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Philosophy of Religion by Vincenzo Gioberti

Article III

By: Vincenzo Gioberti

[From Brownson’s Quarterly Review for October, 1861]

            A Western editor, who has little occasion to put up the Scotchman’s prayer, “O Laird! Gie us a gude conceit o’ ourselvs,” attempts to be witty and merry over our advocacy of the synthetic method; and others have been at some loss of the synthetic method; and others have been at some loss to understand what is the precise difference between the synthetic and analytic methods we recognize. To our merry critic we probably have no answer to give that would be intelligible; to the others who ask rather than seek to give information; to the others who experience a real difficulty on subject, we may reply that analysis considers a subject in its several parts and these several parts abstractedly or as isolated , while synthesis considers the subject as a whole and the several parts on their relation to the whole or as integrated in it. In all philosophizing, as in all relation as a whole or as integrated in it.  In all philosophizing, as in all reasoning, there must be both analysis and synthesis; and we do not understand, and never have understood by the synthetic method the exclusion of analysis. In the synthetic method synthesis predominates and controls the analysis; in the analytic method analysis predominates and controls synthesis.  In the synthetic method we use analysis to find the synthesis; in the analytic method we use analysis in order to construct a synthesis.

            We call the Scholastic method the analytic method, not because it does not aim at synthesis, but because it aims at a logical synthesis, which is a mere abstract synthesis, not at the real synthesis of things.  It constructs, it does not find a synthesis; and hence its synthesis is not a real synthesis but a simple sum or summary.  By it we attain to abstract conceptions, we see or study truth in detail, in its separate or detached parts, not in its real relations as a living and organic whole.   There is, we should be sorry to question, back of the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas a real, a living synthesis, as there is back all the definitions of the Church the living synthesis proceeding from the creative act of God and revealed by the Gospel , in which every definition of the Church, every special doctrine of the Summa is integral, and may be seen to be so by an intellect capable of taking in the whole, and every part in its real relation to the whole; but this real and living synthesis is not continually kept in view, is not clearly and distinctly brought out, and by ordinary minds is neither discovered nor suspected; each proposition stands, as it were, alone, as an independent proposition, not as a part bearing a relation to the whole, and having its truths in significance only in that relation. All minds of the first order are synthetic, and comprehend the parts in their relation to the whole, while minds of the second, or an inferior order are analytic, and are capable of comprehending the whole only in its parts, and lose themselves in particulars. * Hence it is that our later philosophers and theologians who professed to follow the mediaeval masters give us in either theology or philosophy at best only a summary of particulars united by no common bond, integrated in no common principle that unites vivifies the whole ; hence modern official philosophy is a hortus siccus,  and theology a caput mortuun, or rather a cabinet of specimens, where each specimen is properly labeled and numbered. To be a first-class philosopher or a first-class theologian now-a-days demands only a good memory, or readiness in reading or deciphering the labels and numbers.

            Synthesis, rightly understood, is not something we attain to or construct by our logical analyses, but is the real relation in which things actually exist, and to find it, we must study things as they really are, and see them in their real relation to their first cause and to their final cause. In the following the synthetic method we start from the original synthesis of things, intnitievly given, which is the basis of all the real as of all the knowable, and study to bring back to this synthesis and integrate in it the several particular things we observe and analyze, for these things have no meaning, no reality even out of this synthesis, or, if you prefer it, their synthetic relation.  Thus, if you dissolve the synthesis and take either of its terms as isolated, you attain not to truth, but either to pantheism or to nullism. The creative act is a nullity if isolated from Ens or Being whose act it is, as creatures or existences are nullities if isolated from the creative act on which they are absolutely dependent.  Dissolve the synthesis and take the first term, Being, and proceed analytically from the idea of Being to the idea of creation, and the only idea of creation you can attain to is that of a necessary creation, or the pantheism of Cousin, because analytic judgments merely being out the contents of the subject analyzed, and in them subject and predicate and identical, and the predicate adds nothing to the subject.  If the subject is real, necessary, an internal Being, creation, as analytically deducible therefrom, must be itself real, eternal, a necessary Being, and therefore no creation at all; God and the universe would be identical. Exclude the subject and proceed to deduce the idea of creator from the simple analysis of existence, you would equally fail to attain the idea of God,  since, as we have said, analytic judgments add no predicate to the subject, and can bring out only what is already contained in it, though before analysis, not apprehended.

            The illusion of our philosophers and some of our theologians on this point is in the fact that they unconsciously and analyzing existence or the contingent, do recognize and assert the necessary and real as creating it. The contingent is dependent and therefore cannot stand alone on its own basis, and is inconceivable without that which is not contingent on which it depends for existence. In itself, isolated from God, it is simply nothing. The analysis of nothing gives nothing; from nothing, nothing comes. Therefore analysis of the simple idea of existence, or existence by itself alone, conducts directly and immediately to nullism. Here are the two rocks on which modern philosophy splits. German philosophy, starting from Being, or what it calls the Absolute, remains forever in Being or the Absolute, and can never assert the contingent or relative. Cartesianism, or the prevailing. French philosophy, starting from personal existence, or the contingent, remains forever in it, and can never get beyond subjectivism, to the assertion of real and necessary Being, that is to say, is doomed to end in simple nihilism. This too was the case with all ancient Pagan philosophy, or that dissolved the original synthesis by leaving out the copula, and turned forever in the subject, real and necessary Being, or in the predicate, contingent and dependent existence.

            We avoid either error only by recognizing the original synthesis, or divine synthetic judgment intuitively affirmed to us, Being creates existences. Having in this judgment the three terms which embrace all reality, analysis of any one of these terms is subordinated to it, and enlightened and directed by it.  Analysis is, then, obliged to study things not merely in themselves but in their relations, and this remains within the region of reality.  In this original synthetic judgment there are the three terms of a judgment proper, subject, predicate, and copula, and these three terms are not only the basis or foundation of all reality, but they run through it in are preserve through all the range of secondary causes and effects; so that following the synthetic method, analysis cannot isolate or take things out of the relations implied or asserted in this judgment.  The proper subject of analysis becomes under the synthetic method not particular things in their isolation, but particulars in their relations to the general or the whole; it becomes simply an instrument of synthesis, and serves only to render more apparent or more striking the real synthesis which embrace all things, Being in existences in their actual relations.

            All philosophy deserving that name is necessarily synthetic ; It is really the ***** of the Greeks, the sapientia of the Latins, and is properly defined, the science and application of principles. Its aim is to ascertain and to comprehend the real principles of things, cause causarum, understood both as first principles and last principles, or as first cause and final cause, and their application in the order of production and in the order of consummation, or in the first and second cosmic cycles – as Gioberti would say, in genesis and palingenesis or palingenesia. Such being the nature and aim of philosophy, it is only sad merriment that sneers at our preference of the synthetic to the analytic method, and a merriment which proves that he who indulges it has yet to obtain the first philosophic conception; and that how much soever he may have read and philosophical works, how much soever he may have studied Dmowski, Liberatore, Bouvier, or the Lugdunensis, he has not entered even the vestivule of the temple of philosophy, far less its adytum.

