The Existence of God
by Francois de Salignac de La Mothe- Fenelon
Previous Part     1  2  3     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

The fingers, the ends of which are armed with nails, are by the delicacy and variety of their motions contrived to exercise the most curious and marvellous arts. The arms and hands serve also, according as they are either extended, folded, or turned, to poise the body in such a manner as that it may stoop without any danger of falling. The whole machine has, besides, independently from all after-thoughts, a kind of spring that poises it on a sudden and makes it find the equilibrium in all its different postures and positions.

SECT. XXXVIII. Of the Neck and Head.

Above the body rises the neck, which is either firm or flexible at pleasure. Must a man bear a heavy burden on his head? This neck becomes as stiff as if it were made up of one single bone. Has he a mind to bow or turn his head? The neck bends every way as if all its bones were disjointed. This neck, a little raised above the shoulders, bears up with ease the head, which over-rules and governs the whole body. If it were less big it would bear no proportion with the rest of the machine; and if it were bigger it would not only be disproportioned and deformed, but, besides, its weight would both crush the neck and put man in danger of falling on the side it should lean a little too much. This head, fortified on all sides by very thick and very hard bones in order the better to preserve the precious treasure it encloses, is jointed with the vertebrae of the neck, and has a very quick communication with all the other parts of the body. It contains the brain, whose moist, soft, and spongy substance is made up of tender filaments or threads woven together; this is the centre of all the wonders we shall speak of afterwards. The skull is regularly perforated, or bored, with exact proportion, and symmetry, for, the two eyes, the two ears, the mouth, and the nostrils. There are nerves destined for sensations, that exercise and play in most of those pipes. The nose, which has no nerves for its sensation, has a cribriform, or spongy bone, to let odours pass on to the brain. Amongst the organs of these sensations the chief are double, to preserve to one side what the other might happen to be defective in by any accident. These two organs of the same sensation are symmetrically placed either on the forepart or on the sides, that man may use them with more ease to the right or to the left or right against him—that is to say, towards the places his joints direct his steps and all his actions. Besides, the flexibility of the neck makes all those organs turn in an instant which way soever he pleases. All the hinder part of the head, which is the least able to defend itself, is therefore the thickest. It is adorned with hair which at the same time serves to fortify the head against the injuries of the air; and, on the other hand, the hair likewise adorns the fore part of the head and renders the face more graceful. The face is the fore part of the head, wherein the principal sensations meet and centre with an order and proportion that render it very beautiful unless some accident or other happen to alter and impair so regular a piece of work. The two eyes are equal, being placed about the middle, on the two sides of the head, that they may, without trouble, discover afar off both on the right and left all strange objects, and that they may commodiously watch for the safety of all the parts of the body. The exact symmetry with which they are placed is the ornament of the face; and He that made them has kindled in them I know not what celestial flame, the like of which all the rest of nature does not afford. These eyes are a sort of looking-glasses, wherein all the objects of the whole world are painted by turns and without confusion in the bottom of the retina that the thinking part of man may see them in those looking-glasses. But though we perceive all objects by a double organ, yet we never see the objects double, because the two nerves that are subservient to sight in our eyes are but two branches that unite in one pipe, as the two glasses of a pair of spectacles unite in the upper part that joins them together. The two eyes are adorned with two equal eyebrows, and, that they may open and close, they are wrapped up with lids edged with hair that defend so delicate a part.

SECT. XXXIX. Of the Forehead and Other Parts of the Face.

The forehead gives majesty and gracefulness to all the face, and serves to heighten all its features. Were it not for the nose, which is placed in the middle, the whole face would look flat and deformed, of which they are fully convinced who have happened to see men in whom that part of the face is mutilated. It is placed just above the mouth, that it may the more easily discern, by the odours, whatever is most proper to feed man. The two nostrils serve at once both for the respiration and smell. Look upon the lips: their lively colour, freshness, figure, seat, and proportion, with the other features, render the face most beautiful. The mouth, by the correspondence of its motions with those of the eyes, animates, gladdens, suddens, softens, or troubles the face, and by sensible marks expresses every passion. The lips not only open to receive food, but by their suppleness and the variety of their motions serve likewise to vary the sounds that form speech. When they open they discover a double row of teeth with which the mouth is adorned. These teeth are little bones set in order in the two jaw-bones, which have a spring to open and another to shut in such a manner that the teeth grind, like a mill, the aliments in order to prepare their digestion. But these aliments thus ground go down into the stomach, through a pipe different from that through which we breathe, and these two pipes, though so neighbouring, have nothing common.

SECT. XL. Of the Tongue and Teeth.

The tongue is a contexture of small muscles and nerves so very supple, that it winds and turns like a serpent, with unconceivable mobility and pliantness. It performs in the mouth the same office which either the fingers or the bow of a master of music perform on a musical instrument: for sometimes it strikes the teeth, sometimes the roof of the mouth. There is a pipe that goes into the inside of the neck, called throat, from the roof of the mouth to the breast, which is made up of cartilaginous rings nicely set one within another, and lined within with a very smooth membrane, in order to render the air that is pushed from the lungs more sonorous. On the side of the roof of the mouth the end of that pipe is opened like a flute, by a slit, that either extends, or contracts itself as is necessary to render the voice either big or slender, hollow or clear. But lest the aliments, which have their separate pipe, should slide into the windpipe I have been describing, there is a kind of valve that lies on the orifice of the organ of the voice, and playing like a drawbridge, lets the aliments freely pass through their proper channel, but never suffers the least particle or drop to fall into the slit of the windpipe. This sort of valve has a very free motion, and easily turns any way, so that by shaking on that half-opened orifice, it performs the softest modulations of the voice. This instance is sufficient to show, by-the-by, and without entering long-winded details of anatomy, what a marvellous art there is in the frame of the inward parts. And indeed the organ I have described is the most perfect of all musical instruments, nor have these any perfection, but so far as they imitate that.

SECT. XLI. Of the Smell, Taste, and Hearing.

Who were able to explain the niceness of the organs by which man discerns the numberless savours and odours of bodies? But how is it possible for so many different voices to strike at once my ear without confounding one another, and for those sounds to leave in me, after they have ceased to be, so lively and so distinct images of what they have been? How careful was the Artificer who made our bodies to give our eyes a moist, smooth, and sliding cover to close them; and why did He leave our ears open? Because, says Cicero, the eyes must be shut against the light in order to sleep; and, in the meantime, the ears ought to remain open in order to give us warning, and wake us by the report of noise, when we are in danger of being surprised. Who is it that, in an instant, imprints in my eye the heaven, the sea, and the earth, seated at almost an infinite distance? How can the faithful images of all the objects of the universe, from the sun to an atom, range themselves distinctly in so small an organ? Is not the substance of the brain, which preserves, in order, such lively representations of all the objects that have made an impression upon us ever since we were in the world, a most wonderful prodigy? Men admire with reason the invention of books, wherein the history of so many events, and the collection of so many thoughts, are preserved. But what comparison can be made between the best book and the brain of a learned man? There is no doubt but such a brain is a collection infinitely more precious, and of a far more excellent contrivance, than a book. It is in that small repository that a man never misses finding the images he has occasion for. He calls them, and they come; he dismisses them, and they sink I know not where, and disappear, to make room for others. A man shuts or opens his fancy at pleasure, like a book. He turns, as it were, its leaves; and, in an instant, goes from one end to the other. There is even in memory a sort of table, like the index of a book, which shows where certain remote images are to be found. We do not find that these innumerable characters, which the mind of man reads inwardly with so much rapidity, leave any distinct trace or print in the brain, when we open it. That admirable book is but a soft substance, or a sort of bottom made up of tender threads, woven one with another. Now what skilful hand has laid up in that kind of dirt, which appears so shapeless, such precious images, ranged with such excellent and curious art?

SECT. XLII. Of the Proportion of Man's Body.

Such is the body of man in general: for I do not enter into an anatomical detail, my design being only to discover the art that is conspicuous in nature, by the simple cast of an eye, without any science. The body of man might undoubtedly be either much bigger and taller, or much lesser and smaller. But if, for instance, it were but one foot high, it would be insulted by most animals, that would tread and crush it under their feet. If it were as tall as a high steeple, a small number of men would in a few days consume all the aliments a whole country affords. They could find neither horses nor any other beasts of burden either to carry them on their backs or draw them in a machine with wheels; nor could they find sufficient quantity of materials to build houses proportioned to their bigness; and as there could be but a small number of men upon earth, so they should want most conveniences. Now, who is it that has so well regulated the size of man to so just a standard? Who is it that has fixed that of other animals and living creatures, with proportion to that of man? Of all animals, man only stands upright on his feet, which gives him a nobleness and majesty that distinguishes him, even as to the outside, from all that lives upon earth. Not only his figure is the noblest, but he is also the strongest and most dextrous of all animals, in proportion to his bigness. Let one nicely examine the bulk and weight of the most terrible beasts, and he will find, that though they have more matter than the body of a man, yet a vigorous man has more strength of body than most wild beasts. Nor are these dreadful to him, except in their teeth and claws. But man, who has not such natural arms in his limbs, has yet hands, whose dexterity to make artificial weapons surpasses all that nature has bestowed upon beasts. Thus man either pierces with his darts or draws into his snares, masters, and leads in chains the strongest and fiercest animals. Nay, he has the skill to tame them in their captivity, and to sport with them as he pleases. He teaches lions and tigers to caress him: and gets on the back of elephants.

