The task of constructing anything resembling an ontology of death is not one that need occupy us now; and it might, moreover, prove an impracticable one. We must recognize, also, that the two words go ill together, and what we have said about being is enough to show us why. One might say that if death has some kinship with life, this is an aspect which remains hidden from us. But whatever may be the ultimate reality which may lurk behind this terrifying mask, it is none the less true that for the human being which I am, this assumed mask is not only a mask; and there is no doubt but that the appalling error of which a certain sort of spiritualism is guilty, lies in denying to death this gravity, this at all events apparent final value, which gives to human life a quality of tragedy without which it is nothing more than a puppet-show.
There is a mistake which balances this one; it is even more serious and much weightier with consequences; it is that which lies in a dogmatic affirmation of the final character of death. Later we shall have to deal with this at length; for the error—which in its origin is more than error, a sin—seems to be the root from which spring the most terrible of the evils from which humanity suffers today.
It is between these two errors that we have to pick our way; and we shall find our path is as thickly strewn with obstacles as those we have had to follow hitherto. These two converse errors, moreover, are not simply complementary; there is a direct connection between them. On the one hand, the man who has been offered the too facile, the cheap consolations of a pseudo-religious spiritualism, is liable to be driven by them, if he is disappointed, into helpless despair. But there is a reciprocal reaction; this despair is so intolerable that, failing a religion worthy of the name, there is a danger that it may drive the human being to a search for any sort of refuge at all, and that in practices that are often extremely crude. If we are to avoid the guilt of a blindness which is simply cowardice, what we must keep before our minds with all our strength, is that we are surrounded by possible sources of despair. I would be tempted to say that these possibilities spring up beneath our feet like the riotous and malignant growth of a bewitched jungle. This has always been true, but such a truth is much more noticeable in our day than in any earlier historical period. It may be well for us to ask ourselves why this is so.
There is some ambiguity, too, in asking why. Truth to say, I do not think it is at all possible for us to look at this fact from a strictly theological point of view, and ask ourselves what is the higher purpose this swarm of threats and evils may serve. It is true, no doubt, that some will be able to look on it as the realization of some prophecy in a particular sacred book, such as the Apocalypse, for example. But we must look at it in a perspective in which we have to disregard such writings and revelations. The most we can do, and even in this we must be extremely cautious, is to try to define in the abstract the conditions under which, for some people, such prophecies can acquire a truly compelling value. What is immediately obvious is that whenevever circumstances prevailing here and now lead to men being not only regarded as masses but actually treated as such—treated, that is, as aggregates, whose elements are transferable according to the demands of temporal vicissitudes—it becomes more and more difficult to keep in mind the inalienable characteristics of uniqueness and dignity which have hitherto been considered as attributes of the human soul created in the image of God. To say that these characteristics are becoming more and more lost to view is not enough; they are being, if one may so put it, actively denied, they are being trodden upon. Man may end by imagining that he can prove by his very behaviour that he is not such a being as the theologians have defined.
If we look at the question carefully we shall see, also, that we have here a real vicious circle. The less men are thought of as beings in the sense which we have already tried to define, the stronger will be the temptation to use them as machines which are capable of a given output; this output being the only justification for their existence, they will end by having no other reality. There lies a road which runs straight to the forced labour camp and the cremation oven. Here we must stress a paradox to which we cannot, I think, direct our attention too closely; theoretically one might have imagined—and this indeed was what many people did in the nineteenth century—that as soon as the majority of men in a given society ceased to believe in an afterlife, life in this world would be more and more lovingly taken care of and would become the object of an increased regard. What has happened is something quite different, the very opposite in fact: this cannot, I think, be over-emphasized. Life in this world has become more and more widely looked upon as a sort of worthless phenomenon, devoid of any intrinsic justification, and as thereby subject to countless interferences which in a different metaphysical context would have been considered sacrilegious.
To reflect on this will accordingly lead to the disclosure of an extraordinarily close connection between something which is after all a metaphysical judgment properly so called (a Weltanschauung, if you like, though that is always a rather vague term), and a dehumanizing way of behaving which must inevitably, in a world which is more and more enslaved to the demands of technocracy, become universal—or at least which runs the risk of becoming universal. Hence it is that those minds which have progressively lost any capacity for reflection and who have no suspicion of what faith can be, have a way of looking at things which is so consistent that it does indeed become reality for them. By that I mean that it in some way consolidates itself more and more and ends by presenting a formidable character of irreducibility. Under whatever form slavery may manifest itself—the forms it takes are not all equally monstrous, but it is only too clear that the totalitarian countries have no monopoly of them—the fact that it is becoming so widespread is certainly the most glaring fact in a world which is thus consigned to death. Consigned to death—by that I mean without the power to resist the mesmeric power which death exerts over the man who has come to look on it as the final word.
