The Worlds Greatest Books, Volume XIII. - Religion and Philosophy
Author: Various
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What is wickedness? It is nothing new. When you are in danger of being shocked, consider that the sight is nothing but what you have frequently seen already. All ages and histories, towns and families, are full of the same stories; there is nothing new to be met with, but all things are common and quickly over.

Nature works up the matter of the universe like wax; now it is a horse; soon afterwards you will find it melted down and run into the figure of a tree; then it is a man; and so on. Only for a brief time is it fixed in any species.

Antisthenes said: "It is the fate of princes to be ill spoken of for their good deeds."

Consider the course of the stars as if you were driving through the sky and kept them company. Such contemplations as these scour off the rust contracted by conversing here below.

Rational creatures are designed for the advantage of each other. A sociable temper is that for which human nature was principally intended.

It is a saying of Plato's that no one misses the truth by his own goodwill. The same may be said of honesty, sobriety, good nature, and the like. Remember this, for it will help to sweeten your temper.

Though the gods are immortal, and have had their patience tried through so many ages, yet they not only bear with a wicked world, but even provide liberally for it. And are you tired with evil men already, though you are one of those unhappy mortals yourself?


Every man has three relations to acquit himself in: his body is one, God is another, and his neighbours are the third. Have you seen a hand or a foot cut off and removed from the body? Just such a thing is the man who is discontented with destiny or cuts himself off by selfishness from the interest of mankind. But here is the fortunate aspect of the case—it lies in his power to set the limb on again. Consider the peculiar bounty of God to man in this privilege: He has set him above the necessity of breaking off from Nature and Providence at all; but supposing this misfortune to have occurred, it is in man's power to rejoin the body, and grow together again, and recover the advantage of being the same member that he was at first.

Do not take your whole life into your head at a time, nor burden yourself with the weight of the future, nor form an image of all probable misfortunes. Neither what is past nor what is to come need afflict you, for you have only to deal with the present; and this is strangely lessened if you take it singly and by itself. Chide your fancy, therefore, if it offers to grow faint under so slender a trial.

Throw me into what climate or state you please, for all that I will keep my soul content. Is any misadventure big enough to ruffle my peace, or to make my mind mean, craving and servile? What is there that can justify such disorders?

Be not heavy in business, nor disturbed in conversation, nor rambling in thought. Do not burden yourself with too much employment. Do men curse you? This cannot prevent you from keeping a wise, temperate, and upright mind. If a man standing by a lovely spring should rail at it, the water is none the worse for his foul language; and if he throw in dirt it will quickly disappear, and the fountain will be as wholesome as ever. How are you to keep your springs always running, and never stagnate into a pool? You must persevere in the virtues of freedom, sincerity, moderation, and good nature.


Do not drudge like a galley-slave, nor do business in a laborious manner, as if you wish to be pitied or wondered at.

As virtue and vice consist in action, and not in the impressions of the senses, so it is not what they feel, but what they do, which makes mankind either happy or miserable.

This man prays that he may gain such a woman; but do you rather pray that you may have no such inclination. Another invokes the gods to set him free from some troublesome circumstance; but let it be your petition that your mind may not be set upon such a wish. A third is devout in order to prevent the loss of his son; but I would have you pray rather against the fear of losing him. Let this be the rule for your devotions, and watch the event.


O my soul, are you ever to be rightly good, sincere, and uniform, and made more visible to yourself than the body that hangs about you? Are you ever likely to relish good nature and general kindness as you ought? Will you ever be fully satisfied, rise above wanting and wishing, and never desire to obtain your pleasure out of anything foreign, either living or inanimate? Are you ever likely to be so happily qualified as to converse with the gods and men in such a manner as neither to complain of them nor to be condemned by them?

Put it out of the power of all men to give you a bad name, and if anyone reports you not to be an honest or a good man let your practice give him the lie. This is quite feasible; for who can hinder you from being just and sincere?

There is no one so happy in his family and friends but that some of them, when they see him going, will rejoice at a good riddance. Let him be a person of never so much probity and prudence, yet someone will say at his grave: "Well, our man of order and gravity is gone; we shall be no more troubled with his discipline." This is the best treatment a good man must expect.


What a brave soul it is that is always ready to depart from the body, and is unconcerned as to whether she will be extinguished, scattered, or removed! But she must be prepared upon reasonable grounds, and not out of mere obstinacy like the Christians; her fortitude must have nothing of noise or of tragic ostentation, but must be grave and seemly.

How fulsome and hollow does that man seem who cries: "I'm resolved to deal sincerely with you!" Hark you, friend, what need of all this flourish? Let your actions speak. Your face ought to vouch for you. I would have virtue look out of the eye no less apparently than love does. A man of integrity and good nature can never be concealed, for his character is wrought into his countenance.

Gentleness and good humour are invincible, provided they are of the right stamp and without hypocrisy. This is the way to disarm the most outrageous person—to continue kind and unmoved under ill usage, and to strike in at the right opportunity with advice. But let all be done out of mere love and kindness.


I have often wondered how it is that everyone should love himself best, and yet value his neighbour's opinion of him more than his own. If any man should be ordered to turn his inside outwards, and publish every thought and fancy as fast as they come into his head, he would not submit to so much as a day of this discipline. Thus it is that we dread our neighbour's judgment more than our own.

What a mighty privilege man is born to, since it is in his power not to do anything but what God Almighty approves, and to be satisfied with all the distributions of Providence!

Reflect upon those who have made the most glorious figure or have met with the greatest misfortunes. Where are they all now? They are vanished like a little smoke. The prize is insignificant, and the play not worth the candle. It is much more becoming to a philosopher to stand clear of affectation, to be honest and moderate upon all occasions, and to follow cheerfully wherever the gods lead on, remembering that nothing is more scandalous than a man who is proud of his humility.

Listen, friend! You have been a burgher of this great city. What matter though you have lived in it fewer years or more? If you have kept the laws of the corporation, the length or shortness of the time makes no difference. Where is the hardship, then, if Nature, that planted you here, orders your removal? You cannot say you are sent off by an unjust tyrant No! You quit the stage as fairly as a player does who has his discharge from the master of the revels. "But I have only gone through three acts, and not held out to the end of the fifth!" True; but in life three acts may complete the play. He is the only judge of completeness who first ordered your entrance and now your exit; you are accountable for neither the one nor the other. Retire therefore, in serenity, as He who dismisses you is serene.

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Francis Bacon, English philosopher and Chancellor, was born on January 22, 1561, the son of Lord Keeper Bacon, was sent to Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1573, and entered Gray's Inn in 1576. He had already become profoundly dissatisfied at Cambridge with the Aristotelian philosophy, and the conception of a humble and methodical study of Nature had early become the dominant passion of his life. Bacon became a member of parliament in 1584, and nine years later distinguished himself by coming forward as the champion of the privileges of the House of Commons against the Lords. The "Essays" were published in 1597. Bacon was knighted in 1603, on the accession of James I. In October, 1605, he published the "Advancement of Learning," a work designed to interest the king in the new philosophy, of which book we here give a summary. This review of the existing state of knowledge was intended to be made, later, into the first part of the "Instauratio Magna" under the title of "Partitiones Scientiarum." For this purpose Bacon was constantly revising it, and eventually he had it translated into Latin, and it was so published, greatly enlarged, in 1623, under the title of "De Dignitate et Augmentis Scientiarum." The summit of his career was reached in 1621, when he became Viscount St. Albans. His fall, on a charge of corruptions in the Court of Chancery, took place in the following March, and from this period until his death, on April 9, 1626, he devoted himself to his philosophical and literary works.

