The Sorceress, by Jules Michelet, , at sacred-texts.com
A WOMAN of genius, in a very noble burst of enthusiasm, represents herself as seeing the two spirits, whose mutual struggle made the Middle Ages, coming at last to an understanding, drawing together, uniting. Examining one another at nearer hand, they discover, late in the day it may be, traces of kinship between them. What if they were brothers, and their age-long strife nothing more than a misunderstanding? The heart speaks, and they are melted. The proud and gallant outlaw, the tenderhearted persecutor, forgetting the embittered past, spring forward eagerly to throw themselves into each other's arms (George Sand, Consuelo).
Amiable fancy of a great-souled woman; and others too have entertained the same beautiful dream. The gentle Montanelli wrote a fine poem embodying the notion. Indeed, who would not welcome the alluring hope of seeing the combat here below end in peace and a reconciliation so touching?
What thinks the wise bard Merlin 1 on the point? In the mirror of his lake, whose depth he alone can plumb, what has he seen? What has he to say in the colossal épopée he gave us in 1860? 2 That Satan, if he disarm, will do so only on the Day of Judgment. Then, and not till then, pacified at last, both powers will repose side by side in one common death.
Doubtless it is not difficult, by a travesty of their true nature, to arrive at a compromise. The exhaustion of long-continued struggles, by enervating every fibre, makes way for certain combinations. The last chapter showed us two shadows agreeing to make covenant in falsehood; the shadow of Satan, the
shadow of Jesus, rendering little services one to the other, the devil posing as friend of Loyola, pious enthusiasm and diabolic possession going hand in hand, hell melted in the Sacred Heart!
These are mild times of ours, and hate far less virulent. Nowadays indeed men's animosity is pretty well confined to their friends. I have seen Methodists admire the Jesuits. I have seen those whom the Church throughout the Middle Ages brands as sons of Satan, whether legists or physicians, making prudent compact with the old vanquished spirit.
But, leaving mere fancies on one side, let us ask, Those who seriously expect Satan to come to terms and agree to peace, have they really weighed the problem involved?
The obstacle is not any surviving rancour. The dead are dead; the millions of victims, Albigensians, Vaudois, Protestants, Moors, Jews, American Indians, sleep in peace. The standing martyr of the Middle Ages, the Sorceress, says no word; her ashes are scattered to the winds.
Well, what is it, can you say, that protests, what is the solid barrier that divides the two spirits, and bars their coming together? It is a prodigious reality that has taken shape in the last five hundred years,that Titanic work the Church has declared accursed, the vast edifice of the sciences and of modern institutions which she excommunicated stone by stone, but which each anathema only made more imposing and raised higher by yet another story. Is there one science you can name that was not originally a revolt against authority?
There is only one way to reconcile the two spirits and unite the two Churches. This is to demolish the new one, the one which, from its earliest beginnings, was declared sinful and damnable. Let us destroy, if we can, all the sciences of nature, demolish the observatory, the museum, the botanic garden, the school of medicine, every library of modern books. Let us burn our legal enactments and our codes. Let us go back to the Canon Law.
These novelties, one and all, were Satanic; no progress ever made but was his guilty work.
The same wicked logician it was who, heedless of clerical law, preserved and refashioned that of the philosophers and Jesuits, based on the impious doctrine of Free Will.
The same dangerous magician it was who, while Churchmen were disputing about the sex of angels and the like sublime questions, stuck obstinately to facts and created chemistry and physics and mathematics. Yes! Mathematics no less than the rest had to be begun afresh,another revolt against authority, for had not men been burned for saying, three make three, and not One?
Medicine above all was truly and indeed Satanic, a revolt against disease, the merited scourge of an offended God. Plainly a sinful act to stay the soul on its road towards heaven and replunge it in the life of this world!
How expiate all this? How suppress and rage to earth this accumulated pile of successive revolts, which to-day constitutes the whole of modern life? To re-enter the path of the angels, will Satan undo this great work? Never! for it rests on three eternal foundation-stones,Reason, Right, and Nature.
