The Romanesque Faith of Simone Weil: An Occitan Christianity

In 1942, Simone Weil wrote two articles about the Occitan region of the 12th century. Inspired by the Song of the Albigensian Crusade, she presented not so much facts as the spirit that, according to her, animated the ancient Pays d’Oc, of which Romanesque Toulouse was the new Troy. According to her, by destroying the Cathar region, Simon de Montfort deprived Europe of a spiritual freedom that it has never managed to regain.

Because of the persecutions carried out against the Jews by the Nazis and their allies, Simone Weil, Jewish by birth, published, in the Cahiers du sud, in 1942, two articles under the pseudonym of Émile Novis, which Claude Le Manchec published in 2014, under the title of L’Inspiration occitane (ed. L’éclat). At that time, modern civilization reached the paroxysm of its material unconsciousness: brute force, drunk with its new technical powers, was unleashed before the banners of that “satiated spider, swollen with blood” of which Mauriac speaks. But the Third Reich is only the actualization of the same tendency that corrupts humanity since it chose sin against God: here is the “empire of force” that reproduces itself, the one of the Greeks annihilating Troy, the one of Rome annihilating Toulouse, the Cathar, the chivalrous, the courteous. It is of this last great confrontation that Simone Weil speaks, through the reading of the poem of 9578 verses, written in the langue d’oc, the Song of the Albigensian Crusade (Chanson de la croisade albigeoise).

Weil does not see the conflict between Catholic Rome and Cathar Toulouse as a war of religions, in the plural. The Song of the Albigensian Crusade shows that allusions to religious controversies are rare, too rare when one knows how much “the disasters that befell this country could have led the population either to attack the Cathars as the cause of its misfortune and to persecute them, or to adopt their doctrine out of hatred for the invader and to look upon the Catholics as traitors.” But it seems that “neither of these reactions occurred. This is extraordinary.” This can be explained by the fact that in medieval Occitania, there was “a spiritual freedom” which was that of a collective tolerance made religion, permeating the whole country of Occitania. In contrast, modern tolerance inherited from the Enlightenment “only eliminated from the struggle of ideas the crudest forms of force,” without eliminating the struggle between ideas. This spiritual impotence had no other effect than to logically lead the democratic mentality to lock itself in “the constitution of crystallized parties.” The modern tolerance “substituted material constraints for spiritual barriers.”

And for good reason, intolerance is the product, not of fate, but of a historical and civilizational “decision.” Ever since “the father of St. Louis, as the poem tells us, thought he was serving God by coldly authorizing the massacre of an entire city after it had surrendered,” Europe has chosen force, against the spirit. Failing to choose the spirit, the Enlightenment could only try to imagine a tolerance in force. With Manichean belief, Weil estimates that “the alliance of the throne and the altar,” of which the Catholic tradition affirms the possibility, is not realizable: a struggle opposes ineluctably the logic of the world, which is that of force, and the logic of the Kingdom, which, not being of this world, ignores force and knows only the spirit.

The Occitans of the twelfth century were on a crusade against force itself, which they did not use beyond the necessity that desperation made them feel. Only then did the population of Toulouse, “crushed and unarmed, rose up” against the conqueror Simon de Montfort. Although they lost the war, “they won repeated victories over an enemy powerfully armed and puffed up by his triumphs;” and, as in the Bible David against Goliath, “a stone thrown by a woman’s hand killed Simon de Montfort.” But the use of force did not go beyond the necessity of duty. The Cathar decision was that of the spirit, Weil assures us—this is why the tolerance that was in force was indeed that of a spiritual freedom where “ideas did not clash,” but “they circulated in a sort of continuous environment,” achieving what the Enlightenment did not even desire. It is in any case what superbly suggests the epic poem of which we speak, where Weil finds the same inspiration that founded the Iliad of Homer.

The Two Renaissances

In her article, ” En quoi consiste l’inspiration occitanienne?” (What does the Occitan Inspiration Consist of?”), Weil, in the perspective of her Lettre aux religieux (Letter to Religious), indicates in what way the religion of each civilization has valued one of the complementary aspects of supernatural truth. She cites Israel, which worshipped God in His unitary nature, as well as India, focused on the holy identification of man with God, but also Persia, China and Egypt. As for Greece, it was the aspect of mediation that inspired its religion and its activities, haunted as it was by the “infinite distance between God and man,” which had to be bridged. Thus were born philosophy, science and the cults of the Greek Mysteries, with the aim of establishing bridges between the finite and the Infinite. “It is this idea which was expressed in their notion of harmony, of proportion, which is in the center of all their thought, of all their science, of all their conception of the life.”

The Roman conquest broke this “bridge-building vocation.” The rebirth of the Greek spirit could thus be made only by the rebirth of the concern for mediations. Now “the idea of mediation received the fullness of reality; the perfect bridge appeared. Divine Wisdom, as Plato had wished, became visible to the eyes”: it is the revelation of Jesus Christ, God incarnate, the Mediator between Heaven and Earth. By baptizing Greek heritage, Christianity gave life to its spirit. This spirit was to give rise to an entire civilization, a civilization of spiritual freedom, the only living and free Christian tradition, on the occasion of the Carolingian Renaissance:

“After the tenth century, security and stability had become sufficient for the development of a civilization; the extraordinary mixing accomplished since the fall of the Roman Empire could from then on bear fruit. Nowhere could it do so to the same degree as in this country of Oc where the Mediterranean genius seems to have been concentrated… Spiritual riches flowed in from all sides without obstacle. The Nordic mark was quite visible in a society that was above all chivalrous; the Arab influence easily penetrated into countries closely linked to Aragon; an incomprehensible prodigy made the genius of Persia take root in this land and flourish there, at the very time when it seems to have penetrated as far as China. This is not all perhaps; do we not see in Saint-Sernin, in Toulouse, sculpted heads that evoke Egypt? The ties of this civilization were as distant in time as in space.”

On the other hand, the humanism of the Renaissance of the 15th century constitutes only “the last pale and confused image that we possess of the supernatural vocation of man,” elaborated on the opposition of Christianity and the Greek spirit, “while they are in the same place.” With the modern conception of science, art and philosophy, these bridges have been taken for permanent dwellings; these mediations between the human and the divine have been taken for the very hypostases of Divinity. Human intelligence has progressively closed in on itself, denying itself realistic access to that which transcends it. The destruction of the “chivalric civilization” of medieval Occitania even took with it that “intense civic feeling” by which, “in spite of certain conflicts between lords, and in the absence of any centralization, a common feeling united these regions; one saw Marseilles, Beaucaire, Avignon, Toulouse, Gascony, Aragon, and Catalonia spontaneously unite against Simon de Montfort.” According to the Song of the Albigensian Crusade, the medieval Occitans “even had a word to designate the fatherland; they called it language.” It is a common language, a common fabric of representations and ways of conducting life that these disparate regions defended against the armies of Rome.

The Roman versus the Gothic

Traditional Christianity includes two aesthetics, and with them, two ways of ordering the human world to the divine Principle: Romanesque art, elaborated during the High Middle Ages, and Gothic art, later, which accompanied the great movement of building cathedrals. We see there two complementary representations of the relation of the human to the divine. But Weil’s judgment is harsh: these two styles embody for her two antithetical religious options within the Christian world.

In the Romanesque, art shines forth the same inspiration as that of courtly love. Courtly love designates that supernatural love which, in contrast to natural love, is not based on the force of passionate and egocentric possession, but, freed from lust, it “is only an expectation directed towards the beloved and which calls for consent… Such love in its fullness is love of God through the beloved.” The troubadours used a word to designate this love: Merci. Courtly love denotes gratitude. Likewise, Romanesque art frees itself from the empire of force to assent to the spirit: “the architecture, although having borrowed a form from Rome, does not have any concern for power nor for force, but only for balance.” This balance, as on the Cross “the body of Christ was the counterweight of the universe,” is verified as well in “Romanesque churches,” the “sculpted entities,” the sublime “Gregorian chant,” and in “Occitan poetry”—everywhere this kind of deliberate awkwardness which is “a nudity,” the sensitive mark of the pure presence of Being which, unlike modern religion, does not seek to fill an interior poverty by an external effusion of grandiloquent representations.

On the contrary, according to Weil, “there is some defilement of strength and pride in the momentum of the Gothic spires and the height of the ogival vaults.” The Gothic still remains the sacred art of Christianity; but already a spiritual degradation is evident, because the sacred domain feels the need to dominate and exclude to prove its superiority. “The Gothic Middle Ages, which appeared after the destruction of the Occitan homeland, was an attempt at totalitarian spirituality,” writes Weil harshly; and she adds, in a highly questionable way, that “the profane as such had no right to be present,” while in Romanesque Occitania, “the supernatural did not mix with the profane, did not crush it, did not seek to suppress it. It left it intact and thus remained pure. It was the origin and the destination.”

Weil died a Catholic, baptized at the moment of death, on August 24, 1943, in Ashford, where she wrote her last profession of faith. But she was, singularly, a Roman Catholic rather than a Roman; tolerant, she considered that demanding “more faith” in the “incorruptible rigor” of Catholic dogma should not have resulted in the “extermination” of the Cathars. Worse, she discerned the value and greatness of the Christian faith according to a double criterion, not of originality and strength, which were the pride of Gothic religiosity, but on the contrary of archaicity and love, which were the pride of Romanesque piety. Archaism, on the one hand, since it is the “ability to combine different environments, different [previous] traditions” that seduced Simone Weil to “the Christian civilization [which] is the Romanesque civilization.” On the other hand, her life and her holy devotion to the working condition are commanded by an ethic of “human love” which, as in the Pays d’Oc; it is Christianly regarded as “one of the bridges between man and God.” So, the task of contemporary man is certainly not to restore what has “prematurely disappeared after an assassination,” but to irrigate his future projects with the inspiring source of Romanesque faith. “To the extent that we contemplate the beauty of this age with attention and love, to that extent its inspiration will descend into us and gradually make impossible at least some of the baseness that constitutes the air we breathe.”


Paul Ducay, Professor of philosophy with a medievalist background. Heir to the metaphysics of Nicolas de Cues and the faith of Xavier Grall. Gascon by race and French by reason. “The devout infuriate the world; the pious edify it.” Marivaux. [This article comes through the kind courtesy of PHILITT].

Lourdes to Paris and Back Again

Several years ago, on a solitary pilgrimage to France, I spent an afternoon sitting before the Holy Grotto at Lourdes and praying upon the many, many petitions that I carried with me in two great manila envelopes. I was very much moved by my parishioners’ expressions of faith in, and love for, Our Lord and Our Lady. Each of their notes and letters, signs of interior devotion, was attentively left at the special place designated for such messages within the Grotto itself, just a few feet away from where the Virgin had stood and St. Bernadette had knelt during the apparitions of 1858. Lourdes never fails to inspire. There is such a tremendous outpouring of love and charity here that no one can honestly deny the presence and action of the Holy Spirit.

The Visionary, Saint Bernadette Soubirous.

One night, after the iconic candlelight procession, I encountered a Chinese couple named Kang and Yan. They had been enticed away from the hustle and bustle of Paris to the mystique of Lourdes. The husband had been exposed to Catholicism in Hong Kong but was a non-Christian. His wife, Yan, came from mainland China, just next to the North Korean border. She actually showed me on her iPhone a fascinating photo that she had taken of the People’s Paradise from across the river that separates her Chinese hometown from that de facto nation prison camp. Her parents are Communist Party members and she was raised in an atheistic home. But she was deeply moved as she stood before the Holy Grotto. Kang could not cease commenting about the evident power of Lourdes, and aptly noted that the countless volunteers who care for the sick are in a way proof of the veracity of the apparitions.

During my stay I was lured away by beckoning friends to spend a few days in Paris, although I was reluctant to leave Mary’s peaceful enclave in the picturesque Pyrenees mountains. The “City of Light” is a looming magnet and is the heart of the revolutionary engine of 1789. Still, I took the slow train to Bordeaux and then the lightning-fast TGV northwards to Paris and plunged into the secular arena.

The peasant’s veil and shoes St Bernadette wore during the apparitions of 1858.

