…this salutary revolution

this salutary revolution
Maurice Zundel Way of Thinking
By Benoit Garceau.

This is a private translation by John Janitz of De la liberté au don de soi. La voie de Maurice Zundel autorised by the author.  Mediaspaul, the publisher of the French version has not « officially » recognized this translation but has granted the distribution right to  les Amis de Maurice Zundel Canada who want to express here their warmest gratitude.

Hereafter, as an intoduction to this document you will find the following : the Epigraph, the Preface to the English Editionthe preface to the French Edition as well as the Table of Contents. To obtain the document – or part of it – please contact the Amis de Maurice Zundel Canada atinfo@mauricezundel.ca .


The revolution has yet to occur, a decisive one, a transformation so radical it is worthy of the name revolution; and, despite all the rights that might be claimed by individuals or groups, the only aim of this revolution will be to grant every man the right to be himself, to allow the full blossoming of his character in society so that, in the end, man can find a way to be human.(1)

The revolution that must change the world begins within oneself. Indeed, one can liberate nothing without first liberating oneself of oneself; otherwise , and in spite of the best intentions, one inevitably drags into the business, all the slavish tendencies harboured within and not yet cleared out. It is not a matter of radically overturning everything at once;  it is an attempt at reaching the goal: i.e. to guarantee for each person before all else a creative solitude wherein one may become what one was meant to be. Nothing is more dramatic than this inner creation where each person is called upon to transform oneself into make of himself a universal blessing by way of an exchange based on equality through the total gift of self (2).

We can begin this salutary revolution, this effort  to reestablish the primacy of the Spirit by realigning our views about life and the world in the light of the divine tragedy unfolding within us. Furthermore, we can attempt to contain within us the sorrow, while constantly offering to others the joy.(3)

1 "Les droits de l'homme [the rights of man] La revue du Caire [the Cairo revue], May 1945.

2 Quel homme et quel Dieu? [what man and what God?], Vatican Retreat, Paris, Fayard, 1976, pp. 232-33.

3 "L'amour de Dieu dans le berceau de l'enfant [the love of God in the infant's cradle]," between 1920-1925, in Présence 54, p. 23.

 Preface to the English Edition

There are almost no books in English about Maurice Zundel, and very few by him have been translated into English.

Over the past year, members of Les Amis de Zundel in the Ontario-Quebec area wondered whether De la liberté au don de soi: La voie de Maurice Zundel (Médiaspaul, Montréal, 2014) might be made available in English. Perhaps this translation, now bearing the title  …this Salutary Revolution… Maurice Zundel’s Way of Thinking, will provide English readers with another introduction to Zundel’s work.

John Janitz, of Les Amis de Zundel in the Ottawa-Gatineau area, translated the text.

For myself, as a teacher of philosophy and theology, usually in French, I am delighted to be sharing Zundel’s writing and spirit beyond the borders of the Frenchspeaking world. Time will tell whether Zundel will come to be recognized as widely in the English-speaking world as he is in the French. His writings deserve at least as much attention today in the Twenty-first Century as they did through the crises of the Twentieth Century.

Benoît Garceau, O.M.I.
Feast of the Magi, 2018 viii

Preface to the French Edition

I remember the autumn of 1951. At twenty-one, with a baccalaureate behind me, and licensed in philosophy, I was in search of a path that would take me beyond the frontiers of my recent degrees and on a journey to the center of myself, where I would discover the meaning of my existence and where I would be primed for a taste of authentic inner freedom. I was searching the library at the house that had received me for an author who might suit my needs, but I wasn’t finding the help I sought. Then, on a fine October day, one of my former professors dropped by, someone I had admired for the past three years for his depth and erudition. I told him of my search, and he suggested I return to the library to see if there might be a volume by Maurice Zundel. That was the beginning of an adventure, an adventure I would like to share with this book.

I have already had the opportunity in an earlier book, La voie du désir [the path of desire] (1997),(4) to allude obliquely to the influence that Zundel, the author of L’évangile interieur [The Gospel Within] (1936), had exerted on my exploration of the spirituality of desire. That is what had impressed me most when I first read Zundel’s work: the role given to desire in the spiritual life. He was teaching me that it is in what we desire most profoundly that God seeks to encounter us, that it is from what we love most deeply – music, science, nature’s grandeur, the face of a child – where an individual’s devotion should take root and flourish. Zundel stressed the presence of a Jesus who illuminates our darkness to show us that at the core of our darkness there exists a desire for the light and an immense longing for significance. All of that was for me a valued support. Furthermore, I came to realize Zundel was guiding me to something more, which is this: true progress for humanity happens by leaving oneself behind, in rising above self, in liberating oneself from oneself.

In 1997, at the very start of my retirement from teaching and administration, I undertook the task of disseminating the ideas of Zundel through reading groups devoted to his writings. They were no longer limited to three volumes, as had been the case in the early Fifties.(5) During his lifetime Zundel had published a score of books; and after his death ten unedited collections––conferences, retreats, homilies––had appeared. He had become for many of his readers a treasured beacon in a time when belief in God was often disparaged because we had tacked beneath God’s name so many things that frustrate the profound longings of the human heart.

