Honore de Balzac
Part 2 out of 3
of either a lower or a higher grade, Swedenborg applies the term
'Spiritual Angels' to beings who in this world are prepared for
heaven, where they become angels. According to him, God has not
created angels; none exist who have not been men upon the earth. The
earth is the nursery-ground of heaven. The Angels are therefore not
Angels as such ('Angelic Wisdom,' 57), they are transformed through
their close conjunction with God; which conjunction God never refuses,
because the essence of God is not negative, but essentially active.
The spiritual angels pass through three natures of love, because man
is only regenerated through successive stages ('True Religion').
First, the LOVE OF SELF: the supreme expression of this love is human
genius, whose works are worshipped. Next, LOVE OF LIFE: this love
produces prophets,--great men whom the world accepts as guides and
proclaims to be divine. Lastly, LOVE OF HEAVEN, and this creates the
Spiritual Angel. These angels are, so to speak, the flowers of
humanity, which culminates in them and works for that culmination.
They must possess either the love of heaven or the wisdom of heaven,
but always Love before Wisdom.
"Thus the transformation of the natural man is into Love. To reach
this first degree, his previous existences must have passed through
Hope and Charity, which prepare him for Faith and Prayer. The ideas
acquired by the exercise of these virtues are transmitted to each of
the human envelopes within which are hidden the metamorphoses of the
INNER BEING; for nothing is separate, each existence is necessary to
the other existences. Hope cannot advance without Charity, nor Faith
without Prayer; they are the four fronts of a solid square. 'One
virtue missing,' he said, 'and the Spiritual Angel is like a broken
pearl.' Each of these existences is therefore a circle in which
revolves the celestial riches of the inner being. The perfection of
the Spiritual Angels comes from this mysterious progression in which
nothing is lost of the high qualities that are successfully acquired
to attain each glorious incarnation; for at each transformation they
cast away unconsciously the flesh and its errors. When the man lives
in Love he has shed all evil passions: Hope, Charity, Faith, and
Prayer have, in the words of Isaiah, purged the dross of his inner
being, which can never more be polluted by earthly affections. Hence
the grand saying of Christ quoted by Saint Matthew, 'Lay up for
yourselves treasures in Heaven where neither moth nor rust doth
corrupt,' and those still grander words: 'If ye were of this world the
world would love you, but I have chosen you out of the world; be ye
therefore perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.'
"The second transformation of man is to Wisdom. Wisdom is the
understanding of celestial things to which the spirit is brought by
Love. The Spirit of Love has acquired strength, the result of all
vanquished terrestrial passions; it loves God blindly. But the Spirit
of Wisdom has risen to understanding and knows why it loves. The wings
of the one are spread and bear the spirit to God; the wings of the
other are held down by the awe that comes of understanding: the spirit
knows God. The one longs incessantly to see God and to fly to Him; the
other attains to Him and trembles. The union effected between the
Spirit of Love and the Spirit of Wisdom carries the human being into a
Divine state during which time his soul is WOMAN and his body MAN, the
last human manifestation in which the Spirit conquers Form, or Form
still struggles against the Spirit,--for Form, that is, the flesh, is
ignorant, rebels, and desires to continue gross. This supreme trial
creates untold sufferings seen by Heaven alone,--the agony of Christ
in the Garden of Olives.
"After death the first heaven opens to this dual and purified human
nature. Therefore it is that man dies in despair while the Spirit dies
in ecstasy. Thus, the NATURAL, the state of beings not yet
regenerated; the SPIRITUAL, the state of those who have become Angelic
Spirits, and the DIVINE, the state in which the Angel exists before he
breaks from his covering of flesh, are the three degrees of existence
through which man enters heaven. One of Swedenborg's thoughts
expressed in his own words will explain to you with wonderful
clearness the difference between the NATURAL and the SPIRITUAL. 'To
the minds of men,' he says, 'the Natural passes into the Spiritual;
they regard the world under its visible aspects, they perceive it only
as it can be realized by their senses. But to the apprehension of
Angelic Spirits, the Spiritual passes into the Natural; they regard
the world in its inward essence and not in its form.' Thus human
sciences are but analyses of form. The man of science as the world
goes is purely external like his knowledge; his inner being is only
used to preserve his aptitude for the perception of external truths.
The Angelic Spirit goes far beyond that; his knowledge is the thought
of which human science is but the utterance; he derives that knowledge
from the Logos, and learns the law of CORRESPONDENCES by which the
world is placed in unison with heaven. The WORD OF GOD was wholly
written by pure Correspondences, and covers an esoteric or spiritual
meaning, which according to the science of Correspondences, cannot be
understood. 'There exist,' says Swedenborg ('Celestial Doctrine' 26),
'innumerable Arcana within the hidden meaning of the Correspondences.
Thus the men who scoff at the books of the Prophets where the Word is
enshrined are as densely ignorant as those other men who know nothing
of a science and yet ridicule its truths. To know the Correspondences
which exist between the things visible and ponderable in the
terrestrial world and the things invisible and imponderable in the
spiritual world, is to hold heaven within our comprehension. All the
objects of the manifold creations having emanated from God necessarily
enfold a hidden meaning; according, indeed, to the grand thought of
Isaiah, 'The earth is a garment.'
"This mysterious link between Heaven and the smallest atoms of created
matter constitutes what Swedenborg calls a Celestial Arcanum, and his
treatise on the 'Celestial Arcana' in which he explains the
correspondences or significances of the Natural with, and to, the
Spiritual, giving, to use the words of Jacob Boehm, the sign and seal
of all things, occupies not less than sixteen volumes containing
thirty thousand propositions. 'This marvellous knowledge of
Correspondences which the goodness of God granted to Swedenborg,' says
one of his disciples, 'is the secret of the interest which draws men
to his works. According to him, all things are derived from heaven,
all things lead back to heaven. His writings are sublime and clear; he
speaks in heaven, and earth hears him. Take one of his sentences by
itself and a volume could be made of it'; and the disciple quotes the
following passages taken from a thousand others that would answer the
"'The kingdom of heaven,' says Swedenborg ('Celestial Arcana'), 'is
the kingdom of motives. ACTION is born in heaven, thence into the
world, and, by degrees, to the infinitely remote parts of earth.
Terrestrial effects being thus linked to celestial causes, all things
are CORRESPONDENT and SIGNIFICANT. Man is the means of union between
the Natural and the Spiritual.'
"The Angelic Spirits therefore know the very nature of the
Correspondences which link to heaven all earthly things; they know,
too, the inner meaning of the prophetic words which foretell their
evolutions. Thus to these Spirits everything here below has its
significance; the tiniest flower is a thought,--a life which
corresponds to certain lineaments of the Great Whole, of which they
have a constant intuition. To them Adultery and the excesses spoken of
in Scripture and by the Prophets, often garbled by self-styled
scholars, mean the state of those souls which in this world persist in
tainting themselves with earthly affections, thus compelling their
divorce from Heaven. Clouds signify the veil of the Most High.
Torches, shew-bread, horses and horsemen, harlots, precious stones, in
short, everything named in Scripture, has to them a clear-cut meaning,
and reveals the future of terrestrial facts in their relation to
Heaven. They penetrate the truths contained in the Revelation of Saint
John the divine, which human science has subsequently demonstrated and
proved materially; such, for instance, as the following ('big,' said
Swedenborg, 'with many human sciences'): 'I saw a new heaven and a new
earth, for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away'
(Revelation xxi. 1). These Spirits know the supper at which the flesh
of kings and the flesh of all men, free and bond, is eaten, to which
an Angel standing in the sun has bidden them. They see the winged
woman, clothed with the sun, and the mailed man. 'The horse of the
Apocalypse,' says Swedenborg, 'is the visible image of human intellect
ridden by Death, for it bears within itself the elements of its own
destruction.' Moreover, they can distinguish beings concealed under
forms which to ignorant eyes would seem fantastic. When a man is
disposed to receive the prophetic afflation of Correspondences, it
rouses within him a perception of the Word; he comprehends that the
creations are transformations only; his intellect is sharpened, a
burning thirst takes possession of him which only Heaven can quench.
He conceives, according to the greater or lesser perfection of his
inner being, the power of the Angelic Spirits; and he advances, led by
Desire (the least imperfect state of unregenerated man) towards Hope,
the gateway to the world of Spirits, whence he reaches Prayer, which
gives him the Key of Heaven.
"What being here below would not desire to render himself worthy of
entrance into the sphere of those who live in secret by Love and
Wisdom? Here on earth, during their lifetime, such spirits remain
pure; they neither see, nor think, nor speak like other men. There are
two ways by which perception comes,--one internal, the other external.
Man is wholly external, the Angelic Spirit wholly internal. The Spirit
goes to the depth of Numbers, possesses a full sense of them, knows
their significances. It controls Motion, and by reason of its ubiquity
it shares in all things. 'An Angel,' says Swedenborg, 'is ever present
to a man when desired' ('Angelic Wisdom'); for the Angel has the gift
of detaching himself from his body, and he sees into heaven as the
prophets and as Swedenborg himself saw into it. 'In this state,'
writes Swedenborg ('True Religion,' 136), 'the spirit of a man may
move from one place to another, his body remaining where it is,--a
condition in which I lived for over twenty-six years.' It is thus that
we should interpret all Biblical statements which begin, 'The Spirit
led me.' Angelic Wisdom is to human wisdom what the innumerable forces
of nature are to its action, which is one. All things live again, and
move and have their being in the Spirit, which is in God. Saint Paul
expresses this truth when he says, 'In Deo sumus, movemur, et
vivimus,'--we live, we act, we are in God.
"Earth offers no hindrance to the Angelic Spirit, just as the Word
offers him no obscurity. His approaching divinity enables him to see
the thought of God veiled in the Logos, just as, living by his inner
being, the Spirit is in communion with the hidden meaning of all
things on this earth. Science is the language of the Temporal world,
Love is that of the Spiritual world. Thus man takes note of more than
he is able to explain, while the Angelic Spirit sees and comprehends.
Science depresses man; Love exalts the Angel. Science is still
seeking, Love has found. Man judges Nature according to his own
relations to her; the Angelic Spirit judges it in its relation to
Heaven. In short, all things have a voice for the Spirit. Spirits are
in the secret of the harmony of all creations with each other; they
comprehend the spirit of sound, the spirit of color, the spirit of
vegetable life; they can question the mineral, and the mineral makes
answer to their thoughts. What to them are sciences and the treasures
of the earth when they grasp all things by the eye at all moments,
when the worlds which absorb the minds of so many men are to them but
the last step from which they spring to God? Love of heaven, or the
Wisdom of heaven, is made manifest to them by a circle of light which
surrounds them, and is visible to the Elect. Their innocence, of which
that of children is a symbol, possesses, nevertheless, a knowledge
which children have not; they are both innocent and learned. 'And,'
says Swedenborg, 'the innocence of Heaven makes such an impression
upon the soul that those whom it affects keep a rapturous memory of it
which lasts them all their lives, as I myself have experienced. It is
perhaps sufficient,' he goes on, 'to have only a minimum perception of
it to be forever changed, to long to enter Heaven and the sphere of
"His doctrine of Marriage can be reduced to the following words: 'The
Lord has taken the beauty and the grace of the life of man and
bestowed them upon woman. When man is not reunited to this beauty and
this grace of his life, he is harsh, sad, and sullen; when he is
reunited to them he is joyful and complete.' The Angels are ever at
the perfect point of beauty. Marriages are celebrated by wondrous
ceremonies. In these unions, which produce no children, man
contributes the UNDERSTANDING, woman the WILL; they become one being,
one Flesh here below, and pass to heaven clothed in the celestial
form. On this earth, the natural attraction of the sexes towards
enjoyment is an Effect which allures, fatigues and disgusts; but in
the form celestial the pair, now ONE in Spirit find within theirself a
ceaseless source of joy. Swedenborg was led to see these nuptials of
the Spirits, which in the words of Saint Luke (xx. 35) are neither
marrying nor giving in marriage, and which inspire none but spiritual
pleasures. An Angel offered to make him witness of such a marriage and
bore him thither on his wings (the wings are a symbol and not a
reality). The Angel clothed him in a wedding garment and when
Swedenborg, finding himself thus robed in light, asked why, the answer
was: 'For these events, our garments are illuminated; they shine; they
are made nuptial.' ('Conjugial Love,' 19, 20, 21.) Then he saw the two
Angels, one coming from the South, the other from the East; the Angel
of the South was in a chariot drawn by two white horses, with reins of
the color and brilliance of the dawn; but lo, when they were near him
in the sky, chariot and horses vanished. The Angel of the East,
clothed in crimson, and the Angel of the South, in purple, drew
together, like breaths, and mingled: one was the Angel of Love, the
other the Angel of Wisdom. Swedenborg's guide told him that the two
Angels had been linked together on earth by an inward friendship and
ever united though separated in life by great distances. Consent, the
essence of all good marriage upon earth, is the habitual state of
Angels in Heaven. Love is the light of their world. The eternal
rapture of Angels comes from the faculty that God communicates to them
to render back to Him the joy they feel through Him. This reciprocity
of infinitude forms their life. They become infinite by participating
of the essence of God, who generates Himself by Himself.
