The Existence of God
Francois de Salignac de La Mothe- Fenelon

Part 1 out of 2

Transcribed by David Price, email



An ancestor of the French divine who under the name of Fenelon has
made for himself a household name in England as in France, was
Bertrand de Salignac, Marquis de la Mothe Fenelon, who in 1572, as
ambassador for France, was charged to soften as much as he could the
resentment of our Queen Elizabeth when news came of the massacre of
St. Bartholomew. Our Fenelon, claimed in brotherhood by Christians
of every denomination, was born nearly eighty years after that time,
at the chateau of Fenelon in Perigord, on the 6th of August, 1651.
To the world he is Fenelon; he was Francois de Salignac de la Mothe
Fenelon to the France of his own time.

Fenelon was taught at home until the age of twelve, then sent to the
University of Cahors, where he began studies that were continued at
Paris in the College du Plessis. There he fastened upon theology,
and there he preached, at the age of fifteen, his first sermon. He
entered next into the seminary of Saint Sulpice, where he took holy
orders in the year 1675, at the age of twenty-four. As a priest,
while true to his own Church, he fastened on Faith, Hope, and
Charity as the abiding forces of religion, and for him also the
greatest of these was Charity.

During the next three years of his life Fenelon was among the young
priests who preached and catechised in the church of St. Sulpice and
laboured in the parish. He wrote for St. Sulpice Litanies of the
Infant Jesus, and had thought of going out as missionary to the
Levant. The Archbishop of Paris, however, placed him at the head of
a community of "New Catholics," whose function was to confirm new
converts in their faith, and help to bring into the fold those who
appeared willing to enter. Fenelon took part also in some of the
Conferences on Scripture that were held at Saint Germain and
Versailles between 1672 and 1685. In 1681 an uncle, who was Bishop
of Sarlat, resigned in Fenelon's favour the Deanery of Carenas,
which produced an annual income of three or four thousand livres.
It was while he held this office that Fenelon published a book on
the "Education of Girls," at the request of the Duchess of
Beauvilliers, who asked for guidance in the education of her

Fenelon sought the friendship of Bossuet, who revised for him his
next book, a "Refutation of the System of Malebranche concerning
Nature and Grace." His next book, written just before the
Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, opposed the lawfulness of
the ministrations of the Protestant clergy; and after the Edict,
Fenelon was, on the recommendation of Bossuet, placed at the head of
the Catholic mission to Poitou. He brought to his work of
conversion or re-conversion Charity, and a spirit of concession that
brought on him the attacks of men unlike in temper.

When Louis XIV. placed his grandson, the young Duke of Burgundy,
under the care of the Duke of Beauvilliers, the Duke of Beauvilliers
chose Fenelon for teacher of the pupil who was heir presumptive to
the throne. Fenelon's "Fables" were written as part of his
educational work. He wrote also for the young Duke of Burgundy his
"Telemaque"--used only in MS.--and his "Dialogues of the Dead."
While thus living in high favour at Court, Fenelon sought nothing
for himself or his friends, although at times he was even in want of
money. In 1693--as preceptor of a royal prince rather than as
author--Fenelon was received into the French Academy. In 1694
Fenelon was made Abbot of Saint-Valery, and at the end of that year
he wrote an anonymous letter to Louis XIV. upon wrongful wars and
other faults committed in his reign. A copy of it has been found in
Fenelon's handwriting. The king may not have read it, or may not
have identified the author, who was not stayed by it from promotion
in February of the next year (1695) to the Archbishopric of Cambray.
He objected that the holding of this office was inconsistent with
his duties as preceptor of the King's grandchildren. Louis replied
that he could live at Court only for three months in the year, and
during the other nine direct the studies of his pupils from Cambray.

Bossuet took part in the consecration of his friend Fenelon as
Archbishop of Cambray; but after a time division of opinion arose.
Jeanne Marie Bouvier de la Mothe Guyon became in 1676 a widow at the
age of twenty-eight, with three children, for whose maintenance she
gave up part of her fortune, and she then devoted herself to the
practice and the preaching of a spiritual separation of the soul
from earthly cares, and rest in God. She said with Galahad, "If I
lose myself, I save myself." Her enthusiasm for a pure ideal,
joined to her eloquence, affected many minds. It provoked
opposition in the Church and in the Court, which was for the most
part gross and self-seeking. Madame Guyon was attacked, even
imprisoned. Fenelon felt the charm of her spiritual aspiration,
and, without accepting its form, was her defender. Bossuet attacked
her views. Fenelon published "Maxims of the Saints on the Interior
Life." Bossuet wrote on "The States of Prayer." These were the
rival books in a controversy about what was called "Quietism."
Bossuet afterwards wrote a "Relation sur le Quietisme," of which
Fenelon's copy, charged with his own marginal comments, is in the
British Museum. In March, 1699, the Pope finally decided against
Fenelon, and condemned his "Maxims of the Saints." Fenelon read
from his pulpit the brief of condemnation, accepted the decision of
the Pope, and presented to his church a piece of gold plate, on
which the Angel of Truth was represented trampling many errors under
foot, and among them his own "Maxims of the Saints." At Court,
Fenelon was out of favour. "Telemaque," written for the young Duke
of Burgundy, had not been published; but a copy having been obtained
through a servant, it was printed, and its ideal of a true king and
a true Court was so unlike his Majesty Louis XIV. and the Court of
France, and the image of what ought not to be was so like what was,
that it was resented as a libel. "Telemaque" was publicly
condemned; Fenelon was banished from Court, and restrained within
the limits of his diocese. Though separated from his pupil, the
young Duke of Burgundy (who died in 1712), Fenelon retained his
pupil's warm affection. The last years of his own life Fenelon gave
to his work in Cambray, until his death on the 7th of January, 1715.
He wrote many works, of which this is one, and they have been
collected into twenty volumes. The translation here given was
anonymous, and was first published in the year 1713.

H. M.


SECTION I. Metaphysical Proofs of the Existence of God are not
within Everybody's reach.

I cannot open my eyes without admiring the art that shines
throughout all nature; the least cast suffices to make me perceive
the Hand that makes everything.

Men accustomed to meditate upon metaphysical truths, and to trace up
things to their first principles, may know the Deity by its idea;
and I own that is a sure way to arrive at the source of all truth.
But the more direct and short that way is, the more difficult and
unpassable it is for the generality of mankind who depend on their
senses and imagination.

An ideal demonstration is so simple, that through its very
simplicity it escapes those minds that are incapable of operations
purely intellectual. In short, the more perfect is the way to find
the First Being, the fewer men there are that are capable to follow

SECT. II. Moral Proofs of the Existence of God are fitted to every
man's capacity.

But there is a less perfect way, level to the meanest capacity. Men
the least exercised in reasoning, and the most tenacious of the
prejudices of the senses, may yet with one look discover Him who has
drawn Himself in all His works. The wisdom and power He has stamped
upon everything He has made are seen, as it were, in a glass by
those that cannot contemplate Him in His own idea. This is a
sensible and popular philosophy, of which any man free from passion
and prejudice is capable. Humana autem anima rationalis est, quae
mortalibus peccati poena tenebatur, ad hoc diminutionis redacta ut
per conjecturas rerum visibilium ad intelligenda invisibilia
niteretur; that is, "The human soul is still rational, but in such a
manner that, being by the punishment of sin detained in the bonds of
death, it is so far reduced that it can only endeavour to arrive at
the knowledge of things invisible through the visible."

SECT. III. Why so few Persons are attentive to the Proofs Nature
affords of the Existence of God.

If a great number of men of subtle and penetrating wit have not
discovered God with one cast of the eye upon nature, it is not
matter of wonder; for either the passions they have been tossed by
have still rendered them incapable of any fixed reflection, or the
false prejudices that result from passions have, like a thick cloud,
interposed between their eyes and that noble spectacle. A man
deeply concerned in an affair of great importance, that should take
up all the attention of his mind, might pass several days in a room
treating about his concerns without taking notice of the proportions
of the chamber, the ornaments of the chimney, and the pictures about
him, all which objects would continually be before his eyes, and yet
none of them make any impression upon him. In this manner it is
that men spend their lives; everything offers God to their sight,
and yet they see it nowhere. "He was in the world, and the world
was made by Him, and nevertheless the world did not know Him"--In
mundo erat, et mundus per ipsum factus est, et mundus eum non
cognovit. They pass away their lives without perceiving that
sensible representation of the Deity. Such is the fascination of
worldly trifles that obscures their eyes! Fascinatio nugacitatis
obscurat bona. Nay, oftentimes they will not so much as open them,
but rather affect to keep them shut, lest they should find Him they
do not look for. In short, what ought to help most to open their
eyes serves only to close them faster; I mean the constant duration
and regularity of the motions which the Supreme Wisdom has put in
the universe. St. Austin tells us those great wonders have been
debased by being constantly renewed; and Tully speaks exactly in the
same manner. "By seeing every day the same things, the mind grows
familiar with them as well as the eyes. It neither admires nor
inquires into the causes of effects that are ever seen to happen in
the same manner, as if it were the novelty, and not the importance
of the thing itself, that should excite us to such an inquiry." Sed
assiduitate quotidiana et consuetudine oculorum assuescunt animi,
neque admirantur neque requirunt rationes earum rerum, quas semper
vident, perinde quasi novit as nos magis quam magnitudo rerum debeat
ad exquirendas causas excitare.

SECT. IV. All Nature shows the Existence of its Maker.

