Introduction to St Irenaeus' Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching

Saint Irenaeus'

Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching



The following excerpt is taken from John Behr’s Introduction to his remarkable English translation of St Irenaeus' On The Apostolic Preaching and is provided here solely for educational purposes.



That Irenaeus had written a treatise entitled The Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching was long known from a reference in Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History (5:36), but, apart from this, the work seemed to have disappeared without trace. However, in December of 1904 the then Archimandrite Karapet Mekerttschian discovered a manuscript in the library of the Church of the Mother of God in Yerevan, which proved to contain an ancient Armenian translation of the last two books of Irenaeus’ Against the Heresies and his Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching. This manuscript is now preserved in the Matenadaran of Yerevan (ms 3710). According to a scribal postscript, at the end of the Demonstration, the manuscript belonged to ‘the Archbishop Ter Johannes … the brother of the holy king’. This king is probably Hetum I (1226-69), whose younger brother was renowned for his learning, and served as a bishop from 1259 until his death in 1289. The manuscript can, therefore, be dated with some confidence to the middle of the second half of the 13th century, although, as we shall see, the translation was made several centuries earlier.

            The text of the Demonstration was first published three years later, in 1907, together with a German translation, and an epilogue and brief notes by Adolf Harnack, who also divided the text into one hundred ‘chapters’. Despite being the first edition of the text, it included neither a description of the manuscript, nor any critical apparatus noting the various textual emendations which, it would appear from the accompanying translation, must have been adopted. The text was subsequently a subject of discussion amongst Armenian scholars, resulting in several proposed changes to the text and new translations, including a Latin version prepared by S. Weber following the controversy resulting from his earlier German translation. When the text was reprinted in 1919, with an English and French translation, it included a description of the manuscript and occasionally noted an emendation to the manuscript text, but it was still far from satisfactory, and even introduced several new misprints. Various other translations were soon published, including a second English translation by J. Armitage Robinson. 

            After a lull of several decades, two further translations appeared, both of which immensely further our understanding of the text. Firstly that of J. P. Smith, whose translation was accompanied (and exceeded in length) by copious notes, which subjected the difficulties of the Armenian version to a rigorous investigation and discussed the merits of previous translations and proposed emendations. This was followed, a few years later, by a new French translation prepared by L. M. Froidevaux. Whilst this edition added many insights to those of Smith, its most important contribution was the appendix which contained a collation, prepared by Charles Mercier, of the printed text of PO 12.5 with a film of Yerevan 3710, detailed 69 differences. Smith’s translation, however, is sometimes misleading, and his treatment, though not translation, of a particularly important and difficult passage in chapter 43 of the Demonstration, in which he was followed by Froidevaux’s translation, gave rise to further controversy.

            Alongside these translations, which are all based upon the sole extant complete manuscript, extracts from the Demonstration contained in two other manuscripts have since come to light and been published. The first manuscript, containing a work entitled The Seal of Faith, was discovered, again by the now Bishop Karapet Ter-Mekerttschian, in 1911 in the monastery of Saint Stephen in Daraschamb. This manuscript dates from the 13th century and contains a Monophysite florilegia, compiled under the Catholicos Komitas (612-628). The text contains seven quotations attributed to Irenaeus, of which two short extracts derive from the Demonstration. The primary interest of these fragments, however, is that they demonstrate the utilization of the Demonstration in the seventh century, rather than for any contribution towards establishing a better text. More important, in this respect, is a 14th century manuscript, known as Galata 54, found in the monastery of Saint James in Jerusalem and now preserved in the library of the Armenian Patriarchate in Istanbul. This manuscript is also a collection of patristic texts, arranged more or less chronologically, concerning Christology, that were perhaps compiled around the same time as The Seal of Faith. The extracts from Irenaeus are presented in the order of the texts themselves, beginning with extracts from Book III of Against the Heresies, the translation of which is otherwise unknown. There are thirteen extracts from the Demonstration, which comprise less than a fifth of this work. Judging from a comparison of the extracts from Against the Heresies presented in this manuscript with the Latin text as we otherwise have it, it seems that the excerptor tended to simplify the text by keeping what he considered to be essential and eliminating the superfluous. Only rarely does Galata 54 offer a better text than that of Yerevan 3710. The two manuscripts also share a number of common scribal errors, which indicates that both are derived from the same archetype.

            Finally, after a second lull, A. Rousseau, after completing his exceptional edition of Against the Heresies for Sources chrétiennes, published what, in the absence of a full critical edition, must be regarded as the standard edition of the Demonstration. In a useful introduction, Rousseau describes the previous editions and translations, the relationship between Yerevan 3710 and the texts contained in the Seal of Faith and Galata 54, and analyzes the peculiarities of the Armenian version itself, in an attempt to discern the Greek original. Recognizing that the Armenian version is itself a translation, of a very idiosyncratic character, Rousseau offers us two translations printed in parallel: a Latin translation, which, because of the flexibility of its idiom, is able to reproduce an exact, literal translation of the Armenian text; and a French translation, in which Rousseau allows himself to present what he considers a translation of the Greek lying behind the Armenian. Rousseau also includes extensive notes which, as with Smith, are longer than the text itself), in which he takes full account of previously suggested emendations, together with the new material presented by Galata 54, as well as presenting his own conjectures, frequently offering a Greek retroversion as the basis of his analyses. He concludes his edition with six appendices, five describing aspects of Irenaeus’ theology, with Mercier’s collation as the sixth. The work throughout demonstrates Rousseau’s intimate familiarity with all the texts of Irenaeus in their Greek, Latin and Armenian versions, and is a remarkable achievement of scholarship.

The Armenian Version

Although the only complete manuscript of the Demonstration was copied in the thirteenth century, the translation itself was the product of the “Hellenistic School,” which, from c. 570-c.730 translated a number of Greek works. The translations of this school are classified according to four successive periods: the Armenian version of Irenaeus belongs to the first group; together with the Grammar of Dionysius Thrax, a handbook on rhetoric belonging to Aphthonius, various Philonic and pseudo-Philonic works, some of which are extant only in Armenian, and the so-called Alexander Romance erroneously ascribed in antiquity to Callisthenes. The earliest evidence we have for the Armenian version of the work of Irenaeus is a letter dated to 604/5, which would indicate that the translation was made in the final decades of the sixth century. Rousseau, following H. Lewy and Froidevaux, is more specific, locating the translation in the years 572 to 591, the period when, following an invasion by the Persians, a group of Armenian exiles resided in Constantinople.

            While the translations of the ‘Golden Age’, the fifth century, had endeavored to translate Greek works in a fluent style, respecting the idiom of the Armenian language, the translations of the Hellenistic School were more concerned to reproduce the Greek original exactly, both in syntax and in the construction of compound verbs and nouns. This resulted in translations couched in a cumbersome artificial literary style which is scarcely comprehensible without reference to the Greek original. Given their character, and the fact that the material includes works on grammar and rhetoric, Lewy suggested that these translations were intended as ‘keys’ for those Armenian students who were seeking entrance into the Byzantine schools. This is further borne out by the fact, as Terian observes, that the translations of writers such as Philo, Plato and Aristotle are all incomplete; there was no attempt to translate the complete works of important thinkers, but only to provide select works for tutorial purposes.

