Monday, January 16, 2012

P.-J. Proudhon, The Celebration of Sunday — V


[Continued from Part IV]


If I have accomplished the task that I imposed on myself in beginning these researches, it remains certain and proven:

1. That the institution of the Sabbath was conceived on the principles of a higher politics, the greatest secret of which consisted in making the means arise from the end;

2. That this institution, analyzed in the circumstances of its origin and its reform, supposes liberty, equality, supremacy of religion and the laws, executive power in the people, absolute dependence of the functionaries, means of subsistence the same for all;

3. That its effects, mediate and immediate, is summed up in the following: highly developed sociability, perfect morality, health of the body and mind, constant happiness, always capable of increase and variety, according to ages and characters;

4° That it was eminently conservative of the social order, which conserved it in its turn.

It remains for me to clarify some difficulties.

If it is true that the plan of Moses was such as I have tried to describe, how did he let nothing of that plan appear? Why do we not find a word of it in the motives that he alleged, and he cited everywhere only to the absolute will of God? Why, instead of these fine political teachings, did he always resort to promises and threats?

Moses spoke to his century so that he could be understood by it; he explained himself as he had to. The law of the Sabbath was not the only one in which the name of Jehovah took the place, outwardly, of every motive and every sanction: the other laws, whether political, civil or criminal, as well as the detailed ordinances, were in the same position. It is always the same formula—I am the Lord—which is the supreme reason. Sometimes the benefit of deliverance is recalled, in order to add the sweeter bond of gratitude to the motive of fear. But everywhere the true spirit of the law is concealed: Moses seems to have wanted that knowledge to be reserved for the faithful, for it to become the prize of perseverance and meditation. Sometime he only half expressed it, and sometimes he wrapped his thought in a symbolic and figurative style, leaving to the attentive reader the task of penetrating the sense of his words. Never, however, did he deign to anticipate a why or a how, or to forestall a single objection.

Moses instituted a Sabbath year, that is he forbade the cultivation of the soil each seventh year, declaring that the Lord wanted it thus, and promising on his part a triple harvest for the sixth. Mr. Pastoret finds that it is not easy to justify that law. He even remarks that the triple harvest was always lacking. However, that law is nothing but an agricultural precept, and the abundance promised for the sixth year is the natural result of a renewed fertility. With more knowledge, the Israelites would have glimpsed the aim of the legislator, and they would have ordained that the Sabbath of the land would have taken place each year in one-seventh of the lands, so that at the end of seven year the whole territory would be rested. The law dictated that they content themselves, during the seventh year, with the products of the herds: it was an invitation to convert the fields into artificial prairies. Don’t we know today that his mode of farming rests the earth and enriches the laborer?

Bestiality was punished with death; among us, that infamy would hardly be judged worthy of the whip. The wretch who soiled himself with it would excite more disgust than blame from the tribunals. But that crime, in the time of Moses, was part of idolatrous ceremonies; in Egypt, women prostituted themselves in public to the Goat of Mendes and to crocodiles, and similar customs were to be seen elsewhere. It is that execrable superstition that motivated the severity of Moses: none of that, however is reflected in the law itself.

He declares abominable anyone who exchanges their clothing for that of the opposite sex. Is it a question of simple disguise? That would be to be a slave of the text. Moses designated under an innocent surface the sort of infamy for which Sappho was famous, which the Greeks deified in Ganymede.

He forbade mixing any foreign seed in the vineyards, lest, he said, the two plants harm one another and are ruined. This is another law of public morality disguised under a rustic image. Moses, in prohibiting a custom honored since Sparta, which Plato wanted to introduce into his republic, taught the people to care more for conjugal inviolability than for the production of children.

It is a capital crime to imitate the composition of the holy oil, because, said Moses, such a counterfeit is sacrilege. What made that oil so precious? It is because the mark of the clergy and royalty consisted in consecration; and what Moses called counterfeiting the holy oil was nothing less that aspiring to tyranny. It was primarily the crime of national lèse-majesté.

