought him into fashion; but having neither money nor army, he [Jesus] could not fail to perish:  if he had had these two instruments, he would have succeeded no less than Moses or Mahomet, or than all those who have had the ambition to raise themselves above others."  [23-24].






"....there not being any truly learned men who believe they injure the truth in saying that |


the story of Jesus Christ is a (a) [see footnote, below] contemptible fable


& that his law is nothing but a tissue of dreamings which ignorance brought into fashion, which interest maintains, & which tyranny protects.


§ XVI.


            It is nonetheless pretended that a Religion established on foundations so feeble, is divine & supernatural, as if it were not well known that there are no people more proper for giving currency to the most absurd opinions than women & fools; it is therefore no marvel that Jesus Christ had no Learned men among his followers, he knew well that his Law could not be made to agree with good sense; this, no doubt, is why he declaimed so often | against the wise whom he excluded from his Kingdom, where he admits none but the poor in spirit, the simple & the imbeciles:  Reasonable minds should console themselves that they have no business with madmen."  [26].




'(a) That is the judgment which Pope Leo X pronounced on it, as appears from his remark so well known and so bold in a century in which the philosophical spirit had still made so little progress.  


"It has been known from time immemorial," he [LEO X] said to Cardinal Bembo,



"how much this fable of Jesus Christ has been profitable to us." 


Quantum nobis nostrisque ea de Christo fabula prosuerit, satis est omnis seculis notum.'  [26].


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