            If the general purpose of these translations is to provide a working guide for an Armenian student learning Greek, then one would expect the translation to err on the side of an over literal accuracy. We do not have another witness to the text of the Demonstration, but, as it is generally agreed that the Armenian version of Against the Heresies, Bks. 4-5, are from the same period of the same school of translation, it is possible, by comparing this text with the Latin version and the numerous Greek fragments, to evaluate the reliability of the Armenian translation. Such a comparison indicates that the translator did indeed scrupulously render the Greek, word by word, into Armenian. 

            More importantly, such a comparison also reveals some of the characteristic features of the method of translation. This is not a place for a detailed examination of such features, but a brief mention of some of the more important ones will contribute toward a better understand of the translation. Apart from various syntactical features, which are unknown in classical Armenian (such as the genitive absolute or the singular verb with a neuter plural subject), where the translator has simply mimicked the Greek, and other idiosyncratic turns of phrase, the most important feature of the translation is its various ways of treating vocabulary, which make the Armenian version very cumbersome and wordy.

            Composite nouns or verbs are often mechanically rendered by a corresponding Armenian composite word, or, more frequently, the prefix is left separate. Sometimes a composite word, for example the verb μετέχω, is rendered by a verb together with a noun: “to-accept participation” (31), while the substantive μετοχή is rendered by two nouns, the second in the genetic case: “participation nof-reception” (31). Sometimes this process has an incomprehensible result, for example, when the verb διαμένω is translated by two verbs, declined identically and without any conjunction: “to-remain to-pass-through” (1), which Smith translated as “you remain at a standstill”.

            Much mor frequently a single word is translated by a “doublet,” a pair of words slightly differing in meaning. The purpose of this was clearly to bring out the various shades of meaning contained by the Greek word, which would have been insufficiently rendered by an Armenian word. Most frequently nouns are combined by a straightforward conjunction. However, these doublets are sometimes simply juxtaposed, for instance, πρόδρομος, “precursor forerunner” (41). Alternatively sometimes one is made the complement of the other, such as, for κοινωνία, “communion of-unanimity” (6). A frequent method, when using a doublet to translate a Greek verb, is to combine a participle with a finite verb, for instance προμελετάω, ‘before-exercising they-were-accustomed’ (46).

Րաֆֆու Նամակները

«Րաֆֆու Նամակները» [The Letters of Raffi] was serialized in Ararat (the official monthly of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin) in 1913. The 33 letters are downloadable here, in 45 pdf pages.

Հայ ժողովրդական Առասպելները Մ. Խորենացու Հայոց Պատմութեան Մէջ

«Հայ ժողովրդական Առասպելները Մ. Խորենացու Հայոց Պատմութեան Մէջ» [Folk Myths and Legends in Movses Khoranatsi’s History of the Armenians] (1899-1900) was serialized by Manuk Abeghian over 20 issues of Ararat (the official monthly of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin from 1868 to 1919). Abeghian’s complete study is downloadable here, in 188 pdf pages.

A Bibliography of P’awstos Buzand’s History of the Armenians

These materials were originally compiled by Robert Bedrosian in his resource guide, Studies of Armenian Literature at Internet Archive, and are provided here as a mirror.


Hovsep Gat’rchean, Փաւստոս Բիւզանդացի [P’awstos Biwzandats’i], an influential article from the journal Hande’s Amso’reay 3 (Vienna, 1889), in 4 pdf pages.

Garegin Zarbanalian, Buzand, from Հայկական հին դպրութեան պատմութիւն [History of Ancient Armenian Literature] (Venice, 1897), in 15 pdf pages. An English translation of this article can be read here.

Y. Daghbashean, Փ. Բիւզանդացի եւ իւր պատմութեան խարդախողը, Խորենացու աղբիւրների ուսումնասիրութիւն [P. Biwzandats’i and the Corrupter of His History. A Study of Xorenats’i’s sources]. (Vienna, 1898), in 188 pdf pages. Azgayin matenadaran series, volume 29.

Grigor Ter-Poghosean, Նկատողութիւններ Փաւստոսի պատմութեան վերաբերեալ [Observations on P’awstos’ History]. (Venice, 1901). Azgayin matenadaran series, volume 38, in 142 pdf pages.

Nicholas Adontz, Փավստոս Բուզանդը որպես պատմիչ [P’awstos Buzand as a historian] in 50 pdf pages. The article was initially published in Russian in the journal Khristianskii Vostok VI (1922). This Armenian translation, by V. A. Diloyan, appears on pp. 87-130 of Works of Nicholas Adontz in Five Volumes [in Armenian], Volume 2 (Erevan, 2006).

Manuk Abeghyan, Փաւստոս Բուզանդ [P’awstos Buzand], from Հայոց հին գրականութեան պատմութիւն [History of Ancient Armenian Literature], vol. 1 (Beirut, 1968). An abridged English translation of this article can be read here.


Stepanos Malxasyants’, Ներածություն [Introduction], to his Modern Armenian translation of P’awstos (Erevan, 1968).


Stepanos Malxasyants’, Ներշապուհ Ռմբոսեան եւ «Բուզանդարան» պատմութիւնք բառերի մեկնությունը [An Explanation of the Words Nershapuh “R’mbosean” and “Buzandaran” Patmut’iwnk’], from Teghekakir 4 (1947), in 3 pdf pages.

Anahit Perikhanian, Sur arménien buzand, from Armenian Studies in Memoriam Haig Berberian (Lisbon, 1986), Dickran Kouymjian, editor, in 6 pdf pages.


Rafik Nahapetyan, Ազգագրական տեղեկություններ Փավստոս Բուզանդի «Հայոց Պատմութիւն» երկում [Ethnographic Information on P’awstos Buzand’s History of the Armenians], from Patma-banasirakan hands [Historico-Philological Journal], 1 (2013), in 19 pdf pages.

6th century Christian Apostleship in the Land of the Huns

This excerpt is from the last chapter of The Syriac Chronicle of Pseudo-Zachariah Rhetor (2011) and concerns Aghuanian and Armenian apostleship in the land of the Huns (an older English translation can be accessed freely here).

As the Chronicle of Eusebius of Caearea makes known, Ptolemy Philadelphus ruled Egypt 280 years before the birth of our Lord, and at the start of his reign he set free the Jewish captives who were in Egypt. He sent offerings to Jerusalem, to Eleazar who was [high] priest at the time. He assembled seventy scholars of the law and had the holy Scriptures translated from the Hebrew language into Greek which he stored and kept with him, because he had been inspired as though by God in this matter, in preparation for the calling of the nations who were worthy of knowledge, to become true worshippers of the glorious Trinity through the ministry of the spirit. 

About 130 years after him, Ptolemy Philometor was also moved with virtue and was diligent, and through ambassadors, letters, and presents which he sent and dispatched to the leaders of the countries of the nations, he urged them to write and send to him the boundaries of the territories of their dominions, and the nations around them, as well as where they resided and what their customs were. They wrote and sent [them] to him, except the northern region, extending to the east and to the west. We have considered it necessary to write it out here at the end for the edification of those who have discernment. The account of it is as follows:

[. . .]