            This being premised, we can understand what should be meant by the Philosophy of Revelation. By revelation we understand the making known, or the communication to man in a supernatural manner, of an order of truth above the natural order or that which comes within the range, by its own unassisted powers, or our natural reason.  By the philosophy of revelation is to be understood the truths so made known or communicated, considered in their relation to the natural, or what we may term the rational order, or the comprehension of both order of truth and their real relations to one another, or their real synthesis, and in their relation in common to God the source of all truth, the first cause, and to God the end of all existence, or universal final cause.  The propriety of a Philosophy of Revelation rests on the assumption that there is a real relation, independent of our thought, which our thought does not create, but simply discovers or apprehends, between the two orders of truth, that they are not two mutually independent orders, but mutually touch and complete each other, and are both to be taken into the account when seeking to explain the origin, the progress, in the end of either. Neither order stands by itself alone or is for itself alone, but each is for the other; and neither in the most general and ultimate end of man is completed without the other, or the design of Providence in regard to man in the universe fully accomplished.  To explain this relation, to show the mutual harmony of the two orders, the unity of their origin, the one common law to which they are subjected, in their final integration in union with  God as the universal final cause, was the purpose of Gioberti in the work some fragments of which he had written when death overtook him.  Whether his work, had he lived to complete it, would have been all that could be desired on the subject, may well be doubted; but that it would have thrown great light on many of the highest, most important, and most difficult problems with which the human mind grapples or can grapple, no on who has made himself at all acquainted with the philosophical genius and vast erudition of this remarkable man can for one moment question. The fragments which his friend had collected and here published are so many Torsos for the study of the philosopher and theologian.  Much is wanting; but what we have are master-pieces in their way. 

            In our last Review we criticized unsparingly what we regarded as the errors into which the author has fallen.  These errors are: 1. Confounding the natural and supernatural, or virtually denying all real distinction between them; 2. Identifying the Second Person of the Trinity with the creative act; 3. Representing the Incarnation as the completion of the act of creation, and each man has an inchoate God, or as a God that begins; 4. Representing original sin as dialectical as well as sophistical; and 5. Asserting that all truth in life consists in relation. Some of our merry critics, who come under the description of what the late Daniel Webster called captores verborum, whether in good Latin or not, would add a sixth, namely, that he uses the terms nethexis and mimesis, or an Italian, la metessi and la mimesi ; terms which they probably are not familiar with, or at least affect not to understand. 

            In a reply to these merry critics, they say the words are not uncommon in contemporary Italian, and the genius of our language admits the incorporation of either Greek or Latin words in scientific writing, when needed. The terms in question are very convenient, and have no equivalence in Anglo-Saxon. They cannot be translated literally and exactly by any terms we are acquainted with English or in Latin, and therefore in translating we transfer them in their Greek not in their Italianized form. They are good Greek, and are used by Plato and by Clemens Alexandrinus substantially in the sense in which they are used by Gioberti, and pertain to a deeper and truer philosophy than they who object to them appear to have mastered. Amongst Latin authors, St.Augustine is the only one we have found thoroughly acquainted with the philosophy to which these terms pertain. He uses in their place intelligible and visible ; But though the best terms he had in Latin, they are not their exact equivalence. The methexis is indeed the intelligible, but it is the created intelligible; the memisis is a visible, but it is the visible that imitates or symbolizes the created intelligible. Properly speaking, however, the intelligible is not created, and therefore its substitution for the methexis is liable to lead to a very important, a very mischievous error, traces of which we find in some Scholastics and especially in our modern German rationalists.

            Methexis is the genus, the universal of the Schoolmen; but if defines what neither genus nor universal does but it defines what neither genus nor universal does, and avoids the error alike of the Realists, Conceptualists, and Nominalists.  What are universals? What are genera? Ask the Schoolmen.  Some answer, they are mere words; others that they are mental conceptions; others that they are entities. The last were called Realists; but, if you say genus or universal are entities, then you can have man without men. The first were called Nominalists; and if you say with them genus or universal are mere words with nothing corresponding to them existing a parte rei, then you have men without man, and the generation of individuals is inexplicable and inconceivable.  If you say with the second, or conceptualists, that they are mere mental conceptions, you escape no difficulty of Nominalists.  Later writers call them ideas, and understand by ideas essentivoe rerum metaphysicoe***, that is to say, the types or exemplars of things in the divine mind, and therefore indistinguishable from the divine essence itself, which is either nominalism or pantheism, according to the point of view of the interpreter.

            The word methexis, which implies participation, expresses accurately the truth which the Schoolmen failed to discover, or at least to express.  Genera, according to the philosophy to which this word pertains, are not merely participated by individuals, whence generation, but themselves participate of Being ; so that the methexis participates of Being through the act of creation, like every creature, and to the race, and expresses precisely the relation of the genus to the Creator and to the creature, subsisting  never without either.  The methexis is never without the mimesis without the methexis the race without the individual, or the individual without the race, which it individuates, imitates, and symbolizes.

We shall understand this better by bearing in mind that God created all things, and caused all things created to bring forth fruit after their kind. Thus there is to be considered, first, creation;  second, generation, production, not reproduction, as too often improperly assorted. The methexis of the universe is created , and is , in Gioberti’s philosophy, the creative act extrinsecated, or the extrinsecation of the Verbum, the Word, extrinsecated in an individual male and female of the each kind or species. If we speak of the man, the methexis was immediately created and individualized  in the Adam, in whom there is the perfect union of the methexis and the mimesis, or the completion of the methexis and the mimesis.  But from Adam, from whose side Eve was taken, or who was, in the first chapter of Genesis it is said, created male and female, the individuation of the methexis goes from generation to generation.  The same order is constituted in principle through all the genera and species of the universe. The methexis is actual in relation to the Creator, potential in relation to individuals.  But the methexis has and may have other applications, for the analogy of the generation runs through the whole of the Creator’s works, and in all created things which can be objects of our thought, we may discover the methexic and mimetic elements, often expressed by the terms of substance and form, the real and the apparent, the thing and its symbol, the type and its fulfillment. When the Scriptures say, God is angry, he repents, they speak mimetically, symbolically, and the methexic truth is what is really intended by these forms of expression. All language is either methexic or mimetic according to the point of view from which it is considered; mimetic as to the form; methexic as to the noetic truth expressed; mimetic as a sign, methexic in that which is signified to the understanding.  The terms may thus be universally applied, and their application is warranted by that great principle which St. Thomas, after Plato and St. Augustine, lays down, that God is similitude rerum omnium, or that all things, in their order and according to their kind and species, copy or imitate him as their grand archetype or prototype.  All orders of the cosmos or visible universe exist methexically and mimetically, the methixic manifesting itself continually in the mimetic, and the mimetic struggling eternally to become methexic.  In this way the life, the discord, and the harmony of the universe are produced and perpetuated.