This objection, it is true, may be raised, that those who are the most emphatic in their denial of personal immortality, give themselves out to be the heralds of a glorious future which is not that of the individual, but of the species or of a particular deified society—Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia. Nobody would deny that the hope of this future has acted as an extremely powerful lever in moving an infinite number of people who have been oppressed and have fought with the utmost bravery against these inhuman conditions, and that by its aid they have literally been raised above their wretched fate in this world. At the same time we should, as I have said before, contrive to understand through a sort of sympathy which illuminates it, what one might call the internal aspect of a sacrifice. The fact is, that if we confine ourselves to its external appearance, we have no answer to give to the man who says that it is ludicrous to sacrifice one's life in order to promote the future development of a world one will never see. But everything that we said earlier about faith has prepared us to understand that faith is infinitely more than a state of consciousness, and that it is impossible to reduce it in any instance to a very vague feeling, or to the even vaguer picture of it which the man may have who has been granted a share of it. In so far as he is a believer, he is perpetually beyond himself, and by himself must be understood what I shall call his imaginative equipment, which as a rule is after all very limited. To take a very simple example: the man who sacrifices himself for his child is in reality possessed by a faith whose content he cannot in the first place make clear: this faith turns on a certain supra-personal unity between his child and himself. To put it more simply, I would say that he feels sure, without knowing it—and perhaps essentially without knowing it—that there will not be an end of him, but rather that he will survive in his child. Moreover, what I have said must be taken in a sense which is at once deeply mysterious and extremely precise. For what it must mean is a participation (according to modes of existence which we need not conceive in detail) in the reality for which he has sacrificed himself. There can be no justification for sacrifice, it cannot even be thought of, except from the point of view of an ontology which is rooted in intersubjectivity; looked at in any other way it is a snare and a delusion. We must, in short, state as categorically as possible, even though we shock some semi-agnostics whose reflection is faulty or who often have not reached the depths of human experience, that it is on the ground of immortality that the decisive metaphysical choice must be made.
I should even go so far as to put it like this: if it is true that human beings—we may leave on one side for the moment the much more obscure question of other living beings—must be looked on as interconnected by relations of simple succession, as appearing only to disappear like an interminable game of skittles, then Macbeth's famous words would have to be taken as the literal truth, and the only answer we should have to nihilism would be phrases whose emptiness is apparent as soon as man is faced not, let us say, by his own death (for there is no doubt that in the great majority of cases that is easier to accept than one imagines), but by the death of the being he loves. I may digress for a moment to say that this was the point on which, at the 1937 Congress, I found myself uncompromisingly at variance with the man who was then the foremost representative of critical idealism in France—Leon Brunschvicg; and I have had reason in more than one country to know that this deeply significant discussion made a profound impression on the memories of its hearers. Brunschvicg accused me, though with the utmost courtesy, of laying much more stress on the fact of my own death than he was inclined to put on that of his. My answer was that the right setting of the question was quite different, it lay exclusively in the plane of love.
In a world in which the arid influence of technique seems to prepare the radical disappearance of intersubjective relations, death would no longer be a mystery, it would become a raw fact like the dislocation of some piece of mechanism. In fact, however, this world deserted by love is not our world, it is not yet our world; and it depends on us whether it will ever be so, even though we may see the daily increase in strength of conscious and malignant forces—malignant because conscious—which seem to have set as their goal the creation of this soulless world. I may add, though it is in any case self-evident, that to the eye of any faith worthy of the name, this soulless world can appear only as the wholly sacrilegious experiment of a will for de-creation. It may be, too, that it is as a function of this idea of de-creation (which it would be well to analyse in detail) that one may best understand what I laid down as a sort of postulate at the end of my last chapter, the identity, that is, of evil and death.
Even though these perspectives may conform to those we have taken up since the beginning of our enquiries, yet we cannot hide from ourselves their disconcerting nature. We must, however, deal with an objection which at first may seem overwhelming: it may well be asked how can we speak of choice in this connection, when what we are concerned with is a question of fact. We seem to be saying that the modern world has chosen death, but should one not rather say that under the impulse of positive science on the one hand, and perhaps also on the other, of a philosophy which on the whole one may describe as critical, the keenest minds have been forced to discard as imaginary the dreams of the beyond, of the so-called hereafter, in which our ancestors found consolation? There will be some who will take up a different point of view and add that they would consider it excessively unwise to tie the fate of religion to a belief in a fact as problematical and improbable as survival—not only imprudent but even spiritually illegitimate, since preoccupation with survival is still ego-centric, whereas a religion worthy of the name finds its centre in God and in God alone.
