[The Theosophist, Vol. II, No. 11, August, 1881, pp. 246-248]
The nefarious influence of the year 1881 is still asserting itself. The assassination of the President of the United States, General Garfield, follows the murder of the Emperor of Russia. The death of Rubinstein, the great pianist, but preceded that of Henry Vieuxtemps, the Belgian, the greatest violoncellist and composer of our century. And now comes that of Littré, one of the most brilliant scientific lights of France, and it is to him that we will now devote a few lines. But who next?
Maximilien Paul Émile Littré, the Academician, and Senator, the great French Lexicographer, born in the first year of our century, has just died in his eighty-first year. The eminent philologist (he knew Sanskrit, Hebrew, Greek and Latin to perfection) was a professed atheist all his life, and a warm friend of August Comte, as well as a prominent promoter of his doctrines of which he gives an excellent synopsis in his great work, La Philosophie Positive, and upon which he expounded, while defending them in a series of pamphlets. For years, owing to the intrigues of the Archbishop Dupanloup, the “fiery Bishop of Orleans,” and notwithstanding the eminent scientific achievements of the infidel savant, the doors of the Academy of Sciences were shut to him. The forty “Immortals” fearing to admit such a rank atheist lest the aristocratic Faubourg St.-Germain, and the Fish Market, in the face of their respective representatives of the fair sex—those ladies from the two opposite ends of the social ladder, having now remained the chief if not the
only pillars of the Roman Catholic clergy in Republican France—should stone them. In 1871, however, M. Dupanloup notwithstanding, the “Immortals” feeling themselves suffused with blushes for their cowardice, unanimously elected M. Littré to the Academical chair. We may add en passant, that they were rewarded for it by a fearful scandal created by the Archbishop, who cursed and anathematized his colleagues there and then and—withdrew, breaking forever with the Academy. To the last moment of his conscious life, the late Positivist remained true to his principles of negation. And now—he died . . . as the clerical papers triumphantly assert—a Christian!
According to the unanimous testimony of the Paris press, as soon as the octogenarian atheist had fallen in articulo mortis, and the agony had begun, the ever vigilant Jesuit Fathers, who had secured to their cause his wife and daughter, proclaimed the news that the atheist had just before that repented; and, without losing time, administered to him the rites of baptism and the viaticum. According to the Gaulois the friends and supporters of the dead philosopher were enraged beyond description at such proceedings, and the burial ceremony culminated in a public scandal. The clericals had endeavoured to make the entourage of the funeral as solemn and as theatrical as it was possible for them. Since early morning a priest was seen prostrated before the coffin which was surrounded by a whole army of the clergy who tried to crowd off from the church every infidel they could. They had no trouble to succeed, as none of Littré’s associates in atheism would enter it during the service, and M. Renan, the free-thinking author of the Vie de Jésus, Barthélemy Saint-Hilaire and a host of others stood outside. In the cemetery, when Mr. Viruboff, the intimate friend and literary partner of the defunct, desired to make a speech by his tomb, the clericals interrupted him with cries—“Respect to the bereaved family.” In answer, the Positivists, who numbered about two-thirds of the crowd—3,000 men strong—shouted “Vive la libre pensée! Vive la liberté!” (Long live Free Thought! Hurrah, for Liberty!), and regardless of the protest, Mr. Viruboff pronounced his
speech excusing the defunct before the Positivists on the grounds given above. The République Française vociferates against the clergy and tells its readers that it is they “of the long coats” who shouted “Down with the Republicans!” receiving in reply: “Down with the Jesuits! The church has committed a ravishment upon a dying man. . . . It is guilty of kidnapping!” etc. The presence of the President of the Republic of France served but to throw oil upon the fire. As a matter of course, the clergy who have before now tried their hand at claiming as their prize Thomas Paine and even Voltaire, will now sing victory more than ever. Thus the memory of an honest and a great man, who remained true to his convictions for over three score and ten [years]—will descend to posterity as that of a MORAL COWARD!
