Page:Georges Sorel, Reflections On Violence (1915).djvu/29

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15
LETTER TO DANIEL HALEVY

Calvinism was finally conquered by the Renaissance; it was full of theological prejudices derived from medieval traditions, and there came a time when it feared to be thought too far behind the times; it wished to be on the level of modern culture, and it finished by becoming simply a lax Christianity.[1] To-day very few people suspect what the reformers of the sixteenth century meant by "free examination"; the Protestants of to-day apply the same method to the Bible that philologists apply to any profane text; Calvin's exegesis has been replaced by the criticisms of the humanists.

The annalist who contents himself with recording facts is tempted to regard the conception of deliverance as a dream or an error, but the true historian considers things from a different point of view; whenever he endeavours to find out what has been the influence of the Calvinist spirit on morals, law, or literature, he is always driven back to a consideration of the way in which former Protestant thought was dominated by the conception of the path to deliverance. The experience of this great epoch shows quite clearly that in this warlike excitement which accompanies this will-to-deliverance the courageous man finds a satisfaction which is sufficient to keep up his ardour. I am convinced that in the history of that time you might find excellent illustrations of the idea that you once expressed to me—that the Wandering Jew may be taken as a symbol of the highest aspirations of mankind, condemned as it is to march for ever without knowing rest.

II

My theses have shocked many people who are, to a certain extent, under the influence of the ideas of natural

  1. If Socialism comes to grief it will evidently be in the same way, because it will have been alarmed at its own barbarity.