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Proudhon clears things up

Now available thanks to Shawn P. Wilbur at Contr'un:

Proudhon was fond of scandal and provocation—and it got him, and his friends, into hot water. In his System of Economic Contradictions, he wrapped his already provocative thesis about the evolution of institutions around a scandalous narrative about "the hypothesis of God." Proudhon was fascinated with Christianity, and wrote about it from a variety of perspectives and in a variety of tones, but he is probably best remembered for writings like his "Hymn to Satan" and the final chapter of the first volumes of the Economic Contradictions, where he worked himself up to a sort of declaration of war against the very idea of God:
"If God did not exist"— it is Voltaire, the enemy of religions, who says so, — "it would be necessary to invent him." Why? "Because," adds the same Voltaire, "if I were dealing with an atheist prince whose interest it might be to have me pounded in a mortar, I am very sure that I should be pounded." Strange aberration of a great mind! And if you were dealing with a pious prince, whose confessor, speaking in the name of God, should command that you be burned alive, would you not be very sure of being burned also? Do you forget, then, anti-Christ, the Inquisition, and the Saint Bartholomew, and the stakes of Vanini and Bruno, and the tortures of Galileo, and the martyrdom of so many free thinkers? Do not try to distinguish here between use and abuse: for I should reply to you that from a mystical and supernatural principle, from a principle which embraces everything, which explains everything, which justifies everything, such as the idea of God, all consequences are legitimate, and that the zeal of the believer is the sole judge of their propriety.


Read the whole thing at Contr'un.

Joseph Déjacque – The Humanisphere (Preface)

Now available thanks to Shawn P. Wilbur at Contr'un:

The Humanisphere:
Anarchic Utopia

Joseph Déjacque

UTOPIA: "A dream not realized, but not unrealizable."

ANARCHY: "Absence of government."

Revolutions are conservations. (P. J. PROUDHON)

The only true revolutions are the revolutions of ideas. (JOUFFROY)

Let us make customs, and no longer make laws. (EMILE DE GIRARDIN)

So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty…. Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE)

What is this Book!

This book is not a literary work, it is an infernal labor, the cry of a rebel slave.

Being, like the cabin boy of the Salamander, unable, in my individual weakness, to strike down all those who, on the ship of the legal order, dominate and mistreat me, when my day is done at the workshop, when my watch is finished on the bridge, I descend by night to the bottom of the hold, I take possession of my solitary corner and, there, with teeth and claws, like a rat in the shadows, I scratch and gnaw at the worm-eaten walls of the old society. By day, as well, I use my hours of unemployment, I arm myself with a pen like a borer, I dip it in bile for grease, and, little by little, I open a way, each day larger, to the flood of the new; I relentless perforate the hull of Civilization. I, a puny proletarian, on whom the crew, the horde of exploiters, daily inflict the torment of the aggravated misery of the ...

Read the whole thing at Contr'un.

Jeanne Deroin, "Letter … on the Organization of Credit" (1851) – 3

Now available thanks to Shawn P. Wilbur at Two-Gun Mutualism & the Golden Rule:

Letter to the Associations on the Organization of Credit

[Conclusion; continued from Part IPart II]

Revolutions cannot produce the well-being toward which the suffering classes aspire, they almost always serve as stepping stones for a few ambitious types to come to power.

And when they are achieved, they continue the habits of the past. They find no other means to combat poverty, when the sufferers grow weary and irritated, than the compression which provokes resistance and prepare new battles.

And when the sufferers resign themselves, alms, which adds moral degradation to poverty, and which is an outrage to human dignity.

It is because the rights of the disinherited are misunderstood that revolutions are providentially necessary; and, in that case, the justice of the people is the justice of God.

And it is the disagreement on the choice of means to combat poverty and constitute well-being which has caused reactions up to the present.

But social science had come to bring the light.

Socialism is the synthesis of all the social truths taught by the reformers.

The various schools differ in the means of organization, but, deep down, they all have the same basis: SOLIDARITY;

The same principal means: ORGANIZATION OF LABOR;

The same goal: WELL-BEING FOR ALL.

They differ on the degree of solidarity;

On the mode of organization;

On the nature and enlargement of well-being that suits the human being.

These differences manifest the wisdom of the ways of Providence, which intended that the teaching of social verities should simultaneously penetrate the various classes of society, in the forms most in harmony with their various needs and aspirations.

And the discussions that rise from these differences must cast light on the great questions of social economy.

But practice alone can give a certain solution to these ...

Read the whole thing at Two-Gun Mutualism & the Golden Rule.

Jeanne Deroin, "Letter … on the Organization of Credit" (1851) – 2

Now available thanks to Shawn P. Wilbur at Two-Gun Mutualism & the Golden Rule:

Letter to the Associations on the Organization of Credit

[continued from Part I]

The circulation of these bills of credit assuring to each of the associations adhering to the mutual credit the business of all the other subscribing associations.

In order to form a mutual credit bureau, it is not necessary to form public gatherings. All that is required, to give the first impetus, is a few associations of various professions which have understood all the present advantages and all the possible results of this mode of credit.

The bills of credit should have a character of unity, and come from a common center, in order to give the mutual credit a more powerful guarantee, and to avoid making an emission of bills surpassing the resources of the credit.

But when two or three associations of different professions resolve to establish the mutual credit, and take the initiative to establish a credit bureau, no discussion will be necessary to lead the other associations: those who do not want to take part will not receive the bills, and they will await the results.

There will be nothing to discuss; it is not a question of a theory, but of a practical fact, and practical means are the best means of propaganda; the least fait accompli often has more value than an axiom.

The associations that wish to subscribe at the founding of the Bureau of Mutual Credit, will make a loan to that bureau, by subscribing an emission of bills of credit which cannot surpass the amount of consumption that they can make of the products and labors of the other adherent associations for three or six months.

That loan must be based on consumption, because it is an advance made in proportion to the consumptive needs of the lenders.


Read the whole thing at Two-Gun Mutualism & the Golden Rule.

Jeanne Deroin, "Letter to the Associations on the Organization of Credit" (1851)

Now available thanks to Shawn P. Wilbur at Contr'un:

The radical literature that any of us are actually familiar with always seems to be just a drop in the bucket. There are masses of largely ephemeral publications in every language, and all of the advances in digital archiving have only really begun to make any sort of dent in the work to be done. We can't ignore all that ephemera, unless we're content with a sort of abstract, top-down understanding of our traditions. After all, for every Proudhon, there were a dozen Greenes and Langlois, and for every one of them there were dozens of Junquas and Blackers, and for every one of them there were hundreds and thousands of rank-and-file radicals, many of them with ideas all their own. When we scour all the radical papers, we'll still only get a sample of the real history of the radical movements—but at least it will be a start.

In the meantime, a lot of the work to do involves relatively "big names" in radicalism. Some of that is, of course, translation. There's still a lot of work to do on Proudhon, and we've hardly started on his collaborators. We've also hardly started on his critics—and the literature of direct responses to Proudhon is huge by itself. This last weekend, while I was tabling the Portland Anarchist Bookfair, I dedicated my transit time to a pair of pamphlets debating the merits of Proudhon's work: "Histoire de M. Proudhon et de ses principes," by "Satan" and "Réponse à Satan au sujet de M. Proudhon" by "l'Archange Saint-Michel." "Satan" was apparently Georges-Marie Dairnvæll, the author of a number of other works, and the "Response" was published by the Société d'Education Mutuelle des Femmes, a group founded by Jeanne Deroin and Desirée Gay. I recently translated the manifesto ...

Read the whole thing at Contr'un.

A socialist-feminist document from 1849

Now available thanks to Shawn P. Wilbur at Two-Gun Mutualism & the Golden Rule:









In the name of God and the solidarity which links all the member of the great human family;

We affirm that women have the same right as men to liberty, equality and fraternity.

Liberty, for woman as for man, is the right and the power to develop and exercise freely and harmoniously all his physical, intellectual and moral faculties, without any limit but the respect of the rights of each. All liberties are solidary; one cannot undermine any without damaging the others.

Equality is, for man as for woman, he right and power to take part in all the acts of social life, to the degree that one’s faculties and aptitudes allow.

To split humanity into two unequal parts, to refuse to woman here rights to liberty and equality, is to undermine principle and sanction the right of the strongest and of privilege.

Fraternity is the practice and liberty and equality for all, male and female; it is the respect of the rights of all the members of the great human family, the dedication of all to each and each to all.

To refuse to woman her rights of liberty and equality is to perpetuate antagonism, to mistake the respect for human dignity and the principles of fraternity and solidarity which are the basis of universal harmony.

Humanity is male and female; the law formulated by man alone cannot satisfy the needs of humanity.

The law of God, the rights of the people and of woman are misunderstood; the woman, the child, the laborer are oppressed and exploited by incomplete, oppressive and foolish laws, to the profit of the strongest and of those privileged by birth or fortune.

We affirm, in the name of the holy law of solidarity, that no one has the right to be completely free and happy as long as there is one single being that is oppressed and suffering.

We affirm that social reform cannot be accomplished without the assistance of woman, of half of humanity. And just as the political emancipation of the proletarian is the first step towards his physical emancipation, just so the political emancipation of woman is the first step towards the complete liberation of all the oppressed.

That is why we appeal to all women and to all men of heart and intelligence, to all those (male and female) who have the courage of their opinions, respect for principles, and who never recoil from practice, to come to our aid, to enter into the real path of social reform, opening the gates of the city to the last of the pariahs, to woman, without whom we cannot accomplish the work of our social redemption.

1˚. The adherents of the association are all women and all men who accept our declaration of principles, and who commit themselves to assist, to the degree enabled by their faculties and aptitudes, in the propagation, teaching and realization of these principles.

2˚. The members of the association are either apostles, propagators or subscribers.

3˚. Three commissioners direct the labors of the association: an apostolic commission, a commission of propaganda, and a commission of administration.

4˚. The apostolic commission is composed of men and women who dedicate themselves to develop, teach and sustain by speech, in all the public meetings, and by their writings, the principles contained in our declaration.

5˚. The propaganda commission is composed of all the men and women who have for mission to collect the memberships, and to establish a center of correspondence in all the arrondissements of Paris and all the departments.

6˚. The administrative commission is composed of twelve members elected by he subscribers; it is occupied with all the details of administration; a regulation will fix its allocations.

7˚. The subscriptions will have for aim: to transform our monthly journal into a weekly journal, the publication of writings approved by the apostolic Pommission, the payment of travel expenses and of all the expenditures necessary for the propagation of principles.

For the members of the Apostolic Commission,


The members of the Propaganda Commission send the lists of membership and subscription the first of each month to the seat of the Apostolic Commission, at the office of the journal l’Opinion des femmes, 29, grande rue verte.

[translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]

Read the whole thing at Two-Gun Mutualism & the Golden Rule.

