It may be objected that Brahman cannot be the creator of this actual world, for there is in it suffering, injustice, and cruelty. He could not be the author of these. To which the commentator Sankara answers: "Brahman is himself, with all his greatness, subject to the operation of the great moral laws according to which virtue is rewarded and vice punished. All men are free, and it is their self-chosen conduct that determines their destiny. This is a law that pervades all existence, conditions existence, and without which there could be no existence."
It may be again asked: "How can a being with perfect life produce a world that is lifeless?" In other words, "How can the effect differ from its cause?" The same commentator replies: "Just as lifeless hair can grow out of a living man."
Again, it is said, "In the universe Brahman is at once he who enjoys and he who is enjoyed. How can he be both one and the other—agent and object?" To which Sankara replies: "It is as possible for these two to go together as for the ocean to be itself and to be at the same time foam, waves, billows, and bubbles. The same earth produces diamonds, rock crystal, and vermilion. Do they differ from the earth?
"The same sun causes plants of various kinds to grow, and the very same nourishment taken into the body is changed to flesh, hair, nails, etc. The spider spins its web from its own substance, and spirits assume many forms when they appear on the earth. All these are but images of the eternal world-process by which Brahman reveals Himself in souls and in material objects."
THE HIGHEST KNOWLEDGE INACCESSIBLE TO LOW CASTE MEN
No Sudra [or lowest caste man] is capable of such knowledge as leads to Brahmanhood [the state of being absorbed in Brahman]. Only the twice-born are allowed to study the Vedic Scriptures, a knowledge of which is essential to salvation. The twice-born are likewise alone permitted to offer sacrifice, for how can a man sacrifice aright who is ignorant of the sacred scriptures, which are alone adequate for a man's guidance? If the Sudras, or fourth-caste men, are excluded from the summum bonum of humanity—absorption in the one great all—how much more are Pariahs, or non-caste men, deprived of this great boon! Brahman is the material, as well as the efficient, cause of the world, which springs from him by way of modification, but is his manifested self and nothing more.
BOOK II.—OBJECTIONS TO VEDANTIC DOCTRINES STATED AND REFUTED
The Vedanta texts, the Vedas and the Upanishads, teach that Brahman is the one only source of whatever exists outside himself; that his nature is not only mighty, but also intelligent. The evidence for this supplied in Book I. is, for the most part, the authority of the above texts; that which they say must be accepted as "gospel," whatever human reason may see or say to the contrary.
Book II. begins by stating and answering speculative objections on the part of Sankhyaists. Though himself intelligence (not merely intelligent) Brahman may give birth to a non-intelligent world, seeing that like does not always spring from like [see above].
Atomists hold that there is apparent difference and separateness in things. "Where, then," they ask, "is the oneness, the monism, for which the Vedantists argue?" It is replied that it is only superficial thought that fixes itself upon the manifoldness of things, losing sight of their oneness. Deeper thought sees underneath the many a oneness which binds them, and of which they are only the outward expressions. The great ocean is one, but its waves and ripples are many. All at bottom is but one: the Universal Being.
A non-intelligent first cause (Prakriti), such as the Sankhyaists postulate, could never call into being an orderly world, for how could unreason produce reason? Nor could atoms set in motion produce a planned or intelligent universe, as the Atomists falsely say. There must be an intelligent power controlling the atoms and contemplating the result to be attained.
The view put forth by the Sankhya philosophers, that an external and internal world exists in mutual independence, is contrary to thought and experience—is, in fact, unthinkable. We know no external world: we have never had any experience outside the region of our own consciousness; yet what is regarded as external to the individual consciousness is not Maya, as is taught in some of the Upanishads, and maintained by later philosophers. This external world as a fact of consciousness is as real as that consciousness and as the individual mind which makes mental experience possible, and is the great All, of which the individual mind is the working and manifestation.
THE RELATION OF BRAHMAN TO ELEMENTS AND THE SOUL
Are the elementary substances (ether, air, etc) co-eternal, with Brahman, or do they issue from him? It can be shown, and is shown, that one elementary substance proceeds from another (e.g., air from ether), and that in the last resort all such substances have come forth from Brahman, who has not only produced them, but also guided and effected their evolution.
The individual soul is, according to the scriptures [Vedas and Upanishads], eternal and permanent, and has not been produced by Brahman; who is, however, as noted, the producer of the elementary substances. Like Brahman himself, the individual soul is uncreated and eternal. What is in time and belongs to time is the connection of the soul with the conditions of space and time. This is the interpretation given by Sankara. Ramanuga, however, holds that the soul is a creature of Brahman, though an eternal one, it having existed ever as a mode of the great All [compare the doctrine of the eternal procession of the Son].
WHAT IS SOUL?
What is soul? It is gna, or knowledge. [The etymology of both these latter words is identical—compare Greek gnosco, etc.] This means, according to Sankara, that knowledge is of the very essence of soul, and not a mere attribute of it. The soul is not merely a knower (gnatri), but it is knowledge. Ramanuga, on the other hand, explains that the knowledge spoken of in this Sutra means "the knower"; that the soul is not knowledge, but that which can and does know.
Is the soul limited in size, and capable, therefore, of occupying but a restricted space? Or is it, on the contrary, omnipresent?
Sankara maintains that the Sutra in question teaches the latter; the soul is everywhere. Ramanuga makes the same Sutra teach the very contrary. As a matter of fact, the Sutra in question seems to teach both these contradictory doctrines, perhaps because it registers different traditions. Sankara, however, explains further on that as long as the soul is passing through the changes involved in Samsara [= transmigration] it is limited and local, but on reaching Brahmanhood it becomes omnipresent. In this way the great commentator seeks to reconcile teaching apparently contradictory in this Sutra.
Is this soul an agent? Some of the Sutras say it is, others say it is not. How are the conflicting statements to be reconciled? Sankara does this in the following way. As long as the soul is tied down to material conditions—that is, is passing through the processes of Samsara—it is an agent. But as soon as it has escaped from this bondage of transmigration it dwells in a state of perfect repose, inactive and restful. In all its activities the soul is prompted by Brahman, without whose inspiration and guidance the soul could perform nothing, and could never, therefore, reach the true goal of all souls, absorption in the one All, which can be obtained in no other way than by the performance of good deeds, which means action.
BOOK III.—OF THE SOUL AND ITS SUMMUM BONUM
When at death the soul passes from the body its subtle material elements still cling to it. Good souls pass on to the moon, whence they afterwards descend in a form and state determined by their former actions [Karma]. If the previous life has been a moral failure, the new life now entered upon will belong to a lower level of being, i.e., the man may become an animal, the higher, animal may become a lower one. On the other hand, there may be an ascent in the scale of being.
When the soul is a-dreaming, what it thinks it sees and hears, etc., is all illusion, for it does not see or hear, etc., what it thinks it does. In a state of profound dreaminess the soul leaves the body and lives in close fellowship with Brahman.
How is the soul to obtain final release from the thraldom of material conditions? By meditating on Brahman as he is set forth in the sacred scriptures. Brahman must be thought about and meditated on in all his attributes, and this produces identity with the one great self of existence.
Though Sankara makes this to be the teaching of the Sutras, in another place he insists that Brahman is without attributes. He is not, therefore, consistent. The meditation on Brahman which leads to soul-freedom must have regard also to Brahman's negative qualities, i.e., his not being gross, nor subtle, wise nor foolish, etc.
THE RELATION OF KNOWLEDGE AND CONDUCT
The knowledge of Brahman is independent of action, and not subordinate to it. It is vidya [compare vision, which has the same etymology], or knowledge, that is alone prescribed in the holy writings, not conduct. Where, however, there is right knowledge, there will be rightness of life. But mere rightness of life is nothing; it is that which leads to it and is the cause that is alone commanded and commended [compare the controversy among Christian theologians about faith and works]. The knowledge which saves and enfranchises may be reached by a man in this present life, and will be, if the appropriate means are employed.
Meditation is a duty to be observed to the very close of life, and the amount and intensity of it are the measure of a man's virtue and piety. When he has reached the full knowledge of Brahman, a man is freed from the consequences [karma] of all his evil deeds, past, present, and future. [One would think that the state of Brahmanhood excluded the possibility of sin, but this Sutra seems to imply the contrary. The Sutras, however, make a distinction between a lower state of Brahmanhood and a higher. See below.]
What happens to the knowing one (vidvan) at death? The soul of him who has at death the lower Brahman knowledge merges into the subtler elements. But when the highest knowledge is attained there is complete absorption in Brahman. Whoever dies in possession of this highest knowledge is at once merged in Brahman, and rests eternally and perfectly in him.
The Upanishads describe the stations on the way which leads up to Brahman. These stations are to be understood not merely as terminuses of the various stages of the journey, but they denote also the divine beings who direct the soul in its progress and enable it to move forward and upward. According to some Sutras in this book the guardians of the path conducting to the gods lead the departed soul, not to the highest Brahman, but to the effected (karya), or qualified (saguna), Brahman. But in other Sutras in this book the opposite view is stated and defended, according to which the vidvan, or knower, goes direct to the highest Brahman without halting anywhere short of that god.
The Sutras teach, on the whole, the doctrine that the enfranchised soul, being identical with Brahman, is inseparable from him just as a mode of substance is incapable of existing apart from the substance of which it is a mode. Ramanuga points out, however, that some of the Sutras in this book give it clearly to be understood that the freed soul can exist in isolation and in separation from the great All.
The released soul can enter several bodies at the same time, since it is not subject to space relations as other souls are.
