By Alexandre Lefebvre
Contributors. Keith Ansell-Pearson, G. William Barnard, Claire Colebrook, Hisashi Fujita, Suzanne Guerlac, Vladimir Jankélévitch, Frédéric Keck, Leonard Lawlor, Alexandre Lefebvre, Paola Marrati, John Mullarkey, Paulina Ochoa Espejo, Carl energy, Philippe Soulez, Jim Urpeth, Melanie White, Frédéric Worms
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Additional info for Bergson, Politics, and Religion
And what effectively happens during a war? This: ‘‘Murder and pillage and perﬁdy, cheating and lying become not only lawful, they are actually praiseworthy’’ (ts 31/1000). ’’ Certainly morality has not lost its validity; it simply reveals that it was only valid for the members of a given society to the exclusion of others: it reveals their limits or closure through its own. Such is the very simple and literal deﬁnition of closed societies: ‘‘They may be very vast . . [but] their essential characteristic is none the less to include at any moment a certain number of individuals, and exclude others’’ (ts 31/1000; translation modiﬁed).
Who can gainsay Bergson on this point? But what is more often forgotten, and more seriously still, is that the very criterion of mysticism is to be sought, in the ﬁrst instance, within the openness that would thus be opposed, more than ever, to closure! We rightly seek to characterize the metaphysical implications of mysticism. We wonder about the distinction Bergson makes between mystics. And yet if there is one criterion of mysticism that ensures that not just anyone can call him- or herself a mystic, that ensures there can be no mistake about the matter, it is surely the distinction between the closed and the open.
It is their voice we hear when a great injustice has been done and condoned. From the depths of the centuries they raise their protest’’ (ts 76/1039). It is almost as if we were—and in our opinion we are—hearing Charles Péguy talking about Bernard Lazare during the Dreyfus affair. It is therefore indeed the opposition between the closed and the open that governs Bergson’s theory, both of religion as well as morality. Yet far from this opposition ﬁnding only a foundation in mysticism, it also ﬁnds a further difﬁculty: for while there have been mystics (without whom access to the distinction itself would have been impossible), once again they are both deﬁnitive and exceptional, unimpeachable and met with resistance.