Spiritual writer; b. Aix-en-Provence, France, 1865;d. Arthez d'Asson, France, Aug. 17, 1933. He received his early education at Aix-en-Provence, and in 1882 entered the Society of Jesus. He was sent for his novitiate and studies to England, where he spent ten years. During this time he "discovered" John Henry newman, who, after Maurice blondel, had the greatest influence on his thought. Bremond was ordained in 1892. Though a professor and an editor of Études, he still found time to devote to extensive research, unwittingly preparing himself for the great work he was to publish from 1916 to 1933. During this earlier period his books, characteristically, were studies of religious thought: L'Inquiétude religieuse (1900); Âmes religieuses (1902); Thomas More (1904); Newman: Essai de biographie psychologique (1906); Gerbet (1907); La Provence mystique au XVIIème siècle (1908); Nicole (1909); and Apologie pour Fénélon (1910), a book that, though brilliant, was unfair to Bossuet.
Bremond's chief work is L'Histoire littéraire du sentiment religieux en France, depuis la fin des guerres de religion jusqu'à nos jours. The title indicates that he intended to study religious thought not in the actions that provokes, but in the literary expression that men of talent had given it. He did not include the Middle Ages, because his purpose was the study of the religious life of modern man, the product of the Renaissance. He intended to extend his investigations to works of the 20th century, but at his death his study had progressed only to the end of the 17th century. His central idea was that French religious thought in the 17th century had been revivified by the influence of the Italian, Spanish, and Flemish mystics, thus reaching a sort of perfection of its own and becoming a truly original expression. The French had ignored the riches of their spirituality: the studies of Bremond were for them a revelation.
The writing of this work did not keep Bremond from making literary excursions according to his fancy. He explored widely, returning always, as to a focal point, to the thought of Pascal: "God is apprehended and felt by the heart, which has its reasons that the mind knows not of." Thus he came to relate mysticism with poetry, not to confound them, but to show that they spring from the same faculty "outside of reason." In the course of these researches he coined the term "pure poetry," which had immediate popularity and which represented poetry stripped of its rational elements and reduced to its essence. Among his works should be mentioned Poésie et prière (1925), Dans les tempêtes (1926), Introduction à la Philosophie de la prière (1929), Divertissements devant l'Arche (1930), and La Poésie pure (1933).
In 1904 Bremond left the Society of Jesus "because of incompatibility of temperament," as he said. He had a volatile and independent nature, which he showed by maintaining his friendly relations with George tyrrell and Alfred loisy, even to the point of compromising himself and throwing doubt on the sincerity of his own faith, which was, however, incontestable. He was elected a member of the French Academy in 1923. He spent little time in Paris, making his home at Arthez d'Asson, near Pau, in the Pyrenees.
Bibliography: a. austin, Henri Bremond (Paris 1946). j. de guibert, Dictionnaire de spiritualité ascétique et mystique (Paris 1932–) 1:1928–38. a. bremond, "Henri Bremond," Études 217(1933) 29–53. j. jacquemet, Catholicisme 2 (1948) 239–242. h. hogarth, Henri Bremond: The Life and Work of a Devout Humanist (London 1950).