*1896: Reflections of a Russian Statesman
by Konstantin Pobedonostsev

Source: K. P. Pobyedonotseff, Reflections of a Russian Statesman, trans. R. C. Long (London: Grant Richard & Co., 1898)
Revised by Nathaniel Knight and SAC editor

*1903:Il'ia Repin's stunning portrait of Pobedonostsev near the end of his public life (Olga's Gallery)

Table of contents includes =


The New Democracy

What is this freedom by which so many minds are agitated, which inspires so many insensate actions, so many wild speeches, which leads the people so often to misfortune? In the democratic sense of the word, freedom is the right of political power, or, to express it otherwise, the right to participate in the government of the State… Forever extending its base, the new Democracy now aspires to universal suffrage - a fatal error, and one of the most remarkable in the history of mankind. By this means, the political power so passionately demanded by Democracy would be shattered into a number of infinitesimal bits, of which each citizen acquires a single one. What will he do with it, then? how will he employ it? In the result it has undoubtedly been shown that in the attainment of this aim Democracy violates its sacred formula of "Freedom indissolubly joined with Equality." It is shown that this apparently equal distribution of "freedom" among all involves the total destruction of equality. Each vote, representing an inconsiderable fragment of power, by itself signifies nothing; an aggregation of votes alone has a relative value… In a Democracy, the real rulers are the dexterous manipulators of votes, with their henchmen, the mechanics who so skillfully operate the hidden springs which move the puppets in the arena of democratic elections. Men of this kind are ever ready with loud speeches lauding equality; in reality, they rule the people as any despot or military dictator might rule it… The history of mankind bears witness that the most necessary and fruitful reforms - the most durable measures - emanated from the supreme will of statesmen, or from a minority enlightened by lofty ideas and deep knowledge, and that, on the contrary, the extension of the representative principle is accompanied by an abasement of political ideas and the vulgarization of opinions in the mass of the electors…

Among the falsest of political principles is the principle of the sovereignty of the people, the principle that all power issues from the people, and is based upon the national will - a principle which has unhappily become more firmly established since the time of the French Revolution. Thence proceeds the theory of Parliamentarianism, which, up to the present day, has deluded much of the so-called "intelligentsia," and unhappily infatuated certain foolish Russians. It continues to maintain its hold on many minds with the obstinacy of a narrow fanaticism, although every day its falsehood is exposed more clearly to the world.

In what does the theory of Parliamentarianism consist? It is supposed that the people in its assemblies makes its own laws, and elects responsible officers to execute its will. Such is the ideal conception. Its immediate realization is impossible. The historical development of society necessitates that local communities increase in numbers and complexity; that separate races be assimilated, or, retaining their polities and languages, unite under a single flag, that territory extend indefinitely: under such conditions direct government by the people is impracticable. The people must, therefore, delegate its right of power to its representatives, and invest them with administrative autonomy. These representatives in turn cannot govern immediately, but are compelled to elect a still smaller number of trustworthy persons - ministers - to whom they entrust the preparation and execution of the laws, the apportionment and collection of taxes, the appointment of subordinate officials, and the disposition of the militant forces.

In the abstract this mechanism is quite symmetrical: for its proper operation many conditions are essential. The working of the political machine is based on impersonal forces constantly acting and completely balanced. It may act successfully only when the delegates of the people abdicate their personalities; when on the benches of Parliament sit mechanical fulfillers of the people's behests; when the ministers of State remain impersonal, absolute executors of the will of the majority; when the elected representatives of the people are capable of understanding precisely, and executing conscientiously, the program of activity, mathematically expressed, which has been delivered to them. Given such conditions the machine would work exactly, and would accomplish its purpose. The law would actually embody the will of the people! administrative measures would actually emanate from Parliament: the pillars of the State would rest actually on the elective assemblies, and each citizen would directly and consciously participate in the management of public affairs.

Such is the theory. Let us look at the practice. Even in the classic countries of Parliamentarianism it would satisfy not one of the conditions enumerated. The elections in no way express the will of the electors. The popular representatives are in no way restricted by the opinions of their constituents, but are guided by their own views and considerations, modified by the tactics of their opponents. In reality, ministers are autocratic, and they rule, rather than are ruled by, Parliament. They attain power, and lose power, not by virtue of the will of the people, but through immense personal influence, or the influence of a strong party which places them in power, or drives them from it. They dispose of the force and resources of the nation at will, they grant immunities and favours, they maintain a multitude of idlers at the expense of the people, and they fear no censure while they enjoy the support in Parliament of a majority which they maintain by the distribution of bounties from the rich tables which the State has put at their disposal. In reality, the ministers are as irresponsible as the representatives of the people. Mistakes, abuse of power, and arbitrary acts, are of daily occurrence, yet how often do we hear of the grave responsibility of a minister? It may be once in fifty years a minister is tried for his crimes, with a result contemptible when compared with the celebrity gained by the solemn procedure.

