This presentation of Jean Borella’s work seems authorized by the fact that, in a “small” book entitled Symbolisme et Réalité, histoire d’une réflexion (“Symbolism and Reality, the story of a reflection”), 1997 (69 pages), he himself deemed it useful “to retrace the genesis of [his] reflection on sacred symbolism, […] in order to make its discourse more intelligible, by showing precisely to which questions this reflection has attempted to provide an answer”1.

Above all, because, although unfinished to date, it is truly a genuine work of art, a sine qua non for such an exercise. This work is as much a doctrine of symbolic realism (it is the symbol that makes the real known), offering at last a response to three centuries of rationalism and the reductionisms of Kantian criticalism, Marxism, Freudism and structuralism, as it is a metaphysics of the symbol, which should refute once and for all the Heideggerian critique of Western metaphysics2 and which, like the ”Petits Gris”3, sounds Le Retour de la Métaphysique.

It is on these two points, giving an overview of his generic approach and presenting a panorama of Jean Borella’s work, that we would like to focus this introduction.

A Philosophical Approach “Shaken Up” by the Incarnation

This approach is that of a philosopher4, that is, of every man who, for himself and for others, in “the cultural situation of his time, in which, moreover, the situation of earlier times is totalized and summed up” aims “to discover truth in its timeless essence”5.

But if Plato and Aristotle, as founders, remain the sources of all philosophy, we must also take into account this major novelty in the history of thought, unknown to Antiquity: the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ. This event, absolute and without equivalent for philosophy – but not philosophical in itself – has de facto, and whether we believe in it or not, relativized philosophy. What’s more, this historical emergence of the Incarnate Word, which transcends the intellectual horizon of human mentality precisely insofar as it is extra-philosophical, has determined philosophy, situating and instituting it in its own proper order, failing which it always runs the risk of “losing itself in the indefiniteness of its own (sophistic or Hegelian) discourse”6.

For this irruption is not some non-philosophical “outside”, but the Logos itself. From this stems all the philosophical theses or philosophies that have filled Christian thought and guided all philosophy, such as the existence of God, the immortality of the soul and the creation of the world. In particular, the Christian doctrine of creatio ex nihilo (God creates the very being of the creature), “making explicit the ontologically radical dependence of the creature on the pure divine Act of being”, will play “a considerable role in the question of analogy in general and that of the analogy of being.”7

“This is why Christian philosophy, and that of St. Thomas Aquinas in particular, can go further, in some respects, than those of Plato and Aristotle, not certainly in terms of the breadth of metaphysical vision (of which Plato provided, once and for all, the speculative icon), nor in terms of the rigor of conceptual language (which Aristotle established once and for all in its scientificity) [… ] but only insofar as it is expressly ordered to the fact of the incarnation of eternal Wisdom in Jesus Christ. “8

A Symbolic Starting Point

Jean Borella himself tells us (in Symbolisme et Réalité) that his thinking began, in 1950, with the reactions of young Christians around him to Pius XII’s proclamation of the dogma of the Assumption, affirming that “Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was raised in body and soul to heavenly glory”. ‘It must be a simple symbol’ was the type of reflection that triggered “the evidence of an answer: beyond the divisions and oppositions of analytical reason, stood the truth of reality, one in itself, inseparably historical and symbolic, visible and invisible, physical and semantic.”9

This discovery, this intuition, is that the real and the symbolic are not mutually exclusive, that the matter of bodies has an ontologically spiritual nature, without casting doubt on the reality of their corporeity, that perception reveals only one mode of the real (corporeity), which has others, and that the Assumption of Mary is neither exclusively historical nor exclusively symbolic10.

Conversely, the conviction of the reciprocal exclusion of the real and the symbolic can lead a Bultmann to claim “that sacred facts and miracles are physically impossible and theologically false”, so that we must, “to save our faith, interpret them as mere figures of religious discourse”! But, in so doing, Bultmano-modernist thinking is unaware of the paradigm that drives it: the conception of matter and physical reality derived from scientific materialism, an ideology that was already outdated a century ago (Relativity, quantum physics)11.

