Les Miserables HTML version

Chapter 14
One last word.
Since this sort of details might, particularly at the present moment, and to use an
expression now in fashion, give to the Bishop of D---- a certain "pantheistical"
physiognomy, and induce the belief, either to his credit or discredit, that he entertained
one of those personal philosophies which are peculiar to our century, which sometimes
spring up in solitary spirits, and there take on a form and grow until they usurp the place
of religion, we insist upon it, that not one of those persons who knew Monseigneur
Welcome would have thought himself authorized to think anything of the sort. That
which enlightened this man was his heart. His wisdom was made of the light which
comes from there.
No systems; many works. Abstruse speculations contain vertigo; no, there is nothing to
indicate that he risked his mind in apocalypses. The apostle may be daring, but the
bishop must be timid. He would probably have felt a scruple at sounding too far in
advance certain problems which are, in a manner, reserved for terrible great minds.
There is a sacred horror beneath the porches of the enigma; those gloomy openings
stand yawning there, but something tells you, you, a passer-by in life, that you must not
enter. Woe to him who penetrates thither!
Geniuses in the impenetrable depths of abstraction and pure speculation, situated, so to
speak, above all dogmas, propose their ideas to God. Their prayer audaciously offers
discussion. Their adoration interrogates. This is direct religion, which is full of anxiety
and responsibility for him who attempts its steep cliffs.
Human meditation has no limits. At his own risk and peril, it analyzes and digs deep into
its own bedazzlement. One might almost say, that by a sort of splendid reaction, it with
it dazzles nature; the mysterious world which surrounds us renders back what it has
received; it is probable that the contemplators are contemplated. However that may be,
there are on earth men who--are they men?-- perceive distinctly at the verge of the
horizons of revery the heights of the absolute, and who have the terrible vision of the
infinite mountain. Monseigneur Welcome was one of these men; Monseigneur Welcome
was not a genius. He would have feared those sublimities whence some very great men
even, like Swedenborg and Pascal, have slipped into insanity. Certainly, these powerful
reveries have their moral utility, and by these arduous paths one approaches to ideal
perfection. As for him, he took the path which shortens,-- the Gospel's.
He did not attempt to impart to his chasuble the folds of Elijah's mantle; he projected no
ray of future upon the dark groundswell of events; he did not see to condense in flame