Thus the representative principle works in practice. The ambitious man comes before his fellow-citizens, and strives by every means to convince them that he more than any other is worthy of their confidence. What motives impel him to this quest? It is hard to believe that he is impelled by disinterested zeal for the public good. . . .

On the day of polling few give their votes intelligently; these are the individuals, influential electors whom it has been worth' while to convince in private. The mass of electors, after the practice of the herd, votes for one of the candidates nominated by the committees. Not one exactly knows the man, or considers his character, his capacity, his convictions; all vote merely because they have heard his name so often. It would be vain to struggle against this herd. If a level-headed elector wished to act intelligently in such a grave affair, and not to give way to the violence of the committee, he would have to abstain altogether, or to give his vote for his candidate according to his conviction. However he might act, he could not prevent the election of the candidate favored by the mass of frivolous, in different, and prejudiced electors.

In theory, the elected candidate must be the favorite of the majority; in fact, he is the favorite of a minority, sometimes very small, but representing an organized force, while the majority, like sand, has no coherence, and is therefore incapable of resisting the clique and the faction. In theory, the election favors the intelligent and capable; in reality, it favors the pushing and impudent. It might be thought that education, experience, conscientiousness in work, and wisdom in affairs, would be essential requirements in the candidate; in reality, whether these qualities exist or not, they are in no way needed in the struggle of the election, where the essential qualities are audacity, a combination of impudence and oratory, and even some vulgarity, which invariably acts on the masses; modesty, in union with delicacy of feeling and thought, is worth nothing. . . .

…By nature, men are divided into two classes - those who tolerate no power above them, and therefore of necessity strive to rule others; and those who by their nature dread the responsibility inseparable from independent action, and who shrink from any resolute exercise of will. These were born for submission, and together constitute a herd* which follows the men of will and resolution, who form the minority. Thus the most talented persons submit willingly, and gladly entrust to stronger hands the control of affairs and the moral responsibility for their direction. Instinctively they seek a leader, and become his obedient instruments, inspired by the conviction that he will lead them to victory-and, often, to spoil. Thus all the important actions of Parliament are controlled by the leaders of the party, who inspire all decision, who lead in combat, and profit by victory. The public sessions are no more than a spectacle for the mass. Speeches are delivered to sustain the fiction of Parliamentarism, but seldom a speech by itself affects the decision of Parliament in a grave affair. Speechmaking serves for the glory of orators, for the increase of their popularity, and the making of their careers; only on rare occasions does it affect the distribution of votes. Majorities and minorities are usually decided before the session begins. Such is the complicated mechanism of the Parliamentary farce; such is the great political lie which dominates our age. . . .

Such is the Parliamentary institution, exalted as the summit and crown of the edifice of State. It is sad to think that even in Russia there are men who aspire to the establishment of this falsehood among us; that our professors glorify to their young pupils representative government as the ideal of political science; that our newspapers pursue it in their articles and feuilletons, under the name of justice and order, without troubling to examine without prejudice the working of the parliamentary machine. Yet even where centuries have sanctified its existence, faith already decays; the Liberal intelligence exalts it, but the people groans under its despotism, and recognizes its falsehood. We may not see, but our children and grand children assuredly will see, the overthrow of this idol, which contemporary thought in its vanity continues still to worship. . . .


The Press

In our age the judgment of others has assumed an organized form, and calls itself Public Opinion. Its organ and representative is the Press. In truth, the importance of the Press is immense, and may be regarded as the most characteristic fact of our time - more characteristic even than our remarkable discoveries and inventions in the realm of technical science. No government, no law, no custom can withstand its destructive activity when, from day to day, through the course of years, the Press repeats and disseminates among the people its condemnations of institutions or of men.

What is the secret of this strength? Certainly not the novelties and sensations with which the newspaper is filled, but its declared policy--the political and philosophical ideas propagated in its articles, selection and classification of its news and rumors, and the peculiar illumination which it casts upon them. The newspaper has usurped the position of judicial observer of the events of the day; it judges not only the actions and words of men, but affects a knowledge of their unexpressed opinions, their intentions, and their enterprises; it praises and condemns at discretion; it incites some, threatens others; drags to the pillory one, and others exalts as idols to be adored and examples worthy of the emulation of all. In the name of Public Opinion it bestows rewards on some, and punishes others with the severity of excommunication. The question naturally occurs: Who are these representatives of this terrible power. Public Opinion? Whence is derived their right and authority to rule in the name of the community, to demolish existing institutions, and to proclaim new ideals of ethics and legislation?

But no one attempts to answer this question; all talk loudly of the liberty of the Press as the first and essential element of social well-being. Even in Russia, so libeled by the lying Press of Europe, such words are heard. Our so-called Slavophiles, with amazing inconsistency, share the same delusion, although their avowed object is to reform and renovate the institutions of their country upon a historic basis. Having joined the chorus of Liberals, in alliance with the propagandists of revolution, they proclaim exactly in the manner of the West: "Public Opinion-that is, the collective thought, guided by the natural love of right in all - is the final judge in all matters of public interest; therefore no restriction upon freedom of speech can be allowed, for such restriction can only express the tyranny of the minority over the will of the mass."