On the other hand, having ruled out materialism, classical realism and idealism, all three of which are incapable of saying what the reality of physical real is, we can become aware of the “mode of presence” that things are, and at the same time, their essence being only in the order of essence – i.e. in God – of their absence. “Thus, all beings, all realities, are at once archetypal prophecy (or revelation) (insofar as they realize a mode of presence) and archetypal reminiscence (or memorial) (insofar as every mode implies a certain absence of that which it modalizes): this is why every created being announces the archetype of which it is the manifestation and calls us, through the reminiscence it awakens in us, to go back to it.”12

It thus seems highly symbolic that it was the proclamation of the dogma of the Assumption that prompted this journey, since “in Mary ascending to heaven in her glorious Assumption”, we contemplate “existence ‘become one flesh’ with its essence”, we contemplate “human nature crowned with its eternal archetype”13.

Building a Borellian Ontology as Symbolic Realism

Making present the reality they signify while revealing their absence, the beings of creation are thus identified with symbols, and symbolic reality and physical reality are no longer opposed. The symbol is no longer an arbitrary sign (since it identifies with the reality it symbolizes), and physical reality is no longer a pure “being-there”, an impenetrable in-itself, since it is constituted in its subsistence – subsistentia14 – by an essence, a “semantic form”.

The symbol thus becomes the site of conversion from nature to culture (physical elements are inserted into a process of signification) and from culture to nature (the work of the mind is clothed in visible forms).

Affirming the ontologically symbolic dimension of every creature, this ontology is justified in being defined as symbolic realism: “it is the idea of symbol that enables us to think the idea of reality” 15.

This ontology can certainly be described as Borellian (since Jean Borella is responsible for its current particular formulation), or even Platonic (since it is the attested inspiration16 or “the irrefutable truth of Platonism” that is rediscovered17 or “Plato’s lesson”, provided it is rid of Platonism18 or “the central axis of his doctrinal perspective”19, etc.), but isn’t this rather the only ontology worthy of the name, the only one possible?

To show that beings are symbols, that being is analogical, that ontology itself is thus fundamentally analogical20; to show that its metaphysical foundation thus lies beyond being, in a meontology (meta-ontology or superontology) of Relation (God’s Relation to His Being, first of all), that Otherness is the inverse Analogue of Identity and the direct Analogue of the Affirmation of Identity, that supreme Identity, beyond essences, beyond Being and Non-Being, is pure Analogy21; isn’t this a definitive break with all systems of separation? Doesn’t this mean rediscovering, in this semanticity of being, “the unity of being and knowing, the ontonesis where being and knowing are indissociably unified”?22

Genesis and ‘Way of the Cross’ of Sacred Symbolism: A Metaphysics of the Symbol

Ontological thinking about the being-symbol is thus born of a philosophical approach that is open to the whole world (its naturalness and supernaturalness), rejecting all the reductionisms represented by the various conceptions of the world that rely on a reciprocal exclusion of the real and the symbolic.

But a metaphysical intuition may well be reached, it remains for the philosophical work to elaborate it and for the philosopher to share it. It is the history of this elaboration, and of its confrontation with the paradigms and mentality of the Western intelligentsia, that we would like to summarize and characterize here23.

Literalism and Rationalist Demythologizing: Naive or Learned Fideisms

Born of the proclamation of a dogma, the intuition of the being-symbol led us to reject two pitfalls:

  • Literalism, which, in an attempt to save the truth of revelation, denies all symbolism. His relationship with faith characterizes the naive fideist and his exclusive adherence to the letter of the text;
  • Demythization, which, by exiling the religious from history and human existence, transforms religious symbols into a “way of speaking”. His relationship with faith characterizes the rationalist fideist and his rejection of the letter of the sacred text for its unconsciously mythical nature. This faith, emptied of all content, is reduced to its own affirmation.