Pythagoras said in the same style: “Don’t stir the fire with the sword. Don’t sit on the bushel.” He meant: “Don’t provoke an angry man. Avoid idleness.”

When Moses instituted a clergy, he did not go out of his way to explain to the people its nature and attributions; he told them nothing of the functions of that order, or of its prerogatives. He did not allow even a glimpse of the reason why no property was allowed to the Levites, while in Egypt the priests possessed a third of the land. He made God say: I have chosen the children of Levi to serve in my tabernacle; every intruder will be put to death. And that was done to Core and Dathan.

The successors of Moses acted in exactly the same way.

Under the judicature of Samuel, the people demanded a king. What was the prophet’s answer? Did he reason with the deputies of the tribes? Did he consider whether royalty is in itself a just and moral thing; if it is in the spirit of the constitution; if it did not wound the rights of the people; if it would not lead to a revolution in the State? No; he said to them:

“This will be the right of the king who will command you:

“He will take your sons and make them man his chariots; he will make them horsemen, runners, tribunes and centurions, laborers for his lands, harvesters for his wheat, makers of arms and chariots.” Samuel seemed to threaten the Hebrews with conscription.

“He will make your daughters his perfumers, his cooks and his bakers.

“He will take hold of your fields, your vineyards, your olive orchards, and give them to his servants.

“He will take a tenth of your harvests, to pay his eunuchs and his domestics.

“He will take your menservants and your maidservants, the strongest of your young men, and your asses, and put them to work at his chores; he will take a tenth of your livestock, and you will be his slaves.”

Samuel did not enter into a discussion with the people; he did not return to principles; he invoked neither rights, nor morals, nor the constitution. Like the democrats of 93, he showed royalty with all its extravagances, its usurpations, its vices and its tyranny; he reviewed its odious cortege, and he cried: There is your king!

Thus, when Moses, establishing the Sabbath, said to the people: Thou shalt sanctify the seventh day, because it is the rest of the Lord who has brought you out of Egypt, it is not necessary to believe, with the Anglican Spencer and the Calvinist Benjamin Constant, that behind these words are not hidden other motives, more direct, more human, and more capable of satisfying the scruples of a formalist and positive politics. But we must recognize in that language the necessities of the age. Moses, forced to proportion his message to the intelligence of his freemen, chose, from among all the reasons he could have given to his commandments, the most impressive and formidable, and let us say it boldly, in the last analysis, the most true, the only true one.

But I sense that my paradoxes become more and more appalling.

What! some indignant philosopher will doubtless cry: You dare to say that God rests, that he is concerned with our feasts, that he must observe the Sabbath because he gives the example for it! to set up some rules, useful if you like, on revelations and oracles, when one claims to have better reasons! To make Divinity intervene where only reasoning is admissible! To lead men astray, instead of instructing them, that is what will be called truth! What is your philosophy? What do you profess?

Unfortunate one, how will you understand me, if you refuse to see the trend of my thought? My profession is this: that Moses believed in his own God; that he believed in his soul and conscience, and that he was imbued with that faith which alone established his authority and his strength. He adored foremost, in spirit and in truth, that Jehovah whose prophet he was. But his worship was not of the common sort.

God, as Moses conceived him, is living Force, effective Will, infinite Reason.

He is, he creates, and he commands.

As supreme being, he is the principle of all existence; as action and life, he moves, animates and preserves; as intelligence, he regulates all creation.

The extraordinary revolutions of the world, which are always destroyed and always restored, announce the eternity and immutability of his being; the constancy of physical laws, the permanence of forms, and the recurrence of movements attest to his inflexible will; the sequence of causes and effects, the exact disposition of each thing for a single end, demonstrates his wisdom.

The existence of God is not proven a priori, nor a posteriori, because he has no before or after. We see that existence and feel it. We think, speak, reflect and reason about it. God is necessity; the alpha and omega, the principle and complement of all. He is the Unique and the Universal, embracing all truths in an infinite chain. We grasp some links here and there, some more or less extensive fragments of that chain, but the immensity of its ensemble escapes us. Whoever expresses a thought, by that alone names God; all our sciences are only partial or unfinished expositions of the absolute science, which is the scitum and fatum of God himself.