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THOMAS A KEMPIS
THE IMITATION OF CHRIST
Thomas a Kempis, whose family name was Haemmerlein, received the name of Kempis from Kempen, in Holland, the place of his birth. Either Thomas Haemmerlein or Thomas Kempensis would be a more correct name than the form "a Kempis," by which he is generally known; and "Musica Ecclesiastica" is the more correct title of the "Imitatio Christi." It is not even certain that Thomas was the author of it, for the names of other authors have been put forward with more or less probability; but he was certainly its copyist, and the balance of evidence is in favour of his authorship. Thomas was born in 1379, the son of a shoemaker; entered in 1400 a monastery at Agnetenberg, near Zwolle, and died in the monastery on August 8, 1471, with a great reputation for learning and for sanctity. The "Imitation" was completed about 1420. Editions and translations in all principal languages are innumerable; but the definitive edition is the Latin text by Dr. Carl Hirsche, of Hamburg (1874), from which the following epitome has been made. The "Imitation" consists of four books of meditations, which are among the most priceless treasures of Christian literature.
I.—ADMONITIONS USEFUL TO THE SPIRITUAL LIFE
"Whoever follows Me does not walk in darkness," says the Lord. These are the words of Christ by which we are admonished how far we should imitate His life and manners if we wish to be truly illumined and liberated from all blindness of heart. Let it, therefore, be our supreme study to meditate on the life of Jesus Christ.
Vanity of vanities, all things are vanity, except to love God and to serve Him only. The highest wisdom is to strive towards celestial kingdoms, through contempt of the world. It is, therefore, vanity to seek the riches that are about to perish, and to hope in them. It is vanity also to solicit honours, and to exalt oneself to high place. It is vanity to follow after the desires of the flesh, and to seek that for which we must soon be heavily punished. It is vanity to wish a long life, and to care little about a good life. It is vanity to attend only to the present life, and not to provide for things which are to come. It is vanity to love that which passes away so speedily, and not to hasten thither where eternal joy remains.
Remember often that proverb—"The eye is not satisfied with seeing nor the ear with hearing." Study, therefore, to withdraw your heart from the love of visible things, and turn yourself to the invisible. For those who follow their sensuality stain their conscience, and lose the grace of God.
Every man naturally desires to know, but what does knowledge signify without the fear of God? The humble peasant who serves God is far better than the proud philosopher who neglects himself and considers the courses of the stars. Whoever knows himself well contemns himself, and takes no delight in human praise. If I should know all things in the world, and yet not be in charity, what would it advantage me in the presence of God, Who is about to judge me for my deeds?
Desist from too much desire of knowing, because great distraction and deception are found in it. Those who know, desire to seem and to be called wise. There are many things of which the knowledge is of little or no value to the soul, and the man is very foolish who turns to other things than those which subserve his health. Many words do not satisfy the soul; but a good life cools down the mind, and a good conscience affords great confidence towards God.
We might have great peace if we did not occupy ourselves with the words and deeds which are no concern of ours. How can he remain long in peace who meddles with cares which are foreign to him, who seeks opportunities without, and recollects himself little or rarely? Blessed are the simple, for they shall have much peace.
Without charity, an outward work is of value; but whatever is done from charity, however small and trivial it may be, becomes wholly fruitful. For God weighs more the source from which an action comes than the work which it does. He does much who loves much. He does much who does the deed well. He does well who serves the community rather than his own will.
That often seems to be charity which is rather carnality; for natural inclination, one's own will, the hope of reward, and the liking for comfort are rarely absent. But whoever has true and perfect charity seeks himself in nothing, but desires only the glory of God. He envies no one, because he loves no joy of his own, nor cares to rejoice in himself; but wishes, above all good things, to find felicity in God. Whoever has a spark of true charity feels at once that all earthly things are full Of vanity.
II.—ADMONITIONS LEADING TO INWARD LIFE
"The kingdom of God is within you," says the Lord. Turn yourself with your whole heart to the Lord, and leave this miserable world, and your soul shall find rest. Learn to despise outward things, and to give yourself to inward things, and you shall see the kingdom of God rise within you. For the kingdom of God is peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, and is not given to the impious. Christ shall come to you showing you His consolation, if you prepare within you a home fit for Him. All His glory and beauty are from within, and it is there that He delights Himself. He often visits the man of inward mind, with sweet colloquy, pleasant consolation, great peace, and most astounding familiarity.
If you know not how to contemplate high and celestial things, rest in the passion of Christ, and willingly dwell in His holy wounds. For if you devoutly have recourse to the wounds of Jesus you will feel great comfort in trouble, care little for human contempt, and easily bear detracting words. For Christ, in the world, was despised by men, and in His greatest need was deserted, among insults, by His friends. Christ willed to suffer and to be despised, and shall you dare to complain of anything? Christ had enemies and detractors, and do you wish to have all friends and benefactors? Whence shall your patience be crowned if you have suffered no adversity? If you desire to suffer nothing contrary to you, how shall you be the friend of Christ?
He to whom all things taste as they really are, and not as they are spoken of or esteemed, is the truly wise man, taught by God rather than by men. Whoever knows how to walk from within, and to put little value on things without, needs not to find a place nor wait a time for his devout prayers. The man of inward mind quickly recollects himself, because he never spends himself wholly upon outward things.
First hold yourself in peace, and then you will be able to pacify others. The pacific man is of more service than the learned. But the passionate man turns even good to evil, easily believing evil. The peaceful man is good, and turns all things to good. The man who is well at peace is suspicious of nothing, but the discontented and turbulent is agitated by divers suspicions. He can neither himself be quiet, nor leave others in quiet. He often says what he ought not to say, and leaves undone what he ought to do. He thinks about what others ought to do, and neglects his own duty.
Man is raised from earthly matters by two wings—namely, simplicity and purity. Simplicity should be in his intention, and purity in his affection. Simplicity tends towards God, purity takes hold of Him.
Always to do well, and to hold oneself in small esteem, is the mark of a humble soul. To desire no consolation from any created thing is the sign of great purity and inward confidence. The man who seeks no witness for himself from without has plainly committed himself altogether to God. For "not he who commends himself is approved," says blessed Paul, "but he whom God commends." To walk with God within, and to be held by no affection without, is the state of the inwardly-minded man.
Jesus has now many lovers of His celestial kingdom, but few bearers of His Cross. He has many who desire consolation, but few who desire tribulation. He finds many companions of His table, but few of His abstinence. All wish to rejoice with Him; few are willing to bear anything for Him.
In the Cross is safety; in the Cross is life; in the Cross is protection from enemies; in the Cross is the sweetness of heaven; in the Cross is strength of mind; in the Cross is the perfection of sanctity. There is no health for the soul nor hope of eternal life except in the Cross. Take up your cross, therefore, and follow Jesus.
If anything were better and more useful for the welfare of men than to suffer, Christ would have shown it both in His words and in His example. For He calls to the disciples who follow Him, and to all who desire to follow Him, and says: "If any will come after Me, let him deny himself, and lift up his cross and follow Me." When all has been read and studied, let this be our conclusion—"That through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God."
III.—OF INWARD CONSOLATION
I will hear what the Lord God may say in me. It is a blessed soul which hears the Lord speaking in it, and receives the word of consolation from His lips. Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.
"I have taught the prophets from the beginning," says the Lord, "and until now I have not ceased to speak at all; but many are deaf and hard to My voice. Many listen more willingly to the world than to God, and more easily follow the appetite of the flesh than God's good pleasure. The world promises small and temporary things, and is served with great eagerness; I promise supreme and eternal things, but the hearts of mortals are torpid. Who serves and obeys Me in everything with so great care as the world and its lords are served? Men run a long way for a trifling reward, but for eternal life many scarcely lift a foot once from earth."
Lord God, you are all my good. And who am I that I should dare to speak to you? I am the poorest and least of your servants, a wretched little worm, far more miserable and contemptible than I know or dare to say, Yet remember me, Lord, because I am nothing, I have nothing, and am worth nothing. Do not turn your face from me; do not defer your coming; do not withdraw your consolation, lest my soul become like a waterless land before you. Lord, teach me to do your will; teach me to walk worthily and humbly in your presence; because you are my wisdom, who truly know me, and knew me before the world was made and before I was born in the world.
"Son, walk in My presence in truth, and seek Me always in the simplicity of your heart. Whoever walks in My presence in truth will be kept safe from the assaults of evil, and truth will liberate him from those who lead astray and from the detractions of unjust men. If truth shall have liberated you, then you will be truly free, and you will not care for the vain words of men."
It is true, Lord, I pray that it may be done with me as you say. Let your truth teach me and guard me, and keep me to a salutary end. Let it liberate me from every evil affection and inordinate love, and I shall walk with you in great liberty of heart.
"I will teach you," says Truth, "what things are right and pleasing in my Bight. Think on your sins with great displeasure and sorrow, and never imagine yourself to be anything because of your good works. You are really a sinner, liable to many passions and entangled in them. Of yourself, you are always tending to nothingness; you quickly slip, you are quickly overcome, you are quickly disturbed, you quickly pass away. You have nothing in which you can glory, but much for which you ought to hold yourself cheap; you are far more infirm than you are able to understand.
"Some do not sincerely walk before me, but, led by a certain curiosity and arrogance, wish to know my secrets, and to understand the high things of God, neglecting themselves and their welfare. These often fall into great temptations and sins, when I resist them on account of their pride and curiosity. Fear the judgments of God; be exceedingly afraid of the anger of the Omnipotent. Do not discuss the works of the Highest, but scrutinise your iniquities, and see how gravely you have offended and how many good deeds you have neglected.
"There are others, enlightened in their minds and purged in their affections, who are always panting after eternal things and listen unwillingly to earthly things; these perceive what the spirit of truth says within them.
"Love is a great thing, altogether a great good, which alone makes light everything that is heavy, and carries evenly all that is uneven. For it bears the burden without being burdened, and makes sweet and tasteful everything that is bitter. The noble love of Jesus drives on to great deeds, and always excites to the desire of more perfect things. Love wills to rise upwards, and not to be held back by the lowest things. Nothing is sweeter than love, nothing is stronger, nothing higher or broader; nothing is more delightful or fuller in heaven or in earth; for love is born of God, and cannot rest except in God, above all created things."