This account of the nations of the world, as written by us above, came about through the diligence of Ptolemy Philometor, in the 30th year of his reign, 150 years before the birth of our Saviour; so that from that time until today, the year 28 of the reign of the serene emperor Justinian of our time, the year 866 of Alexander, and the 333rd Olympiad, will be found to be 711 years [the 28th year of Justinian is 554/5, as is also AG 866. The 333rd Olympiad lasted from 553 to 556]. In such a span of time, how many cities were built and added to all the nations in the world from [the time of] Philometor until today, especially after the birth of our Savior! Peace has reigned among the nations, races, and languages, and they have not kept their former custom, with [one] people rising up against another in battles and with swords, fighting in battle, in that the prophecy has been fulfilled in them which says, ‘They shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning-hooks.’ [Isaiah 2:4] 

Along with them also in this northern region are five believing nations, who have 24 bishops, and a catholicos in Dvin, a large city in Persian Armenia. The name of their catholicos was Gregory, a righteous and renowned man. 

Gurzan (i.e., Iberia/Georgia) is a country in Armenia, and its language is like Greek, and they have a Christian prince who is subject to the king of Persia. 

Arran (i.e., Aghuank) is a country in the territory of Armenia, with its own language, a believing and baptized nation, and they have a prince who is subject to the king of Persia. 

Sisagan (i.e., Syunik) is a country with its own language and a believing people, and pagans dwell in it. 

Balasagan is a country with its own language that extends and reaches to the Caspian Gates and the sea, [that is] those [Gates and sea] of the territory of the Huns. They [are situated] next to them and extend as far as them [the Huns]. 

Beyond these same gates are the Burgar, a pagan and barbarian people with their own language, and they have cities. 

There are the Alans, who have five cities. 

There are the people of the region of Dadu, who live in the mountains and have fortresses.

There are the Onogur, a tent-dwelling people; the Ogur [people], the Sabir, the Burgar, the Korthrigor, the Avar, the Khasir, the Dirmar, the Sarurgur, the Bagarsik, the Khulas, the Abdel, the Ephthalite: these thirteen nations are tent-dwellers, living on the meat of cattle, fish and wild animals and by weapons. 

Beyond them are the Pygmies and Dog-men, and to the west and north of them are the Amazons, women with one breast each who live entirely by themselves and fight with weapons and horses. There is no male among them. When they wish to copulate they go peacefully to a people near their country and have intercourse with them for a month of days, and they return to their country. When they give birth, if it is a male they kill him, but if it is a female they let her live, and thus they perpetuate their ranks. 

The nation surrounding them is the Harus, tall, big-limbed men, who have no weapons, and horses cannot carry them because of their stocky size. 

To the east, on the northern outskirts, are three black tribes. 

In the land of the Huns twenty or more years ago [i.e., 535 or earlier] some people translated books into their language, and I will recount the circumstance which the Lord brought about, as I heard it from some truthful men – John of Resh‘aina, who was in the monastery of Bet Isḥaqûnî, on the outskirts of Amida, and Thomas the Tanner. They were taken into captivity by Kavadh fifty or more years ago, then when they entered Persia they were sold again to the Huns, and they went out from the gates, and were in that land more than thirty years. They took wives and made families there. After about this length time they returned and recounted their lives to us in their own words as follows. 

After the arrival of the captives from the land of the Romans whom the Huns had brought in, and who were in their land 34 years, an angel appeared to someone named Qardust, the bishop of the region of Arran as the bishop told it, and said to him, ‘Go out with three pious priests to the plain and receive from me the reports that have been sent to you from the Lord of spirits, because I have authority over these captives who have gone into the nations from the land of the Romans, and have offered their petition to God, and he told me what to say to you.’ This Qardust (meaning in Greek ‘Theoclêtus’ and in Aramaic, ‘Called by God’) went diligently out into the plain, with the three priests, because the angel said to them, ‘Come, go into the territory of the nations, and baptize the children of the dead, and make priests for them, and give them the mysteries, and encourage them, for I am with you, and I will bring to you graces, and you will perform signs there among the nations. Everything that you require for your ministry you will find there.’ Four others went with them, and, in a country where no peace is found, these seven priests found lodging from one evening to the next, seven loaves and a jug of water. They did not enter through the gates, but they were guided over the mountains. When they arrived, they spoke with the captives and many of the Huns were baptized and became disciples. They were there a week of years, and there they translated books into the language of the Huns. 

At that time it happened that Probus was sent there on an embassy from the emperor to hire some of them to engage in war with the nations. When he learned about these saints from the Huns and was informed by the captives, he became eager and excited to see them. He saw them and was blessed by them, and he greatly honoured them in the sight of these nations. When our emperor learned from him the situation that was written above, that the Lord had acted thus, he caused thirty mules to be loaded by the administration of the Roman cities that were near, and sent them with flour, wine, and oil, garments and other wares and sacred vessels. He gave them the animals as a gift, because Probus was a believing and kind man. 

Another Armenian bishop, whose name was Macarius, was inspired by such virtue and went out to him after two more weeks of years, and being honorably moved went of his own accord with some of his priests to the country and built a brick church, planted plants, and sowed various kinds of seeds. He performed signs and baptised many. When the authorities of the nations saw the new thing, they were amazed and were very pleased with the men, and honoured them, each one among them, calling them to his own district and his own nation, begging them to be their teachers, and they are there until now. This is a sign of God’s compassion, who in every place cares for everyone who is his own. Henceforth it is the time that is set under his own authority, so that a multitude of the nations will enter [Acts 1:7], as the apostle said [Romans 11:25]. 

For one week of years the Persian king, as those who know recount, has also separated himself from food that is strangulated and from blood, and from the meat of unclean animals and birds, since the time Tribonian, the archiatros, came down to him, who had been sent to him at that time, and from our serene emperor came Birwai, a perfect man, and after him Kashwai, and now Gabriel, a Christian from Nisibis. From that time he has been careful with his food, which is not taken according to its former custom, but is blessed and then he eats. He has access to him, as does Joseph, the catholicos of the Christians, and he is close to him because he is a physician, and sits before him on the first seat after the head of the Magians, and receives whatever he asks from him. 

With compassion for the captives and holy men, on the advice of the Christian physicians who are close to him, he has now built a hospital, something that is unusual, and has given the 100 mules and 50 camels that transport goods from the [storehouses] of the kingdom, and twelve doctors; and whatever is required is given, and in the court of the king … [Here the narrative breaks off].

Քննութիւն Ղարաբաղի Բարբառին

«Քննութիւն Ղարաբաղի Բարբառին» [A Study of the Karabakh Dialect] was serialized by the renowned linguist and philologist Hrachia Acharian from 1899-1901 across nine issues of Ararat (the official monthly of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin from 1868 to 1919). Acharian's complete study is available in PDF format here.

The Meaning of Words

The Meaning of Words

Denis de Rougemont 


. . . Now what do we see today? “Liberty,” “order,” “spirit,” “democracy” assume any kind of meaning one likes—and people are killing one another for these words. It would seem that they fight for them the more passionately the less clearly they realize their significance.