For these two fideisms, the real is identified with the material order and the symbolic is its fictitious substitute. While the naïve fideist invokes the miracle for events contrary to physical laws, the learned (or Bultmannian) fideist thinks it can save faith by rejecting, “as mere figures of religious discourse”, sacred facts and miracles (since they “are physically impossible and theologically false” – sic).24

Religious Historicism Brought Down by the Physics Revolution

Paradoxically, it was when this scholarly fideism became the “Bultmano-modernist tornado” that its paradigm – the idea of the substance of the world derived from scientific materialism – was blown away by the revolution in physics (Relativity and quantum physics), calling into question the concept of matter and that of physical reality.

Unfortunately, this first tornado, although unfounded by the second, nevertheless threatened “to sweep away everything from the Catholic faith”, precisely because “the edifice of Christian thought” was too much built on the “principle of the reciprocal exclusion of the real and the symbolic” and because “since the sixteenth century, and especially from the end of the seventeenth century onwards, the most official Catholic (or Protestant) exegesis, repudiating the spiritual meaning of Scripture – in contrast to patristics and the Middle Ages – had devoted itself exclusively to proving the historicity of what, in the divine word, could reasonably be wrested from the mythical.”25

And so there remains the paradox, emblematic for Bultmann, of the rejection of “New Testament mythology” in the name of a conception of science that is itself no more than a myth”26.

Materialism and the Realism-Idealism Alternative Displaced by an Ontology of Essence and its Corporeal Existence

While materialism cannot say what the reality of physical real is (since, at best, it observes a so-called physical reality and decides that there is nothing to look for beyond this observation), the realism-idealism alternative only makes sense if there is no reality other than matter, if there are no modes of reality other than the material mode.

But isn’t “essence, as an intelligible, transpatial and transtemporal unity” – the lion-essence or the oak-essence, for example – an even more real reality than the corporeal example – such a lion, such an oak – that it survives? Hence the presence of corporeal things (immanence of their archetype) and, at the same time, their relative absence (transcendence of their essence)27.

The Symbol Bridges the Gap Between the Order of Nature and the Order of Culture

Identifying creature and symbol means moving from the order of nature to the order of culture, in the opposite direction to that which consisted in starting from the sacred fact, studying its rationalist negation to discover the materialist ontology on which it was based, and then realizing that this scientistic ideology was outdated.

The symbol thus becomes the point of passage both from nature to culture: meaning of physical elements (shapes, colors…) and “analogical correspondence between the physical nature of the symbolizing element and the metaphysical nature of the symbolized reality”; and from culture to nature: the work of the mind, the “sign, takes on visible forms, becomes flesh and becomes a (mysterious) thing among things”.

“The symbol is the key to ontology”28.

Religious Discourse Gives Rise to Philosophical Hope

The symbol is certainly the key to ontology, but it must make itself known as a symbol. It must be recognized as a particular entity, neither a mere thing (drowned among other things) nor a mere concept (lost in the mental universe of the psyche). To this end, it must not refer to what is directly knowable according to common experience (the indications of a road sign or common language), and it is “only religious discourse where the pure symbol can be ‘discovered'”.

Indeed, when the text announces that “the Word is in the Principle”, or tells us of “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”, we are referred to nothing we can see or imagine. “The only place […] is the sign itself”, and such a sign, “which refers to nothing cosmic, is a pure symbol, […] a residual entity irreducible to anything in the world.” To experience it is to access “the awareness that ‘there is symbolism‘, and thus to be able to access the intelligibility of being”. The knowledge of faith […] consists in adhering to the symbol, that is, in “knowing in the symbol”.

Religious discourse then offers philosophical discourse “the model on which to think about the act of knowing”. Since to know is to know what is, and our senses only present us with changing realities, “we must learn to grasp the identity of being in the otherness of becoming, to perceive essence in existence” as that which “gives it its subsistence (subsistentia).”

