Jean Borella, the Metaphysical Revolution

Post Galileo, Kant, Marx, Freud, Derrida

Bruno Bérard

Apostil by Jean Borella

The book is in French – here a translation of key elements in English.

The ‘metaphysical revolution’ is to stop thinking with words, to let the ‘ideas’ be thought in us; it is to convert the intelligence to the symbol and thus discover that metaphysics itself is subordinated to revelation. And it is Jean Borella, through his work—over 50 years already—who guides us here on the path of this conversion.

Jean Borella (1930) is a “revolutionary philosopher”. Could we, in fact, still do a work of metaphysics after the series of reductions: physical (Galileo), philosophical (of Kant, Heidegger or Derrida), sociological (from Marx to Lévi-Strauss), psychological (of Freud or Lacan), or even (pseudo) theological (Küng, Drewermann)?

Well yes! The work of Jean Borella testifies to this possibility; it is this very possibility, at the end of a simple revolution of the thought of knowledge.


  1. INTRODUCTION: An Approach and a Work
  2. FIRST PART. A Thought from the History of Thought

    1. 1. The Post-Parmenidean Sophistic Break and the ‘Complementary’ Plato-Aristotle Alternative
    2. 2. A History of the Four Regimes of Reason
    3. 3. The Three-Step Murder of Symbolism by the Critical Rationalism of the Last Three Centuries
    4. 4. The Advent of a Certain Ideological Christianity Through the Three Types of Heresies
  3. SECOND PART. The Relative Situs of Philosophy and Science, of Esotericism, Ontology, Theology, Mysticism and Metaphysics with Regard to Gnosis

    1. 5. Philosophy and Science, the Epistemic Closure of the Concept
    2. 6. Esotericism, Metaphysics and Gnosis
    3. 7. Gnosis and Gnosticism
    4. 8. Theology, Ontology, Onto-Theology and Metaphysics
    5. 9. Mystique, the Integral Way
    6. 10. The Four Modes of Theology
  4. THIRD PART. The Metaphysics of Relationship

    1. 11. The Symbolic Sign
    2. 12. Metaphysics of Analogy
  5. FOURTH PART. The Innate Senses of Man and his Metaphysical Capacity

    1. Introduction: Intelligence and Reason, the Psychic and the Spiritual
    2. 13. The Sense of the Supernatural
    3. 14. The Sense of Reality
    4. 15. The Sense of Meaning
  6. FIFTH PART. Metaphysics of the Christian Mysteries

    1. 16. Issue of the Unity of Religions
    2. 17. Beyond Being
    3. 18. Metaphysics of the Christian Mystery
  7. CONCLUSION: The Metaphysical Revolution
  8. Apostille from Jean Borella


Article 1. The semantic experience

“If, as Kant argues, intellectual intuition ‘were not ours’, the illusion of direct and living access to essence could not even arise.” If there is an illusion, it cannot be in perception, but only in the conviction that our being is equal to our vision.

Every intelligence, in the act by which it conceives what the essence of a thing is, experiences a semantic experience, an experience of meaning or of the intelligible, without which it could not form its concept. The concept is not purely and simply abstracted from the thing, it must first of all make sense, constitute an intelligible unity, the intelligence recognizes it because it makes sense of it. There is no other “criterion of truth” than this recognition, this acquiescence of intelligence, its experience in accordance with its own intellectual nature.

This moment when intelligence passes from potency to act, cannot be acquired, nor taught, nor demonstrated; it is intuitive, direct, cannot be generated. At first glance, we could say that only the non-contradictory is intelligible (we will not understand a square-circle), but ultimately this is only the extrinsic condition of intellection. The act of intellection itself is the grasping of the essence in its “likeness” (ainsity), in its own nature, its content as such; it is then an intuitive and synthetic act of contemplation, of the revelation of essence as meaning, of suchness (ainsity) as meaning. This is intrinsic intelligibility: what “makes sense” for intelligence, what awakens in it a “semantic echo”, what “says something to it”, what “speaks to it”.