Arriving, I walked out of the Montparnasse train station and was quite surprised when the first thing I heard was a plaintive call, “Bonjour, mon Père,” I turned to see a young Frenchman looking at me hoping for a few Euros. Yet he was not typically bedraggled (at least not outwardly). We began to chat and I encountered a life that had spun out of control and was caught in the web of disorder. Hunger made its imperious demands and he was in the humiliating state of holding out his hand for help. I asked if he would like a blessing, and he responded, “No, I am an atheist. I have seen too much suffering to believe in God.” I repeated my offer, this time looking more intently at him. He paused, then with bowed head, said, “Oui, mon Père…” My trip thus began by blessing an uncertain atheist in the streets of Paris.

On the steps of the glorious church of la Madeleine a very distressed young Frenchman frantically approached me. He wore a beard and a longish topcoat that gave him the appearance of a 19th Century rationalist. He told me of his alienation and despair. For a moment he began to ramble about Nietzsche but then desperately asked me if God really exists. It was another moment of unexpected humanity and Christianity. I put a few coins in his hand and laid my own upon his head in blessing.

I will always wonder if his presence on those church steps revealed the Hand of the Good God drawing him away from nihilist darkness towards the Light from Light.

Back safely at Lourdes again, one fair morning I found myself standing alone in a little park before a statue of St. Bernadette. But I was outside of the “pilgrim zone” of the village. Suddenly I was approached by a different sort of Frenchman. He must have seen his opportunity to pounce since I was isolated for the moment from the protective pious throngs. At first, I could not catch his slurry patois, but it was evident that he was an anti-clerical and was berating our Holy Religion. I wanted to be sure I understood him before I responded, so I explained that I was not French and could he speak more clearly, s’il vous plait. He said with obvious disdain, “What are you then, Italian?” Taking that as the one compliment I’d get from this unpleasant encounter, I nevertheless answered, “Je suis américain.” At this he bellowed, “C’est pire!!” (That’s even worse!). And then a new torrent of abusive language poured forth.

Now here I must interject that being Catholic and American is something I thank God for every day. The virtue of patriotism demands at least that of any man. For patriotism, love of country, is an essential ingredient to uprightness of character. Even more so is love of our higher country, that indefectible Kingdom of God which is the Church of Christ.

Patriotism is not quite nationalism. It is a moral virtue akin to filial piety writ large. Patriotism does not despise the patriotism of another country. Nor is patriotism naïve to the continual necessity of bettering one’s native land and mores. In fact, as an American patriot I appreciate and hope to be enriched by the patriotism of the French. One can have a hierarchy of loves that are not mutually opposed. I am an American patriot, but I also have a deep love for France, along with all that which is good and noble in its people, history, culture, language and religion. And as a Catholic priest, France has a claim on me as La Fille aînée de l’Église (“the Eldest daughter of the Church”).

All this is in my heart and mind. But my apoplectic Gallican interlocutor—un véritable bête noir—apparently had not evolved past brute to the level of authentic human sophistication that would have enabled him to engage in the least modicum of proper human discourse with a stranger. He was a bleak contradiction of all that was noble in his own land. He chose, instead of gracious hospitality, the barbarity of gratuitously assailing someone he did not even know, indeed, a visitor who had come in good will to honor la Belle France and its people.

I said simply in response to his anti-Catholic and anti-American slurs, “C’est pas vrai…” (“What you say is not true…”). His rage boiled over and he began shouting louder. He was losing it. I chose to walk away yet he followed close upon me. I was wondering where this was going to end up because he was menacing me physically at this point. And to be honest, I was asking myself how my old Tae Kwan Do moves could be managed in a cassock, but decided this would produce quite an awful headline. I said to him, “Que Dieu vous benisse,” and made my escape. He roared at me as I turned the corner and slipped out of danger’s way.

This particular member of homo sapiens had really disturbed me, my spiritual force field had been punctured. I stopped momentarily on the sidewalk to consider what had just occurred. I resolved to return to the park, when suddenly before me blocking my way were two kindly, smiling Sicilian faces of an elderly husband and wife on pilgrimage. They greeted me warmly and immediately we were immersed in a lovely conversation about the Faith and Our Lady and all things beautiful and good. God sent them just in time, literally within minutes of a near disaster in the park.

I continued down the sidewalk and headed back to the safety of the Grotto (I needed to talk about this with Our Lady), when I came across an old man begging, yet another gypsy. His name was unusual, something like “Geor.” He was clearly not faring well and needed someone to care that he existed, at least for a moment. We exchanged a few words and I gave him something to help him. Then I blessed him. He took my hand and kissed it and tears welled up in his eyes.

Still contemplating the vitriol to which I had been subjected in the park, I ran into a rotund, avuncular, italianissimo priest, who asked, “Ma che c’è, fratello mio? Che succede?” (What has bothered you, brother?). I told him about the enraged Frenchman who had accosted me. The good Padre immediately took me for a cappuccino and lent a listening ear until my nerves were sedated. His quintessentially “good Italian padre” approach rescued me from my temporary discombobulation. In turn, I had rescued him from the trinket shops—a fair sacerdotal exchange.

This all happened within a space of 30 minutes during my morning walk.

France is a culturally and religiously occupied territory. The destructive spirit of 1789 has to have had something to do with the poison coursing through the veins of the angry man in the park. The very Church of God, which made France great (not perfect) for over a millennium, has been undermined and attacked in this country for far too long. The secular ruling elite have banished the Gospel from public life and horribly twist the people’s perception of what is in fact the best thing that has ever happened to them, viz., their conversion to the Faith.

They are so fanatical about this suppression of Catholicism that they cannot see that only the Faith will be able to save them from the twofold jeopardy of laicisme and islamisme, or whatever it is that is bothering them. Each one of us is created imago Dei—children of God with a destiny in Christ Jesus. Understanding this is key to finding our way out of Europe’s existential malaise, for it is essential to the re-conversion of France to the Faith. And I hold that it can happen.

In the post-Nice, pre-Covidian era there was a heightened worry even in Lourdes that there would be a terrorist attack. Huge concrete barriers have been erected to prevent car bombs or trucks from ravaging the shrine which daily swells up with thousands of pilgrims. The workers there had repeatedly told me they have occasionally noticed strange men in long beards and long tunics, as if they are doing reconnaissance. I myself noticed this one night. And in fact, to some I myself am also a strange man with a long beard and long robe!

In any event, the man in the park (who is emblematic of the militantly irrational secular Left) is truly a tragic, and unarmed figure. Europe is in a civilizational crisis that could be assuaged by shelving Voltaire and revisiting Aquinas. At least that would be a worthy start.

There is so much suffering in the world! It either crushes us or redeems us. At Lourdes, however, there is redemption. This is demonstrated in the vivid scenes of so many sick people endlessly streaming to the Holy Grotto; processing in their wheelchairs, candles in hand; attending Mass after Mass and standing in endless lines for confession and access to the healing waters. All these actions are signs that suffering can wound but need not destroy us. There is always hope beyond the suffering, and we can look toward the example of our Divine Lord and His Sorrowful Mother. Heaven is in solidarity with mankind in our suffering.

I hope and pray that each of us realize the tremendous blessing that is ours. We profess the True Faith, we join together in common prayer before the Altar of God each day, we are enriched by the grace of the Sacraments, we know and love Our Lady, the sweet Immaculate Heart of the plan of salvation. We even know that we are so very imperfect, yet have the faith to be able to see how God’s loving Hand still guides us. There is so much good in our parish life. And there is so much bewilderment and chaos in the world swirling about. Bless the Lord every day for what we have been given and let us never forget how good indeed God is…

Lourdes in its holy splendor.

Father Francis M. de Rosa is a priest of the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia. A graduate of Niagara University, the Ateneo della Santa Croce in Rome and Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary in Maryland, he also holds a Licentiate in Sacred Theology from the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Washington, D.C. He has published articles on bioethics in the Linacre Quarterly and the National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly. He was ordained in 1997 and is the pastor of St. Elizabeth Catholic Church in Colonial Beach, Virginia and St. Anthony of Padua Mission in King George, Virginia.


Featured: “Our Lady of Lourdes,” by Francisco Oller; painted in 1878.

Ukraine, Trapped in a Spiral of War: Pierre de Gaulle

The speech that follows was given by Pierre de Gaulle, the grandson of Charles de Gaulle, at the French Embassy in Paris, on June 14, 2022, to mark Russia Day. It is a speech that has been heavily censored in France, and we are happy to provide this English translation.

Mr. de Gaulle addresses the current Ukraine-Russia conflict by way of a blunt and brave denouncement of the French political elite who have succeeded in undermining the great ideals of his grandfather who always sought the inclusion of Russia within Europe. The opening words of greetings Mr. de Gaulle made in Russian.


Здравствуйте ! От имени французского народа горячо приветсвую русские народ и его правителей и президент Владимир Путин.

[Good Day! On behalf of the French people, I warmly greet the Russian people and its leaders and President Vladimir Putin].

Your Excellencies, Official Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, I thank you, on behalf of my family and my father, Admiral de Gaulle, for inviting us to celebrate your national holiday.

Our peoples are linked by long years of friendship and by the blood shed against the Nazis. This is an opportunity for me to repeat that the Franco-Russian relationship was of particular importance to General de Gaulle. France and Russia are close to each other, but are also united by the awareness of their common interests and destinies.

Furthermore, Russia was seen by my grandfather as an inverse ally, indispensable for his security, but also because it was part of his conception of the stability of Europe and of Europe’s place in the world. The General even said, “Napoleon’s disastrous decision to attack Alexander I is the biggest mistake he ever made. Nothing forced him to do so. It was contrary to our interests, to our traditions, to our genius. It is from the war between Napoleon and the Russians that our decadence dates”

I have come here to affirm once again, loud and clear, that it is in France’s interest to maintain good relations with Russia and to say that we must work together in order to help the union and security of our continent, as well as the balance, progress and peace of the entire world.

Today, everyone recognizes the responsibility of the United States in the current conflict, the disastrous role of NATO, which is constantly expanding, and the reckless policy of the Ukrainian government. The latter, strengthened by beautiful promises and fed by American and European illusions, has led a very condemnable policy towards the Russian-speaking populations of Donbass, multiplying discrimination, plundering, embargoes and bombings. Unfortunately, the West has allowed Zelensky, his oligarchs and the neo-Nazi military groups to be trapped in a spiral of war.

This blindness has serious consequences for the Ukrainian people. But let’s make no mistake—what do the Americans want, if not to provoke a new East-West confrontation, whose only goal is to weaken and divide Europe in order to impose their directives, their economy and their system? Since the First World War, the Americans have made a pact to establish a necessary balance of forces in Europe and to be involved in the security of the European continent. It is not by organizing a systematic military escalation in Ukraine that they will fulfil their commitment, nor their great principles of freedom and democracy!

The United States is wrong, NATO is wrong, whose unbridled and thoughtless expansionism leads inexorably to the imbalance of the world and to injustice. The beautiful promises of the Americans not to enlarge NATO to the East, nor to the North, have not been respected. The Minsk agreements have not been respected.

The reality is that the Americans have never accepted, nor the West with them, that after the difficult transition of 1991 and the reconstruction that followed, Russia would not fit into their unipolar world. Neither the Americans nor Europe have ever accepted that Russia should transform itself according to the Western model—in its own way.

Because of this, and from the beginning, President Putin was perceived as a dictator, whereas he is a great leader for his country!

The United States has also never accepted the loss of the role of the dollar as the dominant currency in the settlement of international trade in the world. The worst thing is that, in this blindness, they are only reinforcing, by moving the economic and financial interests to the East, the position of China and the Chinese currency that they also want to fight! Sanctions—which are the policy of the weak—are inoperative, except to weaken the Europeans and other nations of the world. Even Africans, through the intermediacy of the President of the African Union, Mr. Macky Sall, are very worried about this.

By provoking a deep, systemic and lasting economic crisis that is already affecting us all, from the price of bread to heating and fuel, but also by the shortage of food, raw materials and industrial metals that all this entails, the Americans are weakening the Europeans for their own benefit. Have we forgotten that for at least a century, all the major financial crises have come from the United States? Our dollar, your problem,” said Henry Kissinger. The Americans still hold us by their debt, which they export.

By imposing a cultural and social model based on the cult of pleasure and consumption, the Americans are undermining the foundation of our traditional values and the two pillars of civilization—the family and tradition.

Europe, and of course France, have everything to lose, if they entrap themselves into this military and ideological escalation desired by the United States and NATO. As Charles de Gaulle said, “America is not part of Europe. I believe I discovered that on the map.”