Such is a current proposition of the newest Liberalism. It is accepted by many in good faith, and there are few who, having troubled to analyze it, have discerned how it is based upon falsehood and self-deception. It conflicts with the first principles of logic, for it is based on the fallacious premise that the opinions of the public and of the Press are identical.

To test the validity of this claim, it is only needful to consider the origin of newspapers, and the characters of their makers.

Any vagabond babbler or unacknowledged genius, any enterprising tradesman, with his own money or with the money of others, may found a newspaper, even a great newspaper. He may attract a host of writers and feuilletonists, ready to deliver judgment on any subject at a moment's notice; he may hire illiterate reporters to keep him supplied with rumors and scandals. His staff is then complete. From that day he sits in judgment on all the world, on ministers and administrators, on literature and art, on finance and industry. . .

This phenomenon is worthy of close inspection, for we find in it the most incongruous product of modern culture, the more incongruous where the principles of the new Liberalism have taken root, where the sanction of election, the authority of the popular will, is needed for every institution, where the ruling power is vested in the hands of individuals, and derived from the suffrages of the majority in the representative assemblies. For the journalist with a power comprehending all things, requires no sanction. He derives his authority from no election, he receives support from no one. His newspaper becomes an authority in the State, and for this authority no endorsement is required. The man in the street may establish such an organ and exercise the concomitant authority with an irresponsibility enjoyed by no other power in the world. That this is in no way exaggeration there are innumerable proofs. How often have superficial and unscrupulous journalists paved the way for revolution, fomented irritation into enmity, and brought about desolating wars! For conduct such as this a monarch would lose his throne, a minister would be disgraced, impeached, and punished; but the journalist stands dry above the waters he has disturbed, from the ruin he has caused he rises triumphant, and briskly continues his destructive work.

This is by no means the worst. When a judge has power to dishonor us, to deprive us of our property and of our freedom, he receives his power from the hands of the State only after such prolonged labor and experience as qualify him for his calling. His power is restricted by rigorous laws, his judgments are subject to revision by higher powers, and his sentence may be altered or commuted. The journalist has the fullest power to defame and dishonor me, to injure my material interests, even to restrict my liberty by attacks which force me to leave my place of abode. These judicial powers he has usurped; no higher authority has conferred them upon him; he has never proven by examination his fitness to exercise them; he has in no way shown his trustworthiness or his impartiality; his court is ruled by no formal procedure: and from his judgment there lies no appeal…

It is hard to imagine a despotism more irresponsible and violent than the despotism of printed words. Is it not strange and irrational, then, that those who struggle most for the preservation of this despotism are the impassioned champions for freedom, the ferocious enemies of legal restrictions and of all interference by the established authority. We cannot help remembering those wise men who went mad because they knew of their wisdom.

Knowledge and Work

… Take, for instance, the phrases, repeated unto weariness among us, and everywhere: Free Education, Obligatory Attendance, the Restriction of Child-Labor During the Years of Obligatory Attendance. There can be no question that learning is light, and that ignorance is darkness, but in the application of this rule we must take care to be ruled by common-sense, and so to abstain from violating that freedom, of which we hear so much, and which our legislators so ruthlessly restrict. Inspired by an idle saying that the schoolmaster won the battle of Sadowa, we multiply our model schools and schoolmasters, ignoring the requirements both of children and of parents, of climate, and of nature itself. We refuse to recognize, what experience has shown, that the school is a deceptive formality where its roots have taken no hold among the people, where it fails to meet the people's necessities, and to accord with the economy of its life. That school alone is suited to the people which pleases them, and the enlightening influence of which they see and feel; but all schools are repugnant to them to which they are driven by force, under threats of punishment, or which are organized, in ignorance of the people's tastes and necessities, on the fantasies of doctrinaires. In such schools the work becomes mechanical; the school resembles an office with all the formality and weariness which office life involves. The legislator is satisfied when he has founded and organized in certain localities a certain number of similar institutions adorned with the inscription - School. For these establishments money must be raised; attendance is secured under penalty; a great staff of inspectors is organized whose duty it is to see that parents and poor and working men send their children to school at the established age. Already all Governments have transgressed the line at which public instruction begins to show its reverse side. Everywhere official education flourishes at the expense of that real education in the sphere of domestic, professional, and social life which is a vital element of success.

But infinite evil has been wrought by the prevalent confusion of knowledge and power. Seduced by the fantasy of universal enlightenment, we confuse education with a certain sum of knowledge acquired by completing the courses of schools, skillfully elaborated in the studies of pedagogues. Having organized our school thus, we isolate it from life, and secure by force the attendance of children whom we subject to a process of intellectual training in accordance with our program. But we ignore or forget that the mass of the children whom we educate must earn their daily bread, a labor for which the abstract notions on which our programs are constructed will be vain; while in the interests of some imaginary knowledge we withhold that training in productive labor which alone will bear fruit. Such are the results of our complex educational system, and such are the causes of the aversion with which the masses regard our schools, for which they can find no use.