We designate by agent intellect, this act of the intellective nature as such, which illuminates intelligibly the things that the patient intellect receives. And when the patient intellect sleeps, in the sleep of “ignorance of all things, the agent intellect wakes, solitary, in the pure light of the Logos”.

This semantic experience of suchness is so radical and so original that it escapes our notice. And yet, it is this suchness that allows us to semantically welcome all the forms of which we had no idea a priori, which we were unable to imagine, and which are revealed to us by sensory experience. Suchness gives us the rose as ‘rose’ and, “although we cannot call the rose anything other than ‘rose’, our experience of it is perfectly distinct and recognizable in its unspeakable and obscure identity”.

Obscurity, because what is given to intelligence is not the very being of essence but essence as meaning. Because if the “semantic presence” of the essence comes in the intelligence, its reality is in God only. “For now we see in a mirror, darkly,” says St. Paul (1 Cor., 13:12).

This experience is the common act of the one who receives meaning (intelligence) and intrinsic intelligibility (the rose), union of subject and object, but semantic union only and not ontological. For “it is not essence which is outside of existence, it is existence which is outside of essence, and which is this very ‘outside’ (ex-sistere = stay out of). This is why, if the first is immediately present to the second, the second, when it comes to man, is present to the first (first noetically, then really) only by means of a mediation and a revealed mediation, that is to say a form in which the essence has become existence so that existence regains its essence: “No one comes to the Father except through me” (Joa., 14:6)” (cf. Guenonian esotericism and Christian mystery, chap. II, § IV – “The intuition of essence as semantic experience”).

Notice of publication

To provide us with an overview of this major thinking, Bruno Bérard has chosen to present a ‘synthesis’, exclusive of any commentary, in the form of a very orderly patchwork.

Thus, a first part gathers the frescoes, from 3000 years of history of thought and painted by Jean Borella: the sophistic crisis and the responses of Plato and Aristotle, the four historical regimes of reason, the murder of symbolism within three centuries …

A second part brings together the definitions of these types (and modes) of knowledge that constitute philosophy and science, esotericism, ontology, theology, mysticism and metaphysics, all fields whose names we know well, but whose specific fields and interrelationships become less precise as soon as we have to explain them.

The third part allows us to enter into a metaphysics of the relation, with, on one hand, a theory of the symbol, which not only ‘gives thought’ (Paul Ricœur) but even more ‘gives thought to itself’ (Borella) and, on the other hand, a metaphysics of analogy, which turns out to be the key to the symbol, because it had become a symbol by taking on sensible forms.

The fourth part, the most anthropological one, can then show us the triple metaphysical sense of man: sense of the supernatural, sense of reality and sense of meaning, a ‘place’ where intelligence must convert to symbol.

Finally, the fifth part, after having shown the unacceptable consequences of what would be a transcendent unity of religions and the different accesses to the beyond of being, offered by Jean Borella as his works progress (logical path, analogical way, way of the Identity-Otherness paradox…), had to show how this rediscovered metaphysics is that of the Christian Mystery.


By entitling his book The Metaphysical Revolution, Bruno Bérard gives great importance to the work of Borella, ten books of which are cited in the bibliography, not counting the articles. One cannot help but make the connection with Freud’s The Psychoanalytical Revolution.

What does this ‘metaphysical revolution’ initiated by J. Borella consist of? After three centuries of impregnation of philosophy by rationalism, it is a come back to a starting point. It is a revival of awareness of sacred symbolism under the effect of a certain neo-Platonism rectified by St. Augustine in order to redirect thought toward the symbol. It is a question of perpetuating through the ages the echo of the reality of a Christic gnosis. Metaphysics, according to Borella, leads to a personal revolution…

Further reading
— Bernard Blandre, Mouvements religieux, June 2007

Bruno Bérard summarizes the work of Jean Borella. A synthesis (not a reduction) of the thought of the metaphysician from Nancy, which received the endorsement of the philosopher.

It has now been 20 years since Bruno Bérard embarked on the study of metaphysics and, as he progressed in his readings and reflections, he realized the eminent place occupied by Jean Borella.

See complete review
Paper from Est Républicain
— Didier Hemardinquer, L’Est-Républicain, 14 mai 2006

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