Joseph Déjacque and "The Circulus in Universality"

Now available thanks to Shawn P. Wilbur at Two-Gun Mutualism & the Golden Rule:

It's long, and the translation is still a little rough, but I would encourage folks to take the time to read Joseph Déjacque's The Circulus in Universality and to look at the other texts by him: "To the Ci-Devant Dynastics," Down with the Bosses!"The Theory of Infinitesimal Humanities," and the excerpt from The Humanisphere published as "Authority and Idleness." Once you have some sense of the terrain, you may also want to take a look at the in-progress translation of The Humanisphere that Jesse Cohn has posted.

Déjacque is another of those figures who deserves to be more than just a genealogical footnote in the histories of anarchism, an anarchist-communist predecessor whose work remains largely unknown. He called out Proudhon for being a sexist jerk (although his defense of Jenny d’Héricourt was itself a bit masculinist) and invited him to become "frankly and completely an anarchist" by giving up all forms of property—and of contract—demonstrating that he was a much more astute reader of Proudhon than many, then and since. He wrote a wild utopia incorporating lots of elements borrowed from Fourier and Leroux—all pushed to their libertarian extremes. I don't think anyone can get very far into any of Déjacque's works without sensing that the waters are deep—and rather uncharted for most of us.

It helps to know a bit about Fourier's theory, according to which the motive force of everything is the action of "the passions," which inspire not only human behavior, but the movement of animals, stars and planets, etc. (For "passional zoology," for instance, check out these translations from Toussenel's writings.) Fourier was convinced that the "civilized" tendency to treat the passions as opposed to reason and progress was entirely wrong-headed, and instead aimed towards a society where all the passions—even, or perhaps especially, those considered propagators of vice—would find harmonious outlets. When Proudhon claimed that there are "as many special rights as humans can raise different claims," and insisted on seeking the progressive "aims" of presently-despotic institutions like property, he was working on Fourier's turf. Fourier sketched out much of what Déjacque presents as "the circulus in universality," and certainly paved the way for the account of "humanities" ranging from the "infinitesimal" to the "multiversal," but Déjacque also drew inspiration from Pierre Leroux, who generalized from Fourier's hints. Leroux understood the constant movement and complex interconnection of everything in terms of a kind of general "communion." (For a taste of his secularized, neo-christian "gospel of humanity," see "What If the Gospel was Right?" or the "Aphorisms" compiled by Luc Désages, Auguste Desmoulins. For William B. Greene's take on all of this, see The Doctrine of Life.) Déjacque's fierce anti-clerical feelings didn't prevent him from picking up the sense of communion from Leroux, any more than his related anti-property position prevented him from placing the egoistic individual at the heart of his anarchist utopia.

What follows is one more section from The Humanisphere, which immediately precedes the section sometimes labeled "Authority and Idleness." It's strong stuff, in many ways, particularly in its treatment of all forms of "constraint."
… Constraint is the mother of all vices. And it is banished by reason from the Humanisphere. Of course egoism, intelligent egoism, is too well developed there for anyone to think of assaulting their neighbor. And it is by egoism that they make fair exchanges.
Man is egoism. Without egoism, man would not exist. It is egoism which is the motive of all his actions, the motor of all his thoughts. It is what makes him think of his own preservation, and of his development, which is also his preservation. It is egoism which teaches him to produce in order to consume, to care for others because they are in agreement, to like others because they like him, to work for others because those other have worked for him. It is egoism which stimulates his ambition and excites him to distinguish himself in all the careers where man employs his strength, skill, and intelligence. It is egoism which elevates him to the height of genius; it is to improve himself, to enlarge the circle of his influence, that man carries his head high and sets his gaze on the distance. It is for his own gratification that he marches off to win collective satisfactions. It is for himself, individually, that he wants to participate in the lively effervescence of the general good fortune; it is for his own sake that he dreads the thought of the suffering of others. His egoism, constantly goaded by the instinct of his gradual development, and by the sentiment of solidarity which ties him to his fellows, demands perpetual expression of his existence in the existence of others. It is what ancient society improperly called devotion, but which is only speculation—more humanitarian as it is more intelligent, and more humanicidal as it is more idiotic. Man in society only reaps what he sows. If he reaps disease, he sows disease. He reaps health if he sows health. Man is the social cause of all the effects he suffers in society. If he is brotherly, he will create fraternity among those around him, if he is fratricidal, he will create fratricide. It is not humanly possible to make a move, to act with the arms, the heart or the brain, without the sensation reflecting back from one to the other like an electric shock. And that takes place in the state of anarchic community, in the state of free and intelligent nature, as in the state of civilization, the state of domesticated man, of nature enchained. Only, in civilization, man being institutionally at war with man, he can only envy the good fortune of his neighbor, and howl and gnash his teeth at his expense. He is a mastiff, tied, crouching in his kennel and gnawing his bone, growling in ferocious and constant menace. Under anarchy, man, being harmonically at peace with his fellows, will know that competition with them, in the pursuit of their passions, will bring universal good fortune. In the Humanisphere, a hive where liberty is the queen, man gathering from men only perfumes, will know how to produce only honey. So don’t curse egoism, for to curse egoism is to curse man. The suppression of our passions is the sole cause of their disastrous effects. Man, like society, is perfectible. General ignorance has been the inevitable cause of our misfortunes; universal science will be the remedy. Let us educate ourselves, therefore, and let us spread the knowledge around us. Let us analyze, compare, contemplate and thus arrive at the scientific knowledge of our natural mechanisms.
In the Humanisphere, there is no government. An attractive organization takes the place of legislation. The liberty of sovereign individuals presides over all collective decisions. The authority of anarchy, the absence of all dictatorship of number or strength, replaces arbitrary authority, the despotism of the sword and the law. Faith in ourselves is the religion of the Humanisphereans. Gods and priests, religious superstitions will rouse against themselves universal disapproval. It is by their own laws that each governs themselves, and it is on that government of each by himself that the social order is founded.

Consult history, and see if authority has ever been anything but universal suicide. The destruction of man by man—do you call that order? Is it order that reigns in Paris, in Warsaw, in St. Petersburg, in Vienna, in Rome, in Naples and Madrid, in aristocratic England and democratic America? I tell you that it is murder! Order with dagger or cannon, gallows or guillotine; order with Siberia or Cayenne, with the knout or the bayonet, with the watchman’s baton or the sword of the policeman; order personified in that homicidal trinity: iron, gold, and holy water; the order of gunshots, or shots from bibles or bank-bills; the order which sits enthroned on corpses and feeds on them, that can pass for order in moribund civilizations, but it will never be anything but disorder, a gangrene in societies lacking the sentiment of life. Authorities are vampires, and vampires are monsters who only live in cemeteries and only walk in darkness.

Consult your memories and you will see that the greatest absence of authority has always produced the greatest amount of harmony. See the people atop their barricades, and say if in these passing moments anarchy, they do not testify, by their conduct, in favor of natural order. Among these men who are there, arms bare and black with powder, there are certainly no lack of ignorant natures, men hardly smoothed by the plane of social education, and capable, in their private life and as heads of families, of many brutalities towards their wives and children. See them, then, in the midst of the public insurrection and in the role of men momentarily free. Their brutality has been transformed as by magic into sweet courtesy. Let a woman pass by, and they will have only decent and polite words for her.


Now then the absence of orders is the true order. The law and the sword is only the order of bandits, the code of theft and murder that presides at the division of the spoils, at the massacre of the victims. It is on that bloody pivot that the civilized world turns. Anarchy is its antipode, and that antipode is the axis of the humanispherean world.

— Liberty is all their government.
— Liberty is all their constitution.
— Liberty is all their legislation.
— Liberty is all their regulation.
— Liberty is all their contracts.
— Everything that is not liberty is outside of morals.
— Liberty, all liberty, nothing but liberty — such is the formula engraved on the tablets of their conscience, the criterion of all their relations with one another.
  If I were presenting all of this in a classroom, I suspect my questions to students would be about what kind of "anarchist communism" is implied by Déjacque's work....

Read the whole thing at Two-Gun Mutualism & the Golden Rule.

The Circulus in Universality

Now available thanks to Shawn P. Wilbur at Two-Gun Mutualism & the Golden Rule:

The Circulus in Universality (1858)

Joseph Déjacque


The circulus in universality is the destruction of every religion, of all arbitrariness, be it elysian or tartarean, heavenly or infernal. The movement in the infinite is infinite progress. This being the case, the world can no longer be a duality, mind and matter, body and soul, which is to say a mutable thing and an immutable one, which implies contradiction—movement excluding immobility and vice versa—but must be, quite to the contrary, an infinite unity of always-mutable and always-mobile substance, which implies perfectibility. It is by eternal and infinite movement that the infinite and eternal substance is constantly and universally transformed. It is by a fermentation of all instants; it is by passing through the filtering sieve of successive metamorphoses, by the progressive emancipation of species, from mineral to vegetable, from vegetable to animal and from instinct to intelligence; it is by an ascending and continuous rotation that it is raised gradually and constantly from the near inertia of the solid to the subtle agility of the fluid, and that, from vaporization to vaporization, it constantly approaches ever more pure affinities, always in a work of purification, in the great crucible of the universal laboratory of the worlds. Thus, movement is not separate from substance; it is identical to it. There is no substance without movement, as there is no movement without substance. What one calls matter is raw mind or spirit; what one calls mind or spirit is wrought matter.

As with the human being, summary of all the terrestrial beings, essence of all the inferior kingdoms, so with the universal being, encyclopedia of all the atomic and sidereal beings, infinite sphere of all the finite spheres—the universal being, like the human being, is perfectible. It has never been, it is not, and will never be perfect. Perfectibility is the negation of perfection. To limit the infinite is impossible, as it would no longer be infinite. As far as thought can pierce, it cannot discover its own limits. It is a sphere of extension which defies all calculations, where the generations of universes and of sidereal multiverses gravitate from evolution to evolution without ever being able to reach the end of the voyage, the ever more remote frontiers of the unknown. The absolute infinity in time and in space is eternal movement, eternal progress. Put a limit to that infinity without limits—a God, any heaven whatsoever—and immediately one limits movement, limits progress. It is like putting it on a chain like the pendulum of a clock, and to saying to it: “When you’re at the end of your swing, stop! You shall go no further.” It is placing the finite in the place of the infinite. Well! Don’t we realize that perfection is always relative, that absolute perfection is immobility, and that consequently immobilized perfection is something absurd and impossible? Only the brains of idiots could dream this up. There is and can be no absolute but perfectibility in the universal infinity. The more a being is perfected, the more it aspires to perfect itself further. Would nature, which has given us infinite aspirations, have lied to us, promising more than it could give? Where has she ever been seen to lie? One must be a Christian and a civilizee, which is to say a cretin and a eunuch, to imagine as a place of delight a paradise in which old Jehovah is enthroned. Could one imagine anything more stupid and boring? Could one imagine these blessed ones, these saints cloistered in the clouds as in a convent, whose whole pleasure consists in telling their rosaries and ruminating, like brutes, on praises to the reverend father God, that unchanging superior, that pope of popes, that king of kings, having the mother abbess Virgin Mary to his left, and to his right the child Jesus, the heir apparent, a great oaf who carries, with the air of a seminarian, his roll of thorns, and who,—in the representation of the mystery of the so-sacrosanct Trinity,—fills, with his immaculate mother cradling in her lap the peacock Holy Spirit, which spreads its tail,—the role of two thieves on the cross, nailed on each side of the greatest of criminals, the supreme and divine creator of all the oppressions and all the servitudes, of all the crimes and all the abjections, the Word and the incarnation of evil! In the earthly convents, at least, men and women can still console themselves for their imperfection, for their deadly tortures by thinking of a future perfection, of another and immortal life, of celestial bliss. But in heaven every aspiration more elevated is forbidden them: are they not at the apogee of their being? The very high and all-powerful magistrate, the one who judges without appeal and in last resort the living and the dead, has applied to them the maximum of beatitude. From now on, they have taken on the cassock of the elect; they drag, in paradise, in forced idleness, the ball and chain of their days; and they are condemned for all time! There is no appeal for mercy possible; no hope of change, no glimmer of future movement can reach down to them. The hatch of progress is forever sealed above their heads; and, like the conscript-for-life in his hulk, immortal galley slaves, they are forever fastened to the chain of the centuries in the eternal heavenly stay!