IV.—DEVOUT EXHORTATION TO HOLY COMMUNION
The voice of Christ, "Come to Me all who labour and are burdened, and I will refresh you," says the Lord. "The bread which I will give you is My flesh for the life of the world. Receive and consume it; this is My body which will be delivered for you; do this in commemoration of Me. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood remains in Me, and I in him. The words which I have spoken to you are spirit and life."
These are your words, Christ, Eternal Truth, although not given at one time nor written in one place. Because they are yours, and true, they are all to be received gratefully by me. They are yours, and you pronounced them; and they are mine also because you uttered them for my welfare. I gladly accept them from your lips, that they may be more closely buried in my heart. Words of such kindness, full of sweetness and love, arouse me. But my own sins frighten me, and my impure conscience repels me from taking hold of such great mysteries.
You bid me come to you trustfully if I would have part with you; and to receive the food of immortality if I wish to obtain eternal life and glory. "Come to Me," you say, "all who labour and are burdened, and I will refresh you." O sweet and friendly word in the ear of a sinner, that you, my Lord God, invite the destitute and poor to the communion of your most holy Body.
Lord, all things in heaven and in earth are yours. I desire to offer myself as a willing oblation, and to remain yours in perpetuity. Lord, in the simplicity of my heart I offer myself to you to-day to be for ever your servant—offer myself for obedience and for a sacrifice of eternal praise. Receive me with this holy offering of your precious Body, which I offer to you to-day in the presence of angels, assisting though unseen, that it may be for my welfare and for the welfare of all your people.
The voice of the beloved: "God does not deceive you; he is deceived who trusts too much to himself. God walks with the simple, reveals Himself to the humble, gives understanding to the feeble, opens His meaning to pure minds, and hides His grace from the inquisitive and proud. Human reason is weak and may be deceived, but true faith cannot be deceived.
"All reason and natural investigation ought to follow faith, and not precede it nor impair it. For faith and love excel here most of all, and work in hidden ways in, this most holy and transcendent sacrament. The eternal and immeasurable God of infinite power does great and inscrutable things in heaven and in earth, and there is no finding out of His wonderful works. If the works of God were such that they could easily be seized by human reason, they would not deserve to be called wonderful or ineffable."
* * * * *
The Koran, the sacred book of Islam, and of more than a hundred millions of men, is the least original of all existing sacred books. Muslims agree in believing that it is from beginning to end, and word for word, inspired; and that it existed before the Creation on what is called the "Preserved Tablet." This tablet was brought by the Archangel Gabriel from the highest to the lowest heaven, whence it was dictated sura [chapter] by sura, verse by verse, and word by word, to the Prophet Muhammad. Its matter is, however, taken for the most part from the Old Testament, especially the narrative portions of the Pentateuch; from the New Testament; from the traditions of the ancient Arabs; and also from Zoroastrian and other scriptures or traditions. It is not likely that Muhammad used literary sources, except in a small measure. But there were Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians, and others in and around Arabia, and he must have learned from their lips the principal doctrines of their respective religions. Nevertheless, planless and fragmentary compilation though it be, the Koran, particularly in the earlier suras written at Mekka, has much of the grandeur and poetry of style and the passionate exaltation of a true prophet, the sincerity of whose zeal is unquestioned.
The word "Koran," or "Quran," from a root qara = to read, means literally "what is to be read," i.e., the written authority on all matters, religions, etc. It is the exact equivalent of the Rabbinical Hebrew word "Miqra" (from the Hebrew qara = to read). The idea involved in both the Arabic and Hebrew words is that what is so designated is the ultimate authority deciding all questions. The Rabbis of post-Biblical times (compare the Jewish Qabbalah) regarded the Old Testament as an encyclopaedia of universal knowledge. In the best-known Muslim universities of modern times philosophy, science, and everything else are taught from the Koran, which is made in some way to contain implicitly the latest words of modern thought, invention, and discovery.
The Koran did not exist as a whole until after the Prophet Muhammad's death. It was then compiled by the order of Abu Bekr, the first Sunnite Caliph. Its contents were found written on palm leaves white stones, and other articles capable of being written on. The compilers depended, to a large extent, upon the memory of the prophet's first followers, but the Koran, as we now have it, existed without any appreciable divergence by the end of the first year, after Muhammad's death (A.D. 632).
This Muslim Bible has no scheme or plan because it is an almost haphazard compilation of unconnected discourses, uttered on various unexplained occasions, and dealing with many incidents and themes. There is practically no editing, and no attempt is made to explain when, or how, or why the various speeches were delivered.
The earliest native writers and commentators on the Koran arranged its suras in two main classes: (1) Those uttered at Mekka before the flight in A.D. 622; (2) those written at Medinah during the next ten years.
Most recent scholars follow the chronological arrangement proposed by the great Orientalist Noeldeke in 1860. Friedrich Schwally in his newly revised edition of Noeldeke's great work on the Koran follows his master in almost every detail. Rodwell's translation of the Koran, recently issued in "Everyman's Library," arranges the suras chronologically according to Noeldeke's scheme. In the summaries that follow, it is this chronological order that is adopted. In the Arabic editions followed by the well-known and valuable translations of Sale, E.H. Palmer (Clarendon Press, "Sacred Books of the East," vols. 6 and 9), and others, the principle adopted is to put the longest suras first and the shortest last.
The Mekkan suras are much more original than the Medinah ones, especially those of the first period—i.e., those belonging to the first four years of Muhammad's prophetic mission, e.g., suras 96, 74, etc. In these suras the style is grander, more passionate, and fuller of poetry. The prophet appears in a state of great mental exaltation, full of a zeal which no words can adequately express, and of a sincerity which few scholars have questioned.
The suras of the second period, the following two years of the prophet's mission (e.g., suras 54, 37, etc.), have the same general character, but are less vehement. Still less vehement and more restrained are the suras of the third Mekkan period—i.e., from the seventh year of the prophet's mission to his flight in A.D. 622 (e.g., suras 32, 41, etc.). The style of the Medinah suras resembles that of the Mekkan revelations of the third period, only they are still more matter of fact and restrained, and are largely made up of appeals to Jews, Christians, and others to abandon their "unbelief," and to accept the prophet who had come to them with the true religion, a religion as old as Abraham, though forgotten for many ages.
The Koran differs from the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, including the Apocrypha, in that these latter are much-more varied, as emanating from many minds, and belonging to very different occasions. The Koran is, from beginning to end, the effusions (often very wild) of one man.
The present editor has kept before him the Arabic text of Maracci, Fluegel, and Redslob, and also several Oriental editions (Cairo, Constantinople, Calcutta, etc.). But, of course, the best known translations, and also the native commentaries (Baidhawi, etc.), have been consulted.
In the summaries which follow, numerals following the paragraphs indicate the number of the sura or suras in the Arabic text as well as in Sale's translation.
I.—FIRST PERIOD (A.D. 613-617)
MUHAMMAD'S FIRST CALL TO READ THE KORAN
In the name of the gracious and compassionate God.
Recite in the name of thy Lord, who created man and taught men to write, recite what God has revealed to thee His Prophet, and be not afraid. Consider not the opposition of Abu Gahl, who has threatened to put his foot on thy neck if thou dost worship Allah. (96.)
DENUNCIATION OF ABU LAHAB
Abu Lahab's two hands shall perish, and he himself shall perish. His wealth shall not avail him, nor all that he has gained. He shall be burnt in the fiery flames of Hell, his wife carrying wood for fuel, with a cord of palm-tree fibres twisted round her neck. (III.)
MUHAMMAD COMMANDED TO OFFER SACRIFICES
We have given to thee, O Prophet, great wealth and abounding riches. Pray thou to Allah, and offer Him suitable sacrifices out of what He has bestowed upon thee. (108.)
[Compare with this paragraph the following, from sura 22 of the Medinah group:
We have ordained that ye offer sacrifices unto Allah, and that ye receive much benefit therefrom. When, therefore, ye slay your camels let the name of Allah be pronounced over them. Then eat of them and give to those who ask humbly, giving also to the poor and needy who ask not. Flesh and blood can never reach unto Allah (God), but your obedience and piety will reach unto Him.]
BELIEVERS AND UNBELIEVERS
We will make the path to happiness easy and safe to all such as fear Allah, and give alms, and believe the truth proclaimed by Allah's messenger. But we will make easy the path to distress and misery for all such as are niggardly, are bent on making riches, and deny the truth when it is proclaimed to them. When these last fall headlong into Hell, their wealth will avail them nothing. In the burning furnace they shall burn and broil. (92.)
THE DUTY OF EXERCISING CHARITY
Verily, We (God) have created some men in such poverty and distress as to need the help of others. What does that braggart man mean when he says, "None shall prevail over me; I have and have scattered riches boundless"? Does he not know that there is a Divine eye that sees him? Have not We created him with a capacity of distinguishing between the two highways, that which descends towards evil, and that which ascends towards the good? This niggardly man, however, makes no attempt to scale the heights. What is it to ascend the upward road? It is to free the prisoner, to feed the hungry, to defend the orphan who is akin, and the down-trodden poor. Besides this, it is enjoined that men believe in Allah and His Prophet; that they encourage each other to be steadfast in the faith, exercising mutual consideration and sympathy. All such as do these things shall be the people of the right hand. But all those who disbelieve Our signs shall be the companions of the left hand, over whom shall be a vault of fire. (90.)