For my part, during the course of these last seventeen years, I have had time to become more deeply conversant with Zundel’s political writings. First, we find Zundel in Paris during the Thirties, when he speaks out on five separate occasions to offer the public a way of thinking about the economic crisis of those years––as well as to point out the imminent and unambiguous signs of another world conflagration. Then the Forties, which Zundel spends in Cairo, forced by the Second World War to live in exile, but where he reveals himself as someone standing up for all of humanity, as if he were its conscience, lending his passionate effort to the search for a dialogue among nations in a world at risk of disintegration. While reviewing his political writings, I discovered an aspect of his thought previously overlooked. I became aware that this devout mystic who had been the author of L’evangile interieur [the inner gospel] was no less a prophet for our times, that is to say, a spiritual master who offers all of humanity a plan that excludes no seeker on the path to human fulfillment.

That promising path, which Zundel described on so many occasions, is the revolution waiting to be carried out. It is a revolution that distinguishes itself from other political revolutions in three ways. First of all, it is not a revolution that gets rid of one form of slavery only to establish another, perhaps more oppressive than the first. By way of contrast, the revolution sought by Zundel is founded on faith in human beings, that is, on a view of humanity that celebrates the best in people, the human spirit itself––and yet which is greater than humanity because of the Life within our lives. It is thus a view that never loses sight of humanity’s potential, that never limits a person to what was achieved in the past.

Secondly, this revolution, like all world-altering revolutions, aims at achieving liberty and equality for all. In other words, the revolution does not hold back on pushing liberty and equality as far as these two rights can be extended. The two models of revolution we routinely invoke, that of 1776 in the English colonies and that of 1789 in France, both said to be incontestable starting points in the advance of human progress, raise two questions it would be wrong to dismiss: Which freedom does the human heart crave, and what measure of equality are we ready to settle for? Perhaps we might better ask ourselves––with all due respect for the revolutionaries who in the first case excluded blacks and women, and in the second case women yet again––just what measure of universal rights are we disposed to grant?

Third feature: We are talking about an inner revolution, which springs out of solitude, not crowds. Therefore, the aim is not to overthrow everything in sight. Yet the goal still involves a social dimension, because this revolution is about guaranteeing all humans the opportunity to fulfill themselves as free persons through institutions that favour a silent encounter with the wellspring of freedom.

I hope the five chapters of this essay lead readers to a better understanding of Zundel’s démarche, which is about an approach to the liberation of oneself. First, I shall try to clarify the meaning of his work by commenting on his intent, which by his own admission underlies all his writings. Then I’ll try to show how his work unfolds as an expression of his steadfast conviction.

 4 La voie du désir [the path of desire], Montréal, Médiaspau1, 1997. ix

5 Le poème de la Sainte Liturgie [the poem of the holy liturgy], Saint-Maurice (Switzerland), éditions Saint-Augustin, 1926; Notre-Dame de la Sagesse [Our Lady of wisdom] (Les cahiers de la Vierge 12), Paris, Cerf/Juvisy, 1935; L'évangile intérieur, Saint- Maurice (Suisse), éditions Saint-Augustin, 1936.

Table of Contents    


Table of Contents         

  • Preface to the English Edition
  • Preface to the French Edition   
  • Chapter 1 – A Way of Thinking                                           1
  1. To present a way of thinking
    The question of humanity
    The human that is possible
    The person of Jesus
    An authentic spiritual life
  2. An orientation whose pursuit is an apprenticeship
    The elevation of the mundane
    Becoming aware of the fragility
    of the divine presence
  3. The threshold of the Zundelian journey:
  4. the experience of freedom
  5. God as the core and precondition of freedom
  • Chapter 2 – The Desire to Be Free                                   18

Zundel’s involvement with political questions in the 30’s

  1. the primacy of the spirit of freedom
  2. the crisis of the Thirties as a spiritual event
  3. the call of the Spirit
  4. the fundamental question
  5. 5: the draft manifesto
  6. 6: property as guarantee of spiritual autonomy
  7. 7: the way to solve the problems of the Thirties
  • Chapter 3 – The Duty to Be Free                                       35
  1. Fulfilling the desire to be subject to nothing
  2. More than an emancipation from external constraints.
  3. The liberation for our lifework as creators

Chapter 4 – The Right to Be Free                                                  53

  1. Basic concepts in the Declaration of the Rights of Man
  2. The weakness of the Declaration
  3. The hope of humanity: a revolution waiting to happen
  4. The hope of humanity: in the heart of the poor woman
  5. How to think about political issues

Chapter 5 – The Joy of Being Free                                               69

  1. To be a source of joy
  2. asking responsibility for God’s presence in the world
  3. The fulfillment of desire the Creator placed within us


Epilogue                                                                                                  83

Books in English by or about Maurice Zundel                    85

Acknowledgements.                                                                        86