All the diversion these poor souls enjoy consists of chanting hymns and prostrating themselves before the sovereign master, that cruel old man who, in the times of Moses, wore a blue robe and curly beard, and who according to the current fashion, must wear today a black coat and a stiff collar, mutton-chop sideburns or an imperial goatee, spittle in place of the heart, and a rainbow of satin around the neck. The Empress Marie and her divine ladies-in-waiting most certainly have crinolines under their petticoats, and most certainly the saints, in the livery of court, are starched, cravated, pomaded and curled neither more nor less than the diplomats. Their blessed grandesses doubtless bang away at the piano all of the holy eternity, and their blessed excellencies turn the hand of the organ-of-paradise... What fun they must have! That must be amusing! It is true that I am not rich, but I would certainly still give some few sous to see such a spectacle—to watch for a moment, you understand, not to remain there; and only on the condition of paying on the way out, if I was pleased and satisfied. But, on reflection, I find it hard to believe that what goes on inside is worth even a trifling sum at the door. Is it not said: “Happy are the poor in spirit, the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.” That property will never delight me. Definitely, at times the holy Gospels display a naïveté that is... amusing: bestow then some donkey’s ears on all the laureates of the faith! These first fathers of the Church must have been mischievous: might as well confess right off that paradise is not worth the four fetters of a... Christian. And to admit that women have been left to take the promises of these Lovelaces of superstition, that they have smiled at all these cretinous seductions, that they have given their love for this anti- and ultra-human paradise! To admit that the men have been taken in like the women, that they have believed all these ignoble ones—nonsense, that they have worshipped them!—Poor human nature!—However, one will admit that it would be difficult to invent anything more detrimental to the happiness of humans who have not absolutely the pleasure of being poor in spirit. In truth, I would reckon myself happier to be a convict in prison than one of the chosen in paradise. In prison, I would still live by my hopes. Every outcome of progress would not be completely closed to me, and my thought, like my physical strength, could attempt an escape from the galleys. And then the eternity of the life of a man is less long than the perpetuity of the life of a saint. The universal movement, by transforming me from life to death will finally deliver me from my torture. I will be reborn free. While with the heavenly imprisonment it is immobility without end, knees bent, hands clasped, head bowed, brow void of hope, which is to say an unprecedented torture, with body and soul, muscles and fibers put to the question under the inquisitorial eye of God...

When I think that, profiting from the deterioration of my faculties, brought on by age or illness, a priest could come at the hour of my death, and give me, one way or another, the absolution of my sins, of my heresies; that he could deliver to me, a subject suspected or convicted of lèse-divinité, a lettre de cachet for heaven, and send me to rot in that divine Bastille without a ray of hope of ever leaving it, brrrrrrr!... that gives me shivers. Happily, the expected paradises are like castles in Spain: they only exist in imaginations struck by mental alienation; or, like the houses of cards, the least breath of reason is enough to knock them down. However, I declare it here: On the day when death weighs down on me, let those who can surround me then, if they are my friends, if they respect the wishes of my reason, and not allow my agony to be soiled by a priest and my cadaver sullied by the church. A free thinker, I want to die as I have lived, in rebellion. Living and upright, I protest strongly and in advance against every such profanation of my remains. A particle of humanity, I want to serve still after my death the education and the life of humanity; that is why I leave my body to the practitioner who wants to make an autopsy of it and study the organs of a man who did all that he could to be worthy of that name; and that I ask him, if it is possible, to inter the remains, as fertilizer in a sown field.

But let us return to our subject, the circulus in universality. The unlimited sphericity of the infinite and its absolute movement of rotation and gravitation,—its perfectibility, in short, is demonstrated by all that which strikes our view and our understanding. Everything turns in us and around us, but never precisely in the same circle. Every rotation tends to raise itself, to approach a purer ideal, a remote utopia which will be realized one day in order to make place for another utopia, and thus progressively from ideal to ideal and from realization to realization.

On the earth, all beings, our subalterns, at whatever degree they are placed in the hierarchy of kingdoms or of species, minerals, vegetables or animals, tend towards the human ideal. As with the infinitely small, so with the infinitely large—our globe and the multitude of globes which follow it from a distance in one single whirl, tend equally, whatever their relative superiority or inferiority, towards their luminous ideal, the sun. And all approach it each day, however insensibly: the man like the sun tends in his turn towards some more utopian spheres, by an ascending and continuous gradation; and always thus until the end of ends, or rather without end nor term.—The mineral pivots imperceptibly on itself and draws to itself all that it can appropriate of the lesser orders; it grows and extends itself, and then it entrusts to some conducting agents a few fragments of its exuberance and feeds the plant.—In its turn, the plant grows, rocking in the breeze and blossoming in the light. The insects gather pollen from it; it offers them its honey and its fibers, everything it has stolen from the bowels of the earth and that it has made to rise to the light of day through the filters of its tissues. The insects and worms then become the prey of the birds; the plant itself is feed for the large animals. Already the mineral has been transformed into flesh and bone, and the sap has become blood; instinct is more prompt, and movement more pronounced. The gravitation continues. Man assimilates the vegetable and the animal, the grass and the grain, the honey and the fruit, the flesh and the blood, the gas and the sap, the breezes and rays. Terrestrial star, he pumps through all his pores the emanations of his inferiors; he raises them drop by drop, bit by bit, to his level and returns to them to knead again that which is still too coarse for him to incarnate within himself. In just the same way, he exhales by thought the aromas too pure to be retained in his chalice, and he scatters them on humanity. Humanity, after having incorporated them, integrates everything that can identify with its degree of perfection, and returns for kneading to the instinctive species, to the inferior orders, that which is too coarse for it in these fluids, and exhales that which is too subtle towards the higher humanities of the outer spheres.

Thus it is with the planets moving around the sun, and with the sun moving in its turn with all its satellites around another more elevated center, star of that star.

Now, if everything turns first in a spiral, from its need for preservation, and if, turning on itself, everything reaches beneath itself, from its need for alimentation, and raises itself above itself, from its need for expression; if life is a perpetual revolution, a circle always in movement, each movement of which modifies its nature; if all movement is a progress, and if the more rapid the movement of rotation and gravitation is, the more it accelerates progress in us; men and women, to whom analogy demonstrates all these things, can we do less than to bow to the evidence? Can we not desire to be revolutionaries, and, being revolutionaries, not want to be more revolutionary still? For the human being, to live the life of the mineral, vegetable or animal, to live the life of stones or brutes, is not to live; and to live the life of the civilizees is to live the life of stones and brutes. Humans, let us not stiffen against our destiny, but deliver ourselves with passion to its teachings; let us advance boldly to the discovery of the unknown; reach out to progress in order to accomplish with it humanitary evolution in the great circle of perfectible beings and societies; let us initiate ourselves fearlessly into the mysteries of the eternal and universal revolution in the infinite. The infinite alone is great, and the revolution only has malice for those who would remain outside its circle. Let us live by movement for movement, by progress and for progress, regardless of whether the grave is close and the cradle far. What is death to us, if death is still movement, and if movement is still progress? If that death is only a regeneration, the dissolution of our crumbling unity, an organism incapable for the moment of moving itself perfectibly in its continuous disaggregation, and, moreover, the re-aggregation of the plurality of our being in younger and more perfectible organisms? If that death, finally, is only the passage from our state of senility to the embryonic state, the mold, the matrix of a more turbulent life, the crucible of a purer existence, a transmutation of our brass into gold and a transfiguration of that gold into a thousand coins, animated and diverse, and all stamped with the effigy of Progress? Death is only frightening for those who basks in his muck and is transfixed in his porcine husk. For, at the hour of the decomposition of his organs, it will adhere by its heaviness and vileness, as it adhered during his life, to all that which is mud and stone, stench and torpor. But the man who, instead of growing fat and sinking willingly in his ignominy, burned his fat to produce light; the man who acted with his voice and strength, with heart and intelligence which will be invigorated by labor and love, by movement—that one, at the hour when the last of his days is used up; when he has no more oil in his lamp nor elasticity in his works; when the largest part of his substance, long since volatilized, journeys already with the fluids; that one, I tell you, will be himself reborn, in conditions made more perfectible to the degree this he had labored at his own perfectibilization. Moreover, does not death have a place in all the instants of the lives of beings? Can the body of a man preserve for a single moment the same molecules? Does not every contact constantly modify it? Can it not breathe, drink, eat, digest, think, feel? Every modification is at once a new death and a new life, more painful and more inferior to the degree that the alimentation and the physical and moral digestion have been idler or more coarse; easier and superior to the degree that they have been more active or refined.


Just as man digests the vegetable and animal, assimilates their juice or essence and discharges their skin and excremental detritus as the manure that will give birth to lesser beings; just so man digests the hominal and the generations of hominals, their juice or essence and discharges their skin and excremental detritus as the manure on which will wallow and pasture the bestial and vegetative societies.

Like the works of a mill, the individual organism of man and the organism of humanity grind in their gears the fruit of good and evil, and separate the good from the bad, the bran from the flour. The bran is cast in the trough for the livestock, the flour is gathered by man and serves his nutrition. The good is destined to the highest classes of beings, the bad to the lowest. The one is transformed into white bread or into cake and is set on the table on trays of porcelain or silver at the feast of the intelligences; the other remains raw or is transformed into slops, and falls in the feed trough for the farm stock or beasts of burden. The good or bad grain, and each grain of that grain, is treated according to its value, punished or rewarded according to its merit. Each carries within itself its chastisement and its recompense, the man as much as the grain; its purity or impurity makes its paradise or hell in the present, its hell or heaven in the future.

All labor is an instrument of progress, all idleness is litter for decrepitude. Labor is the universal law; it is the organ of purification for all beings. No one can take it away without committing suicide, for one can be born and grow, form and develop only by labor. It is by labor that the grain sprout in the furrow, put up its stalk and is crowned with a rich fruit; it is also by labor that the human fetus closes off and encircles itself in the womb of the mother, and that, obeying an imperious attraction, it appears by escaping from the organ of generation; it is by labor that the child stands on its feet, grows, and that, become a man, he is crowned with the double fruit of his manual and intellectual faculties; it is also by labor that he matures physically and morally before falling under the scythe of Time, that universal and eternal reaper, in order to begin again, in the eternal and universal life, a new work and new destinies.—The being, whatever it be, is called to labor to the degree that its attractions are lofty; and its sensations are voluptuous to the degree that they are purified by labor.