MUHAMMAD COMMANDED TO ARISE AND PREACH
O thou mantle-wrapped one, arise and warn the people, and magnify the Lord. The Day of Judgment will be a sad day for unbelievers. Leave thou thine enemy in Mine hands, and let Me visit upon him his well deserved punishment. For he has ridiculed the Koran; he has said: "This is nothing else than magic, they are the words of a man." I [God] will cast him into Hell, where he shall burn in torment. The fires of this Hell leave nothing unconsumed. It scorches men's flesh. We have appointed nineteen angels as guardians over Hell fire. But why nineteen? That believers may be sure of the veracity of this Book, and that unbelievers may have occasion for denying the divinity of the Koran, saying: "What means this number?" (74.)
THE KORAN GIVEN TO MUHAMMAD
Verily, We have brought down to Muhammad the Koran on the Night of Power. This one Night of Power is better than a thousand months. On that night did Gabriel and the angels descend and reveal to Our Prophet all the words of the Koran. (97.)
MUHAMMAD NOT MAD NOR AN IMPOSTOR
Believe thou not, O Messenger of Mine, when they say, "Thou art bereft of thy senses," when they charge thee with imposture. Thy Lord knoweth who are bereft of their senses, and who are the impostors. Warn thou those maligners of the awful judgment which awaits them. (68.)
GOD'S PROMISE TO HELP MUHAMMAD TO RECITE THE KORAN
We [Allah] shall enable thee to remember all the parts of the Koran, so that thou mayest recite them for the encouragement of those who believe and as a warning to all unbelievers. Nor shalt thou forget aught of this Revelation except what We please. All those who fear God will receive the prophet's warning, but all those who disbelieve shall be cast into terrible fire where they will neither live nor die. This doctrine which We command thee to preach is that taught in the ancient Books, the Books of Abraham and of Moses, who were faithful Muslims. (87.)
THE KORAN INSPIRED
By the falling star, your comrade Muhammad does not err, nor does he speak his own mind. What he utters has been revealed to him. The Koran is from God through Gabriel; it is not the work of man. Why worship ye goddesses like Allat and Al'Uzza and Manah? There are no goddesses. (53.)
THE TREATMENT OF WOMEN BELIEVERS
When believing women come to you as fugitives, leaving behind them unbelieving husbands, send them not back to the infidels, but test their faith, and if they are found true Muslims, pay back to their husbands the dowries which they have expended. Then may ye marry them, provided ye give them the accustomed dowries. (60.)
Say "He is but one God, the everlasting God who begets not, nor is begotten, and there is none like unto Him." (10.)
FORMULae OF EXORCISM
I flee for refuge to the Lord, that He may protect me against the evil things which He has created. Against night goblins when the night comes on, and from witches who bind by their magic knots, and from such as injure by the evil eye; I seek refuge with the Lord from charmers, from jinns [demons], and from evil men. (113.)
THE HEAVEN OF THE MUSLIMS
All who believe in Allah and His Prophet shall be admitted hereafter into delightful gardens [Paradise]. They shall repose for ever on couches decked with gold and precious stones, being supplied with abundance of luscious wine, fruits of the choicest variety, and the flesh of birds. They shall be accompanied by damsels of unsurpassed beauty, with large black, pearl-like eyes. (56.)
II.—SECOND PERIOD (A.D. 617-619)
WINDS AND DEMONS SUBJECT TO SOLOMON
And We made a strong wind subject to Solomon, so that it conveyed him whither he would. We also gave him the power of commanding demons, so that they dived into the sea to bring him pearls, and did everything else that he wished. (21.)
THE MIRACULOUS BIRTH OF JESUS
Remember Mary, who preserved her virginity, and into whom We breathed Our own spirit, so that when her son Isa [Jesus] was born, mother and son became a sign unto all mankind. (21.)
THE VIRGIN MARY
After Mary, the Virgin, had begotten her son Isa [Jesus] she was found one day carrying the child in her arms when some pious men met her and rebuked her, saying: "O Mary, thou sister of Aaron, what is this strange thing thou hast done? Thy father Amram was an upright man, and thy mother was no harlot, as thou seemest to be." In answer to all this the infant child, not having previously lisped a syllable, said, "Verily, I am the servant of Allah, who has given me the Book of the Gospel, and appointed me to be His Prophet. He has made me blessed, and to be a blessing. Happy the day wherein I was born, and the day wherein I shall die, and the day whereon I shall be raised again." (19.)
DEVILS SENT BY GOD TO MAKE MEN SIN
De ye not know that We [God] send devils against the unbelievers to move them, by their suggestions, to the sin of which these unbelievers become guilty? (19.)
SOLOMON'S ARMY OF MEN, BIRDS, AND JINNS (DEMONS)
Solomon was able to understand the speech of birds and to make them understand his speech. There gathered to him on a certain day his entire army of men, birds, and jinns in the Valley of Ants. The crowd was so great that one of the ants said to his fellows, "Get you at once into your ant-homes, or you will be trampled to death by one of these myriad feet."
THE QUEEN OF SHEBA'S VISIT TO SOLOMON
Solomon, one day reviewing his varied troops, missed among the birds the hoopoe, and asked whither this bird had gone, threatening all manner of punishments for his absence. Soon the missing bird came flying to the king, uttering the words, "I have just come from Sheba, where I have looked upon the most wonderful queen, sitting upon the most magnificent throne that I have ever set eyes on. But this queen and her subjects, unfortunately, worshipped not Allah, the true God, but the sun."
"I will test the truth of thy words!" replied the angry monarch. "Take thou this note of mine to the queen thou laudest so highly, bidding her come to my kingdom to acknowledge my authority."
Almost in a twinkling the hoopoe was back with the queen's answer consenting to visit Solomon and his dominions. Solomon, having received this answer, asked the nobles of his kingdom, "Which of you will bring me at once the Queen of Sheba's throne, to be here before she arrives?"
"I will!" said one of the wickedest of the jinns.
"And so will I, in a whiff!" answered a jinn that was well acquainted with the Scriptures.
In a very short time the throne was in Solomon's palace. "Alter ye it," said the king, "as much as ye may, to see whether she has any supernatural knowledge to identify it."
When the queen arrived, she was asked, "What throne is this?"
She replied, "It is mine—strangely mine." After she had witnessed the glory and wisdom of Solomon, she gave up her idols, and became the worshipper of Allah, the true God. (27.)
III.—THIRD PERIOD (A.D. 619-622)
PUNISHMENT FOR VIOLATING THE SABBATH
Ye know how We tested and proved those wicked people who dwelt in Elath on the Red Sea. On the Sabbath day We made the fish come right up to them, as if asking to be caught; but not so on other days. Those who yielded to the temptation, and thus violated the sanctity of the sacred day, We turned into apes as a punishment for their wrong-doing. (7.)
MOUNT SINAI SHAKEN ABOVE THE ISRAELITES
When the Israelites doubted the authority of the Law which We had given them through Moses, Our servant, We caused Mount Sinai to rear itself above them as a covering, so that the people feared it was going to fall upon them. And We said to them, "Receive ye with reverence that Law which We have given you, and remember what is contained therein, taking heed thereto." (7.)
SALVATION FOR OTHERS THAN MUSLIMS
All such as believe in Allah and in the last day, and who do that which is right, whether they are Jews, Christians, Sabeans, or Muslims, shall have their reward from Allah, who will take away from them all fear and grief. (3.)
Muslims Only to be Saved
No one that follows any other religion than Islam will be accepted by God or saved from perishing in the life that is to come. (2.)
ABRAHAM, ISHMAEL, ISAAC, JACOB, AND THE TRIBES OF ISRAEL ALL MUSLIMS
Do ye Jews say that Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the tribes of Israel were Jews, or do ye Christians say that they were Christians? But God knows better, and has revealed to you the truth that all these were Muslims, followers of the religion of Islam. But God is cognisant of your unbelief, and will bring you to account. (2.)
THE QIBLAH CHANGED FROM JERUSALEM TO MEKKA
Foolish men will say, "Why have they changed the Qiblah from Jerusalem to the Kaabah in Mekka?" Say to them, "God's is the east and the west, and He has commanded us to turn our face, when we pray, to the sacred mosque at Mekka." (2.)
AGAINST JEWS AND CHRISTIANS, WHO CAPRICIOUSLY CHOOSE AND REJECT WHAT DIVINE REVELATIONS THEY PLEASE
Why, then, do ye believe part only of the Book, and deny that part which authenticates the mission of the Prophet of Allah? All those who are guilty of this sin shall have shame in this life, and on the Resurrection Day shall be driven into the most excrutiating torments. (2.)
THE MEKKA TEMPLE FOUNDED BY ABRAHAM
It was Abraham, our father, who first entered the Kaabah sanctuary at Mekka, and it is our bounden duty, if at all able, to visit this sacred house. (3.)
JESUS PREDICTS THE COMING OF MUHAMMAD
Jesus, Mary's Son, said, "O Israelites, I am Allah's Apostle, sent to confirm the Law of the Old Testament, and to bring you good tidings of a great Apostle to come after me, whose name is Ahmad." (61.)
MUHAMMAD THE LAST AND GREATEST OF GOD'S MESSENGERS
In the former times We sent Our apostles with convincing arguments and all decisive miracles, and We gave them the Scriptures. We sent to men Noah, Abraham, and the prophets, but many believed not. Then We sent Our apostles, after whom came Jesus, Son of Mary. Then, last of all, came Our great apostle, Muhammad. O all ye believers, fear God and obey the words of Allah's messenger. (57.)
THE KORAN CONSISTENT THROUGHOUT
Why do they not carefully and impartially consider the Koran? If it had not been wholly of God, unbelievers would have been able to find out contradictions. (4.)
MUHAMMAD CONTRADICTS THE FACT OF THE CRUCIFIXION OF CHRIST
Christians say that Christ Jesus, Son of Mary, was slain. But He was not slain, nor crucified, but another was taken for Him. The true Isa [Jesus] was taken up by God unto Himself, not seeing death. (4.)