        I have said that true order presupposes the liberty of responsible man. But how many frightened bourgeois have obstinately regarded Hitler, that man of the masses, as the “rampart” of their order against bolshevism? Others fought in the name of their liberty against a tyrant who conducted his war in the name of the liberty of the German people. The autocrat in boots proclaimed himself one day the only “true” democrat. But the other dictator rose against him in the name of “true” democracy, that of the Soviets, allying himself on the other hand with certain nations which call themselves very sincerely democracies, but which he regards as plutocracies.

        Must we conclude that men kill one another through misunderstandings? Or that words no longer mean anything? Are there behind these words simple realities which are tyranny on the one hand, and on the other liberty? But then tell me what is liberty for you? You hesitate, it is complicated, and the more you think about it, the more the meaning of the word appears problematical to you. Yet you will risk your lives, willy-nilly, to preserve this liberty, and this is very good. But it would be even better if the word had a meaning which one could declare without hesitating, if each one of you knew what he is defending. (For to get killed proves nothing: our enemies also are getting killed.) Words can be effective only if they have definite meaning. And what defines the meaning of a word is its undeniable correspondence with certain things, certain feelings, the fact that it necessarily pledges acts. Now this correspondence ceases to be arbitrary only by virtue of a unanimous agreement, which is to say that it can be brought about only in the midst of a living group or community. A common tradition, law, faith, and authority alone are capable of defining the meaning of what we call current words. But all these things have disappeared in our century. Then the words that circulate everywhere lead nowhere. Our language is out of gear. The more we speak the less we understand one another. Death alone can put everyone into agreement.

            The 20th century will appear in the future as a kind of verbal nightmare, of delirious cacophony: people spoke more than they had ever spoken (imagine those radio stations which can no longer be silent day or night, where words are delivered at so much per minute, whether or not there are listeners, whether or not there are things to say), a time when words wore out faster than in any century of History, a time of prostitution of language, which was to be the measure of the true, and of which the Gospel says that at its source it is “the life and the light of men!”

            Alas, what have we done with language! No longer able even to lie in certain mouths, language has fallen lower than the lie, I mean into insignificance. How the Devil rejoices over the pleasant or excited chatter of the radio-speakers! He, the great confusionist, who likes nothing better than flattering equivocation, the drone of official style, the senile incontinence of after-dinner verbiage. He, the romantic, who, when we are stupefied by speeches, suggests to us that the inexpressible is perhaps truer than clear, sharp speech! He knows that by confusing our language he destroys the sense of community. He knows that by destroying our social structures he precipitates the confusion of our language. He knows that men can pledge themselves only by clear, sharp words and that by twisting and debasing the meaning of words he destroys the very basis of our loyalties. He knows that wherever a spade is called a spade, evil recedes and loses something of its prestige; this is why he has invented the language of diplomats and its insane coyness. He knows that nothing in the world can make us be silent, now that we have the radio, and he takes up his post in all the microphones. He finally organizes that verbal inflation, words no longer being “covered” by acts, which he hopes, not without reason, will complete, more effectively than the worst tyrannies, the utter confusion of our moral sense . . .

            I was about to write that the only remedy would be to combat him with semantics, which is the science of meanings, of precise and shaded language, guaranteed by a long tradition and by etymologies. A Ministry of the Meaning of Words, endowed with discretionary powers—this is what a Democracy needs—since after all it is a regime entirely founded on words. (This ministry was formerly the Church. An analysis of our vocabularies would show that the little common sense which they preserve comes from biblical and liturgical reminiscences.)

            I might indicate twenty remedies of this kind but I know too well that they will be without virtue in the amorphous and gigantic world in which we live. Moreover I am not writing these pages in order to propose my own reforms on top of a thousand others. The evil is too deep-seated, the despair too real, men are too busy destroying one another. Words are precisely too elusive for advice to be heeded.

            But here indestructible confidence rises through our babble and reestablishes the worshipful silence: we have no power to destroy the word! All the Devil’s lies and all our chatter vanish the moment the Spirit speaks to us, through a phrase of the Bible or of our liturgies, through a word spoken by a passerby, through a prayer born in the heart. It does not depend on us to make these syllables live: suddenly they have spoken to us. (The birth of a poem or of the rhythm of a sentence, somewhere in ourselves, gives us a feeble idea of these surprises.) If language belonged to us we would long ago have ceased to be able to understand one another. But if two beings communicate, if certain words suddenly put me into motion, if a given accent suffices to give me back my strength, by this miracle language is restored to its original and creative power.  A tyrant or the State may well be able to forbid our speeches and our discussions, to “choke free speech” (at the point it has reached, this would be no great evil), but they will be powerless over the mystery which at certain moments causes certain words rather than others to speak to us, be it even in a whisper, in the depth of a prison cell. They may reduce to silence the chatterers and the great orators, replace them with official disks; they may burn all the books; they may shoot the prophets—they were indeed able to crucify the Word! They will never be able to go further.

            For here it is Easter, and the Word has forever arisen; and in the confusion of languages and of lies, when fear, suffering and shame no longer permit us to articulate even an intelligible murmur—it is the Word itself which now speaks to us!

Excerpts from P'awstos Buzand by Manuk Abeghian

Yesterday, Sophene Books published an English translation of Karekin Zarbanalian’s 1865 article on the mysterious P’awstos Buzand. For an entirely different view on P’awstos and his significance as a historian, here, I provide excerpts of interest from Manuk Abeghian’s 1940 article.

Excerpts from "P'awstos Buzand"

by Manuk Abeghian


The History of P’awstos Buzand, according to Ghazar P’arpec’i, is the second History of the Armenians. Yet we do not know a thing about its author. P’awstos’ History is divided into books (դպրութիւնք), of which only Books 3-6 have reached us. The author also wrote Books 1 and 2, but those were left out, and so that we do not seek them in vain, the word “Beginning” was added at the start of the Third Book.

            The Contents of the Sixth Book contain the following line: “Beneath all the chapters that pertain to me, the reader will find ten additional chapters”. Here, the author promises to provide information about himself, however this is not to be found at the end of the book. And [this information] was already missing by the 5th century, because nothing is known about P’awstos even by Ghazar Parpec’i, who lived in the second half of the 5th century. And besides, Ghazar does not speak that respectfully about P’awstos, as when he says “[all this was recounted by] one P’awstos of Buzand”, “a certain historian called P’awstos of Buzand” and “the writing that they call the History of the Armenians”. Ghazar even questions whether the History of P’awstos Buzand was written by a Byzantine: 

“However, because some people have considered certain words employed by him in some passages to be not proper and fitting […] they have expressed doubts that someone having been educated among the Byzantines would say such improper things.” However, speaking at length about Byzantium, he says that “streams of wisdom have issued from that city, as from a royal residence, and prominent scholars have hastened to go there from all parts of the Byzantine land. To this day those streams of knowledge have extended themselves and have flowed to all areas). Now, could the man P’awstos who had studied in such a city amidst such a multitude of scholars have put such unpleasant-sounding things in his history? May it not be so!” 

P’arpec’i thinks that P’awstos, being from Byzantium, must have been “learned” and “educated”. But since he did not consider the History in his name to be the work of a learned man, he says: 


“To my feeble mind also the work is untrustworthy. Perhaps some other bold uneducated person shamelessly put his hand to it and wrote what he pleased. Or, perhaps some incapable per- son, unable to do it properly, altered [the work] in another way and thought to conceal the errors of his impudence under the name of P’awstos.” 


