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My Philosophical Testament by Jean Guitton

Jean Guitton

JEAN GUITTON, 1901 - 1999, was a Christian philosopher, writer, painter, novelist and journalist.

He took a degree in philosophy, which he taught in schools and universities before being appointed in 1955 to the Faculty of Letters as Professor of the History of Philosophy at the Sorbonne.  He was also a gifted painter, and through Jean Cocteau carried out the decoration of the Chapel of the Premonstratensians in Rome.

He was a fervent ecumenicist, and regarded himself as a true "free-thinker", insisting that "Catholic" meant "universal".  He believed that all the Church's troubles, since the Second Vatican Council, were caused by the extinction of the mysterious and mystical aspects of liturgical prayer.

He was the first layman ever to be invited to address the Vatican Council in 1962.  He was attentive to the problems posed for the faithful by biology and astrophysics, and his advice was to study scientific laws and observe those of the Gospels.

In his Mon Testament Philosophique (1997), published when 95 years old, he converses entertainingly and illuminatingly with a wide variety of characters, beginning with Lucifer and ending with Francois Mitterrand, by way of Pascal, Bergson, Charles de Gaulle, Aristotle, St Augustine and St Therese of Lisieux.  He praises the virtues of the Internet to de Gaulle, and acts as father confessor to Mitterrand, who was obsessed and frightened by the prospect of a life after death.

  1. My Death.  First Interview - with the Devil.  How a stranger sowed trouble in my soul.
  2. My Death.  Second Interview - with Blaise Pascal.  How Blaise Pascal approached my bedside to cross-examine me on my reasons for believing in God.
  3. My Death.  Third Interview - with Henri Bergson.  On rediscovering Bergson after sixty years, I examine the value of my reasons for being Christian.
  4. My Death.  Fourth Interview - with Pope Paul VI, who attempts to make me confess both my good and bad reasons for being a Catholic.
  5. My Burial.  My last visit to Toledo and my meeting with El Greco.
  6. My Burial.  I install myself in the place of honour at Les Invalides to observe my funeral in comfort.
  7. My Burial.  Léopold Sédar Senghor, the poet and first president of Senegal and the first African to be elected to L'Academie Francaise, joins me on the rostrum of Les Invalides where my revelations continue
  8. My Burial.  How de Gaulle and I meditate on evil and other subjects.
  9. My Burial.  My funeral eulogy and several asides.
  10. My Burial.  I revisit the Sorbonne where I taught many sillinesses, but nevertheless enjoyed the conversation of Socrates.
  11. My Burial.  Socrates persuades me to discuss the philosophy and the soul of Maurice Blondel
  12. My Burial.  How two strangers, having ridiculed my loves, my wife hastens to restore my serenity.
  13. My Burial.  I speak with Dante on love and poetry
  14. My Burial.  how a strange visitor makes a last attempt and how I no longer know who I am.
  15. My Judgement.  Where two hosts of hell arrive at the right time to act out a demonstration.
  16. My Judgement.  Where I am shown great danger and where St. Therese of Lisieux battles in my favour.
  17. My Judgement.  Where I am surprised to see Francois Mitterand compared to an electric shock.
  18. My Judgement.  I discuss man's destiny with President Mitterand.
  19. My Judgement.  Where our conversation takes a new turn, where one can see the meaning of the communion of saints.
  20. My Judgement.  Where I am judged....

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