SECT. XLIII. Of the Soul, which alone, among all Creatures, Thinks and Knows.

But the body of man, which appears to be the masterpiece of nature, is not to be compared to his thought. It is certain that there are bodies that do not think: man, for instance, ascribes no knowledge to stone, wood, or metals, which undoubtedly are bodies. Nay, it is so natural to believe that matter cannot think, that all unprejudiced men cannot forbear laughing when they hear any one assert that beasts are but mere machines; because they cannot conceive that mere machines can have such knowledge as they pretend to perceive in beasts. They think it to be like children's playing, and talking to their puppets, the ascribing any knowledge to mere machines. Hence it is that the ancients themselves, who knew no real substance but the body, pretended, however, that the soul of a man was a fifth element, or a sort of quintessence without name, unknown here below, indivisible, immutable, and altogether celestial and divine, because they could not conceive that the terrestrial matter of the four elements could think, and know itself: Aristoteles quintam quandam naturam censet esse, e qua sit mens. Cogitare enim, et providere, et discere, et docere. . . . in horum quatuor generum nullo inesse putat; quintum genus adhibet vacans nomine.

SECT. XLIV. Matter Cannot Think.

But let us suppose whatever you please, for I will not enter the lists with any sect of philosophers: here is an alternative which no philosopher can avoid. Either matter can become a thinking substance, without adding anything to it, or matter cannot think at all, and so what thinks in us is a substance distinct from matter, and which is united to it. If matter can acquire the faculty of thinking without adding anything to it, it must, at least, be owned that all matter does not think, and that even some matter that now thinks did not think fifty years ago; as, for instance, the matter of which the body of a young man is made up did not think ten years before he was born. It must then be concluded that matter can acquire the faculty of thinking by a certain configuration, ranging, and motion of its parts. Let us, for instance, suppose the matter of a stone, or of a heap of sand. It is agreed this part of matter has no manner of thought; and therefore to make it begin to think, all its parts must be configurated, ranged, and moved a certain way and to a certain degree. Now, who is it that knew how to find, with so much niceness, that proportion, order, and motion that way, and to such a degree, above and below which matter would never think? Who is it that has given all those just, exact, and precise modifications to a vile and shapeless matter, in order to form the body of a child, and to render it rational by degrees? If, on the contrary, it be affirmed that matter cannot become a thinking substance without adding something to it, and that another being must be united to it, I ask, what will that other thinking being be, whilst the matter, to which it is united, only moves? Therefore, here are two natures or substances very unlike and distinct. We know one by figures and local motions only; as we do the other by perceptions and reasonings. The one does not imply, or create the idea of the other, for their respective ideas have nothing in common.

SECT. XLV. Of the Union of the Soul and Body, of which God alone can be the Author.

But now, how comes it to pass that beings so unlike are so intimately united together in man? Whence comes it that certain motions of the body so suddenly and so infallibly raise certain thoughts in the soul? Whence comes it that the thoughts of the soul, so suddenly and so infallibly, occasion certain motions in the body? Whence proceeds so regular a society, for seventy or fourscore years, without any interruption? How comes it to pass that this union of two beings, and two operations, so very different, make up so exact a compound, that many are tempted to believe it to be a simple and indivisible whole? What hand had the skill to unite and tie together these two extremes and opposites? It is certain they did not unite themselves by mutual consent, for matter having of itself neither thought nor will, to make terms and conditions, it could not enter into an agreement with the mind. On the other hand, the mind does not remember that it ever made an agreement with matter; nor could it be subjected to such an agreement, if it had quite forgot it. If the mind had freely, and of its own accord, resolved to submit to the impressions of matter, it would not, however, subject itself to them but when it should remember such a resolution, which, besides, it might alter at pleasure. Nevertheless, it is certain that in spite of itself it is dependent on the body, and that it cannot free itself from its dependence, unless it destroy the organs of the body by a violent death. Besides, although the mind had voluntarily subjected itself to matter, it would not follow that matter were reciprocally subjected to the mind. The mind would indeed have certain thoughts when the body should have certain motions, but the body would not be determined to have, in its turn, certain motions, as soon as the mind should have certain thoughts. Now it is most certain that this dependence is reciprocal. Nothing is more absolute than the command of the mind over the body. The mind wills, and, instantly, all the members of the body are in motion, as if they were acted by the most powerful machines. On the other hand, nothing is more manifest than the power and influence of the body over the mind. The body is in motion, and, instantly the mind is forced to think either with pleasure or pain, upon certain objects. Now, what hand equally powerful over these two divers and distinct natures has been able to bring them both under the same yoke, and hold them captive in so exact and inviolable a society? Will any man say it was chance? If he does, will he be able either to understand what he means, or to make it understood by others? Has chance, by a concourse of atoms, hooked together the parts of the body with the mind? If the mind can be hooked with some parts of the body, it must have parts itself, and consequently be a perfect body, in which case, we relapse into the first answer, which I have already confuted. If, on the contrary, the mind has no parts, nothing can hook it with those of the body, nor has chance wherewithal to tie them together.

In short, my alternative ever returns, and is peremptory and decisive. If the mind and body are a whole made up of matter only, how comes it to pass that this matter, which yesterday did not, has this day begun to think? Who is it that has bestowed upon it what it had not, and which is without comparison more noble than thoughtless matter? What bestows thought upon it, has it not itself, and how can it give what it has not? Let us even suppose that thought should result from a certain configuration, ranging, and degree of motion a certain way, of all the parts of matter: what artificer has had the skill to find out all those just, nice, and exact combinations, in order to make a thinking machine? If, on the contrary, the mind and body are two distinct natures, what power superior to those two natures has been able to unite and tie together without the mind's assent, or so much as its knowing which way that union was made? Who is it that with such absolute and supreme command over-rules both minds and bodies, and keeps them in society and correspondence, and under a sort of incomprehensible policy?

SECT. XLVI. The Soul has an Absolute Command over the Body.

Be pleased to observe that the command of my mind over my body is supreme and absolute in its bounded extent, since my single will, without any effort or preparation, causes all the members of my body to move on a sudden and immediately, according to the rules of mechanics. As the Scripture gives us the character of God, who said after the creation of the universe, "Let there be light, and there was light"—in like manner, the inward word of my soul alone, without any effort or preparation, makes what it says. I say, for instance, within myself, through that inward, simple, and momentaneous word, "Let my body move, and it moves." At the command of that simple and intimate will, all the parts of my body are at work. Immediately all nerves are distended, all the springs hasten to concur together, and the whole machine obeys, just as if every one of the most secret of those organs heard a supreme and omnipotent voice. This is certainly the most simple and most effectual power that can be conceived. All the other beings within our knowledge afford not the like instance of it, and this is precisely what men that are sensible and persuaded of a Deity ascribe to it in all the universe.

Shall I ascribe it to my feeble mind, or rather to the power it has over my body, which is so vastly different from it? Shall I believe that my will has that supreme command of its own nature, though in itself so weak and imperfect? But how comes it to pass that, among so many bodies, it has that power over no more than one? For no other body moves according to its desires. Now, who is it that gave over one body the power it had over no other? Will any man be again so bold as to ascribe this to chance?

SECT. XLVII. The Power of the Soul over the Body is not only Supreme or Absolute, but Blind at the same time.

But that power, which is so supreme and absolute, is blind at the same time. The most simple and ignorant peasant knows how to move his body as well as a philosopher the most skilled in anatomy. The mind of a peasant commands his nerves, muscles, and tendons, which he knows not, and which he never heard of. He finds them without knowing how to distinguish them, or knowing where they lie; he calls precisely upon such as he has occasion for, nor does he mistake one for the other. If a rope-dancer, for instance, does but will, the spirits instantly run with impetuousness, sometimes to certain nerves, sometimes to others—all which distend or slacken in due time. Ask him which of them he set a-going, and which way he begun to move them? He will not so much as understand what you mean. He is an absolute stranger to what he has done in all the inward springs of his machine. The lute-player, who is perfectly well acquainted with all the strings of his instrument, who sees them with his eyes, and touches them one after another with his fingers, yet mistakes them sometimes. But the soul that governs the machine of man's body moves all its springs in time, without seeing or discerning them, without being acquainted with their figure, situation, or strength, and yet it never mistakes. What prodigy is here! My mind commands what it knows not, and cannot see; what neither has, nor is capable of any knowledge. And yet it is infallibly obeyed. How much blindness and how much power at once is here! The blindness is man's; but the power, whose is it? To whom shall we ascribe it, unless it be to Him who sees what man does not see, and performs in him what passes his understanding? It is to no purpose my mind is willing to move the bodies that surround it, and which it knows very distinctly; for none of them stirs, and it has not power to move the least atom by its will. There is but one single body, which some superior Power must have made its property. With respect to this body, my mind is but willing, and all the springs of that machine, which are unknown to it, move in time and in concert to obey him. St. Augustin, who made these reflections, has expressed them excellently well. "The inward parts of our bodies," says he, "cannot be living but by our souls; but our souls animate them far more easily than they can know them. . . . The soul knows not the body which is subject to it. . . . It does not know why it does not move the nerves but when it pleases; and why, on the contrary, the pulsation of veins goes on without interruption, whether the mind will or no. It knows not which is the first part of the body it moves immediately, in order thereby to move all the rest. . . . It does not know why it feels in spite of itself, and moves the members only when it pleases. It is the mind does these things in the body. But how comes it to pass it neither knows what she does, nor in what manner it performs it? Those who learn, anatomy," continues that father, "are taught by others what passes within, and is performed by themselves. Why," says he, "do I know, without being taught, that there is in the sky, at a prodigious distance from me, a sun and stars; and why have I occasion for a master to learn where motion begins? . . . When I move my finger, I know not how what I perform within myself is performed. We are too far above, and cannot comprehend ourselves."