Knowing “essences through the experience of symbols and ‘going back’ inside the sensible to the intelligible that founds it” is not all. We are also led “to discover the sensible in the intelligible […], existence finally reconciled and reintegrated into its essence.” This “reversal is demanded by metaphysical knowledge” and “what the philosopher wants […], total and perfect knowledge […], the fulfillment at last of the promise inscribed in the very substance of his intelligence”, is to unite with what he knows.

“For it is not enough to know what is, we must also be what we know. But how can we know that which is, if it is absent from the corporeal realities of which we are, without abstracting ourselves through ecstasy or death? If the corporeal – limited, contingent, historical – remains unintelligible, all philosophy is in vain, and with it human intelligence. But if the nature of intelligence lies in its “instinct for the Real”, in its hope for total Being, then the perfection of knowledge is indeed this unity of the knowing and the known (their common act, says Aristotle), and therefore of the knowing as such and the known as such. It is this metaphysics of symbolic being – which is discovered through religious discourse – that enables philosophical logos (thought, discourse) not to be a discourse completely disconnected from reality or floating above it, relying solely on its internal coherence to dare to hope to reflect it more or less; put positively, this metaphysics of symbolic being enables, on the contrary, “intelligence and faith, philosophy and religion, reason and revelation”.29

The “Critique of Symbolic Reason” and the Destitution of Reason

Such a metaphysical truth is not easy to share. As Henri Gouhier points out, if philosophies of truth and philosophies of reality are to be distinguished, the former will seek causes to demonstrate truth, and the latter the source to show reality: “the source is on the plane of reality what the cause is on the plane of truth”.30

Unable to demonstrate this metaphysics – “to explain rationally a certain symbolism would be tantamount to reducing the mythos to the logos” and thus annihilating it – it remains “to establish its legitimacy in the eyes of critical reason”.

The prerequisite is to establish a solid foundation: to define the symbol properly, while rejecting the invasive theses of structuralism; this is what Le Mystère du signe (“History and Theory of Symbol”) does, after a “technical elaboration” and according to a “philosophical shaping”.

It then becomes possible to “bring modern reason to accept the necessity of this metaphysics”, by showing it the dead-ends to which the rejection of sacred symbolism leads; this is what La crise du symbolisme religieux does. The reasoning is as follows:

  • “To deny that sacred forms are messages from the Transcendent is necessarily to make them mere unconscious productions of human consciousness”;
  • Whatever the genesis of this process of alienation, it constitutes “a rigorously contradictory thesis”: indeed, how could this alienation of supposedly universal consciousness (“the hidden principle of its genesis resides in the structural situation of this consciousness”) “miraculously” escape the consciousness of the person formulating this thesis – allowing it to make sense?
  • The illusion of the sacred is therefore no longer structural or universal, since it suffers from exceptions;
  • The so-called “inescapable religious alienation” has therefore not been explained by a structural and universal reason;
  • On the other hand, the unjustifiable claim of the “revelators of alienated consciousness” to escape this universal alienation has been revealed;
  • And, in addition to the contradiction of his thesis, we have also revealed that of the impossible prophet whose “revelation consists precisely in declaring that all revelation is an illusion, like a man who proclaims: ‘the word does not exist'”31.

From Impossible Rational Explanation to Conversion

If the rational explanation of symbols is impossible, it’s because, “more radically, it’s not (common) reality that interprets the symbol, but the symbol that forces us to interpret this reality, to see it differently from the reductive appearance it takes on in our eyes, and to go beyond it”.

Since “the existence of sacred symbols is resistant to any rational explanation, what can be the attitude of philosophical intelligence towards these monsters, whose disquieting strangeness becomes more apparent as reason expels them from itself and purifies itself of them? I can’t think of any other than conversion to symbols.

And to convert to the symbol is to agree to follow it in its questioning of reality, “to agree to enter with it into the metaphysical conversion of reality”, it is “to open oneself to the transfiguration of the flesh of the world, of which it is the prophetic witness and saving initiator.”