Happy are those whose productive faculties are overexcited by the love of the good and the beautiful: they will be fruitful in goodness and in beauty; no labor is fruitless. Unhappy are those whose productive faculties sleep shrouded in the apathy of the horrible and of evil: they will not know the joys that hard-working and generous passions give. All inertia is infertile; all narcissism, every exclusive adoration of itself is doomed to sterility. Happiness is a fruit that can be picked only on the high summits, and that has a delicious flavor only after having been cultivated. For the idle, the inert, as for the powerless fox, it is too green a fruit: it ripens only for the agile, the laborers. It is not by sequestering it in his being, by isolating his breast from the breasts of his brothers that one can obtain it; it does not belong to the fratricidal but to the fraternal. Those alone can harvest it who do not fear to put arms and heart and head in the air, and make communion from individual efforts.

Man and humanity carry within them the seed of individual and social well-being; it is up to individual and social labor to cultivate it, if they want to savor its fruits.

It is for having tasted the fruit of the tree of science that, according to the Jewish and Christian mythologies, we have lost the terrestrial paradise. Ah! If instead of having only a taste, Humanity had tried to eat its fill of it, it would not be difficult to recover that Eden, so narrow and so little regrettable. Then, we could have had it, prodigiously, unlimited and replete with felicities with a very different appeal than those of the primitive ages. I do not say that with the aid of science we could, like the alleged gods, make something from nothing, but we could regenerate that which exists, make from the world a better world, from our societies in the civilized state a society in the harmonic state, and enter almost without transition from the life of present ages into the life of future ages.

The religions, as absurd as they are, nonetheless represent the need for an ideal innate in man. All the fables of the past and present represent future hopes, the sense of immortality in mortals. Ignorance and superstition have made shapeless monsters of these aspirations; it is up to science, reason freed from its swaddling clothes, to give them humanitary forms. Man and humanity, as perfected as they will be one day, will nonetheless experience desires which will never find satisfaction in any present time. The future will always be a beacon towards which all their efforts will tend, the object of their constant longings; the call of progress will always resonate in their ears. Perception will always be higher and will always carry farther than the realization. Man senses clearly that all is not closed forever under the lid of the coffin. The idea of progress protests not only against all destruction, but also against all degeneration; and not only against all degeneration, but against all that which is not regeneration and perfectibilization. Ignorance and superstition have supposed the immortality of the soul and the heavenly resurrection. I believe I have demonstrated that there is no soul distinct from the body; and there would be duality, which is not admissible, if that soul still obeyed the same laws of the decomposition of the body. The absolute soul and absolute paradise would be the negation of progress; and we can no more deny progress than we can movement. God, in the religious as in the philosophical sense, can no longer exist with regard to us, as we ourselves cannot exist as God with regard to the myriads of atoms of which our body is the Great-All. It is not the human body, in its small universality, which creates and directs these myriads of atoms of which it is composed; it is these atoms, instead, that create it and direct it by moving according to their passional attractions. Far from being their God, the man is hardly anything but their temple: he is the beehive or anthill animated by these innumerable multitudes of the imperceptible. The universal being would not, any more than the human being, be the creator nor the director of the colossal multitudes of worlds of which it is made up; it is these worlds, instead, which create and direct it. Far from being their maker, their producer—their God, as the metaphysicians say—the universal being is hardly anything but the workshop or, at most, the product of the infinity of beings. How then would he be the motor of each, if he is only the machine of which each is the motor? God and the absolute is denied by everything in nature that has life. The progress which is movement and the movement which is progress issue him a certificate of non-existence, characterize him as an imposter. If the absolute could exist above us, we would be the absolute for that which is below us, and movement and progress would not exist. Life would be nothingness, and nothingness cannot be conceived. All that we know is that life exists: thus movement exists, thus progress exists, and thus the absolute does not exist. All that we can conclude is that the circulus exists in universality as it exists in individuality. Like every individuality, the universality, however infinite it may be, is itself only a rotation and a spherical gravitation which, moving more and more from the darkness and chaos and approaching more and more light and harmony, perfects itself by working itself ceaselessly, by a mechanism or organism that is constantly more rectified... But all that absolutely contradicts the idea of a God from which everything emanates and towards which everything returns, the idea that everything has been created, by God, from nothingness, in order to be annihilated in the bosom of the same God—which is to say, something starting from nothing in order to lead to nothing, going beyond the absurd in order to fall back into the absurd. God, source of all things, central point from which everything follows and towards which all returns, is one of these contradictory rationales that one can give to the children of men and to the humanities-in-infancy, because their still-sleeping intelligence cannot yet respond. But it is absolutely absurd. A river cannot flow back towards its source; the source is no more eternal than the river. They both exist only on the condition of movement, which is to say of progress, of birth and of death, of generation and regeneration. Like the river, the source has a cause. It is not everything, this small central point from which gushes the living water which produces the stream. The opening is only an effect, it is not a cause; and, by returning from the effect to the cause, one would find that the cause is still only the effect of another cause, and so forth. God explains nothing. It is a word to cross out of the vocabulary of men, since it serves to quibble with the difficulty without resolving it. God is only a mannequin, the breastplate (or shirtfront) of ignorance, a stick in the wheels of progress, a snuffer on the light, a... rag in a lantern! It is time to cleanse the universal language of it. Excrement of human cretinism, from now on it belongs to the Academy Domange and the consorts: let it reign in the pits of the Villette, and let it, reduced to powder and cast to the four winds, serve finally as fertilizer to movement, to the eternal and universal and perfectible creation, to the unlimited development of the infinite.

God!... in truth is it possible that two men agree on the meaning that they give to this word? I do not accept that for the needs of the dialectic it should be necessary to resort to it. Let a philosopher employ it in his writings, and, if it is a Catholic who reads them, he would only want to see,—whatever cautions the author has given,—the God of his own religion. If he is a Calvinist, a Lutheran, a Israelite, a Muslim, a Hindu, a believing philosopher or a philosophical believer, each would not want and not be able to see anything but the God of his own imagination. Finally, these three cabalistic letters will represent as many different Gods as there are readers or listeners. I do not see what need the dialectic could have of it, and I believe that it would do better and more wisely to do without it. New things require new words. I know that there are many other expressions which we use, myself as much as anyone, and which do not have the same meaning for everyone: it is an evil which it is necessary to try to remedy, otherwise we would discuss a long time without understanding each other. GOD being the first cause of all the social falsities, the source of all the human errors, the capital lie, GOD can no longer be employed in the discussion except as an abusive term, as a spatter spit from our lips or our pen. It is not enough to be atheist, it is necessary to be a theocide. It is not enough to deny the Absolute; it is necessary to affirm Progress, and to affirm it in all and everywhere.

Defects in logic, that is what misleads the greatest thinkers, what carries perturbation to the mass of intelligences. It is because one is not in agreement with themselves that often one cannot come to agreement with others. All of us who affirm the movement in the infinite and consequently infinite progress, the single and solidary universality, equally affirm the movement in us and consequently progress, the single and solidary individuality. Let is deny duality in the finite as we deny it in the infinite. Let us reject that absurd hypothesis of the immortality of the soul, which is to say of the absolute in the finite, when we have the proof by the body that every finite thing is perishable, which is to say divisible and multipliable, which is to say progressively perfectible. Matter is not one thing and spirit another thing, but one same and single thing that movement constantly diversifies. The spiritual is only the result of the corporeal; this is not a matter of spirituality but of spirituosity. The soul or, to put it better, thought is to the man what alcohol is to wine. When one speaks of the spirit of wine, it is certainly of an entirely material thing. Why should it be otherwise when it is a question of the spirit of man! Do you still believe then that the earth is flat, that the heavens are a cupola to serve it as a dome, and that the sun and stars are candles lit by the creator God in honor of Adam and Eve and their descendants? And if you no longer believe in these supposed revelations, in these charlatanries or in this aberration of the faith, and if you believe in what science and the genius of observation teaches you, in virtue of what reason would you want spirit to be distinct from matter? And, even being distinct, that the one be the movement and the other inertia, and that precisely the one to which you attribute movement was never-changing in his individuality? Inexplicable paradox! Well, observation tells you, by my testimony, that all that which has been vapor or dust and is grouped and has taken finished, definite form, will come away grain by grain, drop by drop, molecule by molecule and will scatter in the undefined in order to assume, not another form, but a multiplicity of other forms, and will leave anew these multiple forms in order to divide again and multiply and progress eternally in the infinite. In order to be convinced of it, there is no need of having studied Greek or Latin, it is only necessary to examine the analogy, to infer and deduce.