SECT. XLVIII. The Sovereignty of the Soul over the Body principally appears in the Images imprinted in the Brain.

It is certain we cannot sufficiently admire either the absolute power of the soul over corporeal organs which she knows not, or the continual use it makes of them without discerning them. That sovereignty principally appears with respect to the images imprinted in our brain. I know all the bodies of the universe that have made any impression on my senses for a great many years past. I have distinct images of them that represent them to me, insomuch that I believe I see them even when they exist no more. My brain is like a closet full of pictures, which should move and set themselves in order at the master's pleasure. Painters, with all their art and skill, never attain but an imperfect likeness; whereas the pictures I have in my head are so faithful, that it is by consulting them I perceive all the defects of those made by painters, and correct them within myself. Now, do these images, more like their original than the masterpieces of the art of painting, imprint themselves in my head without any art? Is my brain a book, all the characters of which have ranged themselves of their own accord? If there be any art in the case, it does not proceed from me. For I find within me that collection of images without having ever so much as thought either to imprint them, or set them in order. Moreover, all these images either appear or retire as I please, without any confusion. I call them back, and they return; I dismiss them, and they sink I know not where. They either assemble or separate, as I please. But I neither know where they lie, nor what they are. Nevertheless I find them always ready. The agitation of so many images, old and new, that revive, join, or separate, never disturbs a certain order that is amongst them. If some of them do not appear at the first summons, at least I am certain they are not far off. They may lurk in some deep corner, but I am not totally ignorant of them as I am of things I never knew; for, on the contrary, I know confusedly what I look for. If any other image offers itself in the room of that I called for, I immediately dismiss it, telling it, "It is not you I have occasion for." But, then, where lie objects half-forgotten? They are present within me, since I look for them there, and find them at last. Again, in what manner are they there, since I look for them a long while in vain? What becomes of them? "I am no more," says St. Augustin, "what I was when I had the thoughts I cannot find again. I know not," continues that father, "either how it comes to pass that I am thus withdrawn from and deprived of myself, or how I am afterwards brought back and restored to myself. I am, as it were, another man, and carried to another place, when I look for, and do not find, what I had trusted to my memory. In such a case we cannot reach, and are, in a manner, strangers remote from ourselves. Nor do we come at us but when we find what we are in quest of. But where is it we look for but within us? Or what is it we look for but ourselves? . . . So unfathomable a difficulty astonishes us!" I distinctly remember I have known what I do not know at present. I remember my very oblivion. I call to mind the pictures or images of every person in every period of life wherein I have seen them formerly, so that the same person passes several times in my head. At first, I see one a child, then a young, and afterwards an old, man. I place wrinkles in the same face in which, on the other side, I see the tender graces of infancy. I join what subsists no more with what is still, without confounding these extremes. I preserve I know not what, which, by turns, is all that I have seen since I came into the world. Out of this unknown store come all the perfumes, harmonies, tastes, degrees, and mixtures of colours; in short, all the figures that have passed through my senses, and which they have trusted to my brain. I revive when I please the joy I felt thirty years ago. It returns; but sometimes it is not the same it was formerly, and appears without rejoicing me. I remember I have been well pleased, and yet am not so while I have that remembrance. On the other hand, I renew past sorrows and troubles. They are present; for I distinctly perceive them such as they were formerly, and not the least part of their bitterness and lively sense escapes my memory. But yet they are no more the same; they are dulled, and neither trouble nor disquiet me. I perceive all their severity without feeling it; or, if I feel it, it is only by representation, which turns a former smart and racking pain into a kind of sport and diversion, for the image of past sorrows rejoices me. It is the same with pleasures: a virtuous mind is afflicted by the memory of its disorderly unlawful enjoyments. They are present, for they appear with all their softest and most flattering attendants; but they are no more themselves, and such joys return only to make us uneasy.

SECT. XLIX. Two Wonders of the Memory and Brain.

Here, therefore, are two wonders equally incomprehensible. The first, that my brain is a kind of book, that contains a number almost infinite of images, and characters ranged in an order I did not contrive, and of which chance could not be the author. For I never had the least thought either of writing anything in my brain, or to place in any order the images and characters I imprinted in it. I had no other thought but only to see the objects that struck my senses. Neither could chance make so marvellous a book: even all the art of man is too imperfect ever to reach so high a perfection, therefore what hand had the skill to compose it?

The second wonder I find in my brain, is to see that my mind reads with so much ease, whatever it pleases, in that inward book; and read even characters it does not know. I never saw the traces or figures imprinted in my brain, and even the substance of my brain itself, which is like the paper of that book, is altogether unknown to me. All those numberless characters transpose themselves, and afterwards resume their rank and place to obey my command. I have, as it were, a divine power over a work I am unacquainted with, and which is incapable of knowledge. That which understands nothing, understands my thought and performs it instantly. The thought of man has no power over bodies: I am sensible of it by running over all nature. There is but one single body which my bare will moves, as if it were a deity; and even moves the most subtle and nicest springs of it, without knowing them. Now, who is it that united my will to this body, and gave it so much power over it?

SECT. L. The Mind of Man is mixed with Greatness and Weakness. Its Greatness consists in two things. First, the Mind has the Idea of the Infinite.

Let us conclude these observations by a short reflection on the essence of our mind; in which I find an incomprehensible mixture of greatness and weakness. Its greatness is real: for it brings together the past and the present, without confusion; and by its reasoning penetrates into futurity. It has the idea both of bodies and spirits. Nay, it has the idea of the infinite: for it supposes and affirms all that belongs to it, and rejects and denies all that is not proper to it. If you say that the infinite is triangular, the mind will answer without hesitation, that what has no bounds can have no figure. If you desire it to assign the first of the units that make up an infinite number, it will readily answer, that there can be no beginning, end, or number in the infinite; because if one could find either a first or last unit in it, one might add some other unit to that, and consequently increase the number. Now a number cannot be infinite, when it is capable of some addition, and when a limit may be assigned to it, on the side where it may receive an increase.

SECT. LI. The Mind knows the Finite only by the Idea of the Infinite.

It is even in the infinite that my mind knows the finite. When we say a man is sick, we mean a man that has no health; and when we call a man weak, we mean one that has no strength. We know sickness, which is a privation of health, no other way but by representing to us health itself as a real good, of which such a man is deprived; and, in like manner, we only know weakness, by representing to us strength as a real advantage, which such a man is not master of. We know darkness, which is nothing real, only by denying, and consequently by conceiving daylight, which is most real, and most positive. In like manner we know the finite only by assigning it a bound, which is a mere negation of a greater extent; and consequently only the privation of the infinite. Now a man could never represent to himself the privation of the infinite, unless he conceived the infinite itself: just as he could not have a notion of sickness, unless he had an idea of health, of which it is only a privation. Now, whence comes that idea of the infinite in us?

SECT. LII. Secondly, the Ideas of the Mind are Universal, Eternal, and Immutable.