First Book

Let us weigh the dignity of knowledge in the balance with other things. In its archetype it is the Divine wisdom, or sapience, manifested in the creation. In the celestial hierarchy the supposed Dionysius of Athens places the angels of knowledge and illumination before those of office and domination. Then, the first material form that was created was light, which corresponds in corporal things to knowledge in incorporai. The day wherein God contemplated His own works was blessed above the days wherein He accomplished them. Man's first employment in Paradise consisted of the two chief parts of knowledge, the view of creatures, and the imposition of names. In the age before the Flood, Scripture honours the names of the inventors of music and of works in metal. Moses was accomplished in all the learning of the Egyptians. The book of Job is pregnant with natural philosophy. In Solomon, the gift of wisdom and learning is preferred before all other earthly and temporal felicity.

Our Saviour first showed His power to subdue ignorance by His conference with the doctors, before He showed His power to subdue Nature by miracles; and the coming of the Holy Spirit was chiefly figured in the gift of tongues, which are the vehicles of knowledge. St. Paul, most learned of the apostles, had his pen most used in the New Testament. Many of the ancient fathers of the Church were excellently read in all the learning of the heathen; and that heathen learning was preserved, amid Scythian and Saracen invasions, in the sacred bosom of the Church. And in our own day, when God has called the Roman Church to account for degenerate manners and obnoxious doctrines. He has also ordained a renovation of all other knowledges; and, on the other side, the Jesuits, by quickening the state of learning, have done notable service to the Roman See. Wherefore two principal services are performed to religion by human learning: first, the contemplation of God's works is an effectual inducement to the exaltation of His glory; and, secondly, true learning is a singular preservative against unbelief and error.

To pass now to human proofs of the dignity of learning, we find that among the heathen the inventors of new arts, such as Ceres, Bacchus, and Apollo, were consecrated among the gods themselves by apotheosis. The fable of Orpheus, wherein quarrelsome beasts stood sociably listening to the harp, aptly described the nature of men among whom peace is maintained so long as they give ear to precepts, laws, and religion. It has been said that people would then be happy, when kings were philosophers, or philosophers kings; and history shows that the best times have ever been under learned princes.

As for the services of knowledge to private virtue, it takes away all levity, temerity, and insolence by copious suggestion of all doubts and difficulties, and acquainting the mind to balance reasons on both sides. It takes away vain admiration of anything, which is the root of all weakness. No man can marvel at the play of puppets that goes behind the curtain. And certainly, if a man meditate much upon the universal frame of Nature, the earth with men upon it (the divineness of souls except) will not seem much other than an ant-hill, where some ants carry corn, and some carry their young, and some go empty, and all to and fro a little heap of dust. But especially learning disposes the mind to be capable of growth and reformation. For the unlearned man knows not what it is to descend into himself or to call himself to account, nor the pleasure of feeling himself each day a better man than he was the day before; he is like an ill mower, that mows on still and never whets his scythe. Knowledge crowns man's nature with power. It even gives fortune to particular persons; and it is hard to say whether arms or learning have advanced greater numbers. As for the pleasure and delight thereof, in knowledge there is no satiety. "It is a pleasure incomparable," says Lucretius, "for the mind of man to be settled, landed, and fortified in the certainty of truth; and from thence to descry the errors and perturbations of other men."

Lastly, by learning man excels man in that wherein man excels beasts. The great dignity of knowledge lies in immortality or continuance, and the monuments of learning are more durable than the monuments of power. Have not the verses of Homer continued twenty-five hundred years or more, without the loss of a syllable or letter, during which time infinite palaces, temples, castles, cities, have been decayed and demolished?

If the invention of the ship was thought so noble, which carries riches and commodities from place to place, and consociates the most remote regions in participation of their fruits, how much more are letters to be magnified? Popular and mistaken judgments will continue as they have ever been, but so will that also continue whereupon learning has ever relied, and which fails not.

"Wisdom is justified of her children."


The parts of human learning have reference to the three parts of man's understanding—history to his memory, poetry to his imagination, and philosophy to his reason. Divine learning receives the same distribution, so that theology consisteth of history of the Church; of parables, which are divine poetry; and of holy doctrine or precept. For prophecy is but divine history, in which the narrative is before the fact.

History is "natural," "civil," "ecclesiastical," and "literary "; whereof the first three are extant, but the fourth is deficient. A true history of learning throughout the ages is wanting. History of Nature is of three sorts—of Nature in course, of Nature erring or varying, and of Nature altered or worked; that is, history of creatures, history of marvels, and history of arts. The first of these is extant in good perfection; the two others are handled so weakly that I note them as deficient. The history of arts is of great use towards natural philosophy such as shall be operative to the benefit of man's life. Civil history is of three kinds: "memorials," "perfect histories," and "antiquities," comparable to unfinished, perfect and defaced pictures. Just or perfect history represents a time, a person, or an action. The first we call "chronicles"; the second, "lives"; and the third, "narrations," or "relations."

Of modern histories the greater part are beneath mediocrity. Annals and journals are a kind of history not to be forgotten; and there is also ruminated history, wherein political discourse and observations are mingled with the history of the events themselves. The history of cosmography is compounded of natural history, civil history, and mathematics. Ecclesiastical history receives the same divisions with civil history, but may further be divided into history of the Church, history of prophecy, and history of Providence. The first of these is not deficient, only I would that the sincerity of it were proportionate to its mass and quantity. The history of prophecy, sorting every prophecy with the event fulfilling the same, is deficient; but the history of Providence, and the notable examples of God's judgments and deliverances have passed through the labour of many. Orations, letters, and brief sayings, or apophthegms, are appendices to history. Thus much concerning history, which answers to memory.

Poetry refers to the imagination. In respect of its words it is but a character of style, but in respect of its matter it is nothing else but feigned history, which may as well be in prose as in verse. The use of this feigned history is to give some shadow of satisfaction to the mind of man in those points wherein the nature of things denies it; poetry serves magnanimity, morality, and delectation. It is divided into narrative, representative, and allusive or parabolical poetry. In poetry I can report no deficience; it has sprung up and spread abroad more than any other kind of learning.

In philosophy, the contemplations of man either penetrate unto God, or are circumferred to Nature, or are reflected upon himself; whence arise three knowledges—divine philosophy, natural philosophy, and human philosophy or humanity. But it is good to erect one universal science, Philosophia Prima, "primitive" or "summary philosophy," before we come where the ways part and divide; and this universal philosophy is a receptacle for all such profitable observations and axioms as do not fall within the compass of any of the special parts of philosophy or sciences, but are common and of a higher stage. Divine philosophy, or natural theology, is that knowledge concerning God which may be obtained by the contemplation of His creatures; and in this I note an excess rather than a deficience, because of the extreme prejudice which both religion and philosophy have received by being mixed together, making an heretical religion and a fabulous philosophy.

Of natural philosophy there are two parts, the inquisition of causes and the production of effects; speculative and operative; natural science and natural prudence. Natural science is divided into physic and metaphysic. But since I have already defined a summary philosophy, and, again, a natural theology, both of which are commonly confounded with metaphysic, what is there remaining for metaphysic? This, that physic inquires concerning the material and efficient causes, but metaphysic handles the formal and final causes. So physic is in a middle term between natural history and metaphysic; for natural history describes the variety of things, physic the variable or respective causes, and metaphysic the fixed and constant causes. Of metaphysic I find that it is partly omitted and partly misplaced. In mathematics, which I place as a part of metaphysic, I can report no deficience. But natural prudence, or the operative part of natural philosophy, is very deficient. It were desirable that there should be a calendar or inventory made of all the inventions whereof man is possessed, with a note of useful things not yet invented. A calendar, also, of doubts, and another of popular errors, are to be desired.

We come now to the knowledge of ourselves—that is, to human philosophy or humanity. First, a general study of human nature will have regard to the sympathies and concordances between mind and body. Then, since the good of man's body is of four kinds—health, beauty, strength, and pleasure—the knowledge of the body is also of four kinds—medicine, decoration or cosmetic, athletic, and the art voluptuary. Medicine has been more professed than laboured, and more laboured than advanced, the labour having been rather in circle than in progression.