We must make a careful examination of these two points, and try to disclose the confusions which lie at the root of such objections.
In the first place, may we legitimately say that immortality is really either a fact or just a delusion? Can we maintain in this connection the opposition between real and imaginary which takes place whenever our judgement refers to empirical data? Can belief in immortality be likened to a simple mirage? To make such a claim would mean, indeed, that we had completely failed to understand the views we put forward about faith and about what it must inevitably be when it is genuine.
Let us try to keep this as concrete as possible. First let me quote again what one of my characters says, ‘to love a being is to say, “Thou, thou shalt not die”’. But what can be the exact meaning or relevance of such a statement? It certainly cannot be taken simply as a wish, a choice; the emphasis of it is that of a prophetic assurance. But on what guarantee could one base such an assurance? From the point of view of the empiricist or positivist it could only be considered absurd, for is it not in effect in formal contradiction with the data of experience? The being I love is exposed to all the vicissitudes to which things are liable, and there is no doubt that it is in so far as he participates in the nature of things that he himself is subject to destruction. But here we must proceed with great caution: the whole question—and it is certainly an extremely obscure one—turns upon knowing whether this destruction can overtake that by which this being is truly a being. Now, it is this mysterious quality which is aimed at in my love. I am ready to admit, too, that here the term ‘quality’ is inadequate; quality is a predicate, and we have repeatedly insisted that ontology transcends all logical predication; it is here more than anywhere else that speech reaches a deadlock. We must fully realize that this being whom I love is not only a Thou; in the first place he is an object which comes within my view, and towards whom I can effect all the operations whose possibility is included in my condition of physical agent. He is a that, and it is precisely to that extent that he is a thing; in so far, on the other hand, as he is a Thou, he is freed from the nature of things, and nothing that I can say about things can concern him, can concern the Thou. There is no doubt that this gives rise to serious difficulties. Are we not restoring, in precarious and dangerously ambiguous conditions, the traditional distinction between noumenon and phenomenon? Does not all this simply amount to saying that only the phenomenon is subject to destruction, while the noumenon is indestructible? Such an interpretation, however, implies a very profound misunderstanding of what we have just said. The fact is, that the noumenon is still a that, and we shall always be justified even in asking ourselves whether we have there anything but a pure fiction elaborated by abstract thought from the basis of the empirical datum. It is not, I think, from the noumenal point of view that the indestructibility of the loved being can be affirmed: the indestructibility is much more that of a bond than that of an object. The prophetic assurance of which I spoke above might be expressed fairly enough as follows: whatever changes may intervene in what I see before me, you and I will persist as one: the event that has occurred, and which belongs to the order of accident, cannot nullify the promise of eternity which is enclosed in our love, in our mutual pledge.
We cannot fail to see, however, that the notion that something like this is implied, may itself give rise to very serious objections. Even if it is agreed that the act by which beings who love one another are united by a common bond implies within itself the inherent need for eternity (Ewigkeitsforderung), what enables us to say that this need is met in some substratum of reality which eludes our sight?
The first thing which one might perhaps underline is that this idea of a substratum is a sort of remnant of a certain realism which itself has never ceased to depend to some extent upon a vague notion, the notion of a materialism in which what is spiritual is incised in durable grooves like those which a needle engraves in a wax disc. But what we have to deal with here is in reality the metaphysical status of hope, of hope taken in its specific character, as opposed to desire.
It may be better however, to examine the second objection first, the objection which is formulated in the name of a theocentric conception of religion.
What we have to find out is whether one can radically separate faith in a God conceived in His sanctity from any affirmation which bears on the destiny of the intersubjective unity which is formed by beings who love one another and who live in and by one another. What is really important, in fact, is the destiny of that living link, and not that of an entity which is isolated and closed in on itself. That is what we more or less explicitly mean when we assert our faith in personal immortality. What we must do, then, is to discover whether I can assert that this holy God is capable either of ignoring our love, of treating it as something accidental or devoid of significance, or even of decreeing its annihilation.