France can and must play a key role in the current terrible and formidable situation. France and Russia are both daughters of Europe. France must not forget that she is the eldest of the European nations and that none of them has such a long trail of glory behind her. My grandfather always supported and defended the imperative need, even in the most difficult moments of history, to build and preserve a strong and shared relationship with Russia.

He loved Russia. My family and I love Russia and its people. The Russian people, whose property rights are so unjustly violated around the world. It reminds me of the worst moments of the occupation and the Vichy regime in France. And are Russian artists and sportsmen also responsible?

This systematic and blind policy of confiscation and discrimination of the entire Russian people is scandalous and shocks me greatly.

Allow me to quote General de Gaulle once again: “In France, we have never considered Russia as an enemy. I am for the development of Franco-Russian friendship; and I have never sent and I will never send arms to people who would have fought against Soviet Russia.”

The Americans give money (and weapons). We pay them with slices of our independence. I regret that the French government is committing itself to this submission to NATO and thus to American policy.

I deplore the fact that, because of the will of certain French presidents, France has dissolved into NATO. However, General de Gaulle always tried to maintain France’s independence in the integrated command of NATO.

NATO is absorbing Europe. And so the Americans no longer speak to France and no longer consider us a strong and independent nation.

Do we need to recall the recent slap in the face suffered by France in the brutal and unilateral breach of the contract for the purchase of Australian submarines by Australia, a member of the Commonwealth, which was orchestrated by the British and the Americans? Can France be satisfied, in addition to its loss of sovereignty, with the three-day advance in ammunition and fuel that NATO grants it? I do not understand the policy of the French President.

On the strength of his convictions, his army and the deterrent force that he himself built to the great displeasure of the Americans, General de Gaulle had the determination to leave NATO, while remaining a full member of the Atlantic Alliance. I wish that the French President had this courage and this will, rather than being subjected to the throes of single-mindedness and the common policy imposed by the Americans, which make him dependent.

In the same way, I do not recognize myself in today’s France, in this policy of “en même temps,” which weakens us. I do not recognize myself in the current abandonment of values, of our history, of our culture, of our great principles of freedom, duty and security.

General de Gaulle wrote, “There is a twenty-fold pact between the greatness of France and the freedom of the world.” Our goal is and must remain to establish a European entente between the Atlantic and the Urals. In the midst of the alarms of the world and the dangers of the present crisis, France can and must once again throw all her weight behind seeking an arrangement with the belligerent countries, and Russia in particular.

One does not wage war alone!

It is a conviction that ideologies, and therefore the regimes that express them, in Ukraine as elsewhere, are only temporary. “Only the patina of centuries and the capacity of countries to remain great count, based on political foundations.”

As General de Gaulle said in 1966 during his second trip to Russia: “The visit I am finishing to your country is a visit from the France of always to the Russia of always.”

I thank you.


The entire speech may be viewed here…

Pierre de Gaulle speaking in Paris.

The French text of the speech comes courtesy of Pierre Yves Rougeyron and Maison russe des sciences et de la culture à Paris. [Translated from the French by N. Dass}.


Featured: Napoleon silver Specimen Essai “Friendship” Medallic 2 Francs L’An IX (1801), by Tiolier.

François Villon, the Heavenly Robber

This essay, by the Russian poet Osip Mandelstam (1891-1938) was written in 1910 (or perhaps 1912) and revised in 1927 and is a tribute not only to the medieval poet, but a meditation on exile and the quest for unadorned reality and the Divine.


I

Astronomers accurately predict the return of a comet, after a long period of time. For those who know Villon, the Verlaine phenomenon appears to be just such an astronomical miracle. The resonance of both voices is strikingly similar. But apart from timbre and biography, the two poets are bound together by almost the same mission in the literature of their time. Both were destined to appear in an age of artificial, hothouse poetry, and just as Verlaine smashed the serres chaudes [an allusion to Maeterlinck’s collection of poems Hothouses (1889)] of symbolism, Villon challenged the mighty rhetorical school that can rightly be considered fifteenth-century symbolism. The famous Roman de la Rose first built an impenetrable fence, within which the warming atmosphere necessary for the survival of the allegories created by this Romance continued to flourish. Love, Danger, Hate, and Insidiousness are not dead abstractions. They are not incorporeal. Medieval poetry gives these ghosts an astral body, as it were, and tenderly cares for the artificial air so necessary to sustain their fragile existence. The garden where these peculiar characters live is enclosed by a high wall. The lover, as the beginning of the Roman de la Rose tells us, wandered for a long time around this fence in a vain search for an unobtrusive entrance.

Poetry and life in the fifteenth century were two independent, hostile dimensions. It is hard to believe that Maître Allain Chartier was subjected to real persecution and endured life’s troubles, arming public opinion of the time with a too-harsh sentence on the Cruel Lady, whom he drowned in a well of tears, after a brilliant trial, with all the subtleties of medieval legal procedure. Fifteenth-century poetry is autonomous; it occupies a place in the culture of the time, like a state within a state. Recall the Court of Love of Charles VI: a variety of seven hundred ranks, from the highest signoria to petty bourgeois and lower clerics. The exceptionally literary character of this institution explains the disdain for class partitions. The hypnosis of literature was so strong that members of such associations walked around the streets adorned with green wreaths, a symbol of falling in love, wishing to prolong the literary dream in reality.

II

François Montcorbier (de Loge) was born in Paris in 1431, during the English rule. The poverty that surrounded his cradle combined with the misery of the people and, in particular, with the misery of the capital. One might expect the literature of the time to be filled with patriotic pathos and a thirst for revenge for the offended dignity of the nation. Neither Villon nor his contemporaries, however, had such sentiments. France, enslaved by foreigners, showed herself to be a real woman. As a woman in captivity, she gave her main attention to the minutiae of her cultural and domestic toilette, looking curiously at the victors. High society, following its poets, was still carried away dreaming into the fourth dimension of the Gardens of Love and the Gardens of Joy, while for the people the tavern lights were lit in the evenings and farces and mysteries played out on holidays.

The feminine and passive era left a deep imprint on Villon’s destiny and character. Throughout his dissolute life he carried the unshakable conviction that someone had to take care of him, manage his affairs and bail him out of difficulties. Even as a mature man, thrown by the Bishop of Orleans into the lower dungeon of Meung sur Loire, he cried out to his friends: “Le laisserez-vous là, le pauvre Villon” [Will you leave there, poor Villon]. Francois Montcorbier’s social career began when he was taken into the care of Guillaume Villon, honorary canon of the monastery church of Saint Benoit le Bestourné. By Villon’s own admission, the old canon was “more than a mother” to him. In 1449 he received his baccalaureate degree; in 1452 his licentiate and maître. “Oh Lord, if I had studied in the days of my reckless youth and devoted myself to good manners—I would have had a home and a soft bed. But what can I say! I ran away from school like a wicked boy; as I write these words my heart bleeds.” Strange as it may seem, Maitre François Villon at one time had several pupils and taught them, as best he could, the wisdom of school. But, in his characteristic honesty, he was aware that he had no right to be called Master, and he preferred to call himself a “poor little scholar” in his ballads. And it was especially difficult for Villon to study, since, as if on purpose, the student riots of 1451-1453 happened during his years of study.

Medieval people liked to think of themselves as children of the city, the church, the university. But the “children of the university” exceptionally acquired a taste for mischief. A heroic hunt was organized for the most popular signs of the Paris market. The deer was to marry the Goat and the Bear, and the Parrot was supposed to be presented to the young as a gift. The students stole a boundary stone from the possessions of Mademoiselle La Bryuère, erected it on Mount St. Genevieve, calling it La Vesse (the fart) and, forcibly grabbing it from authorities, fastened it to the spot with iron hoops. On the round stone they placed another, oblong one, the Pêt au Diable, and worshipped them at night, showering them with flowers, dancing around them to the sound of flutes and tambourines. The enraged butchers and the offended lady made a case. The Prevost of Paris declared war on the students. The two jurisdictions clashed—and the defiant sergeants had to kneel, with lighted candles in their hands, to beg the rector’s forgiveness. Villon, who was undoubtedly at the center of these events, chronicled them in his novel Pêt au Diable [the Devil’s Fart], which has not survived.

III

Villon was a Parisian. He loved the city and idleness. He had no affection for nature and even mocked it. Already in the fifteenth century, Paris was the sea in which one could swim without being bored and forgetting about the rest of the universe. But how easy it is to stumble upon one of the countless reefs of idle existence! Villon became a murderer. The passivity of his fate is remarkable. It is as if it were waiting to be impregnated by chance, whether evil or good. In a ridiculous street fight on June 5, Villon kills the priest Chermoit with a heavy stone. Sentenced to hang, he appealed and, pardoned, went into exile. Vagrancy finally shook his morals, bringing him into the criminal gang la Coquille, of which he became a member. On his return to Paris, he participated in a major theft at the Collège de Navarre and immediately fled to Angers—because of unrequited love, he asserted, but in reality to set things up for robbing his rich uncle. Fleeing from the Parisian skyline, Villon published the Little Testament. Years of indiscriminate wandering followed, with stops at feudal courts and prisons. Amnestied by Louis XI on 2 October 1461, Villon went into deep creative turmoil, his thoughts and feelings became unusually acute, and he created the Great Testament, his monument to the ages. In November 1463 Francois Villon was an eye-witness to a quarrel and a murder in the Rue Saint Jacques. Here ends our account of his life and his dark biography.

IV

The fifteenth century was cruel to personal fates. It turned many decent and sober people into Job, grumbling at the bottom of their stinking dungeons and accusing God of injustice. A special kind of prison poetry was created, imbued with biblical bitterness and severity, as far as it is accessible to the polite Romance soul. But out of the chorus of prisoners, Villon’s voice stands out sharply. His rebellion is more like a court trial than a rebellion. He managed to combine in one person the plaintiff and the defendant. Villon’s attitude never crossed the known boundaries of intimacy. He is gentle, considerate, caring to himself no more than a good lawyer is to his client. Self-pity is a parasitic feeling, detrimental to the soul and the body. But the dry legal pity with which Villon invests himself is for him a source of vivacity and unwavering confidence in the rightness of his “case.” A thoroughly immoral “amoral” man, as a true descendant of the Romans, he lives entirely in the legal world and cannot think of any relationship outside the jurisdiction and norm. The lyric poet, by nature, is a bipolar being, capable of innumerable cleavages in the name of inner dialogue. In no one is this “lyrical hermaphroditism” more pronounced than in Villon. What a diverse selection of charming duets: the grief-stricken and the comforter, mother and child, judge and defendant, proprietor and beggar.

Property, all his life, beckoned to Villon like a musical siren and made him a thief… and a poet. A miserable vagabond, he appropriated for himself the goods unavailable to him with a sharp irony.

Modern French Symbolists are in love with things, like possessive owners. Perhaps the very “soul of things” is nothing other than the sense of ownership, spiritualized and ennobled in the laboratory of successive generations. Villon was well aware of the gulf between subject and object, but understood it as the impossibility of possession. The moon and other neutral “objects” are irrevocably excluded from his poetic habitat. On the other hand, he is immediately animated when he speaks of ducks roasted with sauce or of eternal bliss, which he never loses the final hope of appropriating for himself.

Villon paints a charming intérieur in Dutch taste, peeking through the keyhole.

V

Villon’s sympathy for the scum of society, for everything suspicious and criminal, is by no means demonic. The shady company, which he so quickly and intimately became part of, captivated his feminine nature with a great temperament, a powerful rhythm of life that he could not find in other walks of life. One should listen with what savor Villon tells, in the Ballade de la grosse Margot, about the profession of pimping, to which he was obviously no stranger: “When clients come, I grab a jug and run for wine.”

Neither ebbing feudalism nor the newly emerged bourgeoisie, with its pull for Flemish gravity and importance, could provide an outlet to the enormous dynamic capacity, somehow miraculously accumulated and concentrated in the Parisian cleric. Withered and black, beardless, as thin as a Chimera, with a head that resembled, by his own admission, a peeled and toasted walnut, hiding his sword in the half-woman’s garb of a student—Villon lived in Paris like a squirrel in a wheel, not knowing a moment’s peace. He loved the ravenous, gaunt beast in him and treasured his battered skin: “Isn’t it true, Granier, that I did well to appeal,” he writes to his prosecutor, having escaped the gallows, “not every beast would have managed to wriggle out like that.” If Villon had been able to give his poetic credo, he would surely have exclaimed, like Verlaine:

Du mouvement avant toute chose! [Movement above all else – Verlaine: Music above all]

A powerful visionary, he dreams of his own hanging, on the eve of his probable execution. But, strangely, with incomprehensible exasperation and rhythmic fervor, he depicts in his ballad how the wind sways the bodies of the unfortunate, back and forth, at will… And he endows death with dynamic qualities and here manages to show a love of rhythm and movement… I think it wasn’t the demonism that captivated Villon, but the dynamics of the crime. I don’t know if there is an inverse relationship between the moral and the dynamic of the soul? In any case, both of Villon’s Testaments, big and little—this feast of magnificent rhythms, the kind French poetry still does not know—are incurably immoral.