As for human knowledge concerning the mind, it has two parts, one inquiring of the substance or nature of the soul, and the other of its faculties or functions. I believe that the first of these may be more soundly inquired than it has been, yet I hold that in the end it must be bounded by religion. It has two appendices, concerning divination and fascination; these have rather vapoured forth fables than kindled truth. The knowledge respecting the faculties of the mind is of two kinds, the one respecting understanding and reason, and the other respecting will, appetite, and affection, the imagination being active in both provinces. The intellectual arts are four—inquiry or invention, examination or judgment, custody or memory, and elocution or tradition; and these are severally divided into various sciences and arts. The knowledge of the appetite and will, or moral philosophy, leading to the culture and regiment of the mind, is very deficient.

Civil knowledge has three parts—conversation, negotiation, and government—since man seeks in society comfort, use, and protection. The first of these is well laboured, the second and third are deficient. Thus we conclude human philosophy, and turn to the sacred and inspired divinity, the port of all men's labours and peregrinations.

Sacred theology, or divinity, is grounded only upon the word and oracle of God, and not upon the light of Nature. Herein there has not been sufficiently inquired the true limits and use of reason in spiritual things. Exposition of Scriptures, on the other hand, is not deficient. Divinity has four main branches—faith, manners, liturgy, and government—in which I can find no ground vacant and unsown, so diligent have men been, either in sowing of seed or tares.

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George Berkeley, the metaphysician, was born on March 12, 1685, near Thomastown, Kilkenny, the son of a collector of revenue. He entered Trinity College, Dublin, at the age of fifteen, and was admitted Fellow in 1707. In that year he published two mathematical essays; two years later, his "Theory of Vision," and in 1710 his "Principles of Human Knowledge." In 1713, in London, where he had published further philosophical papers, he formed the acquaintance of Steele, Swift, and Pope. After travels in Europe he became chaplain to the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland in 1721, and a few years after emigrated to Newport, Rhode Island, with a view to the establishment of a college in Bermuda for the education of Indians. This scheme fell through, because of the failure of the promised government support. Berkeley returned to London, and in 1734, by desire of Queen Caroline, was consecrated Bishop of Cloyne, in Ireland. Here he lived until 1752, but spent his last months in retirement at Oxford, where he died on January 14, 1753. Berkeley's "Principles of Human Knowledge" is one of the most eminent of that sequence of metaphysical systems which, beginning with Descartes, constitutes what is known as modern philosophy.


It is evident to anyone who takes a survey of the objects of human knowledge that they are either ideas actually imprinted on the senses, or else such as are perceived by attending to the passions and operations of the mind; or, lastly, ideas formed by help of memory and imagination, either compounding, dividing, or representing those originally perceived in the aforesaid ways. By sight, touch, and other senses, I receive various sensations; and any group of sensations, frequently accompanying one another, come to be known as one thing. Thus a certain colour, taste, smell, figure, and consistence, having been observed to go together, are accounted one distinct thing—for instance, an apple.

But, besides this endless variety of objects of knowledge, there is also the "mind," "spirit," "soul," or "myself," which perceives them. Neither our thoughts or imaginations, nor even the sensations which compose the objects of perception, can exist otherwise than in a mind perceiving them. It is impossible that objects should have any existence out of the minds for which they exist; to conceive them as existing unperceived is a mere abstraction. Whence it follows that there is no other substance but spirit, or that which perceives.

Some, indeed, distinguish between "primary" and "secondary" qualities, and hold that the former, such as extension, figure, motion, and solidity, have some existence outside of the mind in an unthinking substance which they call "matter." But extension, figure, and motion are only ideas existing in the mind, and neither these ideas nor their archetypes can exist in an unperceiving substance. The very notion of what is called "matter" involves a contradiction within it. Not only primary and secondary qualities alike, but also "great" and "small," "swift" and "slow," "extension," "number," and even "unity" itself, being all of them purely relative, exist only in the mind. The conception of "material substance" has no meaning but that of "being" in general.

Even if we were to give to the materialists their "external bodies," they are by their own confession no nearer to knowledge how our ideas are produced, since they own themselves unable to comprehend in what manner body can act upon spirit, or how it is possible that it should imprint any idea on the mind.

It is evident that the production of ideas in our minds can be no reason why we should suppose corporeal substances to exist, since the rise of those ideas is acknowledged to remain equally inexplicable with or without the supposition of material existences. In short, if there were external bodies, it is impossible that we should ever come to know it; and if there were not, we should have the same reasons to think there were, that we have now. We perceive a continual succession of ideas; some are anew excited, others are changed or totally disappear. There is, therefore, some cause of these ideas, whereon they depend, which produces and changes them. This cause must be a substance; but it has been shown that there is no corporeal or material substance. It remains, therefore, that the cause of ideas is an incorporeal active substance or spirit.

A spirit is one simple, undivided, active being; as it perceives ideas it is called the "understanding," and as it produces or otherwise operates about them, it is called the "will." Such is the nature of spirit that it cannot be of itself perceived, but only by the effects which it produceth.

The ideas of sense are more strong, lively, and distinct than those of the imagination; they have likewise a steadiness, order, and coherence, and are excited in a regular series, the admirable connection whereof sufficiently testifies the wisdom and benevolence of its Author. The set rules or established methods, wherein the mind that we depend on excites in us the ideas of sense, are called the "laws of Nature."

These we learn by experience, and so obtain a sort of foresight which enables us to regulate our actions for the benefit of life. In general, to obtain such or such ends such or such means are conducive; and all this we know, not by discovering any necessary connection between our ideas, but only by the observation of the laws of Nature.

And yet this constant uniform working, which so evidently displays the goodness and wisdom of that governing spirit whose will constitutes the laws of Nature, is so far from leading our thoughts to Him that it rather sends them wandering after second causes. For when we perceive certain ideas of sense constantly followed by other ideas, and we know that it is not of our own doing, we forthwith attribute power and agency to the ideas themselves, and make one the cause of another, than which nothing can be more absurd.


Several difficult and obscure questions, on which abundance of speculation hath been thrown away, are by our own principles entirely banished from philosophy. "Whether corporeal substance can think," "whether matter be infinitely divisible," "how matter operates on spirit"—these and the like inquiries have given infinfte amusement to philosophers in all ages. But since they depend on the existence of matter, they have no longer any place in our principles. It follows, also, that human knowledge may be reduced to two heads—knowledge of ideas, and knowledge of spirits. Our knowledge of the former hath been much obscured and confounded, and we have been led into very dangerous errors, by supposing a twofold existence of the objects of sense, the one "intelligible," or in the mind, the other "real," and without the mind; whereby unthinking things are thought to have a natural subsistence of their own, distinct from being perceived by spirits.

This is the very root of scepticism; for so long as men thought that real things subsisted without the mind, and that their knowledge was only so far "real" as it was conformable to "real things," they could not be certain that they had any real knowledge at all.

So long as we attribute a real existence to unthinking things, distinct from their being perceived, it is not only impossible for us to know the nature of any real unthinking being, but it is impossible for us even to know that it exists. Hence it is that we see philosophers distrust their senses, and doubt of the existence of heaven and earth, of everything they see or feel. But all this doubtfulness, which so bewilders and confounds the mind, vanishes if we annex a meaning to our words and do not amuse ourselves with the terms "absolute," "external," "exist," and such like, signifying we know not what. I can as well doubt of my own being as of the being of those things which I perceive by sense; the very existence of unthinking beings consists in their being perceived.

It were a mistake to think that what is here said derogates in the least from the reality of things. The unthinking beings perceived by sense exist in those unextended, indivisible substances, or spirits, which act, think, and perceive them; whereas philosophers vulgarly hold that the sensible qualities exist in an inert, extended, unperceiving substance, which they call "matter," to which they attribute a natural subsistence distinct from being perceived by any mind whatsoever, even the eternal mind of the Creator.

As we have shown the doctrine of matter to have been the main support of scepticism, so likewise upon the same foundation have been raised all the impious schemes of atheism and irreligion. All these monstrous systems have so visible and necessary a dependence on this supposed material substance that, when this cornerstone is once removed, the whole fabric cannot choose but fall to the ground.

