FAITH, SCIENCE, REASON.


Excerpt  from „Key of the Mysteries“ by Eliphas Levy

FAITH, SCIENCE, REASON.

SCIENCE. You will never make me believe in the existence of God.
FAITH. You have not the privilege of believing, but you will never prove to me that God does not exist.
SCIENCE. In order to prove it to you, I must first know what God is.
FAITH. You will never know it. If you knew it, you could teach it to me; and when I knew it, I should no longer believe it.
SCIENCE. Do you then believe without knowing what you believe?
FAITH. Oh, do not let us play with words! It is you who do not know what I believe, and I believe it precisely because you do not know it. Do you pretend to be infinite? Are you not stopped at every step by mystery? Mystery is for you an infinite ignorance which would reduce to nothing your finite knowledge, if I did not illumine it with my burning aspirations; and if, when you say, “I no longer know,” I did not cry, “As for me, I begin to believe.”
SCIENCE. But your aspirations and their object are not (and cannot be for me) anything but hypotheses.
FAITH. Doubtless, but they are certainties for me, since without those hypotheses I should be doubtful even about your certainties.
SCIENCE. But if you begin where I stop, you begin always too rashly and too soon. My progress bears witness that I am ever advancing.
FAITH. What does your progress matter, if I am always walking in front of you?
SCIENCE. You, walking! Dreamer of eternity, you have disdained earth too much; your feet are benumbed.
FAITH. I make my children carry me.
SCIENCE. They are the blind carrying the blind; beware of precipices!
FAITH. No, my children are by no means blind; on the contrary, they enjoy twofold sight: they see, by thine eyes, what thou canst show them upon earth, and they contemplate, by mine, what I show them in Heaven.
SCIENCE. What does Reason think of it?
REASON. I think, my dear teachers, that you illustrate a touching fable, that of the blind man and the paralytic. Science reproaches Faith with not knowing how to walk upon the earth, and Faith says that Science sees nothing of her aspirations and of eternity in the sky. Instead of quarrelling, Science and Faith ought to unite; let Science carry Faith, and let Faith console Science by teaching her to hope and to love!
SCIENCE. It is a fine ideal, but Utopian. Faith will tell me absurdities. I prefer to walk without her.
FAITH. What do you call absurdities?
SCIENCE. I call absurdities propositions contrary to my demonstrations; as, for example, that three make one, that a God has become man, that is to say, that the Infinite has made itself finite, that the Eternal died, that God punished his innocent Son for the sin of guilty men. …
FAITH. Say no more about it. As enunciated by you, these propositions are in fact absurdities. Do you know what is the number of God, you who do not know God? Can you reason about the operations of the unknown? Can you understand the mysteries of charity? I must always be absurd for you; for, if you understood them, my affirmations would be absorbed by your theorems; I should be you, and you would be me; or, to put it better, I should no longer exist, and Reason, in the presence of the infinite, would halt, blinded for evermore by your doubts, which are as infinite as space.
SCIENCE. At least, you should never usurp my authority, or give me the lie in my own domains.
FAITH. I have never done so, and I could never do so.
SCIENCE. So! You have never believed, for example, that a virgin could become a mother, without ceasing to be a virgin, in the physical, natural, positive order of things, in spite of all the laws of Nature; you do not affirm that a piece of bread is not only a God, but a real human body with its bones and its veins, its organs, its blood; such, in short, that you make of your children who eat this bread a little race of cannibals.
FAITH. There is not a single Christian who would not be revolted by what you have just said. That sufficiently proves that they do not understand my teachings in this positive and gross sense. The supernatural which I affirm is above Nature, and consequently could never oppose itself to her; the words of Faith are understood only by Faith; Science has only to repeat them to pervert their proper sense. I employ these {93} words because I have no others; but since you find my remarks absurd, you should conclude from that that I give to the same words a meaning which escapes you. When the Saviour revealed the dogma of the real presence, did he not say: “The flesh profiteth nothing, but my words are spirit and life.” I do not give you the mystery of the incarnation for an anatomical phenomenon, nor that of transubstantiation for a chemical manipulation. By what right do you exclaim “Absurd!”? I do not reason about any of the things you know; by what right do you say that I talk unreasonably?
