Imatges de pÓgina

'L'esprit de ce souverain juge du monde n'est pas si indépendant, qu'il ne soit sujet à être troublé par le premier tintamarre qui se fait autour de lui. Il ne faut pas le bruit d'un canon pour empêcher ses pensées : il ne faut que le bruit d'une girouette ou d'une poulie. Ne vous étonnez pas s'il ne raisonne pas bien à présent, une mouche bourdonne à ses oreilles ; c'en est assez pour le rendre incapable de bon conseil. Si vous voulez qu'il pousse trouver la vérité, chassez cet animal qui tient sa raison en échec et trouble cette puissante intelligence qui gouverne les villes et les royaumes. Le plaisant dieu que voila! 1 . . . à mesure que les hommes ont de lumière, ils trouvent et grandeur et misère en l'homme. En un mot, l'homme connaît qu'il est misérable: il est donc misérable, puisqu'il l'est: mais il est bien grand, puisqu'il le connaît.'2 'S'il se vante, je l'abaisse: s'il s'abaisse, je le vante: et le contredis toujours, jusqu'à ce qu'il comprenne qu'il est un monstre incompréhensible.' 3

In bringing to light the radical duplicity of the natural man, human reason has reached the limit of its powers. If there is a solution it is not pure thought as exercised by man that will reach it. 'La dernière démarche de la raison est de reconnaître qu'il y a une infinité de choses que la surpassent; elle n'est que faible, si elle ne va jusqu'à connaître cela.' 4 Nevertheless Il est bon d'être lassé et fatigué par l'inutile recherche du vrai bien, afin de tendre les bras au Libérateur' 5 'Vous n'êtes pas dans l'état de votre création.'6 There is the explanation of it all. The failure is not the failure of reason, but of the man vitiated by his own concupiscence and rendered incapable of reasoning aright. And so the remedy, in the face of so radical a perversion as this, is not the restoration of the lost powers of reasoning. Man has gone wrong not because of his vicious thought but because of his vicious self. There is need then of an act which shall grip man directly in the centre of his being not by an appeal to reason but by a supernatural gift of faith. The first act of religion is to confirm man in his misery, to reduce him to despair, to convince him of his need. The second act is to unite him

1 Pens. 366.

▲ Pens. 267.

2 Pens. 416.

Pens. 422.

3 Pens. 420.

• Pens. 430.

by a sentiment du cœur' to the Divine Mediator, to reach his understanding through the heart, to proceed by means of l'art d'agréer,' not of 'l'art de démontrer.' The effect of this is not to restore man's original integrity but to inspire a new life. Revelation is not the impartation of divine truth, still less the human discovery of divine truth; it is the personal act of a personal Redeemer upon the individual soul-gratuitous, inscrutable, supernatural.

An extraordinary interest attaches to this effort of Pascal to establish his central thesis as to the nature of revealed truth and the different kinds of knowledge. By a kind of prescience his whole thought is opposed to the trend of modern philosophy and the development of the modern scientific civilization. He is attempting to counter at the outset the inevitable drift towards theories of pure immanence which the method of Descartes inaugurated. He is seeking to establish the existence of a transcendent God, not by the old method of metaphysical argument to a first cause which was already discredited, but through the psychological analysis of a profound inner experience. He strains language to the uttermost, because he is trying to explain that the Christian experience is in the nature of the case inexplicable. The very inadequacy of human reason precludes the possibility of satisfactorily demonstrating its inadequacy. You can never logically demonstrate the futility of logic. The man who rests content with logic is enclosed for ever in the impenetrable shell of his own ignorance. The man who is contented with the goods that this life offers is impervious to the appeal of any higher things that there may be. The natural man clings to his logic and to life as he knows it because to doubt their ultimate adequacy is to stand trembling on the brink of a yawning gulf. Pascal seeks to shatter this self-satisfaction, this confidence in the gifts and possessions of the natural He will oppose with all his might any interpretation of Christianity (this is the real meaning of the Lettres Provinciales) which seeks to soften its challenge to the intellect and the will, and seems to reduce it to a mere accompaniment and solace of mundane existence. He desires to


[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

open men's eyes and make them see the yawning gulf on whose brink they seek to build the tottering edifice of a purely secular civilization. He desires to do so because he is convinced that only beyond the gulf are abiding peace and safety to be found, and because he knows, or thinks he knows, the secret of the crossing. How different all this is from a Christianity which seeks to make terms with secular civilization by identifying revelation with the reason of the Schools, which blesses the social revolution whose avowed object it is to establish all men for ever in worldly comfort in the name of Jesus Christ, which endeavours to convert the world by presenting Incarnation and Atonement as the culmination of an immanent process, ---how fundamentally these views differ it is superfluous to demonstrate. It may be that we are in possession of superior enlightenment. There can be no shadow of doubt that Pascal would have called it crucifying Christ afresh.