            Since writing our previous article on Gioberti, a learned friend, far better versed in the language and thought of Gioberti than we are, has suggested to us that most of our criticisms are mistakes, and rest either on our misapprehension of the real meaning of the author, or on our having taken the opinions of a particular school or theologians for Catholic doctrine itself.  We charged Gioberti with confounding the natural and supernatural, or with recognizing no real distinction between them, or with virtually denying all supernatural order as distinct from the natural and above it,  This his friend says, is not true, for the author asserts most positively such order, and his whole philosophy of revelations demands it, only what we call the supernatural he calls palingenesia, and places in the second cycle, or the return of man to God, as his final Cause.  The whole Christian order originated in and depends on the Incarnation indeed, but it is ordered in relation to man’s destiny, or return to God as his supreme Good, not to his origin in God as his first cause, and, therefore, though it may have, since it proceeds from God, within itself the two motions, it must necessarily, when taken in its cosmic relation, pertain to the second cycle, as Gioberti asserts.  It is a new creation, indeed, for it originates in the immediate creative act of God, but it cannot be regarded as an original creation throughout, otherwise it could not be palingenesia, regeneration, or a new birth.  It has referebce ti generation, and renews it by grace.

            On your doctrine nature might easily suffice itself, and complete itself in its own order.  Man, if he had been left to nature alone, even as his nature now subsists, could have not only no conception of anything above nature, but no aspiration even to any good above natural beatitude, above the limited, the finite, and consequently, no aspiration to possess an infinite and unbounded good, contrary to the teaching of the Fathers and Great Doctors of the Church, especially St. Thomas.  Man, on the theory of the natural and supernatural you have adopted and refined upon, is not even in potentia to the supernatural.  How then do you bring the supernatural to him, or bring him to the supernatural, and supernaturalize you natural mind?  On your theory you do not harmonize nature and grace, the natural and supernatural; and in spite of all your efforts, run into an absurd dualism.  There is and can be on the supposition of the status naturae puroe no commerce between the natural and supernatural, and can at best be only a sort of pre-established harmony, like that which Leibnitz imagined to explain the relation between soul and body.  You fall into the very analytical errors you seek to avoid, and instead of being a synthetist, are a dualist.

            “You complain of Gioberti that he denies the status naturae puroe imagined by theologians, and undertake to prove that such state cannot be denied without contradicting the definitions of the Church, especially the definition given in the condemnation of the fifty-fifth propositions of Baius: Deus non potuisset ab initio talem creare hominem, quails nunc nascitur.  This and the other propositions of Baius condemned by St. Pius V., you should bear in mind, were not condemned as in no sense true, but as false and heretical in the sense of the asserters, that is, in the sense in which they were maintained by Baius and his adherents.  They maintain that God must have originally created and endowed man with natural powers and faculties necessary to attain his destiny; but as man, as he is now born, evidently has not those powers and faculties, he could have not created him from the beginning such as he is now born.  In this sense the proposition is condemned, and what is really asserted by the condemnation is not that God could have created man such as he is now born, but that he could have created man without the natural powers and facilities necessary to attain his final beatitude.  This is evident from the Bull of the Holy Pontiff, and has been clearly shown by Berti, the theologyian of Benedict XIV., and is confirmed, in some sense, by the refusal of Benedict XIV., to approve the condemnation of the doctrine of Berti which the Archbishop of Sens solicited. ‘Berti,’ says Pere Gratry in a note to his Connaissance de Dieu, ‘ maintains the existence of a natural, innate desire in man of the intuitive vision.  He has for him the whole Scotist school, before and after the Baius.  He has for him St. Thomas in the two Sums, and the greater part of the Thomists, especially in Durandus and Soto.  Molina and Estius, though not admitting especially Durandus and Sotoquoad. Molina and Estius, though not admitting the existence of this natural desire, agree that is it permitted to hold it, and that it is even the common opinion of the Scholastics, whose doctrine Molina sums up in the sentence: Beatitudinem in particulari esse finem nostrum naturalem, non quoad assecutionem, sed quoad assecutionem, sed quoad appetium et potentiam passicam.  Suarez makes the same avowal.  But Bellarmin (de Gratia Primi Hominis, I. cap 7) is remarkably explicit on this point, and full of the Augustine sense.  He asserts, after remarking that non tarva quaestio est sitne sempiterna beatitudo, quae in visione Dei sita est, finis hominis naturalis aut supernaturalis, Beatitudin em finem hominis naturalem esse quoad appetitum, non quoad assecutionem;  and adds: Non est autem natura humana indignum sed contra potius ad maximam ejus pertinent dignitatem, quod ad sublimiorem finem condita sit, quam ut eum solis naturae sue viribus attingere possit.’

            “As is allowable to assert the existence in man of the natural innate desire of beatitude possible only in glorification, or visio Dei intuitive, and as it is agreed on all hands that this desire cannot be naturally fulfilled, it is perfectly true to say that God could have created the man in the beginning such as is he is born now, that is, with the innate natural desire of a good, or beatitude, without the natural ability to attain to it.  In other words, you cannot conclude from the existence of the desire the natural ability to attain its satisfaction, because it may have entered into the designs of Providence to satisfy it by supernatural means.  On the other hand, we cannot conclude from an absence of the ability, the non-existence of the desire.

            “The existence of the desire of beatitude, without the natural ability to fulfill it, or to attain its satisfaction, that is, to see God in the beatific vision, is a proof that God could not have created and left man in a state of pure nature, for it is repugnant to his goodness, or even justice, to suppose him to have created man, and implanted in his nature desires for which he provides no means of satisfaction.  This principle is recognized by all our theologians in their arguments from reason and nature for the immortality of the soul. The desire, if natural, and placed in the heart by the Creator himself, is a pledge or promise on the part of God means of its fulfillment. In giving the desire, he promises to render the end attainable. But as the end is not and cannot be obtainable by any natural facility, God gives, in the very nature of man, a pledge or promise of the supernatural, and, therefore, the status naturae purae is not only not a real state, but an impossible state.  The desire is for an infinite and unbounded good, which can only be God, the Supreme God itself.  This good which is and can be only God, the Supreme Good itself.  This good is not attainable by any of the powers conceded to man in the status naturae purae; and as the only good to which that nature, supposing it to be possible, can attain, is only an imperfect, a limited good, it can never satisfy our natural desire, and therefore can never be natural beatitude, or that in which the soul can repose in peace.  The notion, then, of a natural beatitude, therefore of the status naturae purae,  is untenable, and must be given up.

            “In contending for the state of pure nature, you have followed, indeed, the theologians of the Society of Jesus, but you have departed from the great current of Catholic theology, and are yourself more exposed to censure from maintaining it, than Gioberti is for denying it.  You should have remembered, in arguing against him, that you were opposing to him only a modern thelogical opinon, not the generally received doctrine of Catholic fathers and theologians in all ages.  You should have remembered that Gioberti has with him St. Augustine, St. Thomas, the greater part of the Thomists, all the Scotists, and especially the Augustines; and as these have never been condemned or censured by the Church on this point, he is, at least, as safe in agreeing with them as you are in agreeing with the Jesuits. Besides, his view belongs to a much deeper, a more philosophical, and less superficial theology than that which I must believe you have quite too hastily adopted.  You started right in your Admonitions to Protestants, commenced some years ago, but as yet left incomplete, apparently because you hesitated to follow out the principle on which you had proceeded, that nature does not suffice for itself, and has not, and cannot have its beatitude in its own order.  It is to be regretted that you abandoned this sound Augustinian principle, and became entangled in the specious, but superficial sophisms of a school comparatively recent date, and which has exerted a pernicious influence on modern theological and philosophical studies.  