The vulgar conception of education is true enough, but unhappily it is disregarded in the organization of the modern school. In the popular mind the function of a school is to teach the elements of reading, writing, and arithmetic, and, in union with these, the duty of knowing, loving, and fearing God, of loving our native land, and of honoring our parents. These are the elements of knowledge and the sentiments which together form the basis of conscience in man, and give to him the moral strength needed for the preservation of his equilibrium in life, for the maintenance of struggle with the evil impulses of his nature and with the evil sentiments and temptations of the mind. It is an unhappy day when education tears the child from the surroundings in which he first acquired the elements of his future calling, those exercises of his early years through which he acquires, almost unconsciously, the taste capacity for work. The boy who wishes to become a bachelor or the master of arts must begin his studies at a certain age, and in due time pass through a given course of knowledge; but the vast majority of children must learn to live by the work of their hands. For such work physical training is needed from the earliest age. To close the door to such preparation, that time may be saved for the teaching of schools, is to place a burden upon the lives of the masses who have to struggle for their daily bread, and to shackle in the family the natural development of those economic forces which together constitute the capital of the commonwealth. The sailor qualifies for his calling by spending his boyhood on the sea; the miner prepares for his work by early years spent in the subterranean passages of mines. To the agriculturist it is even more essential that he shall become accustomed for his future work, that he may learn to love it in childhood, in the presence of nature, beside his herds and his plough, in the midst of his fields and his meadows.

Yet we waste our time discussing courses for elementary schools and obligatory programs which are to be the bases of a finished education. One would include an encyclopedic instruction under the barbarous term rodinovedenie (knowledge of the fatherland); another insists on the necessity for the agriculturist to know physics, chemistry, agricultural economy, and medicine; while a third demands a course of political economy and jurisprudence. But few reflect that by tearing the child from the domestic hearth for such a lofty destiny, they deprive his parents of a productive force which is essential to the maintenance of the home, while by raising before his eyes the mirage of illusory learning they corrupt his mind, an subject it to the temptations of vanity and conceit.


The Ideals of Unbelief


The ancient words, " The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God," apply with especial force to-day. Their truth is plainer than the sun, although now all " progressive minds " are possessed by a passionate desire to live without God, to conceal Him, to deny His presence. Even men at heart benevolent and honourable ask themselves how they may realise benevolence, honour, and conscience without God.

The Government of France, in the last stage of political disintegration, has organised its national schools without God. Among us, unhappily, certain representatives of intelligence have rivalled the Moscow princess, who said, " Ah, France, no better country in the world ! "-for not long ago a celebrated schoolmaster pointed out the French scholastic system as a model worthy of imitation.

Among the latest books officially prescribed for study in the female schools of France is one entitled, "Instruction Morale et Civique des jeunes Filles." This is in the nature of a secular catechism of morals, appointed to replace the study of the Word of God.

This book is worthy of notice. It is divided into three sections, each bearing a different title. The first is composed of certain moral precepts on duty, honesty, conscience, and so forth. The second part contains a short description of the State and of the national institutions. The third part treats of woman, her mission, faculties, and virtues. The matter in the book is concise, simple, and clear, written as a textbook ought to be with a multitude of clear examples and illustrations. No exception can be taken to the manner of this book; it preaches order, good morals, purity of thought and intention, kind deeds; it approves with emphasis the sentiment and recognition of duty, and carefully sets forth a woman's duties in social and domestic life.

One thing alone is notable. On no single page is mentioned the name of God, nor is there the slightest' reference to the religious feeling. The author, after explaining the great importance of the part played in man by conscience, defines it thus: " Conscience is our conception of the opinion which others have about us and our actions " (considération de l'opinion des autres). On this treacherous and mutable base, the opinion of others, is affirmed the moral foundation of our lives. How excellently this illustrates the ancient proverb, "Who thinks himself too wise becomes a fool."

Unhappily, to this stream of idiotcy flooding France to-day are drawn even from our poor Russia little rills of native intelligence; and in our newspapers and gazettes, in our leading articles and feuilletons are repeated in chorus the words of the Moscow princess. To the same chorus too often are drawn those well- meaning, but simple and inexperienced men, who fancy newspapers must bring to them some it new word " of civilisation.

Nothing is more deplorable than the reasoning on the subject of education of our journalist critics, who tell us that while religion and religious training are indispensable, churches and ministers must be abolished. Sometimes they speak more plainly. "We do not reject religious teaching, we even demand it ; we cannot understand education without it; but we object to Clericalism." By this term we must understand the Church and everything appertaining thereto. This jesuitical casuistry, which the apostles of popular education have made peculiarly their own, misleads many readers who cannot appreciate subtlety in writing.

These good men do not know that the word religion, as many other words, has changed its signification, and is made by many to imply something from which, if they but understood it, believers in God would recoil with abhorrence. They do not know that in our time religion may exist without God, and that the very word God, in its application by so-called men of science, has a double meaning.