It is abundantly clear that in any sort of pantheist perspective the first hypothesis would seem completely plausible. But the reason for this is that in this same line of thought God after all is simply naturalized. The very notion of pantheism, from the point of view which I have taken up, cannot but give rise to the most profound mistrust, for, as we have already seen and cannot emphasize too strongly, the category itself of totality is strictly inapplicable to what is spiritual. Now, all our work has lain precisely in sketching out some features of a philosophy of the spirit. The living God, who is the God of faith when faith does not degenerate into opinion or superstition, can only be spirit; though that does not mean that this formula should be interpreted in a strictly idealist sense. All things considered, it is towards a realism of mind that all our line of thought is directed; and we should add that these words can attain their full significance only in the light of intersubjectivity, that is, of love. But is it conceivable that a God who offers Himself to our love, should range Himself against this same love, in order to deny it, to bring it to nothingness? It is true that we must make full allowance for the absolute incommensurability between that which is by essence infinite and that which belongs to the domain of the created; from this point of view one might sometimes be inclined to pass the harshest, the most depreciatory, judgment on what we may call private loves. But does not this also still imply a confusion, which arises from the fact that when we pronounce this judgment we have not definitely put aside the consideration of the that, which is to say of the thing? Now, we must assert as forcibly as possible that human love itself is nothing, it lies to itself, if it is not charged with infinite possibilities. That phrase, however, entails an extremely precise significance: its very exact meaning is that if human love is centred on itself, if it sinks into a mutually shared narcissism, it turns into idolatry and pronounces its own death sentence. Here again we find the inexhaustible fertility of Bergson's distinction between closed and open. Here, too, we may see the dangerous ambiguity in the notion of the ‘pair of lovers’, the source of so much bad writing. There is always a danger that that notion may give rise to the sort of self-complacency which makes it into a closed system. By that it shows that it is not from God; the survival of the ego which it demands might very well be no more than an object of desire, and could not accordingly be credited with the status of hope to which we alluded above.
I may add, too, that from the point of view of a doctrine of intersubjectivity, there can be no apparent reason at all for setting an exclusive value on the relation which is built up by man and woman united in the bond of marriage. A friendship, or a fortiori, a filial relationship, may also be the road which leads beyond the earthly horizon. I may point out, too, incidentally, that there may perhaps be no significance in attributing a literally supraterrestrial character to the invisible in which the intersubjective destiny is fated to develop and fulfil itself. There is no doubt that it is infinitely more reasonable to admit that if the word beyond has any meaning—and this we cannot possibly deny—the word cannot be strictly applied to some other place at which one could arrive on leaving this earth. It would be better to follow the indications which we find for example, in Mr. Stewart White's works, and think that what we loosely call ‘beyond’ consists of unknown dimensions or perspectives within a universe of which we apprehend only the one aspect which is in tune with our own organo-psychic structure.
An ‘open’ thought is by its essence directed towards this unknown. But we must realize the danger of a baleful confusion arising between what one might call the will for exploration, of which a certain curiosity may be the outcome, and hope properly so called. I should readily grant that it is only by denouncing this possible confusion that one may succeed in tracing the boundary line between the psychic domain and the order of religion. Curiosity, indeed, cannot be divorced from desire, and I have often had occasion to draw attention to the necessity of distinguishing between desire and hope. That point is the more worthy of note, in that Spinoza, in his Ethics, when opposing fear to hope and handling them as antithetical data, seems to have made the very mistake that I think we should unmask in this connection. The fact is that desire and hope are to be found in completely distinct spheres of spiritual life. The opposite of hope is not fear, it is a state of dejection; and it can, moreover, appear under a wide variety of psychological species. But in a quite general way one may say that it is the state of a being who expects nothing either from himself, or from others, or from life. There is nothing here which resembles fear; there is rather an immobilization of life; we might say that life is congealed or frozen. It may also happen that the human being takes pleasure in this state, and that is precisely what we can see in some nihilists of our own day. Fear, on the contrary, like desire itself, is bound up with expectation.
