I have to thank the proprietors and editors of the
The Nineteenth Century and After
for permission to republish these essaysU
SECRET SOCIETIESAND THE FRENCH REVOLUTION
“ The appalling thing in the French Revolution is not the tumult, but the design. Through all the fire andsmoke we perceive the evidence of calculating organisation. The managers remain studiously concealed andmasked ; but there is no doubt about their presence from the first.”Lord Acton : “ Lectures on the French Revolution,” p. 97.
THE spiritual life of nations, if it could be fully revealed, would alter manyof the judgments of posterity. New interpretations of ancient tragedies andcrimes, new motives for speech and action, new inspirations for revolutionand war might then present themselves for the consideration of the historian.If it needs divination to discern the aspiration and desire enclosed within theordinary human soul, how much more does it need divination to read arightthe principles and incentives that lay behind historic actions ? Diviners havenot written history, and professional historians have generally chosen to dealwith facts, rather than with their psychological significance. Because of thispreference, certain conventions have grown up amongst the writers of history, and certain obvious economic and social conflicts and conditionshave been accepted as the cause of events, at the cost of repudiating thatmystical and vague, but ever constant idealism, which spurs man on towardshis unknown destiny.Especially has this been the case in dealing with the origin of theFrench Revolution. Nearly all secular historians have ignored the secretutopian societies which flourished before its outbreak ; or have agreed thatthey had no bearing, direct or indirect, upon the actual subversion of affairs.Since the world has always been at the mercy of the idealists, and sincehuman society has ever been the object of their unending empiricism, it ishard to believe that the greatest experiment of modern history wasengineered without their co-operation. More than any other age does theeighteenth century need its psychologist, for more than any other age, if interpreted, could it illumine the horizons of generations to come.