Thus it became one of Pascal's most assured convictions that reason and imagination are both vitiated beyond all hope of repair by purely natural means. Nevertheless within the vicious limits of the humanly possible few men have been more richly endowed with reason and imagination, or have turned their natural endowment to more fruitful purpose. This is not the place to form an estimate of the contribution he made as a pure thinker in the spheres of mathematical investigation and of physical experiment. It is enough to remember that he was the immediate precursor of Leibniz and Newton in the discovery of the calculus, and that the experiments by which he demonstrated the fallacy of the age-long dictum that 'Nature abhors a vacuum' assure him a permanent place in the history of science in an age which witnessed the work of Galileo and Torricelli, of Harvey and Descartes. We miss perhaps rather less than one half of the real Pascal if we permit ourselves to forget that even after his conversion he found the higher mathematics to be the best cure for the toothache. The interest and importance of this for a general estimate of the man and his significance lie in the VOL. XCVI.-NO. CXCII.

2 A

fact that the same qualities of mind directly helped to determine his interpretation of the problems of life, and drove him onward along the road that we have tried to describe. It is not often so. The mathematical or scientific expert is generally expert at nothing else. But in the case of Pascal the same mental clarity and vigour, the same sheer penetrative power of intellect which solved the problem of the cycloid and directed the experiments of the Puy de Dôme are turned with the same remorseless fidelity to experienced fact upon the general problems of human life. There is in Pascal a very remarkable combination of reason and imagination. The reason penetrates to the centre of the various solutions of human existence which human experience has suggested, it isolates and clarifies, it gives them a definition and a decision of outline comparable to that of a proposition in geometry. But amid all the activity of the reason, the imagination is never for an instant at rest. It is the reason which presents with ever-increasing clarity the nature of the problem and of the issues involved; it is the imagination which works ceaselessly to vivify and inform the cold impersonal deliverances of reason with all the passion of a drama of the soul. Such and such are the possible meanings and implications of human existence. Others have seen them too, but few so clearly. Be these implications what they may, all that I am and have is embarked therein. Others have felt so, too, but few with such an intensity of passion, and few indeed (they can be counted on the fingers) are they in whom this rare clarity of thought has been wedded to an equally rare intensity of passion. These few are the master-spirits, the archinterpreters of the universe. For the universe, we may venture to hope, is not pure thought, not some spectral woof of impalpable abstractions, or unearthly ballet of bloodless categories.' Still less is it, we would fain believe, blind and unreasoning passion, the expression of a boundless and indeterminate will to be. It is only in thought informed with passion that our minds can come finally to rest, in passion clarified by reason that our hearts can learn for ever to rejoice, and reason and passion can only

come to terms, interfuse and determine each other, in the experience which we call personality. For personality is neither reason abstracted from passion, nor passion uninformed by reason, but just the unique combination of the two. So the imagination will not allow the reason to rest in cold abstractions, and the reason will not allow the imagination to wanton in solutions which are not radical. The problem becomes posed in the terms of personality, and susceptible only of a personal solution, of solution in the terms of a personal experience which is neither pure thought nor blind passion, in the terms of that passionate thought which is called love. It is in the agony and strife of personal experience in which souls are lost and found, so Pascal came to believe, that thought and passion have their meaning and their justification for God and man alike. Rather, it is true, that this love, this passionate thought, is itself the ultimate meaning and reality of God and man and all that is. It alone is self-consistent, self-explanatory, complete; it is the experience which God for ever enjoys, and seeks to impart, and which man for ever seeks until he find it and so for ever enjoys. This, Pascal would say, is the meaning and the glory of Jesus Christ. Man comes to realize that the restless search for some modus vivendi of reason and of passion which can only come to rest in the self-negation of love is in truth the search for Christ. In the attainment of this love, which entails the destruction of that 'moi,' that self whose whole being consists in the strife between reason and passion, he grasps reality, he lays hold upon Christ and God. The subjective strife and agony which finds its solution in love is in truth the surrender of the lower personality to a transcendent reality which is objective and final. The 'moi' which strives and struggles in ceasing from this strife and struggle in the surrender to the solution which love offers, thereby in and for itself ceases to be. But experience continues, and the experience is a new life whose centre of reference is no longer self, but Christ. It is objective because thought and passion come to rest in a passionate thought, or experience of love to which no beyond either in the category of thought or in

« AnteriorContinua »