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

Part 2 out of 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SECT. LIII. Weakness of Man's Mind.

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

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

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

SECT. LV. What Man's Reason is.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SECT. LXVI. Of Man's Liberty.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SECT. LXXVI. The Epicureans confound the Works of Art with those
of Nature.

All men who naturally suppose a sensible difference between the
works of art and those of chance do consequently, though but
implicitly, suppose that the combinations of atoms were not
infinite--which supposition is very just. This infinite succession
of combinations of atoms is, as I showed before, a more absurd
chimera than all the absurdities some men would explain by that
false principle. No number, either successive or continual, can be
infinite; from whence it follows that the number of atoms cannot be
infinite, that the succession of their various motions and
combinations cannot be infinite, that the world cannot be eternal,
and that we must find out a precise and fixed beginning of these
successive combinations. We must recur to a first individual in the
generations of every species. We must likewise find out the
original and primitive form of every particle of matter that makes a
part of the universe. And as the successive changes of that matter
must be limited in number, we must not admit in those different
combinations but such as chance commonly produces; unless we
acknowledge a Superior Being, who with the perfection of art made
the wonderful works which chance could never have made.

SECT. LXXVII. The Epicureans take whatever they please for
granted, without any Proof.

The Epicurean philosophers are so weak in their system that it is
not in their power to form it, or bring it to bear, unless one
admits without proofs their most fabulous postulata and positions.
In the first place they suppose eternal atoms, which is begging the
question; for how can they make out that atoms have ever existed and
exist by themselves? To exist by one's self is the supreme
perfection. Now, what authority have they to suppose, without
proofs, that atoms have in themselves a perfect, eternal, and
immutable being? Do they find this perfection in the idea they have
of every atom in particular? An atom not being the same with, and
being absolutely distinguished from, another atom, each of them must
have in itself eternity and independence with respect to any other
being. Once more, is it in the idea these philosophers have of each
atom that they find this perfection? But let us grant them all they
suppose in this question, and even what they ought to be ashamed to
suppose--viz., that atoms are eternal, subsisting by themselves,
independent from any other being, and consequently entirely perfect.

SECT. LXXVIII. The Suppositions of the Epicureans are False and

Must we suppose, besides, that atoms have motion of themselves?
Shall we suppose it out of gaiety to give an air of reality to a
system more chimerical than the tales of the fairies? Let us
consult the idea we have of a body. We conceive it perfectly well
without supposing it to be in motion, and represent it to us at
rest; nor is its idea in this state less clear; nor does it lose its
parts, figure, or dimensions. It is to no purpose to suppose that
all bodies are perpetually in some motion, either sensible or
insensible; and that though some parts of matter have a lesser
motion than others, yet the universal mass of matter has ever the
same motion in its totality. To speak at this rate is building
castles in the air, and imposing vain imaginations on the belief of
others; for who has told these philosophers that the mass of matter
has ever the same motion in its totality? Who has made the
experiment of it? Have they the assurance to bestow the name of
philosophy upon a rash fiction which takes for granted what they
never can make out? Is there no more to do than to suppose whatever
one pleases in order to elude the most simple and most constant
truths? What authority have they to suppose that all bodies
incessantly move, either sensibly or insensibly? When I see a stone
that appears motionless, how will they prove to me that there is no
atom in that stone but what is actually in motion? Will they ever
impose upon me bare suppositions, without any semblance of truth,
for decisive proofs?

SECT. LXXIX. It is Falsely supposed that Motion is Essential to

However, let us go a step further, and, out of excessive
complaisance, suppose that all the bodies in Nature are actually in
motion. Does it follow from thence that motion is essential to
every particle of matter? Besides, if all bodies have not an equal
degree of motion; if some move sensibly, and more swiftly than
others; if the same body may move sometimes quicker and sometimes
slower; if a body that moves communicates its motion to the
neighbouring body that was at rest, or in such inferior motion that
it was insensible--it must be confessed that a mode or modification
which sometimes increases, and at other times decreases, in bodies
is not essential to them. What is essential to a being is ever the
same in it. Neither the motion that varies in bodies, and which,
after having increased, slackens and decreases to such a degree as
to appear absolutely extinct and annihilated; nor the motion that is
lost, that is communicated, that passes from one body to another as
a foreign thing--can belong to the essence of bodies. And,
therefore, I may conclude that bodies are perfect in their essence
without ascribing to them any motion. If they have no motion in
their essence, they have it only by accident; and if they have it
only by accident, we must trace up that accident to its true cause.
Bodies must either bestow motion on themselves, or receive it from
some other being. It is evident they do not bestow it on
themselves, for no being can give what it has not in itself. And we
are sensible that a body at rest ever remains motionless, unless
some neighbouring body happens to shake it. It is certain,
therefore, that no body moves by itself, and is only moved by some
other body that communicates its motion to it. But how comes it to
pass that a body can move another? What is the reason that a ball
which a man causes to roll on a smooth table (billiards, for the
purpose) cannot touch another without moving it? Why was it not
possible that motion should not ever communicate itself from one
body to another? In such a case a ball in motion would stop near
another at their meeting, and yet never shake it.