"The immensity of the Heavens where the Angels dwell is such that if
man were endowed with sight as rapid as the darting of light from the
sun to the earth, and if he gazed throughout eternity, his eyes could
not reach the horizon, nor find an end. Light alone can give an idea
of the joys of heaven. 'It is,' says Swedenborg ('Angelic Wisdom,' 7,
25, 26, 27), 'a vapor of the virtue of God, a pure emanation of His
splendor, beside which our greatest brilliance is obscurity. It can
compass all; it can renew all, and is never absorbed: it environs the
Angel and unites him to God by infinite joys which multiply infinitely
of themselves. This Light destroys whosoever is not prepared to
receive it. No one here below, nor yet in Heaven can see God and live.
This is the meaning of the saying (Exodus xix. 12, 13, 21-23) "Take
heed to yourselves that ye go not up into the mount--lest ye break
through unto the Lord to gaze, and many perish." And again (Exodus
xxxiv. 29-35), "When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two
Tables of testimony in his hand, his face shone, so that he put a veil
upon it when he spake with the people, lest any of them die." The
Transfiguration of Jesus Christ likewise revealed the light
surrounding the Messengers from on high and the ineffable joys of the
Angels who are forever imbued with it. "His face," says Saint Matthew
(xvii. 1-5), "did shine as the sun and his raiment was white as the
light--and a bright cloud overshadowed them."'
"When a planet contains only those beings who reject the Lord, when
his word is ignored, then the Angelic Spirits are gathered together by
the four winds, and God sends forth an Exterminating Angel to change
the face of the refractory earth, which in the immensity of this
universe is to Him what an unfruitful seed is to Nature. Approaching
the globe, this Exterminating Angel, borne by a comet, causes the
planet to turn upon its axis, and the lands lately covered by the seas
reappear, adorned in freshness and obedient to the laws proclaimed in
Genesis; the Word of God is once more powerful on this new earth,
which everywhere exhibits the effects of terrestrial waters and
celestial flames. The light brought by the Angel from On High, causes
the sun to pale. 'Then,' says Isaiah, (xix. 20) 'men will hide in the
clefts of the rock and roll themselves in the dust of the earth.'
'They will cry to the mountains' (Revelation), 'Fall on us! and to the
seas, Swallow us up! Hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the
throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb!' The Lamb is the great figure
and hope of the Angels misjudged and persecuted here below. Christ
himself has said, 'Blessed are those who mourn! Blessed are the
simple-hearted! Blessed are they that love!'--All Swedenborg is there!
Suffer, Believe, Love. To love truly must we not suffer? must we not
believe? Love begets Strength, Strength bestows Wisdom, thence
Intelligence; for Strength and Wisdom demand Will. To be intelligent,
is not that to Know, to Wish, and to Will,--the three attributes of
the Angelic Spirit? 'If the universe has a meaning,' Monsieur Saint-
Martin said to me when I met him during a journey which he made in
Sweden, 'surely this is the one most worthy of God.'
"But, Monsieur," continued the pastor after a thoughtful pause, "of
what avail to you are these shreds of thoughts taken here and there
from the vast extent of a work of which no true idea can be given
except by comparing it to a river of light, to billows of flame? When
a man plunges into it he is carried away as by an awful current.
Dante's poem seems but a speck to the reader submerged in the almost
Biblical verses with which Swedenborg renders palpable the Celestial
Worlds, as Beethoven built his palaces of harmony with thousands of
notes, as architects have reared cathedrals with millions of stones.
We roll in soundless depths, where our minds will not always sustain
us. Ah, surely a great and powerful intellect is needed to bring us
back, safe and sound, to our own social beliefs.
"Swedenborg," resumed the pastor, "was particularly attached to the
Baron de Seraphitz, whose name, according to an old Swedish custom,
had taken from time immemorial the Latin termination of 'us.' The
baron was an ardent disciple of the Swedish prophet, who had opened
the eyes of his Inner-Man and brought him to a life in conformity with
the decrees from On-High. He sought for an Angelic Spirit among women;
Swedenborg found her for him in a vision. His bride was the daughter
of a London shoemaker, in whom, said Swedenborg, the life of Heaven
shone, she having passed through all anterior trials. After the death,
that is, the transformation of the prophet, the baron came to Jarvis
to accomplish his celestial nuptials with the observances of Prayer.
As for me, who am not a Seer, I have only known the terrestrial works
of this couple. Their lives were those of saints whose virtues are the
glory of the Roman Church. They ameliorated the condition of our
people; they supplied them all with means in return for work,--little,
perhaps, but enough for all their wants. Those who lived with them in
constant intercourse never saw them show a sign of anger or
impatience; they were constantly beneficent and gentle, full of
courtesy and loving-kindness; their marriage was the harmony of two
souls indissolubly united. Two eiders winging the same flight, the
sound in the echo, the thought in the word,--these, perhaps, are true
images of their union. Every one here in Jarvis loved them with an
affection which I can compare only to the love of a plant for the sun.
The wife was simple in her manners, beautiful in form, lovely in face,
with a dignity of bearing like that of august personages. In 1783,
being then twenty-six years old, she conceived a child; her pregnancy
was to the pair a solemn joy. They prepared to bid the earth farewell;
for they told me they should be transformed when their child had
passed the state of infancy which needed their fostering care until
the strength to exist alone should be given to her.
"Their child was born,--the Seraphita we are now concerned with. From
the moment of her conception father and mother lived a still more
solitary life than in the past, lifting themselves up to heaven by
Prayer. They hoped to see Swedenborg, and faith realized their hope.
The day on which Seraphita came into the world Swedenborg appeared in
Jarvis, and filled the room of the new-born child with light. I was
told that he said, 'The work is accomplished; the Heavens rejoice!'
Sounds of unknown melodies were heard throughout the house, seeming to
come from the four points of heaven on the wings of the wind. The
spirit of Swedenborg led the father forth to the shores of the fiord
and there quitted him. Certain inhabitants of Jarvis, having
approached Monsieur Seraphitus as he stood on the shore, heard him
repeat those blissful words of Scripture: 'How beautiful on the
mountains are the feet of Him who is sent of God!'
"I had left the parsonage on my way to baptize the infant and name it,
and perform the other duties required by law, when I met the baron
returning to the house. 'Your ministrations are superfluous,' he said;
'our child is to be without name on this earth. You must not baptize
in the waters of an earthly Church one who has just been immersed in
the fires of Heaven. This child will remain a blossom, it will not
grow old; you will see it pass away. You exist, but our child has
life; you have outward senses, the child has none, its being is always
inward.' These words were uttered in so strange and supernatural a
voice that I was more affected by them than by the shining of his
face, from which light appeared to exude. His appearance realized the
phantasmal ideas which we form of inspired beings as we read the
prophesies of the Bible. But such effects are not rare among our
mountains, where the nitre of perpetual snows produces extraordinary
phenomena in the human organization.
"I asked him the cause of his emotion. 'Swedenborg came to us; he has
just left me; I have breathed the air of heaven,' he replied. 'Under
what form did he appear?' I said. 'Under his earthly form; dressed as
he was the last time I saw him in London, at the house of Richard
Shearsmith, Coldbath-fields, in July, 1771. He wore his brown frieze
coat with steel buttons, his waistcoat buttoned to the throat, a white
cravat, and the same magisterial wig rolled and powdered at the sides
and raised high in front, showing his vast and luminous brow, in
keeping with the noble square face, where all is power and
tranquillity. I recognized the large nose with its fiery nostril, the
mouth that ever smiled,--angelic mouth from which these words, the
pledge of my happiness, have just issued, "We shall meet soon."'
"The conviction that shone on the baron's face forbade all discussion;
I listened in silence. His voice had a contagious heat which made my
bosom burn within me; his fanaticism stirred my heart as the anger of
another makes our nerves vibrate. I followed him in silence to his
house, where I saw the nameless child lying mysteriously folded to its
mother's breast. The babe heard my step and turned its head toward me;
its eyes were not those of an ordinary child. To give you an idea of
the impression I received, I must say that already they saw and
thought. The childhood of this predestined being was attended by
circumstances quite extraordinary in our climate. For nine years our
winters were milder and our summers longer than usual. This phenomenon
gave rise to several discussions among scientific men; but none of
their explanations seemed sufficient to academicians, and the baron
smiled when I told him of them. The child was never seen in its nudity
as other children are; it was never touched by man or woman, but lived
a sacred thing upon the mother's breast, and it never cried. If you
question old David he will confirm these facts about his mistress, for
whom he feels an adoration like that of Louis IX. for the saint whose
name he bore.
"At nine years of age the child began to pray; prayer is her life. You
saw her in the church at Christmas, the only day on which she comes
there; she is separated from the other worshippers by a visible space.
If that space does not exist between herself and men she suffers. That
is why she passes nearly all her time alone in the chateau. The events
of her life are unknown; she is seldom seen; her days are spent in the
state of mystical contemplation which was, so Catholic writers tell
us, habitual with the early Christian solitaries, in whom the oral
tradition of Christ's own words still remained. Her mind, her soul,
her body, all within her is virgin as the snow on those mountains. At
ten years of age she was just what you see her now. When she was nine
her father and mother expired together, without pain or visible
malady, after naming the day and hour at which they would cease to be.
Standing at their feet she looked at them with a calm eye, not showing
either sadness, or grief, or joy, or curiosity. When we approached to
remove the two bodies she said, 'Carry them away!' 'Seraphita,' I
said, for so we called her, 'are you not affected by the death of your
father and your mother who loved you so much?' 'Dead?' she answered,
'no, they live in me forever-- That is nothing,' she pointed without
emotion to the bodies they were bearing away. I then saw her for the
third time only since her birth. In church it is difficult to
distinguish her; she stands near a column which, seen from the pulpit,
is in shadow, so that I cannot observe her features.
"Of all the servants of the household there remained after the death
of the master and mistress only old David, who, in spite of his
eighty-two years, suffices to wait on his mistress. Some of our Jarvis
people tell wonderful tales about her. These have a certain weight in
a land so essentially conducive to mystery as ours; and I am now
studying the treatise on Incantations by Jean Wier and other works
relating to demonology, where pretended supernatural events are
recorded, hoping to find facts analogous to those which are attributed
"Then you do not believe in her?" said Wilfrid.
"Oh yes, I do," said the pastor, genially, "I think her a very
capricious girl; a little spoilt by her parents, who turned her head
with the religious ideas I have just revealed to you."
Minna shook her head in a way that gently expressed contradiction.
