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The emptiness of non-Christian Philosophy

2 min • Digitized on December 17, 2021

From The Spirit of St. Francis de Sales, page 76
By His friend, Jean Pierre Camus, Bishop of Belley


I was speaking on one occasion of the writings of Seneca and of Plutarch, praising them highly and saying that they had been my delight when young, our Blessed Father replied:

After having tasted the manna of the Fathers and Theologians, this is to hanker for the leeks and garlic of Egypt.

When I rejoined that these above mentioned writers furnished me with all that I could desire for instruction in morals, and that Seneca seemed to me more like a christian author than a pagan, he said:

There I differ from you entirely. I consider that no spirit is more absolutely opposed to the spirit of christianity than that of Seneca, and no more dangerous reading for a soul aiming at true piety can be found than his works.

Being much surprised at this opinion, and asking for an explanation, he went on to say:

This opposition between the two spirits comes from the fact that Seneca would have us look for perfection within ourselves, whereas we must seek it outside ourselves, in God, that is to say, in the grace which God pours into our souls through the Holy Ghost. Not I, but the grace of God with me. [1 Cor. xv. 10.]

By this grace we are what we are. The spirit of Seneca inflates the soul and puffs it up with pride, that of Christianity rejects the knowledge which puffs up in order to embrace the charity which edifies.

In short, there is the same difference between the spirit of Seneca and the christian spirit that there is between virtues acquired by us, which are, therefore, dead, and virtues that are infused by God, which are, therefore, living.

Indeed, how could this philosopher, being destitute of the true Faith, possess charity? And yet well we know that without charity all acquired virtues are unable to save us.

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