In 1882 appeared a remarkable book which awakened general interest. Therein the negation of God, by the enemies of all religion, was expressed with ferocity, with reckless and malicious irony, with a demand for the exclusive consideration of matter in the universe. The first part of the work expressed, in a tranquil tone, with dignity, with an ideal outlook on life, the whole teaching of the religion without God. This book was entitled "Natural Religion" (London, 1882). Its author, Professor Seeley of Oxford, was he whose former "Ecce Homo," which appeared ten years before, had attracted the attention, not only of men of science, but of religious idealists who sought in it some new word on Christ and the Christian faith. A Russian translation of this latter work has been published by an admirer.

But to the adherents of the Church Mr Seeley's work seemed strange and questionable. Few could look on it without distrust.

This book contained an artistic analysis of the earthly life and character of Jesus Christ, treating exclusively of his human nature. It was written in a spirit of deep piety, in the language of philosophy, with occasional recourse to the terminology of theologians. The object of the work seemed to be to hold up the image of Christ to pious imitation. The author, it seemed, was a Christian, full of religious feeling. But many religious reader~ took alarm, as if their views and sentiments of Christianity were not in accord with the views and sentiments of the author. The picture of Christ was a picture of supreme holiness, purity, and goodness, but not that picture which we have been taught to venerate from childhood-not the Christ honoured by the Christian Church. Something discordant appeared throughout the book, as if the author had either lost all faith, or was on the point of losing it. Nevertheless, the writer plainly affirmed his faith in the existence of a personal God; in the immortality of the human soul; in the Messianic significance of the appearance of Christ; and even, although with some hesitation, in the reality of His miracles.

Ten years passed; again Mr Seeley appeared as the inspired prophet of religion, this time a new religion, and not the religion of Christ. The ancient revelation, he said, had done its work; instead, a new revelation had come; the naturalists, historians, and philologists of the age had borne us a revelation of which the ancient prophets had never dreamed. The Biblical criticism of German scholars was greater and more perfect than the Bible itself. With uncommon simplicity, turning to the believers and members of the Church, he asks: "Why should we quarrel, why should there be strife between us? We may unite in a single faith. We, men of science, also trust in God. Our God is Nature, which in one sense is a revelation too. Therefore we are not atheists," he repeats, "and the battle between us, men of science, and you, men of faith, is merely a battle of words. Is it not the same? For us God is Nature, and the scientific theory of the universe is a theory of theism also. Nature is a force existing outside of us; its law for us is absolute: there is the divinity which we adore."

Is it not strange that the author, while rejecting the personal existence of God, at the same time protests with energy against the accusation of atheism, which he rejects and condemns? What is atheism, then ? This question Mr Seeley answers with a tortuous subtlety which to a simple mind must seem insanity.

"There is an atheism which is a mere speculative crotchet, and there is an atheism which is a great moral disease. . . . The purest form of such real atheism might be called by the general name of wilfulness. All human activity is a transaction with Nature. It is the arrangement of a compromise between what we want on the one hand, and what Nature has decreed on the other. Not to recognise anything but your own will, to fancy anything within your reach if you only will strongly enough, to acknowledge no superior power outside yourself which must be considered, and in some way propitiated, if you would succeed in any undertaking: this is complete wilfulness, or, in other words, pure atheism."
-- Seeley, "Natural Religion," p. 27.

To illustrate this obscure and disorderly argument, our author takes as example a country in its fate a symbol of pure atheism, and points to Poland.

"Sedet aeternumque sedebit," says he, "that unhappy Poland, not indeed extinguished, but partitioned, and every thirty years decimated anew, expiates the crime of atheistic wilfulness, the fatal pleasure of unbounded individual liberty, which rose up against the very nature of things."
-- Ibid. p. 29.

Having disclosed this theory of religion, he describes in detail how the religious feeling is born from science, and, passing through the prism of imagination, is refracted in the moral nature of man into a religious trinity: the religion of Nature, the religion of Humanity, and the religion of Beauty.

In this book, written with talent and spirit, is a doctrine by no means new, although for the first time expressed with such completeness. The reader finds there the well-known features of the Positivism so fashionable in our time-features familiar through the writings of Kant, George Eliot, and Herbert Spencer- the well-beloved of Russian translators. Not one of these writers exposes so clearly the internal weakness of this fashionable theory as the author of " Natural Religion." To what idiotcy must the mind have sunken when, drawn by the pride of self-adoration, it rejects the supernatural in life and nature, and strives to build a theory of life in relation to the universe. This theory is condemned to turn in an enchanted circle, and to contradict itself for ever. Denying a personal God, in vain it would sustain religion and establish an object of religious feeling; for, except the living God, there can be no object of religion. Rejecting the invisible world, the immortality of the soul, and the future life, it proclaims that the end of life is happiness, and would confine humanity within the limits of matter and of its earthly nature. Condemning revelation as invention or fantasy, and every dogma as falsehood, it seeks to support itself by a new dogma, proclaiming as an indisputable axiom the constant and endless progress of humanity.