MUHAMMAD ADMITS THE FACT OF THE CRUCIFIXION OF CHRIST
And God said, "O Isa [Jesus], I will cause Thee to die, but I will take Thee up to Myself and deliver Thee from unbelievers!" (4.)
ONE GOD, NOT THREE GODS, ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURE
O ye who have received the Scriptures, do not believe more than these sacred writings teach! Jesus, Son of Mary, was God's Apostle, His Word, a spirit proceeding from God. Do not say there are three gods—Allah, Isa, and Mary. There is but one God, and He can have no son. (4.)
Ye are forbidden to eat that which dies of itself, blood, swine's flesh, and that on which the name of any other god than Allah has been invoked; that which has been strangled, or killed by a blow, or by a fall, or what has been gored to death, and whatever has been sacrificed to idols. (5.)
DIVINATION BY ARROWS CONDEMNED
It is not allowed you to make division by casting lots with arrows.
DENIAL OF THE DIVINITY OF CHRIST AND THE TRINITY
Those are unbelievers who say that God is the Christ [lit., Messiah], Son of Mary. Nay, this Christ Himself said, "O Israelites, worship God, My Lord and yours!" He who associates with God any companion His equal shall be excluded from Paradise, and have his place in Hell fire. (5.)
Jesus Denies that He and His Mother were Gods
At the last day God will say unto Isa, "O Isa, Son of Mary, didst Thou say unto men, 'Take Me and My Mother for two Gods in addition to Allah'?" And He shall answer, "Praise be unto Thee. Thou knowest all things, and Thou knowest that I commanded men to worship Allah alone."
* * * * *
APOLOGIA PRO VITa SUA
That most remarkable ecclesiastic of the nineteenth century, John Henry Newman, born in London on February 21, 1801, was of Dutch extraction, but the name itself, at one time spelt "Newmann," suggests Hebrew origin. His mother came of a Huguenot family, long established in England as engravers and paper manufacturers. His early education he obtained at a school at Ealing, where he distinguished himself by diligence and good conduct, as also by a certain aloofness and shyness. The only important incident Newman connects with this period is his "conversion," an incident more certain to him "than that he had hands and feet." In 1820 he graduated at Trinity College, Oxford. The various phases of his religious career are amply set forth in his famous "Apologia pro Vita Sua" ("Apology for His Life"), afterwards called "A History of my Religious Opinions." The work was called out by an attack, in January, 1864, by Charles Kingsley, in a review of Froude's "History of England." Kingsley wrote: "Truth, for its own sake, had never been a virtue with the Roman clergy. Father Newman informs us that it need not, and, on the whole, ought not to be." Challenged to withdraw or substantiate this charge, Kingsley did neither, whereupon Newman, after much correspondence, wrote his "Apologia," which was published in bi-monthly parts. Newman died on August 11, 1890.
I.—HISTORY OF MY RELIGIOUS OPINIONS TO 1833
I was brought up to delight in the Bible, but I had no formed religious convictions till I was fifteen. Of course, I had a perfect knowledge of my Catechism. But when I was fifteen I fell under the influence of a definite creed, and believed that the inward conversion of which I was conscious, and of which I am still more certain than that I have hands and feet, would last into the next life, and that I was elected to eternal glory. This belief faded away at the age of twenty-one; but it had had some influence on my opinions, in isolating me from the objects which surrounded me, in confirming my mistrust of the reality of material phenomena, and in making me rest in the thought of two, and two only, absolute and luminously self-evident beings, myself and my Creator. At the age of fifteen also I was deeply impressed by the works of Thomas Scott, by Law's "Serious Call," by Joseph Milner's "Church History," and by Newton, "On the Prophecies." Newton's book stained my imagination, till 1843, with the doctrine that the Pope was Antichrist. At this same time, the autumn of 1816, I realised that it would be the will of God that I should lead a single life, and this anticipation strengthened my feeling of separation from the visible world.
In 1822, at Oxford, I came under new influences. Dr. Hawkins, then vicar of St. Mary's, a man of most exact mind, led me to the doctrine of tradition, and taught me to anticipate that before many years there would be an attack made upon the books and the canon of Scripture. He gave me Summer's "Treatise on Apostolic Preaching," by which I was led to give up my remaining Calvinism, and to receive the doctrine of baptismal regeneration. I now read Butler's "Analogy," from which I learned two principles which underlie much of my teaching: first, that the idea of an analogy between the separate works of God leads to the conclusion that the less important system is sacramentally connected with the more momentous system; and secondly, Butler's doctrine that probability is the guide of life led me to the question of the logical cogency of faith.
I owe much to Dr. Whately, who taught me the existence of the Church as a substantive corporation, and fixed in me those anti-Erastian views of Church polity which characterized the Tractarian movement. That movement, unknown to ourselves, was taking form. Its true author, John Keble, had left Oxford for a country parish, but his "Christian Year" had waked a new music in the hearts of thousands. His creative mind repeated, in a new form, Butler's two principles: that material phenomena are the types and instruments of real things unseen; and that, in religious certitude, faith and love give to probability a force which it has not in itself.
Hurrell Froude, one of his pupils and a man of high genius, taught me to venerate the Church of Rome and to dislike the Reformation. About 1830 I set to work on "The Arians of the Fourth Century," and the broad philosophy of Clement and Origen, based on the mystical or sacramental principle, came like music to my inward ear.
Great events were now happening at home and abroad. There had been a revolution in France, and the reform agitation was going on around me as I wrote. The vital question was, how were we to keep the Church from being liberalised? I saw that reformation principles were powerless to rescue her. I ever kept before me that there was something greater than the Establishd Church, and that was the Church Catholic and Apostolic, of which she was but the local presence and the organ. She was nothing, unless she was this. I was now disengaged from college duties; my health had suffered from work; and in December, 1832, I joined Hurrell Froude and his father, who were going to the south of Europe. I went to various coasts of the Mediterranean. I saw nothing but what was external; of the hidden life of Catholics I knew nothing. England was in my thoughts solely, and the success of the liberal cause fretted me. The thought came upon me that deliverance is wrought not by the many but by the few, not by bodies but by persons.
I began to think that I had a mission. I reached England on July 9, and on July 14 Mr. Keble preached in the university pulpit on "National Apostasy." This day was the start of the religious movement of 1833.
II.—WITH THE TRACTARIANS
A movement had begun in opposition to the danger of liberalism which was threatening the religion of the nation. Mr. Keble, Hurrell Froude, Mr. William Palmer, Mr. Arthur Purceval, Mr. Hugh Rose, and other zealous, and able men had united their counsels. I had the exultation of health restored, a joyous energy which I never had before or since. And I had a supreme confidence in our cause; we were upholding that primitive Christianity which was delivered for all time by the early teachers of the Church. Owing to this supreme confidence, my behaviour had a mixture in it both of fierceness, and of sport, and on this account it gave offence to many.
The three propositions about which I was so confident were as follow: First was the principle of dogma; my battle was with liberalism—and by liberalism I mean the anti-dogmatic principle and its developments. I have changed in many things, but not in this; religion, as a mere sentiment, has been to me from childhood a dream and a mockery. Secondly, I was confident that there was a visible Church, with sacraments and rites which are the channels of invisible grace. Here, again, I have not changed. But, thirdly, I held a view of the Church of Rome which I have utterly renounced since.
The attack of liberalism upon the university and upon the old orthodoxy of England began in 1834. Thus, in a pamphlet by Dr. Hampden it was maintained that religion is distinct from theological opinion, that it is but a common prejudice to identify theological propositions with the simple religion of Christ; and so on. The tracts were widely read and discussed, but the counter-attack against liberalism was not a power until Dr. Pusey joined us. His great learning, his immense diligence, his simple devotion to the cause of religion, no less than his great influence in the university, at once gave us a position and a name. He taught us that there ought to be more sense of responsibility in the tracts and in the whole movement. Under his influence I wrote a work defining our relation to the Church of Rome, namely, "The Prophetical Office of the Church viewed relatively to Romanism and to Popular Protestantism." The subject of this volume, published in 1837, is the "Via Media." This was followed by my "Essay on Justification," and other works; and so I went on for years up to 1841. It was, in a human point of view, the happiest time of my life. We prospered and spread.
But the movement was to come into collision with the nation, and with the Church of the nation. In 1838 my bishop made some light animadversions on the tracts. But my tract on the Thirty-nine Articles, designed to show that the Articles do not oppose Catholic teaching, and but partially oppose Roman dogma, while they do oppose the dominant errors of Rome, brought down, in 1839, a storm of indignation throughout the country. I saw that my place in the movement was lost.
III.—A THEOLOGICAL DEATH-BED
In the long vacation of 1839 I began to study the history of the Monophysites, and was-absorbed in the doctrinal question. It was during this course of reading that for the first time a doubt came upon me of the tenableness of Anglicism, and by the end of August I was seriously alarmed. My stronghold was antiquity; yet here, in the fifth century, I found Christendom of the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries reflected.
The drama of religion and the combat of truth and error were ever one and the same; the principles of the Roman Church now were those of the Church then; the principles of heretics then were those of Protestants now; there was an awful similitude. Be my soul with the saints! In the same month the words of St. Augustine were pointed out to me, "Securus judicat orbis terrarum"; they struck me with a power which I had never felt from any words before; the theory of the "Via Media" was absolutely pulverised.
In the summer of 1841, in retirement at Littlemore, I received three blows which broke me. First, in the history of the Arians I found the same phenomena which I had found in the Monophysites: the pure Arians were the Protestants, the semi-Arians were the Anglicans, and Rome now was what it was then. Secondly, the bishops, one after another, began to charge against me in a formal, determinate movement. Third, it was proposed by Anglican authorities to establish an Anglican bishopric in Jerusalem—a step which amounted to a formal denial that the Anglican Church was a branch of the Catholic Church, and to a formal assertion that the Anglican was a Protestant Church. The Jerusalem bishopric brought me to the beginning of the end.