On the same principle does not only fatalism but also idolatry depend in all its varying forms. Did men but consider that the sun, moon, and stars, and every other object of the senses, are only so many sensations in their minds, which have no other existence but barely being perceived, they would never fall down and worship their own ideas, but rather address their homage to that Eternal Invisible Mind which produces and sustains all things.

As in reading books, a wise man will choose to fix his thoughts on the sense rather than lay them out on grammatical remarks; so, in perusing the volume of Nature, it seems beneath the dignity of the mind to affect an exactness in reducing each particular phenomenon to general rules, or showing how it follows from them. We should propose to ourselves nobler views, such as to recreate and exalt the mind, with a prospect of the beauty, order, extent, and variety, of natural things; hence, by proper inferences, to enlarge our notions of the grandeur, wisdom, and beneficence of the Creator.

The reason that is assigned for our being thought ignorant of the nature of spirits is our not having an idea of them. But it is manifestly impossible that there should be any such idea. A spirit is the only substance or support wherein the unthinking beings or ideas can exist; but that this substance which supports or perceives ideas should itself be an idea is absurd.

From the opinion that spirits are to be known after the manner of an idea or sensation have arisen many heterodox tenets and much scepticism about the nature of the soul. It is even probable that this opinion may have produced a doubt in some whether they had any soul at all distinct from their body, since they could not find that they had an idea of it. But the spirit is a real thing, which is neither an idea nor like an idea. What I am myself, that which I denote by the term "I," is what we mean by soul or spiritual substance; and we know other spirits by means of our own soul, which in that sense is an image or idea of them.

By the natural immortality of the soul we mean that it is not liable to be either broken or dissolved by the ordinary laws of Nature or motion. The soul itself is indivisible, incorporeal, unextended, and is consequently incorruptible.


Though there be some things which convince us that human agents are concerned in producing them, yet it is evident to everyone that those things which are called the works of Nature—that is, the far greater part of the ideas or sensations perceived by us—are not produced by, nor dependent on, the wills of men. There is, therefore, some other spirit that causes them, since they cannot subsist themselves.

If we attentively consider the constant regularity, order, and concatenation of natural things, the surprising magnificence, beauty, and perfection of the larger, and the exquisite contrivance of the smaller parts together with the exact harmony and correspondence of the whole—I say, if we consider all these things, and at the same time attend to the import of the attributes, one eternal, infinitely wise, good, and perfect, we shall clearly perceive that they belong to the aforesaid Spirit, who works all in all, and by whom all things consist.

Hence it is evident that God is known as certainly and immediately as any other mind or spirit whatsoever, distinct from ourselves. We may even assert that the existence of God is far more evidently perceived than the existence of men, because the effects of Nature are infinitely more numerous and considerable than those ascribed to human agents. There is not any one mark that denotes a man, or effect produced by him, which does not more strongly evince the being of that Spirit who is the Author of Nature.

It seems to be a general pretence of the unthinking herd that they cannot see God. Could we but see Him, say they, as we see a man, we should believe that He is, and, believing, obey His commands. But we need only open our eyes to see the sovereign Lord of all things with a more full and clear view than we do any one of our fellow-creatures. We do not see a man, if by "man" is meant that which lives, moves, perceives, and thinks as we do; but only such a collection of ideas as directs us to think there is a distinct principle of thought and motion like to ourselves, accompanying and represented by it. And after the same manner we see God.

Men are surrounded with such clear manifestations of Deity, yet are so little affected by them that they seem, as it were, blinded with excess of light.

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Rene Descartes was born March 31, 1596, at La Haye, in the ancient province of Touraine, France, of a noble family of Touraine; and was educated at the College of La Fleche by the Jesuits. The decisive crisis of his life arrived in 1619, while he was serving as a volunteer with Prince Maurice of Nassau, and the next nine years may be regarded as the period of his formation. The most fruitful years of his life were spent in Holland, whence he made occasional excursions into France, and perhaps paid a visit to England. In 1633 he finished his treatise on "The World; or on Light," an epitome of his "Physics," which, however, he deemed it wise, in view of Galileo's fate, to withhold from publication during his lifetime. Besides the "Discourse on Method" (1637), with the treatises on dioptrics, meteors, and geometry, his principal works were his "Meditations" addressed to the Deans of the Faculty of Theology in the University of Paris; the "Principia Philosophiae," and the "Traite des Passions de L'Ame," in which, he handled morals. Descartes died at Stockholm, whither he had been summoned by Queen Christina, on February 11, 1649. His work stands a landmark in the modern history of philosophic thought.


Good sense or reason must be better distributed than anything else in the world, for no man desires more of it than he already has. This shows that reason is by nature equal in all men. If there is diversity of opinion, this arises from the fact that we conduct our thought by different ways, and consider not the same things. It does not suffice that the understanding be good—it must be well applied.

My mind is no better than another's, but I have been lucky enough to chance on certain ways, which have led me to a certain method by means of which it seems to me that I may by degrees augment my knowledge to the modest measure of my intellect and my length of days. I shall be very glad to make plain in this discourse the paths I have followed, and to picture my life so that all may judge of it, and by the setting forth of their opinions may furnish me with yet other means of improvement.

It is my design not to teach the method which each man ought to follow for the right guidance of his reason, but only to show in what manner I have tried to conduct my own.

I had been nourished on letters from my infancy, but as soon as I had finished the customary course of study, I found myself hampered by so many doubts and errors that I seemed to have reaped no benefits, except that I had observed more and more of my ignorance: Yet I was at one of the most celebrated schools in Europe, and I was not held inferior to my fellow-students, some of whom were destined to take the place of our masters; nor did our age seem less fruitful of good wits than any which had gone before. Though I did not cease to esteem the studies of the schools, I began to think that I had given enough time to languages, enough also to ancient books, their stories and their fables; for when a man spends too much time in travelling abroad he becomes a stranger in his own country; and so, when he is too curious concerning what went on in past ages, he is apt to remain ignorant of what is taking place in his own day. I set a high price on eloquence, and I was in love with poetry; above all, I rejoiced in mathematics, but I knew nothing of its true use.

I revered our theology, but, since the way to heaven lies open to the ignorant no less than to the learned, and the revealed truths which lead thither are beyond our intelligence, I did not dare to submit them to my feeble reasonings.

In philosophy there is no truth which is not disputed, and which, consequently, is not doubtful; and, as to the other sciences, they all borrow their principles from philosophy.

Therefore, I entirely gave up the study of letters, and employed the rest of my youth in travelling, being resolved to seek no other science than that which I might find within myself, or in the Great Book of the World.

Here the best lesson that I learned was not to believe too firmly anything of which I had learnt merely by example and custom; and thus little by little was delivered from many errors which are liable to obscure the light of nature, and to diminish our capacity of hearing reason. Finally, I resolved one day to study myself in the same way, and in this it seems to me I succeeded much better than if I had never departed from either my country or my books.


Being in Germany, on my way to rejoin the army after the coronation of the Emperor [Ferdinand II.], I was lying at an inn where, in default of other conversation, I was at liberty to entertain my own thoughts. Of these, one of the first was that often there is less perfection in works which are composite than in those which issue from a single hand. Such was the case with buildings, cities, states; for a people which has made its laws from time to time to meet particular occasions will enjoy a less perfect polity than a people which from the beginning has observed the constitution of a far-sighted legislator. This is very certain, that the estate of true religion, which God alone has ordained, must be incomparably better guided than any other. And again, I considered that as, during our childhood, we had been governed by our appetites and our tutors, which are often at variance, which neither of them perhaps always gave us the best counsel, it is almost impossible that our judgments should be so pure and so solid as they would have been if we had had the perfect use of our reason from the time of our birth, and had never been guided by anything else.

Hence, as regarded the opinions that I had received into my belief, I thought that, as a private person may pull down his own house to build a finer, so I could not do better than remove them therefrom in order to replace them by sounder, or, after I should have adjusted them to the level of reason, to establish the same once more.