The wretched vagabond writes his will twice, distributing left and right his imaginary possessions like a poet, ironically asserting his dominion over all the things he wishes to possess: if Villon’s mental experiences, for all their originality, were not particularly profound, his relationships in life—a tangled web of acquaintances, connections, accounts—represented a complex of ingenious complexity. This man contrived to become a living, vital relation to a huge number of persons of the most varied rank, at all rungs of the social ladder, from the thief to the bishop, from the alewife to the prince. With what pleasure he tells their background! How precise and marked he is! Villon’s Testaments are ever captivating because they report a lot of accurate information. The reader feels that he can make use of them, and he feels like a contemporary of the poet. The present moment can withstand the pressure of centuries and retain its integrity, remain the same “now.” One has only to be able to pluck it out of the soil of time without damaging its roots—otherwise it will wither away. Villon knew how to do this. The bell of the Sorbonne that interrupted his work on the Little Testament still rings.

Like the troubadour princes, Villon “sang in his Latin”: once, as a schoolboy, he had heard of Alcibiades—and as a result the stranger Archipiade joins the graceful procession of the Ladies of former times.

VI

The Middle Ages clung tenaciously to its children and did not voluntarily yield to the Renaissance. The blood of the true Middle Ages flowed in Villon’s veins. To it he owed his integrity, his temperament, his spiritual peculiarity. The physiology of the Gothic—and such it was, and the Middle Ages are precisely the physiologically-genius era—replaced Villon’s worldview and rewarded him abundantly for his lack of a traditional connection to the past. Moreover, it provided him with a place of honor in the future, as nineteenth-century French poetry drew its strength from the same national treasury, the Gothic. They will say: what has the magnificent rhythmic of the Testaments, now trickling like a bilboquet, now slowed down like a church cantilena, to do with the mastery of Gothic architects? But isn’t the Gothic the triumph of dynamism? Another question is, what is more fluid, more dynamic—the Gothic cathedral or the oceanic ripple? What, if not a sense of architectonics, explains the wondrous balance of the stanza in which Villon entrusts his soul to the Trinity through the Mother of God—the Chambre dela Divinité—and the nine heavenly legions. It is not an anemic flight on the wax wings of immortality, but an architecturally based ascent, corresponding to the tiers of the Gothic cathedral. He who first proclaimed in architecture the moving equilibrium of the masses and built the crossed vault gave an ingenious expression to the psychological essence of feudalism.

Medieval man considered himself in the world building as necessary and bound as any stone in the Gothic edifice, enduring with dignity the pressure of his neighbors and entering as an inevitable stake in the general game of forces. To serve was not only to be active for the common good. Unconsciously, medieval man regarded service, a kind of deed, as the unvarnished fact of his existence. Villon, an afterthought, an epigone of the feudal worldview, was immune to its ethical side, the circular bond. The stable, moral in the Gothic was quite alien to him. On the other hand, indifferent to the dynamic, he elevated it to the level of amorality. Villon twice received letters of pardon—lettres de remission—from kings: Charles VII and Louis XI. He was firmly convinced that he would receive the same letter from God, with forgiveness for all his sins. Perhaps, in the spirit of his dry and reasoned mysticism, he put up the ladder of feudal jurisdictions into infinity, and a wild but deeply feudal feeling roamed vaguely in his soul that there was a God above God…

“I know well that I am not the son of an angel crowned with the diadem of a star or another planet,” said of himself the poor Parisian schoolboy, capable of much for a good dinner.

Such denials are tantamount to positive certainties.

1910 (1912?), 1927


Featured: “François Villon,” woodcut from Grand Testament de Maistre François Villon, 1489.

Is Islam Our Future? A Conversation With Jean-Louis Harouel

This conversation with the eminent French historian Jean-Louis Harouel examines the long-term consequences of multiculturalism, especially the settlement of large numbers of Muslims in the West. He is Professor Emeritus at Paris 2 University and the author of about twenty very important books, such as Les droits de l’homme contre le peuple (2016), which was translated into Italian and Hungarian. His most recent book is L’islam est-il notre avenir? (Paris, La Nouvelle Librairie, 2021), which forms the basis of this interview which is made possible through the courtesy of Breizh-Info.


Breizh-info (B-I): Yet another book on Islam, I am tempted to say. What did you want to bring to the debate on the Islamization of Europe?

Jean-Louis Harouel (J-L H): I wanted to say that it is totally unrealistic to let millions of Muslims reside on our territory who keep the ways of thinking and the morals of a Muslim country, and at the same time hope to continue to live in France and in Europe as we used to live there, while practicing a freedom of thought and expression proscribed by Islam. In many parts of its territory, France, which is the European nation with the largest number of Muslims on its soil, has today become a country other than France: a Muslim country. This is what Éric Zemmour recently felt when he returned to the northern suburbs where he had spent his childhood and concluded that we had changed countries: “We are no longer in the same country.”

I wanted to show that Islamist killings are a danger inherent in a massive Muslim presence. In a large Muslim population, there will inevitably be a percentage of people who will take Sharia law to the letter and want to kill infidels and blasphemers, as prescribed by certain passages of the Koran, or as the Prophet repeatedly urged his followers to do. The possibility of assassination as a punishment for freedom of thought, or other forms of impiety, is an inherent risk of Islam. The multiplication of this violence in France is the result of the fact that it has been allowed to become, in large parts of the land, a Muslim country. But, in a Muslim country, there is an obligation to show respect for Islam and offenders are severely punished.

Jean-Louis Harouel.

The beheading of Samuel Paty and the death threats against any teacher considered to be offensive to Islam are only the logical consequence of the insane situation in which political leaders have progressively trapped France over the last fifty years: welcoming millions of Muslims while scrupulously respecting their beliefs, and at the same time expecting them to adhere to a freedom of thought that Muslim law considers a crime and punishes with sentences that can go as far as death.

To try to keep our freedom of expression, and even more fundamentally the future of our existence as a people, there is only one way: to make sure that this Muslim country which was constituted on French soil is reintegrated into France, that it becomes French again. If we fail to do so, our very existence as a people will be compromised, because we will have allowed another civilization to snatch away our right to “historical continuity,” according to the beautiful formula of Bérénice Levet. We have known this since Valéry: our civilization can die because civilizations are mortal and history is their tomb. It is up to the peoples of Europe to decide whether they want to die or continue to live, and whether they are ready to do what it takes to do so.

B-I: Doesn’t the demographic question settle today, and in the medium term, the fate of Europe and Europeans in the face of an increasingly numerous Ummah?

J-L H: Indeed, it is demography that will be the key to our future and that will indicate to the Ummah whether or not France and other Western European countries have become fruit to be picked; whether they are ripe to fall almost of their own accord into the hands of Islam. It is well known that there has been a millenary Muslim will to conquer Europe. And it is by pushing back the conquering enterprises of Islam, or by freeing itself from the occupations that it had established (Spain and southern France, Sicily, Hungary, Balkans) that Europe succeeded in remaining Europe. Otherwise, it would have become in the field of civilization what it is geographically, i.e., a small corner of Asia.

Now, because of the extent of the Muslim presence on our soil, at a time when our capacity to resist is diminished by the submission of Western societies to the religion of human rights, there is no doubt that Western Europe has become once again what it was in the Middle Ages; that is to say, a land to be taken, a prey for Islam. This has been said in no uncertain terms by senior leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood; but it is not only the Islamists who are to blame. Many Muslims who are considered moderate are also in this logic of patient, hushed, unspoken conquest. They know that demographics play in favor of Islam, thanks to the number of children born to Muslim women and the constant arrival of new Muslim immigrants. They know that sooner or later, the situation of Islam will be strong enough for it to somehow take over France and perhaps other European countries as well. If nothing is done in the meantime to reverse this process, the tipping of France and other Western European countries into the orbit of the Muslim world seems inevitable within a few decades.

B-I: Your book evokes the impossibility for the Muslim world to get rid of religion, which is intrinsically linked to it. In what way would what has been possible for other religions not be possible for Islam?

J-L H: In fact, the only religion that has fully experienced this phenomenon is Christianity, of which Marcel Gauchet wrote that it had historically been “the religion of the exit from religion.” Under the effect of the logic inherent in Christianity, and without this having prevented the maintenance of “a religious life at the scale of individuals,” European societies have progressively left “the religious structuring of societies.” This does not mean that the Church did not oppose this abandonment of “religion as structure” as much as it could. But, since Christianity is a religion exclusively turned towards spiritual ends, the Church has never directly punished irreligion with earthly sanctions. She has let the State do it for her. Only when the State freed itself from the Church and secularized itself, did it stop punishing the impious and the blasphemous. And since the Church could only inflict spiritual punishments on them, they ceased to be punished concretely.

In contrast to this process, Islam did not need the state to enact laws to punish the ungodly, since the Muslim holy texts contain a whole code of law that fulminates terrible punishments against bad Muslims. Thanks to the weapon of the allegedly divine penal law which it carries, Islam has from the outset protected itself against any challenge by threatening death to those who would challenge its dogmas and its hold on society.

B-L: You explain that it is fear that has allowed Islamic regimes to maintain themselves for centuries and centuries in the Muslim world. On the other hand, there are also examples of countries that have taken Islamists out of history, notably in the Arab world, again through fear and violence. Explain this to us.

J-L H: There are two very different things. On the one hand, some Arab rulers have indeed, without in the least questioning the prestige of Islam and its domination over society, used violence and fear against the Islamists, such as Nasser and then Sadat in Egypt, who was finally assassinated by them. And then, on the other hand, there is the repressive mechanism of the terrorist nature inherent to Islam, which protects it against the freedom of the spirit. And this concerns Islam considered as normal, as moderate compared to Islamism.

When, in 1981, in Sadat’s Egypt, one of his ministers of state calmly explained to the foreign press that the assassination of a Muslim who converted to another religion “does not go against the freedom of religion,” this statesman was not speaking as an extremist or an Islamist. He was simply giving the point of view of a good Muslim who knew his holy texts well. Islam locks human thought into a bigoted conformity to all the prescriptions and prohibitions laid down in the texts that Muslims claim to be divine law. From a Muslim point of view, there are many things one is not allowed to say or do. Breaking these rules is done at the risk of one’s life, as Muslim criminal law has prescribed penalties for these crimes that can go as far as death. As a result, with rare exceptions, intellectuals of Muslim origin have not dared to stand up openly against Islam, and Muslim societies have not experienced the great revolt against the domination of religion that characterized Christian societies in Europe from the 18th century onwards. Islam has been and remains preserved from all contestation by fear.

B-L: Is Europe, in all this, not finally a victim of the religion of human rights, which finally condemns a civilization to suicide, if nothing changes?

J-L.H: The tragedy of France and more generally of Western Europe comes from their adherence to a new utopia which is supposed to establish the reign of good on earth: the secular religion of human rights. This new avatar of the religion of humanity has taken over from the communist one, with the difference that the class struggle has been replaced by the fight against discrimination, but in the service of the same objective, which is the emancipation of humanity through the establishment of equality.

The religion of human rights is the basis of a fiercely anti-national ideology that has radically changed the content of democracy, which is now identified with the cult of the universal, with the obsession with openness to the other. As a fundamental principle of democracy, the sovereignty of the people has taken a back seat and has been replaced by the reign of the dogmas of the religion of human rights, with judges as their priests. In Western democracies, perverted by the religion of human rights, as in the former so-called democracy of the Soviet world, citizens are crushed by ideological taboos whose transgression is severely punished by criminal law: human rights totalitarianism has taken over from communist totalitarianism in the desire to prevent the Western individual from thinking and acting freely. Violating the founding disjunction of the West between politics and religion, this secular state religion deprives the French and more generally the Europeans of their liberties and forbids them to protect themselves against the invading presence of other peoples, other civilizations.