"Poor girl!" continued the old man, "her parents bequeathed to her
that fatal exaltation of soul which misleads mystics and renders them
all more or less mad. She subjects herself to fasts which horrify poor
David. The good old man is like a sensitive plant which quivers at the
slightest breeze, and glows under the first sun-ray. His mistress,
whose incomprehensible language has become his, is the breeze and the
sun-ray to him; in his eyes her feet are diamonds and her brow is
strewn with stars; she walks environed with a white and luminous
atmosphere; her voice is accompanied by music; she has the gift of
rendering herself invisible. If you ask to see her, he will tell you
she has gone to the ASTRAL REGIONS. It is difficult to believe such a
story, is it not? You know all miracles bear more or less resemblance
to the story of the Golden Tooth. We have our golden tooth in Jarvis,
that is all. Duncker the fisherman asserts that he has seen her plunge
into the fiord and come up in the shape of an eider-duck, at other
times walking on the billows of a storm. Fergus, who leads the flocks
to the saeters, says that in rainy weather a circle of clear sky can
be seen over the Swedish castle; and that the heavens are always blue
above Seraphita's head when she is on the mountain. Many women hear
the tones of a mighty organ when Seraphita enters the church, and ask
their neighbors earnestly if they too do not hear them. But my
daughter, for whom during the last two years Seraphita has shown much
affection, has never heard this music, and has never perceived the
heavenly perfumes which, they say, make the air fragrant about her
when she moves. Minna, to be sure, has often on returning from their
walks together expressed to me the delight of a young girl in the
beauties of our spring-time, in the spicy odors of budding larches and
pines and the earliest flowers; but after our long winters what can be
more natural than such pleasure? The companionship of this so-called
spirit has nothing so very extraordinary in it, has it, my child?"
"The secrets of that spirit are not mine," said Minna. "Near it I know
all, away from it I know nothing; near that exquisite life I am no
longer myself, far from it I forget all. The time we pass together is
a dream which my memory scarcely retains. I may have heard yet not
remember the music which the women tell of; in that presence, I may
have breathed celestial perfumes, seen the glory of the heavens, and
yet be unable to recollect them here."
"What astonishes me most," resumed the pastor, addressing Wilfrid, "is
to notice that you suffer from being near her."
"Near her!" exclaimed the stranger, "she has never so much as let me
touch her hand. When she saw me for the first time her glance
intimidated me; she said: 'You are welcome here, for you were to
come.' I fancied that she knew me. I trembled. It is fear that forces
me to believe in her."
"With me it is love," said Minna, without a blush.
"Are you making fun of me?" said Monsieur Becker, laughing good-
humoredly; "you my daughter, in calling yourself a Spirit of Love, and
you, Monsieur Wilfrid, in pretending to be a Spirit of Wisdom?"
He drank a glass of beer and so did not see the singular look which
Wilfrid cast upon Minna.
"Jesting apart," resumed the old gentleman, "I have been much
astonished to hear that these two mad-caps ascended to the summit of
the Falberg; it must be a girlish exaggeration; they probably went to
the crest of a ledge. It is impossible to reach the peaks of the
"If so, father," said Minna, in an agitated voice, "I must have been
under the power of a spirit; for indeed we reached the summit of the
"This is really serious," said Monsieur Becker. "Minna is always
"Monsieur Becker," said Wilfrid, "I swear to you that Seraphita
exercises such extraordinary power over me that I know no language in
which I can give you the least idea of it. She has revealed to me
things known to myself alone."
"Somnambulism!" said the old man. "A great many such effects are
related by Jean Wier as phenomena easily explained and formerly
observed in Egypt."
"Lend me Swedenborg's theosophical works," said Wilfrid, "and let me
plunge into those gulfs of light,--you have given me a thirst for
Monsieur Becker took down a volume and gave it to his guest, who
instantly began to read it. It was about nine o'clock in the evening.
The serving-woman brought in the supper. Minna made tea. The repast
over, each turned silently to his or her occupation; the pastor read
the Incantations; Wilfrid pursued the spirit of Swedenborg; and the
young girl continued to sew, her mind absorbed in recollections. It
was a true Norwegian evening--peaceful, studious, and domestic; full
of thoughts, flowers blooming beneath the snow. Wilfrid, as he
devoured the pages of the prophet, lived by his inner senses only; the
pastor, looking up at times from his book, called Minna's attention to
the absorption of their guest with an air that was half-serious, half-
jesting. To Minna's thoughts the face of Seraphitus smiled upon her as
it hovered above the clouds of smoke which enveloped them. The clock
struck twelve. Suddenly the outer door was opened violently. Heavy but
hurried steps, the steps of a terrified old man, were heard in the
narrow vestibule between the two doors; then David burst into the
"Danger, danger!" he cried. "Come! come, all! The evil spirits are
unchained! Fiery mitres are on their heads! Demons, Vertumni, Sirens!
they tempt her as Jesus was tempted on the mountain! Come, come! and
drive them away."
"Do you not recognize the language of Swedenborg?" said the pastor,
laughing, to Wilfrid. "Here it is; pure from the source."
But Wilfrid and Minna were gazing in terror at old David, who, with
hair erect, and eyes distraught, his legs trembling and covered with
snow, for he had come without snow-shoes, stood swaying from side to
side, as if some boisterous wind were shaking him.
"Is he harmed?" cried Minna.
"The devils hope and try to conquer her," replied the old man.
The words made Wilfrid's pulses throb.
"For the last five hours she has stood erect, her eyes raised to
heaven and her arms extended; she suffers, she cries to God. I cannot
cross the barrier; Hell has posted the Vertumni as sentinels. They
have set up an iron wall between her and her old David. She wants me,
but what can I do? Oh, help me! help me! Come and pray!"
The old man's despair was terrible to see.
"The Light of God is defending her," he went on, with infectious
faith, "but oh! she might yield to violence."
"Silence, David! you are raving. This is a matter to be verified. We
will go with you," said the pastor, "and you shall see that there are
no Vertumni, nor Satans, nor Sirens, in that house."
"Your father is blind," whispered David to Minna.
Wilfrid, on whom the reading of Swedenborg's first treatise, which he
had rapidly gone through, had produced a powerful effect, was already
in the corridor putting on his skees; Minna was ready in a few
moments, and both left the old men far behind as they darted forward
to the Swedish castle.
"Do you hear that cracking sound?" said Wilfrid.
"The ice of the fiord stirs," answered Minna; "the spring is coming."
Wilfrid was silent. When the two reached the courtyard they were
conscious that they had neither the faculty nor the strength to enter
"What think you of her?" asked Wilfrid.
"See that radiance!" cried Minna, going towards the window of the
salon. "He is there! How beautiful! O my Seraphitus, take me!"
The exclamation was uttered inwardly. She saw Seraphitus standing
erect, lightly swathed in an opal-tinted mist that disappeared at a
little distance from the body, which seemed almost phosphorescent.
"How beautiful she is!" cried Wilfrid, mentally.
Just then Monsieur Becker arrived, followed by David; he saw his
daughter and guest standing before the window; going up to them, he
looked into the salon and said quietly, "Well, my good David, she is
only saying her prayers."
"Ah, but try to enter, Monsieur."
"Why disturb those who pray?" answered the pastor.
At this instant the moon, rising above the Falberg, cast its rays upon
the window. All three turned round, attracted by this natural effect
which made them quiver; when they turned back to again look at
Seraphita she had disappeared.
"How strange!" exclaimed Wilfrid.
"I hear delightful sounds," said Minna.
"Well," said the pastor, "it is all plain enough; she is going to
David had entered the house. The others took their way back in
silence; none of them interpreted the vision in the same manner,--
Monsieur Becker doubted, Minna adored, Wilfrid longed.
Wilfrid was a man about thirty-six years of age. His figure, though
broadly developed, was not wanting in symmetry. Like most men who
distinguish themselves above their fellows, he was of medium height;
his chest and shoulders were broad, and his neck short,--a
characteristic of those whose hearts are near their heads; his hair
was black, thick, and fine; his eyes, of a yellow brown, had, as it
were, a solar brilliancy, which proclaimed with what avidity his
nature aspired to Light. Though these strong and virile features were
defective through the absence of an inward peace,--granted only to a
life without storms or conflicts,--they plainly showed the
inexhaustible resources of impetuous senses and the appetites of
instinct; just as every motion revealed the perfection of the man's
physical apparatus, the flexibility of his senses, and their fidelity
when brought into play. This man might contend with savages, and hear,
as they do, the tread of enemies in distant forests; he could follow a
scent in the air, a trail on the ground, or see on the horizon the
signal of a friend. His sleep was light, like that of all creatures
who will not allow themselves to be surprised. His body came quickly
into harmony with the climate of any country where his tempestuous
life conducted him. Art and science would have admired his
organization in the light of a human model. Everything about him was
symmetrical and well-balanced,--action and heart, intelligence and
will. At first sight he might be classed among purely instinctive
beings, who give themselves blindly up to the material wants of life;
but in the very morning of his days he had flung himself into a higher
social world, with which his feelings harmonized; study had widened
his mind, reflection had sharpened his power of thought, and the
sciences had enlarged his understanding. He had studied human laws,--
the working of self-interests brought into conflict by the passions,
and he seemed to have early familiarized himself with the abstractions
on which societies rest. He had pored over books,--those deeds of dead
humanity; he had spent whole nights of pleasure in every European
capital; he had slept on fields of battle the night before the combat
and the night that followed victory. His stormy youth may have flung
him on the deck of some corsair and sent him among the contrasting
regions of the globe; thus it was that he knew the actions of a living
humanity. He knew the present and the past,--a double history; that of
to-day, that of other days. Many men have been, like Wilfrid, equally
powerful by the Hand, by the Heart, by the Head; like him, the
majority have abused their triple power. But though this man still
held by certain outward liens to the slimy side of humanity, he
belonged also and positively to the sphere where force is intelligent.
In spite of the many veils which enveloped his soul, there were
certain ineffable symptoms of this fact which were visible to pure
spirits, to the eyes of the child whose innocence has known no breath
of evil passions, to the eyes of the old man who has lived to regain
These signs revealed a Cain for whom there was still hope,--one who
seemed as though he were seeking absolution from the ends of the
earth. Minna suspected the galley-slave of glory in the man; Seraphita
recognized him. Both admired and both pitied him. Whence came their
prescience? Nothing could be more simple nor yet more extraordinary.
As soon as we seek to penetrate the secrets of Nature, where nothing
is secret, and where it is only necessary to have the eyes to see, we
perceive that the simple produces the marvellous.
"Seraphitus," said Minna one evening a few days after Wilfrid's
arrival in Jarvis, "you read the soul of this stranger while I have
only vague impressions of it. He chills me or else he excites me; but
you seem to know the cause of this cold and of this heat; tell me what
it means, for you know all about him."
"Yes, I have seen the causes," said Seraphitus, lowing his large
"By what power?" asked the curious Minna.
"I have the gift of Specialism," he answered. "Specialism is an inward
sight which can penetrate all things; you will only understand its
full meaning through a comparison. In the great cities of Europe where
works are produced by which the human Hand seeks to represent the
effects of the moral nature was well as those of the physical nature,
there are glorious men who express ideas in marble. The sculptor acts
on the stone; he fashions it; he puts a realm of ideas into it. There
are statues which the hand of man has endowed with the faculty of
representing the noble side of humanity, or the whole evil side; most
men see in such marbles a human figure and nothing more; a few other
men, a little higher in the scale of being, perceive a fraction of the
thoughts expressed in the statue; but the Initiates in the secrets of
art are of the same intellect as the sculptor; they see in his work
the whole universe of his thought. Such persons are in themselves the
principles of art; they bear within them a mirror which reflects
nature in her slightest manifestations. Well! so it is with me; I have
within me a mirror before which the moral nature, with its causes and
effects, appears and is reflected. Entering thus into the
consciousness of others I am able to divine both the future and the
past. How? do you still ask how? Imagine that the marble statue is the
body of a man, a piece of statuary in which we see the emotion,
sentiment, passion, vice or crime, virtue or repentance which the
creating hand has put into it, and you will then comprehend how it is
that I read the soul of this foreigner--though what I have said does
not explain the gift of Specialism; for to conceive the nature of that
gift we must possess it."