And then he adds that such people existed among the Greeks and Assyrians: 


“…who have done such tampering—writing futile and useless narrations of their own and inserting them into literate books. However, critical folk clearly are able to differentiate between the words of scholars and the chattering of fools.” 


P’awstos Buzand’s History of the Armenians was not valued much from P’arpec’i’s time onward, until the last quarter of the 19th century. Since that time, there has also been more intrigue about the author of the work, who has attracted much opining. Take, for example, the question about P’awstos’ nationality. Some say he was Greek, others that he was Armenian. And there have been philologists who claim that two authors have written his History of the Armenians, and that one part was written by a Greek and another by an Assyrian. If he was Armenian, was he from the Saharhunik clan? And if he was Greek, is he the same old Byzantine bishop P’awstos who lived in the 4th century and is mentioned in the Sixth Book of the work? The question has been raised as to whether the book was written in Greek in the 4th century and translated into Armenian in the 5th century, or whether it was written by an Armenian in the 5th century and attributed to a Greek chronicler named P’awstos Buzand whom we know nothing about? Some have even said that the author was a 4th century Armenian who wrote a brief history in Greek, and that the 5th century translation expanded on the work. And finally, there has been another question as to the relation between P’awstos’ History of the Armenians and the Greek chronicler Procopius’ 6th century History based on partial similarities. Let us now take a brief pause on this last item.

That the Greek historian Procopius has related a piece about Arshak that is similar to an excerpt from P’awstos’ History cannot be taken as proof that P’awstos’ History was originally composed in Greek. Procopius, hailing from Caesarea, could have known Armenian and benefited from P’awstos. Alternatively, he could have had someone translate parts of P’awstos’ History for him, just as there are now many Russian translations of Armenian literature in the hands of Russians who know no Armenian. 

Now it is certainly possible to say that P’awstos’ History of the Armenians was written in the second half of the 5th century, in Armenian, by a patriotic Armenian. Essentially all the contents of Agathangelos’ History were familiar to the author, from which he draws in various parts of his History. He also made use of the Armenian translation of the Holy Bible as well as other works. His language is pure, authentic Armenian, without borrowed words or idioms, and largely in native Armenian style, even in terms of popular turns of phrase and other peculiarities of the work that it is not possible to consider the work a translation.

The work contains allusions in the style of curses or divinations based on 5th century events and excerpts from Koriwn’s book, although not as many as from Agathangelos’. Others have presented a few such examples, of which we will share only one here. The following excerpt can be found as well in Koriwn and Agathangelos. Some say this excerpt was taken by P’awstos from Agathengelos, but it seems likely that both Agathangelos and P’awstos independently used the same excerpt that originated in Koriwn:


“With the grace of God he perfectly conducted the Apostolic course and superintendency of the blessed Church, taking care, encouraging and exhorting everyone to goodness, with day and evening fasts and prayers, inspiring everyone near and far with spiritual zeal, supplications and perfect faith."



“He continued with the grace of God, perfectly, his administration of the blessed Church, exhorting everyone to goodness. And day and night, with fasting and praying and with supplications...” 



        Beyond the similar content in these excerpts, there are also the styles of expression, turns of phrase and other such similarities between P’awstos and Agathangelos that are attributable to Koriwn as their common source. Koriwn’s work, being the oldest [existing] original Armenian composition, and covering the discovery of the alphabet, as well as the lives of Mashtots and Sahak, must have been widely read. Even Ghazar P’arpec’i, who lived at a later time, wrote that he had written that book many times (“We have read [Koriwn] numerous times, and so confirmed our information.”).


        Buzand’s book is the first attempt to record a complete History of the Armenians, including also of ancient times. Such a work was indispensable in the 5th century, when it was not only necessary to strengthen the church, but also, in a secular sense, to develop national and political self-knowledge. The History of the Armenians was to further the tension between these two forces, as two opposing lines of Armenian history (secular-political and ecclesiastic) meet here in the same work—sometimes in parallel, sometimes intertwined, and sometimes one taking precedence over the other.

     The History of Buzand that has reached us covers the period of Armenian history from Trdat’s son Khosrov until the division of Armenia between Iran and Byzantium in 387, a period of about 50 years, covering the reigns of Khosrov, Tiran, Arshak, Pap, Varazdat and Arshak. The ecclesiastic history begins from St. Gregory and the death of his son Aristakes, followed by Vrtanes and the following Catholicoi. Special attention is given to the life of St. Nerses the Great and his works. Information has been provided about a number of clerics. That Buzand discourses as well about a few Assyrian bishops or clerics is not a sign of his allegiance to them, as some have opined. As the author of his History, he has written of Armenian Catholicoi, as well as Assyrian and Greek clerics indiscriminately, both complimenting and reproaching them from a religious standpoint. From this perspective, his History, despite its mystique, is a precious source for Armenian ecclesiastical history. In it, we find opposition of ecclesiastic and secular ranks, the rule of Catholicoi in common life, the remarkable works of St. Nerses the Great, tensions in the formation of an independent, national church, as well as a number of other topics related to ecclesiastic life.


            Now, as for the two types of narratives in P’awstos’ History: The ecclesiastic line pertains to high priests and other clerics, and the secular to kings and generals. The kings, being leaders of the country, of course also make some appearances in ecclesiastic discourse, and of the Catholicoi, Nerses also appears as a character in the secular parts. It is there, in the ecclesiastic discourse, where P’awstos the author primarily appears, telling of miracles, visions, prayers, sermons and admonitions, with the benefit of the Holy Bible, from which he borrows phrases or cites excerpts. It is there that he displays his passion, admonitions, and attacks the kings in the spirit of a Christian teacher and with piety. It goes without saying that the author’s pen also makes such a mark on secular matters, albeit less, and in large part with reference to the Catholicoi and the things they said, as with Vrtanes (Book III, Chapter 11), Nerses (Book IV, Chapter 5), Xad (Book IV, Chapter 12), Ch’unak (Book IV, Chapter 15), and so on, which are in part ecclesiastical discourse. Those ecclesiastical discourses as well come from folk tradition and are expressed in popular style. The chapters containing ecclesiastic discourse are: Book Three—Chapters 2-6, 12-17, 19, Book IV—Chapter 4, 6-10, 44, 56-57, Book V—Chapters 21-31, and Book VI—Chapters 2-16.


     When we accept P’awstos’ History of the Armenians as part of our folk tradition, the work assumes both historical and literary value. It is our only ancient manuscript which, as a piece of folklore, has had an influence upon our people, especially in terms of the portrayal of aristocratic life, patriotic life, social conditions, and even customs, private life, beliefs and so on. Every incident described by P’awstos reveals many aspects of contemporary life at the same time. It is in his History that we see the relations between secular and cleric powers, aristocrats and kings, familial relations among close relatives, the king’s unbounded authority to do anything, even so much as having people killed without penalty, and every manner of intrigue. His History also transmits ideas of the times, illustrations of piety, the wonders of saints, and powerful descriptions of deceptive, thievish and clownish bishops who were only Christian by name (Book VI, Chapters 8-10). At the same time, those interested in private life can benefit immensely from P’awstos’ rich History.