B-I: What optimism, what prospects do you offer to readers for our near future?

J-L H: The truth is, not much. We are in such a deadlock that it is not clear how we will get out of it. And this is because of the West’s submission to the dogmas of the official religion of human rights. Exerting a profoundly dissolving effect on European societies in the name of the hunt for discrimination, presenting cosmopolitanism as the absolute good, forbidding the European peoples to value and love each other, digging the demographic void of Europe by a strong incitement to abortion and filling this void by the arrival of populations mainly of African origin and of Muslim civilization, the religion of human rights is leading the Europeans to their own annihilation. And it is very difficult to reverse this suicidal mechanism, as long as this objectively disastrous state of affairs for the European peoples is perceived as just and good by government officials and by the globalized business community; as long as it is in conformity with the virtuously self-destructive morality that underlies the ideology promoted by the religion of human rights. Like the communist religion, it has taken over from, this secular religion forbids seeing reality and forces people to live in an imaginary world. As a result, good and evil are no longer defined by an understanding of reality, but by the ideals of this dream world. So that what was good has become evil, and vice versa. The measures in favor of immigration and the complacency for the Islamization of Europe being considered as good by the elites who govern us, one should obviously not count on them to fight them.

The only small note of hope that it is possible to introduce, in spite of everything concerning France, is the totally atypical way in which the pre-campaign for the presidential election is currently taking place there, due to the shock wave provoked by the probable candidate Éric Zemmour, with his unprecedented way of refusing all wooden language and calling things as they really are. He thus forced the candidates claiming to be from the governmental right to renounce their usual conformist preaching, in order to take a clear stand on the issues of immigration, Islamization, and the paralysis of political power by the priest-judges of the cult of human rights, both national and supranational.

Even, in this context of liberation of speech and thought, the president and future candidate Macron felt compelled to give to the Algerian leaders a speech of reality at the antipodes of the genuflections and repentant prostrations to which he had given himself up until now. In short, Zemmour has succeeded in a few weeks in doing what the National Rally to achieve despite all its efforts—forcing the political class to leave the imaginary world of human rights and return to the real world. This is crucial, because the process of the conquest of Europe by Islam can only be countered to the extent that it is recognized for what it is, and not perceived as a normal or even desirable phenomenon. This recent—but fragile—return to the world of reality is a welcome ray of light in the night that is falling on France.

And then, more fundamentally, a touch of optimism for Europe can be added to this gloomy picture, thanks to the realistic policies courageously pursued by several countries of the former communist bloc, foremost among them Hungary and Poland. Having suffered for half a century under the boot of communist totalitarianism, these peoples and their leaders are more capable than we are of perceiving the totalitarian and suicidal character of the religion of human rights that has taken over from it, so much so that they refuse the immigrationist ideology that it claims to impose on Europeans and that they are the basis of a resistance to the Islamization of Europe.


Featured image: “Héroïque fermeté de saint Louis à Damiette, mai 1250” (Heroic Resolve of Saint Louis at Damiette, May 1250), by Guillaume Guillon Lethière, painted in 1827.

How The Rich Defend Themselves: 1975 and 2022

The expression “Third World” appeared in 1952, from the pen of the French demographer Alfred Sauvy, (“Trois mondes, une planète,” L’Observateur, 14 August 1952): “We readily speak of the two worlds that exist, of their possible clash, of their coexistence, etc. forgetting too often that there is a third, the most important one. Because finally this ignored, exploited, despised third world, like the Third Estate, also wants to be something.”

And it did not only want to be, it also wanted to “have” a share in the development, and therefore in the new wealth generated.

The term “third world” has had a turbulent history, which recounted in Wikipedia, without genius, but in a very convenient, didactic way. The categories have changed: today we prefer to talk about developing countries (LDCs).

The terms change, poverty remains. The rich never like it when their privileges are infringed upon, no matter how small. The remark is by Georges Corm, in his excellent book, Le Proche-Orient éclaté, republished in 1991. Georges Corm is Lebanese, he knows his stuff. He highlights the well-known but little commented-upon fact that in the palaver of interminable international conferences, Western countries excel much more than those of the Third World: splitting up debates, creating commissions and sub-commissions, referring to specialized bodies, lame compromises opening the door to new controversies. Everything is in the works.

The sphere of discourse is never more than an enormous machine intended to cover up reality, in order to impose, with the help of media propaganda, another reality. The phenomenon was described by Hannah Arendt in a different context. It is revealed in today’s health context with a new amplitude.

In 1975, in Paris, France a conference on international cooperation was held. It managed to pull off the first major diversionary tactic. Of course, much better tactics have been done since then, but our French politicians are to be credited with having inaugurated the art of smoke-and-mirrors in which the UN has since become a master. France, or rather its representatives, imposed a distribution of the invited guests into groups of countries, thus creating elements of discord within these countries. The invitees were put into three categories: the industrialized countries, the oil exporting third world countries, the oil importing third world countries. Note that the industrialized countries, importers of oil however, were not designated as such.

The problem of underdevelopment that Algeria, in the person of Boumediene, wanted to pose was avoided by splitting the work of the Conference into five specialized commissions. The North-South dialogue (absurd distribution) held meetings for two years, without achieving any concrete result.

For other reasons, the successive conferences have so far not produced any convincing results. Ecology and poverty cannot be solved at the global level. To be convinced of this, we need only reflect on what constitutes the framework of rationality, the principle of causality. The causes of poverty vary from country to country, according to their resources, their climate, the nature of their government, their degree of technical development, the moral and spiritual level of the populations and, above all, the moral and spiritual level of the rulers. It is enough to remember that the Lebanese political class was the most decadent in the entire Arab world to no longer be surprised by the current ruin of this unfortunate country.
The first cause of poverty is not in the economic structures: it is in the corruption of the rulers and of those who are the richest. These rich people do not like to be touched.

Let’s consider the European assizes about Covid 19. How to come up with the working groups? Simple. First, there are the countries where sanitary fascism has imposed itself: France, Italy and Germany. With the rich level of rhetoric that we all now know and the elegance with which he has convinced us during his five-year term, Emmanuel Macron chaired the group of these countries that have shone by their stupidity and by the immeasurable level of lies about the health policies carried out. Then there is the group of countries that are in the process of liberation, such as Spain, England and Denmark. And finally, the group of countries that have pursued a reasonable policy, and have eradicated the pandemic with inexpensive drugs, like India. But India is in Asia…

One would be right to doubt that France would ever invite Professor Péronne. Instead, we get Olivier Véran, surrounded by his Areopagus of jokers and scribblers from the medical and pharmaceutical world. All masked (which goes without saying)—In both senses of the term.

How did these European countries go about hobbling their populations? They used figures and statistics. The French were fed them almost daily, without any verifiable source except the name of the statistical organizations, as if that name alone was enough to guarantee the result, the reliability and the integrity. The prodigious speed with which all this information was communicated was enough to raise doubts about its veracity. Today, one can still track the virus all over the world by tapping one’s phone. Magic.

It is obvious that all this cost a lot of money: three billion according to the sources of Professor Péronne, officially communicated in Spain where he was recently invited to give a speech on Covid—and which is the most luminous condemnation of our rogue state, to speak like Saint Augustine.

Professor Raoult, for his part, always regularly pulls out his little papers with the figures he has, specifying where he got them from, data clearly circumscribed and interpreted live.

In 1975, the truly rich were already busy defending themselves. They have obviously changed. They are no longer the same. Today, they are immensely rich, and they have grouped together, with one project: the programmed obsolescence of man. Of the free man, that is.

All these disgraces, this cowardice, all this greed have been presented to us as the glorious fruit of a free and reasoned sanitary policy, driven by the concern for “public” health. The press and the official declarations are still full of their justifications, whereas we cannot ignore that at the base of this delirious sanitary policy, there are private interests, and much, much money at stake. All these declarations, this propaganda, these solemn speeches, only show the extent of the fault of those who have shamelessly exploited the anguish of the disease, the concern of the sons for elderly parents, of the mothers for their children, anguish that they have systematically diffused, fed, nourished, as skillful propagandists.

If the health crisis conference were to be held one day, do not doubt it that they will do what they did in 1975: specialized commissions and sub-commissions. And then we will get figures, lots of figures, which say one thing and then its opposite, thus clearing our governments of their responsibility.

Pope Francis notwithstanding, who is also reported to have connections with the entire pharmaceutical industry clique, there will be a Judgment. They will have to give an account. And if it is not before the Tribunal of the men, women and children who are victims of the vaccination, of the partial unemployment, of the loss of their businesses, of their hopes for a better life; if it is not before the Tribunal of all those who have suffered this amputated existence for two long years, of those who have lost a loved one after the vaccination. If it is not before this Tribunal of the victims, then it will be before another Tribunal, infinitely more fearsome.

And there, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

And if we have enough mercy not to rejoice, we will have enough sense of justice not to pity them.


Marion Duvauchel is a historian of religions and holds a PhD in philosophy. She has published widely, and has taught in various places, including France, Morocco, Qatar, and Cambodia.


Featured image: “The Worship of Mammon,” by Evelyn De Morgan, painted ca. 1909.

Julien Freund: A Tribute To A Great Master

Julien Freund (1921-1993) is one of the greatest philosophers of the 20th century. But his ideas and work have often been poorly understood and thereby harshly and unfairly judged. To commemorate his birth centenary, Éditions Perspectives Libres PYR have just republished L’aventure du politique (The Adventure of the Political), which are a series of interviews, by Freund, of Father Charles Blanchet (1923-2004), who taught philosophy at the École des Cordeliers, in Dinan. In these interviews, Freund reflects upon his own life and career, his ideas and his work.

Through the kind agreement of Éditions Perspectives Libres PYR, we are indeed very pleased to bring to our readers the first English translation of an introductory essay by Jéronimo Molina Cano, who is one of the best scholars of Julien Freund’s thought. Cano is member of the Real Academia de Ciencias Morales y Políticas and professor of political science at the University of Murcia. His expertise includes the thought of Raymond Aron, Gaston Bouthoul, Carl Schmitt, and Wilhelm Röpke. He is the author of several essays and books on Freund, including Julien Freund, lo político y la política and Conflicto, gobierno y economía. Cuatro ensayos sobre Julien Freund. He also wrote the erudite preliminary study of The Essence of the Political, published by the Centro de Estudios Políticos y Constitucionales, in 2018.


1.

Julien Freund was born on January 9, 1921, in Henridorff, a small village of barely six hundred inhabitants in the Moselle department of Lorraine, a border region between French and Germanic culture. In a culturally centralized France, Freund, who was perfectly bilingual, experienced in his youth the misunderstanding of compatriots who did not see in him the Frenchman, but only the man who spoke a Germanic language.

Julien was the eldest of six children born to Emile Freund and Marie-Anne Mathis. His father, a railroad worker, was a “red socialist” in the German tradition—a kind of social democrat who went to Mass every Sunday and ignored the anticlerical prejudices of the French socialists. Marie-Anne, his mother, a simple and pious peasant, was for a time in charge of the public baths of Sarrebourg. The young Julien did his secondary studies at the minor seminary of Montigny-lès-Metz, without ever intending to take his vows.

In 1938-1939, after his baccalaureate and preparatory classes, he enrolled in the Faculty of Philosophy in Strasbourg. The socialism that he displayed at the time was spontaneous, natural, instinctive and “utopian,” a bit like the elementary and congenital communism of the Italian Ignazio Silone, whose work he appreciated. At the same time, he assiduously read Jacques Maritain, a sort of discreet tutor who introduced him to the understanding of politics, but who nevertheless remained absent from his quotations and bibliographical references. Further, the writer and aviator, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, was one of the authors who contributed most to the formation of his literary sensibility. The premature death of his father in 1938, on New Year’s Eve, when he was barely seventeen years old, upset his plans and made him head of the family “in spite of himself.” From then on, Freund studied philosophy as a free student at the university in order to combine his studies with agricultural work.

Freund’s destiny once again changed, during the Second World War. In less than six years, he lived almost all the lives of a Frenchman of the dying Third Republic: hostage of the invader, refugee, clandestine, terrorist, prisoner, escapee, maquisard, journalist and politician. In 1940, during the day, he helped with farm work and took care of his mother’s beehives; and at night, he helped people flee occupied France. On November 11, Freund was summoned by the Gestapo in Sarrebourg. He went to the summons without much concern, but one of the political police henchmen warned him that he was on his way to Dachau (Sie werden nach Dachau kommen!).

