Auguste Comte

”Ordem e Progresso” are words that you can find on the Brazilian flag. Do you know the origin of these words? They are inspired by the motto “L’amour pour principe et l’ordre pour base; le progrès pour but. » (Love as a principle and order as the basis; progress as the goal.)  Some further explanations may be needed.

This motto was created by Auguste Comte (1798-1857), a French philosopher, founder of the discipline of sociology and the doctrine of positivism. He is considered to be the first “philosopher of science”, partly influenced by the utopian socialist Saint-Simon (1760-1825) - creator of the ideology known as industrialism - to whom Auguste was a secretary and collaborator for a few years. Auguste wanted to remedy the disorder created by revolutions and worked for a social doctrine based on science. He has heavily influenced social thinkers like Karl Marx, John Stuart Mill, George Elliot… He’s also considered as the creator of words like sociology and altruism.

Linked to his platonic but absolute love of a lady, with the name of Clotilde De Vaux (1815-46), mourning her death (at the age of 31), Auguste tried to reorganize his philosophical theories into a new positivist secular religion, the Positivist Church or the Religion of Humanity. So there is no God, ... but there is a Sainte Clotilde, celebrated each April 6. The pillars of this religion are altruism (selfless dedication to others), order (no revolutions) and progress (the consequences of industrial and technical breakthroughs).

His religion had a modest success in France and elsewhere, with some kind of an exception for Brazil, where the Church was created in 1881. Some participants of the military “coup d’état” in 1889, when the Republic of Brazil was proclaimed, were members of the Church... and that’s how Auguste’s motto, “Ordem e Progresso” arrived on the flag. There are still some temples in Brazil, here the one at Porto Alegre.

There is also one temple in Paris (in the Marais area, Rue Payenne), today rather to be considered as a museum. It dates from 1905 and was created by Brazilians. It’s situated in the same building where Clotilde De Vaux lived. (Originally this building was built and inhabited by the architect François Mansart (1598-1666)). On top of the altar, we can of course see Clotilde, with a symbolic child to illustrate the future.

The wall decorations give some ideas of on what the Religion of Humanity is based. Maybe a special word about the last one: “Female moral superiority”, illustrated by Héloïse, part of the – at least in France – famous 12th century couple Héloïse and Abélard. For his time, Auguste was actually quite a feminist.

It’s possible to visit the apartment (Rue Monsieur Le Prince) where Auguste lived from 1841 until his death in 1857. All furniture, ornamental objects, books… are the real ones, as in 1857, including the portrait of Auguste and of Clotilde - in front of which Auguste kneeled and prayed for 40 minutes every day after her death in 1846.

Auguste and Clotilde were and are not forgotten and have been celebrated: Auguste Comte’s statue (with Clotilde), from 1902, can be found on a very prestigious place, Place de la Sorbonne.

Clotilde’s bust can also be found on Rue Clotilde De Vaux, not far from Place de la Bastille.

There is also a Rue Auguste Comte, just behind the Luxembourg Gardens, a quite long street with a number of interesting buildings.

Both Clotilde and Auguste are buried at the Père Lachaise Cemetery, but not together. Clotilde’s grave, which Auguste obviously visited every day, has recently been transformed and for some reason the name you can now read is Marie de Ficquelmont. Her birth name was Clotilde Marie de Ficquelmont. It’s obviously a family grave. Her brothers were Maximilien Marie (a friend of Auguste who introduced Clotilde to Auguste) and Léonard Marie. The marble book which once was on her tomb in now to be found on Auguste’s grave, behind which you can also find a monument, a Magna Mater, by a Brazilian artist, Da Silva Oliveira, of course again with Clotilde, but also with medallions of Rosalie Boyer Comte (his mother) and Sophie Bliaux Thomas (his long-time servant). No trace here of his wife, Caroline Massin. They married in 1825, separated in 1842. They had some difficult years together.  It should perhaps also be added that Auguste during his marriage actually was at a mental hospital for a while, tried suicide (jumped from the Pont des Arts)… Auguste’s followers have obviously done their best to have Caroline Massin Comte forgotten.


Maria Russell said...

You leave me stunned, once again, with your encyclopedic culture and that enormous generosity of heart in wanting to share it with us!

This post is incredible!
As usual, you lead us to a past history of France in such entertaining and instructive way. What a privilege!

Thérèse said...

Toute une page d’histoire super intéressante. Un personnage qui reste énigmatique.

Anonymous said...

Encore une fois, merci Peter pour toutes ces connaissances partagées! Je n'avais aucune idée de tout ce que représentait ce nom d'Auguste Comte que je connaissais pourtant... Je verse une petite larme pour la pauvre Caroline Massin qui, après une vie commune assez compliquée avec cet homme, se retrouve rayée de la carte! Mais elle était peut-être fort désagréable après tout...
Rigolo aussi de voir que le Brésil et la Suède se "rencontrent" rue Payenne!


WCCAwebmaster said...

Brilliant post! - I'm in love with Clothilde already!

R.Ewen said...

This article, like many you write, has connected quite a few names familiar to me from my visits to
Paris, but all of them until now just a bunch of names I have run across in my walks. Your articles always make very interesting reading. Thank you.

Studio at the Farm said...

Amazing!!! How do you come to discover these subjects??? What a fascinating post, Peter! Thank you once again for all the most interesting information and all your great photography!!!

Alexa said...

I've probably passed by his statue in the place de la Sorbonne a zillion times—and never knew a tenth of what I've learned here from you!