The organisms that God has created are predisposed by him in such a way that, coming from his hands, they accomplish their destinies by themselves. Thus, the celestial orbs have each been weighted for the route that they will travel. Thus the atoms find themselves formed for all combinations. In the vegetable realm, the assimilating power is never deceived: we have yet to see the grapevine produce melons.

The animals are endowed with memory and imagination, and capable of some experience: they enjoy nearly from birth an entirely developed and innate intelligence, which we call instinct. Their movements are spontaneous, and their will is free; but that liberty only acts under a lawful order, and only obeys a sort of impulse, that of physical and sensible nature.

Compared with the animals, man has, with regard to thought, more intelligence, which reflects, counts, judges, reasons, combines, generalizes, classes and distinguishes; with regard to sentiment, more conscience, which dictates new laws to him, often contrary to the appetites of his sensibility. The field of human liberty is double: enlightened by reason, the masterwork of that liberty is to harmonize all his acts; its greatest effort, to sacrifice passion to duty.

The will of man, obeying two different impulses, has a composite movement. It is thus prone to going astray. In that case, man is at fault and always unhappy. The direction of the will demands the most attentive monitoring and the most discriminating temperament. It is in the study of the relations between the physical, the intellectual and the moral, that the best of mode education for the will is to be discovered.

But man is born into society: it is thus also necessary to study the relations between men, in order to determine their rights and sketch out some rules for them. What complications! There is a science of quantities which forces assent, excludes willful objections, and rejects every utopia; a science of physical phenomena, which rests only on the observation of the facts; a grammar and a poetics based on the essence of language, etc. There must also exist a science of society, absolute and rigorous, based on the nature of man and his faculties, and on their relations, a science that he will not invent, but discover.

Now, admit that the principles of that science have been fixed, with every application made by means of the principles of deduction and causation, and we will understand how Moses, starting from the absolute, found as the ultimate reason for his laws only the commands of God.

5 multiplied by 5 gives a product of 25. Why? It is impossible to give any reason for it, if not that this is a fact, that this is the logic of numbers, that our intelligence, whose laws are the same as those of nature—or God—make us understand the fact in this way.—Bodies weigh on the earth. Why? Because of gravitation. And what is gravitation? The order of God, said Newton.—Nitric acid shows a stronger attraction to iron than to copper. Why? That is perhaps the result of the shape, the density, and the different arrangement of their atoms. Why don’t the atoms of all bodies resemble one another? It is because God wills it. — The elements of verse, in Latin, consist of prosody and measure; in French, in rhyme or measure. Why this difference? Because of the diversity of idioms. But, while the intelligence and organs of man remain the same, where can this diversity come from? From a multitude of causes which all amount to the decree of destiny.

To govern men, it is also only a question of seeking God’s order. Everything that enters into that order is good and just; everything that strays from it is false, tyrannical and bad.

It is just to make, or to speak more precisely, to discover and ascertain the economic laws, restrictive of property and distributive of labor; Why? In order to maintain equality in conditions. But why should conditions be equal? Because the right to live and develop completely is equal for all, and the inequality of conditions is an obstacle to the exercise of that right. How is the equality of rights proven? By the parity of penchants and faculties; because God, in giving them to all, did not want them to be stifled or subjugated in one for the benefit of another. The equality of fortunes is the expression of the divine will, which has reserved for rebellious societies a terrible punishment, destitution. It is a question of knowing how that equality will be realized: for it is not for us the object of a restoration, but of an institution.