The Kreisleiter, the NSDAP representative in Sarrebourg, asked him about his activities. Freund answered frankly that he would like to leave Lorraine. The German authorities were quite happy to get rid of him and allowed him to leave for the Auvergne, which he did the same day. Like a shipwrecked man, Freund found himself among the thousands of French people in exodus and arrived in Clermont-Ferrand on November 26, 1940. Out of a taste for adventure and admiration for his Strasbourg professor Jean Cavaillès, he joined the Liberation movement. With his group, he engaged in small-scale sabotage, even though the word is excessive to describe the actions, sometimes facetious, of young people who painted graffiti and stole the official portraits of Marshal Pétain. A search of his apartment and the discovery of the portraits, which had been amassed for destruction, led the police to believe that he was some sort of obsessed but harmless Vichy supporter.

Freund plotted while preparing for a graduate degree. In January 1942, he joined the Groupe Franc de Combat. Without realizing it, he crossed the line between diversion and real danger, between academic rebellion and terrorism. After some hesitation, he embarked on direct action. The use of explosives transformed his nocturnal adventures of a young non-conformist into political terrorism. He was arrested on June 27, 1942, the day after the foiled attack on Laval, then president of the Council of Ministers. Released in July, he was arrested again in September. In the first trial against the Combat group, Freund was sentenced to six months in prison. As the charges against him mounted, he was transferred to several prison camps.

In the summer of 1944, shortly after D-Day, he escaped from the citadel of Sisteron and joined the communist maquis (the Francs-Tireurs et Partisans de France). He was soon confronted with the abjection and moral degradation of the communists, and later recognized that his conception of the world would become that of a mature or experienced man.

The Resistance was the defining experience of Freund’s life. He describes it in a collective book of “decisive personal experiences,” Was meinem Leben Richtung gab. These years taught him that one cannot engage oneself fully in politics and claim to come out with clean hands. To believe that this is possible is only a sinister fantasy of a political intellectual or an intellectual who indulges in party politics. “My hands are stained, I admit it, but I don’t boast about it,” he confessed in 1975 to a German radio station. And again: “I do not belong to the brotherhood of Jean-Paul Sartre,” who confused the problem of political violence in a self-serving way and moralized it for his own benefit.

Once the war was over, Freund’s political action shifted from open struggle to editing newspapers, such as L’Avenir Lorrain, and to the regional offices of political parties. In less than a year, he was a delegate of the Mouvements Unis de Résistance (MUR) in the Allier, a delegate of the Mouvement de Libération National (MLN) in Moselle, and finally the departmental secretary of the Union Démocratique et Socialiste de la Résistance (UDSR), a non-Marxist socialist party, also in Moselle. But he was soon disappointed and even dismayed by the maneuvering and scheming during the establishment of his party’s electoral lists. A few months earlier, at the end of 1944, he had given up his circumstantial membership in the Communist party. But the exclusivism of the Communists of the time would stop at nothing, and Freund, who “knew too much,” was harassed and threatened with death by “ex-friends” of the PCF.

In June 1945, after an election meeting on the market square in Sarrebourg, a communist, ambushed him, shot at him from 30 meters and miraculously missed. A year later, disgusted by his experiences, he definitively stopped all political activity and decided to prepare for the competitive examination to become a philosophy teacher. He already had the main idea for his doctoral thesis: “What is politics, Was ist Politik? The book, L’essence du politique (The Essence of the Political ) [1965], the result of a long and mature reflection, allowed him to overcome his political disappointment.

Freund became a philosophy teacher at the Lycée Mangin in Sarrebourg in 1946. In the summer of 1948, he married Marie-France Kuder. He became a town councilor in Sarrebourg, while preparing for the agrégation in philosophy. In 1949, he joined the Lycée Fabert in Metz as an associate professor. In 1953, he moved to the Lycée Fustel de Coulanges in Strasbourg where he taught hypokhâgne classes to future students at the Ecole normale supérieure. Seven years later, in September 1960, he became a researcher at the Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS), in the sociology section, thanks to the sponsorship of Raymond Aron, who was his thesis director.

On June 26, 1965, at two o’clock in the afternoon, Julien Freund defended his doctoral thesis on the essence and meaning of the political. Raymond Aron solemnly opened the session: “It is extraordinary that a Resistance fighter should have written such a thesis. That is why I ask you to stand up.” Commenting on the passages at the end of the book on courage, Aron took the opportunity to praise physical and moral courage, but especially the intellectual courage of the doctoral student. Freund was speechless. With great emotion, he finally spoke: “The work that I have the honor of presenting for your approval was born of a disappointment that was overcome. The disappointment, for which I do not hold others responsible in any way, but only my capacity for illusion, found its nourishment in the experiences of the resistance, that is to say, on the one hand, in the events of the time of the Occupation and the Liberation, and on the other hand, in those that it was given to me to face in the modest sphere of political and trade union activity that I carried out for a few years.”

In the packed Edgard Quinet amphitheater, where the defense was held, the most intense moment was the debate raised by Jean Hyppolite on the central political element: “If you’re really right, I’ll just have to cultivate my own garden,” said Hyppolite, who was initially the provisional director of his thesis before giving up, alleging: “As a socialist and a Hegelian, I can’t sponsor a thesis like yours at the Sorbonne.

Freund replied without hesitation: “I think you are making another mistake, because you think that you are the one who designates the enemy, like all pacifists. ‘As long as we don’t want enemies, we won’t have any,’ you reason. But it is the enemy who designates you. And if he wants you to be his enemy, you can make the most beautiful protestations of friendship. As long as he wants you to be the enemy, you are. And he will even prevent you from cultivating your garden. Hyppolite’s answer was tragic: “I have no choice then but to commit suicide.”

A great reader of Machiavelli, Freund did not agree to be classified as a “political realist;” and this is largely due to the confusion introduced by the false semantic friends of the concepts of Political Realism or Power Politics, which originated in the Anglo-Saxon theory of international relations. In order to avoid any misunderstanding, either about himself or about the nature of his political analysis, he returned to the subject in the appendix of the 1985 edition of The Essence of the Political. The distinction he makes is quite simple: to be Machiavellian is to have a “theoretical style of thought without concessions to the moralistic comedies of power.” To be Machiavellic, on the other hand, is to adopt a practical conduct in the political game that consists in committing “generous villainies”: do as I say; don’t do as I do.

A Machiavellian, Freund was the great proponent of Carl Schmitt in France. The damnatio memoriae never affected his will. He always laughed at defamation and, to be honest, at his colleagues who preferred to read about Schmitt’s reputation rather than read the Schmittian corpus. At the same time, it is important to emphasize that Schmitt did his utmost to disseminate the work of his French counterpart in Germany. Regardless of the theoretical differences between the two thinkers, no author has developed the Schmittian friend-enemy dialectic, which is one of the presuppositions of the essence of the political, as much as Freund. This criterion, which he made his intellectual motto, appears to him as a transcendental discovery. Its reality is verifiable and within the reach of every mind, because it “has the evidence of simple ideas” and does not need demonstration because of its “immediate evidence.” It is, after all, a superior, forgotten banality.

2.

Julien Freund was a polymath, a scholar, a rigorous erudite whose repertoire of knowledge was as vast as it was varied. Metaphysics, political philosophy, sociology, polemology, political science, legal philosophy and sociology, painting, architecture! The list of his scientific and philosophical “vis,” as well as his irrepressible curiosity for the spectacle of the world, did not end there. Although he was not a film buff, and cinema is more about the imaginary than the real, his book Sociologie du conflit opens with a note on Marcel Carné’s Les enfants du paradis. In the pages of Philosophie philosophique, a treatise nourished by personal confidences, it is the unforgettable actor Louis Jouvet who suddenly appears. Moreover, no one could say that his “Alsatian” studies are minor or that they are only for lovers of the singularities of the Alsatian region and its folklore. Even if they are circumstantial, they always bear the mark of the master. But this being so, the heart of Julien Freund’s political philosophy undoubtedly lies in his theory of essence. Essence is inseparable from experience; it is the result of reflection on the constants that characterize the different human activities. The essence constitutes “a reality which lasts in time and which does not die out under the action of the circumstances.”

With the theory of essence, Freund sought to discover the criteria that fix each of the six essences discerned in the framework of social relations. On the political level, he asks the question: “Are there conditions that make politics political, so that when they are missing, the social relation is no longer political, or only secondarily political?” But of course, the notion of essence is not limited to the political domain. There is an essence of politics (the political) as there is of economy (the economic), of religion (the religious), of aesthetics (the aesthetic), of science (the scientific) and of ethics (the ethical). But then why six essences? This number is the result of a continuous reflection on ideas and experiences, which does not exclude possible correction. Nevertheless, Freund considers that these are the founding and irreducible essences of human nature. All other activities or social relations can be reduced, in one way or another, to one or other of these essences; or else to an antinomic dialectic, fruit of a conflict between two or more essences. The exact description of this dialectic relation, peaceful or polemical according to the circumstances, is the “mediation” of the essences.

The quid of each essence resides in the “prior and determining conditions” that make each activity possible. These conditions are the “presuppositions.” In the same way, the essence would only be an invention if it did not respond to “something ineffaceable” that belongs to human nature, a kind of irreducible residue. This residual data is natural, consubstantial to the man, “present in every man,” permanent and invariable. Correlatively to each datum, there exists, by necessity, a singular “finality” or “specific goal,” not interchangeable with those of the other essences, since the final cause of each of them is different according to the datum. Finally, if each human activity—historical and sociological reflection, so to speak hic et nunc, of each essence—has a privative finality, it can be reached only by specific means: “One cannot reach the end of a determined activity by just any means.”

In summary, the notion of essence is defined by four facets: data, presuppositions, purpose and means. “Thanks to the notion of data, I can answer the question of the foundation of an activity. Thanks to that of presupposition, I can determine the conditions of the exercise of this activity. And thanks to that of finality, the goal that man pursues by relying on this activity.” And, finally, the means, reveal how to reach the goal in each case.

“There is an essence of the political” is the pithy statement that opens The Essence of the Political. Once its existence is established, the notion of the state and, in general, of any other historical political form, is automatically superseded. The distinction between the political and the State appears on the very first page of Schmitt’s The Concept of the Political. The concept of the state presupposes the political concept: “Der Begriff des Staates setzt den Begriff des Politischen voraus.” There are few of Schmitt’s books which do not start off like a rocket. Similarly, a strong idea runs through The Essence of the Political: the distinction between the political and politics, which is itself a reaction against the diluting sociologism of the political in the social system: “The political is a power of society that politics translates into concrete and contingent acts of organization.” As opposed to the political as nature, politics is adventure, the “concrete way of negotiating” the political in human life according to historical situations, regimes, ideologies.

3.

Uncomfortable with the baseness of university life, instrumentalized by educational unionism and the left’s desire for hegemony, Freund took early retirement at age 58, claiming for the first time in his life a privilege of resistance. “I didn’t feel comfortable at the university anymore, and then I had something else to do than to constantly counter the whims of the so-called progressives and democrats.” In reality, university life was another of his great disappointments—along with politics, union life and even religious life. In a letter to his teacher Raymond Aron, dated April 10, 1967, he confessed: “I cannot overcome the disappointment that has lasted for more than a year; that is, since I became familiar with university life.” Apparently, as he kept telling his thesis director, he had always felt embarrassed and uncomfortable in academia “because of my plebeian temperament.” He did not flee, but retired to Villé, “his good retreat,” “su buen retiro,” as Carl Schmitt says in Spanish, alluding here to the home of the kings of Spain. In Villé, his locus amoenus (an attractive, even idyllic place), Freund found his San Casciano, as Schmitt found his Plettenberg. “It is better to make internal emigration the only possible form of resistance under the present conditions.”

In any case, always faithful to his political profession of faith, Freund, the Frenchman, Gaullist, European and regionalist, read and wrote in complete freedom, which is rarely the case for an author. He maintained contact with a few faithful and remarkable students, while drawing new students as well. But he had no real disciples, nor successors, not even in France. He gave lectures in a few foreign universities, especially in Canada and Belgium, the most important being those of Montreal and Louvain. But in France, in his homeland, his voice was silenced; it was stifled in Germany. It is said with disdain that he frequented the circles of the New Right or that he gave lectures at the Club de l’Horloge… Freund did not ignore what it means to carry such a stigma. Nor was he afraid of being seen as a “franchouillard,” or of risking being told that he wears a beret everywhere “to be noticed.” But here again, the reality was more subtle than the clichés. According to Dr. Bertrand Kugler, nephew and godson of Julien Freund, his godfather “wore his beret in all circumstances as a sign of commemoration and homage and loyalty to all his companions in the Resistance, especially those who had died for France and for freedom. For him, this apparently banal gesture was of great importance.”