I have established that all that which is inferior to man tends to gravitate towards him. Man is the summary of terrestrial creation. The Earth is a being animated like all beings and endowed with various organs proper to life. Humanity is its brain, or rather it is that part of it which, with regard to the human brain, one has called the gray matter, that is to say the eminently intelligent part, for the animal and the vegetal, and the mineral even,—in a certain proportion,—also live under the terrestrial skull and form the ensemble of its brain. Alone, of all the atoms which live obscurely in the innards of the planetary body or rest, vegetate, crawl, walk or fly by the light between the soil and the atmosphere,—man is a perfectible species. He possesses some faculties unknown to the other beings or which are hardly sensible among them, that of memory, for example, or calculation; that of the emission and transmission of idea. Unlike the mineral, vegetable and animal, the hominal generations succeed and do not resemble one another; they always progress and do not know the limit of their perfectibility. Eh! well, that which exists for the earth obviously exists for man. The man is another globe, a small world which also has in it its privileged race, its humanity in miniature, ideal of all the atomic species that people and form its body. That humanity is called the brain. It is towards it that gravitate all the kingdoms or all the molecular species of the human body. These molecules,—the most filthy as well as what one could call the most inert,—all tend to rise from their beds and their lower natures to that type of superiority which lives under the human skull. And, as humanity, the intelligent part of the brain of the terrestrial body, is perfectible, the cervellity, or intelligent part of the brain, which is the humanity of the human body, is also perfectible. While outside of the brain, the lower molecules only act mechanically, so to speak, and with more inertia the lower they are place on the scale of the progression of the kingdoms or species; in the brain, on the contrary, capstone of hominal creation, the movement is rapid and intelligent. The brain of the man, like the brain of the planet, also has its three, or rather its four gradations which corresponds to the four kingdoms: the mineral, the vegetable, the animal and the hominal. The cretin, for example, who in the human race is the being most dispossessed of intelligence, has, in the brain, in the state of development, only matter recumbent and vegetative, that which correspond to the mineral and vegetable, but where the mineral prevails in volume over the vegetable. The imbecile is the one in whose brain the vegetable prevails over the mineral, and where there can be found a little of the animal, which is to say of matter of a creeping and somewhat instinctive sort. In the civilizee, all three kingdoms are developed in his brain, but the animal kingdom prevails over the other two. That which corresponds to the hominal, which is to say to intelligent matter, is still in the state of infancy or savagery and dispersed under the skull amid the virgin forests of the vegetal system, between the blocks of rock of the mineral system and exposed in its weakness and nudity to the ferocity of the animal system.—It is then the industrial and scientific labors of these generations of perfectible atoms moving between our two temples as between two poles; it is their joys and their pains, their science or their ignorance, their individual and social struggles which constitute our thought. Depending on whether these infinitesimals are more or less in the harmonic state; whether they obey among them the natural law of liberty, to anarchy, to autonomy, or the artificial law of authority, to monarchy, to tyranny; whether they are under the empire of superstition or they are freed from it; whether their populations are more or less given over to pauperism and aristocracy, or rich with equality and fraternity; whether these small diminutives of men are more or less penned up between national barriers and the fences of private property, or circulate more or less easily from a passional eminence, home or homeland, to another, and from a craneologic continent to another continent; finally, according to whether they are more or less free or more or less slaves, and also, whether we ourselves are more or less dignified, more or less close to slavery or liberty.—The cervelain being, like the human being, takes in through diet everything that is below it, discharges from the lower organs that which is too coarse, assimilates that which is perfectible enough to become incarnate in it, and exhales outside, on the wings of human thought, that which is too subtle to remain captive in it. Thus it is wrongly that we make that classification of mind and matter as being two distinct things, the one mobile and immutable, the other mutable and immobile, the one invisible and impalpable, the other palpable and visible. Everything that is mobile is mutable, and everything that is mutable is mobile. That which is palpable and visible for the human being, the infinitely large, is invisible and impalpable for the cervelain being, the infinitely small. That which is impalpable and invisible for the human being is visible and palpable for the being placed higher in the hierarchy of beings, the humanitary beings or the terrestrial being. For the beings infinitely more perfected than us,—the humanities of the astral spheres, I suppose,—what we will regard, ourselves, as a fluid, they will themselves consider as a solid; and what they will regard as fluid is regarded as solid by the humanities still more elevated in superiority. The most subtle, here, for the one, is, there, for the other, what becomes the coarsest. Everything depends on the point of view and the condition in which the being is placed. The last word of the cervelain being is certainly not the skull, as the last word of the human being is certainly not the terrestrial skull. The man is not the absolute of the one, humanity is not the absolute of the other. Without doubt, the cervellity gives birth to generations which, like the human generations, produce and transmit ideas, and accumulate in the memory of the man of gigantic labors. Without doubt also, humanity piles generations on generations and progress on progress. The better, the good, and the best, increase as a result of the efforts of each. But the planets, like men, are born, grow and die. At the death of men or globes, the purified humanities or cervellities rise by whatever fluid character they have towards spheres in formation or in expansion and of a more perfectible nature. The progress is eternal and infinite, after one step another step, after one life another life, and still and always.

Any being whatsoever, a man, or the superior or the inferior the man, is like a sack of grain or of molecules of all the sorts, that movement, that is to say life and death, fills and empties without ceasing. These grains, come from the field of production, returns to the field of production or, according to their degree of perfectibility, they produce rye or wheat. The content of the sack procreates a multitude of stalks, and on each stalk each of grains subdivides and multiplies in the ear. Nothing of that which is can preserve for one minute its full individuality. Life is a perpetual exchange to the profit of each. The richest in the perfectibility are the most lavish, those who venture the most of their being in circulation: the more the laborer sows and harvests! The poorest are the stingiest, those who have their gaze turned inward, who stack molecule on molecule in the hollows of their being, who seal themselves in innermost selves, and waste, in a stupid private contemplation, a capital of faculties, troves of sensations that external contact would have made bear fruit.

What I want to make well understood, and what I strive to generalize at the risk of repeating myself, is that the religions, the artificial or deceitful moralities have had their day, and that they are nothing more today than immorality or irreligion; it is that there is a morality, one natural religion to inaugurate on the rubble of the old superstitions, and that that morality or that religion can be found only in the science of man and of humanity, of humanity and of the universality; it is that the man like the universe, is one and not double: not matter and spirit, nor body and soul (matter or inert body, spirit or immaterial soul), but animated and passional substance, susceptible of thousands and thousands of metamorphoses and constrained by his animation and his passionality, by his attractions, to a perpetual upward movement.—What it is important to note in order to destroy all of the secular theologies and with the authoritarian system which still serves as the basis of the organization of contemporary societies and postpones the fraternal communion of humans, is that with movement the absolute cannot exist; it is that the individuality of the man and of humanity like the individuality of all the atomic and sidereal beings cannot preserve for one single instant their absolute personality, it is that the movement revolutionize them without ceasing and constantly add something and take away something from them; it is that we all, minerals, vegetables, animals, men, stars, we would not know how to live in ourselves and by ourselves; that there is no life without movement, and that movement is an infinite transformation of the finite thing; it is that we live only on the condition of taking part in the lives of others, and that the life in us is as much more fruitful as we sow it outside the plots, plots which returns to us in ripe and abundant crops; and as much more lively as we give it more external elements, as we put passions in combustion on its hearth. Finally, it is that the more we give off light and caloric, the more we expend intelligence and love and the more we raise ourselves with swiftness from apotheosis to apotheosis in regions more and more superior, more and more ethereal.

Everything is solidary in universality. Everything is composed, decomposed and recomposed according to its reciprocal and progressive attractions, the atom like the man, the man like the stars, and the stars like the universes. The universes are atoms in universality, as the atom is itself a universe in its individuality. The infinite exists at the two antipodes of creation, for the divisibility on a small scale as for the multiplicity on a grand scale. The short view of the man, his weak understanding cannot sound its incommensurable depths. The finite cannot embrace the infinite, it can only sense it. But what the thinker, supplied in the powerful instrument that we call analogy, can touch and make thought touch, what he must proclaim by strokes of logic on all the places and in all the public papers, is that the individual being is not the consequence of the universal being, but that the being universal is the consequence of individual beings; it is the infinitely large group of which the infinitely small are the constitutive members. God, the soul, the spirit are myths that Humanity approaching the age of reason must toss without regret into the rag basket like some dolls from our youth. Science, from now on, and no longer superstition, must occupy its thought. Let it not forget that it is a daughter of progress and fiancée of progress. The polichinelles, the good gods and the devils, all the Guignols and the puppets armed with sticks are of childishness unworthy of it, today that its minority comes to its end. It is time, high time, that it thinks of its emancipation; that it girds its forehead with the intellectual banner; that it finally prepares itself for its social destinies, if it does not want to serve forever as laughingstock for the Humanities of other globes.

To sum up, I say:

Movement, which is to say progress, being proven, the absolute can no more exist in the finite than in the infinite, and thus the absolute does not exist.

As a consequence, God, universal or absolute soul of the infinite, does not exist.

And as a further consequence, the soul, the absolute of man, individuality one and indivisible, eternally finished form, does not exist.

Matter is all. Movement is the attribute of matter, and progress the attribute of movement.

Like matter and movement, progress is eternal and infinite.

The circulus in universality does not lead to absolute perfection. It conducts to infinite perfectibility, to unlimited progress, consequence of eternal and universal movement.

Thus, absolute perfection does not exist, and cannot exist. If it existed, progress would not exist.

Absolute perfection is against all the evidence, and absurd.

Movement is, obviously, truth.

No transaction is possible between these two terms: it is necessary either to believe in God and in his diminutives and deny movement, or to affirm movement and invalidate God.

—God is the negation of Progress.

—Progress is the negation of God.

[Translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]

Read the whole thing at Two-Gun Mutualism & the Golden Rule.

Proudhon on Property (1846) – Conclusion

Now available thanks to Shawn P. Wilbur at Out of the Libertarian Labyrinth:

Here is the final section of Proudhon's study on property, from the Contradictions. The other sections I posted recently will appear, in full or part, in the forthcoming AK Press anthology, but this section didn't make the cut for various reasons, not the least of which was its difficulty. The translation is still considerably rougher than the others in a few places, but I think most of it is clear and very interesting. 

As of today, I have officially begun a revision and annotation of Benjamin R. Tucker's translations of the first two memoirs on property. Since the translations are generally quite good, this should be a fairly straightforward project, at the end of which I will turn my attention to the third memoir, the Warning to Proprietors, and the Literary Majorats, which deals with intellectual property. With a little luck, I should have the texts for a much expanded Proudhon Seminar prepared by late summer or fall.



[concluded from Part 4]

§ IV. — Demonstration of the hypothesis of God by property.

If God didn’t exist, there would be no proprietors: that is the conclusion of political economy.

And the conclusion of social science is this: Property is the crime of the Supreme Being. There is for man only one duty, only one religion, it is to renounce God. Hoc est primum and maximum mandatum.

It is proven that the establishment of property among men has not been a matter of choice and philosophy: its origin, like that of royalty, like that of languages and forms of worship, is entirely spontaneous, mystical, in a word, divine. Property belongs to the great family of instinctive beliefs, which, under the mantle of religion and authority, still reigns everywhere over our overproud species. Property, in a word, is itself a religion: it has its theology, political economy; its casuistics, jurisprudence; its mythology and its symbols, in the external forms of justice and of contracts. The historical origin of property, like that of every religion, is hidden in the shadows. Asked about itself, it responds with the fact of its existence; it explains itself with legends, and give allegories for truths. Finally, property, like every religion once more, is subject to the law of development. Thus one sees it by turns as simple right of and habitation, as among the Germans and the Arabs; patrimonial possession, inalienable in perpetuity, as among the Jews; feudal and emphyteutic as in the Middle Ages; absolute and circulable at the will of the proprietor, pretty much as the Romans knew it, and as we have it today. But already property, come to its apogee, turns towards its decline: attacked by commandité, by the new laws of mortgage, by expropriation for reasons of public utility, by the innovations of the crédit agricole, by the new theories on rental [louage], etc., the moment approaches when it will no longer be anything but the shadow of itself.

By these general traits, we cannot mistake the religious character of property.

That mystique and progressive character shows itself especially in the singular illusion that property causes its own theoreticians, and which consists in this that the plus one develops, reforms and ameliorates property, the more one advances its ruin, and that one always believes it more when in reality one believes it less: an illusion which, moreover, is common to all religions.

It is thus that the Christianity of Saint Paul, the most philosophical of the apostles, is already no longer the Christianity of Saint Jean; the theology of Thomas Aquinas is not the same as that of Augustine and Athanasius; and the Catholicism of MM. Bautain, Bûchez and Lacordaire is not the Catholicism of Bourdaloue and Bossuet. Religion, for the modern mystics, who imagine they enlarge the old ideas while they strangle them, hardly anything more than human fraternity, the unity of the peoples, the solidarity and harmony in the management of the globe. Religion is above all love, always love. Pascal would have been scandalized by the erotic aspirations of the devout of our time. God, to the nineteenth century, is the most pure love; religion is love; morality is still love. While for Bossuet the dogma was everything, because from dogma must arise charity and the works of charity; charity is placed by the moderns at the first rank, and the dogma is reduced to a formula insignificant by itself and which takes all its value from its content, namely, love, or, more properly, morality.