But, after all, whole nature shows the infinite art of its Maker.
When I speak of an art, I mean a collection of proper means chosen
on purpose to arrive at a certain end; or, if you please, it is an
order, a method, an industry, or a set design. Chance, on the
contrary, is a blind and necessary cause, which neither sets in
order nor chooses anything, and which has neither will nor
understanding. Now I maintain that the universe bears the character
and stamp of a cause infinitely powerful and industrious; and, at
the same time, that chance (that is, the blind and fortuitous
concourse of causes necessary and void of reason) cannot have formed
this universe. To this purpose it is not amiss to call to mind the
celebrated comparisons of the ancients.

SECT. V. Noble Comparisons proving that Nature shows the Existence
of its Maker. First Comparison, drawn from Homer's "Iliad."

Who will believe that so perfect a poem as Homer's "Iliad" was not
the product of the genius of a great poet, and that the letters of
the alphabet, being confusedly jumbled and mixed, were by chance, as
it were by the cast of a pair of dice, brought together in such an
order as is necessary to describe, in verses full of harmony and
variety, so many great events; to place and connect them so well
together; to paint every object with all its most graceful, most
noble, and most affecting attendants; in short, to make every person
speak according to his character in so natural and so forcible a
manner? Let people argue and subtilise upon the matter as much as
they please, yet they never will persuade a man of sense that the
"Iliad" was the mere result of chance. Cicero said the same in
relation to Ennius's "Annals;" adding that chance could never make
one single verse, much less a whole poem. How then can a man of
sense be induced to believe, with respect to the universe, a work
beyond contradiction more wonderful than the "Iliad," what his
reason will never suffer him to believe in relation to that poem?
Let us attend another comparison, which we owe to St. Gregory

SECT. VI. Second Comparison, drawn from the Sound of Instruments.

If we heard in a room, from behind a curtain, a soft and harmonious
instrument, should we believe that chance, without the help of any
human hand, could have formed such an instrument? Should we say
that the strings of a violin, for instance, had of their own accord
ranged and extended themselves on a wooden frame, whose several
parts had glued themselves together to form a cavity with regular
apertures? Should we maintain that the bow formed without art
should be pushed by the wind to touch every string so variously, and
with such nice justness? What rational man could seriously
entertain a doubt whether a human hand touched such an instrument
with so much harmony? Would he not cry out, "It is a masterly hand
that plays upon it?" Let us proceed to inculcate the same truth.

SECT. VII. Third Comparison, drawn from a Statue.

If a man should find in a desert island a fine statue of marble, he
would undoubtedly immediately say, "Sure, there have been men here
formerly; I perceive the workmanship of a skilful statuary; I admire
with what niceness he has proportioned all the limbs of this body,
in order to give them so much beauty, gracefulness, majesty, life,
tenderness, motion, and action!"

What would such a man answer if anybody should tell him, "That's
your mistake; a statuary never carved that figure. It is made, I
confess, with an excellent gusto, and according to the rules of
perfection; but yet it is chance alone made it. Among so many
pieces of marble there was one that formed itself of its own accord
in this manner; the rains and winds have loosened it from the
mountains; a violent storm has thrown it plumb upright on this
pedestal, which had prepared itself to support it in this place. It
is a perfect Apollo, like that of Belvedere; a Venus that equals
that of the Medicis; an Hercules, like that of Farnese. You would
think, it is true, that this figure walks, lives, thinks, and is
just going to speak. But, however, it is not in the least beholden
to art; and it is only a blind stroke of chance that has thus so
well finished and placed it."

SECT. VIII. Fourth Comparison, drawn from a Picture.

If a man had before his eyes a fine picture, representing, for
example, the passage of the Red Sea, with Moses, at whose voice the
waters divide themselves, and rise like two walls to let the
Israelites pass dryfoot through the deep, he would see, on the one
side, that innumerable multitude of people, full of confidence and
joy, lifting up their hands to heaven; and perceive, on the other
side, King Pharaoh with the Egyptians frighted and confounded at the
sight of the waves that join again to swallow them up. Now, in good
earnest, who would be so bold as to affirm that a chambermaid,
having by chance daubed that piece of cloth, the colours had of
their own accord ranged themselves in order to produce that lively
colouring, those various attitudes, those looks so well expressing
different passions, that elegant disposition of so many figures
without confusion, that decent plaiting of draperies, that
management of lights, that degradation of colours, that exact
perspective--in short, all that the noblest genius of a painter can
invent? If there were no more in the case than a little foam at the
mouth of a horse, I own, as the story goes, and which I readily
allow without examining into it, that a stroke of a pencil thrown in
a pet by a painter might once in many ages happen to express it
well. But, at least, the painter must beforehand have, with design,
chosen the most proper colours to represent that foam, in order to
prepare them at the end of his pencil; and, therefore, it were only
a little chance that had finished what art had begun. Besides, this
work of art and chance together being only a little foam, a confused
object, and so most proper to credit a stroke of chance--an object
without form, that requires only a little whitish colour dropped
from a pencil, without any exact figure or correction of design.
What comparison is there between that foam with a whole design of a
large continued history, in which the most fertile fancy and the
boldest genius, supported by the perfect knowledge of rules, are
scarce sufficient to perform what makes an excellent picture? I
cannot prevail with myself to leave these instances without desiring
the reader to observe that the most rational men are naturally
extreme loath to think that beasts have no manner of understanding,
and are mere machines. Now, whence proceeds such an invincible
averseness to that opinion in so many men of sense? It is because
they suppose, with reason, that motions so exact, and according to
the rules of perfect mechanism, cannot be made without some
industry; and that artless matter alone cannot perform what argues
so much knowledge. Hence it appears that sound reason naturally
concludes that matter alone cannot, either by the simple laws of
motion, or by the capricious strokes of chance, make even animals
that are mere machines. Those philosophers themselves, who will not
allow beasts to have any reasoning faculty, cannot avoid
acknowledging that what they suppose to be blind and artless in
these machines is yet full of wisdom and art in the First Mover, who
made their springs and regulated their movements. Thus the most
opposite philosophers perfectly agree in acknowledging that matter
and chance cannot, without the help of art, produce all we observe
in animals.

SECT. IX. A Particular Examination of Nature.

After these comparisons, about which I only desire the reader to
consult himself, without any argumentation, I think it is high time
to enter into a detail of Nature. I do not pretend to penetrate
through the whole; who is able to do it? Neither do I pretend to
enter into any physical discussion. Such way of reasoning requires
a certain deep knowledge, which abundance of men of wit and sense
never acquired; and, therefore, I will offer nothing to them but the
simple prospect of the face of Nature. I will entertain them with
nothing but what everybody knows, and which requires only a little
calm and serious attention.

SECT. X. Of the General Structure of the Universe.

Let us, in the first place, stop at the great object that first
strikes our sight, I mean the general structure of the universe.
Let us cast our eyes on this earth that bears us. Let us look on
that vast arch of the skies that covers us; those immense regions of
air, and depths of water that surround us; and those bright stars
that light us. A man who lives without reflecting thinks only on
the parts of matter that are near him, or have any relation to his
wants. He only looks upon the earth as on the floor of his chamber,
and on the sun that lights him in the daytime as on the candle that
lights him in the night. His thoughts are confined within the place
he inhabits. On the contrary, a man who is used to contemplate and
reflect carries his looks further, and curiously considers the
almost infinite abysses that surround him on all sides. A large
kingdom appears then to him but a little corner of the earth; the
earth itself is no more to his eyes than a point in the mass of the
universe; and he admires to see himself placed in it, without
knowing which way he came there.

SECT. XI. Of the Earth.

Who is it that hung and poised this motionless globe of the earth?
Who laid its foundation? Nothing seems more vile and contemptible;
for the meanest wretches tread it under foot; but yet it is in order
to possess it that we part with the greatest treasures. If it were
harder than it is, man could not open its bosom to cultivate it; and
if it were less hard it could not bear them, and they would sink
everywhere as they do in sand, or in a bog. It is from the
inexhaustible bosom of the earth we draw what is most precious.
That shapeless, vile, and rude mass assumes the most various forms;
and yields alone, by turns, all the goods we can desire. That dirty
soil transforms itself into a thousand fine objects that charm the
eye. In the compass of one year it turns into branches, twigs,
buds, leaves, blossoms, fruits, and seeds, in order, by those
various shapes, to multiply its liberalities to mankind. Nothing
exhausts the earth; the more we tear her bowels the more she is
liberal. After so many ages, during which she has produced
everything, she is not yet worn out. She feels no decay from old
age, and her entrails still contain the same treasures. A thousand
generations have passed away, and returned into her bosom.
Everything grows old, she alone excepted: for she grows young again
every year in the spring. She is never wanting to men; but foolish
men are wanting to themselves in neglecting to cultivate her. It is
through their laziness and extravagance they suffer brambles and
briars to grow instead of grapes and corn. They contend for a good
they let perish. The conquerors leave uncultivated the ground for
the possession of which they have sacrificed the lives of so many
thousand men, and have spent their own in hurry and trouble. Men
have before them vast tracts of land uninhabited and uncultivated;
and they turn mankind topsy-turvy for one nook of that neglected
ground in dispute. The earth, if well cultivated, would feed a
hundred times more men than now she does. Even the unevenness of
ground which at first seems to be a defect turns either into
ornament or profit. The mountains arose and the valleys descended
to the place the Lord had appointed for them. Those different
grounds have their particular advantages, according to the divers
aspects of the sun. In those deep valleys grow fresh and tender
grass to feed cattle. Next to them opens a vast champaign covered
with a rich harvest. Here, hills rise like an amphitheatre, and are
crowned with vineyards and fruit trees. There high mountains carry
aloft their frozen brows to the very clouds, and the torrents that
run down from them become the springs of rivers. The rocks that
show their craggy tops bear up the earth of mountains just as the
bones bear up the flesh in human bodies. That variety yields at
once a ravishing prospect to the eye, and, at the same time,
supplies the divers wants of man. There is no ground so barren but
has some profitable property. Not only black and fertile soil but
even clay and gravel recompense a man's toil. Drained morasses
become fruitful; sand for the most part only covers the surface of
the earth; and when, the husbandman has the patience to dig deeper
he finds a new ground that grows fertile as fast as it is turned and
exposed to the rays of the sun.