He suffered from loneliness, but he never lost courage. He did indeed go to the various forums and he would go to many others… if he were invited, but in truth he was not. The circle of silence is the price to be paid by the Machiavellian. In spite of everything, he gave conferences in Greece, Spain, Italy and Argentina. At the end of June 1982, he also went to Chile, invited by the Fundación del Pacífico and the University of Chile. That same year, his lectures were collected in a volume, entitled La crisis del Estado y otros escritos (The Crisis of the State and Other Writings), which included a large number of texts from a book that had never been published in French, Capitalisme et socialisme. He also had the opportunity to visit Peru (1982) and, two years earlier, Brazil (1980), at the invitation of the University of Sao Paulo. At that time, he shared with Raymond Aron, albeit discreetly, his opinion of military regimes and did not want to remain silent in order not to be an accomplice to the lie. Military dictatorships compromise political freedoms, but do not always affect civil liberties… But in the end, the article he wrote for L’Express at Aron’s suggestion was not published.

Freund was allergic to the labels of right and left, epidermal, accidental and changing notions, incapable of specifically characterizing the political. Although he was above this “moral hemiplegia” of the intellectual world, he knew that it did not depend on him to be pigeonholed, by enemies of the right or the left, even for his alleged “intentions.” He is a fascist for some, a Marxist for others, and if the latter are less numerous, they are even more uninformed than the former. Freund was not a conservative for writing about decadence, nor was he a socialist for being invited by socialist organizations, nor was he a member of GRECE (Groupement de Recherche et d’Études pour la Civilisation Européenne) for “speaking in New Right circles.” There is perhaps something palinodic in his comments in 1981. And even if not, I think the wound was hurting him. The “hunter of sacred shadows on the eternal hills”—to use the expression used by the Colombian Gómez Dávila to qualify himself—was already tired by the 1980s, but he nevertheless kept a vigilant eye, always attentive to the “regularities of politics,” like a guardian of the facts.

In any case, Freund was not the kind of person to make friends with the enemy, nor to cede to him the foundations of political definitions. With paradox, he knew how to disarm the mechanism of political demonization and stigmatization. He clarified not only the tactical but also the metapolitical meaning of his personal label by saying: “I am a reactionary of the left,” an “authentic revolutionary, [that is,] a conservative.” As a reactionary, Julien Freund refused to follow the herd. He knew how to say “no.” Always exposed to the elements, his spiritual strength was extraordinary; one cannot endure defamation without a large dose of intellectual courage.

Because of his character (he would probably have preferred to say his “inclination of mood”), Freund was always predisposed to be rebellious and annoying. He had little tolerance for accommodation, compromise, and even less for cheating reality. He did not want to compromise on what was essential and indispensable. His vehemence was hardly conciliatory and he perhaps lacked the skill, the astuteness, the worldly gentleness of a Raymond Aron, always affable. I am,” he said, “more turbulent in my behavior, more belligerent in my interventions, more polemical in my work.” For having cultivated the spirit of paradox, but above all for his idea of the political, which was refractory to the mystifications of the right and the left, he was marginalized and silenced. At the end of the 1980s, he confided to Chantal Delsol, who had been one of his doctoral students a few years earlier: “They don’t call me from anywhere.” His mistake, wrote Delsol, ten years after his death, was “to have been right before his time.” Sometimes overwhelmed by the triumph of the Marxist intelligentsia, Freund nonetheless continued to question the meaning of his work on the “eternal political,” which could well have been written two thousand years earlier by an informed politician or a disappointed political thinker like himself. But nothing ever distracted him from his passionate political vocation—or rather from the passion of politics—not even disappointment, that spur to intelligence: “I prefer the reading of Book VIII of Plato’s Republic to the follies of Alcibiades.”

4.

Julien Freund’s work is impressive, as the successive bibliographies of Piet Tommissen, Juan Carlos Valderrama and Alain de Benoist attest. Its reception in the academic world is, however, far from doing justice to this work that projects itself into history and transcends the politics of the moment. But time filters out the essential, and Freund’s political philosophy, like his polemology and his profound meditations on decadence, undoubtedly have a promising future, which will be counted in centuries. His lineage is that of Thucydides, Machiavelli and Carl Schmitt. The same cannot be said of many other geniuses of the past century whose political understanding and work were marked by the Cold War and outdated like it.

This being said, it is perhaps not useless to recall here, to orient the reader, that the present book, L’aventure du politique (The Adventure of the Political), an extraordinary and moving dialogue with Father Charles Blanchet, whose first edition dates from 1991, has also been the object of two recent translations and editions in Spanish and Italian (Encuentro 2019 and Il Foglio 2021). This French edition would not have been possible without the generosity of M.M. René and Jean-Noël Freund, Julien Freund’s two sons, and his godson, M. Bertrand Kugler. It would not have been possible either without the interest and the love of risk of the publisher, Mr. Pierre-Yves Rougeyron, to whom I am particularly grateful for having asked me to write an introduction to this precious dialogue. With this edition, my debt to Mr. Arnaud Imatz is even greater.

Also noteworthy is a bilingual French and German edition of the epilogue to La décadence: Europa im Niedergang? (2020), and an anthology of texts, perhaps too brief, presented by Alain de Benoist and Pierre Bérard: Le Politique ou l’art de désigner l’ennemi (2020). Two other works were also reprinted, on the occasion of the hundredth anniversary of Julien Freund’s birth, La fin de la Renaissance (2021), a book once rejected by Calmann-Lévy, and La décadence. Histoire sociologique et philosophique d’une catégorie de l’expérience humaine (2021), whose 1984 edition was not without its difficulties either. Finally, a long-awaited book was recently published, Lettres de la Vallée (2021), a political realist meditation with Rousseau’s Lettres écrites de la montagne as a counterpoint.

2021 was thus the year of Julien Freund’s return, with all honors.

Why European Civilization?

The current citizens of Europe underestimate the role played by their civilization in the history of the world. This erasure of memory anticipates the acceptance of a collective disappearance.

Refusing such an extinction, the Iliade Institute works towards the affirmation of the cultural richness of Europe and the reappropriation of their identity by Europeans, which is also the awakening of the European conscience. The Iliade Institute carries forward the long memory of European civilization and insists that this civilization is unique, great and has continuous appeal.

The main vocation of the Iliade Institute is to train young men and women concerned with their history, which is still to be constructed. Armed with a strong culture of European traditions and values, for they are the animators of the necessary European awakening, capable of giving to civic or political action the indispensable cultural and metapolitical dimension. These young people can then put themselves at the service of a community of destiny, which risks disappearing if it does not take itself seriously.

The Iliade Institute is fundamentally committed to disseminating a view of the world that breaks with the mortifying trend we are experiencing today, as well as an attitude of insubordination towards conformist thinking, and this by all available means. This work and vision has recently been summarized in a Manifesto. Our friends at Éléments kindly bring us this interview with Romain Petitjean, the Director of Development at the Iliade Institute.


Éléments (É): Why a manifesto? Manifestos have long been the hallmark of the artistic avant-gardes of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Could it be because the Iliade Institute sees itself as avant-garde: the avant-garde of the European renaissance?

Romain Petitjean (RP): The purpose of this manifesto is to make us avant-garde. At a time when everything is collapsing, when we are being told to be replaced, to forget our past, to become undifferentiated consumers, we want to assert the possibility of a civilizational renewal for Europe. For this, the Iliade Institute calls for a reappropriation by Europeans of their identity. Understood in this way, the “revolution” does not consist of a clean slate, but rather a movement to return to the origin, to draw new energy from it, to reaffirm the need to build the future on the basis of intangible values.

Romain Petitjean.

The parallel with the artistic avant-garde is relevant insofar as the Iliade Institute attaches particular importance not only to ideas, but to the very idea of beauty. This is what the Greeks already told us: what is good is always beautiful. In this sense, if the modern world forces us to rebel against it, it is because it has only produced ugliness: mass urbanism, omnipresent concrete, and an art that no longer knows how to represent anything. The trainees of the recent promotion of Dante, who are currently following our training courses, have found the right words to define themselves: “Fighting the society of the Same, keeping the ugly at a distance, and protecting our civilizational enclosure.”

(É): As with the journal Éléments, the theater of operations of the Iliade Institute is at the European level. What is the basis of Europe’s singularity, its “exceptionalism,” to use the term of the Iliads Institute’s Manifesto? What are the permanent features behind the contingencies?

RP: It is obviously a “world view” of its own. The essayist René Marchand said that civilizations are different planets. These differences can be seen in many features: the place of women, the relationship to the sacred, the taste for exploration and conquest, but also the art of doubt, etc. I believe that a very great European specificity has always been the capacity to harmoniously articulate contradictory principles: openness to the world and the defense of the home, the material and spiritual dimensions of existence, abstract thought and sensitivity. Many other civilizations have seen these contradictory principles as antagonisms. Another specificity of the European civilization is the hierarchy of values that is peculiar to all the peoples of our continent: first the spiritual and warlike values; only then the economic ones. Other civilizations have placed purely economic values much higher.

(É): Each manifesto is an “address” which seeks to invest the public space and the political field. Is the Iliade Institute preparing to enter politics?

RP: We are involved in politics. Simply put, we do not reduce politics to the electoral realm—which is not the area that corresponds to our vocation. We have many training activities, through seminars for the younger generation and through our editorial production. In doing so, we are preparing a generation to act in all fields, including the electoral battle; but this is only one outlet among others. There are some elected officials in our ranks, but they are a minority. If our themes can have an impact on the programs, or if our vocabulary can be taken up, we are obviously delighted. Our vocation is to move the lines on all subjects. This is the purpose of the Manifesto, published a few months before the presidential election: to propose a clear, coherent, alternative and total doctrine to those who intend to defend France and European civilization. The people who follow us seem to have understood it, since we note many grouped purchases of readers who wish to spread this document to those around them.

(É): We know how much Dominique Venner, one of the main figures of the Iliade Institute (the Manifesto is dedicated to him), rejected all forms of fatalism and programmed declinism à la Spengler. Is this the reason why the Institute warns us against two convenient temptations—that of collapsology and that of a vitrified conservatism—both of which dominate our times and our circles? Do we need to dust off to revive?

RP: Some people would like to proclaim the end of history, and to totally evacuate the question of the destiny of peoples. Dominique Venner believed in the unforeseen in history, and demonstrated that it was one of its driving forces. He also believed in the determination of strong men. We follow this line.

The past is for us a resource, a source of inspiration, but in no way an incapacitating thing. There is another possible future, provided we take the trouble to make it happen. Collapsology as well as a certain conservatism can be impolitic: if time is only an inexorable decline, what is the point of persisting in our being?

We must remain absolutely faithful to our identity, but this does not imply that we remain frozen. A frozen identity becomes its own caricature; it consists only in mumbling slogans without understanding them, in perpetuating rites whose meaning has been lost. Instead, we want to reconnect with the spirit that guided our ancestors, the spirit that gave birth to our traditions and our great epics. We can talk day and night about courage—but it only makes sense if it is embodied in daily ethics, in material facts. The same is true of all principles. It is voluntary action, conscious of itself, that can provide the possibility of a leap forward.

(É): In the age of the all-screen, you have launched a public display of the Institute and its Manifesto, which is very welcome. We are not totally dematerialized creatures. How many revolutions began with “placards”: Luther’s 95 theses, the Mazarinades, the Maoist dazibaos! What did you want to do by launching this poster campaign?

RP: This poster is a new way to challenge our fellow citizens, to try to wake them up from their lethargy. Trainees and auditors have organized collage sessions in the university districts of Paris, Lille and Rouen. Other poster campaigns are also planned. This mode of action may be surprising, but all means are good to spread our message and rally the younger generations to us.

(É): Now that the Manifesto is written, the Institute’s roadmap must be also written. What will be the major steps in the coming months?

