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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Faith and the Future
By Giuseppe Mazzini (1805–1872)
 
From the ‘Essays’

FAITH requires an aim capable of embracing life as a whole, of concentrating all its manifestations, of directing its various modes of activity, or of repressing them all in favor of one alone. It requires an earnest, unalterable conviction that that aim will be realized; a profound belief in a mission and the obligation to fulfill it; and the consciousness of a supreme power watching over the path of the faithful towards its accomplishment. These elements are indispensable to faith; and where any one of these is wanting, we shall have sects, schools, political parties, but no faith,—no constant hourly sacrifice for the sake of a great religious idea.  1
  Now we have no definite religious idea, no profound belief in an obligation entailed by a mission, no consciousness of a supreme protecting power. Our actual apostolate is a mere analytical opposition; our weapons are interest, and our chief instrument of action is a theory of rights. We are all of us, notwithstanding our sublime presentiments, the sons of rebellion. We advance like renegades, without a God, without a law, without a banner to lead us towards the future. Our former aim has vanished from our view; the new, dimly seen for an instant, is effaced by that doctrine of rights which alone directs our labors. We make of the individual both the means and the aim. We talk of humanity—a formula essentially religious—and banish religion from our work. We talk of synthesis, and yet neglect the most powerful and active element of human existence. Bold enough to be undaunted by the dream of the material unity of Europe, we thoughtlessly destroy its moral unity by failing to recognize the primary condition of all association,—uniformity of sanction and belief. And it is amidst such contradictions that we pretend to renew a world….  2
  Right is the faith of the individual. Duty is the common collective faith. Right can but organize resistance: it may destroy, it cannot found. Duty builds up, associates, and unites: it is derived from a general law, whereas right is derived only from human will. There is nothing, therefore, to forbid a struggle against right; any individual may rebel against any right in another individual which is injurious to him, and the sole judge left between the adversaries is force: and such in fact has frequently been the answer which societies based upon right have given to their opponents.  3
  Societies based upon duty would not be compelled to have recourse to force; duty, once admitted as the rule, excludes the possibility of struggle; and by rendering the individual subject to the general aim, it cuts at the very root of those evils which right is unable to prevent, and only affects to cure. Moreover, progress is not a necessary result of the doctrine of right: it merely admits it as a fact. The exercise of rights being of necessity limited by capacity, progress is abandoned to the arbitrary rule of an unregulated and aimless liberty.  4
  The doctrine of rights puts an end to sacrifice, and cancels martyrdom from the world: in every theory of individual rights, interests become the governing and motive power, and martyrdom an absurdity; for what interest can endure beyond the tomb? Yet how often has martyrdom been the initiation of progress, the baptism of a world!…  5
  Faith, which is intellect, energy, and love, will put an end to the discords existing in a society which has neither church nor leaders; which invokes a new world, but forgets to ask its secret, its Word, from God.  6
  With faith will revive poetry, rendered fruitful by the breath of God and by a holy creed. Poetry, exiled now from a world a prey to anarchy; poetry, the flower of the angels, nourished by the blood of martyrs and watered by the tears of mothers, blossoming often among ruins but ever colored by the rays of dawn; poetry, a language prophetic of humanity, European in essence and national in form,—will make known to us the fatherland of all the nations hitherto; translate the religious and social synthesis through art; and render still lovelier by its light, Woman, an angel,—fallen, it is true, but yet nearer heaven than we,—and hasten her redemption by restoring her to her mission of inspiration, prayer, and pity, so divinely symbolized by Christianity in Mary….  7
  The soul of man had fled; the senses reigned alone. The multitude demanded bread and the sports of the circus. Philosophy had sunk first into skepticism, then into epicureanism, then into subtlety and words. Poetry was transformed into satire.  8
  Yet there were moments when men were terror-struck at the solitude around them, and trembled at their isolation. They ran to embrace the cold and naked statues of their once venerated gods; to implore of them a spark of moral life, a ray of faith, even an illusion! They departed, their prayers unheard, with despair in their hearts and blasphemy upon their lips. Such were the times; they resembled our own.  9
  Yet this was not the death agony of the world. It was the conclusion of one evolution of the world which had reached its ultimate expression. A great epoch was exhausted, and passing away to give place to another, the first utterances of which had already been heard in the north, and which awaited but the Initiator to be revealed.  10
  He came,—the soul the most full of love, the most sacredly virtuous, the most deeply inspired by God and the future that men have yet seen on earth,—Jesus. He bent over the corpse of the dead world, and whispered a word of faith. Over the clay that had lost all of man but the movement and the form, he uttered words until then unknown,—love, sacrifice, a heavenly origin. And the dead arose. A new life circulated through the clay, which philosophy had tried in vain to reanimate. From that corpse arose the Christian world, the world of liberty and equality. From that clay arose the true man, the image of God, the precursor of humanity.  11
 
 
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