SECT. LXXX. The Rules of Motion, which the Epicureans suppose do
not render it essential to Bodies.

I may be answered that, according to the rules of motion among
bodies, one ought to shake or move another. But where are those
laws of motion written and recorded? Who both made them and
rendered them so inviolable? They do not belong to the essence of
bodies, for we can conceive bodies at rest; and we even conceive
bodies that would not communicate their motion to others unless
these rules, with whose original we are unacquainted, subjected them
to it. Whence comes this, as it were, arbitrary government of
motion over all bodies? Whence proceed laws so ingenious, so just,
so well adapted one to the other, that the least alteration of or
deviation from which would, on a sudden, overturn and destroy all
the excellent order we admire in the universe? A body being
entirely distinct from another, is in its nature absolutely
independent from it in all respects. Whence it follows that it
should not receive anything from it, or be susceptible of any of its
impressions. The modifications of a body imply no necessary reason
to modify in the same manner another body, whose being is entirely
independent from the being of the first. It is to no purpose to
allege that the most solid and most heavy bodies carry or force away
those that are less big and less solid; and that, according to this
rule, a great leaden ball ought to move a great ball of ivory. We
do not speak of the fact; we only inquire into the cause of it. The
fact is certain, and therefore the cause ought likewise to be
certain and precise. Let us look for it without any manner of
prepossession or prejudice. What is the reason that a great body
carries off a little one? The thing might as naturally happen quite
otherwise; for it might as well happen that the most solid body
should never move any other body--that is to say, motion might be
incommunicable. Nothing but custom obliges us to suppose that
Nature ought to act as it does.

SECT. LXXXI. To give a satisfactory Account of Motion we must
recur to the First Mover.

Moreover, it has been proved that matter cannot be either infinite
or eternal; and, therefore, there must be supposed both a first atom
(by which motion must have begun at a precise moment), and a first
concourse of atoms (that must have formed the first combination).
Now, I ask what mover gave motion to that first atom, and first set
the great machine of the universe a-going? It is not possible to
elude this home question by an endless circle, for this question,
lying within a finite circumference, must have an end at last; and
so we must find the first atom in motion, and the first moment of
that first motion, together with the first mover, whose hand made
that first impression.

SECT. LXXXII. No Law of Motion has its Foundation in the Essence
of the Body; and most of those Laws are Arbitrary.

Among the laws of motion we must look upon all those as arbitrary
which we cannot account for by the very essence of bodies. We have
already made out that no motion is essential to any body. Wherefore
all those laws which are supposed to be eternal and immutable are,
on the contrary, arbitrary, accidental, and made without cogent
necessity; for there is none of them that can be accounted for by
the essence of bodies.

If there were any law of motion essential to bodies, it would
undoubtedly be that by which bodies of less bulk and less solid are
moved by such as have more bulk and solidity. And yet we have seen
that that very law is not to be accounted for by the essence of
bodies. There is another which might also seem very natural--that,
I mean, by which bodies ever move rather in a direct than a crooked
line, unless their motion be otherwise determined by the meeting of
other bodies. But even this rule has no foundation in the essence
of matter. Motion is so very accidental, and super-added to the
nature of bodies, that we do not find in this nature of bodies any
primitive or immutable law by which they ought to move at all, much
less to move according to certain rules. In the same manner as
bodies might have existed, and yet have never either been in motion
or communicated motion one to another, so they might never have
moved but in a circular line, and this motion might have been as
natural to them as the motion in a direct line. Now, who is it that
pitched upon either of these two laws equally possible? What is not
determined by the essence of bodies can have been determined by no
other but Him who gave bodies the motion they had not in their own
essence. Besides, this motion in a direct line might have been
upwards or downwards, from right to left, or from left to right, or
in a diagonal line. Now, who is it that determined which way the
straight line should go?

SECT. LXXXIII. The Epicureans can draw no Consequence from all
their Suppositions, although the same should be granted them.

Let us still attend the Epicureans even in their most fabulous
suppositions, and carry on the fiction to the last degree of
complaisance. Let us admit motion in the essence of bodies, and
suppose, as they do, that motion in a direct line is also essential
to all atoms. Let us bestow upon atoms both a will and an
understanding, as poets did on rocks and rivers. And let us allow
them likewise to choose which way they will begin their straight
line. Now, what advantage will these philosophers draw from all I
have granted them, contrary to all evidence? In the first place,
all atoms must have been in motion from all eternity; secondly, they
must all have had an equal motion; thirdly, they must all have moved
in a direct line; fourthly, they must all have moved by an immutable
and essential law.