When I was younger I had studied logic, analytical geometry, and algebra. Of these, I found that logic served rather for explaining things we already know; while of geometry and algebra, the former is so tied to the consideration of figures that it cannot exercise the understanding without wearying the imagination, and the latter is so bound down to certain rules and ciphers that it has been made a confused and obscure art which hampers the mind instead of a science which cultivates it. And as a state is better governed which has but few laws, and those laws strictly observed, I believed that I should find sufficient four precepts which follow.

The first was never to accept anything as true when I did not recognise it clearly to be so—that is to say, carefully to avoid precipitation and prejudice, but to include in my opinions nothing beyond that which should present itself so clearly and distinctly to my mind that I might have no occasion to doubt it.

The second was to divide up the difficulties which I should examine into as many parts as possible, and as should be required for their better solution.

The third was to conduct my thoughts in order, by beginning with the simplest objects and those most easy to know, so as to mount little by little, by stages, to the most complex knowledge, even supposing an order among things which did not naturally stand in an order of antecedent and consequent.

And the last was to make everywhere enumerations so complete, and surveys so wide, that I should be sure of omitting nothing.

Exact observation of these precepts gave me such facility in unravelling the questions comprehended in geometrical analysis and in algebra, that in two or three months not only did I find my way through many which I had formerly accounted too hard for me, but, towards the end, I seemed to be able to determine, in those which were new to me, by what means and to what extent it was possible to resolve them. And so I promised myself that I would apply my system with equal success to the difficulties of other sciences; but since their principles must all be borrowed from philosophy, in which I found no certain principles of its own, I thought that before all else I must try to establish some therein. By way of preparation (for I was then but twenty-three years old) I must root up from my mind my previous bad opinion of it, and must practise my method in order that I might be confirmed in it more and more.


Meanwhile I must have a rule of life as a shelter while my new house was in building, and this consisted of three or four maxims.

The first was to conform myself to the laws and customs of my country, and to hold to the religion in which, by God's grace, I had been brought up; guiding myself, for the rest, by the least extreme opinions of the most intelligent. Among extremes I counted all promises by which a man curtails anything of his liberty; for I should have deemed it a grave fault against good sense if, because I approved something in a given moment, I had bound myself to accept it as good for ever after.

My second maxim was to follow resolutely even doubtful opinions when sure opinions were not available, just as the traveller, lost in some forest, had better walk straight forward, though in a chance direction; for thus he will arrive, if not precisely at the place where he desires to be, at least probably at a better place than the middle of a forest.

My third maxim was to endeavour always to conquer myself rather than fortune, and to change my desires rather than the order of the world, and in general to bring myself to believe that there is nothing wholly in our power except our thoughts. And I believe that herein lay the secret of those philosophers who, in the days of old, could withdraw from the domination of fortune, and, despite pain and poverty, challenge the felicity of their gods.

Finally, after looking out upon the divers occupations of men, I pondered that I could do no better than persevere in that which I had chosen—so deep was my content in discovering every day by its means truths which seemed to me important, yet were unknown to the world.

Having thus made myself sure of these maxims, and having set them apart together with the verities of faith, I judged that for the rest of my opinions I might set freely to work to divest myself of them. For nine years, therefore, I went up and down the world a spectator rather than an actor. These nine years slipped away before I had begun to seek for the foundations of any philosophy more certain, nor perhaps should I have dared to undertake the quest had it not been put about that I had already succeeded.


I had long since remarked that in matters of conduct it is necessary sometimes to follow opinions known to be uncertain, as if they were not subject to doubt; but, because now I was desirous to devote myself to the search after truth, I considered that I must do just the contrary, and reject as absolutely false everything concerning which I could imagine the least doubt to exist.

Thus, because our senses sometimes deceive us I would suppose that nothing is such as they make us to imagine it; and because I was as likely to err as another in reasoning, I rejected as false all the reasons which I had formerly accepted as demonstrative; and finally, considering that all the thoughts we have when awake can come to us also when we sleep without any of them being true, I resolved to feign that everything which had ever entered into my mind was no more truth than the illusion of my dreams.

But I observed that, while I was thus resolved to feign that everything was false, I who thought must of necessity be somewhat; and remarking this truth—"I think, therefore I am"—was so firm and so assured that all the most extravagant suppositions of the sceptics were unable to shake it, I judged that I could unhesitatingly accept it as the first principle of the philosophy I was seeking. I could feign that there was no world, I could not feign that I did not exist. And I judged that I might take it as a general rule that the things which we conceive very clearly and very distinctly are all true, and that the only difficulty lies in the way of discerning which those things are that we conceive distinctly.

After this, reflecting upon the fact that I doubted, and that consequently my being was not quite perfected (for I saw that to know is a greater perfection than to doubt), I bethought me to inquire whence I had learned to think of something more perfect than myself; and it was clear to me that this must come from some nature which was in fact more perfect. For other things I could regard as dependencies of my nature if they were real, and if they were not real they might proceed from nothing—that is to say, they might exist in me by way of defect. But it could not be the same with the idea of a being more perfect than my own; for to derive it from nothing was manifestly impossible; and, because it is no less repugnant that the more perfect should follow and depend upon the less perfect than that something should come forth out of nothing, I could not derive it from myself.

It remained, then, to conclude that it was put into me by a nature truly more perfect than was I, and possessing in itself all the perfections of what I could form an idea—in a word, by God. To which I added that, since I knew some perfections which I did not possess, I was not the only being who existed, but that there must of necessity be some other being, more perfect, on whom I depended, and from whom I had acquired all that I possessed; for if I had existed alone and independent of all other, so that I had of myself all this little whereby I participated in the Perfect Being, I should have been able to have in myself all those other qualities which I knew myself to lack, and so to be infinite, eternal, immutable, omniscient, almighty—in fine, to possess all the perfections which I could observe in God.

Proposing to myself the geometer's subject matter, and then turning again to examine my idea of a Perfect Being, I found that existence was comprehended in that idea just as, in the idea of a triangle is comprehended the notion that the sum of its angles is equal to two right angles; and that consequently it is as certain that God, this Perfect Being, is or exists, as any geometrical demonstration could be.

That there are many who persuade themselves that there is a difficulty in knowing Him is due to the scholastic maxim that there is nothing in the understanding which has not first been in the senses; where the ideas of God and the soul have never been.

Than the existence of God all other things, even those which it seems to a man extravagant to doubt, such as his having a body, are less certain. Nor is there any reason sufficient to remove such doubt but such as presupposes the existence of God. From His existence it follows that our ideas or notions, being real things, and coming from God, cannot but be true in so far as they are clear and distinct. In so far as they contain falsity, they are confused and obscure, there is in them an element of mere negation (elles participent du neant); that is to say, they are thus confused in us because we ourselves are not all perfect. And it is evident that falsity or imperfection can no more come forth from God than can perfection proceed from nothingness. But, did we not know that all which is in us of the real and the true comes from a perfect and infinite being, however clear and distinct our ideas might be, we should have no reason for assurance that they possessed the final perfection—truth.

Reason instructs us that all our ideas must have some foundation of truth, for it could not be that the All-Perfect and the All-True should otherwise have put them into us; and because our reasonings are never so evident or so complete when we sleep as when we wake, although sometimes during sleep our imagination may be more vivid and positive, it also instructs us that such truth as our thoughts have will assuredly be in our waking thoughts rather than in our dreams.


I have always remained firm in my resolve to assume no other principle than that which I have used to demonstrate the existence of God and of the soul, and to receive nothing which did not seem to me clearer and more certain than the demonstrations of the philosophers had seemed before; yet not only have I found means of satisfying myself with regard to the principal difficulties which are usually treated of in philosophy, but also I have remarked certain laws which God has so established in nature, and of which He has implanted such notions in our souls, that we cannot doubt that they are observed in all which happens in the world.

