Paul Bourget: The Clairvoyance of the Catholic Novelist

Source: FSSPX News

Paul Bourget

Eddy Hanquier, professor of literature at the Institut Universitaire Saint-Pie X, has authorized the journal Plaisir de Lire [Pleasure of Reading] to reproduce the text of his lecture given on November 15, 2021 as part of the Institute's Monday Lectures. Here is an extract of the full text that you can read in full in Plaisir de Lire n°199 (June 2022) and following.

“Bourget has endeavored in a masterful way to address the two great questions which appear to us, with hindsight, to have a major part of the endangerment, even in the collapse of our Christian civilization.”

“These two great questions are first, the scientistic approach to phenomena, and then the modernist approach to the Christian religion. He treated the first point in The Disciple, he made us measure the devastating results of it; he approached the second in Le Démon de Midi [Devil in the Midday Sun], through depicting a modernist priest.”

“These two errors have introduced an incredible disorder into our perception of natural and supernatural phenomena. The modernist judges the value and the truth of religious dogmas by taking his life and the feelings he has about things, as his sole reference. His experience becomes his only reference for judging the reality and truth of religious dogma, his personal truth transcends revealed Truth, man becomes the judge of God.”

“It is a monstrous inversion, an absolute revolution. Bourget shows it in Le Démon de Midi, which is a very instructive novel on the subject, but which we will not be able to discuss today within the framework of this conference alone.”

“Before continuing on scientism, I would like us to recall remember this: Bourget describes to us what must be called the explosion of these monstrous ideas in a life. And he could only do that in novels because novels tell stories, portray lives, which are therefore susceptible to being affected by ideas, systems.”

“And that's what Bourget's novels basically tell: they tell the tragic and properly modern adventure of lives traversed by modern ideas.”

“The term scientist was coined in 1898 - a year before the publication of The Disciple - by Romain Rolland, a very famous writer at the time, against a movement of thought according to which scientific knowledge would make it possible to solve all the philosophical, social, moral, and political problems of humanity.”

“For the scientist, science would be likely to replace all other disciplines, for example, it would render the contributions of philosophy or theology worthless. It would grant primacy to the experimental sciences.”

“The point of Bourget's novel is to show what can dispose a soul to scientism and to show how it can develop dangerously.”

“What does The Disciple say? It is the story of a philosopher, Adrien Sixte, who, while devoting himself solely to his books, one day learns that the young man who calls himself his disciple, a certain Robert Greslou, has been allegedly involved in a crime.”

“The story of this crime is told through the confession that his disciple addresses to him, and in which he recounts the experimentation he carried out on a young girl... while faithfully following the ideas of the master. The experiment that will lead this young girl to commit suicide.”

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