“In this conversion, the conflict between reason and faith, between the universality of logos and the contingency of religious cultures, is resolved: here, meaning unites with being, informal intelligence unites with sacred forms, dies in them and rises again by transfiguring them. The impossible speculative suicide of an illusorily demystified reason is answered by the sacrifice of an intellect that finds its fulfillment only in the crucifying mediation of the symbol, as the mystery of the Easter Night teaches us, by way of example”.32


Anagogical work according to a mythos-logos dialectic

Summed up in La crise du symbolisme religieux, the mythoslogos dialectic (a dialectic whose role is to lead the intellect to deifying contemplation33 is itself, under the grace of the Spirit, the anagogical power (the act of anagogy being, literally, “the ascent upwards”) of Jean Borella’s entire work.

  • The book highlights the unnoticed and constitutive contradiction of modern (“modernist”) theses, from Spinoza, Hegel, Feuerbach, Marx, Freud, Lévi-Strauss, to Foucault, Derrida… which, in three quite distinct ways, by eradicating mythos (the symbolic), directly negate logos (the intelligence that speaks within us), thus rendering “established, per absurdum, the essential conjunction of logos and mythos”34, before logos can be converted to mythos.
  • Without being too schematic, we can see that, around the “rupture” constituted by the “explanatory guide” Symbolisme et réalité, texts featuring mythos and those focusing on logos alternate.

In the former, the mythos, as Christian Mystery, is confronted in turn with its doctrine (Love and Truth: The Christian Path of Charity), the three types of heresy that threaten it (The Sense of the Supernatural), esotericism (Guénonian Esoterism and Christian Mystery) and the great modes of theology (Lumières de la théologie mystique/”The Lights of Mystical Theology”).

In the latter, of a more specifically philosophical nature, the logos plunges in turn into the intelligence of the symbol (Le mystère du signe/”History and Theory of Symbol”), then into that of analogy (Penser l’analogie/”Thinking the Analogy”), as “the deciphered symbol is transformed into the analogy that constituted it”35 and, in between, confronts modern philosophies until, as indicated, the logos is converted to the mythos, intelligence to the symbol (The Crisis of Religious Symbolism).

Whether the starting point is mythos or logos, the mythoslogos dialectic is obviously at the heart of each of these works, where logos is systematically invited to convert to mythos. This is true in Love and Truth – the book most focused on the Christian mystery – where the intelligence is converted to the Christian symbol; it is also true in Penser l’analogie – undoubtedly the most philosophical book – where we read: to enter into superknowledge/overrecognition, the Pauline “epignosis“, we must “have renounced all knowledge, even the very knowledge of the Ideas”36. This means that “the metaphysician intelligence must commit itself concretely to faith in the revealed God: without revelation, there is no divine Object”; “and without a divine Object […], no deliverance is possible, since any pilgrimage towards a light that is then absent is forbidden. The intellect must perform a kind of sacrificium intellectus, it must bury itself in faith as in the death of Christ Logos, but it is to be reborn with him”.37

It is also worth noting that it was crucial for the first book to focus on Christian doctrine (particularly Trinitarian theology). How can we begin to say before we know, to explain before we understand? The very order of the four confrontations of the Christian mystery: doctrine (Love and Truth), heresies (The Sense of the Supernatural), esotericism (Guénonian Esoterism and Christian Mystery) and mystical theology (Lumières de la théologie mystique/”The Lights of Mystical Theology”) is not neutral; it reflects the three moments of the “theological-mystical” ascent:

  • affirmative theology (what doctrine is),
  • negative theology (what it is not: heresies, esotericism),
  • and mystical theology (the non-modal mode of communion with the mystery).

It was therefore not at all fortuitous that these two works, which show what Christianity is not, were published so close together (1986 & 1990). The first (The Sense of the Supernatural) frees its essence from the heresies that beset it (as attacks “from outside”), while the second (Guénonian Esoterism and Christian Mystery) protects its existence from the drifts that threaten it (attacks “from within”).