[You can read Abeghian's complete original article here]

Հայոց լեզուն. զՄրջիւնն

Հայոց լեզուն

(յԱռակք Մխիթար Գոշի)

Մրջիւն ժիր է յերկասիրութիւն՝ եւ բազմիմաստ. սակայն երկայնամտութեամբ եւ համբերութեամբ յանկէ զգործ։
        Ծանիր եւ յօրինակէս, զի զոր սկսանիցիս զգործ բարի՝ հոգւոյ եւ մարմնոյ, մի ձանձրութեամբ թողուցուս։

Excerpts from The Devil's Share

 Excerpts from The Devil's Share

Denis de Rougemont 




It is easy to sense why the arts of divination are linked, in popular imagination, with a satanic pact. The soothsayer is regarded as both its victim and its beneficiary. In exchange for the purity of his soul, he finds himself endowed with extraordinary powers, whose source can be—so it is commonly thought—only in the nether realm. This is an involuntary, one might almost say instinctive, homage paid to Satan’s angelic power. It is true that under the name of Python he represents the diviner, and under the Hebrew vocable of ‘VB,’ the spirit of descending light, prophetic and magic power. But the assimilation of clairvoyance in general with this diabolical power is an error which the Devil himself carefully maintains in our spirits. For divination is not evil in itself, quite the contrary. The Bible condemns it in its abuses, as it condemns prostitution while exalting sensual love in the finest of its songs. God himself unceasingly sends prophetic dreams to those who love him, from Daniel to John of Pathmos. And the first to discover and to hail the birth of Christ were the magi.

    It would be vain to deny the facts on the pretext that they are still inexplicable: tables tap, cards speak, thoughts are transmitted in silence. All the signs of the world call to us! Why turn a deaf ear to these solicitations? If divination today is still only the uncertain science of discovering the future, we may well fear that it will become in the future a discovery of science. We shall then regret the time of the winks of destiny, when we could still catch them with loving guile. . .

    When this is said, the Devil has two chances of insinuating himself into our minds by the clandestine way, when he fails by the more refined means of reason and of virtue.

    His first chance resides in our propensity to reduce evil and good to the misfortunes and good fortunes that befall us, and these in turn to the failures and successes of manifest life. This confusion of our moral categories admirably serves the designs of the Evil One. It prevents the victim of the charlatan from understanding that his misfortunes are not Evil, nor even necessarily the consequences of Evil, but are perhaps the means of Good, to say nothing of the true good fortunes that may arise from them. Evil is not necessarily war, for example, but the utilization of war to sterilize our faith, or the utilization of peace no less, and even at lesser risks for Satan. The evil and good translated by fortune-tellers in terms of obstacles and successes can in truth only be defined in relation to the supreme goal of an existence, and in terms of inner attitudes.

    The Devil’s second chance is to flatter our tendency to feel ourselves irresponsible, by means of oracles uttered in the name of an irrevocable destiny. The anguish of modern man before his liberty can be measured by the number of fortunetellers and their clients avid of moral anesthesia. We here touch the secret of the real Mal du siècle.




The philanthropist or the man of the world, the artist, the author and the successful man—this gallery of victims is classic to the point of being almost outmoded. For Satan steps with his time, and seems to concern himself less and less with convincing the individual, in an epoch in which the latter hardly exists. His ambition turns to the masses. Here at last we come to the Devil’s Grand Strategy in this century.

    The best interpretation of the collective phenomena of today was given in about 1848 by the Danish writer Sören Kierkegaard, the capital thinker of our era. This is what one may read in his intimate diary: 

    “In contradistinction to the Middle Ages and those periods with all their discussions of possession, of particular men giving themselves to evil, I should like to write a book on diabolic possession in modern times, and show how mankind en masse gives itself up to evil, how nowadays it happens en masse. It is for this reason that people gather into flocks, in order that natural, animal hysteria should take hold of them, in order to feel themselves stimulated, inflamed and beside themselves. The scenes on the Blocksberg are the exact counterparts of this demoniacal pleasure, which consists in losing oneself in order to be volatilized into a higher potency, where being outside oneself one hardly knows what one is doing or saying, or who or what is speaking through one, while the blood courses faster, the eyes turn bright and staring, the passions and lust seething.”

    What could Kierkegaard be thinking of when, in his bourgeois, pious and comfortable Denmark, he wrote these prophetic lines? He was witnessing the revolutionary upheavals in Europe which marked the outbreak of liberalism, capitalism and nationalism. He alone had seen the Devil busy in these works—ours, the democratic nations’—one century before Hitler came and awakened us by carrying our own discoveries, “virtues” and ideals to the most grandiose excesses.

    Kierkegaard understood better than anyone and before anyone the creative diabolical principle of the mass: fleeing from one’s own person, no longer being responsible, and therefore no longer guilty, and becoming at one stroke a participant in the divinized power of the Anonymous. Now there is a good chance that the Anonymous may be the one who likes to say, I am Nobody . . .

    The crowd is the meeting place of men who are running away from themselves and their vocation. It is no one and it draws from this its assurance in crime. “Not a single soldier could be found to raise a hand against Caius Marius, that is the truth. But three or four women, under the illusion of being a crowd, so that perhaps no one would be able to say who had done it or who had begun, these are supposed to have had the courage! O what a lie! . . . For a crowd is an abstraction, which has no hands, but each isolated man normally has two hands, and when he lifts these two hands against Marius, they are his hands, not those of his neighbor, and not those of the crowd which has no hands.”

    Let us recognize herein Satan’s old, sempiternal tactic. On the occasion of the very first temptation in Eden he has recourse to the same and single artifice: making man believe that he is not responsible, that there is no Judge, that the Law is dubious, that no one will find out, and that besides once the thing succeeds, he himself will be God, hence master of fixing Right and Wrong as he wishes.

    “And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden.

    “And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?

    “And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden: and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.

    “And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree whereof I commanded thee, that thou shouldest not eat?

    “And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.

    “And the Lord God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.”

    You see: they go and hide, they are no longer there. And when they are caught, they say that someone else did it. Thus the men of our time, impelled by their “guilt complexes” and fleeing before the confession of their faults, go and hide among the trees in the crowd. In other words the ideal place in which one can always say, “Someone else did it!” And the place where one is surely farthest “from the face of the Eternal.”

    In order that there may no longer be any responsibility there must no longer be anyone. Now if I call and there is no answer, I say that there is no one there: the person in us is what answers for our acts, is what is “capable of response” or responsible; in a crowd there is no longer individual response; in order that there be no one responsible there need only be a mass. Satan will therefore create masses. Herein lies the secret of this grand strategy: to bring sin into mass production and rationalize soul-hunting.