From the end of 1841 I was on my death-bed, as regards my membership of the Anglican Church, though at the time I became aware of it only by degrees. A death-bed has scarcely a history; it is a tedious decline, with seasons of rallying and seasons of falling back. My position at first was this: I had given up my place in the movement in the spring of 1841, but I could not give up my duties towards the many and various minds who had been brought into it by me; I expected gradually to fall back into lay communion; I never contemplated leaving the Church of England; I could not hold office in its service if I were not allowed to hold the Catholic sense of the Articles; I could not go to Rome while she suffered honours to be paid to the Blessed Virgin and the saints which I thought in my conscience to be incompatible with the supreme glory of the One, Infinite and Eternal; I desired a union with Rome under conditions, Church with Church; I called Littlemore my Torres Vedras, and thought that some day we might advance again within the Anglican Church; I kept back all persons who were disposed to go to Rome with all my might.
The "Via Media" was now an impossible idea; I abandoned that old ground, and took another. I said, "Much as Roman Catholics may denounce us at present as schismatical, they could not resist us if the Anglican communion had but that one note of the Church upon it—sanctity." I was pleased with my new view, but my friends were naturally offended at a novel line of argument which substituted a sort of methodistic self-contemplation for the plain and honest tokens of a divine mission in the Anglican Church.
In spite of my ingrained fears of Rome, in spite of my affection for Oxford and Oriel, yet I had a secret longing love of Rome, the Mother of English Christianity. It was the consciousness of this bias in myself which made me preach so earnestly against the danger of being swayed in religious inquiry by our sympathy rather than by our reason. I was in great perplexity, and hardly knew where I stood; I incurred the charge of weakness from some men, and of mysteriousness and underhand dealing from the majority. But I have never had any suspicion of my own honesty.
In July, 1844, I wrote to a friend: "I am far more certain, according to the fathers, that we are in a state of culpable separation than that developments do not exist under the Gospel, and that the Roman developments are not the true ones." I then saw that the principle of development was discernible from the first years of the Catholic teaching up to the present day. I came to the conclusion that there was no medium, in true philosophy, between atheism and Catholicity, and that a perfectly consistent mind must embrace either the one or the other. I saw that no valid reasons could be assigned for continuing in the Anglican Church, and that no Valid objections could be taken to joining the Roman.
In February, 1843, I had made a formal retraction of all the hard things which I had said against the Church of Rome, and in September I had resigned the living of St. Mary's, Littlemore included. I began my "Essay on the Development of Doctrine" in the beginning of 1845, and was hard at it till October. Before I got to the end, I resolved to be received into the Catholic Church. Father Dominic came to Littlemore on October 8, and did for me this charitable service. I left Oxford for good on February 23, 1846.
IV.—THE FAITH OF A CATHOLIC
From the time that I became a Catholic of course I have no further history of my religious opinions to narrate. I do not mean that I have given up thinking on theological subjects, but that I have had no variations to record, and have had no anxiety of heart whatever. I have been in perfect peace; I never have had one doubt.
Nor had I any trouble about receiving those additional articles which are not found in the Anglican creed. I am far from denying that every article of the Christian creed is beset with difficulties, and it is simple fact that I cannot answer those difficulties. But ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt. Of all points of faith, the being of a God is encompassed with most difficulty, and yet borne in upon our minds with most power.
Starting, then, with the being of a God, which is as certain to me as my own existence, I look out of myself into the world of men, and there I see a sight which fills me with unspeakable distress. The world seems simply to give the lie to that great truth, of which my whole being is so full; I look into this living, busy world, and see no reflection of its Creator. To consider the world in its length and breadth, its various history; the progress of things, as if from unreasoning elements, not towards final causes; the greatness and littleness of man, his far-reaching aims, his short duration, the curtain hung over his futurity, the defeat of good, the prevalence and intensity of sin, the dreary, hopeless irreligion—all this is a vision to dizzy and appal, and inflicts upon the mind the sense of a profound mystery which is absolutely beyond human solution. What shall be said to this heart-piercing, reason-bewildering fact? I can only answer, that either there is no Creator, or this living society of men is in a true sense discarded from His presence.
And now, supposing it were the blessed will of the Creator to interfere in this anarchical condition of things, what would be the methods which might be necessarily or naturally involved in His purpose of mercy? What must be the face-to-face antagonist, by which to withstand and baffle the fierce energy and passion and the all-corroding, all-dissolving scepticism of the intellect in religious inquiries? There is nothing to surprise the mind, if He should think fit to introduce a power into the world, invested with the prerogative of infallibility in religious matters. Such a provision would be a direct, immediate, active, and prompt means of withstanding the difficulty; and when I find that this is the very claim of the Catholic Church, not only do I feel no difficulty in admitting the idea, but there is a fitness in it which recommends it to my mind.
I am defending myself from the charge that I, as a Catholic, not only make profession to hold doctrines which I cannot possibly believe in my heart, but that I also believe in a power on earth, which at its own will imposes upon men any new set of credenda, when it pleases, by a claim to infallibility; and that the necessary effect of such a condition of mind must be a degrading bondage, or a bitter inward rebellion relieving itself in secret infidelity, or the necessity of ignoring the whole subject of religion in a sort of disgust, and of mechanically saying everything that the Church says. But this is far from the result; it is far from borne out by the history of the conflict between infallibility and reason in the past, and the prospect in the future.
The energy of the human intellect thrives and is joyous, with a tough, elastic strength, under the terrible blows of the divinely fashioned weapon. Protestant writers consider that they have all the private judgment to themselves, and that we have the superincumbent oppression of authority. But this is not so; it is the vast Catholic body itself, and it only, which affords an arena for both combatants in that awful, never-dying duel. St. Paul says that his apostolical power is given him to edification, and not to destruction. There can be no better account of the infallibility of the Church. Its object is, and its effect also, not to enfeeble the freedom or vigour of human thought in religious speculation, but resist and control its extravagance.
I will go on in fairness to say what I think is the great trial to the reason when confronted with that august prerogative of the Catholic Church. The Church claims, not only to judge infallibly on religious questions, but to animadvert on opinions in secular matters which bear upon religion, on matters of philosophy, of science, of literature, of history, and it demands our submission to her claim. In this province, taken as a whole, it does not so much speak doctrinally, as enforce measures of discipline.
I will go on to say further, that, in spite of all the most hostile critics may urge about these verities of high ecclesiastics in time past, in the use of their power, I think that the event has shown, after all, that they were mainly in the right, and that those whom they were hard upon were mainly in the wrong. There is a time for everything, and many a man desires a reformation of an abuse, or the fuller development of a doctrine, or the adoption of a particular policy, but forgets to ask himself whether the right time for it is come.
There is only one other subject which I think it necessary to introduce here, as bearing upon the vague suspicions which are attached in this country to the Catholic priesthood. It is one of which my accusers have before now said much—the charge of reserve and economy. I come to the direct question of truth, and of the truthfulness of Catholic priests generally in their dealings with the world, as bearing on the general question of their honesty, and of their internal belief in their religious professions. First, I will say that when I became a Catholic, nothing struck me more at once than the English outspoken manner of the priests. There was nothing of that smoothness or mannerism which is commonly imputed to them. Next, I was struck, when I had more opportunity of judging of the priests, by the simple faith in the Catholic creed and system, of which they always give evidence, and which they never seemed to feel in any sense at all to be a burden.
Vague charges against us are drawn from our books of moral theology. St. Alfonso Liguori, for instance, lays down that an equivocation is allowable in an extraordinary case. I avow at once that in this department of morality, I like the English rule of conduct better. Yet, great English authors, Jeremy Taylor, Milton, Paley, Johnson, distinctly say that under extraordinary circumstances it is allowable to tell a lie. Would anyone give ever so little weight to these statements, in forming an estimate of the veracity of the writers? And, in fact, it is notorious from St. Alfonso's life that he had one of the most scrupulous and anxious of consciences; and, further, he was originally in the law, and was betrayed on one occasion by accident into what seemed like a deceit, and this was the very occasion of his leaving the profession.
If Protestants wish to know what our real teaching is, let them look at the Catechism of the Council of Trent. Let me appeal also to the life of St. Philip Neri, founder of the Oratory: "As for liars, he could not endure them, and he was continually reminding his spiritual children to avoid them as they would a pestilence."
These are the principles on which I have acted before I was a Catholic, these are the principles which, I trust, will be my stay and guidance to the end.
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THE AGE OF REASON
In 1774, Thomas Paine, thirty-seven years of age, landed unknown and penniless in the American colonies. Born at Thetford, Norfolk, England, Jan. 29, 1737, of poor Quaker parents, he had tried many occupations, and had succeeded in none. Within two years he had become an intellectual leader of the American Revolution. Beginning his literary career with an attack on slavery, he continued it in 1776 by publishing his pamphlet "Common Sense," which gave an electric inspiration to the cause of separation and republicanism among the colonists. After serving the new commonwealth in office and with his pen, he went to France on an official mission in 1781; then returned to his native England, intent on furthering his views. In 1793 Paine wrote the first part of "The Age of Reason," which aroused a storm of indignation, but undaunted, he added a second and a third part to the work, consisting mostly of amplifications of some of the contentions advanced in the first part, in the writing of which Paine had no Bible to consult. The book, the first part of which was published in 1794, the second part in 1795, and the third in 1801, is an exposition of Deism on a purely scientific basis; the visible creation was everything to Paine in his reasonings, the religious hopes, fears and aspirations of men were nothing at all—this universal human phenomenon was curtly dismissed by him as a universal human delusion. Many of his comments on the Bible were rather crude anticipations of the modern Higher Criticism. But in dealing with the Bible, Paine showed the animus of a prosecuting counsel rather than the impartiality of a judge. His stormy life ended on July 8, 1809. (See also ECONOMICS, Vol. XIV.)