Wherein, then, lies the difference between desire and hope? We shall be in a better position to determine this if we remember that in Christian ethics hope is regarded as a virtue in the same way as faith and charity. How is this possible? One might point out in the first place that hope is akin to courage. But what sort of courage is meant? There, indeed, we have a notion which is much more ambiguous than is commonly imagined. As one of my own characters says, one can be brave in the face of suffering, or even in the face of death, and yet not be brave in the face of judgment, by which I mean in face of the notion which others might form of us. One might say that in every instance courage consists primarily in facing something. But in the case with which we are concerned, to face is in some way to deny, or more exactly to reduce to nothingness (néantiser), to use a neologism of Sartre's which has no precise equivalent: it means, in brief, to treat something actively as neither existing nor being of any account. The soldier who defies death behaves as though death were of no account. Let us be aware, however, of a very subtle shade of meaning which ought not to be overlooked. Bravery by no means consists in deluding oneself about a given situation. It reaches its zenith, on the contrary, when the situation is most clearly appreciated. We might be inclined, then, to say at first that it is a question of a negation turning on value and not on existence. At the same time we have already realized that the opposition between existence and value cannot be regarded as absolute. Fundamentally it is precisely this opposition which hope transcends, which, in a certain sense, it denies. The man who has hopes of the coming of a world in which justice will be paramount does not confine himself to saying that such a world is infinitely to be preferred to an unjust world—he proclaims that this world shall come into existence; in this lies the prophetic nature of hope. But by this, too, we may see more clearly in what courage, which is the driving force behind hope, truly consists.
During the last war I devoted much thought to the characteristics of hope and to the tragic state of prisoners of war. I concluded by asking myself whether in the last analysis hope might not always be looked on as an active reaction against a state of captivity. It may be that we are capable of hoping only in so far as we start by realizing that we are captives. Our slavery, moreover, may take very different forms, such as sickness or exile. (This will help us to understand why it is that in some countries where social technique is over-developed, in which a sort of ease is assured to everyone, hope fades and withers, and with it the whole of religious life. Life stands still and there is nothing that does not labour under an invincible boredom. This seems to be so in Sweden, to a large extent.) From this it would appear that at the back of hope lies some sort of tragedy. To hope is to carry within me the private assurance that however black things may seem, my present intolerable situation cannot be final; there must be some way out. At this point, there are some complementary notes which cannot be omitted.
The first and perhaps the main point is that this assurance cannot just be overlaid on something inert. The being who hopes is putting forth a sort of interior activity, even though it may not be easy to define the nature of that activity. Once again intersubjectivity will be found to supply the key to the riddle. It is well to bear in mind the ordeals of those whose country was for a time enslaved and who yet persisted in their hope of liberation. Hope was not simply a hope for one's own self; it meant spreading one's hope, keeping its flame a radiance of hope burning around one. We may go further and say that it is probably only by so doing that a man can keep it alive in the depths of his own being. But, as we have already seen, each man's personal reality is itself intersubjective. Every man finds within him another self which is only too inclined to give up the struggle and despair; thus it is that in his own interior citadel he has to exert the same effort as in the so-called exterior zone in which he is in communication with his neighbour. A sick man who hopes he will recover, does not simply wish to be cured. He does not stop short at saying, ‘I wish I could be cured’; he tells himself, ‘You shall be cured’, and it is precisely when this happens that such a hope can sometimes become a real factor in the cure. It may be objected, of course, that there we have auto-suggestion pure and simple; and the attack could be pushed further by saying that when this auto-suggestion brings about external effects, there is no change in its nature. But at this point we should try to disclose the postulates on which a man bases himself when he speaks of auto-suggestion in this depreciatory tone. What he is doing in fact is to contrast it as a sort of simply illusory operation—what I would be prepared to call an auto-mystification—with what is a real process which develops autonomously; we should note, too, that even when we are discussing auto-suggestion, a certain empiric efficacy is attributed to this despised operation, and we are justified in asking how we are to account for this efficacy itself, this grip on real facts.
But there is more to be said. Even as far as the idea of suggestion can be regarded as self-consistent, it is extremely doubtful whether it corresponds to the reality with which we are concerned. Auto-suggestion consists, to put it briefly, in closing oneself in on a certain representation: it is difficult to think of it except as a psychic contraction. But, on the contrary, we cannot but think of hope as an expansion: it implies an open time as opposed to a closed time in the contracted soul. But this can be seen clearly, I think, only in connection with the actual idea that one forms of hope; and in this new context we rediscover what we said earlier about conversion; for the latter seems without doubt to consist in the somehow mysterious passage from the closed time to the open time. It could be demonstrated, moreover, that this closed time is not necessarily that of despair which sees nothing before itself and which expects nothing from anybody: it can as well be that of a man who is shut in in the circle of his daily tasks, who is chained by the fetters of routine. He may, indeed, despair, but he is not aware of it; he will not become conscious of it until he has freed himself from the jaws of this vice.