That is why the true enemies of religion, those who at all times will work most for its ruin, were always those who interpreted it with the most zeal, seeking in it a philosophical sense, striving to make it reasonable, according to the vow/wish of Saint Paul, one of the first who gave himself up to that impossible work of the agreement of reason with faith. The true enemies of religion, I say, are these quasi-rationalists who claim to reduce it to what they call its principles, without realizing that they drive it to the tomb, and who, under pretext of freeing religion from the letter that kills, that is, from the symbolism which is its essence, and to teach it according to the spirit that gives life, in other words, according to reason which doubts and science which demonstrates, revising the tradition ceaselessly, to distort the faith, twisting the sense of the scriptures, arrives, by an insensible degradation of the dogma, to the formal negation of the dogma. Religion, say these false logicians on the basis of an etymology of Cicero, religion is the bond of humanity; while they should say: religion is the sign, the emblem of the social law. Now, that emblem fades everyday from the friction of critique, there remains only the expectation of a reality that positive science alone can determine and reach.

So property, once one has ceased to defend it in its original brutality, and one speaks of disciplining it, of subjecting it to morals, of subordinating it to the state, in a word of socializing it, property collapses, it perishes. It perishes, I say, because it is progressive; because its idea is incomplete and its nature is not at all final; because it is the principle moment of a series of which only the ensemble can give a true idea, in a word because it is a religion. What one looks to preserver, and that in reality on pursues under the name of property, is no longer property; it is a new form of possession, without example in the past, and that one strives to deduce from the principles or presumed motives of property, en suite de that illusion of logic which always makes us suppose at the origin or the end a thing that which it is necessary to seek in the thing itself, namely, its meanings and its scope.

But if the property is a religion, and, like every religion, it is progressive, it has, like every religion as well, its own specific object. Christianity and Buddhism are religions of penance, or of the education of humanity; Mohammedanism is the religion of fate; monarchy and democracy are one and the same religion, the religion of authority; philosophy itself is the religion of reason. What is this particular religion, the most persistent of the religions, which must lead all the others in his fall and yet only perish the last, to which already its sectarians no longer believe, property?

Since property manifests itself by occupation and use, since it aims to strengthen and extend monopoly by domain and heredity, since by means of the rent it gathers without labor, and by mortgages compromised without caution, since it is resistant to society, since its rule is good pleasure, and since it must perish by justice, property is the religion of FORCE.

The religious fables give testimony to it. Cain, the proprietor, according to Genesis, captured the land with his lance, surrounded it with stakes, makes a property of it, and kills Abel, the poor, the proletarian, son like him of Adam, man, but of inferior caste, of servile condition. These etymologies are instructive: they say more by their naïveté than all the commentaries. Men have always spoken the same language; the problem of the unity of language is demonstrated by the identity of the ideas that they express: it is ridiculous to argue about some variants of sounds and characters.

Thus, according to grammar, as according to fable and according to analysis, property, religion of force, is at the same time the religion of servitude. Depending on whether it takes over at gunpoint, or whether it proceeds by exclusion and monopoly, it engenders two sorts of servitudes: the one, the ancient proletariat, result of the primitive fact of conquest or from the violent division of Adam, humanity, into Cain and Able, patricians and plebeians; the other, the modern proletariat, the working class of the economists, caused by the development of the economic phases, which are all summed up, as one has seen, in the capital fact of the consecration of monopoly by domain, heredity and rent.

Now, property, that is to say, in its most simple expression, the right of force, could not long guard its original coarseness; from the first day, it began to compose its physiognomy, to counterfeit itself, to conceal itself under a multitude of disguises. That was at the point that the name of proprietor, synonym, in principle, for brigand and thief, became in the end, by the insensible transformation of property, and by one of those anticipations of the future so frequent in the religious style, precisely the opposite of the thief and brigand. I have recounted in another work that degradation of property: I will reproduce it with some developments.

The rapine of the goods of others is practiced by an infinity of means, that the legislators have meticulously distinguished and classified, according to their degree of brutality or fineness, as if they had sometimes wanted to punish, sometimes to encourage petty theft. Thus the one robs by murdering on the public roads, alone or in bands, by breaking and entering, cat-burglary, etc., by simple subtraction, by public or private falsifications, by fabrication of false money

This sort includes all the robbers who exercised no other means than overt force or fraud: bandits, brigands, pirates, scum of land and sea. The ancient heroes were glorified with these honorable names, and regarded their profession as noble as well as lucrative. Nimrod, Theseus, Jason and his Argonauts, Japheth, David, Cacus, Romulus, Clovis and his Merovingian successors, Robert Guiscard, Tancredo of Hauteville, Bohémond and the majority of the Norman adventurers, were brigands and thieves. Brigandage was the only occupation, the sole means of existence for the nobles of the Middle Ages; it is to it that England owes all its colonies. One knew the hated of the savage peoples for labor; honor, in their eyes was not to produce, but to take. You could cultivate a field! they said among them as a form of malediction. The heroic character of the robber is expressed in this verse from Horace, speaking of Achilles: Jura neget sibi nala, nihil non arroget armis; and by these words from the testament of Jacob, that the Jews apply to David, and the Christians mystically to Christ: Manus ejus contra omnes. That disposition to rapine has been at all times inherent in the profession of arms, and if Napoleon has succumbed at Waterloo, one can say that justice was done by him for the brigandage of his heroes. I have gold, wine and women, with my lance and my buckler, said even quite recently the general of Brossard.

Today the robber, the well-armed of the Bible, is pursued like the wolves and hyenas; the police have killed his noble industry; by the terms of the Code he is liable, according to his specialty and skills, to penalties severe and infamous, from imprisonment to the scaffold. The right of conquest, sung by Voltaire, is no longer tolerated: the nations have become towards one another, in that regard, of an extreme touchiness. As to individual occupation, made outside of a concession or the help of the State, one no longer sees examples of it.

One steals by fraud, abuse of trust, lottery and gambling.

This second sort of theft was esteemed in Sparta and approved of by Lycurgus, in view of sharpening the fineness of mind, and of arousing the spirit of invention among the young people. It is the category of Solon, of Sinon, of Ulysses, of the Jews, both ancient and modern, from Jacob up to Deutz, of the Bohemians; of the Arabs and of all the savages. The savage steals without shame and without remorse, not because he is depraved, but because he is naive. Under Louis XIII and Louis XIV one was not dishonored by cheating at games: that was part of the rules, and honest men had no qualms about correcting, by an adroit artifice, the outrages of fortune. Today still, and by all countries, there is a sort of merit highly regarded among the peasants in high or petty commerce, of knowing how to make a deal, which means to deceive his man. The first virtue of the mother of the family is to know how to rob those who sells to her or those that she hires, by constantly holding back on the wages or the price; and if we are not all sons of coquettes, as Paul-Louis said, we are at least all sons of rascals.

We know with what pain the government has resigned itself to the abolition of the lotteries: it had just lost one of its most precious properties. It was not yet sixty years since confiscation has ceased to dishonor our laws: at all times the first thought of the magistrate who punishes, like that of the brigand who murders, was to despoil his victim. All our taxes, all our laws of customs, have theft as their point of departure.

The crook, the fraud, the charlatan, those who speak in the name of God or who represent society, like those who sell charms, above all makes use of the dexterity of his hands, of the subtlety of his minds, of the prestige of eloquence and of a great fecundity of imagination. His talent consists in knowing the right moment to excite cupidity. The legislator as well, wanting to show his esteem for talent and kindness, has created below the category of crimes, where one only makes use of force and ambushes, and which leads to the most terrible punishments, the category of misdemeanors, liable only to correctional, not to ignominious, punishments. How droll of spiritualism!

One robs by usury.

This species of robbery, so odious formerly in the Church and still so severely punished in our times, does not distinguish itself from the loan at interest, one of the most energetic springs of production, and forms the transition between forbidden and authorized robbery. Also it gives place, by its equivocal nature, to a mass of contradictions in the laws and in morals, contradictions very simply exploited by the men of the palace, of finance and of commerce.

Thus the usurer who loans at 10 percent on a mortgage incurs an enormous fine, if he is caught; the banker who receives the same interest, not, it is true, from a loan, but as a commission, is protected by royal privilege. It would take too long to enumerate all the sorts of robbery which are committed by finance: let it suffice to say that among all the ancient peoples the profession of money-changer, banker, publican or traitant were not reputed very honorable. Today the capitalists who place their funds either on the State, or in commerce, at a perpetual interest of 3, 4, or 5 percent, that is to say those who receive on top of the legitimate price of the loan an interest less than that received by the bankers and usurers, are the flower of society. It is always the same system: moderation in robbery makes our virtue.

One robs by the constitution of rent, farm-rent, house-rent, and leases.

Rent, considered in his principle and its aim, is the agrarian law by which all men must become guaranteed and irremovable proprietors of the soil; as for its importance, it represents the portion of the fruits which exceeds the wage of the producer, and which belongs to the community. During the period of organization, that rent in paid, in the name of society which is always manifested by the individualization as it is explained by the facts, to the proprietor. But the proprietor does more than receive the rent, he alone enjoys it; he renders nothing to the community, he does not divide with his fellows, he devours, putting himself into it, the product of the collective labor. Thus there is robbery, legal robbery if you wish, but real robbery.

There is theft, in commerce and industry, every time the entrepreneur holds back from the worker some part of his wages, or receives a bonus on top of that which comes back to him.

I have proven, in dealing with value, that every labor must leave a surplus; so that in supposing the consumption of the laborer to be always the same, his labor should create, on top of his subsistence, a capital always greater. Under the regime of property, the excess of labor, essentially collective, passes entirely, like the rent, to the proprietor: now, between that disguised appropriation and the fraudulent usurpation of a communal good, where is the difference?

The consequence of that usurpation is that the laborer, whose share of the collective is constantly confiscated by the entrepreneur, is always on his uppers, while the capitalist is always in profit; that commerce, the exchange of essentially equal values, is no more than the art of buying for 3 fr. what is worth 6, and of selling or 6 fr. that which is worth 3; and that political economy, that upholds and advocates that regime, is the theory of robbery, as property, the respect of which maintains a similar state of things, is the religion of force. It is just, M. Blanqui said recently to the Academy of Moral Sciences in a speech on the coalitions, that labor participate in the wealth that it produces. If then he does not participate, it is unjust; and if it is unjust, it is robbery, and the proprietors are robbers. Speak plainly then, economists!...

Justice, at the end of the negative community, called by the ancient poets the golden age, is thus the right of force. In a society which becomes organized, the inequality of faculties awakens the idea of value; that leads to the idea of proportion between merit and fortune; and as the first and only merit thus recognized is force, it is the strongest, the aristos (superlative A'arés, fort, proper name of the god Mars), who, being the most deserving, the best, aristos, have a right to the largest portion; and if that portion is refused to them, tout naturellement il s'en empare. De là à s'arroger the right of property over all things, that is only a step.