There is scarce any spot of ground absolutely barren if a man do not
grow weary of digging, and turning it to the enlivening sun, and if
he require no more from it than it is proper to bear, amidst stones
and rocks there is sometimes excellent pasture; and their cavities
have veins, which, being penetrated by the piercing rays of the sun,
furnish plants with most savoury juices for the feeding of herds and
flocks. Even sea-coasts that seem to be the most sterile and wild
yield sometimes either delicious fruits or most wholesome medicines
that are wanting in the most fertile countries. Besides, it is the
effect of a wise over-ruling providence that no land yields all that
is useful to human life. For want invites men to commerce, in order
to supply one another's necessities. It is therefore that want that
is the natural tie of society between nations: otherwise all the
people of the earth would be reduced to one sort of food and
clothing; and nothing would invite them to know and visit one

SECT. XII. Of Plants.

All that the earth produces being corrupted, returns into her bosom,
and becomes the source of a new production. Thus she resumes all
she has given in order to give it again. Thus the corruption of
plants, and the excrements of the animals she feeds, feed her, and
improve her fertility. Thus, the more she gives the more she
resumes; and she is never exhausted, provided they who cultivate her
restore to her what she has given. Everything comes from her bosom,
everything returns to it, and nothing is lost in it. Nay, all seeds
multiply there. If, for instance, you trust the earth with some
grains of corn, as they corrupt they germinate and spring; and that
teeming parent restores with usury more ears than she had received
grains. Dig into her entrails, you will find in them stone and
marble for the most magnificent buildings. But who is it that has
laid up so many treasures in her bosom, upon condition that they
should continually produce themselves anew? Behold how many
precious and useful metals; how many minerals designed for the
conveniency of man!

Admire the plants that spring from the earth: they yield food for
the healthy, and remedies for the sick. Their species and virtues
are innumerable. They deck the earth, yield verdure, fragrant
flowers, and delicious fruits. Do you see those vast forests that
seem as old as the world? Those trees sink into the earth by their
roots, as deep as their branches shoot up to the sky. Their roots
defend them against the winds, and fetch up, as it were by
subterranean pipes, all the juices destined to feed the trunk. The
trunk itself is covered with a tough bark that shelters the tender
wood from the injuries of the air. The branches distribute by
several pipes the sap which the roots had gathered up in the trunk.
In summer the boughs protect us with their shadow against the
scorching rays of the sun. In winter, they feed the fire that
preserves in us natural heat. Nor is burning the only use wood is
fit for; it is a soft though solid and durable matter, to which the
hand of man gives, with ease, all the forms he pleases for the
greatest works of architecture and navigation. Moreover, fruit
trees by bending their boughs towards the earth seem to offer their
crop to man. The trees and plants, by letting their fruit or seed
drop down, provide for a numerous posterity about them. The
tenderest plant, the least of herbs and pulse are, in little, in a
small seed, all that is displayed in the highest plants and largest
tree. Earth that never changes produces all those alterations in
her bosom.

SECT. XIII. Of Water.

Let us now behold what we call water. It is a liquid, clear, and
transparent body. On the one hand it flows, slips, and runs away;
and on the other it assumes all the forms of the bodies that
surround it, having properly none of its own. If water were more
rarefied, or thinner, it would be a kind of air; and so the whole
surface of the earth would be dry and sterile. There would be none
but volatiles; no living creature could swim; no fish could live;
nor would there be any traffic by navigation. What industrious and
sagacious hand has found means to thicken the water, by subtilising
the air, and so well to distinguish those two sorts of fluid bodies?
If water were somewhat more rarefied, it could no longer sustain
those prodigious floating buildings, called ships. Bodies that have
the least ponderosity would presently sink under water. Who is it
that took care to frame so just a configuration of parts, and so
exact a degree of motion, as to make water so fluid, so penetrating,
so slippery, so incapable of any consistency: and yet so strong to
bear, and so impetuous to carry off and waft away, the most unwieldy
bodies? It is docile; man leads it about as a rider does a well-
managed horse. He distributes it as he pleases; he raises it to the
top of steep mountains, and makes use of its weight to let it fall,
in order to rise again, as high as it was at first. But man who
leads waters with such absolute command is in his turn led by them.
Water is one of the greatest moving powers that man can employ to
supply his defects in the most necessary arts, either through the
smallness or weakness of his body. But the waters which,
notwithstanding their fluidity, are such ponderous bodies, do
nevertheless rise above our heads, and remain a long while hanging
there. Do you see those clouds that fly, as it were, on the wings
of the winds? If they should fall, on a sudden, in watery pillars,
rapid like a torrent, they would drown and destroy everything where
they should happen to fall, and the other grounds would remain dry.
What hand keeps them in those pendulous reservatories, and permits
them to fall only by drops as if they distilled through a gardener's
watering-pot? Whence comes it that in some hot countries, where
scarce any rain ever falls, the nightly dews are so plentiful that
they supply the want of rain; and that in other countries, such as
the banks of the Nile and Ganges, the regular inundation of rivers,
at certain seasons of the year, never fails to make up what the
inhabitants are deficient in for the watering of the ground? Can
one imagine measures better concerted to render all countries
fertile and fruitful?

Thus water quenches, not only the thirst of men, but likewise of
arid lands: and He who gave us that fluid body has carefully
distributed it throughout the earth, like pipes in a garden. The
waters fall from the tops of mountains where their reservatories are
placed. They gather into rivulets in the bottom of valleys. Rivers
run in winding streams through vast tracts of land, the better to
water them; and, at last, they precipitate themselves into the sea,
in order to make it the centre of commerce for all nations. That
ocean, which seems to be placed in the midst of lands, to make an
eternal separation between them, is, on the contrary, the common
rendezvous of all the people of the earth, who could not go by land
from one end of the world to the other without infinite fatigue,
tedious journeys, and numberless dangers. It is by that trackless
road, across the bottomless deep, that the whole world shakes hands
with the new; and that the new supplies the old with so many
conveniences and riches. The waters, distributed with so much art,
circulate in the earth, just as the blood does in a man's body. But
besides this perpetual circulation of the water, there is besides
the flux and reflux of the sea. Let us not inquire into the causes
of so mysterious an effect. What is certain is that the tide
carries, or brings us back to certain places, at precise hours. Who
is it that makes it withdraw, and then come back with so much
regularity? A little more or less motion in that fluid mass would
disorder all nature; for a little more motion in a tide or flood
would drown whole kingdoms. Who is it that knew how to take such
exact measures in immense bodies? Who is it that knew so well how
to keep a just medium between too much and too little? What hand
has set to the sea the unmovable boundary it must respect through
the series of all ages by telling it: There, thy proud waves shall
come and break? But these waters so fluid become, on a sudden,
during the winter, as hard as rocks. The summits of high mountains
have, even at all times, ice and snow, which are the springs of
rivers, and soaking pasture-grounds render them more fertile. Here
waters are sweet to quench the thirst of man; there they are briny,
and yield a salt that seasons our meat, and makes it incorruptible.
In fine, if I lift up my eyes, I perceive in the clouds that fly
above us a sort of hanging seas that serve to temper the air, break
the fiery rays of the sun, and water the earth when it is too dry.
What hand was able to hang over our heads those great reservatories
of waters? What hand takes care never to let them fall but in
moderate showers?

SECT. XIV. Of the Air.

After having considered the waters, let us now contemplate another
mass yet of far greater extent. Do you see what is called air? It
is a body so pure, so subtle, and so transparent, that the rays of
the stars, seated at a distance almost infinite from us, pierce
quite through it, without difficulty, and in an instant, to light
our eyes. Had this fluid body been a little less subtle, it would
either have intercepted the day from us, or at most would have left
us but a duskish and confused light, just as when the air is filled
with thick fogs. We live plunged in abysses of air, as fishes do in
abysses of water. As the water, if it were subtilised, would become
a kind of air, which would occasion the death of fishes, so the air
would deprive us of breath if it should become more humid and
thicker. In such a case we should drown in the waves of that
thickened air, just as a terrestrial animal drowns in the sea. Who
is it that has so nicely purified that air we breathe? If it were
thicker it would stifle us; and if it were too subtle it would want
that softness which continually feeds the vitals of man. We should
be sensible everywhere of what we experience on the top of the
highest mountains, where the air is so thin that it yields no
sufficient moisture and nourishment for the lungs. But what
invisible power raises and lays so suddenly the storms of that great
fluid body, of which those of the sea are only consequences? From
what treasury come forth the winds that purify the air, cool
scorching heats, temper the sharpness of winter, and in an instant
change the whole face of heaven? On the wings of those winds the
clouds fly from one end of the horizon to the other. It is known
that certain winds blow in certain seas, at some stated seasons.
They continue a fixed time, and others succeed them, as it were on
purpose, to render navigation both commodious and regular: so that
if men are but as patient, and as punctual as the winds, they may,
with ease, perform the longest voyages.