So triumphantly victorious is the new spirit, it clean forgets its previous struggles, and scarcely deigns to-day to give a thought to its own triumph. It has been no useless task to recall the pitifulness of its earliest beginnings, the humble shapes, so rough and barbarous, so cruelly grotesque, it assumed in the days of persecution, when a woman, the unhappy Sorceress, gave the first impetus to its scientific and popular vogue. Bolder far than the heretic, the doubting half-Christian, the man of knowledge who still kept one foot within the sacred circle, she eagerly fled from such constraints, and free on the free soil, strove to build herself an altar of the rude wild boulders of untrammelled nature.
She perished in her turn, as she was bound to do. But how? Mainly by the progress of those very sciences she first originated, by the hands of the physician, the naturalist, for whom she had worked so well.
The Sorceress has perished for ever, but not so the fairy. She will appear afresh under this form, which is immortal.
Woman, busied during the later centuries with men's affairs, has in requital lost her own true rôle,that of healing, and consoling, that of the fairy that restores to health and happiness.
This is her true priestesshood,hers by right divine, no matter what the Church may have said to the contrary.
With her delicate organs, her love of the finest detail, her tender appreciation of life, she is called to be its quick-eyed confidante in every science of observation. With her gentle heart and sweet pity, her instinctive kindness, she is a heaven-sent healer. Sick folk and children are very much alike; both need a woman to tend them.
She will pursue the sciences, and bring into their domain gentleness and humanity, like a smile on Nature's face.
Anti-Nature pales in death; and the day is not far off when her final setting will mark a dawn of blessed augury to mankind.
The gods wane, but not God. Quite otherwise; the more they wane, the more He waxes strong. He resembles an eclipsing light, that after each period of obscuration only shines out the brighter.
It is a good sign to see these things openly discussed, in the newspapers even. The feeling is taking root that all questions go back to the great fundamental and sovereign questionseducation, organisation, the child, the woman. Such is God, and such the world.
All this proclaims the times are ripe.
So near is it, this religious dayspring, that again and again I thought I saw it dawning in the desert where I have completed this book of mine.
How bright and sunlit, how rugged and how lovely my desert home is! My nest was perched on a rock in the great roads of Toulon, in a humble villa, amid aloes and cypresses, cactuses
and wild roses. In front, this vast basin of flashing sea; behind, the bare amphitheatre, where might sit at ease the States General of the world.
The countryside is quite African in general aspect, and has a steely splendour by day that dazzles the eyes. But on winter mornings, especially in December, the spot was full of divine mystery. I used to rise exactly at six, when the Arsenal gun gives the signal to begin work. From six to seven I enjoyed an entrancing hour. The keen, steely (if this is a permissible expression) scintillation of the stars put the moon to shame and stood out against the coming dawn. Before the day broke, and afterwards during the struggle between the two lights, the extraordinary translucency of the air allowed me to see and hear at incredible distances. I could make out every object at two leagues away. The smallest details of the distant mountains, trees, rocks, houses, contours of surfaces, all showed up with the most delicate and precise definition. My senses seemed multiplied, and I felt myself a new being, free, winged, emancipated. The moment was one of crystal clearness, of an austere beauty and infinite purity! . . . Involuntarily I would find myself exclaiming, "How now! can it be I am still a man?"
An intangible shade of bluea blue the rosy dawn as yet respected and did not dare disturb, a holy ether, a sublimated spiritmade all Nature spiritual.
But a subtle change was in progress, a gradual, a gentle transformation could be felt approaching. A mighty marvel was at hand, soon to demolish and eclipse these quiet beauties. The impending transformation, the expected glories of the day, detracted nothing from the charm of being yet in the divine night, of lurking half-hid in the half-light, still enwrapped in the same enchanted wonderland. . . . Come, Sun! We stand all ready with our adorations, yet would fain enjoy yet another, a last, moment of waking dreams. . . .
The Sun is rising. . . . Let us await his coming in good hope and thoughtful reverence.
307:1 Victor Hugo.
307:2 La Légende des Siècles.