* * * * * *
Under the heading of “Forgiveness and Chastisement” the New Dispensation, comparing its members to Jesus when whipping out the money-changers from the temple, takes into its confidence, and proceeds to enumerate its painful but unavoidable duties to the world in general, and the infidels and sceptics especially. “To remove,” it says, “the plague” of infidelity and scepticism with which it feels “bound to remonstrate, JESUS-LIKE”(!)—
however painful the task, is a bounden duty, which no believer can shirk. The sharp knife of the surgeon must cut open the festering sore. The New Dispensation must chastise and heal all its enemies, of whatever class, and by administering strong medicines make them clean. This is not personal resentment, but healing and correction (!). He who does not ply his healing art, under God, is one of the worst foes of society and an opponent of the New Dispensation. Burn up every paper that breathes resentment as so much anti-Dispensation trash. Destroy also the entire literature of spurious toleration which flirts with infidelity and corruption, for it too is an enemy of God and . . . of the present Dispensation!!
The italics are ours—of course. But, oh, Cerulean Powers! . . . Has Calcutta established then—not even an internuncial see, for that would be only modest—but another R.C. Pontificality, with its Pontifex Maximus, the infallible Pope, with its Index Expurgatorius, its In Coena Domini, its Ipse dixit and the whole lugubrious cortège of Papal
appurtenances, for their women Hapless Babus, and still more unfortunate Brahmos, who gave up Sutti, but to accept auto-da-fé for themselves at some future day? It really would be worth learning though, how the Dispensationists come to such an infallibility and power. “Burn up every paper that breathes . . . anti-Dispensation trash”; “Destroy the entire literature . . . that flirts with infidelity” . . . “which is an enemy of the present Dispensation”! Forsooth, we have to be prudent, it seems, with these modern “Princes of Peace and Apostles of Forgiveness,” of “GOD’S DISPENSATION”! We know, for we are told so by themselves, that they have “no vindictiveness”; and being full of “forgiveness and love,” and rice and water, if they chastise at all, it is not out of “malice” but with the sole object of destroying “God’s enemies.” This is the language of the late Holy Inquisition—happily defunct. Our Dispensationists being prevented by law to burn their heretics, they proceed—always in a spirit of charity, of course—to chastise the “enemies of God” through little, vile and slanderous attacks upon the enemies’ private characters and even those of their daughters, attacks epitomized in “filthy and obscene correspondences,” in organs “under the distinguished patronage of the Prophet of the New Dispensation”—if we have to believe the Brahmo Public Opinion (July 7th). The magistrates who may or may not be anti-Dispensationists recognize the libel and chastise in their turn the weapon, the hand remaining prudently invisible. Thus acted the Consiglio dei Dieci—the terrible “Council of Ten” of the Venetian Doges of old, whose members remained ever invisible behind their masks in the presence of the accused to be “chastised,” brought before them in the secret hall of the Dogal palace, and who unveiled their faces, but when praying and glorifying God—publicly. . . .
The cycle is running down and brings back to us in its vortex the things that were—by faithfully reproducing them. So we had the Mosaic Dispensation, the tables of stone “written with the finger of God,” a charter signed and sealed by Jehovah himself. Then came the Christian Dispensation, written by authors unknown, and chartered by
Constantine. But our century presents us with two New Dispensations at once: the “Spiritual”—chartered by the “Angels,” and the “Babu-Keshubians,” also claiming a charter as the rest. Only our Dispensation, No. 4, is an evident improvement upon its predecessors, as its “Apostles” inform us; and a kind of Re-Revised Bible, with Renan’s Jesus in it, lined with Chaitanya and propped by Mohammed and Socrates. It is written on something as durable as the “tables of stones”—and as transcendental, namely, on the overheated tables of the grey matter of the “Minister’s” cerebellum. The sensory ganglia being abnormally excited at the expense of the hemispheres of the brain, hence—the delusion of a Missio in partes infidelium; that Mission to the unbelievers, the clear perception of which makes our Calcutta Prophet assume an authority and issue Bulls as if he had a whole host of celestial Sipahis with flaming swords behind his back to enforce them. Indeed, his newly established rite, that of baptism in a Calcutta “Jordantank” was a brilliant idea. Nothing can prove more beneficent to the members of the “New Church” than daily and full immersions in ice-cold water. The Arlington Co. ought to enter into immediate negotiations with the “Apostles” for furnishing them with pneumatic ice machines.