Though Wilfrid belonged to the two first divisions of humanity, the
men of force and the men of thought, yet his excesses, his tumultuous
life, and his misdeeds had often turned him towards Faith; for doubt
has two sides; a side to the light and a side to the darkness. Wilfrid
had too closely clasped the world under its forms of Matter and of
Mind not to have acquired that thirst for the unknown, that longing to
GO BEYOND which lay their grasp upon the men who know, and wish, and
will. But neither his knowledge, nor his actions, nor his will, had
found direction. He had fled from social life from necessity; as a
great criminal seeks the cloister. Remorse, that virtue of weak
beings, did not touch him. Remorse is impotence, impotence which sins
again. Repentance alone is powerful; it ends all. But in traversing
the world, which he made his cloister, Wilfrid had found no balm for
his wounds; he saw nothing in nature to which he could attach himself.
In him, despair had dried the sources of desire. He was one of those
beings who, having gone through all passions and come out victorious,
have nothing more to raise in their hot-beds, and who, lacking
opportunity to put themselves at the head of their fellow-men to
trample under iron heel entire populations, buy, at the price of a
horrible martyrdom, the faculty of ruining themselves in some belief,
--rocks sublime, which await the touch of a wand that comes not to
bring the waters gushing from their far-off spring.
Led by a scheme of his restless, inquiring life to the shores of
Norway, the sudden arrival of winter had detained the wanderer at
Jarvis. The day on which, for the first time, he saw Seraphita, the
whole past of his life faded from his mind. The young girl excited
emotions which he had thought could never be revived. The ashes gave
forth a lingering flame at the first murmurings of that voice. Who has
ever felt himself return to youth and purity after growing cold and
numb with age and soiled with impurity? Suddenly, Wilfrid loved as he
had never loved; he loved secretly, with faith, with fear, with inward
madness. His life was stirred to the very source of his being at the
mere thought of seeing Seraphita. As he listened to her he was
transported into unknown worlds; he was mute before her, she
magnetized him. There, beneath the snows, among the glaciers, bloomed
the celestial flower to which his hopes, so long betrayed, aspired;
the sight of which awakened ideas of freshness, purity, and faith
which grouped about his soul and lifted it to higher regions,--as
Angels bear to heaven the Elect in those symbolic pictures inspired by
the guardian spirit of a great master. Celestial perfumes softened the
granite hardness of the rocky scene; light endowed with speech shed
its divine melodies on the path of him who looked to heaven. After
emptying the cup of terrestrial love which his teeth had bitten as he
drank it, he saw before him the chalice of salvation where the limpid
waters sparkled, making thirsty for ineffable delights whoever dare
apply his lips burning with a faith so strong that the crystal shall
not be shattered.
But Wilfrid now encountered the wall of brass for which he had been
seeking up and down the earth. He went impetuously to Seraphita,
meaning to express the whole force and bearing of a passion under
which he bounded like the fabled horse beneath the iron horseman, firm
in his saddle, whom nothing moves while the efforts of the fiery
animal only made the rider heavier and more solid. He sought her to
relate his life,--to prove the grandeur of his soul by the grandeur of
his faults, to show the ruins of his desert. But no sooner had he
crossed her threshold, and found himself within the zone of those eyes
of scintillating azure, that met no limits forward and left none
behind, than he grew calm and submissive, as a lion, springing on his
prey in the plains of Africa, receives from the wings of the wind a
message of love, and stops his bound. A gulf opened before him, into
which his frenzied words fell and disappeared, and from which uprose a
voice which changed his being; he became as a child, a child of
sixteen, timid and frightened before this maiden with serene brow,
this white figure whose inalterable calm was like the cruel
impassibility of human justice. The combat between them had never
ceased until this evening, when with a glance she brought him down, as
a falcon making his dizzy spirals in the air around his prey causes it
to fall stupefied to earth, before carrying it to his eyrie.
We may note within ourselves many a long struggle the end of which is
one of our own actions,--struggles which are, as it were, the reverse
side of humanity. This reverse side belongs to God; the obverse side
to men. More than once Seraphita had proved to Wilfrid that she knew
this hidden and ever varied side, which is to the majority of men a
second being. Often she said to him in her dove-like voice: "Why all
this vehemence?" when on his way to her he had sworn she should be
his. Wilfrid was, however, strong enough to raise the cry of revolt to
which he had given utterance in Monsieur Becker's study. The narrative
of the old pastor had calmed him. Sceptical and derisive as he was, he
saw belief like a sidereal brilliance dawning on his life. He asked
himself if Seraphita were not an exile from the higher spheres seeking
the homeward way. The fanciful deifications of all ordinary lovers he
could not give to this lily of Norway in whose divinity he believed.
Why lived she here beside this fiord? What did she? Questions that
received no answer filled his mind. Above all, what was about to
happen between them? What fate had brought him there? To him,
Seraphita was the motionless marble, light nevertheless as a vapor,
which Minna had seen that day poised above the precipices of the
Falberg. Could she thus stand on the edge of all gulfs without danger,
without a tremor of the arching eyebrows, or a quiver of the light of
the eye? If his love was to be without hope, it was not without
From the moment when Wilfrid suspected the ethereal nature of the
enchantress who had told him the secrets of his life in melodious
utterance, he had longed to try to subject her, to keep her to
himself, to tear her from the heaven where, perhaps, she was awaited.
Earth and Humanity seized their prey; he would imitate them. His
pride, the only sentiment through which man can long be exalted, would
make him happy in this triumph for the rest of his life. The idea sent
the blood boiling through his veins, and his heart swelled. If he did
not succeed, he would destroy her,--it is so natural to destroy that
which we cannot possess, to deny what we cannot comprehend, to insult
that which we envy.
On the morrow, Wilfrid, laden with ideas which the extraordinary
events of the previous night naturally awakened in his mind, resolved
to question David, and went to find him on the pretext of asking after
Seraphita's health. Though Monsieur Becker spoke of the old servant as
falling into dotage, Wilfrid relied on his own perspicacity to
discover scraps of truth in the torrent of the old man's rambling
David had the immovable, undecided, physiognomy of an octogenarian.
Under his white hair lay a forehead lined with wrinkles like the stone
courses of a ruined wall; and his face was furrowed like the bed of a
dried-up torrent. His life seemed to have retreated wholly to the
eyes, where light still shone, though its gleams were obscured by a
mistiness which seemed to indicate either an active mental alienation
or the stupid stare of drunkenness. His slow and heavy movements
betrayed the glacial weight of age, and communicated an icy influence
to whoever allowed themselves to look long at him,--for he possessed
the magnetic force of torpor. His limited intelligence was only roused
by the sight, the hearing, or the recollection of his mistress. She
was the soul of this wholly material fragment of an existence. Any one
seeing David alone by himself would have thought him a corpse; let
Seraphita enter, let her voice be heard, or a mention of her be made,
and the dead came forth from his grave and recovered speech and
motion. The dry bones were not more truly awakened by the divine
breath in the valley of Jehoshaphat, and never was that apocalyptic
vision better realized than in this Lazarus issuing from the sepulchre
into life at the voice of a young girl. His language, which was always
figurative and often incomprehensible, prevented the inhabitants of
the village from talking with him; but they respected a mind that
deviated so utterly from common ways,--a thing which the masses
Wilfrid found him in the antechamber, apparently asleep beside the
stove. Like a dog who recognizes a friend of the family, the old man
raised his eyes, saw the foreigner, and did not stir.
"Where is she?" inquired Wilfrid, sitting down beside him.
David fluttered his fingers in the air as if to express the flight of
"Does she still suffer?" asked Wilfrid.
"Beings vowed to Heaven are able so to suffer that suffering does not
lessen their love; this is the mark of the true faith," answered the
old man, solemnly, like an instrument which, on being touched, gives
forth an accidental note.
"Who taught you those words?"
"What happened to her last night? Did you force your way past the
Vertumni standing sentinel? did you evade the Mammons?"
"Yes"; answered David, as though awaking from a dream.
The misty gleam of his eyes melted into a ray that came direct from
the soul and made it by degrees brilliant as that of an eagle, as
intelligent as that of a poet.
"What did you see?" asked Wilfrid, astonished at this sudden change.
"I saw Species and Shapes; I heard the Spirit of all things; I beheld
the revolt of the Evil Ones; I listened to the words of the Good.
Seven devils came, and seven archangels descended from on high. The
archangels stood apart and looked on through veils. The devils were
close by; they shone, they acted. Mammon came on his pearly shell in
the shape of a beautiful naked woman; her snowy body dazzled the eye,
no human form ever equalled it; and he said, 'I am Pleasure; thou
shalt possess me!' Lucifer, prince of serpents, was there in sovereign
robes; his Manhood was glorious as the beauty of an angel, and he
said, 'Humanity shall be at thy feet!' The Queen of misers,--she who
gives back naught that she has ever received,--the Sea, came wrapped
in her virent mantle; she opened her bosom, she showed her gems, she
brought forth her treasures and offered them; waves of sapphire and of
emerald came at her bidding; her hidden wonders stirred, they rose to
the surface of her breast, they spoke; the rarest pearl of Ocean
spread its iridescent wings and gave voice to its marine melodies,
saying, 'Twin daughter of suffering, we are sisters! await me; let us
go together; all I need is to become a Woman.' The Bird with the wings
of an eagle and the paws of a lion, the head of a woman and the body
of a horse, the Animal, fell down before her and licked her feet, and
promised seven hundred years of plenty to her best-beloved daughter.
Then came the most formidable of all, the Child, weeping at her knees,
and saying, 'Wilt thou leave me, feeble and suffering as I am? oh, my
mother, stay!' and he played with her, and shed languor on the air,
and the Heavens themselves had pity for his wail. The Virgin of pure
song brought forth her choirs to relax the soul. The Kings of the East
came with their slaves, their armies, and their women; the Wounded
asked her for succor, the Sorrowful stretched forth their hands: 'Do
not leave us! do not leave us!' they cried. I, too, I cried, 'Do not
leave us! we adore thee! stay!' Flowers, bursting from the seed,
bathed her in their fragrance which uttered, 'Stay!' The giant Enakim
came forth from Jupiter, leading Gold and its friends and all the
Spirits of the Astral Regions which are joined with him, and they
said, 'We are thine for seven hundred years.' At last came Death on
his pale horse, crying, 'I will obey thee!' One and all fell prostrate
before her. Could you but have seen them! They covered as it were a
vast plain, and they cried aloud to her, 'We have nurtured thee, thou
art our child; do not abandon us!' At length Life issued from her Ruby
Waters, and said, 'I will not leave thee!' then, finding Seraphita
silent, she flamed upon her as the sun, crying out, 'I am light!' 'THE
LIGHT is there!' cried Seraphita, pointing to the clouds where stood
the archangels; but she was wearied out; Desire had wrung her nerves,
she could only cry, 'My God! my God!' Ah! many an Angelic Spirit,
scaling the mountain and nigh to the summit, has set his foot upon a
rolling stone which plunged him back into the abyss! All these lost
Spirits adored her constancy; they stood around her,--a choir without
a song,--weeping and whispering, 'Courage!' At last she conquered;
Desire--let loose upon her in every Shape and every Species--was
vanquished. She stood in prayer, and when at last her eyes were lifted
she saw the feet of Angels circling in the Heavens."
"She saw the feet of Angels?" repeated Wilfrid.
"Yes," said the old man.
"Was it a dream that she told you?" asked Wilfrid.
"A dream as real as your life," answered David; "I was there."
The calm assurance of the old servant affected Wilfrid powerfully. He
went away asking himself whether these visions were any less
extraordinary than those he had read of in Swedenborg the night
"If Spirits exist, they must act," he was saying to himself as he
entered the parsonage, where he found Monsieur Becker alone.
"Dear pastor," he said, "Seraphita is connected with us in form only,
and even that form is inexplicable. Do not think me a madman or a
lover; a profound conviction cannot be argued with. Convert my belief
into scientific theories, and let us try to enlighten each other. To-
morrow evening we shall both be with her."