Oh! how great is the mind of man! He carries within him wherewithal to astonish, and infinitely to surpass himself: since his ideas are universal, eternal, and immutable. They are universal: for when I say it is impossible to be and not to be; the whole is bigger than a part of it; a line perfectly circular has no straight parts; between two points given the straight line is the shortest; the centre of a perfect circle is equally distant from all the points of the circumference; an equilateral triangle has no obtuse or right angle: all these truths admit of no exception. There never can be any being, line, circle, or triangle, but according to these rules. These axioms are of all times, or to speak more properly, they exist before all time, and will ever remain after any comprehensible duration. Let the universe be turned topsy-turvy, destroyed, and annihilated; and even let there be no mind to reason about beings, lines, circles, and triangles: yet it will ever be equally true in itself, that the same thing cannot at once be and not be; that a perfect circle can have no part of a straight line; that the centre of a perfect circle cannot be nearer one side of the circumference than the other. Men may, indeed, not think actually on these truths: and it might even happen that there should be neither universe nor any mind capable to reflect on these truths: but nevertheless they are still constant and certain in themselves although no mind should be acquainted with them; just as the rays of the sun would not cease being real, although all men should be blind, and no body have eyes to be sensible of their light. By affirming that two and two make four, says St. Augustin, man is not only certain that he speaks truth, but he cannot doubt that such a proposition was ever equally true, and must be so eternally. These ideas we carry within ourselves have no bounds, and cannot admit of any. It cannot be said that what I have affirmed about the centre of perfect circles is true only in relation to a certain number of circles; for that proposition is true, through evident necessity, with respect to all circles ad infinitum. These unbounded ideas can never be changed, altered, impaired, or defaced in us; for they make up the very essence of our reason. Whatever effort a man may make in his own mind, yet it is impossible for him ever to entertain a serious doubt about the truths which those ideas clearly represent to us. For instance, I never can seriously call in question, whether the whole is bigger than one of its parts; or whether the centre of a perfect circle is equally distant from all the points of the circumference. The idea of the infinite is in me like that of numbers, lines, circles, a whole, and a part. The changing our ideas would be, in effect, the annihilating reason itself. Let us judge and make an estimate of our greatness by the immutable infinite stamp within us, and which can never be defaced from our minds. But lest such a real greatness should dazzle and betray us, by flattering our vanity, let us hasten to cast our eyes on our weakness.

SECT. LIII. Weakness of Man's Mind.

That same mind that incessantly sees the infinite, and, through the rule of the infinite, all finite things, is likewise infinitely ignorant of all the objects that surround it. It is altogether ignorant of itself, and gropes about in an abyss of darkness. It neither knows what it is, nor how it is united with a body; nor which way it has so much command over all the springs of that body, which it knows not. It is ignorant of its own thoughts and wills. It knows not, with certainty, either what it believes or wills. It often fancies to believe and will, what it neither believes nor wills. It is liable to mistake, and its greatest excellence is to acknowledge it. To the error of its thoughts, it adds the disorder and irregularity of its will and desires; so that it is forced to groan in the consciousness and experience of its corruption. Such is the mind of man, weak, uncertain, stinted, full of errors. Now, who is it that put the idea of the infinite, that is to say of perfection, in a subject so stinted and so full of imperfection? Did it give itself so sublime, and so pure an idea, which is itself a kind of infinite in imagery? What finite being distinct from it was able to give it what bears no proportion with what is limited within any bounds? Let us suppose the mind of man to be like a looking-glass, wherein the images of all the neighbouring bodies imprint themselves. Now what being was able to stamp within us the image of the infinite, if the infinite never existed? Who can put in a looking-glass the image of a chimerical object which is not in being, and which was never placed against the glass? This image of the infinite is not a confused collection of finite objects, which the mind may mistake for a true infinite. It is the true infinite of which we have the thought and idea. We know it so well, that we exactly distinguish it from whatever it is not; and that no subtilty can palm upon us any other object in its room. We are so well acquainted with it, that we reject from it any propriety that denotes the least bound or limit. In short, we know it so well, that it is in it alone we know all the rest, just as we know the night by the day, sickness by health. Now, once more, whence comes so great an image? Does it proceed from nothing? Can a stinted limited being imagine and invent the infinite, if there be no infinite at all? Our weak and short-sighted mind cannot of itself form that image, which, at this rate, should have no author. None of the outward objects can give us that image: for they can only give us the image of what they are, and they are limited and imperfect. Therefore, from whence shall we derive that distinct image which is unlike anything within us, and all we know here below, without us? Whence does it proceed? Where is that infinite we cannot comprehend, because it is really infinite: and which nevertheless we cannot mistake, because we distinguish it from anything that is inferior to it? Sure it must be somewhere, otherwise how could it imprint itself in our minds?

SECT. LIV. The Ideas of Man are the Immutable Rules of his Judgment.

But besides the idea of the infinite, I have yet universal and immutable notions, which are the rule and standard of all my judgments; insomuch that I cannot judge of anything but by consulting them; nor am I free to judge contrary to what they represent to me. My thoughts are so far from being able to correct or form that rule, that they are themselves corrected, in spite of myself, by that superior rule; and invincibly subjected to its decision. Whatever effort my mind can make, I can never be brought, as I observed before, to entertain a doubt whether two and two make four; whether the whole is bigger than one of its parts; or whether the centre of a perfect circle be equally distant from all the points of the circumference. I am not free to deny those propositions; and if I happen to deny those truths, or others much like them, there is in me something above myself, which forces me to return to the rule. That fixed and immutable rule is so inward and intimate, that I am tempted to take it for myself. But it is above me, since it corrects and rectifies me; gives me a distrust of myself, and makes me sensible of my impotency. It is something that inspires me every moment, provided I hearken to it, and I never err or mistake except when I am not attentive to it. What inspires me would for ever preserve me from error, if I were docile, and acted without precipitation; for that inward inspiration would teach me to judge aright of things within my reach, and about which I have occasion to form a judgment. As for others, it would teach me not to judge of them at all, which second lesson is no less important than the first. That inward rule is what I call my reason; but I speak of my reason without penetrating into the extent of those words, as I speak of nature and instinct, without knowing what those expressions mean.

SECT. LV. What Man's Reason is.

It is certain my reason is within me, for I must continually recollect myself to find it; but the superior reason that corrects me upon occasion, and which I consult, is none of mine, nor is it part of myself. That rule is perfect and immutable; whereas I am changeable and imperfect. When I err, it preserves its rectitude. When I am undeceived, it is not set right, for it never was otherwise; and still keeping to truth has the authority to call, and bring me back to it. It is an inward master that makes me either be silent or speak; believe, or doubt; acknowledge my errors, or confirm my judgment. I am instructed by hearkening to it; whereas I err and go astray when I hearken to myself. That Master is everywhere, and His voice is heard, from one end of the universe to the other, by all men as well as me. Whilst He corrects and rectifies me in France, He corrects and sets right other men in China, Japan, Mexico, and in Peru, by the same principles.

SECT. LVI. Reason is the Same in all Men, of all Ages and Countries.

Two men who never saw or heard of one another, and who never entertained any correspondence with any other man that could give them common notions, yet speak at two extremities of the earth, about a certain number of truths, as if they were in concert. It is infallibly known beforehand in one hemisphere, what will be answered in the other upon these truths. Men of all countries and of all ages, whatever their education may have been, find themselves invincibly subjected and obliged to think and speak in the same manner. The Master who incessantly teaches us makes all of us think the same way. Whenever we hastily judge, without hearkening to His voice, in diffidence of ourselves, we think and utter dreams full of extravagance. Thus what appears most to be part of ourselves, and our very essence, I mean our reason, is least our own, and what, on the contrary, ought to be accounted most borrowed. We continually receive a reason superior to us, as we incessantly breathe the air, which is a foreign body; or as we incessantly see all the objects near us by the light of the sun, whose rays are bodies foreign to our eyes. That superior reason over-rules and governs, to a certain degree, with an absolute power all men, even the least rational, and makes them all ever agree, in spite of themselves, upon those points. It is she that makes a savage in Canada think about a great many things, just as the Greek and Roman philosophers did. It is she that made the Chinese geometricians find out much of the same truths with the Europeans, whilst those nations so very remote were unknown one to another. It is she that makes people in Japan conclude, as in France, that two and two make four; nor is it apprehended that any nation shall ever change their opinion about it. It is she that makes men think nowadays about certain points, just as men thought about the same four thousand years ago. It is she that gives uniform thoughts to the most jealous and jarring men, and the most irreconcilable among themselves. It is by her that men of all ages and countries are, as it were, chained about an immovable centre, and held in the bonds of amity by certain invariable rules, called first principles, notwithstanding the infinite variations of opinions that arise in them from their passion, avocations, and caprices, which over-rule all their other less-clear judgments. It is through her that men, as depraved as they are, have not yet presumed openly to bestow on vice the name of virtue, and that they are reduced to dissemble being just, sincere, moderate, benevolent, in order to gain one another's esteem. The most wicked and abandoned of men cannot be brought to esteem what they wish they could esteem, or to despise what they wish they could despise. It is not possible to force the eternal barrier of truth and justice. The inward master, called reason, intimately checks the attempt with absolute power, and knows how to set bounds to the most impudent folly of men. Though vice has for many ages reigned with unbridled licentiousness, virtue is still called virtue; and the most brutish and rash of her adversaries cannot yet deprive her of her name. Hence it is that vice, though triumphant in the world, is still obliged to disguise itself under the mask of hypocrisy or sham honesty, to gain the esteem it has not the confidence to expect, if it should go bare-faced. Thus, notwithstanding its impudence, it pays a forced homage to virtue, by endeavouring to adorn itself with her fairest outside in order to receive the honour and respect she commands from men. It is true virtuous men are exposed to censure; and they are, indeed, ever reprehensible in this life, through their natural imperfections; but yet the most vicious cannot totally efface in themselves the idea of true virtue. There never was yet any man upon earth that could prevail either with others, or himself, to allow, as a received maxim, that to be knavish, passionate, and mischievous, is more honourable than to be honest, moderate, good-natured, and benevolent.