The command of an individual will only be counted for something to the extent that it conforms to reason: in this case, it is no longer the man who commands, it is reason. It is the law. It is God. Nobody has the privilege of interposing his will in the legal exercise of right, to suspend the law or sanction it. Thus all royalty is contrary to order; it is a negation of God. Everywhere royalty exists, even when subjected to some rules, even if it is beneficial and protective, it will only be an abuse that nothing can legitimate, a usurpation that no one can dictate. Its origin is always blameworthy. It is, if one will allow me this scholastic jargon, ex ordine ordinando, never ex ordine ordinato.—We must say as much of all aristocracy and democracy. The authority of some over all is nothing. The authority of the greatest number over the least is nothing. The authority of all against one is nothing, without the authority of the law, which alone cannot be contradicted.

It is good that some men be specially charged with instructing the others, with recalling them to their rights, warning them of their duties, teaching manners and religion, bringing up the young, settling contentions and disputes, cultivating the sciences and practicing medicine. These men are not masters, but teachers of the people, demagogues.[1] They command no one; they say what should be done, and the people carry it out. They do not impose belief, but show the truth. They neither give nor sell religion, philosophy and the sciences, for they are not their property. They are only their physicians and guardians. Their doctrine is true: all that they announce is the word of God.

It is necessary from time to time for men to rest, that they even rejoice: the soul must be nourished and the body repaired. What should the duration of labor be? What will the intervals of rest be? Will the holidays be observed simultaneously by all the citizens? How will hygiene, morals, the family and the republic profit by them? Search the will of God.

It is thus that, in their political foundations, all the legislators and philosophers of antiquity would proceed. Never would they enter into the spirit of separating the rights from the man, of placing some under the protection of a justice armed with a sword, and abandon the others to the tutelage of religion. For them every moral proscription was civil law, and all civil law was sacred. With regard to religious rites, as those rights had for principle a reasonable and useful object, the greatest men submitted to them, conceiving no virtue and propriety without a rule, as they did not conceive justification without works.

From the unity of the law followed the unity of power: so it happened that Jeroboam erected a temple in Samaria, that Ozias wanted to award himself the censer, in Rome the consuls were at the same time soothsayers and supreme pontiffs, that the further one goes back into antiquity, the more one finds that the chiefs of the peoples brought together the three positions of king, priest and prophet. But soon all those notions would be obscured. The usurpations entered like a mob into the sanctuary and the temple of the law. The kings and priests, each on their side, would make a patrimony of the government and the church, and sometimes quarreling, sometimes associating their interests, too often made the yoke of fanaticism and tyranny weigh on the people.

Moses wanted to spare the Israelites these fatal drawbacks. He founded a police which, confided to a more faithful race, would certainly have led to the highest degree of domestic felicity and national strength. But the people, not knowing how to be free, wanted a king. Now, the establishment of a royalty was something so contrary to all the ideas of the legislator, so eccentric to his plan, that the Jewish monarchs never believed that they could consolidate their power beside a law that they had not made and which troubled them in all their movements. That is what explains that dogged idolatry, that long apostasy into which the kings of Judah strove to lead the nation. And, indeed, to return to my subject, (which I have never abandoned, even when I seem to be diverting ever more from it,) what could have been more dreadful and odious for the sultans of Jerusalem, than these feasts and Sabbaths when the people were obliged by their religion to gather and to read the law, that law that taught them who they were and who was their sovereign? How could they bear those great solemnities of Passover and Tabernacles, which, gathering the whole nation as a single family, made them reflect on their strength and on the weakness of the corrupting and liberticidal tyrant? The schism of the ten tribes was accomplished in one of these great gatherings. Athaliah was cast down from the thrown during the feast of Pentecost. The Maccabees would use a Passover to rouse the people against the king of Syria, and this was also the occasion when the revolt of the Jews under Vespasian took place. According to the prescriptions of Moses, the king could only be a president of the republic. This was clearly the sense of the instructions given to the king in Deuteronomy, of which, until the time of Josiah, no one had been aware. To be king, truly king, as the Hebrew melks understood it, and as one always expects it to be, it is necessary to corrupt the people and separate them from the institutions: that was, it is true, what led to its loss and prepared the ruin of the throne. No matter, the kings would not hesitate. The seduction was accomplished, and it was total. It will last as long as the monarchy itself, since, in the words of the fourth book of Kings, it was an unheard of novelty that the Passover was celebrated under Josiah and, according to Ezra, the captivity had lasted seventy years, in order that the earth had the time to rest and celebrate its Sabbaths. As soon as a nation has right, even if granted [from above], it is ungovernable by any will that wants to be the equal, if not the ruler of the law; because, sooner or later, the Charter, whether awarded or consented to, rebels against the will which is not its own, and opposes it.