            “Even they who assert the possibility of the status naturae purae, are obliged to concede, as a matter of fact, that man has his destiny in the supernatural order, or, as Gioberti would say, ultra-natural, an order lying, beyond nature, not included in the cosmos, but necessary to its completion or fulfillment.  Perhaps a deeper philosophy, and a more careful study of the subject, would lead them a little farther, and show that God, having given to man the natural desire for beatitude attainable only in glorification, this supernatural order was thereby rendered necessary, that nothing short of a supernatural union with himself, through the Incarnation, could possibly secure beatitude. Beatitude demands the complete and perfect satisfaction of desire, its complete and perfect fulfillment; but the desire, as we find it in a man, can be satisfied or fulfilled with nothing short of glorification.  God might, perhaps, have created man without his desire; that is to say, he might have created him a pure animal; but then he would have been no longer man, or endowed with a rational soul.  Having determined to create man or rational soul can be satisfied with an thing less than the infinite, and not even God can create the infinite.  The only possible beatitude for a rational soul can be satisfied with any thing less than the infinite, and not even God can create the infinite.  The only possible beatitude for a rational soul is the possession of God himself; and as no created nature can, by its own powers, however high you exalt them, attain to this possession, beatitude can never be naturally attainable, and can be attainable only by supernatural means, aids, or assistance.  The supernatural, in your sense of the word, then, must have entered into the original design of the Creator in creating man, and be assumed as necessary to complete or fulfill it.

            “Your objection, then, to Gioberti, that he represents the palingenesia as the second cycle, or what is initial and inchoate in genesis, rests on no solid foundation.  It is founded in a mistake on your part, and shows the inadequacy of your theology, and not the unsoundness of his.  For what else can it be than what he represents it, if it is any thing?  You seem to suppose that making it the complement of what is initial in nature is to confound it with nature, and to deny all real distinction between the natural and the supernatural.  But this is not so.  Gioberti defines the supernatural to be the immediate act of God, or that which God terms it the inexplicable, not because it is without law, for every act of God is law, but because it is inexplicable by no natural law, or laws inherent in the cosmos.  Here is a very intelligible distinction between the natural and the supernatural. Moreover, your insinuation that he confounds the supernatural with the superintelligible, is unjust.  The superintelligible is that which exceeds our capacity to know, as the essences of things, but may still be in the order of nature, and to an intelligence capable of taking in the whole of nature, explicable by natural laws. The supernatural is not superintelligible regarded as the immediate act of God; a miracle is a supernatural act, but not superintelligible; it is simply inexplicable by any natural law, and therefore is called supernatural , and referred to God as its immediate author.  What has misled you was your feeling that Catholic faith obliges us to maintain the possibility of natural beatitude, therefore, that natural may be completed in her own order without supernatural assistance, or its elevation to a higher order, that is to say, that the desire for the elevation to a higher order, that is to say that the desire for the infinite, innate in man and inseperable from his nature, can be satisfied with the possession of he finite, the creature, or mere created good.  If you had seen that natural beatitude is impossible, and that the cosmos must be completed in palingenesia, or not completed at all, and man fail to return to God as final cause, you would have seen that the assertion of Gioberti by no means confounds the natural and the supernatural, or obscures the distinction between them.

            “I am surprised that you have overlooked in all your criticisms on Gioberti what he calls the faculty of sovrintelligenza, which lies at the basis of his whole theory of the supernatural.  You may dispute whether what he describes should be called a faculty or not, but you cannot deny and must assert in the soul a consciousness of its own impotence, that renders it capable of receiving the revelation of the superintelligible, and understanding the necessity of the palingenesia to reduce its potentiality to act, and to complete in glorification of what is now initial in its existence.  The sould has an internal sense of its innate capacity for the infinite, for an unbounded good, for glorification in union with God as its final cause, and it is from this internal sense that springs that unbounded desire that can be satisfied with nothing short of possessing the infinite.  Some little attention to this part of Gioberti’s philosophy would enable you to understand how the supernatural may at once be natural or supernatural, according to this point of view to which it is considered; supernatural considered in its origin and end, and as a means or medium to an end; natural when considered as fulfilling the natural desire of the heart, and supplying man’s natural impotence, or actualizing his potentiality.  Christianity, I need not tell you, while it reveals the origin, is the religion of the means and the end, and, therefore, if it have reference to man at all, must be the completion of man’s second cycle or return, without loss of individuality, to God as his final cause or last end.  In the very nature of the case, regeneration, as it presupposes genesis or generation, cannot be in the first cycle, but must be in the second, and pertain to man’s return to God, and not to his procession, by way of creation, from God.  It, as supernatural and therefore depending on his immediate act, no doubt proceeds from God but it is not a procession of existences from God, for the existences it concerns have already proceeded from God as their creator, and are presupposed in genesis. The creation in the case is not the creation of new existences, but the creation of new or additional means by which men already created may attain to their true end.  Creation as the medium or means to end, or the motion of the means from God, Gioberti, of course, concedes, and, in this sense, what you assert with regard to the two cycles in palingenesia may be conceded; but it makes nothing to your purpose, for, to be any thing to your purpose, there must be created originally a palingenesiac return of existences superior to and distinct from the cosmic, and then the palingenesiac return of existences to God would not be the return and glorification of men, but of this new palingenesiac order of existences.  In your endeavor to maintain two corresponding cycles in two orders, you have really separated those order, disjoined them from one another, and failed to connect in any way or manner the cosmic with palingenesiac order, and to provide for the redemption, elevation, or glorification of men.  You have dis-humanized Christianity, and therefore in principle denied the Incarnation, or that the Word was made flesh.  Not your philosophy, but your theology has misled you, as it has misled many others, and made it impossible for them to show any synthetic relation between the natural and the supernatural , or between the Incarnation and the salvation and glorification of men.  But connecting the supernatural order synthetically with the supernatural, and understanding the palingenesia not as a new creation, save as to the medium, as regeneration and not as generation, and you will have no difficulty in accepting Gioberti’s doctrine, that the second cycle is palingenesiac, completing nature, or what is inchoate or initial in the cosmos. It is only in this way that you can really assert Christianity as mediatorial and teleological, and connected in any way with the human race.