SECT. LVII. Reason in Man is Independent of and above Him.

I have already evinced that the inward and universal master, at all times, and in all places, speaks the same truths. We are not that master: though it is true we often speak without, and higher than him. But then we mistake, stutter, and do not so much as understand ourselves. We are even afraid of being made sensible of our mistakes, and we shut up our ears, lest we should be humbled by his corrections. Certainly the man who is apprehensive of being corrected and reproved by that uncorruptible reason, and ever goes astray when he does not follow it, is not that perfect, universal, and immutable reason, that corrects him, in spite of himself. In all things we find, as it were, two principles within us. The one gives, the other receives; the one fails, or is defective; the other makes up; the one mistakes, the other rectifies; the one goes awry, through his inclination, the other sets him right. It was the mistaken and ill-understood experience of this that led the Marcionites and Manicheans into error. Every man is conscious within himself of a limited and inferior reason, that goes astray and errs, as soon as it gets loose from an entire subordination, and which mends its error no other way, but by returning under the yoke of another superior, universal, and immutable reason. Thus everything within us argues an inferior, limited, communicated, and borrowed reason, that wants every moment to be rectified by another. All men are rational by means of the same reason, that communicates itself to them, according to various degrees. There is a certain number of wise men; but the wisdom from which they draw theirs, as from an inexhaustible source, and which makes them what they are, is but ONE.

SECT. LVIII. It is the Primitive Truth, that Lights all Minds, by communicating itself to them.

Where is that wisdom? Where is that reason, at once both common and superior to all limited and imperfect reasons of mankind? Where is that oracle, which is never silent, and against which all the vain prejudices of men cannot prevail? Where is that reason which we have ever occasion to consult, and which prevents us to create in us the desire of hearing its voice? Where is that lively light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world? Where is that pure and soft light, which not only lights those eyes that are open, but which opens eyes that are shut; cures sore eyes; gives eyes to those that have none to see it; in short, which raises the desire of being lighted by it, and gains even their love, who were afraid to see it? Every eye sees it; nor would it see anything, unless it saw it; since it is by that light and its pure rays that the eye sees everything. As the sensibler sun in the firmament lights all bodies, so the sun of intelligence lights all minds. The substance of a man's eye is not the light: on the contrary, the eye borrows, every moment, the light from the rays of the sun. Just in the same manner, my mind is not the primitive reason, or universal and immutable truth; but only the organ through which that original light passes, and which is lighted by it. There is a sun of spirits that lights them far better than the visible sun lights bodies. This sun of spirits gives us, at once, both its light, and the love of it, in order to seek it. That sun of truth leaves no manner of darkness, and shines at the same time in the two hemispheres. It lights us as much by night as by day; nor does it spread its rays outwardly; but inhabits in every one of us. A man can never deprive another man of its beams. One sees it equally, in whatever corner of the universe he may lurk. A man never needs say to another, step aside, to let me see that sun; you rob me of its rays; you take away my share of it. That sun never sets: nor suffers any cloud, but such as are raised by our passions. It is a day without shadow. It lights the savages even in the deepest and darkest caves; none but sore eyes wink against its light; nor is there indeed any man so distempered and so blind, but who still walks by the glimpse of some duskish light he retains from that inward sun of consciences. That universal light discovers and represents all objects to our minds; nor can we judge of anything but by it; just as we cannot discern anybody but by the rays of the sun.

SECT. LIX. It is by the Light of Primitive Truth a Man Judges whether what one says to him be True or False.

Men may speak and discourse to us in order to instruct us: but we cannot believe them any farther, than we find a certain conformity or agreement between what they say, and what the inward master says. After they have exhausted all their arguments, we must still return, and hearken to him, for a final decision. If a man should tell us that a part equals the whole of which it is a part, we should not be able to forbear laughing, and instead of persuading us, he would make himself ridiculous to us. It is in the very bottom of ourselves, by consulting the inward master, that we must find the truths that are taught us, that is, which are outwardly proposed to us. Thus, properly speaking, there is but one true Master, who teaches all, and without whom one learns nothing. Other masters always refer and bring us back to that inward school where he alone speaks. It is there we receive what we have not; it is there we learn what we were ignorant of; and find what we had lost by oblivion. It is in the intimate bottom of ourselves, he keeps in store for us certain truths, that lie, as it were, buried, but which revive upon occasion; and it is there, in short, that we reject the falsehood we had embraced. Far from judging that master, it is by him alone we are judged peremptorily in all things. He is a judge disinterested, impartial, and superior to us. We may, indeed, refuse hearing him, and raise a din to stun our ears: but when we hear him it is not in our power to contradict him. Nothing is more unlike man than that invisible master that instructs and judges him with so much severity, uprightness, and perfection. Thus our limited, uncertain, defective, fallible reason, is but a feeble and momentaneous inspiration of a primitive, supreme, and immutable reason, which communicates itself with measure, to all intelligent beings.

SECT. LX. The Superior Reason that resides in Man is God Himself; and whatever has been above discovered to be in Man, are evident Footsteps of the Deity.

It cannot be said that man gives himself the thoughts he had not before; much less can it be said that he receives them from other men, since it is certain he neither does nor can admit anything from without, unless he finds it in his own bottom, by consulting within him the principles of reason, in order to examine whether what he is told is agreeable or repugnant to them. Therefore there is an inward school wherein man receives what he neither can give himself, nor expect from other men who live upon trust as well as himself. Here then, are two reasons I find within me; one of which, is myself, the other is above me. That which is myself is very imperfect, prejudiced, liable to error, changeable, headstrong, ignorant, and limited; in short it possesses nothing but what is borrowed. The other is common to all men, and superior to them. It is perfect, eternal, immutable, ever ready to communicate itself in all places, and to rectify all minds that err and mistake; in short, incapable of ever being either exhausted or divided, although it communicates itself to all who desire it. Where is that perfect reason which is so near me, and yet so different from me? Where is it? Sure it must be something real; for nothing or nought cannot either be perfect or make perfect imperfect natures. Where is that supreme reason? Is it not the very God I look for?

SECT. LXI. New sensible Notices of the Deity in Man, drawn from the Knowledge he has of Unity.

I still find other traces or notices of the Deity within me: here is a very sensible one. I am acquainted with prodigious numbers with the relations that are between them. Now how come I by that knowledge? It is so very distinct that I cannot seriously doubt of it; and so, immediately, without the least hesitation, I rectify any man that does not follow it in computation. If a man says seventeen and three make twenty-two, I presently tell him seventeen and three make but twenty; and he is immediately convinced by his own light, and acquiesces in my correction. The same Master who speaks within me to correct him speaks at the same time within him to bid him acquiesce. These are not two masters that have agreed to make us agree. It is something indivisible, eternal, immutable, that speaks at the same time with an invincible persuasion in us both. Once more, how come I by so just a notion of numbers? All numbers are but repeated units. Every number is but a compound, or a repetition of units. The number of two, for instance, is but two units; the number of four is reducible to one repeated four times. Therefore we cannot conceive any number without conceiving unity, which is the essential foundation of any possible number; nor can we conceive any repetition of units without conceiving unity itself, which is its basis.

But which way can I know any real unit? I never saw, nor so much as imagined any by the report of my senses. Let me take, for instance, the most subtle atom; it must have a figure, length, breadth, and depth, a top and a bottom, a left and a right side; and again the top is not the bottom, nor one side the other. Therefore this atom is not truly one, for it consists of parts. Now a compound is a real number, and a multitude of beings. It is not a real unit, but a collection of beings, one of which is not the other. I therefore never learnt by my eyes, my ears, my hands, nor even by my imagination, that there is in nature any real unity; on the contrary, neither my senses nor my imagination ever presented to me anything but what is a compound, a real number or a multitude. All unity continually escapes me; it flies me as it were by a kind of enchantment. Since I look for it in so many divisions of an atom, I certainly have a distinct idea of it; and it is only by its simple and clear idea that I arrive, by the repetition of it, at the knowledge of so many other numbers. But since it escapes me in all the divisions of the bodies of nature, it clearly follows that I never came by the knowledge of it, through the canal of my senses and imagination. Here therefore is an idea which is in me independently from the senses, imagination, and impressions of bodies.

Moreover, although I would not frankly acknowledge that I have a clear idea of unity, which is the foundation of all numbers, because they are but repetitions or collections of units: I must at least be forced to own that I know a great many numbers with their proprieties and relations. I know, for instance, how much make 900,000,000 joined with 800,000,000 of another sum. I make no mistake in it; and I should, with certainty, immediately rectify any man that should. Nevertheless, neither my senses nor my imagination were ever able to represent to me distinctly all those millions put together. Nor would the image they should represent to me be more like seventeen hundred millions than a far inferior number. Therefore, how came I by so distinct an idea of numbers, which I never could either feel or imagine? These ideas, independent upon bodies, can neither be corporeal nor admitted in a corporeal subject. They discover to me the nature of my soul, which admits what is incorporeal and receives it within itself in an incorporeal manner. Now, how came I by so incorporeal an idea of bodies themselves? I cannot by my own nature carry it within me, since what in me knows bodies is incorporeal; and since it knows them, without receiving that knowledge through the canal of corporeal organs, such as the senses and imagination. What thinks in me must be, as it were, a nothing of corporeal nature. How was I able to know beings that have by nature no relation with my thinking being? Certainly a being superior to those two natures, so very different, and which comprehends them both in its infinity, must have joined them in my soul, and given me an idea of a nature entirely different from that which thinks in me.