SECT. XV. Of Fire.

Do you see that fire that seems kindled in the stars, and spreads
its light on all sides? Do you see that flame which certain
mountains vomit up, and which the earth feeds with sulphur within
its entrails? That same fire peaceably lurks in the veins of
flints, and expects to break out, till the collision of another body
excites it to shock cities and mountains. Man has found the way to
kindle it, and apply it to all his uses, both to bend the hardest
metals, and to feed with wood, even in the most frozen climes, a
flame that serves him instead of the sun, when the sun removes from
him. That subtle flame glides and penetrates into all seeds. It
is, as it were, the soul of all living things; it consumes all that
is impure, and renews what it has purified. Fire lends its force
and activity to weak men. It blows up, on a sudden, buildings and
rocks. But have we a mind to confine it to a more moderate use? It
warms man, and makes all sorts of food fit for his eating. The
ancients, in admiration of fire, believed it to be a celestial gift,
which man had stolen from the gods.

SECT. XVI. Of Heaven.

It is time to lift up our eyes to heaven. What power has built over
our heads so vast and so magnificent an arch? What a stupendous
variety of admirable objects is here? It is, no doubt, to present
us with a noble spectacle that an Omnipotent Hand has set before our
eyes so great and so bright objects. It is in order to raise our
admiration of heaven, says Tully, that God made man unlike the rest
of animals. He stands upright, and lifts up his head, that he may
be employed about the things that were above him. Sometimes we see
a duskish azure sky, where the purest fires twinkle. Sometimes we
behold, in a temperate heaven, the softest colours mixed with such
variety as it is not in the power of painting to imitate. Sometimes
we see clouds of all shapes and figures, and of all the brightest
colours, which every moment shift that beautiful decoration by the
finest accidents and various effects of light. What does the
regular succession of day and night denote? For so many ages as are
past the sun never failed serving men, who cannot live without it.
Many thousand years are elapsed, and the dawn never once missed
proclaiming the approach of the day. It always begins precisely at
a certain moment and place. The sun, says the holy writ, knows
where it shall set every day. By that means it lights, by turns,
the two hemispheres, or sides of the earth, and visits all those for
whom its beams are designed. The day is the time for society and
labour; the night, wrapping up the earth with its shadow, ends, in
its turn, all manner of fatigue and alleviates the toil of the day.
It suspends and quiets all; and spreads silence and sleep
everywhere. By refreshing the bodies it renews the spirits. Soon
after day returns to summon again man to labour and revive all

SECT. XVII. Of the Sun.

But besides the constant course by which the sun forms days and
nights it makes us sensible of another, by which for the space of
six months it approaches one of the poles, and at the end of those
six months goes back with equal speed to visit the other pole. This
excellent order makes one sun sufficient for the whole earth. If it
were of a larger size at the same distance, it would set the whole
globe on fire and the earth would be burnt to ashes; and if, at the
same distance, it were lesser, the earth would be all over frozen
and uninhabitable. Again, if in the same magnitude it were nearer
us, it would set us in flames; and if more remote, we should not be
able to live on the terrestrial globe for want of heat. What pair
of compasses, whose circumference encircles both heaven and earth,
has fixed such just dimensions? That star does no less befriend
that part of the earth from which it removes, in order to temper it,
than that it approaches to favour it with its beams. Its kind,
beneficent aspect fertilises all it shines upon. This change
produces that of the seasons, whose variety is so agreeable. The
spring silences bleak frosty winds, brings forth blossoms and
flowers, and promises fruits. The summer yields rich harvests. The
autumn bestows the fruits promised by the spring. The winter, which
is a kind of night wherein man refreshes and rests himself, lays up
all the treasures of the earth in its centre with no other design
but that the next spring may display them with all the graces of
novelty. Thus nature, variously attired, yields so many fine
prospects that she never gives man leisure to be disgusted with what
he possesses.

But how is it possible for the course of the sun to be so regular?
It appears that star is only a globe of most subtle flame. Now,
what is it that keeps that flame, so restless and so impetuous,
within the exact bounds of a perfect globe? What hand leads that
flame in so strait a way and never suffers it to slip one side or
other? That flame is held by nothing, and there is no body that can
either guide it or keep it under; for it would soon consume whatever
body it should be enclosed in. Whither is it going? Who has taught
it incessantly and so regularly to turn in a space where it is free
and unconstrained? Does it not circulate about us on purpose to
serve us? Now if this flame does not turn, and if on the contrary
it is our earth that turns, I would fain know how it comes to be so
well placed in the centre of the universe, as it were the focus or
the heart of all nature. I would fain know also how it comes to
pass that a globe of so subtle matter never slips on any side in
that immense space that surrounds it, and wherein it seems to stand
with reason that all fluid bodies ought to yield to the impetuosity
of that flame.

In fine, I would fain know how it comes to pass that the globe of
the earth, which is so very hard, turns so regularly about that
planet in a space where no solid body keeps it fast to regulate its
course. Let men with the help of physics contrive the most
ingenious reasons to explain this phenomenon; all their arguments,
supposing them to be true, will become proofs of the Deity. The
more the great spring that directs the machine of the universe is
exact, simple, constant, certain, and productive of abundance of
useful effects, the more it is plain that a most potent and most
artful hand knew how to pitch upon the spring which is the most
perfect of all.

SECT. XVIII. Of the Stars.

But let us once more view that immense arched roof where the stars
shine, and which covers our heads like a canopy. If it be a solid
vault, what architect built it? Who is it that has fixed so many
great luminous bodies to certain places of that arch and at certain
distances? Who is it that makes that vault turn so regularly about
us? If on the contrary the skies are only immense spaces full of
fluid bodies, like the air that surrounds us, how comes it to pass
that so many solid bodies float in them without ever sinking or ever
coming nearer one another? For all astronomical observations that
have been made in so many ages not the least disorder or irregular
motion has yet been discovered in the heavens. Will a fluid body
range in such constant and regular order bodies that swim circularly
within its sphere? But what does that almost innumerable multitude
of stars mean? The profusion with which the hand of God has
scattered them through His work shows nothing is difficult to His
power. He has cast them about the skies as a magnificent prince
either scatters money by handfuls or studs his clothes with precious
stones. Let who will say, if he pleases, that the stars are as many
worlds like the earth we inhabit; I grant it for one moment; but
then, how potent and wise must He be who makes worlds as numberless
as the grains of sand that cover the sea-shore, and who, without any
trouble, for so many ages governs all these wandering worlds as a
shepherd does a flock of sheep? If on the contrary they are only,
as it were, lighted torches to shine in our eyes in this small globe
called earth, how great is that power which nothing can fatigue,
nothing can exhaust? What a profuse liberality it is to give man in
this little corner of the universe so marvellous a spectacle!

But among those stars I perceive the moon, which seems to share with
the sun the care and office of lighting us. She appears at set
times with all the other stars, when the sun is obliged to go and
carry back the day to the other hemisphere. Thus night itself,
notwithstanding its darkness, has a light, duskish indeed, but soft
and useful. That light is borrowed from the sun, though absent:
and thus everything is managed with such excellent art in the
universe that a globe near the earth, and as dark as she of itself,
serves, nevertheless, to send back to her, by reflection, the rays
it receives from the sun; and that the sun lights by means of the
moon the people that cannot see him while he must light others.

It may be said that the motion of the stars is settled and regulated
by unchangeable laws. I suppose it is; but this very supposition
proves what I labour to evince. Who is it that has given to all
nature laws at once so constant and so wholesome, laws so very
simple, that one is tempted to believe they establish themselves of
their own accord, and so productive of beneficial and useful effects
that one cannot avoid acknowledging a marvellous art in them?
Whence proceeds the government of that universal machine which
incessantly works for us without so much as our thinking upon it?
To whom shall we ascribe the choice and gathering of so many deep
and so well conceited springs, and of so many bodies, great and
small, visible and invisible, which equally concur to serve us? The
least atom of this machine that should happen to be out of order
would unhinge all nature. For the springs and movements of a watch
are not put together with so much art and niceness as those of the
universe. What then must be a design so extensive, so coherent, so
excellent, so beneficial? The necessity of those laws, instead of
deterring me from inquiring into their author, does but heighten my
curiosity and admiration. Certainly, it required a hand equally
artful and powerful to put in His work an order equally simple and
teeming, constant and useful. Wherefore I will not scruple to say
with the Scripture, "Let every star haste to go whither the Lord
sends it; and when He speaks let them answer with trembling, Here we
are," Ecce adsumus.