"What then?" said Monsieur Becker.
"If her eye ignores space," replied Wilfrid, "if her thought is an
intelligent sight which enables her to perceive all things in their
essence, and to connect them with the general evolution of the
universe, if, in a word, she sees and knows all, let us seat the
Pythoness on her tripod, let us force this pitiless eagle by threats
to spread its wings! Help me! I breathe a fire which burns my vitals;
I must quench it or it will consume me. I have found a prey at last,
and it shall be mine!"
"The conquest will be difficult," said the pastor, "because this girl
"Is what?" cried Wilfrid.
"Mad," said the old man.
"I will not dispute her madness, but neither must you dispute her
wonderful powers. Dear Monsieur Becker, she has often confounded me
with her learning. Has she travelled?"
"From her house to the fiord, no further."
"Never left this place!" exclaimed Wilfrid. "Then she must have read
"Not a page, not one iota! I am the only person who possesses any
books in Jarvis. The works of Swedenborg--the only books that were in
the chateau--you see before you. She has never looked into a single
one of them."
"Have you tried to talk with her?"
"What good would that do?"
"Does no one live with her in that house?"
"She has no friends but you and Minna, nor any servant except old
"It cannot be that she knows nothing of science nor of art."
"Who should teach her?" said the pastor.
"But if she can discuss such matters pertinently, as she has often
done with me, what do you make of it?"
"The girl may have acquired through years of silence the faculties
enjoyed by Apollonius of Tyana and other pretended sorcerers burned by
the Inquisition, which did not choose to admit the fact of second-
"If she can speak Arabic, what would you say to that?"
"The history of medical science gives many authentic instances of
girls who have spoken languages entirely unknown to them."
"What can I do?" exclaimed Wilfrid. "She knows of secrets in my past
life known only to me."
"I shall be curious if she can tell me thoughts that I have confided
to no living person," said Monsieur Becker.
Minna entered the room.
"Well, my daughter, and how is your familiar spirit?"
"He suffers, father," she answered, bowing to Wilfrid. "Human
passions, clothed in their false riches, surrounded him all night, and
showed him all the glories of the world. But you think these things
"Tales as beautiful to those who read them in their brains as the
'Arabian Nights' to common minds," said the pastor, smiling.
"Did not Satan carry our Savior to the pinnacle of the Temple, and
show him all the kingdoms of the world?" she said.
"The Evangelists," replied her father, "did not correct their copies
very carefully, and several versions are in existence."
"You believe in the reality of these visions?" said Wilfrid to Minna.
"Who can doubt when he relates them."
"He?" demanded Wilfrid. "Who?"
"He who is there," replied Minna, motioning towards the chateau.
"Are you speaking of Seraphita?" he said.
The young girl bent her head, and looked at him with an expression of
"You too!" exclaimed Wilfrid, "you take pleasure in confounding me.
Who and what is she? What do you think of her?"
"What I feel is inexplicable," said Minna, blushing.
"You are all crazy!" cried the pastor.
"Farewell, until to-morrow evening," said Wilfrid.
THE CLOUDS OF THE SANCTUARY
There are pageants in which all the material splendors that man arrays
co-operate. Nations of slaves and divers have searched the sands of
ocean and the bowels of earth for the pearls and diamonds which adorn
the spectators. Transmitted as heirlooms from generation to
generation, these treasures have shone on consecrated brows and could
be the most faithful of historians had they speech. They know the joys
and sorrows of the great and those of the small. Everywhere do they
go; they are worn with pride at festivals, carried in despair to
usurers, borne off in triumph amid blood and pillage, enshrined in
masterpieces conceived by art for their protection. None, except the
pearl of Cleopatra, has been lost. The Great and the Fortunate
assemble to witness the coronation of some king, whose trappings are
the work of men's hands, but the purple of whose raiment is less
glorious than that of the flowers of the field. These festivals,
splendid in light, bathed in music which the hand of man creates, aye,
all the triumphs of that hand are subdued by a thought, crushed by a
sentiment. The Mind can illumine in a man and round a man a light more
vivid, can open his ear to more melodious harmonies, can seat him on
clouds of shining constellations and teach him to question them. The
Heart can do still greater things. Man may come into the presence of
one sole being and find in a single word, a single look, an influence
so weighty to bear, of so luminous a light, so penetrating a sound,
that he succumbs and kneels before it. The most real of all splendors
are not in outward things, they are within us. A single secret of
science is a realm of wonders to the man of learning. Do the trumpets
of Power, the jewels of Wealth, the music of Joy, or a vast concourse
of people attend his mental festival? No, he finds his glory in some
dim retreat where, perchance, a pallid suffering man whispers a single
word into his ear; that word, like a torch lighted in a mine, reveals
to him a Science. All human ideas, arrayed in every attractive form
which Mystery can invent surrounded a blind man seated in a wayside
ditch. Three worlds, the Natural, the Spiritual, the Divine, with all
their spheres, opened their portals to a Florentine exile; he walked
attended by the Happy and the Unhappy; by those who prayed and those
who moaned; by angels and by souls in hell. When the Sent of God, who
knew and could accomplish all things, appeared to three of his
disciples it was at eventide, at the common table of the humblest of
inns; and then and there the Light broke forth, shattering Material
Forms, illuminating the Spiritual Faculties, so that they saw him in
his glory, and the earth lay at their feet like a cast-off sandal.
Monsieur Becker, Wilfrid, and Minna were all under the influence of
fear as they took their way to meet the extraordinary being whom each
desired to question. To them, in their several ways, the Swedish
castle had grown to mean some gigantic representation, some spectacle
like those whose colors and masses are skilfully and harmoniously
marshalled by the poets, and whose personages, imaginary actors to
men, are real to those who begin to penetrate the Spiritual World. On
the tiers of this Coliseum Monsieur Becker seated the gray legions of
Doubt, the stern ideas, the specious formulas of Dispute. He convoked
the various antagonistic worlds of philosophy and religion, and they
all appeared, in the guise of a fleshless shape, like that in which
art embodies Time,--an old man bearing in one hand a scythe, in the
other a broken globe, the human universe.
Wilfrid had bidden to the scene his earliest illusions and his latest
hopes, human destiny and its conflicts, religion and its conquering
Minna saw heaven confusedly by glimpses; love raised a curtain wrought
with mysterious images, and the melodious sounds which met her ear
redoubled her curiosity.
To all three, therefore, this evening was to be what that other
evening had been for the pilgrims to Emmaus, what a vision was to
Dante, an inspiration to Homer,--to them, three aspects of the world
revealed, veils rent away, doubts dissipated, darkness illumined.
Humanity in all its moods expecting light could not be better
represented than here by this young girl, this man in the vigor of his
age, and these old men, of whom one was learned enough to doubt, the
other ignorant enough to believe. Never was any scene more simple in
appearance, nor more portentous in reality.
When they entered the room, ushered in by old David, they found
Seraphita standing by a table on which were served the various dishes
which compose a "tea"; a form of collation which in the North takes
the place of wine and its pleasures,--reserved more exclusively for
Southern climes. Certainly nothing proclaimed in her, or in him, a
being with the strange power of appearing under two distinct forms;
nothing about her betrayed the manifold powers which she wielded. Like
a careful housewife attending to the comfort of her guests, she
ordered David to put more wood into the stove.
"Good evening, my neighbors," she said. "Dear Monsieur Becker, you do
right to come; you see me living for the last time, perhaps. This
winter has killed me. Will you sit there?" she said to Wilfrid. "And
you, Minna, here?" pointing to a chair beside her. "I see you have
brought your embroidery. Did you invent that stitch? the design is
very pretty. For whom is it,--your father, or monsieur?" she added,
turning to Wilfrid. "Surely we ought to give him, before we part, a
remembrance of the daughters of Norway."
"Did you suffer much yesterday?" asked Wilfrid.
"It was nothing," she answered; "the suffering gladdened me; it was
necessary, to enable me to leave this life."
"Then death does not alarm you?" said Monsieur Becker, smiling, for he
did not think her ill.
"No, dear pastor; there are two ways of dying: to some, death is
victory, to others, defeat."
"Do you think that you have conquered?" asked Minna.
"I do not know," she said, "perhaps I have only taken a step in the
The lustrous splendor of her brow grew dim, her eyes were veiled
beneath slow-dropping lids; a simple movement which affected the
prying guests and kept them silent. Monsieur Becker was the first to
"Dear child," he said, "you are truth itself, and you are ever kind. I
would ask of you to-night something other than the dainties of your
tea-table. If we may believe certain persons, you know amazing things;
if this be true, would it not be charitable in you to solve a few of
"Ah!" she said smiling, "I walk on the clouds. I visit the depths of
the fiord; the sea is my steed and I bridle it; I know where the
singing flower grows, and the talking light descends, and fragrant
colors shine! I wear the seal of Solomon; I am a fairy; I cast my
orders to the wind which, like an abject slave, fulfils them; my eyes
can pierce the earth and behold its treasures; for lo! am I not the
virgin to whom the pearls dart from their ocean depths and--"
"--who led me safely to the summit of the Falberg?" said Minna,
"Thou! thou too!" exclaimed the strange being, with a luminous glance
at the young girl which filled her soul with trouble. "Had I not the
faculty of reading through your foreheads the desires which have
brought you here, should I be what you think I am?" she said,
encircling all three with her controlling glance, to David's great
satisfaction. The old man rubbed his hands with pleasure as he left
"Ah!" she resumed after a pause, "you have come, all of you, with the
curiosity of children. You, my poor Monsieur Becker, have asked
yourself how it was possible that a girl of seventeen should know even
a single one of those secrets which men of science seek with their
noses to the earth,--instead of raising their eyes to heaven. Were I
to tell you how and at what point the plant merges into the animal you
would begin to doubt your doubts. You have plotted to question me; you
will admit that?"
"Yes, dear Seraphita," answered Wilfrid; "but the desire is a natural
one to men, is it not?"
"You will bore this dear child with such topics," she said, passing
her hand lightly over Minna's hair with a caressing gesture.
The young girl raised her eyes and seemed as though she longed to lose
herself in him.
"Speech is the endowment of us all," resumed the mysterious creature,
gravely. "Woe to him who keeps silence, even in a desert, believing
that no one hears him; all voices speak and all ears listen here
below. Speech moves the universe. Monsieur Becker, I desire to say
nothing unnecessarily. I know the difficulties that beset your mind;
would you not think it a miracle if I were now to lay bare the past
history of your consciousness? Well, the miracle shall be
accomplished. You have never admitted to yourself the full extent of
your doubts. I alone, immovable in my faith, I can show it to you; I
can terrify you with yourself.
"You stand on the darkest side of Doubt. You do not believe in God,--
although you know it not,--and all things here below are secondary to
him who rejects the first principle of things. Let us leave aside the
fruitless discussions of false philosophy. The spiritualist
generations made as many and as vain efforts to deny Matter as the
materialist generations have made to deny Spirit. Why such
discussions? Does not man himself offer irrefragable proof of both
systems? Do we not find in him material things and spiritual things?
None but a madman can refuse to see in the human body a fragment of
Matter; your natural sciences, when they decompose it, find little
difference between its elements and those of other animals. On the
other hand, the idea produced in man by the comparison of many objects
has never seemed to any one to belong to the domain of Matter. As to
this, I offer no opinion. I am now concerned with your doubts, not
with my certainties. To you, as to the majority of thinkers, the
relations between things, the reality of which is proved to you by
your sensations and which you possess the faculty to discover, do not
seem Material. The Natural universe of things and beings ends, in man,
with the Spiritual universe of similarities or differences which he
perceives among the innumerable forms of Nature,--relations so
multiplied as to seem infinite; for if, up to the present time, no one
has been able to enumerate the separate terrestrial creations, who can
reckon their correlations? Is not the fraction which you know, in
relation to their totality, what a single number is to infinity? Here,
then, you fall into a perception of the infinite which undoubtedly
obliges you to conceive of a purely Spiritual world.