In it origins, religion was politics and science; the priesthood were thus also magistracy and teachers. Every social organization is contained in that trilogy. But it is necessary that the priest becomes dogmatic and intolerant, that the judge becomes violent and despotic, that the philosopher, contemptuous of priests and kings, makes himself their persecutor and curse; it is necessary that all mankind should bear the penalty of their follies, to teach us that the division of functions does not entail the separation of powers, and that if there is a contradiction between reason and conscience, between conscience and the law, that contradiction comes from us. Today, peace is on the verge of being concluded: the civil law recognizes its insufficiency, and calls for the support of religion; philosophy touches on the demonstration of the mysteries; faith, without abandoning any of its doctrine and traditions, offers rational explications. Who would dare to say that something greater than the code, philosophy and religion will not spring from these reciprocal concessions?

There was always, within the homeland, an elite of citizens, the first in science and virtue. Let their functions be to instruct, counsel and resolve. Let them form the greatest and most glorious university. Let them give to the people a perpetual example of equality and disinterestedness. Let their reward be to hear themselves called prudent as well as wise and fathers of the nation.

Let us abolish royalty without hatred and vengeance, because with royalty we are all guilty. Let us reject it, not only as vicious, extravagant, corrupting and unworthy, but as illegitimate. We dispute endlessly: The king reigns and governs, the king reigns and does not govern. Let us begin by saying: He governs and does not reign; and if we are not still in the realm of truth, at least we have made a step towards it; for it is the people who are the executive power, and it is the law that inaugurates them.

And let us preserve, let us restore the solemnity of Sunday, so eminently social and popular, not as an object of ecclesiastic discipline, but as an institution that conserves mores, a source of public spirit, a meeting place inaccessible to the cops, and a guarantee of order and liberty. In the celebration of Sunday is lodged the most fruitful principle of our future progress; it is by taking advantage of Sunday that the reform will be achieved.

Let there rise in the midst of his brothers, with all the authority of virtue and genius, the reformer that some await. Let him come, powerful in words and deeds, to convert and to punish. Let him see the horror of our vices, and hear the tale of our follies. Let him lament our miseries and let him cry out: The cause of the evil is in the ideas. To heal the heart, you must correct the brain. Can you remake your understanding? Can you change your opinions, condemn what pleases you, hate what makes you laugh, love and respect what hardly concerns you? Do you believe these truths that you no longer understand?

Crime is imputable, satisfaction necessary, and punishment just and legitimate.

Labor is obligatory, property only usufruct, and inheritance a mode of conservation of shares; liberty is balance; the inequality of nature is weakened by education, and effaced by the equality of fortunes.

Marriage is exclusive and holy: fornication is an offense against nature, against persons and against society.

Reason oversees the senses; the conscience imposes a brake on the animal passions. Man’s end is not to enjoy, but to cultivate his soul and contemplate the works of God.

Falsehood is the murder of the intelligence; the oath is inviolable.

The law is not the expression of a single will, nor of a general will; it is the natural relation of things, discovered and applied by reason.

The sanction of the law is in God, who gives it.

0h citizens! If you can’t handle that medication, if you find this brew too bitter, stop complaining, ask for no medicine and rot in your own corruption. But listen to what will happen.

The sun will shine neither more nor less on the soil where you live. The dew and gentle breezes will refresh your fields and meadows in the same way. Your trees will not be less productive, your vines less fertile. You will not see hail, floods or fire desolate your towns or countryside more often. The elements will not be more murderous.