To conclude on the infallible continuum of the work, let us point out that the first work, Love and Truth, which arose in the face of the magnitude of the post-conciliar Reformation and the deviation of charity into worldly activism38, to discover the secret of Charity in the light of Trinitarian theology39 – this first work, then, already heralded (from its 1979 edition) the preparation of “Fondements métaphysiques du Symbolisme sacré”40, which, in fact, would give rise to a first work under the title : Le mystère du signe, ten years later in 1989, followed by its complement: La crise du symbolisme religieux (The Crisis of Religious Symbolism) the following year, while awaiting the now-abandoned publication of an integral and recapitulative Métaphysique du symbole (consisting of three parts: ontology, noetics and ritualism, cf. Le mystère du signe, n. 4, p. 87 and cf. infra Chapter 11. “Le signe symbolique”, Article 2. “L’eidétique du symbole”, § 4. “De l’essence du symbole”)).

To achieve its goal, such a doctrine will therefore have followed “all the way”:

  • It will have originated in the Mysterium caritatis: “pneumatization of the intellect”, “alchemical ferment of our deification”41 and “substance in all degrees of its reality” justifying the duality of beings42 (La Charité profanée).
  • It will be rooted in the history, analysis and mystery of the symbol, where the latter will prove to be a “semantic operator”: producer of meaning, transformer of ontology into semantics, fecundator of intelligence and “consumer” of “the substance of the world in order to bring it back to its Principle”43 (Le mystère du signe re-ed. Histoire et théorie du symbole).
  • It will have confronted three centuries of rationalism, discovering that “the semantic principle” condemns us to the path of a metaphysics of symbolism, the primary sector of speculative knowledge, “entitled to claim the central place in philosophical thought”44 (The Crisis of Religious Symbolism).
  • It will have freed itself from the three natures of heresy that threaten it to recover the sense of the sacred and Scripture as symbol, as well as to “commit us to willing our own ontological finitude”, fulfilling the Will of the Father45 (The Sense of the Supernatural).
  • It will also have freed itself from esotericism – some of it tawdry – and, in particular, will have “restored” the initiatory value of the sacraments in the face of Guenonian “initiatory demiurgy”46 (Guénonian Esoterism and Christian Mystery).
  • It will be further refined in the study of analogy, that “soul” of the symbol, and, going back along the Platonic dialectic, will have led us to the mystery of supreme Analogy, where lies hidden the mystery of the creation of the world: the sensible world which, through all the non-being with which it is mingled, bears witness to the still illusory character of the intelligible world of which it is the direct reflection47 (Penser l’analogie).
  • Finally, purified in the light of mystical theology, it will have led us, by the anagogic virtue of symbols, into “the Passover of the theological intellect”: “death of affirmative concepts” and resurrection of the intellect that has consented to its own effacement/deletions [“the intelligence that closes its eyes” Dionysian]: gnosis through nescience48 (Lumières de la théologie mystique).

A five-stage presentation of the work

The core of the work is undoubtedly this mysticism or metaphysics of the Christian mysteries (cf. Love and Truth, Penser l’analogie, The Sense of the Supernatural, Lumières de la théologie mystique…), that is to say, it offers us the opportunity, if the Spirit is blowing at the time, of an intelligence of the mystery, where the intellective act is abolished in its intuitive being and the intellect becomes one with the intelligible, surpassing all noetic operation (order of knowledge which therefore implies a certain speculativity).49

We therefore propose to move towards this center in four stages (the first four parts), each of which, for us, constitutes a major passage in Borellian thought:

A thought on the history of thought

This first part is an opportunity, in four chapters of unequal size, to present as frescoes – eloquent and synthetic – either moments in history, or histories of particular moments, such as Jean Borella knows how to paint them:

  • the post-Parmenidian Sophistic rupture and the Plato-Aristotle “complementary” alternative (cf. Penser l’analogie, The Crisis of Religious Symbolism),
  • a history of the four regimes of reason (cf. Lumière de la théologie mystique)
  • the three-stage murder of symbolism by the critical rationalism of the last three centuries (cf. The Crisis of Religious Symbolism),
  • and the advent of a certain ideological Christianity through the three possible types of heresy (cf. The Sense of the Supernatural).