"Thus man himself offers sufficient proof of the two orders,--Matter
and Spirit. In him culminates a visible finite universe; in him begins
a universe invisible and infinite,--two worlds unknown to each other.
Have the pebbles of the fiord a perception of their combined being?
have they a consciousness of the colors they present to the eye of
man? do they hear the music of the waves that lap them? Let us
therefore spring over and not attempt to sound the abysmal depths
presented to our minds in the union of a Material universe and a
Spiritual universe,--a creation visible, ponderable, tangible,
terminating in a creation invisible, imponderable, intangible;
completely dissimilar, separated by the void, yet united by
indisputable bonds and meeting in a being who derives equally from the
one and from the other! Let us mingle in one world these two worlds,
absolutely irreconcilable to your philosophies, but conjoined by fact.
However abstract man may suppose the relation which binds two things
together, the line of junction is perceptible. How? Where? We are not
now in search of the vanishing point where Matter subtilizes. If such
were the question, I cannot see why He who has, by physical relations,
studded with stars at immeasurable distances the heavens which veil
Him, may not have created solid substances, nor why you deny Him the
faculty of giving a body to thought.
"Thus your invisible moral universe and your visible physical universe
are one and the same matter. We will not separate properties from
substances, nor objects from effects. All that exists, all that
presses upon us and overwhelms us from above or from below, before us
or in us, all that which our eyes and our minds perceive, all these
named and unnamed things compose--in order to fit the problem of
Creation to the measure of your logic--a block of finite Matter; but
were it infinite, God would still not be its master. Now, reasoning
with your views, dear pastor, no matter in what way God the infinite
is concerned with this block of finite Matter, He cannot exist and
retain the attributes with which man invests Him. Seek Him in facts,
and He is not; spiritually and materially, you have made God
impossible. Listen to the Word of human Reason forced to its ultimate
"In bringing God face to face with the Great Whole, we see that only
two states are possible between them,--either God and Matter are
contemporaneous, or God existed alone before Matter. Were Reason--the
light that has guided the human race from the dawn of its existence--
accumulated in one brain, even that mighty brain could not invent a
third mode of being without suppressing both Matter and God. Let human
philosophies pile mountain upon mountain of words and of ideas, let
religions accumulate images and beliefs, revelations and mysteries,
you must face at last this terrible dilemma and choose between the two
propositions which compose it; you have no option, and one as much as
the other leads human reason to Doubt.
"The problem thus established, what signifies Spirit or Matter? Why
trouble about the march of the worlds in one direction or in another,
since the Being who guides them is shown to be an absurdity? Why
continue to ask whether man is approaching heaven or receding from it,
whether creation is rising towards Spirit or descending towards
Matter, if the questioned universe gives no reply? What signifies
theogonies and their armies, theologies and their dogmas, since
whichever side of the problem is man's choice, his God exists not? Let
us for a moment take up the first proposition, and suppose God
contemporaneous with Matter. Is subjection to the action or the co-
existence of an alien substance consistent with being God at all? In
such a system, would not God become a secondary agent compelled to
organize Matter? If so, who compelled Him? Between His material gross
companion and Himself, who was the arbiter? Who paid the wages of the
six days' labor imputed to the great Designer? Has any determining
force been found which was neither God nor Matter? God being regarded
as the manufacturer of the machinery of the worlds, is it not as
ridiculous to call Him God as to call the slave who turns the
grindstone a Roman citizen? Besides, another difficulty, as insoluble
to this supreme human reason as it is to God, presents itself.
"If we carry the problem higher, shall we not be like the Hindus, who
put the world upon a tortoise, the tortoise on an elephant, and do not
know on what the feet of their elephant may rest? This supreme will,
issuing from the contest between God and Matter, this God, this more
than God, can He have existed throughout eternity without willing what
He afterwards willed,--admitting that Eternity can be divided into two
eras. No matter where God is, what becomes of His intuitive
intelligence if He did not know His ultimate thought? Which, then, is
the true Eternity,--the created Eternity or the uncreated? But if God
throughout all time did will the world such as it is, this new
necessity, which harmonizes with the idea of sovereign intelligence,
implies the co-eternity of Matter. Whether Matter be co-eternal by a
divine will necessarily accordant with itself from the beginning, or
whether Matter be co-eternal of its own being, the power of God, which
must be absolute, perishes if His will is circumscribed; for in that
case God would find within Him a determining force which would control
Him. Can He be God if He can no more separate Himself from His
creation in a past eternity than in the coming eternity?
"This face of the problem is insoluble in its cause. Let us now
inquire into its effects. If a God compelled to have created the world
from all eternity seems inexplicable, He is quite as unintelligible in
perpetual cohesion with His work. God, constrained to live eternally
united to His creation is held down to His first position as workman.
Can you conceive of a God who shall be neither independent of nor
dependent on His work? Could He destroy that work without challenging
Himself? Ask yourself, and decide! Whether He destroys it some day, or
whether He never destroys it, either way is fatal to the attributes
without which God cannot exist. Is the world an experiment? is it a
perishable form to which destruction must come? If it is, is not God
inconsistent and impotent? inconsistent, because He ought to have seen
the result before the attempt,--moreover why should He delay to
destroy that which He is to destroy?--impotent, for how else could He
have created an imperfect man?
"If an imperfect creation contradicts the faculties which man
attributes to God we are forced back upon the question, Is creation
perfect? The idea is in harmony with that of a God supremely
intelligent who could make no mistakes; but then, what means the
degradation of His work, and its regeneration? Moreover, a perfect
world is, necessarily, indestructible; its forms would not perish, it
could neither advance nor recede, it would revolve in the everlasting
circumference from which it would never issue. In that case God would
be dependent on His work; it would be co-eternal with Him; and so we
fall back into one of the propositions most antagonistic to God. If
the world is imperfect, it can progress; if perfect, it is stationary.
On the other hand, if it be impossible to admit of a progressive God
ignorant through a past eternity of the results of His creative work,
can there be a stationary God? would not that imply the triumph of
Matter? would it not be the greatest of all negations? Under the first
hypothesis God perishes through weakness; under the second through the
Force of his inertia.
"Therefore, to all sincere minds the supposition that Matter, in the
conception and execution of the worlds, is contemporaneous with God,
is to deny God. Forced to choose, in order to govern the nations,
between the two alternatives of the problem, whole generations have
preferred this solution of it. Hence the doctrine of the two
principles of Magianism, brought from Asia and adopted in Europe under
the form of Satan warring with the Eternal Father. But this religious
formula and the innumerable aspects of divinity that have sprung from
it are surely crimes against the Majesty Divine. What other term can
we apply to the belief which sets up as a rival to God a
personification of Evil, striving eternally against the Omnipotent
Mind without the possibility of ultimate triumph? Your statics declare
that two Forces thus pitted against each other are reciprocally
"Do you turn back, therefore, to the other side of the problem, and
say that God pre-existed, original, alone?
"I will not go over the preceding arguments (which here return in full
force) as to the severance of Eternity into two parts; nor the
questions raised by the progression or the immobility of the worlds;
let us look only at the difficulties inherent to this second theory.
If God pre-existed alone, the world must have emanated from Him;
Matter was therefore drawn from His essence; consequently Matter in
itself is non-existent; all forms are veils to cover the Divine
Spirit. If this be so, the World is Eternal, and also it must be God.
Is not this proposition even more fatal than the former to the
attributes conferred on God by human reason? How can the actual
condition of Matter be explained if we suppose it to issue from the
bosom of God and to be ever united with Him? Is it possible to believe
that the All-Powerful, supremely good in His essence and in His
faculties, has engendered things dissimilar to Himself. Must He not in
all things and through all things be like unto Himself? Can there be
in God certain evil parts of which at some future day he may rid
Himself?--a conjecture less offensive and absurd than terrible, for
the reason that it drags back into Him the two principles which the
preceding theory proved to be inadmissible. God must be ONE; He cannot
be divided without renouncing the most important condition of His
existence. It is therefore impossible to admit of a fraction of God
which yet is not God. This hypothesis seemed so criminal to the Roman
Church that she has made the omnipresence of God in the least
particles of the Eucharist an article of faith.
"But how then can we imagine an omnipotent mind which does not
triumph? How associate it unless in triumph with Nature? But Nature is
not triumphant; she seeks, combines, remodels, dies, and is born
again; she is even more convulsed when creating than when all was
fusion; Nature suffers, groans, is ignorant, degenerates, does evil;
deceives herself, annihilates herself, disappears, and begins again.
If God is associated with Nature, how can we explain the inoperative
indifference of the divine principle? Wherefore death? How came it
that Evil, king of the earth, was born of a God supremely good in His
essence and in His faculties, who can produce nothing that is not made
in His own image?
"But if, from this relentless conclusion which leads at once to
absurdity, we pass to details, what end are we to assign to the world?
If all is God, all is reciprocally cause and effect; all is ONE as God
is ONE, and we can perceive neither points of likeness nor points of
difference. Can the real end be a rotation of Matter which subtilizes
and disappears? In whatever sense it were done, would not this
mechanical trick of Matter issuing from God and returning to God seem
a sort of child's play? Why should God make himself gross with Matter?
Under which form is he most God? Which has the ascendant, Matter or
Spirit, when neither can in any way do wrong? Who can comprehend the
Deity engaged in this perpetual business, by which he divides Himself
into two Natures, one of which knows nothing, while the other knows
all? Can you conceive of God amusing Himself in the form of man,
laughing at His own efforts, dying Friday, to be born again Sunday,
and continuing this play from age to age, knowing the end from all
eternity, and telling nothing to Himself, the Creature, of what He the
Creator, does? The God of the preceding hypothesis, a God so nugatory
by the very power of His inertia, seems the more possible of the two
if we are compelled to choose between the impossibilities with which
this God, so dull a jester, fusillades Himself when two sections of
humanity argue face to face, weapons in hand.
"However absurd this outcome of the second problem may seem, it was
adopted by half the human race in the sunny lands where smiling
mythologies were created. Those amorous nations were consistent; with
them all was God, even Fear and its dastardy, even crime and its
bacchanals. If we accept pantheism,--the religion of many a great
human genius,--who shall say where the greater reason lies? Is it with
the savage, free in the desert, clothed in his nudity, listening to
the sun, talking to the sea, sublime and always true in his deeds
whatever they may be; or shall we find it in civilized man, who
derives his chief enjoyments through lies; who wrings Nature and all
her resources to put a musket on his shoulder; who employs his
intellect to hasten the hour of his death and to create diseases out
of pleasures? When the rake of pestilence and the ploughshare of war
and the demon of desolation have passed over a corner of the globe and
obliterated all things, who will be found to have the greater
reason,--the Nubian savage or the patrician of Thebes? Your doubts
descend the scale, they go from heights to depths, they embrace all,
the end as well as the means.
"But if the physical world seems inexplicable, the moral world
presents still stronger arguments against God. Where, then, is
progress? If all things are indeed moving toward perfection why do we
die young? why do not nations perpetuate themselves? The world having
issued from God and being contained in God can it be stationary? Do we
live once, or do we live always? If we live once, hurried onward by
the march of the Great-Whole, a knowledge of which has not been given
to us, let us act as we please. If we are eternal, let things take
their course. Is the created being guilty if he exists at the instant
of the transitions? If he sins at the moment of a great transformation
will he be punished for it after being its victim? What becomes of the
Divine goodness if we are not transferred to the regions of the blest
--should any such exist? What becomes of God's prescience if He is
ignorant of the results of the trials to which He subjects us? What is
this alternative offered to man by all religions,--either to boil in
some eternal cauldron or to walk in white robes, a palm in his hand
and a halo round his head? Can it be that this pagan invention is the
final word of God? Where is the generous soul who does not feel that
the calculating virtue which seeks the eternity of pleasure offered by
all religions to whoever fulfils at stray moments certain fanciful and
often unnatural conditions, is unworthy of man and of God? Is it not a
mockery to give to man impetuous senses and forbid him to satisfy
them? Besides, what mean these ascetic objections if Good and Evil are
equally abolished? Does Evil exist? If substance in all its forms is
God, then Evil is God. The faculty of reasoning as well as the faculty
of feeling having been given to man to use, nothing can be more
excusable in him than to seek to know the meaning of human suffering
and the prospects of the future.