But opulence and misery, inseparable companions, will increase in an endless progression; large properties will invade everywhere. The bankrupt peasant will sell his inheritance; and when there are only landlords and tenants, lords and serfs, the first will give to the second a few clothes, lodging and some bread, and they will say to them: See how happy your are? What is liberty and equality? Long live harmony!

In those times, trivial talents and arts of luxury will be rewarded lavishly. We will see singers more wealthy than large villages are now. The wage of a comedienne will be more than the cost of a hundred bushels of wheat in a famine. The poor worker, the laborer’s wife and the artisan will be humiliated.

The merit of women will no longer be anything but an evaluation of their beauty, their most sacred right, to be surrendered to the highest bidder. The wealthy will possess them all, because they alone can pay; the poor will be left with the disgraced and the cast-offs of luxury.

The ignorance and exhaustion of the proletarians will be at its height. They will not be prevented from learning, but they will not be able to live without working, and when they are not working, they will eat nothing. If someone among them shows talent, he will be encouraged, rewarded, and enriched; he will enter into the upper class and be lost to his own.

The people, who always follow the example of the rich and powerful, having lost respect and faith in the old religion, which at least taught them the equality of men before God, and could make them suspect that they are also equals on earth, will traverse all the degrees of a materialist and pantheist superstition; and when they have been persuaded that God is All and that all is God, then they will return to fetishes and manitous. They will worship, as they once did, the trees and stones; they will believe in the power or relics, and carry amulets; and the wealthy, under the pretext of utility and tolerance, will protect the new devotion, saying: There must be a religion for the people.

However, they will sometimes encounter some proud souls, men who refuse to bow down before the golden calf. Those will want to compare accounts with the favorites of fortune. — Why are you so rich and we are so poor?—We have labored, respond the rich; we have saved, and we have acquired.—We labor as much as you, how is it that we never acquire anything?—We have inherited from our fathers.—Ah! You invoke possession, transmission, prescription. Well! We call on force. Proprietors, defend yourselves !

And there will be combats and massacres; and when force will again be established as law, when the rebels have been destroyed, they will write on their tombs assassins, while their victims will be glorified as martyrs.

And that will endure until God takes pity on us.

But who today will dare to speak in such language? Let us save ourselves from all illusions. Certain people imagine that a great personage must soon appear in the midst of humanity, one of those providential beings, as we call them, who will summarize all ideas, disengage truth from error, strike down the old prejudices, put all opinions on a new level, and with his strong hand launch the present generation down a new road—or a new rut. The nineteenth century will not pass, they say, before our prediction comes to pass. Some go further: the great man has already come; Elias has walked the earth; but the world has not understood. The Turk says: God is God, and Mohammed is his prophet. These modern believers make a similar profession of faith. But the time of the great reformers, like that of the founders of religions, is gone forever. It is up to societies to fend for themselves. Let them await their salvation only at their own hands. Men never lack truth, but they often lack the good faith and courage to recognize and follow it.

As for myself, I have not placed my confidence in anything new under the sun: I have faith in some ideas as old as the human race. All the elements of order and happiness, preserved by imperishable traditions, exist. It is only a question of recognizing the synthesis, the method of application and development. How has humanity still not succeeded in this? It is up to history to teach us. I could say something of it as well as anyone; but, in my opinion, the philosophy of history will exist only when the social problem is resolved. Truth is necessary to give the definitive reason for error. But can that truth itself be found other than in unity? It is when the most furious antagonism has been succeeded by general equilibrium, when the struggle of all the doctrines has given birth to the one and indivisible science, when the religions and philosophies have been joined at the altar of truth, that we will be able to shout: The times of testing are over; the golden age is before us! Yes, humanity will know that it has entered its legitimate path, when, looking upon itself, it can say: One sole god, one sole faith, one sole government, Unus Deus, una fides, unum imperium.

[1] Demagogue, conductor or tutor of the people; as pedagogue, tutor of children; mystagogue, master of sacred ceremonies.

[Working Translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]

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