This theory, in a flash, reflects that wilfulness and that obduracy of thought which our author combines in his conception of atheism. It shows no sign of that clear and simple confidence which serves as a symptom of the truth and durability of doctrines. In their sermons on the happiness of humanity, its prophets all stumble on an actuality which they cannot deny. This actuality is the inevitable presence of evil and of evil works, of violence and of injustice in human life-the argument of pessimism.

This argument cannot be lived down, although; some of the apostles of Positivism strive to stifle its voice or hypocritically to ignore it, while others, more conscientious, stand by it with grief and questioning. To the number of the last belongs our author. While extolling the new religion of Nature, Humanity, and Beauty, and proving the strength and actuality of the cult it preaches, at the same time he admits that hardly have we found satisfaction in these ideas when pessimism raises its head and brings us to despair. if it were not for pessimism, he declares, nothing would destroy our religious beliefs. And at the end of the book, when crowning his edifice, he makes these remarks:

"The more our thoughts widen and deepen, as the universe grows upon us and we become accustomed to boundless space and time, the more petrifying is the contrast of our own insignificance, the more contemptible become the pettiness, shortness, fragility of the individual life. A moral paralysis creeps upon us. For a while we comfort ourselves with the notion of self-sacrifice ; we say, What matter if I pass, let me think of others! But the other has become contemptible no less than the self; all human griefs alike seem little worth assuaging, human happiness too paltry at the best to be worth increasing. The whole moral world is reduced to a point; the spiritual city, (the goal of all the saints,' dwindles to the I least of little stars' ; good and evil, right and wrong, become infinitesimal, ephemeral matters, while eternity and infinity remain attributes of that only which is outside the realm of morality. Life becomes more intolerable the more we know and discover, so long as everything widens and deepens, except our own duration, and that remains as pitiful as ever. The affections die away in a world where everything great and enduring is cold ; they die of their own conscious feebleness and bloodlessness.

"Supernatural Religion met this want by connecting Love and Righteousness with eternity. If it is shaken, how shall its place be supplied? And what would Natural Religion avail then?"
Ibid. p. 261.

Who would believe that these words were written by the ardent prophet of Natural Religion? Thus may a serious mind be entangled in the intellectual network it weaves.

The essence of this work, with all its moderation of tone, with all the sincerity of its author, is a joyless paradox. That the various systems of cosmology, the scientific, the artistic, and the humanist, contain elements of religious feeling cannot be denied.

But they do not embody the elements of a new faith, of a new church; they are separate limbs -- disjecta membra -- of the Christian philosophy of life. Religion is impossible without the recognition of axiomatic truths unattainable by the path of -- induction. To such truths belong -the existence of a personal God, and the immaterial nature of the human soul, whence springs supernaturalism, without which religion is inconceivable. With the exception of mathematics, scientific truths are by their nature hypothetical : they exist consciously only for scholars, and only by deception may be imparted to the mass in dogmatic form. This.deception obtains among us and progresses-of this we find fresh evidence every day.


Intolerance of strange beliefs and strange opinions has never been so sharply expressed as it is nowadays by the apostles of radical and negative beliefs, among whom such intolerance is merciless and bitter, and joined with animosity and contempt. When we consider the relations of these teachers to the new doctrines they proclaim, their intolerance is more abhorrent than the old religious intolerance which expressed itself in sanguinary persecution. Then persecution was based on unqualified faith in a truth which absolutely existed. When men believe that they possess an absolute truth, sprung from the ultimate principle of life and involving happiness for all, as the Moslem believes in the Koran, it is conceivable that they may consider it a duty not only openly to preach their doctrine, but, if need be, by violence to enforce it upon others. But when it is merely an, opinion, although it may be that nothing is more probable for him who formed it, how can we understand fanaticism so great that its advocate does not admit not only contradiction but even compromise, although conditional and temporary, with adverse opinion? Yet such passionate attachment to their own convictions or to the doctrines of their schools is an attribute to all the prophets of negation. Rejecting, as if it were not, the whole former history of the spiritual development of humanity, ignoring all ancient faiths and the spiritual conditions of peoples, denying all rights of independent existence, repelled not by the sanctity of personal faith, they claim admittance to every soul, and everywhere strive to establish their new religion. This they call the truth of their convictions. One of the representatives of the doctrine of Comte and the Positivists (John Morley " On Compromise") maintains that the first duty of every man to himself and to humanity is to solve in his heart the question, Does he or does he not believe in the existence of God? Should he reach the conviction that faith in God is no better than a blind and unhealthy superstition, it is his sacred duty to break in with this conviction on every soul, to take advantage of every occasion to convert, firstly, his kinsmen and neighbours, and then, if possible, the people; to proclaim it everywhere, and in private and public life wholly to renounce all forms and ceremonies which, directly or indirectly, express a faith opposed to his conviction. What is this but a terrible violence against the conscience of others -- and in the name of what? In the name of a personal opinion.