SECT. XIX. Of Animals, Beasts, Fowl, Birds, Fishes, Reptiles, and

But let us turn our eyes towards animals, which still are more
worthy of admiration than either the skies or stars. Their species
are numberless. Some have but two feet, others four, others again a
great many. Some walk; others crawl, or creep; others fly; others
swim; others fly, walk, or swim, by turns. The wings of birds, and
the fins of fishes, are like oars, that cut the waves either of air
or water, and steer the floating body either of the bird, or fish,
whose structure is like that of a ship. But the pinions of birds
have feathers with a down, that swells in the air, and which would
grow unwieldy in the water. And, on the contrary, the fins of
fishes have sharp and dry points, which cut the water, without
imbibing it, and which do not grow heavier by being wet. A sort of
fowl that swim, such as swans, keep their wings and most of their
feathers above water, both lest they should wet them and that they
may serve them, as it were, for sails. They have the art to turn
those feathers against the wind, and, in a manner, to tack, as ships
do when the wind does not serve. Water-fowls, such as ducks, have
at their feet large skins that stretch, somewhat like rackets, to
keep them from sinking on the oozy and miry banks of rivers.

Amongst the animals, wild beasts, such as lions, have their biggest
muscles about the shoulders, thighs, and legs; and therefore these
animals are nimble, brisk, nervous, and ready to rush forward.
Their jaw-bones are prodigiously large, in proportion to the rest of
their bodies. They have teeth and claws, which serve them, as
terrible weapons, to tear in pieces and devour other animals. For
the same reason, birds of prey, such as eagles, have a beak and
pounces that pierce everything. The muscles of their pinions are
extreme large and brawny, that their wings may have a stronger and
more rapid motion: and so those creatures, though somewhat heavy,
soar aloft and tower up easily to the very clouds, from whence they
shoot, like a thunderbolt, on the quarry they have in view. Other
animals have horns. The greatest strength of some lies in their
backs and necks; and others can only kick. Every species, however,
has both offensive and defensive arms. Their hunting is a kind of
war, which they wage one against another, for the necessities of
life. They have also laws and a government among themselves. Some,
like tortoises, carry the house wherein they were born; others build
theirs, as birds do, on the highest branches of trees, to preserve
their young from the insult of unwinged creatures, and they even lay
their nests in the thickest boughs to hide them from their enemies.
Another, such as the beaver, builds in the very bottom of a pond the
sanctuary he prepares for himself, and knows how to cast up dikes
around it, to preserve himself by the neighbouring inundation.
Another, like a mole, has so pointed and so sharp a snout, that in
one moment he pierces through the hardest ground in order to provide
for himself a subterranean retreat. The cunning fox digs a kennel
with two holes to go out and come in at, that he may not be either
surprised or trapped by the huntsmen. The reptiles are of another
make. They curl, wind, shrink, and stretch by the springs of their
muscles; they creep, twist about, squeeze, and hold fast the bodies
they meet in their way; and easily slide everywhere. Their organs
are almost independent one on the other; so that they still live
when they are cut into two. The long-legged birds, says Cicero, are
also long-necked in proportion, that they may bring down their bill
to the ground, and take up their food. It is the same with the
camel; but the elephant, whose neck through its bigness would be too
heavy if it were as long as that of the camel, was furnished with a
trunk, which is a contexture of nerves and muscles, which he
stretches, shrinks, winds, and turns every way, to seize on bodies,
lift them up, or throw them off: for which reason the Latins called
that trunk a hand.

Certain animals seem to be made on purpose for man. The dog is born
to caress and fawn upon him; to obey and be under command; to give
him an agreeable image of society, friendship, fidelity, and
tenderness; to be true to his trust; eagerly to hunt down, course,
and catch several other creatures, to leave them afterwards to man,
without retaining any part of the quarry. The horse, and such other
animals, are within the reach and power of man; to ease him of his
labour, and to take upon them a thousand burdens. They are born to
carry, to walk, to supply man's weakness, and to obey all his
motions. Oxen are endowed with strength and patience, in order to
draw the plough and till the ground. Cows yield streams of milk.
Sheep have in their fleeces a superfluity which is not for them, and
which still grows and renews, as it were to invite men to shear them
every year. Even goats furnish man with a long hair, for which they
have no use, and of which he makes stuffs to cover himself. The
skins of some beasts supply men with the finest and best linings, in
the countries that are most remote from the sun.

Thus the Author of nature has clothed beasts according to their
necessities; and their spoils serve afterwards to clothe men, and
keep them warm in those frozen climes. The living creatures that
have little or no hair have a very thick and very hard skin, like
scales; others have even scales that cover one another, as tiles on
the top of a house, and which either open or shut, as it best suits
with the living creature, either to extend itself or shrink. These
skins and scales serve the necessities of men: and thus in nature,
not only plants but animals also are made for our use. Wild beasts
themselves either grow tame or, at least, are afraid of man. If all
countries were peopled and governed as they ought to be, there would
not be anywhere beasts should attack men. For no wild beasts would
be found but in remote forests, and they would be preserved in order
to exercise the courage, strength, and dexterity of mankind, by a
sport that should represent war; so that there never would be any
occasion for real wars among nations. But observe that living
creatures that are noxious to man are the least teeming, and that
the most useful multiply most. There are, beyond comparison, more
oxen and sheep killed than bears or wolves; and nevertheless the
number of bears and wolves is infinitely less than that of oxen and
sheep still on earth. Observe likewise, with Cicero, that the
females of every species have a number of teats proportioned to that
of the young ones they generally bring forth. The more young they
bear, with the more milk-springs has nature supplied them, to suckle

While sheep let their wool grow for our use, silk-worms, in
emulation with each other, spin rich stuffs and spend themselves to
bestow them upon us. They make of their cod a kind of tomb, and
shutting up themselves in their own work, they are new-born under
another figure, in order to perpetuate themselves. On the other
hand, the bees carefully suck and gather the juice of odorous and
fragrant flowers, in order to make their honey; and range it in such
an order as may serve for a pattern to men. Several insects are
transformed, sometimes into flies, sometimes into worms, or maggots.
If one should think such insects useless, let him consider that what
makes a part of the great spectacle of the universe, and contributes
to its variety, is not altogether useless to sedate and
contemplative men. What can be more noble, and more magnificent,
than that great number of commonwealths of living creatures so well
governed, and every species of which has a different frame from the
other? Everything shows how much the skill and workmanship of the
artificer surpasses the vile matter he has worked upon. Every
living creature, nay even gnats, appear wonderful to me. If one
finds them troublesome, he ought to consider that it is necessary
that some anxiety and pain be mixed with man's conveniences: for if
nothing should moderate his pleasures, and exercise his patience, he
would either grow soft and effeminate, or forget himself.

SECT. XX. Admirable Order in which all the Bodies that make up the
Universe are ranged.

Let us now consider the wonders that shine equally both in the
largest and the smallest bodies. On the one side, I see the sun so
many thousand times bigger than the earth; I see him circulating in
a space, in comparison of which he is himself but a bright atom. I
see other stars, perhaps still bigger than he, that roll in other
regions, still farther distant from us. Beyond those regions, which
escape all measure, I still confusedly perceive other stars, which
can neither be counted nor distinguished. The earth, on which I
stand, is but one point, in proportion to the whole, in which no
bound can ever be found. The whole is so well put together, that
not one single atom can be put out of its place without unhinging
this immense machine; and it moves in such excellent order that its
very motion perpetuates its variety and perfection. Sure it must be
the hand of a being that does everything without any trouble that
still keeps steady, and governs this great work for so many ages;
and whose fingers play with the universe, to speak with the

SECT. XXI. Wonders of the Infinitely Little.

On the other hand the work is no less to be admired in little than
in great: for I find as well in little as in great a kind of
infinite that astonishes me. It surpasses my imagination to find in
a hand-worm, as one does in an elephant or whale, limbs perfectly
well organised; a head, a body, legs, and feet, as distinct and as
well formed as those of the biggest animals. There are in every
part of those living atoms, muscles, nerves, veins, arteries, blood;
and in that blood ramous particles and humours; in these humours
some drops that are themselves composed of several particles: nor
can one ever stop in the discussion of this infinite composition of
so infinite a whole.

The microscope discovers to us in every object as it were a thousand
other objects that had escaped our notice. But how many other
objects are there in every object discovered by the microscope which
the microscope itself cannot discover? What should not we see if we
could still subtilise and improve more and more the instruments that
help out weak and dull sight? Let us supply by our imagination what
our eyes are defective in; and let our fancy itself be a kind of
microscope, and represent to us in every atom a thousand new and
invisible worlds: but it will never be able incessantly to paint to
us new discoveries in little bodies; it will be tired, and forced at
last to stop, and sink, leaving in the smallest organ of a body a
thousand wonders undiscovered.

SECT. XXII. Of the Structure or Frame of the Animal.

Let us confine ourselves within the animal's machine, which has
three things that never can be too much admired: First, it has in
it wherewithal to defend itself against those that attack it, in
order to destroy it. Secondly, it has a faculty of reviving itself
by food. Thirdly, it has wherewithal to perpetuate its species by
generation. Let us bestow some considerations on these three

SECT. XXIII. Of the Instinct of the Animal.

Animals are endowed with what is called instinct, both to approach
useful and beneficial objects, and to avoid such as may be noxious
and destructive to them. Let us not inquire wherein this instinct
consists, but content ourselves with matter of fact, without
reasoning upon it.