I am still willing to gratify our adversaries, so far as to suppose
that those atoms are of different figures, for I will allow them to
take for granted what they should be obliged to prove, and for which
they have not so much as the shadow of a proof. One can never grant
too much to men who never can draw any consequence from what is
granted them; for the more absurdities are allowed them, the sooner
they are caught by their own principles.

SECT. LXXXIV. Atoms cannot make any Compound by the Motion the
Epicureans assign them.

These atoms of so many odd figures--some round, some crooked, others
triangular, &c.--are by their essence obliged always to move in a
straight line, without ever deviating or bending to the right or to
the left; wherefore they never can hook one another, or make
together any compound. Put, if you please, the sharpest hooks near
other hooks of the like make; yet if every one of them never moves
otherwise than in a line perfectly straight, they will eternally
move one near another, in parallel lines, without being able to join
and hook one another. The two straight lines which are supposed to
be parallel, though immediate neighbours, will never cross one
another, though carried on ad infinitum; wherefore in all eternity,
no hooking, and consequently no compound, can result from that
motion of atoms in a direct line.

SECT. LXXXV. The Clinamen, Declination, or Sending of Atoms is a
Chimerical Notion that throws the Epicureans into a gross

The Epicureans, not being able to shut their eyes against this
glaring difficulty, that strikes at the very foundation of their
whole system, have, for a last shift, invented what Lucretius calls
clinamen--by which is meant a motion somewhat declining or bending
from the straight line, and which gives atoms the occasion to meet
and encounter. Thus they turn and wind them at pleasure, according
as they fancy best for their purpose. But upon what authority do
they suppose this declination of atoms, which comes so pat to bear
up their system? If motion in a straight line be essential to
bodies, nothing can bend, nor consequently join them, in all
eternity; the clinamen destroys the very essence of matter, and
those philosophers contradict themselves without blushing. If, on
the contrary, the motion in a direct line is not essential to all
bodies, why do they so confidently suppose eternal, necessary, and
immutable laws for the motion of atoms without recurring to a first
mover? And why do they build a whole system of philosophy upon the
precarious foundation of a ridiculous fiction? Without the clinamen
the straight line can never produce anything, and the Epicurean
system falls to the ground; with the clinamen, a fabulous poetical
invention, the direct line is violated, and the system falls into
derision and ridicule.

Both the straight line and the clinamen are airy suppositions and
mere dreams; but these two dreams destroy each other, and this is
the upshot of the uncurbed licentiousness some men allow themselves
of supposing as eternal truths whatever their imagination suggests
them to support a fable; while they refuse to acknowledge the artful
and powerful hand that formed and placed all the parts of the

SECT. LXXXVI. Strange Absurdity of the Epicureans, who endeavour
to account for the Nature of the Soul by the Declination of Atoms.

To reach the highest degree of amazing extravagance, the Epicureans
have had the assurance to explain and account for what we call the
soul of man and his free-will, by the clinamen, which is so
unaccountable and inexplicable itself. Thus they are reduced to
affirm that it is in this motion, wherein atoms are in a kind of
equilibrium between a straight line and a line somewhat circular,
that human will consists.

Strange philosophy! If atoms move only in a straight line, they are
inanimate, and incapable of any degree of knowledge, understanding,
or will; but if the very same atoms somewhat deviate from the
straight line, they become, on a sudden, animate, thinking, and
rational. They are themselves intelligent souls, that know
themselves, reflect, deliberate, and are free in their acts and
determinations. Was there ever a more absurd metamorphosis? What
opinion would men have of religion if, in order to assert it, one
should lay down principles and positions so trifling and ridiculous
as theirs who dare to attack it in earnest?

SECT. LXXXVII. The Epicureans cast a Mist before their own Eyes by
endeavouring to explain the Liberty of Man by the Declination of