            “You object, in the second place, that Gioberti identifies the second Person of the Trinity with the creative act.  You misapprehend him, or, at least, do not fully comprehend what he means. He identifies indeed the Word, Verbum, with the creative act of God, but only in the sense of the Greeks, who term the Word the substantial Act by which God creates all things as says St. John: Omnia per ipsum facta sunt: et sine ipso factum est nihil, quod factum est. It was not, of course, Gioberti’s intention to assert that Word is the creative act of God ad extra, and therefore to identify the Aoyos with creatures, or the external act; but, unless we would quarrel with St. John, he is the internal act by or through which all external acts are performed.  This sufficiently disposes of all you say under this head.


            “You object in the third place, that Gioberti represents that Incarnation as the completion of the act of creation, and each man as an inchoate God, or a God that begins.  What else should he represent the Incarnation to be, except the completion of the act?  That act is not completed without the return of existences to their final cause, and that return is only in the Incarnation, though which man attains to glorification.  You object to saying that man is an inchoate God, or a God that begins: but it is not intended by this that man grows to be literally and identically God, but that he is progressive and crescent ad infinitum, and identically God, but that he is progressive and crescent ad infinitum, and that the only term of his development and growth is God, for God is alone is infinite; but Gioberi takes care particularly, that man remains always, though united with God, individually distinct from him.  As to his infinite growth and progress in the palingenesia, you must concede it, for it is asserted in asserting that man desires the infinite, and can find beatitude only in possessing it.  As to your objections to the assertion that Christ is God, because perfect man, they spring from your not considering that man is completed, perfected only in God.

            “You object to Gioberti that ‘he represents original sin as dialectic as well as sophistical.’  Yet you must admit yourself that sin is permitted by God himself, and therefore that it must spring not from a defect in the Creator’s works, but from what in them is good and excellent purpose, otherwise he would not have permitted it, or the Church sing, O felix culpa! Only a noble and rational nature can sin.  Brutes cannot sin, not even children before they come to the use of reason.  The higher and nobler the nature, the greater the sin.  As it springs from reason or rational nature, it is dialectic, and as it is an abuse of that nature, a mis-use of human freedom, our creative power as second cause, it is sophistical. But as it tends through discord and the battle of opposites to the realization of harmony and union, it is also dialectic.

            “In the fifth place, you find fault with Gioberti for saying that ‘all truth and life are in relation- versano in relazione.’  But you yourself maintain that all life is in relation, and maintain that things out of their real relations are dead, abstractions, nullities.  Truth is, as St. Thomas maintains, in relation  to some intelligence, and is affirmed of the object a parte rei, only in the respect that it is related to a knowing mind, either divine or human.  It is the adequate object of intelligence, say the Schoolmen.  It is then in relation.  Moreover, if you identify it, as you do, with reality, real and necessary being, you must bear in mind, that being, the very essence of God, is in relation, for God is in his essence triune, essentially the three relations expressed by the terms Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.  Thus all your objections are futile, unfounded, or founded in your own errors and misapprehensions, and you seem to me to have treated Gioberti very much as your picayune critics treat you, ascribing to  him your own prejudices, errors, and narrow conceptions ascribing to him y,our own prejudices, errors, and narrow conceptions, instead of rising to the dignity and comprehensiveness of his doctrine.”

            We cannot say that these explanations, offered or suggested by Gioberti’s friend, completely satisfy us; but they certainly relieve Gioberti’s doctrine from the principal objections we brought against it.  His friend is rather severe upon us, but we never complain of severity if backed by intelligence, which in this case is the fact.  Our readers will bear in mind, that we criticized Gioberti’s doctrine simply as we understood it.  But we conceded, at the conclusion of our article, that “it is possible that his friends may insist that his language admits of a different interpretation, one, if not in consonance with scholastic theology, at least in consonance with Catholic faith.”  The fact is, we had some misgivings on the point, and, had we not lost temporarily the use of our eyes, and been pressed for time, we should have futher examined it, and rewritten our article before printing it.  But what is printed, is printed, and must remain.  Some of our criticisms are evidently unfounded and unjust.  The answer of Gioberti’s friend to our fifth objection, that truth and life are in relation, is to us satisfactory and conclusive, and wholly relieves Gioberti’s doctrine from the charge of pantheism, which we brought against it.  It proves that creative act may be actus ad extra, and is not, as we supposed Gioberti must hold, an act simply immanent in the actor, that is to say, in God himself.  We have not, it is true, been in the habit of using the word truth in the sense in which Gioberti, after St. Thomas, uses it, or is said to use it by his friend.  We use it in the sense of that which is, and therefore as identical with real or necessary being, or God, as existing independently, without any reference to its being the object or intelligence.  In this sense it would obviously be improper to say that truth consists in relation; for although the distinction of three Persons in God implies three essential relations in Being, it does not seem to us to imply that Being itself is in relation.  There are the three relations in Being, but the Being is essentially one, for we are obliged to assert, while asserting the three Persons of the Godhead, unity of essence. The suggestion, therefore, of the three essential relations of the Godhead, does not seem to us to prove that all truth is in relation.  Gioberti’s doctrine, however, is revealed from the charge we brought against it, by supposing him to adopt St. Thomas’s definition of truth, and considering truth as consisting in the object regarded and considering truth as consisting in the object regarded in relation to the intelligent subject.  This is sufficient, and saves his doctor from the error of the Hegelians and the Buddhists, which we supposed it to involve.

            The answers to our strictures on Gioberti’s doctrine in regard to original sin, is less satisfactory, and, as at present informed, we cannot see how sin, which is sophistical in its nature, can ever be dialectic.  All sin is founded in pride, and is sophistical in that it denies the copula of the ideal, or divine judgment, Ens creat existentias, and assumes that existence is God, which it is not, save mediante the creative act.  All sin, as all error, is pantheistic, virtually pantheism, the supreme sophism; because dialectics, or every logical judgment, requires the three terms, subject, predicate, and copula.  So far we understand and agree with Gioberti, that sin is sophistical.  But how sophistry can have its dialectic side, we do not understand, we do not understand how the denial of any one of the three terms, on which all dialectics depends, can of itself induce the assertion of the term denied.  We understand perfectly well that is better to be a man than a brute; that it is better for a creature to be created with a noble and rational soul, and endowed with free will, though he may abuse his freedom, than it would be to be created without such soul or such endowment.  But we cannot understand how the abuse of the freedom can of itself work any good, any more than we can understand how negation can make itself affirmation.  That the nature from which sin springs is dialectic, therefore good, and tends to good in spite of the sin, and even that sin may be the occasion of good, of even a higher good than might otherwise have been attained to, and therefore the goodness of God not only stand unimpeached, but be made even more manifest by permitting it, we can very well understand and do most fully believe; but that the sin, as an efficient cause, contributes to this end, we do not and cannot believe.  We must stand by what we are said on this point in our previous article, at least till we receive further explanations that any that have yet been offered us.