The principal truths which flow from these I have tried to unfold in a treatise ("On the World, or on Light"), which certain considerations prevent me from publishing. This I concluded three years ago, and had begun to revise it for the printer when I learned that certain persons to whom I defer had disapproved an opinion on physics published a short time before by a certain person [Galileo, condemned by the Roman Inquisition in 1633], in which opinion I had noticed nothing prejudicial to religion; and this made me fear that there might be some among my opinions in which I was mistaken.

I now believe that I ought to continue to write all the things which I judge of importance, but ought in no wise to consent to their publication during my life. For my experience of the objections which might be made forbids me to hope for any profit from them. I have tried both friends and enemies, yet it has seldom happened that they have offered any objection which I had not in some measure foreseen; so that I have never, I may say, found a critic who did not seem to be either less rigorous or less fair-minded than myself.

Whereupon I gladly take this opportunity to beg those who shall come after us never to believe that the things which they are told come from me unless I have divulged them myself; and I am in nowise astonished at the extravagances attributed to those old philosophers whose writings have not come down to us. They were the greatest minds of their time, but have been ill-reported. Why, I am sure that the most devoted of those who now follow Aristotle would esteem themselves happy if they had as much knowledge of nature as he had, even on the condition that they should never have more! They are like ivy, which never mounts higher than the trees which support it, and which even comes down again after it has attained their summit. So at least, it seems to me, do they who, not content with knowing all that is explained by their author, would find in him the solution also of many difficulties of which he says nothing, and of which, perhaps, he never thought.

Yet their method of philosophising is very convenient for those who have but middling minds, for the obscurity of the distinctions and principles which they employ enables them to speak of all things as boldly as if they had knowledge of them, and sustain all they have to say against the most subtle and skilful without there being any means of convincing them; wherein they seem to me like a blind man who, in order to fight on equal terms with a man who has his sight, invites him into the depths of a cavern. And I may say that it is to their interest that I should abstain from publishing the principles of the philosophy which I employ, for so simple and so evident are they that to publish them would be like opening windows into their caverns and letting in the day. But if they prefer acquaintance with a little truth, and desire to follow a plan like mine, there is no need for me to say to them any more in this discourse than I have already said.

For if they are capable of passing beyond what I have done, much rather will they be able to discover for themselves whatever I believe myself to have found out; besides which, the practice which they will acquire in seeking out easy things and thence passing to others which are more difficult, will stead them better than all my instructions.

But if some of the matters spoken about at the beginning of the "Dioptrics" and the "Meteors" [published with the "Discourse on Method"] should at first give offence because I have called them "suppositions," and have shown no desire to prove them, let the reader have patience to read the whole attentively, and I have hope that he will be satisfied.

The time remaining to me I have resolved to employ in trying to acquire some knowledge of nature, such that we may be able to draw from it more certain rules for medicine than those which up to the present we possess. And I hereby declare that I shall always hold myself more obliged to those by whose favour I enjoy my leisure undisturbed than I should be to any who should offer me the most esteemed employments in the world.

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Ralph Waldo Emerson, the American writer and moralist, was born at Boston on May 25, 1803, of English stock and a family of preachers. He was educated at Harvard for the Unitarian ministry, and became a settled pastor in Boston before he was twenty-six. Three years later he resigned his charge owing to theological disagreements. In 1833 he visited Europe and England as a hero worshipper, his desire being to meet Landor, Coleridge, Wordsworth, and Carlyle. He saw them all, and formed a lifelong friendship with Carlyle. Returning to America, he settled at Concord, where he lived till his death, on April. 27, 1882. His public work took the form of lectures, of which his books are reproductions. In 1836 he published his first book, "Nature," anonymously. "Nature" was the germ essay from which all Emerson's later work sprang, a first expression of thoughts that were expanded and developed later. It was published in 1836, when its writer was thirty-three years of age, and known only as a preacher who had become a lecturer. Already Emerson had adopted the methods of a seer rather than those of the consecutive thinker. "Nature" was one of the first-written books of great writers that made a deep impression on the understanding few, but had only a few readers. It presaged the greatness to be; and indeed its poetical quality carries a charm, which Emerson sometimes failed to reproduce and never afterwards surpassed.


Our age is retrospective. It builds the sepulchres of the fathers. It writes biographies, histories, and criticisms. The foregoing generations beheld God face to face; we through their eyes. Why should not we also have an original relation to the universe? Why should we grope among the dry bones of the past, or put the living generation into masquerade out of its faded wardrobe? Let us interrogate the great apparition that shines so peacefully around us. Let us inquire to what end is Nature.

Philosophically considered, the universe is composed of Nature and Soul. Strictly speaking, therefore, all that is separate from us, all which philosophy distinguishes as not me, that is both Nature and Art, all other men and my own body, must be ranked under this name, Nature. Nature, in the common sense, refers to essences unchanged by man: space, the air, the river, the leaf. Art is applied to the mixture of his will with the same things, as in a house, a canal, a statue, a picture. But his operations, taken together, are so insignificant, a little chipping, baking, patching, and washing, that in an impression so grand as that of the world on the human mind they do not vary the result.

To go into solitude, a man needs to retire as much from his chamber as from society. But if a man would be alone let him look at the stars. The rays that come from those heavenly bodies will separate between him and what he touches. One might think the atmosphere was made transparent with this design, to give man in the heavenly bodies the perpetual presence of the sublime. Seen in the streets of cities, how great they are! If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how men would believe and adore, and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown! But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile.

Nature never wears a mean appearance. Neither does the wisest man extort her secret, and lose his curiosity by finding out all her perfection. When we speak of Nature in this manner we have a distinct but most poetical sense in the mind. We mean the integrity of impression made by manifold natural objects. The charming landscape which I saw this morning is indubitably made up of some twenty or thirty farms. Miller owns this field, Locke that, and Manning the woodland beyond. But none owns the landscape. There is a property in the horizon which no man has but he whose eye can integrate all the parts—that is, the poet. This is the best part of these men's farms, yet to this their warranty-deeds give no title.


In the presence of Nature a wild delight runs through the man in spite of real sorrow. Not the sun or the summer alone, but every hour and season yields its tribute of delight; for every hour and change corresponds to and authorises a different state of mind, from breathless noon to grimmest midnight. Crossing a bare common, in snow puddles, at twilight, under a clouded sky, without having in my thoughts any occurrence of special good fortune, I have enjoyed a perfect exhilaration. I am glad to the brink of fear. In the woods, too, a man casts off his years as the snake his slough, and at what period soever of life is always a child. Within these plantations of God a decorum and sanctity reign, a perennial festival is dressed, and the guest sees not how he should tire of them in a thousand years. Standing on the bare ground, my head bathed in the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space, all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eyeball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of universal being circulate through me; I am a part or particle of God. I am the lover of uncontained and immortal beauty.

Yet it is certain that the power to produce this delight does not reside in Nature, but in man, or in a harmony of both. It is necessary to use these pleasures with great temperance. For Nature is not always tricked in holiday attire, but the same scene which yesterday breathed perfume and glittered as for the frolic of nymphs is overspread with melancholy to-day. Nature always wears the colours of the spirit.

The misery of man appears like childish petulance when we explore the steady and prodigal provision that has been made for his support and delight on this green ball which floats him through the heavens. All the parts incessantly work into each other's hands for the profit of man. The wind sows the seed; the sun evaporates the sea; the wind blows the vapour to the field; the ice on the other side of the planet condenses the rain on this; the plant feeds the animal; and thus the endless circulations of the divine charity nourish man.

The useful arts are reproductions or new combinations by the wit of man of the same natural benefactors. The private poor man hath cities, ships, canals, bridges, built for him. He goes to the post-office, and the human race run on his errands; to the book-shop, and the human race read and write all that happens for him; to the court-house, and nations repair his wrongs.