    It must be admitted that almost all our technical inventions, most of our ideals, in short the general evolution of the time favor this Plan in a thousand ways. Everything, in the framework of our lives, conspires to deprive us of the feeling of being responsible persons. We all live more and more in a world of collective trance. We all participate more and more in forms of life foreign to our particular fate and our normal aptitudes. Through the motion pictures the modern individual becomes accustomed to experiencing vicariously adventures which do not happen to him. The radio, the press, mass meetings, invite him to take a measurable part—in imagination—in the great events which bring into conflict Nations, those personified abstractions, and Revolutions, incarnated by their Leaders.  All this contributes to uproot him from his own life, in which nothing similar would happen. As for the “heartaches and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to,” they appear more and more inacceptable with the spread of notions of indefinite Progress, of comfort at any price, of quick success, and with the dwindling of faith in a beyond which formerly enabled men to bear their ills in patience. On the one hand the modern individual is urged to regard his life as petty and to escape from it; on the other, he is swept by great collective emotions. This repulsion and this attraction work in the same direction. They impel man to seek occasions to become dispossessed from himself. They make each one of us a subject predisposed to collective hypnosis, a virtual victim of mass-passions. Wherever an individual becomes disgusted with his personal life, Hitlerism finds a candidate. To be sure, masses would not be possible, in the precise sense of a concentration of men, without the radio, loud-speakers, the press and rapid transportation. But these technical means have not done everything: man first made them, and it was not by chance that he made these and not others. The real causes and roots of the modern phenomenon of masses are in our spiritual attitude. The crowd is not only in the street. It is in the minds of the men of our time. It has its sources in the very heart of individual existences. And it is only here that one can expose it.




If the person is becoming lost in the modern world it is because the frames have grown too big. But why have we enlarged them, for a century, beyond all measure? Why do we clamor for bigness, for more bigness at any cost? If not precisely in order to lose ourselves in it!

    At the origin of all these too vast and too complex things that surround us without framing us and that oppress us more than they sustain us, there are no doubt rather precise reasons, all the famous economic, technical, social and financial “necessities.” But at the origin of these “necessities” themselves, I sense our obscure desire to flee into the irresponsible anonymous, and the very old temptation to compensate our anxieties by the utopia of the eritis sicut dii. 

    Now when we lose ourselves it is the Devil who finds us. And when in order to escape our condition we wish to become like gods, it is the Devil who welcomes us at the height of our ascension. As the history of the Tower of Babel reminds us, a history which is the great myth of our time.

    Although he is not mentioned in the account in Chapter Xi of Genesis, the Devil is quite obviously the chief Entrepreneur of the primitive Tower and of its modern replicas. (I am not alluding to the sky-scrapers, those big harmless toys, often grandiose and always a little silly but to the whole of our economic, political and urban enterprises.) Let us go back to that too little known story.

    “And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.” In other words, all was well. But here is the anxiety which is always the concomitant of temptation. “And they said, Go to, let us build us a city, and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.” You recognize Satan by that doubt which comes over them, by that need which they suddenly feel to assure themselves of their happiness, in the present case, their unity. And this is why they will lose that happiness, as Orpheus lost Eurydice for having wanted to assure himself that she was following him; through lack of faith. You recognize that romantic idea which he suggests to them: to do better than God, “to make a name for themselves,” to rise up to heaven by their own means in order to become gods in their own way. The result, which the Angel of perversity must have foreseen, is necessarily the opposite of what they wished. If you eat of the apple you shall not die, said the Serpent. They ate of it and they entered the realm of Time in which one dies. If we build ourselves a city we shall remain united, men say to themselves. They build it, and it is there precisely that “the Lord confounded their language”; it is at that point that “the Lord scattered them abroad upon the face of all the earth.”

    This memorable discomfiture is attributed by the biblical story to the anger of the Lord, “who came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men built. And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do!” It is as though he wants to punish them for being so stupid. But Dante imagines that they would have punished themselves of their own accord as well. They need only have been left to themselves! In his Treatise on Vulgar Eloquence, he proposes a quite natural explanation of the phenomenon of the confusion of tongues. If men no longer understood one another at the time of the construction of that first skyscraper, it was simply because the enterprise was too vast. In fact, in order to achieve the erection of the Tower they were obliged to divide into specialized crews. Some made the bricks which they used for stone, the others the slime which they used for mortar; still others were in charge of bringing up the material, others of building the walls, of making the framework, or rough-casting. Because of the vastness of the enterprise, these specialized crews lived apart from one another. With time they developed technical languages, occupational jargons, various kinds of slang, until at last they no longer understood one another. The multiplicity of language was born of the work itself. But this work soon began to slow down, then stopped, because no one was able to maintain control over the enormous entirety any longer, nor formulate its meaning in a common language.

    It seems to me that we have just about reached this point. The unprecedented anarchy of our vocabulary, in politics especially, would be enough to betray the absence of any common measure in our century. We have seen things in terms too large for our capacities, we have lost on the way the golden rule, the man-standard. And through having moved too fast in everything we have lost sight of the measure and the meaning of the final ends of the human task. The individual becomes lost in the vast and intricate machinery, he feels himself everywhere an exile. Unless he gets caught up in it by mistake, as happened recently in Illinois: some workers were putting up a prefabricated house with such rapidity that one of them remained stuck in the building, and a whole section had to be knocked down to get him out. Will it be necessary to destroy our world for man to be able to find himself again and rebuild for himself a dwelling to his own scale?

    The most noteworthy phenomenon of the beginning of the last century was, in fact, the abrupt expansion, or to put it better, the Babelization of the material framework of our life. The invention of machines suddenly increased possibilities of control over matter. Industry and commerce provoked the sudden creation of enormous cities, ten or a hundred times larger than those that had been known for thousands of years. Into these cities were compressed shapeless human masses, drowning and dissolving the groups organized around small enterprises. Riches, too, grew to such proportions that the eye could no longer measure them: they became abstract figures, distant powers, whose strange behavior economists began to study—a behavior more mysterious than that of the antediluvian monsters whose utter instability, incidentally, they shared. The population of Europe has more than doubled in a hundred years; its riches have multiplied tenfold; its industrial productivity a hundredfold. And the convergence of all these elements, finally, has provoked the creation of considerable armies, thereby suddenly extended the phenomenon of war to the proportions of the entire nation.

    Thus, by a sudden mutation, within the space of fifty to a hundred years, society has become too gigantic to be taken in at a single glance. A single intelligence can no longer understand and master its intricate mechanism. (And this is undoubtedly why one can with impunity give to the crudest and most ignorant the right to vote and to express their views on everything: it will make things no worse.) Then the vertigo of Babel takes hold of the human spirit. Like all vertigo it results from the incapacity to endure inhuman altitudes or dimensions. Like all vertigo, it can be expressed only in terms of contradiction. Never was man more powerful, and never, as an individual, has he felt more impotent. Never was he more learned, and never has he had the impression of understanding so little what is happening in his world. Never has he approached the goal of his Progress with greater fervor, nor has his barbarism ever shown itself better armed to destroy it. “Climb up!” says the Devil, “and become like gods, forget your human stature!” But the higher one climbs, the more easily one falls. As for those responsible, just try to find them! You will discover only committees, parties, trusts in bankruptcy, theories, isms, initials, an opinion which never knows anything, rulers who are too much afraid of opinion to inform it—a universal flight into anonymity, an enormous cacophony dominated by the sound of bombs.