SECT. LXII. The Idea of the Unity proves that there are Immaterial Substances; and that there is a Being Perfectly One, who is God.

As for units, some perhaps will say that I do not know them by the bodies, but only by the spirits; and, therefore, that my mind being one, and truly known to me, it is by it, and not by the bodies, I have the idea of unity. But to this I answer.

It will, at least, follow from thence that I know substances that have no manner of extension or divisibility, and which are present. Here are already beings purely incorporeal, in the number of which I ought to place my soul. Now, who is it that has united it to my body? This soul of mine is not an infinite being; it has not been always, and it thinks within certain bounds. Now, again, who makes it know bodies so different from it? Who gives it so great a command over a certain body; and who gives reciprocally to that body so great a command over the soul? Moreover, which way do I know whether this thinking soul is really one, or whether it has parts? I do not see this soul. Now, will anybody say that it is in so invisible, and so impenetrable, a thing that I clearly see what unity is? I am so far from learning by my soul what the being One is, that, on the contrary, it is by the clear idea I have already of unity that I examine whether my soul be one or divisible.

Add to this, that I have within me a clear idea of a perfect unity, which is far above that I may find in my soul. The latter is often conscious that she is divided between two contrary opinions, inclinations, and habits. Now, does not this division, which I find within myself, show and denote a kind of multiplicity and composition of parts? Besides, the soul has, at least, a successive composition of thoughts, one of which is most different and distinct from another. I conceive an unity infinitely more One, if I may so speak. I conceive a Being who never changes His thoughts, who always thinks all things at once, and in which no composition, even successive, can be found. Undoubtedly it is the idea of the perfect and supreme unity that makes me so inquisitive after some unity in spirits, and even in bodies. This idea, ever present within me, is innate or inborn with me; it is the perfect model by which I seek everywhere some imperfect copy of the unity. This idea of what is one, simple, and indivisible by excellence can be no other than the idea of God. I, therefore, know God with such clearness and evidence, that it is by knowing Him I seek in all creatures, and in myself, some image and likeness of His unity. The bodies have, as it were, some mark or print of that unity, which still flies away in the division of its parts; and the spirits have a greater likeness of it, although they have a successive composition of thoughts.

SECT. LXIII. Dependence and Independence of Man. His Dependence Proves the Existence of his Creator.

But here is another mystery which I carry within me, and which makes me incomprehensible to my self, viz.: that on the one hand I am free, and on the other dependent. Let us examine these two things, and see whether it is possible to reconcile them.

I am a dependent being. Independency is the supreme perfection. To be by one's self is to carry within one's self the source or spring of one's own being; or, which is the same, it is to borrow nothing from any being different from one's self. Suppose a being that has all the perfections you can imagine, but which has a borrowed and dependent being, and you will find him to be less perfect than another being in which you would suppose but bare independency. For there is no comparison to be made between a being that exists by himself and a being who has nothing of his own—nothing but what is precarious and borrowed—and is in himself, as it were, only upon trust.

This consideration brings me to acknowledge the imperfection of what I call my soul. If she existed by herself, it would borrow nothing from another; she would not want either to be instructed in her ignorances, or to be rectified in her errors. Nothing could reclaim her from her vices, or inspire her with virtue; for nothing would be able to render her will better than it should have been at first. This soul would ever possess whatever she should be capable to enjoy, nor could she ever receive any addition from without. On the other hand, it is no less certain that she could not lose anything, for what is or exists by itself is always necessarily whatever it is. Therefore my soul could not fall into ignorance, error, or vice, or suffer any diminution of good-will; nor could she, on the other hand, instruct or correct herself, or become better than she is. Now, I experience the contrary of all these; for I forget, mistake, err, go astray, lose the sight of truth and the love of virtue, I corrupt, I diminish. On the other hand, I improve and increase by acquiring wisdom and good-will, which I never had. This intimate experience convinces me that my soul is not a being existing by itself and independent; that is necessary, and immutable in all it possesses and enjoys. Now, whence proceeds this augmentation and improvement of myself? Who is it that can enlarge and perfect my being by making me better, and, consequently, greater than I was?

SECT. LXIV. Good Will cannot Proceed but from a Superior Being.

The will or faculty of willing is undoubtedly a degree of being, and of good, or perfection; but good-will, benevolence, or desire of good, is another degree of superior good. For one may misuse will in order to wish ill, cheat, hurt, or do injustice; whereas good- will is the good or right use of will itself, which cannot but be good. Good-will is therefore what is most precious in man. It is that which sets a value upon all the rest. It is, as it were, "The whole man:" Hoc enim omnis homo.

I have already shown that my will is not by itself, since it is liable to lose and receive degrees of good or perfection; and likewise that it is a good inferior to good-will, because it is better to will good than barely to have a will susceptible both of good and evil. How could I be brought to believe that I, a weak, imperfect, borrowed, precarious, and dependent being, bestow on myself the highest degree of perfection, while it is visible and evident that I derive the far inferior degree of perfection from a First Being? Can I imagine that God gives me the lesser good, and that I give myself the greater without Him? How should I come by that high degree of perfection in order to give it myself! Should I have it from nothing, which is all my own stock? Shall I say that other spirits, much like or equal to mine, give it me? But since those limited and dependent beings like myself cannot give themselves anything no more than I can, much less can they bestow anything upon another. For as they do not exist by themselves, so they have not by themselves any true power, either over me, or over things that are imperfect in me, or over themselves. Wherefore, without stopping with them, we must go up higher in order to find out a first, teeming, and most powerful cause, that is able to bestow on my soul the good will she has not.

SECT. LXV. As a Superior Being is the Cause of All the Modifications of Creatures, so it is Impossible for Man's Will to Will Good by Itself or of its own Accord.

Let us still add another reflection. That First Being is the cause of all the modifications of His creatures. The operation follows the Being, as the philosophers are used to speak. A being that is dependent in the essence of his being cannot but be dependent in all his operations, for the accessory follows the principal. Therefore, the Author of the essence of the being is also the Author of all the modifications or modes of being of creatures. Thus God is the real and immediate cause of all the configurations, combinations, and motions of all the bodies of the universe. It is by means or upon occasion of a body He has set in motion that He moves another. It is He who created everything and who does everything in His creatures or works. Now, volition is the modification of the will or willing faculty of the soul, just as motion is the modification of bodies. Shall we affirm that God is the real, immediate, and total cause of the motion of all bodies, and that He is not equally the real and immediate cause of the good-will of men's wills? Will this modification, the most excellent of all, be the only one not made by God in His own work, and which the work bestows on itself independently? Who can entertain such a thought? Therefore my good-will which I had not yesterday and which I have to-day is not a thing I bestow upon myself, but must come from Him who gave me both the will and the being.

As to will is a greater perfection than barely to be, so to will good is more perfect than to will. The step from power to a virtuous act is the greatest perfection in man. Power is only a balance or poise between virtue and vice, or a suspension between good and evil. The passage or step to the act is a decision or determination for the good, and consequent by the superior good. The power susceptible of good and evil comes from God, which we have fully evinced. Now, shall we affirm that the decisive stroke that determines to the greater good either is not at all, or is less owing to Him? All this evidently proves what the Apostle says, viz., that God "works both to will and to do of His good pleasure." Here is man's dependence; let us look for his liberty.

SECT. LXVI. Of Man's Liberty.

I am free, nor can I doubt of it. I am intimately and invincibly convinced that I can either will or not will, and that there is in me a choice not only between willing and not willing, but also between divers wills about the variety of objects that present themselves. I am sensible, as the Scripture says, that I "am in the hands of my Council," which alone suffices to show me that my soul is not corporeal. All that is body or corporeal does not in the least determine itself, and is, on the contrary, determined in all things by laws called physical, which are necessary, invincible, and contrary to what I call liberty. From thence I infer that my soul is of a nature entirely different from that of my body. Now who is it that was able to join by a reciprocal union two such different natures, and hold them in so just a concert for all their respective operations? That tie, as we observed before, cannot be formed but by a Superior Being, who comprehends and unites those two sorts of perfections in His own infinite perfection.

SECT. LXVII. Man's Liberty Consists in that his Will by determining, Modifies Itself.