"If these rigid and rigorous arguments lead to such conclusions
confusion must reign. The world would have no fixedness; nothing would
advance, nothing would pause, all would change, nothing would be
destroyed, all would reappear after self-renovation; for if your mind
does not clearly demonstrate to you an end, it is equally impossible
to demonstrate the destruction of the smallest particle of Matter;
Matter can transform but not annihilate itself.
"Though blind force may provide arguments for the atheist, intelligent
force is inexplicable; for if it emanates from God, why should it meet
with obstacles? ought not its triumph to be immediate? Where is God?
If the living cannot perceive Him, can the dead find Him? Crumble, ye
idolatries and ye religions! Fall, feeble keystones of all social
arches, powerless to retard the decay, the death, the oblivion that
have overtaken all nations however firmly founded! Fall, morality and
justice! our crimes are purely relative; they are divine effects whose
causes we are not allowed to know. All is God. Either we are God or
God is not!--Child of a century whose every year has laid upon your
brow, old man, the ice of its unbelief, here, here is the summing up
of your lifetime of thought, of your science and your reflections!
Dear Monsieur Becker, you have laid your head upon the pillow of
Doubt, because it is the easiest of solutions; acting in this respect
with the majority of mankind, who say in their hearts: 'Let us think
no more of these problems, since God has not vouchsafed to grant us
the algebraic demonstrations that could solve them, while He has given
us so many other ways to get from earth to heaven.'
"Tell me, dear pastor, are not these your secret thoughts? Have I
evaded the point of any? nay, rather, have I not clearly stated all?
First, in the dogma of two principles,--an antagonism in which God
perishes for the reason that being All-Powerful He chose to combat.
Secondly, in the absurd pantheism where, all being God, God exists no
longer. These two sources, from which have flowed all the religions
for whose triumph Earth has toiled and prayed, are equally pernicious.
Behold in them the double-bladed axe with which you decapitate the
white old man whom you enthrone among your painted clouds! And now, to
me the axe, I wield it!"
Monsieur Becker and Wilfrid gazed at the young girl with something
"To believe," continued Seraphita, in her Woman's voice, for the Man
had finished speaking, "to believe is a gift. To believe is to feel.
To believe in God we must feel God. This feeling is a possession
slowly acquired by the human being, just as other astonishing powers
which you admire in great men, warriors, artists, scholars, those who
know and those who act, are acquired. Thought, that budget of the
relations which you perceive among created things, is an intellectual
language which can be learned, is it not? Belief, the budget of
celestial truths, is also a language as superior to thought as thought
is to instinct. This language also can be learned. The Believer
answers with a single cry, a single gesture; Faith puts within his
hand a flaming sword with which he pierces and illumines all. The Seer
attains to heaven and descends not. But there are beings who believe
and see, who know and will, who love and pray and wait. Submissive,
yet aspiring to the kingdom of light, they have neither the aloofness
of the Believer nor the silence of the Seer; they listen and reply. To
them the doubt of the twilight ages is not a murderous weapon, but a
divining rod; they accept the contest under every form; they train
their tongues to every language; they are never angered, though they
groan; the acrimony of the aggressor is not in them, but rather the
softness and tenuity of light, which penetrates and warms and
illumines. To their eyes Doubt is neither an impiety, nor a blasphemy,
nor a crime, but a transition through which men return upon their
steps in the Darkness, or advance into the Light. This being so, dear
pastor, let us reason together.
"You do not believe in God? Why? God, to your thinking, is
incomprehensible, inexplicable. Agreed. I will not reply that to
comprehend God in His entirety would be to be God; nor will I tell you
that you deny what seems to you inexplicable so as to give me the
right to affirm that which to me is believable. There is, for you, one
evident fact, which lies within yourself. In you, Matter has ended in
intelligence; can you therefore think that human intelligence will end
in darkness, doubt, and nothingness? God may seem to you
incomprehensible and inexplicable, but you must admit Him to be, in
all things purely physical, a splendid and consistent workman. Why
should His craft stop short at man, His most finished creation?
"If that question is not convincing, at least it compels meditation.
Happily, although you deny God, you are obliged, in order to establish
your doubts, to admit those double-bladed facts, which kill your
arguments as much as your arguments kill God. We have also admitted
that Matter and Spirit are two creations which do not comprehend each
other; that the spiritual world is formed of infinite relations to
which the finite material world has given rise; that if no one on
earth is able to identify himself by the power of his spirit with the
great-whole of terrestrial creations, still less is he able to rise to
the knowledge of the relations which the spirit perceives between
"We might end the argument here in one word, by denying you the
faculty of comprehending God, just as you deny to the pebbles of the
fiord the faculties of counting and of seeing each other. How do you
know that the stones themselves do not deny the existence of man,
though man makes use of them to build his houses? There is one fact
that appals you,--the Infinite; if you feel it within, why will you
not admit its consequences? Can the finite have a perfect knowledge of
the infinite? If you cannot perceive those relations which, according
to your own admission, are infinite, how can you grasp a sense of the
far-off end to which they are converging? Order, the revelation of
which is one of your needs, being infinite, can your limited reason
apprehend it? Do not ask why man does not comprehend that which he is
able to perceive, for he is equally able to perceive that which he
does not comprehend. If I prove to you that your mind ignores that
which lies within its compass, will you grant that it is impossible
for it to conceive whatever is beyond it? This being so, am I not
justified in saying to you: 'One of the two propositions under which
God is annihilated before the tribunal of our reason must be true, the
other is false. Inasmuch as creation exists, you feel the necessity of
an end, and that end should be good, should it not? Now, if Matter
terminates in man by intelligence, why are you not satisfied to
believe that the end of human intelligence is the Light of the higher
spheres, where alone an intuition of that God who seems so insoluble a
problem is obtained? The species which are beneath you have no
conception of the universe, and you have; why should there not be
other species above you more intelligent than your own? Man ought to
be better informed than he is about himself before he spends his
strength in measuring God. Before attacking the stars that light us,
and the higher certainties, ought he not to understand the certainties
which are actually about him?'
"But no! to the negations of doubt I ought rather to reply by
negations. Therefore I ask you whether there is anything here below so
evident that I can put faith in it? I will show you in a moment that
you believe firmly in things which act, and yet are not beings; in
things which engender thought, and yet are not spirits; in living
abstractions which the understanding cannot grasp in any shape, which
are in fact nowhere, but which you perceive everywhere; which have,
and can have, on name, but which, nevertheless, you have named; and
which, like the God of flesh upon whom you figure to yourself, remain
inexplicable, incomprehensible, and absurd. I shall also ask you why,
after admitting the existence of these incomprehensible things, you
reserve your doubts for God?
"You believe, for instance, in Number,--a base on which you have built
the edifice of sciences which you call 'exact.' Without Number, what
would become of mathematics? Well, what mysterious being endowed with
the faculty of living forever could utter, and what language would be
compact to word the Number which contains the infinite numbers whose
existence is revealed to you by thought? Ask it of the loftiest human
genius; he might ponder it for a thousand years and what would be his
answer? You know neither where Number begins, nor where it pauses, nor
where it ends. Here you call it Time, there you call it Space. Nothing
exists except by Number. Without it, all would be one and the same
substance; for Number alone differentiates and qualifies substance.
Number is to your Spirit what it is to Matter, an incomprehensible
agent. Will you make a Deity of it? Is it a being? Is it a breath
emanating from God to organize the material universe where nothing
obtains form except by the Divinity which is an effect of Number? The
least as well as the greatest of creations are distinguishable from
each other by quantities, qualities, dimensions, forces,--all
attributes created by Number. The infinitude of Numbers is a fact
proved to your soul, but of which no material proof can be given. The
mathematician himself tells you that the infinite of numbers exists,
but cannot be proved.
"God, dear pastor, is a Number endowed with motion,--felt, but not
seen, the Believer will tell you. Like the Unit, He begins Number,
with which He has nothing in common. The existence of Number depends
on the Unit, which without being a number engenders Number. God, dear
pastor is a glorious Unit who has nothing in common with His creations
but who, nevertheless, engenders them. Will you not therefore agree
with me that you are just as ignorant of where Number begins and ends
as you are of where created Eternity begins and ends?
"Why, then, if you believe in Number, do you deny God? Is not Creation
interposed between the Infinite of unorganized substances and the
Infinite of the divine spheres, just as the Unit stands between the
Cipher of the fractions you have lately named Decimals, and the
Infinite of Numbers which you call Wholes? Man alone on earth
comprehends Number, that first step of the peristyle which leads to
God, and yet his reason stumbles on it! What! you can neither measure
nor grasp the first abstraction which God delivers to you, and yet you
try to subject His ends to your own tape-line! Suppose that I plunge
you into the abyss of Motion, the force that organizes Number. If I
tell you that the Universe is naught else than Number and Motion, you
would see at once that we speak two different languages. I understand
them both; you understand neither.
"Suppose I add that Motion and Number are engendered by the Word,
namely the supreme Reason of Seers and Prophets who in the olden time
heard the Breath of God beneath which Saul fell to the earth. That
Word, you scoff at it, you men, although you well know that all
visible works, societies, monuments, deeds, passions, proceed from the
breath of your own feeble word, and that without that word you would
resemble the African gorilla, the nearest approach to man, the Negro.
You believe firmly in Number and in Motion, a force and a result both
inexplicable, incomprehensible, to the existence of which I may apply
the logical dilemma which, as we have seen, prevents you from
believing in God. Powerful reasoner that you are, you do not need that
I should prove to you that the Infinite must everywhere be like unto
Itself, and that, necessarily, it is One. God alone is Infinite, for
surely there cannot be two Infinities, two Ones. If, to make use of
human terms, anything demonstrated to you here below seems to you
infinite, be sure that within it you will find some one aspect of God.
But to continue.
"You have appropriated to yourself a place in the Infinite of Number;
you have fitted it to your own proportions by creating (if indeed you
did create) arithmetic, the basis on which all things rest, even your
societies. Just as Number--the only thing in which your self-styled
atheists believe--organized physical creations, so arithmetic, in the
employ of Number, organized the moral world. This numeration must be
absolute, like all else that is true in itself; but it is purely
relative, it does not exist absolutely, and no proof can be given of
its reality. In the first place, though Numeration is able to take
account of organized substances, it is powerless in relation to
unorganized forces, the ones being finite and the others infinite. The
man who can conceive the Infinite by his intelligence cannot deal with
it in its entirety; if he could, he would be God. Your Numeration,
applying to things finite and not to the Infinite, is therefore true
in relation to the details which you are able to perceive, and false
in relation to the Whole, which you are unable to perceive. Though
Nature is like unto herself in the organizing force or in her
principles which are infinite, she is not so in her finite effects.
Thus you will never find in Nature two objects identically alike. In
the Natural Order two and two never make four; to do so, four exactly
similar units must be had, and you know how impossible it is to find
two leaves alike on the same tree, or two trees alike of the same
species. This axiom of your numeration, false in visible nature, is
equally false in the invisible universe of your abstractions, where
the same variance takes place in your ideas, which are the things of
the visible world extended by means of their relations; so that the
variations here are even more marked than elsewhere. In fact, all
being relative to the temperament, strength, habits, and customs of
individuals, who never resemble each other, the smallest objects take
the color of personal feelings. For instance, man has been able to
create units and to give an equal weight and value to bits of gold.
Well, take the ducat of the rich man and the ducat of the poor man to
a money-changer and they are rated exactly equal, but to the mind of
the thinker one is of greater importance than the other; one
represents a month of comfort, the other an ephemeral caprice. Two and
two, therefore, only make four through a false conception.