A nobler want of man is served by Nature, namely, the love of beauty. Such is the constitution of all things, or such the plastic power of the human eye, that the primary forms, as the sky, the mountain, the tree, the animal, give us a delight in and for themselves, a pleasure arising from art, line, colour, motion, and grouping. This seems partly owing to the eye itself. The eye is the best of artists, as light is the first of painters.

To the body and mind which have been cramped by noxious work or company Nature is medicinal, and restores their tone. But in other hours Nature satisfies by her loveliness and without any mixture of corporeal benefit. I see the spectacle of morning from the hilltop over against my house from daybreak to sunrise with emotion which an angel might share. How does Nature deify us with a few and cheap elements. Give me health and a day, and I will make the pomp of emperors ridiculous. The dawn is my Assyria; the sunset and moonrise my Paphos, and unimaginable realms of faerie; broad noon shall be my England of the senses and the understanding; the night shall be my Germany of mystic philosophy and dreams.

The inhabitants of cities suppose that the country landscape is pleasant only half the year. To the attentive eye each moment of the year has its own beauty, and in the same fields it beholds every hour a picture which was never seen before, and which shall never be seen again.

Every rational creature has all Nature for his dowry and estate. He may divest himself of it, he may creep into a corner and abdicate his kingdom, as most men do, but he is entitled to the world by his constitution. In proportion to the energy of his thought and will he takes up the world into himself.


Language is another use which Nature subserves to man. Words are signs of natural facts. The use of natural history is to give us aid in supernatural history. Every word which is used to express a moral or intellectual fact, if traced to its root, is found to be borrowed from some material appearance. Right means straight; wrong means twisted; transgression the crossing of a line. Most of the process by which this transformation is made is hidden from us in the remote time when language was framed; but the same tendency may be daily observed in children.

It is not words only that are emblematic, it is things. Every appearance in Nature corresponds to some state of mind, and that state of mind can only be described by presenting that natural appearance as its picture. An enraged man is a lion, a cunning man is a fox, a firm man is a rock, a learned man is a torch. Visible distance behind and before us is respectively an image of memory and hope.

Man is conscious of a universal soul within or behind his individual life, wherein, as in a firmament, the natures of justice, truth, love, freedom, arise and shine. This universal soul he calls reason: it is not mine, or thine, or his, but we are its; we are its property and men. And the blue sky in which the private earth is buried, the sky with its eternal calm and full of everlasting orbs is the type of reason. That which, intellectually considered, we call reason, considered in relation to Nature we call spirit. Spirit is the creator. Spirit hath life in itself, and man in all ages and countries embodies it in his language as the Father.

As we go back in history language becomes more picturesque until its infancy, when it is all poetry. When simplicity of character and the sovereignty of ideas are broken up, new imagery ceases to be created and old words are perverted to stand for things which are not; a paper currency is employed when there is no bullion in the vaults.


In view of the significance of Nature we arrive at the fact that Nature is a discipline. What tedious training, day after day, year after year, never ending, to form the common sense; what continual reproduction of annoyances, inconveniences, dilemmas; what rejoicing over us of little men, what disputing of prices, what reckoning of interest—and all to form the hand of the mind!

The exercise of will or the lesson of power is taught in every event. Nature is thoroughly mediate. It is made to serve. It receives the dominion of man as meekly as the ass on which the Saviour rode. It offers all its kingdoms to man as the raw material which he may mould into what is useful. And he is never weary of working it up. He forges the subtle and delicate air into wise and melodious words, and gives them wings as angels of persuasion and command. One after another his victorious thought comes up with and reduces all things, until the world becomes at last a realised will.

Every natural process is a version of a moral sentence. The moral law lies at the centre of Nature and radiates to the circumference. What is a farm but a mute gospel? The chaff and the wheat, weeds and plants, blight, rain, insects, sun—it is a sacred emblem from the first furrow of spring to the last stack which the snow of winter overtakes in the fields. Who can guess how much firmness the sea-beaten rock has taught the fisherman? How much tranquillity has been reflected to man from the azure sky? How much industry and providence and affection we have caught from the pantomime of brutes?

The unity of Nature meets us everywhere. Resemblances exist in things wherein there is great superficial unlikeness. Thus architecture is called "frozen music" by Goethe. "A Gothic church," said Coleridge, "is petrified religion." The law of harmonic sounds reappears in the harmonic colours. The granite is different in its laws only by the more or less of heat from the river that wears it away. The river, as it flows, resembles the air that flows over it; the air resembles the light that traverses it with more subtle currents.

Each creature is only a modification of the other, the likeness in them is more than the difference, and their radical law is one and the same. This unity pervades thought also.


A noble doubt suggests itself whether discipline be not the final cause of the universe, and whether Nature outwardly exists. The frivolous make themselves merry with the ideal theory as if its consequences were burlesque, as if it affected the stability of Nature. It surely does not. The wheels and springs of man are all set to the hypothesis of the permanence of Nature.

But while we acquiesce entirely in the permanence of natural laws, the question of the absolute existence of Nature still remains open. It is the uniform effect of culture on the human mind to lead us to regard Nature as a phenomenon, not a substance; to attribute necessary existence to spirit.

Intellectual science fastens the attention upon immortal necessary uncreated natures, that is, upon ideas; and in their presence we feel that the outward circumstance is a dream and a shade. Whilst we wait in this Olympus of the gods we think of Nature as an appendix to the soul. Finally, religion and ethics, which may be fitly called the practice of ideas, have an analogous effect. The first and last lesson of religion is: "The things that are seen are temporal; the things that are unseen are eternal."


The aspect of Nature is devout. Like the figure of Jesus, she stands with bended head and hands folded on the breast. The happiest man is he who learns from Nature the lesson of worship. Of that ineffable essence we call spirit, he that thinks most will say least. We can foresee God in the coarse, as it were, distant phenomena of matter; but when we try to define and describe Himself, both language and thought desert us, and we are as helpless as fools and savages. The noblest ministry of Nature is to stand as the apparition of God. It is the organ through which the universal spirit speaks to the individual, and strives to bring back the individual to it.

I conclude this essay with some traditions of man and Nature which a certain poet sang to me.

The foundations of man are not in matter, but in spirit. And the element of spirit is eternity. To it, therefore, the longest series of events, the oldest chronologies are young and recent. A man is a god in ruins. When men are innocent, life shall be longer and shall pass into the immortal as gently as we awake from dreams. Infancy is the perpetual Messiah which comes into the arms of fallen men, and pleads with them to return to paradise. The problem of restoring to the world the original and eternal beauty is solved by the redemption of the soul. The ruin that we see when we look at Nature is in our own eye. Man cannot be a naturalist until he satisfies all the demands of the spirit. Love is as much its demand as perception. When a faithful thinker shall kindle science with the fire of the holiest affection, then will God go forth anew into the creation.

Nature is not fixed, but fluid. Spirit alters, moulds, makes it. The immobility, or bruteness, of Nature is the absence of spirit. Every spirit builds itself a house, and beyond its house a world, and beyond its world a heaven. What we are, that only can we see. All that Adam had, all that Caesar could, you have and can do. Adam called his house heaven and earth; Caesar called his house Rome; you, perhaps, call yours a cobbler's trade, a hundred acres of ploughed land, or a scholar's garret. Yet, line for line, and point for point, your dominion is as great as theirs, though without fine names. Build, therefore, your own world. As fast as you conform your life to the pure idea in your mind, that will unfold its great proportions.

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The Stoic philosopher Epictetus was born about 50 A.D., at Hierapolis, in Phrygia, at that time a Roman province of Asia Minor, and was at first a slave in Rome. On being freed he devoted himself to philosophy, and thereafter lived and taught at Nicopolis, in Epirus (then a portion of Macedonia, corresponding to Albania to-day), from about 90 A.D. to 138 A.D. He left no works, but his utterances have been collected in four books of "Discourses" or "Dissertations" by his pupil and friend Arrian. In the "Encheiridion Epictete"—a "Handbook to Epictetus" compiled and condensed from the chaos of the almost verbatim "Discourses"—Arrian gives the most authentic account of the philosophy of the Greek and Roman Stoics, the sect founded by Zeno about 300 years before the Christian era, which flourished until the decline of Rome. Arrian himself was born about 90 A.D. at Nicomedia. He wrote in the style of Xenophon the "Anabasis of Alexander," a book on "Tactics," and several histories which have been lost. He is chiefly of note, however, as the Boswell of Epictetus. He died about 180 A.D.