Such was justice in the heroic age, preserved, at least by tradition, among the Greeks and Romans down to the last days of their republics. Plato, in the “Gorgias,” introduces a character named Callicles, who spiritedly defends the right of the strongest, which Socrates, the advocate of equality, tou isou, seriously refutes. It is related of the great Pompey, that he blushed easily, and, nevertheless, these words once escaped his lips: “Why should I respect the laws, when I have arms in my hand?” This shows him to have been a man in whom the moral sense and ambition were struggling for the mastery, and who sought to justify his violence by the motto of the hero and the brigand.

The right of force was succeeded by the right of cunning, which was only a degradation of the first, and a new manifestation of justice: detested right of the heroes, which did not shine there and wasted too much. The well-known story of Oedipus and the Sphinx is an allusion to that right of cunning, according to which the victor was master, as in war, of the life of the vanquished. Skill in deceiving an enemy by treacherous propositions seemed deserving of reward; but by a reaction which revealed already the true sentiments of the just, and which was however only an inconsequence, the strong always boasted of good faith and simplicity, while the skilled despised the strong, calling them brutal and barbaric.

In those days, respect for one’s word and observation of oaths was of a rigor literal rather than logical: Uti lingua nuncupassit, ita jus esto, — “As the tongue has spoken, so must the right be,” says the law of the Twelve Tables. Nascent raison attaches itself less to the substance than to the form; it senses from instinct that it is the form, the method, which makes all its certainty. Artifice, or rather perfidy, was nearly all of politics of ancient Rome. Among other examples, Vico cites this one, also related by Montesquieu: The Romans had had guaranteed to Carthaginians the preservation of their goods and their city, using by design the word civitas, which means society, State. The Carthaginians, on the contrary, understanding them to mean the material city, urbs, and accordingly beginning to rebuild their walls, were attacked for the infraction of the treaty by the Romans, who, acting on the heroic idea of right, did not believe it sinful, having deceived their enemies with an equivocation, to sustain an unjust war. Modern diplomacy has changed nothing of these antiques habits.

In theft, as it is forbidden by law, force and fraud are used alone and without accessories. In authorized theft they are disguised under some utility, of which they serve as a vehicle for despoiling their victim.

The direct recourse to violence and to guile has been recently, and in a unanimous voice, rejected; it is that agreement of the peoples to renounce force which constitutes and distinguishes civilization. No nation has yet managed to deliver itself from robbery disguised by labor, talent and possession.

The right of force and the right of cunning, celebrated by rhapsodies in the poems of the Iliad and the Odyssey, inspired the Greek republics, and filled with their spirit the Roman laws, from which it has passed into our mores and our codes. Christianity has changed nothing in this regard: Christianity, having arisen, in religion, hostile from the beginning to philosophy and contemptuous of science, could not fail to accommodate all that which was in essence religious. It is thus that after having made profession of equality and common sense in Saint Matthew and Saint Paul, it mustered little by little around it the superstitions that it had at first proscribed: polytheism, dualism, trinitarianism, magic, necromancy, hierarchy, monarchy, property, all the religions and abominations of the earth.

The ignorance of the pontiffs and the councils, on all that which relates to morals, has equaled that of the forum and of the lenders; and that profound ignorance of society and of right/law is what has misled the Church and which dishonors forever its teaching. Moreover, the infidelity has been general; all the Christian sects have misunderstood the precept of Christ; all have erred in morals, because they erred in doctrine: all are guilty of false propositions, full of iniquity and homicide. Let it ask pardon of society, that Church which called itself infallible, and which has not been able to preserve the deposit; let its so-called reformed sisters be humiliated/abased... and the people, disillusioned, but clement, will decide.

Thus property, the conventional right, as different from justice as eclecticism is from truth, and value from the mercurial, is constituted by a series of oscillations between the two extremes of injustice, violent force and perfidious cunning, between which the contenders stop always at a convention. But justice comes following compromise; the convention will sooner or later express the reality; the true right frees itself incessantly from the sophistical and arbitrary right; the reform will come about by the struggle of intelligence and force; and it is to this vast movement, whose point of departure is in the darkness of savagery, and which expires the day when society rises to the synthetic idea of possession and of value; it is that ensemble of transformations and of revolutions instinctively accomplishes and which seeks its scientific and definitive solution, that I call the religion of property.

But if property, spontaneous and progressive, is a religion, it is, like monarchy and priesthood, of divine right. Similarly, the inequality of conditions and fortunes, poverty, is of divine right; perjury and robbery are of divine institution; the exploitation of man by man is the affirmation, I almost said the manifestation of God. The true theists are the proprietors; the defenders of property are all God-fearing men; the sentences to death and poverty, that they carry out on one another as a result of their misunderstandings of property, are human sacrifices offered to the god of force. Those, on the contrary, who proclaim the imminent end of property, who evoke with Jesus Christ and Saint Paul the abolition of property; who think about production, consumption and distribution of wealth, are the anarchists and the atheists; and society, which advances visibly to equality and science, society is the incessant negation of God.

Demonstration of the hypothesis of God by property, and necessity of atheism for the physical, moral and intellectual improvement of man, such is the strange problem remains for us to resolve. A few words will suffice: the facts are known, our proof is mad.

The dominant idea of the century, the most ordinary and most authentic idea today is the idea of Progress. Since Lessing, progress, become the basis of social beliefs, enjoys in minds the same role as revelation did in times past, that one says that it denies, while in reality it only translates it. The Latin revelatio, like the Greek apokulupsis, means literally unfurling, progress: but religious antiquity saw that unfurling in a history recounted, before the event, by God himself, while the philosophical reason of the moderns sees it in the succession of facts accomplished. Prophecy is not the opposite, it is the myth of the philosophy of history.

The development of humanity, such is them, but with a larger and larger consciousness, our idea the most profound and most comprehensive: development of language and laws; development of religions and philosophies; economic and industrial development; development of justice, by force, cunning, and conventions; development of the sciences and arts. And Christianity, which embraces every religion, which is opposed to every philosophy, which relies on one side on revelation, on the other on penitence, that is to say which believes in the education of man by reason and experience, Christianity, in its entirety, is the symbolization of progress.

In light of that sublime, fertile and highly rational idea of progress, persists and seems to revive yet another idea, gigantic, enigmatic, as impenetrable to our dialectical instruments as are to the telescope the depths of the firmament: it is the idea of God.

What is God?

God is, hypothetically, the eternal, the all powerful, the infallible, the immutable, the spontaneous, in a word, the infinite in all faculties, properties and manifestations. God is the being in whom intelligence and activity, elevated to an Infinite power, becomes adequate and identical to fatality itself: Summa lex, summa libertas, summa necessitas. God is thus by essence anti-progressive and anti-providential: Dictum factum, there is his motto, his single and unique law. And as in him eternity excludes Providence, just so infallibility excludes the apperception of error, and as a consequence the apperception of evil: sanctus in omnibus operibus suis. But God, by his quality of infinity in all senses, acquires a specification of his own, and consequently a possibility of existence resulting from his opposition to the finite being, progressive and providential, whom he conceives as his antagonist. God, in a word, having nothing contradictory in his concept, is possible, and there is place to verify this involuntary hypothesis of our reason.

All these notions have been furnished to us by the analysis of human being, considered in its moral and intellectual constitution; they are presented to us, à la suite of an irrefutable dialectic, as the necessary postulate of our contingent nature and of our function on the globe.

Later, that which we have first conceived as only a simple possibility of existence, is raised by the theory, from irreducible dualism and the progression of beings, importance of a probability. We have noted that the fact, acquired from now on by science, of a progressive creation, which unfurls on a dualistic substance, and of which the reason and the last term are already given to us, involved at its origin another fact, that of an essence infinite in spontaneity, effectiveness and certainty, of which all the attributes, as a consequence, would be the opposite of those of man.

It remains then to bring into the light that probable fact, that existence sine qua non that reason demands, that observation suggests, but that nothing yet demonstrates, and that, in any case, its infinity and is solitude dares us to hope to understand. It remains to demonstrate the indemonstrable, to penetrate the inaccessible, to place, in short, under the regard of mortal man, the infinite.

This problem, insoluble at first glance, contradictory in its terms, is reduced, if one takes the trouble to reflect on it, to the following theorem, in which every contradiction disappears: To equate inevitability and progress, in such a manner that infinite existence and progressive existence,—adequate to one another, but not identical, and, on the contrary, opposite, penetrating each other, but not merging, serving mutually as expression and law,—appear to us in turn, as the mind and matter which constitute them, but on another dimension, like the two inseparable and irreducible faces of the being.

One has seen, and we have had care to note on more than one occasion, that in social science the ideas are all equally eternal and evolving, simple and complex, aphoristic and subordinate. For a transcendent intelligence, there is in the economic system neither principle, nor consequence, nor demonstration, nor deduction: the truth is one and self-same, without condition of sequence, because it is truth everywhere, under an infinite number of aspects, and in an infinity of theories and systems. It is only by the didactic exposition that the series of propositions are manifested. Society is like a scientist who, having science lodged in his brain, embraces it in its ensemble, conceives it without beginning or end, grasps it simultaneously and distinctly in all its parts, and find for each of them evidence and equal priority. But does that same man want to produce science? He is forced to unwind it in successive words, propositions and discourses, that is, to present as a progression that which appears to him as an indivisible whole.

Thus, the ideas of liberty, of equality, of mine and thine, of merit and demerit, of credit and debit, of servant and master, of proportion, of value, of competition, of monopoly, of taxation, of exchange, of division of labor, of machines, of customs, of rent, of inheritance, etc., etc., all the categories, all the oppositions, all the syntheses named from the origin of the world in the economic vocabulary, are contemporary in reason. And yet, in order to constitute a science which is accessible to us, these ideas must be graded according to a theory which shows them to us engendering one another, and which has its beginning, middle and end. In order to enter into human practice and realize itself in an efficacious manner, these same ideas must se poser in a series of oscillating institutions, accompanied by a thousand unforeseen accidents and long experiments by trial and error. In short, as in science there is the absolute and transcendental truth, and the theoretical truth, so in society there is at once both inevitability and providence, spontaneity and reflection, the second of these two powers laboring constantly to supplant the first, but making always in reality only the same drudgery.

Inevitability is thus a form of being and of the idea; deduction, progress, is another form.

But inevitability, progress, these are abstractions of language that do not know nature, in which all is realized or is not. There is, then, in humanity, inevitable being and progressive being, inseparables, but distinct; opposed, antagonistic, but never irreducible.

As creatures endowed with an unreflective and involuntary spontaneity, subject to the laws of a physique and social organism, ordained for all eternity, immutable in its terms, irresistible in its ensemble, and which fulfilled and realized by development and belief; as we live, grow and die, as we labor, exchange, love, etc., we are the inevitable being, in quo vivimus, movemur and sumus. We are its substance, its soul, its body, its face, by the same title and neither less nor more than the animals, plants and stones.

Bust as we observe, reflect, learn and act in consequence; as we submit ourselves to nature and become masters of ourselves, we are the progressive being; we are men. God, natura naturans, is the base, the eternal substance of society; and society, natura naturata, is the inevitable being in perpetual emission of itself. Physiology represents, somewhat imperfectly, that duality, in its well-known distinction between organic life and the life of relation. God does not exist solely in society, he is in all nature: but it is only in society that God is glimpsed, by his opposition with the progressive being; it is society, it is man who by his evolution made the original pantheism cease, and that is why the natural scientist who buries himself and is absorbed in physiology and matter, without ever studying society or man, loses little by little the sense of divinity. Everything is God for him, which is to say, there is no God.

