BALLANCHE Pierre-Simon—philosophy of history, belonging to the theocratic current, writer, precursor of romanticism, b. August 4, 1776 in Lyons, d. June 12, 1847 in Paris.
He was the son of a merchant who for a time owned a printing house. Later he also worked in the printing house. In 1801 in Lyons he published his first work, Du sentiment considéré dans ses rapports avec la littérature et les arts. In 1808 with his father he established the Société littéraire in Lyons. He became friends with dame de Récamier and F. R. de Chateaubriand. In 1814 in Paris he publish a prose-poem, Antigone, then Essai sur les institutions sociales dans leurs rapports avec les idées nouvelles (P 1918). His chief work (besides Antigone) called La palingénésie sociale contained minor works published between 1819 and 1832: Le vieillard et le jeune homme (P 1819); L’homme sans nom (P 1820); Prolegomènes (P 1827); Orphée (P 1829); La vision d’Hébal (P 1831); and La ville des expiations (P 1832). Editions of his complete works are Oeuvres (I–IV, P 1830) and Oeuvres (I–IV, P 1833). Other works besides the above mentioned: Oeuvres inédites (P 1904); Pensées et fragments (P 1907); La théodicée et la Virginie romaine (Inéts) (G-P 1959).
In his works Ballanche presents a certain vision of history that can be obtained by “sympathetic intuition”. If a historian describes particular events and facts such as they are, the poet-seer is he who “shows the deep causes, the hidden sources”, and sees the history of mankind in its continuity and wholeness. In this history of the world and mankind we can see a progress, which according to Ballanche has the character of palingenesis. “Palingénésie”—a return to life, to the primitive state of harmony—moves on the ontological plane (metempsychosis) and on the historical plane (expiation). Social progress happens by sequential degrees of initiation and introduction to mysteries. The history of the world and mankind has its own term or end: there is a “hominization” of living beings, matter and its form disappears, man fulfills his end—the knowledge of God, and cosmogonic man unites with Christ. The individual man may achieve his fulfillment or destiny only after the entire human race achieves perfection. Particular nations and societies especially realize the idea of progress, while the individual man is condemned to perfect himself by participating in social life by his “sympathetic abilities”.
G. Frainmet, Essai sur la philosophie de Ballanche, P 1903; E. Herriot, Madame Récamier et ses amis, P 1904; C. Huit, La vie et les oeuvres de Ballanche, P 1904; P. Treves, Ballanche, R 1932; A-J George, Ballanche, Precursor of Romanticism [no place of publication] 1945; J. Roos, Aspects littéraires et mysticisme philosophique au début du Romantisme, Str 1951; J. Roos, Les idées philosphiques de V. Hugo. Ballanche et Victor Hugo, P 1958; P. Bénichou, Les temps des prophètes, P 1977; M. Cieśla-Korytowska, Romantyczna poezja mistyczna. Ballanche, Novalis, Słowacki [Romantic mystical poetry. Ballanche, Novalis, Słowacki], Kr 1989.