The tender lamb smells his dam afar off, and runs to meet her. A
sheep is seized with horror at the approach of a wolf, and flies
away before he can discern him. The hound is almost infallible in
finding out a stag, a buck, or a hare, only by the scent. There is
in every animal an impetuous spring, which, on a sudden, gathers all
the spirits; distends all the nerves; renders all the joints more
supple and pliant; and increases in an incredible manner, upon
sudden dangers, his strength, agility, speed, and cunning, in order
to make him avoid the object that threatens his destruction. The
question in this place is not to know whether beasts are endowed
with reason or understanding; for I do not pretend to engage in any
philosophical inquiry. The motions I speak of are entirely
indeliberate, even in the machine of man. If, for instance, a man
that dances on a rope should, at that time, reason on the laws and
rules of equilibrium, his reasoning would make him lose that very
equilibrium which he preserves admirably well without arguing upon
the matter, and reason would then be of no other use to him but to
throw him on the ground. The same happens with beasts; nor will it
avail anything to object that they reason as well as men, for this
objection does not in the least weaken my proof; and their reasoning
can never serve to account for the motions we admire most in them.
Will any one affirm that they know the nicest rules of mechanics,
which they observe with perfect exactness, whenever they are to run,
leap, swim, hide themselves, double, use shifts to avoid pursuing
hounds, or to make use of the strongest part of their bodies to
defend themselves? Will he say that they naturally understand the
mathematics which men are ignorant of? Will he dare to advance that
they perform with deliberation and knowledge all those impetuous and
yet so exact motions which even men perform without study or
premeditation? Will he allow them to make use of reason in those
motions, wherein it is certain man does not? It is an instinct,
will he say, that beasts are governed by. I grant it: for it is,
indeed, an instinct. But this instinct is an admirable sagacity and
dexterity, not in the beasts, who neither do, nor can then, have
time to reason, but in the superior wisdom that governs them. That
instinct, or wisdom, that thinks and watches for beasts, in
indeliberate things, wherein they could neither watch nor think,
even supposing them to be as reasonable as we, can be no other than
the wisdom of the Artificer that made these machines. Let us
therefore talk no more of instinct or nature, which are but fine
empty names in the mouth of the generality that pronounce them.
There is in what they call nature and instinct a superior art and
contrivance, of which human invention is but a shadow. What is
beyond all question is, that there are in beasts a prodigious number
of motions entirely indeliberate, and which yet are performed
according to the nicest rules of mechanics. It is the machine alone
that follows those rules: which is a fact independent from all
philosophy; and matter of fact is ever decisive. What would a man
think of a watch that should fly or slip away, turn, again, or
defend itself, for its own preservation, if he went about to break
it? Would he not admire the skill of the artificer? Could he be
induced to believe that the springs of that watch had formed,
proportioned, ranged, and united themselves, by mere chance? Could
he imagine that he had clearly explained and accounted for such
industrious and skilful operation by talking of the nature and
instinct of a watch that should exactly show the hour to his master,
and slip away from such as should go about to break its springs to

SECT. XXIV. Of Food.

What is more noble than a machine which continually repairs and
renews itself? The animal, stinted to his own strength, is soon
tired and exhausted by labour; but the more he takes pains, the more
he finds himself pressed to make himself amends for his labour, by
more plentiful feeding. Aliments daily restore the strength he had
lost. He puts into his body another substance that becomes his own,
by a kind of metamorphosis. At first it is pounded, and being
changed into a liquor, it purifies, as if it were strained through a
sieve, in order to separate anything that is gross from it;
afterwards it arrives at the centre, or focus of the spirits, where
it is subtilised, and becomes blood. And running at last, and
penetrating through numberless vessels to moisten all the members,
it filtrates in the flesh, and becomes itself flesh. So many
aliments, and liquors of various colours, are then no more than one
and the same flesh; and food which was but an inanimate body
preserves the life of the animal, and becomes part of the animal
himself; the other parts of which he was composed being exhaled by
an insensible and continual transpiration. The matter which, for
instance, was four years ago such a horse, is now but air, or dung.
What was then either hay, or oats, is become that same horse, so
fiery and vigorous--at least, he is accounted the same horse,
notwithstanding this insensible change of his substance.

SECT. XXV. Of Sleep.

The natural attendant of food is sleep; in which the animal forbears
not only all his outward motions, but also all the principal inward
operations which might too much stir and dissipate the spirits. He
only retains respiration, and digestion; so that all motions that
might wear out his strength are suspended, and all such as are
proper to recruit and renew it go on freely of themselves. This
repose, which is a kind of enchantment, returns every night, while
darkness interrupts and hinders labour. Now, who is it that
contrived such a suspension? Who is it that so well chose the
operations that ought to continue; and, with so just discernment,
excluded all such as ought to be interrupted? The next day all past
fatigue is gone and vanished. The animal works on, as if he had
never worked before; and this reviving gives him a vivacity and
vigour that invites him to new labour. Thus the nerves are still
full of spirits, the flesh smooth, the skin whole, though one would
think it should waste and tear; the living body of the animal soon
wears out inanimate bodies, even the most solid that are about it;
and yet does not wear out itself. The skin of a horse, for
instance, wears out several saddles; and the flesh of a child,
though very delicate and tender, wears out many clothes, whilst it
daily grows stronger. If this renewing of spirits were perfect, it
would be real immortality, and the gift of eternal youth. But the
same being imperfect, the animal insensibly loses his strength,
decays and grows old, because everything that is created ought to
bear a mark of nothingness from which it was drawn; and have an end.

SECT. XXVI. Of Generation.

What is more admirable than the multiplication of animals? Look
upon the individuals: no animal is immortal. Everything grows old,
everything passes away, everything disappears, everything, in short,
is annihilated. Look upon the species: everything subsists,
everything is permanent and immutable, though in a constant
vicissitude. Ever since there have been on earth men that have
taken care to preserve the memory of events, no lions, tigers, wild
boars, or bears, were ever known to form themselves by chance in
caves or forests. Neither do we see any fortuitous productions of
dogs or cats. Bulls and sheep are never born of themselves, either
in stables, folds, or on pasture grounds. Every one of those
animals owes his birth to a certain male and female of his species.

All those different species are preserved much the same in all ages.
We do not find that for three thousand years past any one has
perished or ceased; neither do we find that any one multiplies to
such an excess as to be a nuisance or inconveniency to the rest. If
the species of lions, bears, and tigers multiplied to a certain
excessive degree, they would not only destroy the species of stags,
bucks, sheep, goats, and bulls, but even get the mastery over
mankind, and unpeople the earth. Now who maintains so just a
measure as never either to extinguish those different species, or
never to suffer them to multiply too fast?

But this continual propagation of every species is a wonder with
which we are grown too familiar. What would a man think of a
watchmaker who should have the art to make watches, which, of
themselves, should produce others ad infinitum in such a manner that
two original watches should be sufficient to multiply and perpetuate
their species over the whole earth? What would he say of an
architect that should have the skill to build houses, which should
build others, to renew the habitations of men, before the first
should decay and be ready to fall to the ground? It is, however,
what we daily see among animals. They are no more, if you please,
than mere machines, as watches are. But, after all, the Author of
these machines has endowed them with a faculty to reproduce or
perpetuate themselves ad infinitum by the conjunction of both sexes.
Affirm, if you please, that this generation of animals is performed
either by moulds or by an express configuration of every individual;
which of these two opinions you think fit to pitch upon, it comes
all to one; nor is the skill of the Artificer less conspicuous. If
you suppose that at every generation the individual, without being
cast into a mould, receives a configuration made on purpose, I ask,
who it is that manages and directs the configuration of so
compounded a machine, and which argues so much art and industry?
If, on the contrary, to avoid acknowledging any art in the case you
suppose that everything is determined by the moulds, I go back to
the moulds themselves, and ask, who is it that prepared them? In my
opinion they are still greater matter of wonder than the very
machines which are pretended to come out of them.

Therefore let who will suppose that there were moulds in the animals
that lived four thousand years ago, and affirm, if he pleases, that
those moulds were so inclosed one within another ad infinitum, that
there was a sufficient number for all the generations of those four
thousand years; and that there is still a sufficient number ready
prepared for the formation of all the animals that shall preserve
their species in all succeeding ages. Now, these moulds, which, as
I have observed, must have all the configuration of the animal, are
as difficult to be explained or accounted for as the animals
themselves, and are besides attended with far more unexplicable
wonders. It is certain that the configuration of every individual
animal requires no more art and power than is necessary to frame all
the springs that make up that machine; but when a man supposes
moulds: first, he must affirm that every mould contains in little,
with unconceivable niceness, all the springs of the machine itself.
Now, it is beyond dispute that there is more art in making so
compound a work in little than in a larger bulk. Secondly, he must
suppose that every mould, which is an individual prepared for a
first generation, contains distinctly within itself other moulds
contained within one another ad infinitum, for all possible
generations, in all succeeding ages. Now what can be more artful
and more wonderful in matter of mechanism than such a preparation of
an infinite number of individuals, all formed beforehand in one from
which they are to spring? Therefore the moulds are of no use to
explain the generations of animals without supposing any art or
skill. For, on the contrary, moulds would argue a more artificial
mechanism and more wonderful composition.

What is manifest and indisputable, independently from all the
systems of philosophers, is that the fortuitous concourse of atoms
never produces, without generation, in any part of the earth, any
lions, tigers, bears, elephants, stags, bulls, sheep, cats, dogs, or
horses. These and the like are never produced but by the encounter
of two of their kind of different sex. The two animals that produce
a third are not the true authors of the art that shines in the
composition of the animal engendered by them. They are so far from
knowing how to perform that art, that they do not so much as know
the composition or frame of the work that results from their
generation. Nay, they know not so much as any particular spring of
it; having been no more than blind and unvoluntary instruments, made
use of for the performance of a marvellous art, to which they are
absolute strangers, and of which they are perfectly ignorant. Now I
would fain know whence comes that art, which is none of theirs?
What power and wisdom knows how to employ, for the performance of
works of so ingenious and intricate a design, instruments so
uncapable to know what they are doing, or to have any notion of it?
Nor does it avail anything to suppose that beasts are endowed with
reason. Let a man suppose them to be as rational as he pleases in
other things, yet he must own, that in generation they have no share
in the art that is conspicuous in the composition of the animals
they produce.