            Indeed, we see not how Gioberti himself can, consistently with what he concedes as to the future destiny of man, really maintain that sin has its dialectics, which, according to his doctrine of the dialectic constitution of things, is correct. A fault may be the occasion of improvement, because its consequences may lead us to efforts which attain to a better understanding of principles and a more faithful adherence to them, than might otherwise have been the case.  A man who has committed a fault and repaired it, in many respects stands higher than one who has committed no fault, that is, taking man as he is now, constituted, and in the relations we are obliged to consider him; but then the fault must be repaired before any advantage is derived, or even derivable from it.   Say the redeemed and the beatified may sing O Felix Culpa, certainly the unredeemed and the damned cannot so sing.  Now, according to Gioberti himself, the sin, though repaired in the methexis, or the race, is not universally repaired in the mimesis, or individuals; and to us, as individuals, it is nothing that the race is redeemed and beatified, is we remain in sin, and suffer eternally in hell its consequences, without hope, or possibility of redemption or beatification.  In palingenesia there is, indeed, the methexis principle in palingenesia is grace, and, in relation to it, those not regenerated by grace are as unborn in the order of generation.  The unregenerate remain forever in a sophistical state, and never attain to dialectic union and harmony; for them there is always a term wanting, and no logical conclusion is possible.  How, then, in regard to these, can you say sin has its dialectic side, or that in them sin has been the occasion even, of any good?  Are not those who die in actual sin even worse off than those who die with only original sin?  Do they not suffer a greater, a severer punishment?  In these you see the natural consequences and the full effects of sin, and these are evidently extremely sophistical.  Where in these is your dialectic side of sin?  Even if you suppose the punishment of sin is expiative, and tends to the melioration of the damned, it is not the sin, but the penalty, that works the melioration.  And besides, the melioration, though eternally going on, can never overcome the original sophism, and re-establish dialectic union and harmony, that is, their return to God, or union with him as their final cause.  If, in the race and individuals saved, the sin has been overcome, the fault repaired, and a higher good obtained, it has not been the sin that has done it, but grace, the methexic principle of the palingenesia.

            Nor is it necessary, in order to reconcile the permission of evil with the providence of God, to assert a dialectic side for sin; it sufficed for this to maintain with St. Augustine, that simple existence is itself good, and that it is better for the damned, even though they have thrown away the opportunity and means of beatitude, to exist than not to exist.  God has done them no wrong; he has even done them a good in creating them, and still does them good in continuing them in existence.  It is no objection to Divine Providence or Divine Goodness to say, that the Good they receive is imperfect good, inferior to that of the blessed in heaven; for if it were, it would be equally an objection to their being different degrees in intelligence and happiness, or in glory, of the saints, and to the whole hierarchical order of the heavens, as well as of the earth.  To vindicate the ways of God, it is only necessary to show that all he does is good, and that existence is always better than non-existence; otherwise you would be obliged to maintain that God must create every existence possible for him to create, and exhaust on each creature his whole creative energy, which, if it could be exhausted, would not be infinite, and would therefore imply that God himself is not infinite.

            To the explanations offered in reply to our school and third Objections are upon the whole satisfactory as far as they go, and enable us to see that Gioberti’s theory of the Incarnation may have an orthodox sense.  Gioberti considers  the Trinity essentially three distinct Persons in one essence, impresses his original type on all his works; hence they are all in dialectic, as represented in the ideal formula.  The Word, Aoyos* , or Second Person, may be regarded as the copula of the divine Being, according to the Greek doctrine that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father though the Son, as creation proceeds from God through the Word, the substantial Word externated in the creative act.  The incarnatin is the summit or perfection of the creative act, in which the created is united or made one with the Creator, and surely creation can go no further, rise no higher.  The point we overlooked here, is that the assumption of human nature in the Incarnation is in reference to the second cycle, and not to the first, not a new creation, but the completion or fulfillment of creation.  This assumption founds, if you will, a new order in relation to the means and the end, but not in relation to the origin.  It is supernatural, because immediately affected by God, and not, as the rationalists pretend, through the operations of nature or second causes.  It is first effected, completed in the individuals, to be, in some sense, successively effected or completed in the race, for Christ becomes the father of mankind in the palingenesia, as Adam was the father of mankind in the order of the genesis.

“He is God, because he is perfect man,” does not mean that God is rendered actual by the perfection of man, but that man perfected, raised to the highest power, is God in the sense in which we say Christ is God, not God by the conversion of the human into the divine, but by the assumption of the human by the divine, and its elevation to be not the divine but the human nature of God, and, in this sense, not in the sense of the rationalists, we must understand the expression, man is an inchoate God, or a God that begins, or in other words, that man completed, or what is initial in man fulfilled and realized in the palingenesia, is union or oneness with the infinite, God.  We shrunk from the phraseology, because we took it in the sense in which we had long found it taken by the rationalists and transcendentalists, and supposed that Gioberti used it in the same sense.  Gioberti really means by it nothing more nor less than that man, though grace, is infinitely progressive and crescent, or that his progress has for its term the infinite, that is to say, God himself.

            In the Incarnation the human is assumed by the divine, and man becomes God through the Divine Person who has assumed it.  This union is full and complete, and raises man to infinite power.  It is in him individual, but the individual is, so to speak, methexic, as was Adam.  In Adam was contained methexically the whole human race in the order of genesis; in Christ was contained the whole human race in the order of palingenesia, and the regenerated, those born of grace through him, bear a like relation to him that borne by individuals in the order of genesia to Adam.  Hence completed or attained to the term of rebirth, they become Christs, as individuals in the order of genesis become men; they become one with Christ, are methexically Christ, and, as Christ is God, they become God.  But as individuals do not lose their individuality in becoming Adam, so the regenerate do not lose their individuality in becoming Christ any more than the human nature assumed by Christ loses its distinctively human character and becomes identically the divine nature.  This point Gioberti is careful to mark, and, while he preserves in the Incarnation the distinction of two natures united in one Person, he retains in the deification of the race the distinct human individuality, and avoids thus the prominent errors of modern rationalists and pantheists.  So it is suggested to us Gioberti should be understood, and, so understood, there is nothing, it strikes us, in his doctrine of Incarnation incompatible with rigid orthodoxy, the definitions of the Church, the teachings of the Fathers, or the great mediaeval Doctors.

            The answer of Gioberti’s friend to the first objection we raised, founded on the denial of the status naturae purae, or natural beatitude, is, perhaps, sufficient to prove that our objection was not well taken, and is not, at least in all its parts, tenable.  We reasoned from theology as we had been taught it, in accordance, as we supposed, with what was the assumption that man has no natural beatitude, that is beatitude is and must be in the supernatural order.  On this assumption, which accorded with all the principles and reasonings that had brought us into the Church, we commenced the series of essays which we called Admonitions to Protestants, and in which we intended to accomplish a work not dissimilar in its design to the work Gioberti has sketched out, but not completed, in the volume before us.  We stopped almost at the beginning, because we were told by a learned Jesuit Father that the line of arguments we were pursuing rested upon assumptions which the Church had condemned.  He assured us that the Church had defined that God could have created man in the state in which he is now born, sin excepted, consequently in a state of pure nature, therefore with simple natural beatitude.  He cited in proof the condemnation of the 55th Proposition of Baius, already cited, Deus non potuisset ad initio talem creare hominem, quails nunc nascitur, and referred to what he assured us was the common doctrine of theologians, that infants dying unbaptized, not only suffer the tortures of the damned, but enjoy a high degree of natural beatitude.  We found the Jesuits, who have in modern times been the leading theologians of the Church, very generally holding and teaching the doctrine of a status naturae purae, and we supposed, that if we did not accept it, we were at least not at liberty to deny it.  We knew, however, that we were permitted to hold the Augustine doctrine, and to maintain that man had his beatitude only in the supernatural order; but, engaged in a war against Jansenism, anxious to save nature, to assert the natural order, and maintain human freedom, we slid insensibly, we hardly knew how, into the doctrine of the Society of Jesus, and have latterly followed it in all our theological discussions, whether with Catholics or non-Catholics.  Without attempting here to decide between the two schools, it is certain that Gioberti has a right to follow the Augustinian school, and may therefore present the palingenesia as the completion or fulfillment of the cosmos in the sense suggested by his friend.