In this hell of vanity we can find neither love nor faith. But without love and without faith there can be no truth. How different to listen to the voice of the old true teacher! What faith and love, what knowledge of the human soul is there in those words in which the Apostle to the Corinthians enjoins respect for human conscience. He knows the truth, but with his deep spiritual knowledge how cautiously would he approach the human soul! His purpose is that the soul shall accept and embrace the new belief in the spirit of sincerity and truth by faith alone, without disunion, without discord with itself. All that comes not from faith is sin. And the Apostle teaches the strong and learned that they must spare the consciences of their weaker brethren even in superstition, when the soul is not ripe to accept the truth with entire faith.

The Apostle, the herald of Christian freedom, acting from conviction, sacrifices freedom itself to the sanctity of conscience, knowing that conscience is dearer than all. You know, says he, that meat commendeth us not to God; for neither if we eat are we the better; neither if we eat not are we the worse. You know that the idol is nothing, that the false God does not exist, therefore with quiet conscience buy meat and eat it, which was brought as sacrifice to the idol.


Nothing is more surprising than the fatuity of clever men who have grown up in estrangement from actual life, and who are blinded by confidence in the infallibility of logic. By adoration of reason they are seduced from religion, and at last incited to hatred of every faith in the only living God. But those who at the same time are men of conscience, find that they cannot rid themselves of the aspiration to faith innate in humanity; those whose hearts are unhardened by the severity of logic admit the lawfulness of religious feeling in man, and strive to satisfy it by some religion devised by themselves. We may wonder at the fancifulness of plans contrived by minds apparently striving to drive away everything like fancy out of their reasoning and deliberations. Strauss, in his work on "The Old and the New Faith," while rejecting Christianity, speaks with enthusiasm of the religious sentiment, but as its object and centre replaces the living God with the idea of the World, the so-called Universum. After the death of Mill, his occasional thoughts on religion appeared in London under the title, " Three Essays on Religion: Nature, the Utility of Religion, and Theism." The utility of religion he admits without reserve, and, while rejecting Christianity, he speaks of the individual Christ with the greatest enthusiasm.

"The value of religion to the individual, both in the past and present, as a source of personal satisfaction and of elevated feelings, is not to be disputed. But it has still to be considered whether, in order to obtain this good, it is necessary to travel beyond the boundaries of the world which we inhabit; or whether the idealisation of our earthly life, the cultivation of a high conception of what it may be made, is not capable of supplying a poetry, and, in the best sense of the word, a religion, equally fitted to exalt the feelings, and (with the same aid from education) still better calculated to ennoble the conduct, than any belief respecting the unseen powers."
-- Three Essays on Religion " (Utility of Religion), pp. 104-5 London, 1874.

The question is worthy of Mill as we know him by the history of his education. It is interesting to note how in his decision of this question, Mill could not, with Strauss, accept as decisive the idea of the Universe, for Mill, strange to say, did not trust in Nature. In the beginning of the same book, true as ever to his estrangement from reality, he speaks of

"Enquiry into the truth of the doctrines which make Nature a test of right and wrong, good and evil, or which in any mode or degree attach merit or approval to following, imitating, or obeying Nature."
-- Ibid. (Nature), p. 13

These doctrines Mill rejects, for in Nature he sees blind force and nothing more. Nature inspires desires which it does not satisfy; it builds great edifices, powers, and actions, in a moment to overthrow them; it destroys blindly and indiscriminately all that it has created. For this reason Mill declines to construct on Nature any system of morals or of religion.

What, then, does he think ? These are his own words:

"When we consider how ardent a sentiment, in favourable circumstances of education, the love of country has become, we cannot judge it impossible that the love of that larger country, the world, may be nursed into similar strength, both as a source of elevated emotion and as a principle of duty. He who needs any other lesson on this subject than the whole course of ancient history affords, let him read Cicero De Officiis. It cannot be said that the standard of morals laid down in that celebrated treatise is a high standard. To our notions, it is on many points unduly lax, and admits capitulations of conscience. But on the subject of duty to our country there is no compromise. That any man, with the smallest pretensions to virtue, could hesitate to sacrifice life, reputation, family, everything valuable to him, to the love of country, is a supposition which this eminent interpreter of Greek and Roman morality cannot entertain for a moment. If, then, persons could be trained, as we see they were, not only to believe in theory that the good of their country was an object to which all others ought to yield, but to feel this practically as the grand duty of life, so also may they be made to feel the same absolute obligation towards the universal good. A morality grounded on large and wise views of the whole, neither sacrificing the individual to the aggregate nor the aggregate to the individual, but giving to duty, on the one hand, and to freedom and spontaneity, on the other, their proper province, would derive its power in the superior natures from sympathy and benevolence and the passion for ideal excellence ; in the inferior, from the same feelings cultivated up to the measure of their capacity, with the superadded force of shame. This exalted morality would not depend 'for its ascendency on any hope of reward ; but the reward which might be looked for, and the thought of which would be a consolation in suffering, and a support in moments of weakness, would not be a problematical future existence, but the approbation in this of those whom we respect, and ideally of all those, dead or living, whom we admire or venerate. For, the thought that our dead parents or friends would have approved our conduct is a scarcely less powerful motive than the knowledge that our living ones do approve it ; and the idea that Socrates, or Howard or Washington, or Antoninus, or Christ, would have sympathised with us, or that we are attempting to do our part in the spirit in which they did theirs, has operated on the very best minds as a strong incentive to act up to their highest feelings and convictions.