No doubt there will be some who will feel unable to master their impatience and will ask us what is this hope and to what is it directed. Is it to a solution of our difficulties in this world? Or is it on the contrary to a development in the unseen which will perhaps take its start only after death? In the first case, there is always the danger that hope will meet with the direst disappointment; in the second, it passes into the sphere of the unverifiable; we shall always be entitled to see in it a mere mystification, even a sheer swindle.
The first answer, I think, must be this; to hope is not essentially to hope that… whereas to desire is always to desire something. I once wrote that hope is the stuff of which our soul is woven. But would it not be possible for hope to be another name for the exigence of transcendence, or for it to be that exigence itself, in as much as it is the driving force behind man the wayfarer? Could it be claimed that to conceive of hope in this way is to confuse it with life itself? A word of warning, however: the idea of life itself is ambiguous. It may apply to a simple process which can give rise to description and analysis. Every human being can dwindle into a condition which is in some way akin to the vegetable: biologically speaking, they are alive, but spiritually they are dead. On the other hand we have all met people who remained alive in the spiritual sense until the verge of death, and when their physical strength seemed utterly exhausted.
Here, however, we are confronted by a paradox. By this I mean that it seems, at least as far as man is concerned, that even if life is weakened and in a way degraded, it must still retain a certain character of sacredness; otherwise there would be no reason for doubting the legitimacy of the treatment which supporters of euthanasia claim they may apply to incurables. The majority of civilized beings are impelled to protest against such practices, and their protests cannot but be regarded as a danger signal to arrest us on the slope down which contemporary man is in danger of sliding. It is in fact a warning to remind us of the sacred element which is inseparable from any and every human existence. It may, of course, be held that this warning is only a survival, and that it is the part of reason to expose the antiquated character of such a mental attitude. Here again we are faced by an inescapable dilemma. But the fact is that if this consciousness is enfeebled, the road is open to terrifying mismanagement. We must accordingly realize, I think, that here we are faced with a certain absolute, and that this absolute must be assisted, however strong the temptation may be to reject it.
The conclusion of all we have just said seems to be twofold—we must acknowledge the profound ambiguity of what we call life and at the same time emphasize, in a darkness in which there is otherwise hardly a glimmer of light, the incomprehensible unity of aspects which at first we thought should be dissociated. We shall, I think, find the least inadequate interpretation of this unity, if we interpret it as an expression of a divine gift. At the same time it may be that we should allow a predominantly negative import to this interpretation; it is primarily the rejection of an objectivizing representation, even if it seems impossible to remove from the words we are obliged to use any traces of such a representation.
A myth, again, such as that of the phoenix, might help us at this point: we could say that all life holds within itself a promise of resurrection. However strong may be my motives in suppressing life, the act of suppression may imply a sacrilegious attempt at interrupting a certain cycle, or even the actual will to bring it to a final term. To kill is in the first place to wish to suppress; it implies the intent to destroy what is perhaps in itself indestructible. Such an intent is at once sacrilegious and profoundly absurd. This circuitous approach may perhaps lead us to see more clearly wherein hope is akin to life, when life is looked at, not in its manifestations, but in its essence, which is perhaps a certain perennialness. A world such as our own, in which murder on an almost incredible scale is growing common, a world which seems soaked through and through with crime, such a world cannot but be increasingly impervious to hope. Some may see in this but a hackneyed commonplace, to others it will be a paradox that can hardly be maintained; it is only the latter point of view that we need deal with at the moment.
In totalitarian countries, which nowadays try to impose their rule upon the whole world, men seem to claim that there is an obligation to sacrifice whole generations in order to ensure the advent of a just society. Surely, then, some fanatics will contend, it is here that hope reaches its climax? The answer is, no: that is a ghastly lie; it is despair wearing the mask of hope, and it is that mask that we have to tear away. Once more we must pay heed to the existence of hidden connections which, indeed, we can always break up; but let us remind ourselves that values really hang together, and it is a hopeless undertaking to try to promote justice at the expense of truth—that is to say, of justice itself. A human future which is founded on the deliberate extermination of millions of individuals can only be corrupt in its own principle, and it is that future which we must wholeheartedly reject. What exactly are we to understand by this refusal? It is not just a matter of reciting professions of faith or of signing manifestos—these are mere gestures. We must disclaim any complicity, even tacit; and that means that our action has to exert itself in an entirely different dimension.
In the last chapter of this series, we shall have to make an effort to define more precisely what this dimension can and should be, and to show that what matters today is that man should rediscover the sense of the eternal, and withstand those who would make his life subservient to an alleged sense of history.