Michelet on how it ends

I’ve been citing and quoting Michelet’s magnificent 1904 essay on the Inquisition.

Michelet was writing at a time when the psychopaths had been out of power for quite a while. The French scientific genocide faded in 1800 as Napoleon turned into a more ordinary imperialist, focused on expanding Empire instead of exterminating his own people. By 1850 the French had fully counterbalanced the terror, with a careful regard for conserving culture and skills. Michelet didn’t know that the inquisitors were about to take over Europe again, with a Kraut flavor. The recovery in the 1950s was brief and partial, as the devil started to crank up his bonfires again in 1975 with a Yankee flavor, leading to total extermination in 2020.

So the passage below looks overly optimistic from the middle of the Thermite and Lucite and ballgags and needles, but it’s worth remembering that every psychopath does eventually get bored and move on to other victims. “Colbert had other things to do”.

Note especially the accurate rendition of bridges and balances, the negative feedback loops that maintain life. Satan tries to wipe them out from every possible angle, but life wants to live, and life finds a way to live.

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We shall see Satan’s decadence all in good time; a sorry tale.

We shall see him pacified, grown a good old sort. He is robbed and pillaged, till at last, of the two masks he wore at the Witches’ Sabbath, the foulest is adopted by Tartuffe.

His spirit is everywhere. But for himself, for his own personality, in losing the Witch, he lost all. The Wizards were bores, and nothing more. Now that his fall has been so far consummated, do his foes quite realise what they have done? Was he not a necessary actor, an indispensable factor in the great engine of religious faith, something out of ear nowadays?

Every organism that works well is double, has two sides; life is hardly possible otherwise. A certain balance between two forces is necessary, forces mutually opposed and symmetrical, but unequal. The inferior acts as counterpoise, corresponding to the other. The superior grows impatient at the check, and is for abolishing it altogether. But the wish is a mistaken one.

When Colbert, in 1672, shelved Satan with so little ceremony, forbidding the Judges of the Realm to hear cases of Witchcraft, the Norman Parlement, in its obstinate conservatism, its sound Norman logicality, demonstrated the dangers attending such a decision. The Devil is nothing less than a dogma closely bound up with all the rest. Touch the vanquished of the ages — are you not touching the victor too ? Doubt the acts of the one — is not this paving the way to doubt those of the other, those very miracles he did to fight the Devil? The pillars of heaven are based in the abyss. The rash man who shakes this infernal foundation may well crack the walls of Paradise.

Colbert paid no heed; he had so many other things to do.

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