It is not the same with the modification of my soul which is called will, and by some philosophers volition, as with the modifications of bodies. A body does not in the least modify itself, but is modified by the sole power of God. It does not move itself, it is moved; it does not act in anything, it is only acted and actuated. Thus God is the only real and immediate cause of all the different modifications of bodies. As for spirits the case is different, for my will determines itself. Now to determine one's self to a will is to modify one's self, and therefore my will modifies itself. God may prevent my soul, but He does not give it the will in the same manner as He gives motion to bodies. If it is God who modifies me, I modify myself with Him, and am with Him a real cause of my own will. My will is so much my own that I am only to blame if I do not will what I ought. When I will a thing it is in my power not to will it, and when I do not will it it is likewise in my power to will it. I neither am nor can be compelled in my will; for I cannot will what I actually will in spite of myself, since the will I mean evidently excludes all manner of constraint. Besides the exemption from all compulsion, I am likewise free from necessity. I am conscious and sensible that I have, as it were, a two-edged will, which at its own choice may be either for the affirmative or the negative, the yes or the no, and turn itself either towards an object or towards another. I know no other reason or determination of my will but my will itself. I will a thing because I am free to will it; and nothing is so much in my power as either to will or not to will it. Although my will should not be constrained, yet if it were necessitated it would be as strongly and invincibly determined to will as bodies are to move. An invincible necessity would have as much influence over the will with respect to spirits as it has over motion with respect to bodies; and, in such a case, the will would be no more accountable for willing than a body for moving. It is true the will would will what it would; but the motion by which a body is moved is the same as the volition by which the willing faculty wills. If therefore volition be necessitated as motion it deserves neither more nor less praise or blame. For though a necessitated will may seem to be a will unconstrained, yet it is such a will as one cannot forbear having, and for which he that has it is not accountable. Nor does previous knowledge establish true liberty, for a will may be preceded by the knowledge of divers objects, and yet have no real election or choice. Nor is deliberation or the being in suspense any more than a vain trifle, if I deliberate between two counsels when I am under an actual impotency to follow the one and under an actual necessity to pursue the other. In short, there is no serious and true choice between two objects, unless they be both actually ready within my reach so that I may either leave or take which of the two I please.

SECT. LXVIII. Will may Resist Grace, and Its Liberty is the Foundation of Merit and Demerit.

When therefore I say I am free, I mean that my will is fully in my power, and that even God Himself leaves me at liberty to turn it which way I please, that I am not determined as other beings, and that I determine myself. I conceive that if that First Being prevents me, to inspire me with a good-will, it is still in my power to reject His actual inspiration, how strong soever it may be, to frustrate its effect, and to refuse my assent to it. I conceive likewise that when I reject His inspiration for the good, I have the true and actual power not to reject it; just as I have the actual and immediate power to rise when I remain sitting, and to shut my eyes when I have them open. Objects may indeed solicit me by all their allurements and agreeableness to will or desire them. The reasons for willing may present themselves to me with all their most lively and affecting attendants, and the Supreme Being may also attract me by His most persuasive inspirations. But yet for all this actual attraction of objects, cogency of reasons, and even inspiration of a Superior Being, I still remain master of my will, and am free either to will or not to will.

It is this exemption not only from all manner of constraint or compulsion but also from all necessity and this command over my own actions that render me inexcusable when I will evil, and praiseworthy when I will good; in this lies merit and demerit, praise and blame; it is this that makes either punishment or reward just; it is upon this consideration that men exhort, rebuke, threaten, and promise. This is the foundation of all policy, instruction, and rules of morality. The upshot of the merit and demerit of human actions rests upon this basis, that nothing is so much in the power of our will as our will itself, and that we have this free-will—this, as it were, two-edged faculty—and this elative power between two counsels which are immediately, as it were, within our reach. It is what shepherds and husbandmen sing in the fields, what merchants and artificers suppose in their traffic, what actors represent in public shows, what magistrates believe in their councils, what doctors teach in their schools; it is that, in short, which no man of sense can seriously call in question. That truth imprinted in the bottom of our hearts, is supposed in the practice, even by those philosophers who would endeavour to shake it by their empty speculations. The intimate evidence of that truth is like that of the first principles, which want no proof, and which serve themselves as proofs to other truths that are not so clear and self-evident. But how could the First Being make a creature who is himself the umpire of his own actions?

SECT. LXIX. A Character of the Deity, both in the Dependence and Independence of Man.

Let us now put together these two truths equally certain. I am dependent upon a First Being even in my own will; and nevertheless I am free. What then is this dependent liberty? how is it possible for a man to conceive a free-will, that is given by a First Being? I am free in my will, as God is in His. It is principally in this I am His image and likeness. What a greatness that borders upon infinite is here! This is a ray of the Deity itself: it is a kind of Divine power I have over my will; but I am but a bare image of that supreme Being so absolutely free and powerful.

The image of the Divine independence is not the reality of what it represents; and, therefore, my liberty is but a shadow of that First Being, by whom I exist and act. On the one hand, the power I have of willing evil is, indeed, rather a weakness and frailty of my will than a true power: for it is only a power to fall, to degrade myself, and to diminish my degree of perfection and being. On the other hand, the power I have to will good is not an absolute power, since I have it not of myself. Now liberty being no more than that power, a precarious and borrowed power can constitute but a precarious, borrowed, and dependent liberty; and, therefore, so imperfect and so precarious a being cannot but be dependent. But how is he free? What profound mystery is here! His liberty, of which I cannot doubt, shows his perfection; and his dependence argues the nothingness from which he was drawn.

SECT. LXX. The Seal and Stamp of the Deity in His Works.

We have seen the prints of the Deity, or to speak more properly, the seal and stamp of God Himself, in all that is called the works of nature. When a man will not enter into philosophical subtleties, he observes with the first cast of the eye a hand, that was the first mover, in all the parts of the universe, and set all the wheels of the great machine a-going. The heavens, the earth, the stars, plants, animals, our bodies, our minds: everything shows and proclaims an order, an exact measure, an art, a wisdom, a mind superior to us, which is, as it were, the soul of the whole world, and which leads and directs everything to his ends, with a gentle and insensible, though omnipotent, force. We have seen, as it were, the architecture and frame of the universe; the just proportion of all its parts; and the bare cast of the eye has sufficed us to find and discover even in an ant, more than in the sun, a wisdom and power that delights to exert itself in the polishing and adorning its vilest works. This is obvious, without any speculative discussion, to the most ignorant of men; but what a world of other wonders should we discover, should we penetrate into the secrets of physics, and dissect the inward parts of animals, which are framed according to the most perfect mechanics.

SECT. LXXI. Objection of the Epicureans, who Ascribe Everything to Chance, considered.

I hear certain philosophers who answer me that all this discourse on the art that shines in the universe is but a continued sophism. "All nature," will they say, "is for man's use, it is true; but you have no reason to infer from thence, that it was made with art, and on purpose for the use of man. A man must be ingenious in deceiving himself who looks for and thinks to find what never existed." "It is true," will they add, "that man's industry makes use of an infinite number of things that nature affords, and are convenient for him; but nature did not make those things on purpose for his conveniency. As, for instance, some country fellows climb up daily, by certain craggy and pointed rocks, to the top of a mountain; but yet it does not follow that those points of rocks were cut with art, like a staircase, for the conveniency of men. In like manner, when a man happens to be in the fields, during a stormy rain, and fortunately meets with a cave, he uses it, as he would do a house, for shelter; but, however, it cannot be affirmed that this cave was made on purpose to serve men for a house. It is the same with the whole world: it was formed by chance, and without design; but men finding it as it is, had the art to turn and improve it to their own uses. Thus the art you admire both in the work and its artificer, is only in men, who know how to make use of everything that surrounds them." This is certainly the strongest objection those philosophers can raise; and I hope they will have no reason to complain that I have weakened it; but it will immediately appear how weak it is in itself when closely examined. The bare repetition of what I said before will be sufficient to demonstrate it.

SECT. LXXII. Answer to the Objection of the Epicureans, who Ascribe all to Chance.

What would one say of a man who should set up for a subtle philosopher, or, to use the modern expression, a free-thinker, and who entering a house should maintain it was made by chance, and that art had not in the least contributed to render it commodious to men, because there are caves somewhat like that house, which yet were never dug by the art of man? One should show to such a reasoner all the parts of the house, and tell him for instance:—Do you see this great court-gate? It is larger than any door, that coaches may enter it. This court has sufficient space for coaches to turn in it. This staircase is made up of low steps, that one may ascend it with ease; and turns according to the apartments and stories it is to serve. The windows, opened at certain distances, light the whole building. They are glazed, lest the wind should enter with the light; but they may be opened at pleasure, in order to breathe a sweet air when the weather is fair. The roof is contrived to defend the whole house from the injuries of the air. The timber-work is laid slanting and pointed at the top, that the rain and snow may easily slide down on both sides. The tiles bear one upon another, that they may cover the timber-work. The divers floors serve to make different stories, in order to multiply lodgings within a small space. The chimneys are contrived to light fire in winter without setting the house on fire, and to let out the smoke, lest it should offend those that warm themselves. The apartments are distributed in such a manner that they be disengaged from one another; that a numerous family may lodge in the house, and the one not be obliged to pass through another's room; and that the master's apartment be the principal. There are kitchens, offices, stables, and coach- houses. The rooms are furnished with beds to lie in, chairs to sit on, and tables to write and eat on. Sure, should one urge to that philosopher, this work must have been directed by some skilful architect; for everything in it is agreeable, pleasant, proportioned, and commodious; and besides, he must needs have had excellent artists under him. "Not at all," would such a philosopher answer; "you are ingenious in deceiving yourself. It is true this house is pleasant, agreeable, proportioned, and commodious; but yet it made itself with all its proportions. Chance put together all the stones in this excellent order; it raised the walls, jointed and laid the timber-work, cut open the casements, and placed the staircase: do not believe any human hand had anything to do with it. Men only made the best of this piece of work when they found it ready made. They fancy it was made for them, because they observe things in it which they know how to improve to their own conveniency; but all they ascribe to the design and contrivance of an imaginary architect, is but the effect of their preposterous imaginations. This so regular, and so well-contrived house, was made in just the same manner as a cave, and men finding it ready made to their hands made use of it, as they would in a storm, of a cave they should find under a rock in a desert."