Let us carry the thing further, and take for granted the most
wonderful instances that are given of the skill and forecast of
animals. Let us admire, as much as you please, the certainty with
which a hound takes a spring into a third way, as soon as he finds
by his nose that the game he pursues has left no scent in the other
two. Let us admire the hind, who, they say, throws a good way off
her young fawn, into some hidden place, that the hounds may not find
him out by the scent of his strain. Let us even admire the spider
who with her cobwebs lays subtle snares to trap flies, and fall
unawares upon them before they can disentangle themselves. Let us
also admire the hern, who, they say, puts his head under his wing,
in order to hide his bill under his feathers, thereby to stick the
breast of the bird of prey that stoops at him. Let us allow the
truth of all these wonderful instances of rationality; for all
nature is full of such prodigies. But what must we infer from them?
In good earnest, if we carefully examine the matter, we shall find
that they prove too much. Shall we say that animals are more
rational than we? Their instinct has undoubtedly more certainty
than our conjectures. They have learnt neither logic nor geometry,
neither have they any course or method of improvement, or any
science. Whatever they do is done of a sudden without study,
preparation, or deliberation. We commit blunders and mistakes every
hour of the day after we have a long while argued and consulted
together; whereas animals, without any reasoning or premeditation,
perform every hour what seems to require most discernment, choice,
and exactness. Their instinct is in many things infallible; but
that word instinct is but a fair name void of sense. For what can
an instinct more just, exact, precise, and certain than reason
itself mean but a more perfect reason? We must therefore suppose a
wonderful reason and understanding either in the work or in the
artificer; either in the machine or in him that made it. When, for
instance, I find that a watch shows the hours with such exactness as
surpasses my knowledge, I presently conclude that if the watch
itself does not reason, it must have been made by an artificer who,
in that particular, reasoned better and had more skill than myself.
In like manner, when I see animals, who every moment perform actions
that argue a more certain art and industry than I am master of, I
immediately conclude that such marvellous art must necessarily be
either in the machine or in the artificer that framed it. Is it in
the animal himself? But how is it possible he should be so wise and
so infallible in some things? And if this art is not in him, it
must of necessity be in the Supreme Artificer that made that piece
of work, just as all the art of a watch is in the skill of the

SECT. XXVII. Though Beasts commit some Mistakes, yet their
Instinct is, in many cases, Infallible.

Do not object to me that the instinct of beasts is in some things
defective, and liable to error. It is no wonder beasts are not
infallible in everything, but it is rather a wonder they are so in
many cases. If they were infallible in everything, they should be
endowed with a reason infinitely perfect; in short, they should be
deities. In the works of an infinite Power there can be but a
finite perfection, otherwise God should make creatures like or equal
to Himself, which is impossible. He therefore cannot place
perfection, nor consequently reason, in his works, without some
bounds and restrictions. But those bounds do not prove that the
work is void of order or reason. Because I mistake sometimes, it
does not follow that I have no reason at all, and that I do
everything by mere chance, but only that my reason is stinted and
imperfect. In like manner, because a beast is not by his instinct
infallible in everything, though he be so in many, it does not
follow that there is no manner of reason in that machine, but only
that such a machine has not a boundless reason. But, after all, it
is a constant truth that in the operations of that machine there is
a regular conduct, a marvellous art, and a skill which in many cases
amounts to infallibility. Now, to whom shall we ascribe this
infallible skill? To the work, or its Artificer?

SECT. XXVIII. It is impossible Beasts should have Souls.

If you affirm that beasts have souls different from their machines,
I immediately ask you, "Of what nature are those souls entirely
different from and united to bodies? Who is it that knew how to
unite them to natures so vastly different? Who is it that has such
absolute command over so opposite natures, as to put and keep them
in such a regular and constant a society, and wherein mutual
agreement and correspondence are so necessary and so quick?

If, on the contrary, you suppose that the same matter may sometimes
think, and sometimes not think, according to the various wrangling
and configurations it may receive, I will not tell you in this place
that matter cannot think; and that one cannot conceive that the
parts of a stone, without adding anything to it, may ever know
themselves, whatever degree of motion, whatever figure, you may give
them. I will only ask you now wherein that precise ranging and
configuration of parts, which you speak of, consists? According to
your opinion there must be a degree of motion wherein matter does
not yet reason, and then another much like it wherein, on a sudden,
it begins to reason and know itself. Now, who is it that knew how
to pitch upon that precise degree of motion? Who is it that has
discovered the line in which the parts ought to move? Who is it
that has measured the dimensions so nicely as to find out and state
the bigness and figure every part must have to keep all manner of
proportions between themselves in the whole? Who is it that has
regulated the outward form by which all those bodies are to be
stinted? In a word, who is it that has found all the combinations
wherein matter thinks, and without the least of which matter must
immediately cease to think? If you say it is chance, I answer that
you make chance rational to such a degree as to be the source of
reason itself. Strange prejudice and intoxication of some men, not
to acknowledge a most intelligent cause, from which we derive all
intelligence; and rather choose to affirm that the purest reason is
but the effect of the blindest of all causes in such a subject as
matter, which of itself is altogether incapable of knowledge!
Certainly there is nothing a man of sense would not admit rather
than so extravagant and absurd an opinion.

SECT. XXIX. Sentiments of some of the Ancients concerning the Soul
and Knowledge of Beasts.

The philosophy of the ancients, though very lame and imperfect, had
nevertheless a glimpse of this difficulty; and, therefore, in order
to remove it, some of them pretended that the Divine Spirit
interspersed and scattered throughout the universe is a superior
Wisdom that continually operates in all nature, especially in
animals, just as souls act in bodies; and that this continual
impression or impulse of the Divine Spirit, which the vulgar call
instinct, without knowing the true signification of that word, was
the life of all living creatures. They added, "That those sparks of
the Divine Spirit were the principle of all generations; that
animals received them in their conception and at their birth; and
that the moment they died those divine particles disengaged
themselves from all terrestrial matter in order to fly up to heaven,
where they shone and rolled among the stars. It is this philosophy,
at once so magnificent and so fabulous, which Virgil so gracefully
expresses in the following verses upon bees:--

"Esse apibus partem divinae mentis, et haustus
AEtherios dixere: Deum namque ire per omnes
Terrasque, tractusque maris, caelumque profundum.
Hinc pecudes, armenta viros, genus omne ferarum,
Quemque sibi tenues nascentem arcessere vitas.
Scilicet huc reddi deinde, ac resoluta referri
Omnia, nec morti esse locum, sed viva volare
Sideris in numerum, atque alto succedere caelo."

That is:--

"Induced by such examples, some have taught
That bees have portions of ethereal thought,
Endued with particles of heavenly fires,
For God the whole created mass inspires.
Through heaven, and earth, and ocean depth He throws
His influence round, and kindles as He goes.
Hence flocks, and herds, and men, and beasts, and fowls,
With breath are quickened, and attract their souls.
Hence take the forms His prescience did ordain,
And into Him, at length, resolve again.
No room is left for death: they mount the sky,
And to their own congenial planets fly."

Dryden's "Virgil."

That Divine Wisdom that moves all the known parts of the world had
made so deep an impression upon the Stoics, and on Plato before
them, that they believed the whole world to be an animal, but a
rational and wise animal--in short, the Supreme God. This
philosophy reduced Polytheism, or the multitude of gods, to Deism,
or one God, and that one God to Nature, which according to them was
eternal, infallible, intelligent, omnipotent, and divine. Thus
philosophers, by striving to keep from and rectify the notions of
poets, dwindled again at last into poetical fancies, since they
assigned, as the inventors of fables did, a life, an intelligence,
an art, and a design to all the parts of the universe that appear
most inanimate. Undoubtedly they were sensible of the wonderful art
that is conspicuous in nature, and their only mistake lay in
ascribing to the work the skill of the Artificer.

SECT. XXX. Of Man.

Let us not stop any longer with animals inferior to man. It is high
time to consider and study the nature of man himself, in order to
discover Him whose image he is said to bear. I know but two sorts
of beings in all nature: those that are endowed with knowledge or
reason, and those that are not Now man is a compound of these two
modes of being. He has a body, as the most inanimate corporeal
beings have; and he has a spirit, a mind, or a soul--that is, a
thought whereby he knows himself, and perceives what is about him.
If it be true that there is a First Being who has drawn or created
all the rest from nothing, man is truly His image; for he has, like
Him, in his nature all the real perfection that is to be found in
those two various kinds or modes of being. But an image is but an
image still, and can be but an adumbration or shadow of the true
Perfect Being.

Let us begin to study man by the contemplation of his body. "I know
not," said a mother to her children in the Holy Writ, "how you were
formed in my womb." Nor is it, indeed, the wisdom of the parents
that forms so compounded and so regular a work. They have no share
in that wonderful art; let us therefore leave them, and trace it up

SECT. XXXI. Of the Structure of Man's Body.