SCIENCE. I begin to understand you, or rather, I see that I shall never understand you. This being so, let us remain separate; I shall never have need of you.
FAITH. I am less proud, and I recognize that you may be useful to me perhaps. Perhaps, too, you will be very sad and very desperate without me, and I will not leave you unless Reason consents.
REASON. Be well ‘ware of doing so! I am necessary to both of you. And I, what should I do without you? In order to be just, I need to know and to believe. But I must never confound what I know with what I believe. To know is to believe no longer; to believe is not to know as yet. The object of Science is the known; Faith does not occupy itself with that, and leaves it all to Science. The object of Faith is the unknown; Science may seek it, but not define it; she is then obliged, at least provisionally, to accept the definitions of Faith which it is impossible for her even to criticize. Only, if Science renounces Faith, she renounces hope and love, whose existence and necessity are as evident for Science as for Faith. Faith, as a psychological fact, pertains to the realm of Science; and Science, as the manifestation of the light of God within the human intelligence, pertains to the realm of Faith. Science and Faith must then admit each other, respect each other mutually, support each other, and bear each other aid in case of need, but without ever encroaching the one upon the other. The means of uniting them is — never to confound them. Never can there be contradiction between them, for although they use the same words,, they do not speak the same language.
FAITH. Oh, well, Sister Science; what do you say about it?
SCIENCE. I say that we are separated by a deplorable misunderstanding, and that henceforward we shall be able to walk together. But to which of your different creeds do you wish to attach me? Shall I be Jewish, Catholic, Mohammedan, or Protestant?
FAITH. You will remain Science, and you will be universal.
SCIENCE. That is to say, Catholic, if I understand you correctly. But what should I think of the different religions?
FAITH. Judge them by their works. Seek true Charity, and when you have found her, ask her to which religion she belongs.
SCIENCE. It is certainly not to that of the Inquisition, and of the authors of the Massacre of St. Bartholomew.
FAITH. It is to that of St. John the Almoner, of St. Francois de Sales, of St. Vincent de Paul, of Fenelon, and so many more.
SCIENCE. Admit that if religion has produced much good, she has also done much evil.
FAITH. When one kills in the name of the God who said, “Thou shalt not kill,” when one persecutes in the name of Him who commands us to forgive our enemies, when one propagates darkness in the name of Him who tells us not to hide the light under a bushel, is it just to attribute the crime to the very law which condemns it? Say, if you wish to be just, that in spite of religion, much evil has been done upon earth. But also, to how many virtues has it not given birth? How many are the devotions, how many the sacrifices, of which we do not know! Have you counted those noble hearts, both men and women, who renounced all joys to enter the service of all sorrows? Those souls devoted to labour and to prayer, who have strewn their pathways with good deeds? Who founded asylums for orphans and old men, hospitals for the sick, retreats for the repentant? These institutions, as glorious as they are modest, are the real works with which the annals of the Church are filled; religious wars and the persecution of heretics belong to the politics of savage centuries. The heretics, moreover, were themselves murderers. Have you forgotten the burning of Michael Servetus and the massacre of our priests, renewed, still in the name of humanity and reason, by the revolutionaries who hated the Inquisition and the Massacre of St. Bartholomew? Men are always cruel, it is true, but only when they forget the religion whose watchwords are blessing and pardon.
SCIENCE. O Faith! Pardon me, then, if I cannot believe; but I know now why you believe. I respect your hopes, and share your desires. But I must find by seeking; and in order to seek, I must doubt.
REASON. Work, then, and seek, O Science, but respect the oracles of Faith! When your doubt leaves a gap in universal enlightenment, allow Faith to fill it! Walk distinguished the one from the other, but leaning the one upon the other, and you will never go astray.

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