It has been my intention, for several years past, to publish my thoughts upon religion. As several of my colleagues, and others of my fellow citizens of France, have given me the example of making their voluntary and individual profession of faith, I also will make mine; and I do this with all that sincerity and frankness with which the mind of man communicates with itself.
I believe in one God, and no more; and I hope for happiness beyond this life.
I believe in the equality of man, and I believe that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavouring to make our fellow-creatures happy.
I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish Church, by the Roman Church, by the Greek Church, by the Turkish Church, by the Protestant Church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church.
All national institutions of churches appear to me no other than human inventions set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolise power and profit.
Each of those churches show certain books which they call "revelation," or the word of God. The Jews say that the word of God was given by God to Moses face to face; the Christians say that their word of God came by divine inspiration; and the Turks say their word of God (the Koran) was brought by an angel from heaven. Each of these churches accuses the other of unbelief; and, for my own part, I disbelieve them all.
As it is necessary to affix right ideas to words, I will, before I proceed further into the subject, offer some observations on the word revelation. Revelation, when applied to religion, means something communicated immediately from God to man.
No one will deny or dispute the power of the Almighty to make such a communication if he pleases. But admitting, for the sake of a case, that something has been revealed to a certain person, and not revealed to any other person, it is revelation to that person only.
When he tells it to a second person, a second to a third, a third to a fourth, and so on, it ceases to be a revelation to all those persons. It is a revelation to the first person only, and hearsay to every other; consequently they are not obliged to believe it, for they have only the word of the first person that it was made to him.
The world has been amused with the terms "revealed religion," and the generality of priests apply this term to the books called the Old and New Testament. There is no man that believes in revealed religion stronger than I do; but it is not the reveries of the Old and New Testament that I dignify with that sacred title. That which is a revelation to me exists in something which no human mind can invent, no human hand can counterfeit or alter.
The word of God is the Creation we behold; and this word of God revealeth to man all that is necessary for him to know of his Creator.
Do we want to contemplate his power? We see it in the immensity of his creation.
Do we want to contemplate his wisdom? We see it in the unchangeable order by which the incomprehensible whole is governed.
Do we want to contemplate his munificence? We see it in the abundance with which he fills the earth.
Do we want to contemplate his mercy? We see it in his not withholding that abundance even from the unthankful.
Do we want to contemplate his will, so far as it respects man? The goodness he shows to all is a lesson for our conduct to each other.
In fine, do we want to know what God is? Search not the book called the Scripture, which any human hand might make, but the Scripture called the Creation.
II.—THEOLOGY AND RELIGION
As to the Christian system of faith, it appears to me as a compound made up chiefly of manism with but little Deism, and is near to Atheism as twilight is to darkness.
That which is now called natural philosophy, embracing the whole circle of science, of which astronomy occupies the chief place, is the study of the works of God, and of the power and wisdom of God in his works, and is the true theology.
As to the theology that is now studied in its place, it is the study of human opinions and of human fancies concerning God. It is not the study of God Himself in the works that He has made, but in the works or writings that man has made; and it is not among the least of the mischiefs that the Christian system has done to the world that it has abandoned the original and beautiful system of theology, like a beautiful innocent, to distress and reproach, to make room for the bag of superstition.
It is an inconsistency, scarcely possible to be credited, that anything should exist under the name of a religion that held it to be irreligious to study and contemplate the structure of the universe that God had made. But the fact is too well established to be denied. The event that served more than any other to break the first link in the long chain of despotic ignorance is that known by the name of the Reformation by Luther. From that time, though it does not appear to have made part of the intention of Luther, or of these who are called Reformers, the sciences began to revive, and liberality, their natural associate, began to appear. This was the only public good the Reformation did; for with respect to religious good it might as well not have taken place. The mythology still continued the same; and the multiplicity of national popes grew out of the downfall of the Pope of Christendom.
The prejudice of unfounded belief often degenerates into the prejudice of custom, and becomes at last rank hypocrisy. When men from custom or fashion, or any worldly motive profess or pretend to believe what they do not believe, nor can give any reason for believing, they unship the helm of their morality, and, being no longer honest in their own minds, they feel no moral difficulty in being unjust to others. It is from the influence of this vice, hypocrisy, that we see so many church and meeting-going professors and pretenders to religion so full of tricks and deceit in their dealings, and so loose in the performance of their engagements that they are not to be trusted further than the laws of the country will bind them. Morality has no hold on their minds, no restraint on their actions.
One set of preachers make salvation to consist in believing. They tell their congregations that if they believe in Christ their sins shall be forgiven. This, in the first place, is an encouragement to sin; in the next place, the doctrine these men preach cannot be true.
Another set of preachers tell their congregations that God predestined and selected from all eternity a certain number to be saved, and a certain number to be damned eternally. If this were true, the day of judgment is past; their preaching is in vain, and they had better work at some useful calling for their livelihood.
Nothing that is here said can apply, even with the most distant disrespect, to the real character of Jesus Christ. He was a virtuous and an amiable man. The morality that he preached and practised was of the most benevolent kind, and, though similar systems of morality had been preached by Confucius and by some of the Greek philosophers many years before, by the Quakers since, and by many good men in all ages, it has not been exceeded by any.
If we permit ourselves to conceive right ideas of things, we must necessarily affix the idea, not only of unchangeableness, but of the utter impossibility of any change taking place, by any means or accident whatever, in that which we would honour with the name of God; and therefore the word of God cannot exist in any written or human language.
The continually progressive change to which the meaning of words is subject, the want of an universal language which renders translation necessary, the errors to which translations are again subject, the mistakes of copyists and printers, together with the possibility of wilful alteration, are of themselves evidences that human language, whether in speech or in print, cannot be the vehicle of the word of God. The word of God exists in something else.
It has been the practice of all Christian commentators on the Bible, and of all Christian priests and preachers, to impose the Bible on the world as a mass of truth, and as the word of God; they have disputed and wrangled, and have anathematised each other about the supposable meaning of particular parts and passages therein; one has said and insisted that such a passage meant such a thing; another, that it meant directly the contrary; and a third, that it meant neither the one nor the other, but something different from both; and this they have called understanding the Bible.
Now, instead of wasting their time, and heating themselves in fractious disputations about doctrinal points drawn from the Bible, these men ought to know, and if they do not it is civility to inform them, that the first thing to be understood is, whether there is sufficient authority for believing the Bible to be the word of God, or whether there is not.
I therefore pass on to an examination of the Books called the Old and the New Testament. The case historically appears to be as follows:
When the Church mythologists established their system, they collected all the writings they could find and managed them as they pleased. It is a matter altogether of uncertainty to us whether such of the writings as now appear under the name of the Old and the New Testament are in the same state in which these collectors say they found them; or whether they added, altered, abridged, or dressed them up.
Be this as it may, they decided by vote which of the books out of the collection they had made should be the word of God, and which should not. They rejected several; they voted others to be doubtful, such as the books called the Apocrypha; and those books which had a majority of votes they voted to be the word of God. Had they voted otherwise, all the people since calling themselves Christians, had believed otherwise; for the belief of the one comes from the vote of the other. Who the people were that did all this we know nothing of; they call themselves by the general name of the Church; and this is all we know of the matter.
There are matters in the Bible, said to be done by the express command of God, that are as shocking to humanity and to every idea we have of moral justice as anything done by Robespierre, by Carrier, by Joseph le Ben, in France; by the English Government in the East Indies; or by any other assassin in modern times. Are we sure that the Creator of man commissioned these things to be done? Are we sure that the books that tell us so were written by His authority? To read the Bible without horror, we must undo everything that is tender, sympathising, and benevolent in the heart of man. Speaking for myself, if I had no other evidence that the Bible is fabulous than the sacrifice I must make to believe it to be true, that alone would be sufficient to determine my choice.
But it can be shown by internal evidence that the Bible is not entitled to credit as the word of God. It can readily be proved that the first five books of the Bible, attributed to Moses, were not written by him nor in his time, but several hundred years afterwards. Moses could not have described his own death, nor mentioned that he was buried in a valley in the land of Moab. Similarly, the book of Joshua was not written by Joshua; it is manifest that Joshua could not write that Israel served the Lord not only in his days, but in the days of the elders that over-lived him. The book of Judges is anonymous on the face of it. The books of Samuel were not written by Samuel, for they relate many things that did not happen till after his death.
The history in the two books of Kings, which is little more than a history of assassinations, treachery, and war, sometimes contradicts itself; and several of the most extraordinary matters related in Kings are not mentioned in the companion books of Chronicles. The book of Job has no internal evidence of being a Hebrew book; it appears to have been translated from another language into Hebrew; and it is the only book in the Bible that can be read without indignation or disgust. It is an error to call the Psalms the Psalms of David because historical evidence shows that some of them were not written until long after the time of David. The books of the prophets are wild, disorderly, and obscure compositions, the so-called prophecies in which do not refer to Jesus Christ, but to circumstances the Jewish nation was in at the time they were written or spoken.
I now go on to the book called the New Testament. Had it been the object of Jesus Christ to establish a new religion, he would undoubtedly have written the system himself, or procured it to be written in His lifetime. But there is no publication extant authenticated with his name. All the books called the New Testament were written after his death. He was a Jew by birth and profession, and he was the Son of God in like manner that every other person is; for the Creator is the Father of All.
The first four books—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—are altogether anecdotal. They relate events after they had taken place. They tell what Jesus Christ did and said, and what others did and said to him; and in several instances they relate the same event differently. Revelation, therefore, is out of the question with respect to these books. The presumption, moreover, is that they are written by other persons than these whose name they bear.