    One of those articulately wise fools that one finds in cafes used to expound to me the following theory: the whole evil arises from building with more than one story. “As a matter of fact,” he would say, “a house should normally be made to shelter men. It is not natural to add stories to it. For in falling from the fifth floor, for instance, you kill yourself. But that would be nothing. What is serious is that the invention of stories has made large cities possible. Large cities have made possible the formation of masses. With the masses have arisen the great social problems. And these are at the origin of the wars of the twentieth century. The whole evil arises from houses with more than one story!

    To tell the truth, not a few of them are being levelled in these days.




The sum total of good and evil in each century may be presumed to be the same: our time is no worse than another, in spite of the triumph of Progress. Only the distribution of vices and virtues becomes modified, as the Devil renews the strategy of temptations. I believe, however, that a new mood, which might be said to be independent of our categories, manifests itself in the modern era. Beyond good and evil, we have discovered Boredom.

    Not the spleen of the romantic poets, not the blues. But that remark can be heard everywhere, “I don’t know why I go on living.”

    What does it betray, if not the weakening or the almost total extinction of the sense of a personal calling? Let us admit that everything conspires to this end in the collectivist and rationalized era. Everything contributes to the suppression of reasons for living not foreseen by the statistics of the State. But why are we becoming collectivized, if this is something we don’t really like? It must be that it somehow suits us—whatever may be the pretexts that the historians of materialistic economics offer us. We seek refuge in Boredom rather than accept the challenge of an unprecedented calling—for unprecedented they all are.

    Ah, what boredom! What to do and why do it? Go and ask the young people of today what is the meaning of their lives, why they cling to existence. One takes a job, it is simply a “job,” without qualification or intimate preference. The love of money—or the need of it—overshadows in most of them a fundamental mood of boredom, but this is still only a camouflage. One does this in order to do something, because there is no reason for doing one thing rather than another. . .

    When I hear someone saying, with a yawn, “What am I to do—I’m no longer interested in anything,” some remarks of Kierkegaard’s come to my mind: “How does one become a Christian? Take any rule of Christian conduct. Try to apply it.” For it is clear that this effort, if it be sincere, will reintroduce you into reality, where the true conflicts manifest themselves, where the lines of force of the spiritual or moral life appear, where the drama of a calling instantly sharpens: not even a second of boredom becomes possible any longer. And your complaint will be that you have only one life to lead.

    Boredom: the hunter reserve of the Demon. Because here anything can become tempting, if it is sufficiently intense or exciting, flattering, easy, and a pretext to flee from oneself . . . 




The whole evil comes from wishing to escape in order not to have to admit oneself responsible, whether one goes and hides among the trees in a foolish hope that God will forget us, or one climbs into the sky or inversely one sinks into bestial stupidity.

    Whether he goes and loses himself in the masses or in the enormous, whether he believes in science or invokes the mysterious, the man of today shows a constant and masochistic propensity to wish himself irresponsible. Everything serves him as an alibi, he uses everything to prove that he wasn’t there, that it wasn’t he, that he can’t do anything about it. His science says to him: you were determined, it’s not your fault; and his passion says to him: it was vital, there is no fault.

    Those of my contemporaries who look upon man as a complex of endocrine glands, enzymes and vitamins find it more and more difficult to conceive that moral judgment still has a meaning, and that the person exists as a whole, at once autonomous and responsible. Evil or “sin” in their view has ceased to be anything but the effects of a temporary or chronic disturbance in the flow of internal secretions. They have read this somewhere. Each time we discover a new mechanism of life we are immediately obsessed by the idea that it “explains everything.” A strange psychosis of modern man! What is more foolish than to pretend to explain the conduct and the moral decisions of a whole by the description of the functioning of some of its parts, always the most recent ones to be analyzed? Who can prove to you that your glands determine you more than you influence them? There is that ill-tempered man: you may say that it is his bad liver that makes him crabbed, but you know that a violent fit of anger also upsets the liver. Who began? Who is responsible for that evil decision? The man or his liver? We are much too interested in denying personal sin for me to grant the materialist hypothesis the right to call itself objective. It is too easy for me to discern the Devil’s hand in this.

    Indeed I am not accusing Science—nothing is less diabolical than an accurate observation—but only the sophisms that derive their authority from it. It is the Devil who interests me, and the pretexts which he offers us to justify our moral resignations. But in the matter of pretexts, there are better ones than science and its careless vulgarizations.

    The adjective vital, for example.

    In classic periods, a thing is considered true or false, good or bad. If you tell a lie, you know that you are lying, and you try not to get caught. If you do something bad, you try at least to exculpate yourself in relation to a truth and a good that are generally admitted. But our epoch has replaced the criteria of truth by values of intensity, and the respect for good by the respect for “life.” Everything that appears sufficiently intense henceforth ceases to have any relevance to truth or falsehood. It is admitted, in our day, that passion, emotion and even hysteria rightfully place you beyond good and evil. They free you from all obligation, they no longer need to justify themselves.

    I had sworn to be faithful, says a spouse, but I realize that it is incompatible with Life. I had signed this treaty, says a antion, but you see that it injures my vital interests. So naturally nothing holds any longer. But what is new is that we boast about it, with the support of all the novelists, journalists, philosophers and political doctrinaires. The French tribunals customarily acquitted crimes of passion. In the great periods the penalty would have been doubled. Let us limit ourselves to this passing observation: our respect for passion and for “life” are signs of the decadence of passions themselves and of true life.

    I here borrow from Andre Gide a penetrating and minute description of this shift from the true to the “vital” in the secret depth of a modern conscience:

    “But I was scrupulous and, before abandoning myself, the demon who was soliciting me had to convince me that what tempted me was permissible to me, that this permitted thing was necessary to me. Sometimes the Evil One would turn the propositions around, would begin by the necessary; he would reason thus, for the Evil One is the Reasoner, ‘How could what is necessary to you not be permitted to you? Why don’t you agree to regard as necessary what you cannot do without? It would give you great strength,’ he added, ‘if rather than wearing yourself our struggling thus against yourself you would only struggle against obstacles from without . . . Go, show that you are able at last to triumph over yourself and your own honesty . . .’ In short, he derived argument and advantage from what it would cost me to yield to my desire rather than hold it further in leash . . . It goes without saying that I understood only much later how diabolical this exhortation was. I believed then that I was the only one to speak and that this specious dialogue was one which I held with myself. I had heard speak of the Evil One, but I had not made his acquaintance. Even when he already inhabited me I did not yet distinguish him. He had made me his conquest; yes, I thought myself victorious; victorious over myself because I was surrendering to him. Because he had convinced me I did not feel myself vanquished.”

    This reasoning which the Evil One proposes to the individual conscience is the same, in every detail, that Hitler proposed to the German people! And that was called Lebensraum (living space) theory. “How could what is necessary to you be forbidden you? What is right, if not your greater thirst? It would give you great strength if, rather than wearing yourself out in keeping your agreements, you would only struggle against the foreigner who forced you to sign them. What is truth as against your dynamism? What is the rigid law against changing life? I shall tell you: “Recht ist was dem deutsche Volke nützt.” In other words, what is legal is what serves your interests.

    Is this not a place to ask ourselves how—in the name of what—our moralists of passion could have combated the nationalist doctrines?