God and man, divers de nature, are thus distinguished by their ideas and their acts, in short, by their language.

The world is the consciousness of God. The ideas or of consciousness in God are attraction, movement, life, number, measure, unity, opposition, progression, series, equilibrium: all the ideas conceived and produced eternally, consequently without succession, foresight or error. The language of God, the signs of his ideas, are all the beings and their phenomena.

The ideas or facts of consciousness in man are attention, comparison, memory, judgment, reasoning, imagination, time, space, causality, the beautiful and the sublime, love and hate, sadness and sensuality. These ideas, man produces them outside by some specific signs: speech, industry, agriculture, sciences and arts, religions, philosophies, laws, governments, wars, conquests, joyous and gloomy ceremonies, revolutions, progress.

The ideas de God are common to men, which comes from God like nature; which is only even the consciousness of nature; which takes the ideas of God for principles and materials for all of his, and converts in his being and assimilates incessantly the divine substance. But the ideas of the man are strangers to God, who does not understand our progress, and for whom all the products of our imagination are monsters, or voids. That is why man speaks the language of God as his own, while God is powerless to speak the language of man; and no conversation, no pact between them is possible. That is why all that which in humanity comes from God, focuses on God or returns to God, is hostile to man, harmful to his development and to his perfection.

God creates the world, and drives, so to speak, man from himself, because he is infinite power, and his essence is to engender progress eternally: Pater ab œvo se videns parem sibi gignit natum, says the Catholic theology. God and man are necessary to one another, and one of the two cannot be denied without the other disappearing at the same time. What would progress be without an absolute and immutable law? What would necessity be, if it did not unfold outside? Let us suppose, against all reason, that the activity in God suddenly ceased: creation would return to a chaotic existence; it returns to the state of matter without forms, mind without ideas, unintelligible necessity. If God ceases to act, then God is no longer.

But God and man, despite the necessity which enchains them, are irreducible; what the moralists have called, by a pious calumny, the war of man with himself, and who is at base only the war of man against God, the war of reflection against instinct, the war of the reason which prepares, chooses and temporizes, against the impetuous and fatal passion, is its unimpeachable proof. The existence of God and man is proven by their eternal antagonism: here is what explains the contradiction of the cults, who sometimes plead with God to spare man, to not deliver him to temptation, like Phaedra begging Venus to uproot from his heart the love of Hippolytus; sometimes ask God for wisdom and intelligence, like the sons of David in mounting to the throne, as we still make in our masses of Saint-Esprit. There is what explains, finally, the majority of civil and religious wars, the persecution made to ideas, the fanaticism of customs, the hatred of science, and the horror of progress, premiere causes of all the evils that afflict our species.

Man, as man, can never be found in contradiction with himself; he senses trouble and suffering only by the resistance of God that is in him. In man is brought together all the spontaneities of nature, all the instigations of inevitable Being, all the gods and demons of the universe. In order to subdue this powers, to discipline that anarchy, man has only his reason, his progressive thought: and this is what makes up the sublime drama of which the incidents form, by their ensemble, the last reason of all the existences. The destiny of nature and of man is the metamorphosis of God: but God is inexhaustible, and our struggle eternal.

Let us not be surprised then if everything that professes to mysticism and religion, everything that raises or claims to represent God, all that which endeavors to retrogress towards primitive ignorance, all that which advocates the satisfaction of the flesh and the worship of the passions, shows itself a partisan of property, enemy of equality and of justice. We are on the verge of a battle where all the enemies of man will be summoned against him, the senses, the heart, the imagination, pride, sloth, doubt: Astiterunt reges terrœ adversus Christum!... The cause of property is the cause of dynasties and of priesthoods, of demagoguery and of sophism, of the unproductive and of the parasites. No hypocrisy, no seduction will be spared to defend it. In order to lead the people, one will begin by feeling pity for its misery; one will excite in them love and tenderness, everything that can weaken courage and relax the will; one will raise above philosophical reflection and science its pleasant instincts. Then one will preach the national glories; one will stir up their patriotism; one will speak to them of their great men, and bit by bit, to the worship of Reason, always proscribed, one will substitute the cult of the exploiters, idolatry of the aristocrats.

For the people, like nature, loves to fulfill its ideas: to theoretical questions, the prefer questions of persons. If it revolts against Ferdinand, it is in order to obey Mazaniello. It requires a Lafayette, a Mirabeau, a Napoleon, a demi-god. It will not accept its salvation from the hands of a delegate, unless he dresses it up generally. And see how the worship of idols prospers! See the fanatics of Fourier and of good Icaria, great men who want to organize society, and have never been able to establish a kitchen; see the democrats, making greatness and virtue consist in a grandstand victory, always ready to race on the Rhine, like the Athenians at Chaeronea, at the voice of some Demosthenes who the day before would have received the gold of Philippe, and will cast his shield into the battle.

Nobody is occupied with ideas, principles, knowledge of accomplished facts: it seems that we already have too much ancient wisdom. Democracy is Rousseau; the dynastics and legitimists dream of Louis XIV; the bourgeois go back to Louis the Fat; the priests stop only at Gregory VII, and the socialists at Jesus: it is a question of who will go back the farthest. In this universal subsidence, study is no longer, like fragmented labor, anything but a manner of exhausting oneself; critique is reduced to some insipid farces; all philosophy expires.

Isn’t it there that we have seen, some months ago, when, in order to cite a single example of it, a scientist, friend of the people, professing to teach history and progress, across a flood of elegiac and dithyrambic phrases, was able to express on the social question only this pitiful judgment:

“As for communism, a word suffices. The last country where property will be abolished, it is precisely France. If, as someone of that school said, property is robbery, there are twenty-five million proprietors who will not part with it tomorrow.”

The author of that mockery is M. Michelet, professor at the College of France, member of the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences; and the someone to whom he alluded, is me. M. Michelet could name me without causing me to blush: the definition of property is mine, and my only ambition is to prove that I have understood its sense and range. Property, it is robbery! He has not said, in a thousand years, two words like those. I have no other goods on the earth than that definition of property: but I hold it more precious than the millions of the Rothschilds, and I dare say that it will be the most significant event of the government of Louis-Philippe.

But who then has said to M. Michelet that the negation of property necessarily implies communism? How does he know that France is the last country in the world where property will be abolished? Why, instead of twenty-five millions proprietors, hasn’t he said thirty-four? Where has he seen that we have accused persons, as we blame the institutions? And when he adds that the twenty-five millions of proprietors who possess France will not relinquish tomorrow, who gives him the right to suppose that one had need for that of their consent? In five lines M. Michelet has managed to be absurd five times: he intends doubtless to fulfill the prediction that I had formerly made against whoever should attempt in the future to defend property. But what to respond to a man who, after forty years of the study of history, has come, despite all science, to preach to the nineteenth century emancipation by instinct?... Let another debate with M. Michelet: as for me, I refer him to the chronology.

Read the whole thing at Out of the Libertarian Labyrinth.

A freethought gem from Multatuli

Now available thanks to Shawn P. Wilbur at Out of the Libertarian Labyrinth:

Though personally I am (notoriously, in some circles) a radical neo-christian, a "regular thoroughgoing heretic" much on the same model as William B. Greene, I'm a equal-opportunity historian and translator, and certainly enjoy a well-written freethought piece. After all, the institutions of Christendom seem to have trouble keeping their own basic doctrines straight, and pretty much beg for a good rebuttal. This short piece by Multatuli (Eduard Douwes Dekker, 1820-1887) is a translation of a French translation of a posthumously published letter, but I think the sense comes through loud and clear.



I don’t know if we have been created with a specific aim, or if we are here by chance.

No more do we know if there is a God or Gods who takes pleasure in our anguishes and murmurs against the imperfection of our existence. If such was the case, it would be horrible.

Whose fault is it if the weak are weak, and the sick are sick, if the stupid are stupid?

If we are made with an aim, and yet, by our imperfection, we cannot reach it, then the blame does not fall on us, the creatures, but on the creator!

Call him Zeus or Jupiter, Jehovah, Baal, or Djou, it matters not. But if he exists, he must be good and he must also pardon us for not understanding him.

It was up to him to reveal himself, and he has not done it.

If he had done it, he would have done it in a manner that nobody could doubt and everyone would have said: I feel it, know it and understand it.

What others claim to know of this God, does not serve me at all. For myself, I do not understand! I ask why he has revealed himself to others and not to me?

Is one child more favored by the father than the other?

As long as this God is not known to the sons of men, it is a calumny to believe in this God.

The child who appeals to his father in vain does no evil; but the father who allows his child to ask in vain acts cruelly. And it is better to believe that there is no father, than to believe that he would be deaf to the voice of his child.

Perhaps one day we will be wiser; perhaps one day we will sense that he exists, that he observed us and that his silence had cause and reason.

Well, as soon as we know it, it will be time to give praise, but not sooner, not now.

It would displease God to see that we adore him without reason, and it is folly to try to illuminate the dark ignorance of today by a light that does not yet shine.

To serve him?


If he had desired that we serve him, he would have revealed to us the way.

And it is absurd that he awaits adoration and praise from men when he leaves us in darkness.

If we do no serve him according to his desires, then it is his fault; his fault and not our own.

Until we are wiser, I ask: “Are good and evil identical?”

I do not understand what can serve a God to distinguish good from evil; au contraire! He that does good so that God will reward him is selfish, and, therefore, just does good for something bad. He makes a trade of it. He who acts mean from fear of the disfavor of this God, is a coward!

Oh! My God, I do not know you!

I invoked you, sought you, and begged you to respond to me, and you have stubbornly kept to yourself!

I would love to conform myself to your will, not from fear of being punished, not in the hope of being rewarded, but as the child conforms himself to the will of his father solely from love!

You have kept your silence, always silence. I always wander and I ardently desire the hour when I will know that you exist indeed.

Then I will demand: Father, why have you only know shown to your child that he possesses a father, and that he is not alone in the midst of the fighting, in the harsh combat for humanity and justice!

Or were you certain that I would do your will without knowing you?

That not knowing of your existence, I would serve you as you wished to be served?

Is this true

Answer, father. If you are there, answer! Do not leave your child to despair! Father do not remain deaf to the bloody lama sabacthani.

It is thus that the innocent moans on the cross that he has chose himself, it is thus that he writhes in pain and laments his thirst, the thirst for truth!

The wise man, the one who has the knowledge of God, mocks the fool, holds out to him the sponge soaked in venom and says:

“Listen, he calls his father!”

And hisses between his teeth:

“I thank thee, O Lord, I'm not like that one!”

And he intones: “Happy the one who, from his early years, was kept from the counsels of the wicked, who flees the sinners’ way!”

And the sage sneaks off to the Bourse to stock-job.

And the father is silent.

Oh! God! There is no God!

[translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]

Read the whole thing at Out of the Libertarian Labyrinth.