"Again: fraction does not exist in Nature, where what you call a
fragment is a finished whole. Does it not often happen (have you not
many proofs of it?) that the hundredth part of a substance is stronger
than what you term the whole of it? If fraction does not exist in the
Natural Order, still less shall we find it in the Moral Order, where
ideas and sentiments may be as varied as the species of the Vegetable
kingdom and yet be always whole. The theory of fractions is therefore
another signal instance of the servility of your mind.
"Thus Number, with its infinite minuteness and its infinite expansion,
is a power whose weakest side is known to you, but whose real import
escapes your perception. You have built yourself a hut in the Infinite
of numbers, you have adorned it with hieroglyphics scientifically
arranged and painted, and you cry out, 'All is here!'
"Let us pass from pure, unmingled Number to corporate Number. Your
geometry establishes that a straight line is the shortest way from one
point to another, but your astronomy proves that God has proceeded by
curves. Here, then, we find two truths equally proved by the same
science,--one by the testimony of your senses reinforced by the
telescope, the other by the testimony of your mind; and yet the one
contradicts the other. Man, liable to err, affirms one, and the Maker
of the worlds, whom, so far, you have not detected in error,
contradicts it. Who shall decide between rectalinear and curvilinear
geometry? between the theory of the straight line and that of the
curve? If, in His vast work, the mysterious Artificer, who knows how
to reach His ends miraculously fast, never employs a straight line
except to cut off an angle and so obtain a curve, neither does man
himself always rely upon it. The bullet which he aims direct proceeds
by a curve, and when you wish to strike a certain point in space, you
impel your bombshell along its cruel parabola. None of your men of
science have drawn from this fact the simple deduction that the Curve
is the law of the material worlds and the Straight line that of the
Spiritual worlds; one is the theory of finite creations, the other the
theory of the infinite. Man, who alone in the world has a knowledge of
the Infinite, can alone know the straight line; he alone has the sense
of verticality placed in a special organ. A fondness for the creations
of the curve would seem to be in certain men an indication of the
impurity of their nature still conjoined to the material substances
which engender us; and the love of great souls for the straight line
seems to show in them an intuition of heaven. Between these two lines
there is a gulf fixed like that between the finite and the infinite,
between matter and spirit, between man and the idea, between motion
and the object moved, between the creature and God. Ask Love the
Divine to grant you his wings and you can cross that gulf. Beyond it
begins the revelation of the Word.
"No part of those things which you call material is without its own
meaning; lines are the boundaries of solid parts and imply a force of
action which you suppress in your formulas,--thus rendering those
formulas false in relation to substances taken as a whole. Hence the
constant destruction of the monuments of human labor, which you
supply, unknown to yourselves, with acting properties. Nature has
substances; your science combines only their appearances. At every
step Nature gives the lie to all your laws. Can you find a single one
that is not disproved by a fact? Your Static laws are at the mercy of
a thousand accidents; a fluid can overthrow a solid mountain and prove
that the heaviest substances may be lifted by one that is
"Your laws on Acoustics and Optics are defied by the sounds which you
hear within yourselves in sleep, and by the light of an electric sun
whose rays often overcome you. You know no more how light makes itself
seen within you, than you know the simple and natural process which
changes it on the throats of tropic birds to rubies, sapphires,
emeralds, and opals, or keeps it gray and brown on the breasts of the
same birds under the cloudy skies of Europe, or whitens it here in the
bosom of our polar Nature. You know not how to decide whether color is
a faculty with which all substances are endowed, or an effect produced
by an effluence of light. You admit the saltness of the sea without
being able to prove that the water is salt at its greatest depth. You
recognize the existence of various substances which span what you
think to be the void,--substances which are not tangible under any of
the forms assumed by Matter, although they put themselves in harmony
with Matter in spite of every obstacle.
"All this being so, you believe in the results of Chemistry, although
that science still knows no way of gauging the changes produced by the
flux and reflux of substances which come and go across your crystals
and your instruments on the impalpable filaments of heat or light
conducted and projected by the affinities of metal or vitrified flint.
You obtain none but dead substances, from which you have driven the
unknown force that holds in check the decomposition of all things here
below, and of which cohesion, attraction, vibration, and polarity are
but phenomena. Life is the thought of substances; bodies are only the
means of fixing life and holding it to its way. If bodies were beings
living of themselves they would be Cause itself, and could not die.
"When a man discovers the results of the general movement, which is
shared by all creations according to their faculty of absorption, you
proclaim him mighty in science, as though genius consisted in
explaining a thing that is! Genius ought to cast its eyes beyond
effects. Your men of science would laugh if you said to them: 'There
exist such positive relations between two human beings, one of whom
may be here, and the other in Java, that they can at the same instant
feel the same sensation, and be conscious of so doing; they can
question each other and reply without mistake'; and yet there are
mineral substances which exhibit sympathies as far off from each other
as those of which I speak. You believe in the power of the electricity
which you find in the magnet and you deny that which emanates from the
soul! According to you, the moon, whose influence upon the tides you
think fixed, has none whatever upon the winds, nor upon navigation,
nor upon men; she moves the sea, but she must not affect the sick
folk; she has undeniable relations with one half of humanity, and
nothing at all to do with the other half. These are your vaunted
"Let us go a step further. You believe in physics. But your physics
begin, like the Catholic religion, with an ACT OF FAITH. Do they not
pre-suppose some external force distinct from substance to which it
communicates motion? You see its effects, but what is it? where is it?
what is the essence of its nature, its life? has it any limits?--and
yet, you deny God!
"Thus, the majority of your scientific axioms, true to their relation
to man, are false in relation to the Great Whole. Science is One, but
you have divided it. To know the real meaning of the laws of phenomena
must we not know the correlations which exist between phenomena and
the law of the Whole? There is, in all things, an appearance which
strikes your senses; under that appearance stirs a soul; a body is
there and a faculty is there. Where do you teach the study of the
relations which bind things to each other? Nowhere. Consequently you
have nothing positive. Your strongest certainties rest upon the
analysis of material forms whose essence you persistently ignore.
"There is a Higher Knowledge of which, too late, some men obtain a
glimpse, though they dare not avow it. Such men comprehend the
necessity of considering substances not merely in their mathematical
properties but also in their entirety, in their occult relations and
affinities. The greatest man among you divined, in his latter days,
that all was reciprocally cause and effect; that the visible worlds
were co-ordinated among themselves and subject to worlds invisible. He
groaned at the recollection of having tried to establish fixed
precepts. Counting up his worlds, like grape-seeds scattered through
ether, he had explained their coherence by the laws of planetary and
molecular attraction. You bowed before that man of science--well! I
tell you that he died in despair. By supposing that the centrifugal
and centripetal forces, which he had invented to explain to himself
the universe, were equal, he stopped the universe; yet he admitted
motion in an indeterminate sense; but supposing those forces unequal,
then utter confusion of the planetary system ensued. His laws
therefore were not absolute; some higher problem existed than the
principle on which his false glory rested. The connection of the stars
with one another and the centripetal action of their internal motion
did not deter him from seeking the parent stalk on which his clusters
hung. Alas, poor man! the more he widened space the heavier his burden
grew. He told you how there came to be equilibrium among the parts,
but whither went the whole? His mind contemplated the vast extent,
illimitable to human eyes, filled with those groups of worlds a mere
fraction of which is all our telescopes can reach, but whose immensity
is revealed by the rapidity of light. This sublime contemplation
enabled him to perceive myriads of worlds, planted in space like
flowers in a field, which are born like infants, grow like men, die as
the aged die, and live by assimilating from their atmosphere the
substances suitable for their nourishment,--having a centre and a
principal of life, guaranteeing to each other their circuits, absorbed
and absorbing like plants, and forming a vast Whole endowed with life
and possessing a destiny.
"At that sight your man of science trembled! He knew that life is
produced by the union of the thing and its principle, that death or
inertia or gravity is produced by a rupture between a thing and the
movement which appertains to it. Then it was that he foresaw the
crumbling of the worlds and their destruction if God should withdraw
the Breath of His Word. He searched the Apocalypse for the traces of
that Word. You thought him mad. Understand him better! He was seeking
pardon for the work of his genius.
"Wilfrid, you have come here hoping to make me solve equations, or
rise upon a rain-cloud, or plunge into the fiord and reappear a swan.
If science or miracles were the end and object of humanity, Moses
would have bequeathed to you the law of fluxions; Jesus Christ would
have lightened the darkness of your sciences; his apostles would have
told you whence come those vast trains of gas and melted metals,
attached to cores which revolve and solidify as they dart through
ether, or violently enter some system and combine with a star,
jostling and displacing it by the shock, or destroying it by the
infiltration of their deadly gases; Saint Paul, instead of telling you
to live in God, would have explained why food is the secret bond among
all creations and the evident tie between all living Species. In these
days the greatest miracle of all would be the discovery of the
squaring of the circle,--a problem which you hold to be insoluble, but
which is doubtless solved in the march of worlds by the intersection
of some mathematical lines whose course is visible to the eye of
spirits who have reached the higher spheres. Believe me, miracles are
in us, not without us. Here natural facts occur which men call
supernatural. God would have been strangely unjust had he confined the
testimony of his power to certain generations and peoples and denied
them to others. The brazen rod belongs to all. Neither Moses, nor
Jacob, nor Zoroaster, nor Paul, nor Pythagoras, nor Swedenborg, not
the humblest Messenger nor the loftiest Prophet of the Most High are
greater than you are capable of being. Only, there come to nations as
to men certain periods when Faith is theirs.
"If material sciences be the end and object of human effort, tell me,
both of you, would societies,--those great centres where men
congregate,--would they perpetually be dispersed? If civilization were
the object of our Species, would intelligence perish? would it
continue purely individual? The grandeur of all nations that were
truly great was based on exceptions; when the exception ceased their
power died. If such were the End-all, Prophets, Seers, and Messengers
of God would have lent their hand to Science rather than have given it
to Belief. Surely they would have quickened your brains sooner than
have touched your hearts! But no; one and all they came to lead the
nations back to God; they proclaimed the sacred Path in simple words
that showed the way to heaven; all were wrapped in love and faith, all
were inspired by that WORD which hovers above the inhabitants of
earth, enfolding them, inspiriting them, uplifting them; none were
prompted by any human interest. Your great geniuses, your poets, your
kings, your learned men are engulfed with their cities; while the
names of these good pastors of humanity, ever blessed, have survived
"Alas! we cannot understand each other on any point. We are separated
by an abyss. You are on the side of darkness, while I--I live in the
light, the true Light! Is this the word that you ask of me? I say it
with joy; it may change you. Know this: there are sciences of matter
and sciences of spirit. There, where you see substances, I see forces
that stretch one toward another with generating power. To me, the
character of bodies is the indication of their principles and the sign
of their properties. Those principles beget affinities which escape
your knowledge, and which are linked to centres. The different species
among which life is distributed are unfailing streams which correspond
unfailingly among themselves. Each has his own vocation. Man is effect
and cause. He is fed, but he feeds in turn. When you call God a
Creator, you dwarf Him. He did not create, as you think He did, plants
or animals or stars. Could He proceed by a variety of means? Must He
not act by unity of composition? Moreover, He gave forth principles to
be developed, according to His universal law, at the will of the
surroundings in which they were placed. Hence a single substance and
motion, a single plant, a single animal, but correlations everywhere.
In fact, all affinities are linked together by contiguous similitudes;
the life of the worlds is drawn toward the centres by famished
aspiration, as you are drawn by hunger to seek food.
"To give you an example of affinities linked to similitudes (a
secondary law on which the creations of your thought are based),
music, that celestial art, is the working out of this principle; for
is it not a complement of sounds harmonized by number? Is not sound a
modification of air, compressed, dilated, echoed? You know the
composition of air,--oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon. As you cannot
obtain sound from the void, it is plain that music and the human voice
are the result of organized chemical substances, which put themselves
in unison with the same substances prepared within you by your
thought, co-ordinated by means of light, the great nourisher of your
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