Indeed, the work could not fail to situate itself in relation to what might be called the major currents of thought in the history of thought, and, in particular, to refer to the dual source of all philosophy: Aristotle for the organization of discourse and its scientificity, and above all Plato, for the metaphysical foundation of the content of discourse.

The Relative Positions of Philosophy and Science, Esotericism, Ontology, Theology, Mysticism and Metaphysics in Relation to Gnosis

This second part will enable us to situate precisely what we’re talking about, a pedagogical concern that is always present in the work of Jean Borella, philosopher and teacher, even when it’s only a question of etymology, lexicology, philology or the immediate definitions of essential technical terms (cf. Le mystère du signe, Guénonian Esoterism and Christian Mystery, Lumières de la théologie mystique, Penser l’analogie, Love and Truth, as well as a selection of articles on gnosis published by magazines such as “La Pensée catholique” or Krisis).

The Metaphysics of Relation

In this third part, we’ll tackle the theory of the symbolic sign (and its refutation of the analyses and theses of structuralism), through which we see the symbol that “not only ‘gives to think'”50, but moreover “gives thought to itself”51 (cf. Le mystère du signe, The Crisis of Religious Symbolism) then analogy – “the key to the symbol” because it had become a symbol by taking on sensible forms – will appear “as the ‘place’ of the unity and distinction of essence and existence, for a given being”52 (cf. Penser l’analogie).

Man’s Innate Senses and Metaphysical Capacity.

This fourth part will present the three senses, which could no doubt be shown to be one and the same, and which are, depending on the context in which they are discovered: the sense of the supernatural, the sense of the real and the sense of meaning.

  • The sense of the supernatural enables man to escape from the forced sub-human status of “totalitarian humanisms” (cf. The Sense of the Supernatural),
  • A sense of the real enables us to escape from the sophistical confinement of empty discourse (cf. Penser l’analogie),
  • The sense of meaning allows us to take evidence of the Logos and to convert intelligence to symbol (cf. The Crisis of Religious Symbolism).

Metaphysics of the Christian Mysteries.

Initially, the fifth part was intended to present only a few key elements of a metaphysics of the Christian mysteries, as they are presented in Love and Truth (here, chapter 18, Metaphysics of the Christian Mystery). However, we felt it would be useful to introduce this quintessence of Christianity with the two essential steps backward: first, a reflection on the problematic of the unity of religions (chapter 16, Problématique de l’unité des religions; cf. “Intelligence spirituelle et supernaturel”53 and “Problématique de l’unité des religions”54 and, secondly, the basis of metaphysical “access” to the beyond of being (chapter 17, L’Au-delà de l’être; cf. Le mystère du signe, The Crisis of Religious Symbolism, Penser l’analogie).