The body is made of clay; but let us admire the Hand that framed and
polished it. The Artificer's Seal is stamped upon His work. He
seems to have delighted in making a masterpiece with so vile a
matter. Let us cast our eyes upon that body, in which the bones
sustain the flesh that covers them. The nerves that are extended in
it make up all its strength; and the muscles with which the sinews
weave themselves, either by swelling or extending themselves,
perform the most exact and regular motions. The bones are divided
at certain distances, but they have joints, whereby they are set one
within another, and are tied by nerves and tendons. Cicero admires,
with reason, the excellent art with which the bones are knit
together. For what is more supple for all various motions? And, on
the other hand, what is more firm and durable? Even after a body is
dead, and its parts are separated by corruption, we find that these
joints and ligaments can hardly be destroyed. Thus this human
machine or frame is either straight or crooked, stiff or supple, as
we please. From the brain, which is the source of all the nerves,
spring the spirits, which are so subtle that they escape the sight;
and nevertheless so real, and of so great activity and force, that
they perform all the motions of the machine, and make up all in
strength. These spirits are in an instant conveyed to the very
extremities of the members. Sometimes they flow gently and
regularly, sometimes they move with impetuosity, as occasion
requires; and they vary ad infinitum the postures, gestures, and
other actions of the body.

SECT. XXXII. Of the Skin.

Let us consider the flesh. It is covered in certain places with a
soft and tender skin, for the ornament of the body. If that skin,
that renders the object so agreeable, and gives it so sweet a
colour, were taken off, the same object would become ghastly, and
create horror. In other places that same skin is harder and
thicker, in order to resist the fatigue of those parts. As, for
instance, how harder is the skin of the feet than that of the face?
And that of the hinder part of the head than that of the forehead?
That skin is all over full of holes like a sieve: but those holes,
which are called pores, are imperceptible. Although sweat and other
transpirations exhale through those pores, the blood never runs out
that way. That skin has all the tenderness necessary to make it
transparent, and give the face a lively, sweet, and graceful colour.
If the skin were less close, and less smooth, the face would look
bloody, and excoriated. Now, who is that knew how to temper and mix
those colours with such nicety as to make a carnation which painters
admire, but never can perfectly imitate?

SECT. XXXIII. Of Veins and Arteries.

There are in man's body numberless branches of blood-vessels. Some
of them carry the blood from the centre to the extreme parts, and
are called arteries. Through those various vessels runs the blood,
a liquor soft and oily, and by this oiliness proper to retain the
most subtle spirits, just as the most subtle and spirituous essences
are preserved in gummy bodies. This blood moistens the flesh, as
springs and rivers water the earth; and after it has filtrated in
the flesh, it returns to its source, more slowly, and less full of
spirits: but it renews, and is again subtilised in that source, in
order to circulate without ceasing.

SECT. XXXIV. Of the Bones, and their Jointing.

Do you consider that excellent order and proportion of the limbs?
The legs and thighs are great bones jointed one with another, and
knit together by tendons. They are two sorts of pillars, equal and
regular, erected to support the whole fabric. But those pillars
fold; and the rotula of the knee is a bone of a circular figure,
which is placed on purpose on the joint, in order to fill it up, and
preserve it, when the bones fold, for the bending of the knee. Each
column or pillar has its pedestal, which is composed of various
inlaid parts, so well jointed together, that they can either bend,
or keep stiff, as occasion requires. The pedestal, I mean the foot,
turns, at a man's pleasure, under the pillar. In this foot we find
nothing but nerves, tendons, and little bones closely knit, that
this part may, at once, be either more supple or more firm,
according to various occasions. Even the toes, with their articles
and nails, serve to feel the ground a man walks on, to lean and
stand with more dexterity and nimbleness, the better to preserve the
equilibrium of the body, to rise, or to stoop. The two feet stretch
forward, to keep the body from falling that way, when it stoops or
bends. The two pillars are jointed together at the top, to bear up
the rest of the body, but are still divided there in such a manner,
that that joint affords man the conveniency of resting himself, by
sitting on the two biggest muscles of the body.

The body of the structure is proportioned to the height of the
pillars. It contains such parts as are necessary for life, and
which consequently ought to be placed in the centre, and shut up in
the securest place. Therefore two rows of ribs pretty close to one
another, that come out of the backbone, as the branches of a tree do
from its trunk, form a kind of hoop, to hide and shelter those noble
and tender parts. But because the ribs could not entirely shut up
that centre of the human body, without hindering the dilatation of
the stomach and of the entrails, they form that hoop but to a
certain place, below which they leave an empty space, that the
inside may freely distend and stretch, both for respiration and

As for the backbone, all the works of man afford nothing so artfully
and curiously wrought. It would be too stiff, and too frangible or
brittle, if it were made of one single bone: and in such a case man
could never bend or stoop. The author of this machine has prevented
that inconveniency by forming vertebrae, which jointing one with
another make up a whole, consisting of several pieces of bones, more
strong than if it were of a single piece. This compound being
sometimes supple and pliant, and sometimes stiff, stands either
upright, or bends, in a moment, as a man pleases. All these
vertebrae have in the middle a gutter or channel, that serves to
convey a continuation of the substance of the brain to the
extremities of the body, and with speed to send thither spirits
through that pipe.

But who can forbear admiring the nature of the bones? They are very
hard; and we see that even the corruption of all the rest of the
body, after death, does not affect them. Nevertheless, they are
full of numberless holes and cavities that make them lighter; and in
the middle they are full of the marrow, or pith, that is to nourish
them. They are bored exactly in those places through which the
ligaments that knit them are to pass. Moreover, their extremities
are bigger than the middle, and form, as it were, two semicircular
heads, to make one bone turn more easily with another, that so the
whole may fold and bend without trouble.

SECT. XXXV. Of the Organs.

Within the enclosure of the ribs are placed in order all the great
organs such as serve to make a man breathe; such as digest the
aliments; and such as make new blood. Respiration, or breathing, is
necessary to temper inward heat, occasioned by the boiling of the
blood, and by the impetuous course of the spirits. The air is a
kind of food that nourishes the animal, and by means of which he
renews himself every moment of his life. Nor is digestion less
necessary to prepare sensible aliments towards their being changed
into blood, which is a liquor apt to penetrate everywhere, and to
thicken into flesh in the extreme parts, in order to repair in all
the members what they lose continually both by transpiration and the
waste of spirits. The lungs are like great covers, which being
spongy, easily dilate and contract themselves, and as they
incessantly take in and blow out a great deal of air, they form a
kind of bellows that are in perpetual motion. The stomach has a
dissolvent that causes hunger, and puts man in mind of his want of
food. That dissolvent, which stimulates and pricks the stomach,
does, by that very uneasiness, prepare for it a very lively
pleasure, when its craving is satisfied by the aliments. Then man,
with delight, fills his belly with strange matter, which would
create horror in him if he could see it as soon as it has entered
his stomach, and which even displeases him, when he sees it being
already satisfied. The stomach is made in the figure of a bagpipe.
There the aliments being dissolved by a quick coction, or digestion,
are all confounded, and make up a soft liquor, which afterwards
becomes a kind of milk, called chyle; and which being at last
brought into the heart, receives there, through the plenty of
spirits, the form, vivacity, and colour of blood. But while the
purest juice of the aliments passes from the stomach into the pipes
destined for the preparation of chyle and blood, the gross particles
of the same aliments are separated, just as bran is from flour by a
sieve; and they are dejected downwards to ease the body of them,
through the most hidden passages, and the most remote from the
organs of the senses, lest these be offended at them. Thus the
wonders of this machine are so great and numerous, that we find some
unfathomable, even in the most abject and mortifying functions of
the body, which modesty will not allow to be more particularly

SECT. XXXVI. Of the Inward Parts.

I own that the inward parts are not so agreeable to the sight as the
outward; but then be pleased to observe they are not made to be
seen. Nay, it was necessary according to art and design that they
should not be discovered without horror, and that a man should not
without violent reluctance go about to discover them by cutting open
this machine in another man. It is this very horror that prepares
compassion and humanity in the hearts of men when one sees another
wounded or hurt. Add to this, with St. Austin, that there are in
those inward parts a proportion, order, and mechanism which still
please more an attentive, inquisitive mind than external beauty can
please the eyes of the body. That inside of man--which is at once
so ghastly and horrid and so wonderful and admirable--is exactly as
it should be to denote dirt and clay wrought by a Divine hand, for
we find in it both the frailty of the creature and the art of the

SECT. XXXVII. Of the Arms and their Use.

From the top of that precious fabric we have described hang the two
arms, which are terminated by the hands, and which bear a perfect
symmetry one with another. The arms are knit with the shoulders in
such a manner that they have a free motion, in that joint. They are
besides divided at the elbow and at the wrist that they may fold,
bend, and turn with quickness. The arms are of a just length to
reach all the parts of the body. They are nervous and full of
muscles, that they may, as well as the back, be often in action and
sustain the greatest fatigue of all the body. The hands are a
contexture of nerves and little bones set one within another in such
a manner that they have all the strength and suppleness necessary to
feel the neighbouring bodies, to seize on them, hold them fast,
throw them, draw them to one, push them off, disentangle them, and
untie them one from another.

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

SECT. XXXVIII. Of the Neck and Head.

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

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

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

SECT. XL. Of the Tongue and Teeth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SECT. XLIV. Matter Cannot Think.

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

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

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

In short, my alternative ever returns, and is peremptory and
decisive. If the mind and body are a whole made up of matter only,


Back to Full Books