RP: The major event of the year will be our conference on April 2, 2022, which will bring together more than a thousand people. The very strong editorial dynamic will continue with the publication of important books on Islam and the family, as well as many books for young people. The main challenge for the Iliade Institute, beyond the consolidation of the main pillars on which it is based, will be to unite the many people who pass through our ranks by ensuring that their commitment is total. We have also set up a new tool to help us do this: a project incubator, Le Nid, which aims to support budding companies, cultural associations in the process of being structured, etc.—all initiatives that will enable us to bring our ideas to life in a concrete and lasting way. Finally, we have decided to create a “Studies and Research” division that will allow us to engage in in-depth work on the ideas and words that will guide the debates of tomorrow.


Featured image: “Allegory of Europe,” by Jan van Kessel the Elder and Erasmus Quellinus II, painted in 1670.

Hugs From Oelenberg

In Alsace, doing a retreat with monks is not an easy thing to do. The misfortune and turmoil of the Wars of Religion set this region ablaze, with its scenes of ravaged abbeys, massacres of monks, and forced exile. Ecumenism started rather badly. The Cistercian abbey of Our Lady of Oelenberg retains yet the presence of the monasteries of yesterday.

We have to follow the great blue line of the Vosges, cross Mulhouse, the city of blues, its factories, its industrial works. On the plateau of Réningue is the abbey, situated on a hill, bordered by the Oelen. It is an extensive building, with farmhouses forming a wall. A small Jesuit chapel with a pointed roof stands out and the basilica is enthroned in the center, topped by two grey-green bell towers, admirable for its standard facade of brown tanned sandstone. The whole abbey is situated on a long strip of land where the potato fields never end. The paths, traced out to the rule, go on without you seeing the end. The water-logged holes in the soil are iced over. The snowy mountains, in the distance, are an elusive decor; the Mongolia of the Sundgau. At this time of year, a bitter-cold hits the face, freezes the tractor tracks and the horses’ hooves in the hard earth. The pale sun promises beautiful shades, plays with the gray clouds, delights the morning with a clear, egg-yellow light, and the afternoon with an exquisite clementine orange.

The interior of the church is a neo-Romanesque construction, made of lime and sandstone, with a choir similar to the basin of the municipal baths of Strasbourg, from the beginning of the 20th century, and surmounted by a Virgin and Child, noble and fat. The stained-glass windows, made of orange diamonds, diffuse a peaceful light. The monks’ stalls are carved in Alsatian woodwork; some sculptures show two monkeys scratching their heads—a warning to distracted monks—one carved brother is stabbing the devil in the back, another is snoozing on a barrel.

Oelenberg suffered through the war. In the basement, cellars and a subway entrance were built by the poilus who numbered 1500 and were stationed at the place where the abbot-fathers rest eternally. In 1945, the French defeated the Krauts in the abbey, at the cost of deaths that the Blue Devils wearing their pie-hats honor every year. A proud and virile military choir resounded during the Saturday mass, sending shivers down your spine.

Oelenberg Abbey is huge, the corridors resemble those of the old elementary school, of my childhood, of yours, dear readers, with its small mosaic floor, its green-water walls. In the old days when there were many monks, they ate in a refectory famous for its central stained glass window representing Christ on the cross and for a series of paintings on the life of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux. The place has become a vast library where in turn one picks up Yves Chiron, Joseph de Maistre, Origen and Jacques Maritain who is buried in Alsace.

Behind a heavy door, in the first part of the monastery, is the Jesuit chapel, built in homage to Leo IX, the Alsatian pope from Eguisheim. The Renaissance crucifix is a Germanic masterpiece.

The body is imposing, massive, the ribs slumped and drawn, the arms muscular, the fingers enormous, the legs athletic. The blood flows from the loincloth of Christ, thickly. You have to approach under the Lord’s cross, under the crown of thorns, if you go to the left, the face is slack, it is dead; if you look to the right, Christ smiles, seems to live. Death conquers the true man, but the true God already triumphs over death.

There are only ten of them left now. They were one hundred and fifty in the last century. Ten monks live here; for such a big place, it is truly incredible. They are white and black shadows that we never meet, busy in this cold, decrepit legos game. Like the factories without workers that are said to be deserted, it could have been the deadly fate of this last abbey to close up shop, to end up as a museum of slippers or chocolate if some vocations given by the Lord were not going to, at least, ensure a small relief. Two robust, sturdy novices, in no way comparable to the products of the globalized metropolis, are there; one looks like a young Solzhenitsyn, the other like a rugby player.

We are first welcomed by a gentleman, Bertrand, who is very simple. In my life, I have never known a man so gentle and so good. He has the sanctity of those who have fallen six times and risen seven. He is an old man, humble; his look is that of a lamb; his eyes blue like the calm sea. He pats you on the shoulder, pats you on the back, is devoted to you, concerned like a father for his children. He is the pure heart of the Beatitudes, the satisfied, the peacemaker. Before leaving us, this man who gets up early, at matins, to prepare the table for the retreatants until the evening of compline, tells us, “With God, no compromise;” and adds, “Do not seek to please men, please God.” A radical Christian.

Father Dominique-Marie, the Abbot, goes from one door to another in his white robe. He has the look of a wise man. His voice is restrained, calm, always well considered. A former schoolteacher with an old-fashioned beard, he entered the monastery in his fifties, anxious to observe the three precepts of the rule of Saint Benedict: obedience, stability, conversion. This man was converted. Converted? But wasn’t he already a Christian? The conversion of which the Father-Abbot speaks is that which consists in putting God at the center of everything that links love, beauty, the arts, joy. There is a gentleness, a lightness and a surprising familiarity in this abbot. He is easy to talk to; he visits you at the retreatants’ table, accepts a piece of cake, refuses to have his ring kissed. He is a religious open to progress, to dialogue, but without this becoming an untenable “nevertheless.” He is resolutely critical of the consequences of the great liturgical and religious choices of the last Council and can only observe the fall, with fifty years of the practice, of the Catholic faith during Masses where there have sometimes been quite a few abuses, in an effort to make a fresh start.

In the winter chapel, the offices are said simply, in a limited Gregorian style that pierces like the arrow that is not heard as we hope in the great Latin spectacle of other abbeys. The prior, a very old monk, Agecanonix in a gown, who walks around with a walker, gives the first note, ahead with the music. And the service is like a small river among the mountains, where pebbles roll in a stream, pushed by the whistling of the wind in nature.

If Bernard Pivot were to give me his Questionnaire again, from the time of Bouillon de culture, to the question “The sound and noise you prefer?” I would gladly answer, “The bell that strikes in the night to announce matins.” We are roused from sleep and from bed. Psalm 3, sung at night, has an invigorating and pacifying effect on me. David flees from his son Absalom and says, “I awake: the Lord is my help/ I will not fear this many people/ who surround me and come against me/ All my enemies you strike in the jaw/ The wicked you break their teeth.” The God sung in the psalms delights me. He is good like a father, loving and stern. He embraces you and does good; performs wonders and breaks necks. It is good to start the day with a banner and a God who does not balk.

At the table, the encounters are original and also testify to the diversity in the unity of the Church. Yes, it is good for traditionalists to meet brothers in the faith who do not practice the same form, do not always think alike. A husband is preparing to be a deacon, only hears zilch in Latin, gets tense at the idea of prayers downstairs in the hall, doesn’t understand that if he can be a deacon it is because vocations are dwindling like snow in the sun; a ninety-two year old Swiss grandmother spends her vacations; a younger woman, so like a character in a Houellebecq book, came to take stock of her life; a good father who is expecting his fourth child came to recharge his batteries, baptized in the Jordan River, capable of crying when he talks about Christ.

During this short retreat, I still wanted to penetrate the mystery of this total conversion that the monks seek, I wanted to feel the mystery of faith, and, without having understood it yet, I draw as near as I can.


Nicolas Kinosky is at the Centres des Analyses des Rhétoriques Religieuses de l’Antiquité. This articles appears through the very kind courtesy La Nef.


A Priti Big Mess: Macron’s Migrant Malarkey

It is election season in Europe and the big fish political heavyweight of the continent has its biggest contest coming up. France, traditionally the leader of whichever variable geometric coalition of European capitals has come together to get things done, is up for grabs. Le Palais de l’Élysee, France’s White House, appoints the powerful Prime Minister who heads the government, while le Président can fan out into the international community, with his all-powerful pen-and-phone decree setup Générale De Gaulle left as a centralized power broker to rival Sun King Louis XIV (L’État, c’était lui – maintenant c’est Macron).

Whether it is your yearly Climate conference, the Davos WEF hobnobbery, UNGA week in NYC or whichever EU traveling circus in between—France’s presidency is set up to maintain the V’ème République’s status as a diplomatic superpower. Possessed of a nuclear force de frappe numbering in the hundreds (with a fully operational nuclear triad spread out over its considerable overseas possessions) to say nothing of the enviably integrated European Space program—Paris is the unquestioned military heavyweight on the continent, moving on the say-so of the office that also includes a ceremonial role as co-prince of Andorra.

No wonder Emmanuel Macron wants to keep the seat for another 5 years. And yet, where he easily strolled into the job last time—cannibalizing the traditional centre-right and centre-left—it turned out stabbing his mentor François Hollande in the back was a good move: The anointed successor of Macron’s predecessor didn’t even break double digits. A second round against Marine Le-Pen had him a shoo-in for victory.

Having naturally moved rightwards from the Socialist party government Macron had been Finance minister for, he seems intent on repeating David Cameron’s 2015 trick of securing a majority by uniting the right of France’s political spectrum. Such a feat would be admirable and necessitate some manner of negotiation with Éric Zemmour, who may well find himself in the one position that prevents any such deal: Second-round opponent. Le-Pen and Valérie Pécresse, the freshly-minted nominee for the centre-right Républicains will be splitting the right with them in fully four directions, and that’s without counting other patriotic, sovereigntist rightist forces of Gaullist persuasion, of which there are a couple more.

Cameron’s pledge to host a referendum on EU membership if given a majority in Westminster was an admirable way to grasp a nettle, though much less courage was on hand when faced with the prospect of having to keep the promise. Macron’s record and governing agenda is handicapped on this count: as a central force of globalism, he will struggle to move the soul of the people Cameron called “fruitcakes and loonies”—a basket of European deplorables who might have been in the market for a French version of Cameroonian “eurorealism.”

An unlikely ally in his quest for a muscular, nationalist political profile is a cabinet minister across the channel: the Right Honourable Priti Patel, Her Majesty’s Home Secretary. No less an authority on the matter, as the President of Belarus recently pinpointed France’s export of irregular migrants in the UK’s direction as a geopolitical stab against the international order. Such behaviour is uncharacteristic of the sort of country that aspires to diplomatic leadership and is therefore suspect to having ulterior motives. Where the winter months usually evince a reduction in sea-based migrant flows due to increased danger, there doesn’t seem to have been any let-up in human trafficking from the Calais side of the English Channel this year. Despite pro-forma protestations from French officials (“become less attractive economically” is not a solution) the only explanation seems to be Macron’s preening for political gain.

Why Priti Patel would lend Dover’s white sandy beaches to such domestic subterfuge is anyone’s guess. Her rhetoric has never disappointed the hardline immigration restrictionists on either side of the pond, although Nigel Farage has taken the trouble to keep the spotlight on her lack of bite to back up her bark. The results so far are an abuse of Britain’s search-and-rescue civilian distress relief corps, a volunteer-based NGO which is stretched thin enough as to miss the 27 recently-departed migrants who paid the cost of Emmanuel Macron’s political needs.

Candidates like Zémmour should take the chance to defeat a common globalist talking point—that nationalists are incapable of international cooperation. The globalist failure on borders and irregular migrants is one of the most glaring examples of their incapacity for good government, and the correct solution remains to send lawbreakers to their country of origin or a country willing to accept the responsibility for doing so.

Say a prayer for the English Channel. The source of Britain’s world-famous fish-and-chips is rapidly becoming a staging ground for information operations of political nature. It’ll be left to the people to figure out the mess.


Felipe Cuello is Professor of Public Policy at the Pontifical university in Santo Domingo. He remains an operative of the Republican Party in the United States, where he served in both the Trump campaigns as well as the transition team of 2016/17 in a substantive foreign policy role. His past service includes the United Nations’ internal think tank, the International Maritime Organization, The European Union’s development-aid arm, and the office of a Brexiteer Member of the European Parliament previous to the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. He is also the co-author and voice of the audiobook of Trump’s World: Geo Deus released in January 2020, back when discussing substance and principles were the order of the day.


Featured image: “Migrants,” by Laurence Blanchard, painted in 2020.