What thoughts could a man entertain of such a fantastic philosopher, if he should persist seriously to assert that such a house displays no art? When we read the fabulous story of Amphion, who by a miraculous effect of harmony caused the stones to rise, and placed themselves, with order and symmetry, one on the top of another, in order to form the walls of Thebes, we laugh and sport with that poetical fiction: but yet this very fiction is not so incredible as that which the free-thinking philosopher we contend with would dare to maintain. We might, at least, imagine that harmony, which consists in a local motion of certain bodies, might (by some of those secret virtues, which we admire in nature, without being acquainted with them) shake and move the stones into a certain order and in a sort of cadence, which might occasion some regularity in the building. I own this explanation both shocks and clashes with reason; but yet it is less extravagant than what I have supposed a philosopher should say. What, indeed, can be more absurd, than to imagine stones that hew themselves, that go out of the quarry, that get one on the top of another, without leaving any empty space; that carry with them mortar to cement one another; that place themselves in different ranks for the contrivance of apartments; and who admit on the top of all the timber-roof, with the tiles, in order to cover the whole work? The very children, that cannot yet speak plain, would laugh, if they were seriously told such a ridiculous story.

SECT. LXXIII. Comparison of the World with a Regular House. A Continuation of the Answer to the Objection of the Epicureans.

But why should it appear less ridiculous to hear one say that the world made itself, as well as that fabulous house? The question is not to compare the world with a cave without form, which is supposed to be made by chance: but to compare it with a house in which the most perfect architecture should be conspicuous. For the structure and frame of the least living creature is infinitely more artful and admirable than the finest house that ever was built.

Suppose a traveller entering Saida, the country where the ancient Thebes, with a hundred gates, stood formerly, and which is now a desert, should find there columns, pyramids, obelisks, and inscriptions in unknown characters. Would he presently say: men never inhabited this place; no human hand had anything to do here; it is chance that formed these columns, that placed them on their pedestals, and crowned them with their capitals, with such just proportions; it is chance that so firmly jointed the pieces that make up these pyramids; it is chance that cut the obelisks in one single stone, and engraved in them these characters? Would he not, on the contrary, say, with all the certainty the mind of man is capable of: these magnificent ruins are the remains of a noble and majestical architecture that flourished in ancient Egypt? This is what plain reason suggests, at the first cast of the eye, or first sight, and without reasoning. It is the same with the bare prospect of the universe. A man may by vain, long-winded, preposterous reasonings confound his own reason and obscure the clearest notions: but the single cast of the eye is decisive. Such a work as the world is never makes itself of its own accord. There is more art and proportion in the bones, tendons, veins, arteries, nerves, and muscles, that compose man's body, than in all the architecture of the ancient Greeks and Egyptians. The single eye of the least of living creatures surpasses the mechanics of all the most skilful artificers. If a man should find a watch in the sands of Africa, he would never have the assurance seriously to affirm, that chance formed it in that wild place; and yet some men do not blush to say that the bodies of animals, to the artful framing of which no watch can ever be compared, are the effects of the caprices of chance.

SECT. LXXIV. Another Objection of the Epicureans drawn from the Eternal Motion of Atoms.

I am not ignorant of a reasoning which the Epicureans may frame into an objection. "The atoms will, they say, have an eternal motion; their fortuitous concourse must, in that eternity, have already produced infinite combinations. Who says infinite, says what comprehends all without exception. Amongst these infinite combinations of atoms which have already happened successively, all such as are possible must necessarily be found: for if there were but one possible combination, beyond those contained in that infinite, it would cease to be a true infinite, because something might be added to it; and whatever may be increased, being limited on the side it may receive an addition, is not truly infinite. Hence it follows that the combination of atoms, which makes up the present system of the world, is one of the combinations which the atoms have had successively: which being laid as a principle, is it matter of wonder that the world is as it is now? It must have taken this exact form, somewhat sooner, or somewhat later, for in some one of these infinite changes it must, at last, have received that combination that makes it now appear so regular; since it must have had, by turns, all combinations that can be conceived. All systems are comprehended in the total of eternity. There is none but the concourse of atoms, forms, and embraces, sooner or later. In that infinite variety of new spectacles of nature, the present was formed in its turn. We find ourselves actually in this system. The concourse of atoms that made will, in process of time, unmake it, in order to make others, ad infinitum, of all possible sorts. This system could not fail having its place, since all others without exception are to have theirs, each in its turn. It is in vain one looks for a chimerical art in a work which chance must have made as it is.

"An example will suffice to illustrate this. I suppose an infinite number of combinations of the letters of the alphabet, successively formed by chance. All possible combinations are, undoubtedly, comprehended in that total, which is truely infinite. Now, it is certain that Homer's Iliad is but a combination of letters: therefore Homer's Iliad is comprehended in that infinite collection of combinations of the characters of the alphabet. This being laid down as a principle, a man who will assign art in the Iliad, will argue wrong. He may extol the harmony of the verses, the justness and magnificence of the expressions, the simplicity and liveliness of images, the due proportion of the parts of the poem, its perfect unity, and inimitable conduct; he may object that chance can never make anything so perfect, and that the utmost effort of human wit is hardly capable to finish so excellent a piece of work: yet all in vain, for all this specious reasoning is visibly false. It is certain, on the contrary, that the fortuitous concourse of characters, putting them together by turns with an infinite variety, the precise combination that composes the Iliad must have happened in its turn, somewhat sooner or somewhat later. It has happened at last; and thus the Iliad is perfect, without the help of any human art." This is the objection fairly laid down in its full latitude; I desire the reader's serious and continued attention to the answers I am going to make to it.

SECT. LXXV. Answers to the Objection of the Epicureans drawn from the Eternal Motion of Atoms.

Nothing can be more absurd than to speak of successive combinations of atoms infinite in number; for the infinite can never be either successive or divisible. Give me, for instance, any number you may pretend to be infinite, and it will still be in my power to do two things that shall demonstrate it not to be a true infinite. In the first place, I can take an unit from it; and in such a case it will become less than it was, and will certainly be finite; for whatever is less than the infinite has a boundary or limit on the side where one stops, and beyond which one might go. Now the number which is finite as soon as one takes from it one single unit, could not be infinite before that diminution; for an unit is certainly finite, and a finite joined with another finite cannot make an infinite. If a single unit added to a finite number made an infinite, it would follow from thence that the finite would be almost equal to the infinite; than which nothing can be more absurd. In the second place, I may add an unit to that number given, and consequently increase it. Now what may be increased is not infinite, for the infinite can have no bound; and what is capable of augmentation is bounded on the side a man stops, when he might go further and add some units to it. It is plain, therefore, that no divisible compound can be the true infinite.

This foundation being laid, all the romance of the Epicurean philosophy disappears and vanishes out of sight in an instant. There never can be any divisible body truly infinite in extent, nor any number or any succession that is a true infinite. From hence it follows that there never can be an infinite successive number of combinations of atoms. If this chimerical infinite were real, I own all possible and conceivable combinations of atoms would be found in it; and that consequently all combinations that seem to require the utmost industry would likewise be included in them. In such a case, one might ascribe to mere chance the most marvellous performances of art. If one should see palaces built according to the most perfect rules of architecture, curious furniture, watches, clocks, and all sort of machines the most compounded, in a desert island, he should not be free reasonably to conclude that there have been men in that island who made all those exquisite works. On the contrary, he ought to say, "Perhaps one of the infinite combinations of atoms which chance has successively made, has formed all these compositions in this desert island without the help of any man's art;" for such an assertion is a natural consequence of the principles of the Epicureans. But the very absurdity of the consequence serves to expose the extravagance of the principle they lay down. When men, by the natural rectitude of their common sense, conclude that such sort of works cannot result from chance, they visibly suppose, though in a confused manner, that atoms are not eternal, and that in their fortuitous concourse they had not an infinite succession of combinations. For if that principle were admitted, it would no longer be possible ever to distinguish the works of art from those that should result from those combinations as fortuitous as a throw at dice.

Previous Part     1  2  3     Next Part
Home - Random Browse