The reasoning faculty alone considers both itself and all other powers, and judges of the appearance of things. And, as was fit, this most excellent and superior faculty, the faculty of a right use of the appearances of things, is that alone which the gods have placed in our own power, while all the other matters they have placed not in our power. Was it because they would not? I rather think that if they could, they had granted us these, too; but they certainly could not. For, placed upon earth, and confined to such a body and such companions, how was it possible that we should not be hindered by things without us?

But what says Jupiter? "O Epictetus, if it were possible, I had made this little body and possession of thine free, and not liable to hindrance. But now do not mistake; it is not thine own, but only a finer mixture of clay. Since, then, I could not give thee this, I have given thee a certain portion of myself—this faculty of exerting the powers of pursuit and avoidance, of desire and aversion, and, in a word, the use of the appearances of things. Taking care of this point, and making what is thy own to consist in this, thou wilt never be restrained, never be hindered; thou wilt not groan, wilt not complain, wilt not flatter anyone. How then! Do all these advantages seem small to thee? Heaven forbid! Let them suffice thee, then, and thank the gods."

But now, when it is in our power to take care of one thing, and apply ourselves to it, we choose rather to encumber ourselves with many—body, property, brother, friend, child, slave—and thus we are burdened and weighed down. When the weather happens not to be fair for sailing, we sit screwing ourselves and perpetually looking out for the way of the wind.

What then is to be done?

To make the best of what is in our power, and take the rest as it naturally happens.

And how is that?

As it pleases God.

To a reasonable creature, that alone is unsupportable which is unreasonable; everything reasonable may be supported. When Vespasian had sent to forbid Priscus Helvidius going to the senate, he answered, "It is in your power to prevent my continuing a senator, but while I am one I must go."

"Well, then, at least be silent there."

"Do not ask my opinion, and I will be silent."

"But I must ask it."

"And I must speak what appears to me to be right."

"But if you do I will put you to death."

"Did I ever tell you that I was immortal? You will do your part, and I mine; it is yours to kill, and mine to die intrepid; yours to banish me, mine to depart untroubled."

What good, then, did Priscus do, who was but a single person? Why, what good does the purple do to the garment? What but the being a shining character in himself, and setting a good example to others? Another, perhaps, if in such circumstances Caesar had forbidden his going to the senate, would have said, "I am obliged to you for excusing me." But such a one Caesar would not have forbidden, well knowing that he would either sit like a statue, or, if he spoke, he would say what he knew to be agreeable to Caesar.

Only consider at what price you sell your own will and choice, man—if for nothing else, that you may not sell it for a trifle.

If a person could be persuaded, as he ought of this principle, that we are all originally descended from God, and that He is the Father of gods and men, I conceive he never would think meanly or degenerately concerning himself. Suppose Caesar were to adopt you, there would be no bearing your haughty looks. Will you not be elated on knowing yourself to be the son of Jupiter, of God Himself? Yet, in fact, we are not elated; but having two things in our composition, intimately united, a body in common with the brutes, and reason and sentiment in common with the gods, many of us incline to this unhappy and mortal kindred, and only some few to the divine and happy one.

By means of this animal kindred some of us, deviating towards it, become like wolves, faithless and insidious and mischievous; others like lions, wild and savage and untamed; but most of us like foxes, wretches even among brutes. For what else is a slanderous and ill-natured man than a fox, or something still more wretched and mean?

To Triptolemus all men have raised temples and altars, because he gave us a milder kind of food; but to Him who has discovered and communicated to all the truth, the means not of living but of living well, who ever raised an altar or built a statue?

If what philosophers say of the kindred between God and man be true, what has anyone to do but, like Socrates, when he is asked what countryman he is, never to say that he is a citizen of Athens, or of Corinth, but of the world? Why may not he who has learned that from God the seeds of being are descended, not only to my father or grandfather, but to all things that are produced and born on the earth—and especially to rational natures, as they alone are qualified to partake of a communication with the Deity, being connected with Him by reason—why may not such a one call himself a citizen of the world? Why not a son of God? And why shall he fear anything that happens among men? Shall kindred to Caesar, or any other of the great at Rome, enable a man to live secure, above contempt, and void of fear; and shall not the having God for our Maker and Father and Guardian free us from griefs and terrors?


You are a distinct portion of the essence of God, and contain a certain part of Him in yourself. Why do not you consider whence you came? You carry a god about with you, wretch, and know nothing of it. Do you suppose I mean some god without you, of gold or silver? It is within yourself you carry Him, and profane Him, without being sensible of it, by impure thoughts and unclean actions. If even the image of God were present, you would not dare to act as you do; when God Himself is within you, and hears and sees all, are not you ashamed to think and act thus, insensible of your own nature and hateful to God?

You are a citizen of the world, and a part of it; not a subservient, but a principal part. You are capable of comprehending the divine economy and of considering the connection of things. What, then, does the character of a citizen promise? To hold no private interest, to deliberate of nothing as a separate individual, but like the hand or the foot, which, if they had reason, and comprehended the constitution of nature, would never pursue, or desire, but with a reference to the whole.

"Ah, when shall I see Athens and the citadel again?" Wretch, are not you contented with what you see every day? Can you see anything better than the sun, the moon, the stars, the whole earth, the sea? If, besides, you comprehend Him who administers the whole, and carry Him about in yourself, do you still long after pebbles and a fine rock?

Boldly make a desperate push, man, for prosperity, for freedom, for magnanimity. Lift up your head at last as free from slavery. Dare to look up to God, and say, "Make use of me for the future as Thou wilt. I am of the same mind; I am equal with Thee. I refuse nothing which seems good to Thee. Lead me whither Thou wilt. Clothe me in whatever dress Thou wilt. Is it Thy will that I should be in a public or a private condition, dwell here or be banished, be poor or rich? Under all these circumstances I will make Thy defence to men. I will show what the nature of everything is." No, rather sit alone in a warm place, and wait till your nurse comes to feed you. If Hercules had sat loitering at home, what would he have been? You are not Hercules, to extirpate the evils of others. Extirpate your own, then. Expel grief, fear, desire, envy, malevolence, avarice, effeminacy, intemperance, from your mind.

But these can be no otherwise expelled than by looking up to God alone as your pattern; by attaching yourself to Him alone and being consecrated to His commands. If you wish for anything else, you will, with sighs and groans, follow what is stronger than you, always seeking prosperity without, and never finding it. For you seek it where it is not, and neglect to seek it where it is.


Have I ever been restrained from what I willed? Or compelled against my will? How is this possible? I have ranged my pursuits under the direction of God. Is it His will that I should have a fever? It is my will too. Is it His will that I should pursue anything? It is my will too. Is it His will that I should desire? It is my will too. Is it His will that I should obtain anything? It is mine too. Is it not His will? It is not mine. Is it His will that I should be tortured? Then it is my will to be tortured. Is it His will that I should die? Then it is my will to die.

He has given me whatever depends upon choice. The things in my power He has made incapable of hindrance or restraint. But how could He make a body of clay incapable of hindrance? Therefore He hath subjected my body, possessions, furniture, house, children, wife, to the revolution of the universe. He who gave takes away. For whence had I these things when I came into the world?

"But I would enjoy the feast still longer." So perhaps would the spectators at Olympia see more combatants. But the solemnity is over. Go away. Depart like a grateful and modest person; make room for others.

Do not you know that sickness and death must overtake us? At what employment? The husbandman at his plough; the sailor on his voyage. At what employment would you be taken? Indeed, at what employment ought you to be taken? For if there is any better employment at which you can be taken, follow that.

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