            Assuming that the status naturae purae was possible, we naturally concluded that it had its complement in its own order, and therefore could be fulfilled or attain to beatitude in the order or nature itself, consequently that the supernatural, or palingenesi, was necessary only in the bounty of God, which would confer on mankind an infinitely higher beatitude.  We therefore represented the two orders, natural and supernatural, as two parallel orders, and conceived each order as having its own principle, medium, and the end, and when, therefore, we found Gioberti presenting the palingenesia as the second cycle completing the cosmos, or what was initial in genesis, we conceived him to be confounding the two orders, and denying all real distinction between the natural and the supernatural; for our view was that the supernatural could complete only what was initial in the supernatural.  The desire common to all men of beatitude, and which can be only supernaturally fulfilled, we explained not as innate in man, but as the result of his original supernatural elevation from which he fell, and of the original revelation of a supernatural end made to our First Parents in the Garden, and continued, in some form and some measure, among all nations by tradition down to our own times.  But the Fathers and the great mediaeval Doctors, and nearly all modern theologians, if we except the theologians of the Society of Jesus, and perhaps should not except all of them, hold that desire is natural, is inherent in the very nature of a rational soul, and therefore may with strict propriety be called natural. Without the satisfaction of this desire there is and can be no beatitude, and, as this desire cannot be satisfied with any natural or created good or without possession of the infinite, it follows necessary that man can have his beatitude only in the supernatural order, and we may maintain with Gioberti that palingenesia completes the cosmos or what is initial in genesis.

            The objection to Gioberti’s friend to our view that the two orders are parallel, not the supernatural the completion of the natural, is well put; for it is evident that Christianity is the religion of the means and the end, is meditorial and teleological, and must therefore presuppose nature and bee designed to raise and conduct it to beatitude.  This, after all, is what and all we really meant, and Gioberti’s doctrine better expresses our meaning than we had expressed it ourselves.  His doctrine, after all, is only what he had been trying to bring out in our various essays intended to explain and bring out in our various essays intended to explain and bring out in our various essays intended to explain and bring out the theological maxim Gratia supponit naturam.  Furthermore, the questions- if we assume that the two orders are parallel and not the one with the other and show a synthethic relation between them, is very pertinent, and very difficult to answer, if indeed it be not pertinent, and very difficult to answer, if indeed  it be not unanswerable.  This explaination may therefore be accepted.  Perhaps, in point of fact, it was we and not Gioberti that was denying that “God could have created man in the beginning such as he is born now,” for we are not sure but the doctrine we accepted denies God can create man with any natural desires that cannot be satisfied in the natural order.

            The heresy of Jansenism, which we had been told over and over again was only a logical conclusion from Augstinian premises, can be avoided, and nature asserted and vindicated on Gioberti’s doctrine as well as on that of the Jesuits.  The essential error of Jansenism is, as we have often expressed it, in asserting the nullity of nature in order to assert the efficiency of grace; but the assertion of the palingenesia as the second cycle or fulfillment of what is initial in genesis, does not lessen nature or displace it in nature, and completes it, fulfills what is initial in it, and enables it to repose in the infinite, where, and where alone is beatitude for a rational soul. It destroys or changes none of our natural faculties; it restricts in no respect the sphere of natural reason, for the man elevated to the palingenesiac order by regeneration remains man as fully as he was in the order of genesis; he may be more, in fact is more in relation to his final end; but is not and cannot be less.  Nature is retained, for it is nature that is to be completed, fulfilled in the infinite, in glorification, which is what we have been so long laboring to establish and maintain against those who are constantly decrying nature, and representing reason as a false and illusory light. This is enough, and whether we cocme to it by the theology of the Augustinian school or that of the illustrious Society of Jesus, it makes, it seems to us, no difference.

            These explanations and remarks show that, notwithstanding our criticisms, Gioberti on the points to which we objected may be explained, and should be explained, in an orthodox sence.We are the better pleased with this conclusion to which his friend has helped us, than we are with the one to which we ourselves came. There is always pleasure to a generous mind in the rehabilitation of characters that have been very generally assailed, especially when they were men eminent for their vast and profound erudition. To completely rehabilitate the character of Gioberti, and to prove his strict orthodoxy throughout, may be impossible, and we think that, notwithstanding all that has been said, or can be said, in his favor, he has fallen into some very grave errors. But he was certainly one of those men whom we would not lose to the Church, or to humanity. No man has lived in our day who has treated the highest  and most difficult problems which concern the human race, with more earnestness, with more real learning,or with greater science, clearness, and depth. There are points, and those of grave import, in the volume before us, not yet touched upon, where, as at present informed, we cannot by anymeans go with him, but the example of such a mind in this picayune age of meticulous orthodoxy, surveying with freedom and profound intelligence the whole field of theology and philosophy, of society, government, and morals, and his honest and earnest convictions, is of highest utility, and in the energy and activity it gives to thought and intelligence, the noble ardor with which it inspires lofty minds and generous hearts, far more than atones for all the errors into which it may have fallen.  Every age has its own peculiar character, and its own peculiar wants, and the great want of our age is of great men, men who have force of age to break through the narrow and narrowing conventionalism which cramp, belittle, and nullify the great majority even of those who pass for learned, intelligent, and thinking men.

            Our old form of civilization is passing away, and there comes a fearful crisis in human affairs; a new order of civilization is gradually forming under the old, and will soon throw it off.  With the change in the order or civilization will come, and must come, changes in the forms of all things pertaining to civilized life.  You had great changes in the sixteenth century; society itself underwent a transformation; so did theology, science, art, and literature.  The Society of Jesus performed no inconsiderable part in this transformation; it aided in recasting society; it recast theology, morals, science, literature, and art, and led them, and the world they formed is itself now passing away, or undergoing a new transformation, and we are passing through a crisis, though different from that of the sixteenth century, no less grave, or likely to be less serious, in its consequences.  What we want are men to meet this crisis, men who know the present, know the past, and are able to foresee the future, -men who know what in the past must be retained, what in the present cannot be successfully, and ought to not be resisted, and what direction the future ought to take, in order more effectually to advance the interests of religion, and to promote civilization.  Such men we cannot have, unless we treat them in a liberal and generous spirit, unless we cherish them as Providential men, show ourselves the lenient toward their errors and short-comings, and grateful for every needed and opportune word they may utter, though a word unfamiliar to our ears, and bearing even the marks of novelty. We want no new faith; we want no new principles; we only want the faith of the past renewed in the present, and the great and glorious principles which lie richly strown through all the works of the Fathers and great Doctors, brought out anew and wisely applied to the new wants and new circumstances of the new world springing into existence.