"To call these sentiments by the name of morality, exclusively of any other title, is claiming too little for them. They are a real religion ; of which, as of other religions, outward good works (the utmost meaning usually suggested by the word morality) are only a part, and are indeed rather the fruits of the religion than the religion itself. The essence of religion is the strong and earnest direction of the emotions and desires towards an ideal object, recognised as of the highest excellence, and as rightfully paramount over all selfish objects of desire. This condition is fulfilled by the Religion of Humanity in an eminent degree, and in as high a sense, as by the supernatural religions even in their best manifestations, and far more so than in any of their others."
-- Ibid. (Utility of Religion), pp. 107-9.

The foregoing words explain themselves. They show the narrowness, we should say rather the idiotcy) of human wisdom when it seeks an abstract conception of life and of humanity, while ignoring life itself, and I rejecting the human soul. Such a religion may indeed be sufficient for thinkers like Mill, secluded from the world in abstract speculation, but how shall the people accept and understand it? -- the people, a living organism held in communion only by living sentiment and conscience, and repelled by' abstractions and generalities. In the people, such a religion, if it bore fruit at all, would bear fruit in reversion to paganism. The people-which we cannot co\nceive detached from Nature-if it forgot the faith of its fathers, would again personify the idea, either of the universe, resolving it into separate forces, or of that humanity which stands as a binding spiritual principle, resolving it also into its representative spiritual forces; and there would result so many false gods instead of one true God. It cannot be that we are condemned to suffer this?


Characters, Power and Authority

. . . In human souls there exists a force of moral gravity which draws them one to another; and which, made manifest in the spiritual interaction of souls, answers an organic need. Without this force mankind would be as a heap of sand, without any bond, dispersed by every wind on every side. By this inherent force, without preparatory accord, are men united in society. It impels them out of the crowd of men to seek for leaders with whom to commune, whom to obey, and whose direction to seek. Inspired by a moral principle, this instinct acquires the value of a creative force, uniting and elevating the people to worthy deeds and to great endurance…

To live without power is impossible. After the need of communion the need of power is of all feelings most deeply rooted in the spiritual nature of man. Since the day duality entered into his soul, since the day the knowledge of good and evil was vouchsafed to him, and the love of good and justice rose in his soul in eternal conflict with evil and injustice, for him there has been no salvation save to seek sustenance and reconciliation in a high judge of this conflict; in a living incarnation of the principle of order and of truth. And, whatever may be the disenchantment, the betrayal, the afflictions which humanity has suffered from power, while men shall yearn for good and truth, and remember their helplessness and duality, they can never cease to believe in the ideal of power, and to repeat their efforts for its realization. Today, as in ancient times, the foolish say in their hearts: There is no God, no truth, no good, no evil; and gather around them pupils equally foolish, proclaiming atheism and anarchy. But the great mass of mankind stands firm in its faith in the supreme principle of life, and, through tears and bloodshed, as the blind seeking a guide, seeks for power with imperishable hope, notwithstanding eternal betrayal and disillusion.

Thus the work of power is a work of uninterrupted usefulness, and in reality a work of renunciation. How strange these words must seem beside the current conception of power! It is natural, it would seem, for men to flee and to avoid renunciation. Yet all seek power, all aspire to it; for power men strive together, they resort to crime, they destroy one another, and when they attain power they rejoice and triumph. Power seeks to exalt itself, and words pass through our heads as something in no way concerning us, as Yet the immutable, only true ideal of power is embodied in the words of Christ: "Whosoever of you will be the first shall be servant of all." These words pass through our heads as something in no way concerning us, as especially addressed to a vanished community in Palestine. In reality, they apply to all power, however great, which, in the depth of conscience, does not recognize that the higher its throne, the wider the sphere of its activity, the heavier must become its fetters, the more widely must open before it the roll of social evils, stained by the weeping of pity and woe, and the louder must sound the crying and sobbing of injustice which demands redress. The first necessity of power is faith in itself and in its mission. Happy is power when this faith is combined with a recognition of duty and of moral responsibility! Unhappy is it when it lacks this consciousness and leans upon itself alone! Then begins the decay which leads to loss of faith, and in the end to disintegration and destruction.

Power is the depository of truth, and needs, above all things, men of truth, of clear intellects, of strong understandings, and of sincere speech, who know the limits of yes and no, and never transcend them, whose thoughts develop clearly in their minds, and are clearly expressed by their words. Men of this nature only are the firm support of power, and its faithful delegates. Happy is the power which can distinguish such men, appreciate their merit, and firmly sustain them! Unhappy is the power which wearies of such natures, promoting men of complaisant character, flexible opinions, and flattering tongues!