Materialism, Terror, moral relativism ...: the dark side of Enlightenment

Home"Anciens2"Materialism, Terror, moral relativism ...: the dark side of Enlightenment
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FIGAROVOX / INTERVIEW - The philosopher Bertrand Vergely challenges the contribution of the Enlightenment to thought in an iconoclastic essay. Not only is humanism not, he says, born with the Revolution, but according to him the Enlightenment has instituted an imperialism of Reason, which murders in man what he has of spiritual.

Bertrand Vergely is a normalist, an associate of philosophy and theologian. Professor in Khâgne classes and teacher at the St. Sergius Orthodox Theological Institute, he has just published Obscure Lights (Ed de la Cerf, 2018), a sobering philosophical essay that shatters some of the myths surrounding the Age of Enlightenment, to reveal its shadow.

- Photo credits: Deer.

FIGAROVOX: In your book, you seem to see in the Enlightenment a new religion, of which you say that, contrary to popular belief, it is much more obscurantist than the Christianity it has replaced. Obviously this religion is not yours ...

Bertrand VERGELY.- Religion is what connects men to God. Living religiously leads to raising one's consciousness to the highest level. But men can turn away the religious, and when it does, it gives tyrannies and sects that rock the religious into violence. The correct answer to religious obscurantism is to return to the authentic religious, that of the profound man purifying himself of the thirst for power in order to bring to life a transformed consciousness. In the 18th century, during the French Revolution, the opposite happened. Under the pretext of liberating society from obscurantism, revolutionaries oppose the power of religious obscurantism to the non-religious power of the Enlightenment. They do not suppress the thirst for power, they only shift it from its clerical expression to a secular expression. To do this, they set up an idolatry, that of the total man controlling nature and man by human reason. In the eighteenth century this idolatry leads to the Terror, the nineteenth century intellectual nihilism, the twentieth century on totalitarianism. To be a philosopher is to try to say and to live the truth. The Enlightenment is at the origin of an idolatry that has enslaved men and still enslaves them. Who asks to become a worshiper of this idolatry, I say no. Without me.

In the eighteenth century this idolatry leads to the Terror, the nineteenth century intellectual nihilism, the twentieth century on totalitarianism.

What do you mean when you write that with the Enlightenment came "the advent of the bourgeois"? What is this new bourgeois morality?

When cities develop, a civilization develops with them, the commercial and commercial civilization. The bourgeoisie is the expression of this civilization. In the West, the development of this civilization could have kept its religious conscience. This has not been the case. The urban, commercial and merchant civilization that has been set up has decided to rid itself of this consciousness by putting in its place a consciousness that is no longer concerned with being but with well-being, no longer with the spiritual life but with material life. The bourgeois spirit resides in this new type of consciousness. At its base, agnosticism is found in pragmatism. God, religion? Too complicated, tells us this spirit. Let's be pragmatic. Men have nothing to do with deep consciousness. What they want is to be able to eat and be happy. This gives empiricism and the quest for happiness, materialism, utilitarianism and hedonism.

How do you explain that the Enlightenment ended in the reign of the Terror?

Under the guise of wanting to fight against injustice, the Enlightenment thinkers have in reality wanted to create an entirely new humanity. When one has as a project to transform what is the essence of humanity, what can happen? On a theoretical and cultural level, one is obliged to take oneself for God by replacing the divine law by the human law which becomes a new divine law. Hobbes in Leviathan rewrote the book of Genesis by giving birth to the man of the social contract and, behind him, of the human right. As a result, the state now guarantees the law, becoming in a way the new God on earth. Which is the essence of totalitarianism. On the other hand, practically, when one claims to be the true humanity that will build the new humanity, one is obliged to eliminate by terror the representatives and the symbols of the old society and the old humanity, the former being unable to not to coexist with the new. This is exactly what happened. Since the French Revolution, all the revolutionary regimes have been regimes of terror in which the nobles, the priests, the rich, the intellectuals, etc. were liquidated in violence.

You also say that the Enlightenment, with the rights of man, is the source of a new morality that replaces Christian morality. But in a secular society like today, does one not need a form of "secular morality" to maintain order in the face of the obscurantism of radical Islam for example?

The morality invented by the Enlightenment is a libertine morality, of which I have shown that it could be illustrated by three faces: the intellectual critic, Don Juan, and the Marquis de Sade. This new morality is based on a triptych: Freedom of Mind - Seduction - Transgression. We find these values, very present, in contemporary art! It is exactly this moral triptych that human rights aim to protect. As Albert Camus very well said, Law and libertinage were the two levers of the French Revolution. But I believe, precisely, that the true "secular morality" does not even exist today. In my childhood, at the school of the Republic, there were moral lessons! This morality was not a libertine morality inherited from the values ​​of the Enlightenment protected by human rights, but it was secular Christian morality. It no longer exists. At the time of my childhood, the word "morality" was not a shameful word.

The true "secular morality" no longer even exists today.

What do we really oppose to radical Islam today? The morality "Charlie Hebdo", that is to say the old revolutionary anticlerical fund claiming the "neither God nor master" of anarchism, against the background of right to blasphemy! That's not it, the secular morality. I agree to oppose a morality in the face of Islamist violence. But when does one start? On what basis and what values?

What do you think about the recent decisions of the Council of State that asked to have the cross removed from the statue of Ploërmel, or the crèches in some town halls? Is this one of the symptoms of slippage that you denounce a secularism respectful of religions towards an atheistic secularism that fights them?

That a statue of John Paul II in Brittany is associated with a cross, what more normal? As far as nurseries are concerned, they are in my opinion more folklore than religion. I do not understand what the Republic gains from wanting to eradicate folklore ... In these two cases, atheism has decided to be zealous and show its anti-religion. This attitude is not a coincidence. In the Christian tradition, laypeople designate those who are not clerics, namely the people, the "Laius". In this vision, there is no opposition between religious, clerics and non-religious, the people, clerics and non-clerics serving humanity in its spiritual ascent to the inner Kingdom. From the French Revolution, this balance is broken. The non-religious who referred to the laity and the people as a spiritual mystery is replaced by secularism that intends to exclude the religious from the public scene by igniting the war against it. When this war does not give rise to an open repression as in the Terror, it nonetheless consists of a latent repression in the form of an injunction to the privatization of religious sentiment, with prayer for Christians to keep a low profile and keep quiet . As curious as it may seem, it is the Catholics and Christians who, through their sense of responsibility, have saved republican secularism by deciding to respect it. Today, secularism is facing a problem it did not foresee: Islam. Although our secularism is firmly opposed to Islamic radicalism, it seems to me that it rests on the same sharing of the world in its vision of society, that is to say on the opposition between religion and non-religion. Unlike the Christian tradition that brings together, current secularism as Islam want to separate. It will probably take an internal conversion of our society to get out of this dualism.

What is missing from the Enlightenment revolution to be a revolution of the spirit - the one you are calling for?

It would have to take the opposite path of what it has accomplished in history, namely to kill the religious of the heart of the Western man in order to replace it with an idolatry of the total man. The heart of man has incredible potential and wealth. Still, he must return to himself and accept that this potential and these riches be given to him, instead of wanting to be a self-created man in a mad solitude.



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One Response to "Matérialisme, Terreur, relativisme moral… : le côté obscur des Lumières"

  1. Théophile Hammann   12 May 2018 at 18 h 28 min

    Bravo! It's sincere, true and liberating! The God of the Bible has been replaced by the one whom Jesus calls the prince of this world, the one who the apostle Paul calls the god of this world and whose Apostle John says that he seduces all the inhabited earth!
    Theophile H.

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