            Starting from the position that the natural is completed in the supernatural, we must assert a real relation between the two orders, depending on the creative act itself; for, if there were no real relation between them, the supernatural, though it might be substituted for the natural, could never be its completion.  This relation must be, not arbitrary, factitious, or mechanical, but a real, a living relation, and enter into the actual constitution of the Creator’s works.  If man is destined to a supernatural end, he must have a natural desire for that end, or be naturally in potentia to it, and therefore have in himself an inherent and natural want, which only the supernatural can fill up or satisfy.  This natural desire to want through which the supernatural is really connected with or joined to the natural, or though which a living union is effected between them, is called by our theologians the natural and innate desire of beatitude, which can be attained to only in the possession of the infinite, of an unbounded good, that is to say, of God, the Supreme Good in itself.  It is only by virtue of the fact of the existence in man, in his very nature, of a desire for beatitude not attainable in the natural order, that the philosophy of religion becomes practicable, or the relation between the natural and the supernatural, between reason and revelation, becomes capable of a scientific exposition.  If we suppose in man nothing corresponding to what Gioberti calls the faculty of sovrintelligenza, or the soul’s consciousness of its own infinite potentiality, reason and revelation would not only be distinct, but absolutely dissonant and their harmony be inconceivable, for there would be nothing in common between them, and no principle on which they could be harmonized; in fact, the supernatural could never be made intelligible to man, not even analogically, and faith in revelation of the superintelligible would be absolutely impossible, since no such revelation could be made, because a revelation, whatever the matter revealed, can be made only to reason, and it can be made to reason only on the ground that reason has the faculty or capacity of receiving it.

            Nothing is more certain with regard to man than his faculty, as Gioberti calls it, of superintelligence, or the consciousness of the soul of its own inability to suffice for itself and its need of attaining to that which transcends its natural ability.  Nothing is more certain than that the soul is conscious of capacities not fulfilled, of a potential knowledge not yet attained to, of a potential happiness not yet realized, of the capacity of eternal progress and an unbounded good.  Hence, the soul’s unrest, its dissatisfaction with its present state, and hence hope and effort.

                        “Hope springs eternal in the human breast,

                        Man never is, but always to be blest.”

            Nothing is more certain than the desire of beatitude of which our theologians speak, is indestructible in the constitution of human nature as it now actually exists, than that man is devoured by a craving for what he has not, and that his soul is eternally tending upward to something which infinitely its powers of attainment. It is from the secret consciousness which every soul bears within itself a destiny to which it has no natural ability to attain, and of which it comes short in its highest and best sustained efforts, that springs all the tragedy of human life, that low melodious wail, or that loud and deep lament which marks genuine poetry of all ages and nations.

            But as this potentiality of the soul is not and cannot be actualized in the natural order, we may say, and say truly, that the natural has a presentiment of the supernatural, and hence it becomes possible by supernatural means to make known to man the superintelligible, and to enable him to attain that beatitude after which he never ceases to sigh and yearn. It is here in this fact of the soul’s constitution, that the natural and the supernatural touch each other and come into dialectic harmony and union.  This point is more clearly brought out and established by Gioberti as the basis of his Philosophy of Revelation, than by any other theological writer we are acquainted with; and nowhere does his rich genius, his original intelligence, or his vast erudition, stand him in better stead, than in showing and vindicating the synthetic relation of the natural and the supernatural.  Probably the most important of his various publications was one of the earliest, entitled Teorica del Sovranaturale. His theory of the supernatural world is very profound, and is not easily mastered. We do not regard ourselves as having by any means fully mastered it; but from what we do understand of it, we are satisfied that it furnished the principles of a real harmony between reason and revelation, and the basis of a solid union between rationalism and supernaturalism.  The work before us was intended to be the development and application of this theory, showing that is it only in Catholicity that the various fragments of truth scattered through all other religions are collected, united and integrated in one, original, symmetrical, complete, and living body of truth.  Whether he has really succeeded in showing this or not, this is what needs to be done, and what must be done to save our age from pantheism and materialism, from petty rationalism and stolid atheism, and to recall it to the life of vigor of a reasonable, sublime, and an energetic faith.  Whoever does this work will have given what in its fullest, deepest, and highest sense is to be understood by the Philosophy of Religion.

            This brief statement will show the importance, nay, the necessity of those researchers, discussions, and speculations to which many excellent and saintly men are and always have been opposed.  There have always been in the Chirch a class of men whom we call “Literalist,” who attach  themselves to the literal statements of the Holy Scriptures, to what they call the simplicity of faith, and oppose all philosophical efforts to bring the natural and the supernatural into harmony.  Thus, at that early day, we find St. Irenaeus opposing the Christian Philosophical School of Alexandria of which Clemens and Origen were, if not the founders, the most successful continuators.  But he did not succeed, and his followers have not succeeded in preventing the great Doctors and Theologians, like St. Augustine, St Anselm, and St. Thomas, from laboring with untiring industry, and with all their genius, intellectual power and erudition, to show the harmony of the natural and the supernatural, and the real synthetic relation there is between them.  The human mind is so constituted that, if acts at all, it must reduce, or labor to reduce, all branches of its knowledge and belief to a principle in which they are seen to be consistent, and but parts of one uniform and indissoluble whole.  It is in vain we war against this tendency of human intelligence.  It is in vain we dwell on the dangers to which it exposes the simple believer, the errors and absurdities to which its indulgence may lead.  We cannot suppress this tendency without suppressing the human mind itself, and even St. Iranaeus himself is obliged to follow it to a greater or less extent in his writings against heretics, especially those philosophical heretics, and Gnostics, so often reproduced in our own day by rationalists and transcendentalists.  Every man, if he thinks at all, as a rational soul, wishes and must wish to render himself an account of his own faith, whether in the natural or the supernatural.

                        Although there has always been a party in the Church opposed to this tendency, and therefore to all philosophizing on the subject of religion, the Church has never sanctioned their opposition, but has accepted and availed herself of the labors of the theologians and philosophers. She has accepted human intelligence; she has canonized St. Bonaventura, and marked her high appreciation of Bossuet and Fenelon. All who engage in constructing a philosophy of religion are liable, no doubt, to fall into many errors; but it is even better to err than never to think; it is better sometimes to be wrong than never to be right; and a living dog is better than a dead lion.  All that can be asked of those who err is humility, docility and a willingness to correct their errors when clearly and distinctly pointed out to them by the competent authority. Even the errors of great men are often more instructive and more salutary than the commonplace truths of little men; for they become provocative of thought and inquiry, and the occasion of the attainment to higher truths and their fuller appreciation.