The book of Acts of the Apostles belongs also to the anecdotal part. All the rest of the New Testament, except the book of enigmas called the Revelation, are a collection of letters under the name of epistles, and the forgery of letters under the name of epistles. One thing, however, is certain, which is that out of the matters contained in these books, together with the assistance of some old stories, the Church has set up a system of religion very contradictory to the character of the person whose name it bears. It has set up a religion of pomp and reverence in pretended imitation of a person whose life was humility and poverty.
IV.—MYSTERY, MIRACLE, AND PROPHECY
I proceed to speak of the three principal means that have been employed in all ages and perhaps in all countries to impose upon mankind.
These three means are mystery, miracle, and prophecy. The two first are incompatible with true religion, and the third ought always to be suspected. With respect to mystery, everything we behold is, in one sense, a mystery to us. Our own existence is a mystery, the whole vegetable world is a mystery. We know not how it is that the seed we sow unfolds and multiplies itself.
The fact, however, as distinct from the operating cause, is not a mystery, because we see it; and we know also the means we are to use, which is no other than putting the seed in the ground. We know, therefore, as much as is necessary for us to know; and that part of the operation that we do not know, and which if we did we could not perform, the Creator takes upon Himself and performs it for us.
But though every created thing is in this sense a mystery, the word mystery cannot be applied to moral truth, any more than obscurity can be applied to light. The God in whom we believe is a God of moral truth, and not of mystery. Mystery is the antagonist of truth. It is a fog of human invention that obscures truth, and represents it in distortion.
Religion, therefore, being the belief of a God, and the practice of moral truth, cannot have connection with mystery. The belief of a God, so far from having anything of mystery in it, is of all beliefs the most easy, becauses it arises to us out of necessity. And the practice of moral truth, or, in other words, a practical imitation of the goodness of God, is no other than our acting towards each other as he acts benignly towards all.
When men, whether from policy or pious fraud, set up systems of religion incompatible with the word or works of God in the creation, they were under the necessity of inventing or adopting a word that should serve as a bar to all inquiries and speculations. The word "mystery" answered this purpose, and thus it has happened that religion, which in itself is without mystery, has been corrupted into a fog of mysteries.
As mystery answered all general purposes, "miracle" followed as an occasional auxiliary. Of all the modes of evidence that ever were invented to obtain belief to any system or opinion to which the name of religion has been given, that of miracle is the most inconsistent. For, in the first place, whenever recourse is had to show, for the purpose of procuring that belief, it implies a lameness or weakness in the doctrine that is preached. And, in the second place, it is degrading the Almighty into the character of a showman, playing tricks to amuse and make the people stare and wonder. It is also the most equivocal sort of evidence that can be set up; for the belief is not to depend upon the thing called a miracle, but upon the credit of the reporter who says that he saw it; and therefore the thing, were it true, would have no better chance of being believed than if it were a lie.
As mystery and miracle took charge of the past and the present, prophecy took charge of the future, and rounded the tenses of faith. The original meaning of the words "prophet" and "prophesying" has been changed, the Old Testament prophets were simply poets and musicians. It is owing to this change in the meaning of the words that the flights and metaphors of the Jewish poets, and phrases and expressions now rendered obscure by our not being acquainted with the local circumstances to which they applied at the time they were used, have been erected into prophecies, and made to bend explanations at the will and whimsical conceits of sectaries, expounders, and commentators. Everything unintelligible was prophetical.
Fom the time I was capable of conceiving an idea, and acting upon it by reflection, I either doubted the truth of the Christian system or thought it to be a strange affair. It seems as if parents of the Christian profession were ashamed to tell their children anything about the principles of their religion. They sometimes instruct them in morals, and talk to them of the goodness of what they call Providence. But the Christian story of what they call God the Father putting his son to death, or employing people to do it—for that is the plain language of the story—cannot be told by a parent to a child; and to tell him it was done to make mankind happier and better is making the story still worse; and to tell him that all this is a mystery is only making an excuse for the incredibility of it.
How different is this from the pure and simple profession of deism! The true deist has but one Deity, and his religion consists in contemplating the power, wisdom, and benignity of the Deity in his works, and in endeavouring to imitate him in everything moral, scientific, and mechanical.
The religion that approaches the nearest of all others to true deism, in the moral and benign part thereof, is that professed by the Quakers; but they have contracted themselves too much by leaving the works of God out of their system. Though I reverence their philanthropy, I cannot help smiling at the conceit, that if the taste of the Quaker could have been consulted at the creation what a silent and drab-coloured creation it would have been! Not a flower would have blossomed its gaieties, not a bird been permitted to sing.
Quitting these reflections, I proceed to other matters. Our ideas, not only of the almightiness of the Creator, but of His wisdom and His beneficence, become enlarged as we contemplate the extent and structure of the universe. The solitary idea of a solitary world rolling or at rest in the immense ocean of space gives place to the cheerful idea of a society of worlds, so happily contrived as to administer, even by their motion, instruction to man. We see our own earth filled with abundance, but we forget to consider how much of that abundance is owing to the scientific knowledge the vast machinery of the universe has unfolded.
But what are we to think of the Christian system of faith that forms itself upon the idea of only one world? Alas! what is this to the mighty ocean of space and the almighty power of the Creator? From whence, then, could arise the solitary and strange conceit that the Almighty, who had millions of worlds equally dependent on His protection, should quit the care of all the rest and come to die in our world, because they say one man and one woman had eaten an apple?
It has been by rejecting the evidence that the word or works of God in the creation affords to our senses, and the action of our reason upon that evidence, that so many wild and whimsical systems of faith, and of religion, have been fabricated and set up. There may be many systems of religion that so far from being morally bad are in many respects morally good; but there can be but one that is true, and that one necessarily must, as it ever will, be in all things consistent with the ever-existing word of God that we behold in His works.
I shall close by giving a summary of the deistic belief:
First, that the creation we behold is the real word of God, in which we cannot be deceived. It proclaims His power, it demonstrates His wisdom, it manifests His goodness and beneficence.
Secondly, that the moral duty of man consists in imitating the moral goodness and beneficence of God manifested in the creation towards all His creatures. That seeing, as we daily do, the goodness of God to all men, it is an example calling upon all men to practise the same towards each other, and consequently that everything of persecution and revenge between man and man, and everything of cruelty to animals, is a violation of moral duty.
It is certain that, in one point, all nations of the earth and all religions agree. All believe in a God. The things in which they disagree are the redundancies annexed to that belief; and, therefore, if ever an universal religion should prevail, it will not be in believing anything new, but in getting rid of redundancies, and believing as man believed at first. But in the meantime let every man follow, as he has a right to do, the religion and the worship he prefers.
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LETTERS TO A PROVINCIAL
Blaise Pascal, mathematician, theologian, and one of the greatest writers of French prose, was born on June 19, 1623, at Clermont-Ferrand, and died on August 19, 1662. His mother died in his fourth year, and the father, an eminent lawyer, took the boy with his two sisters to Paris. Pascal showed the most astonishing mathematical genius; he produced at the age of seventeen a profound work on conic sections, and devoted the following years to physical researches and to investigations in the higher mathematics. In 1654, Pascal, having experienced a remarkable vision, which he recorded on a parchment known as his "amulet," renounced the world and entered on the ascetic life, in close relations with the Jansenist community. Hence, in the interests of Arnauld, the Jansenist leader, Pascal issued the famous "Letters Written to a Provincial" ("Lettres Ecrites par Louis de Montalte a un Provincial de ses Amis"), a series of eighteen tracts directed with the keenest and bitterest irony against the casuistry of the Jesuits. The "Letters" appeared during a period of fourteen months, the first being dated January 23, 1656, and the last March 24, 1657. They took the form of little pamphlets, each of eight or twelve quarto pages; they had a very large circulation, and created an immense impression throughout Catholic countries. They are open letters, intended really for the public and not for any individual.
SIR,—I send you, as I promised, the chief outlines of the moral teaching of these good Jesuit fathers, these "men so eminent in doctrine and in wisdom, who are led by that divine wisdom which is more trustworthy than all philosophy." Possibly you think that I speak in jest. I speak seriously, or, rather, it is they who have spoken thus of themselves. I only copy their words where they write, "It is a society of men, or, rather, of angels, foretold by the prophet Isaiah." They claim to have changed the face of Christianity. We must believe it, since they have told us so; and, indeed, you will see how far they have done so, when you have mastered their maxims.
I took care to be instructed by themselves and trusted to nothing which my friend had told me. I had been told such strange things that I could hardly believe them, until I was shown them in their own books; and then I could say nothing in their defence, except that these must be the principles of certain isolated Jesuits, and not those of the whole society. Indeed, I was able to say that I knew Jesuits who were as severe as these were lax.
It was on that occasion that the spirit of the society was explained to me, for it is not by any means known to every one. I was told as follows:
"You imagine that you are speaking in their favour when you say that there are among them fathers who are as obedient to the principles of the Gospel as others are distant from those principles, and you conclude therefore that these loose opinions do not characterise the whole society. That is true. But since the society admits of so licentious a doctrine within it, you must conclude that its spirit is not one of Christian severity."
"But what then," said I, "is the purpose of the whole institution? Is it that everyone should be free to say whatever he may happen to think?"
"That is not so," was the reply. "So great a society could not exist without discipline, and without one spirit governing and ruling all its movements."
The objects of the Jesuits is not to corrupt morals, but, on the other hand, they have not in view as their single object the reformation of morals, because they would find this a political disadvantage. Their principle is this: they have so high an opinion of themselves as to believe that it is advantageous, and even necessary, to the good of religion that their credit should extend everywhere and that they should govern all consciences. And as the severe maxims of the Gospel are suitable for governing certain temperaments, they make use of these whenever they serve their purpose. But since these same maxims do not at all suit the wishes of the generality of mankind, they usually put them aside so as to be able to please everyone.