  1. Symbolisme et Réalité, p.8.[]
  2. As for its non-impossibility, to say the least.[]
  3. Brothers of the Saint-Jean congregation (Notre-Dame de Rimont), founded by Father Marie-Dominique Philippe as an echo of Jacques Maritain’s ‘metaphysics is more useful than coal’ and because ‘if intelligence can say nothing about God, Revelation becomes poetry’; cf. Samuel Pruvot, in France Catholique n° 2875, March 28, 2003, entitled “Le retour de la métaphysique” / “The Comeback of Metaphysics”[]
  4. A Christian philosopher, not a Christian philosopher (cf. Symbolisme et Réalité, p. 63 ), for it is necessarily the logos that is ordered to the mythos that founds it, and not the other way round (see section 6).[]
  5. Symbolisme et réalité, p. 7.[]
  6. Penser l’analogie (“Thinking the analogy”), pp. 15-16.[]
  7. Ibidem, p. 16.[]
  8. Ibidem, pp. 17-18.[]
  9. Symbolisme et réalité, pp. 11-12.[]
  10. Ibid., pp. 12-13.[]
  11. Ibid., pp. 14-15, 19-20.[]
  12. Ibid., pp. 23-27.[]
  13. Ibid., p. 47.[]
  14. Jean Borella proposes to write “subsistence” (from the Latin subsistentia) with an e, when the term designates the fact of subsisting (permanence in being), to distinguish it from man’s means of sustenance (in French “Subsistance” with an a; food) and military stewardship (cf. Lumières de la théologie mystique (“The Lights of Mystical Theology”), p. 86, n.1 83).[]
  15. Symbolisme et réalité, pp. 29-32.[]
  16. La crise du symbolisme religieux (“The Crisis of Religious Symbolism”), p. 14[]
  17. Symbolisme et réalité, p.23.[]
  18. Penser l’analogie, IVe partie, chapitre XII, section 1, p. 162[]
  19. La Charité profanée (“Love and Truth”), p. 32, n. 1.[]
  20. Penser l’analogie, p. 127.[]
  21. Ibid., pp. 92 & 213.[]
  22. Lumières de la théologie mystique, p. 112.[]
  23. For the period from 1950 to 1997, the date of publication of Symbolisme et réalité, we are of course greatly helped by this “explanatory guide”, in a way summarized here.[]
  24. Symbolisme et réalité, pp. 13-15.[]
  25. Ibid., pp. 17-18.[]
  26. Ibid., p. 20.[]
  27. Ibid., pp. 23-26.[]
  28. Ibid., pp. 29-33.[]
  29. Ibid., pp. 33-46 (the whole of this section).[]
  30. Henri Gouhier, La philosophie et son histoire (“Philosophy and its history”), Librairie Philosophique J. Vrin, Paris, 2nd edition, 1948, “Philosophies de la réalité et philosophies de la vérité” (“Philosophies of reality and philosophies of truth”), p.30.[]
  31. Symbolisme et réalité, pp. 53-57.[]
  32. The crisis of religious symbolism, p. 14 (French edition).[]
  33. Penser l’analogie, p. 140.[]
  34. The Crisis of Religious Symbolism, p. 14 (French edition).[]
  35. Penser l’analogie, p. 209.[]
  36. Penser l’analogie, p. 189.[]
  37. Ibid., n. 25, p. 189.[]
  38. Against the: “Whosoever therefore would be a friend of the world maketh himself an enemy of God” (Jc., 4:4); hence the original book’s subtitle: “Subversion of the Christian Soul”[]
  39. La Charité profanée, p. 32.[]
  40. Ibid., p. 4.[]
  41. La charité profanée, p. 414.[]
  42. Ibid., p.419.[]
  43. Le mystère du signe, p. 265.[]
  44. The Crisis of Religious Symbolism, pp. 332-333 (French ed.).[]
  45. The Sense of the Supernatural, p. 248 (French ed.).[]
  46. The Sense of the Supernaturel, p. 248 (French ed.).[]
  47. Penser l’analogie, p. 214.[]
  48. Lumières de la théologie mystique, p. 108.[]
  49. Ibid.., p.112.[]
  50. “Symbol gives to think” is Paul Ricœur’s expression; the symbol does much more (cf. infra Chapter 12.[]
  51. Symbolism and Reality, p. 51 (French ed.).[]
  52. Penser l’analogie, p. 127.[]
  53. in Éric Vatré, La droite du Père, Enquête sur la Tradition catholique aujourd’hui, Trédaniel, 1994.[]
  54. Afterword to : Bruno Bérard, Introduction à une métaphysique des mystères chrétiens, à la lumière de ses commentateurs anciens et modernes, en regard des Traditions bouddhique, hindoue, islamique, judaïque et taoïste, L’Harmattan, 2005, Imprimatur du diocèse de Paris.[]