But let us consider to what degree those philosophers impose upon
their own understandings. What can they find in the clinamen that,
with any colour, can account for the liberty of man? This liberty
is not imaginary; for it is not in our power to doubt of our free-
will, any more than it is to doubt of what we are intimately
conscious and certain. I am conscious I am free to continue sitting
when I rise in order to walk. I am sensible of it with so entire
certainty that it is not in my power ever to doubt of it in earnest;
and I should be inconsistent with myself if I dared to say the
contrary. Can the proof of our religion be more evident and
convincing? We cannot doubt of the existence of God unless we doubt
of our own liberty; from whence I infer that no man can seriously
doubt of the being of the Deity, since no man can entertain a
serious doubt about his own liberty. If, on the contrary, it be
frankly acknowledged that men are really free, nothing is more easy
than to demonstrate that the liberty of man's will cannot consist of
any combination of atoms, if one supposes that there was no first
mover, who gave matter arbitrary laws for its motion. Motion must
be essential to bodies, and all the laws of motion must also be as
necessary as the essences of natures are. Therefore, according to
this system, all the motions of bodies must be performed by
constant, necessary, and immutable laws; the motion in a straight
line must be essential to all atoms, that are not made to deviate
from it by the encounter of other atoms; the straight line must
likewise be essential either upwards or downwards, either from right
to left, or left to right, or some other diagonal way, fixed,
precise, and immutable. Besides, it is evident that no atom can
make another atom deviate; for that other atom carries also in its
essence the same invincible and eternal determination to follow the
straight line the same way. From hence it follows that all the
atoms placed at first on different lines must pursue ad infinitum
those parallel lines without ever coming nearer one another; and
that those who are in the same line must follow one another ad
infinitum without ever coming up together, but keeping still the
same distance from one another. The clinamen, as we have already
shown, is manifestly impossible: but, contrary to evident truth,
supposing it to be possible, in such a case it must be affirmed that
the clinamen is no less necessary, immutable, and essential to atoms
than the straight line. Now, will anybody say that an essential and
immutable law of the local motion of atoms explains and accounts for
the true liberty of man? Is it not manifest that the clinamen can
no more account for it than the straight line itself? The clinamen,
supposing it to be true, would be as necessary as the perpendicular
line, by which a stone falls from the top of a tower into the
street. Is that stone free in its fall? However, the will of man,
according to the principle of the clinamen, has no more freedom than
that stone. Is it possible for man to be so extravagant as to dare
to contradict his own conscience about his free-will, lest he should
be forced to acknowledge his God and maker? To affirm, on the one
hand, that the liberty of man is imaginary, we must silence the
voice and stifle the sense of all nature; give ourselves the lie in
the grossest manner; deny what we are most intimately conscious and
certain of; and, in short, be reduced to believe that we have no
eligibility or choice of two courses, or things proposed, about
which we fairly deliberate upon any occasion. Nothing does religion
more honour than to see men necessitated to fall into such gross and
monstrous extravagance as soon as they call in question the truths
she teaches. On the other hand, if we own that man is truly free,
we acknowledge in him a principle that never can be seriously
accounted for, either by the combinations of atoms or the laws of
local motion, which must be supposed to be all equally necessary and
essential to matter, if one denies a first mover. We must therefore
go out of the whole compass of matter, and search far from combined
atoms some incorporeal principle to account for free-will, if we
admit it fairly. Whatever is matter and an atom, moves only by
necessary, immutable, and invincible laws: wherefore liberty cannot
be found either in bodies, or in any local motion; and so we must
look for it in some incorporeal being. Now whose hand tied and
subjected to the organs of this corporeal machine that incorporeal
being which must necessarily be in me united to my body? Where is
the artificer that ties and unites natures so vastly different? Can
any but a power superior both to bodies and spirits keep them
together in this union with so absolute a sway? Two crooked atoms,
says an Epicurean, hook one another. Now this is false, according
to his very system; for I have demonstrated that those two crooked
atoms never hook one another, because they never meet. But,
however, after having supposed that two crooked atoms unite by
hooking one another, the Epicurean must be forced to own that the
thinking being, which is free in his operations, and which
consequently is not a collection of atoms, ever moved by necessary
laws, is incorporeal, and could not by its figure be hooked with the
body it animates. Thus which way so ever the Epicurean turns, he
overthrows his system with his own hands. But let us not, by any
means, endeavour to confound men that err and mistake, since we are
men as well as they, and no less subject to error. Let us only pity
them, study to light and inform them with patience, edify them, pray
for them, and conclude with asserting an evident truth.

SECT. LXXXVIII. We must necessarily acknowledge the Hand of a
First Cause in the Universe without inquiring why that first Cause
has left Defects in it.

Thus everything in the universe--the heavens, the earth, plants,
animals, and, above all, men--bears the stamp of a Deity.
Everything shows and proclaims a set design, and a series and
concatenation of subordinate causes, over-ruled and directed with
order by a superior cause.

It is preposterous and foolish to criticise upon this great work.
The defects that happen to be in it proceed either from the free and
disorderly will of man, which produces them by its disorder, or from
the ever holy and just will of God, who sometimes has a mind to
punish impious men, and at other times by the wicked to exercise and
improve the good. Nay, it happens oftentimes that what appears a
defect to our narrow judgment in a place separate from the work is
an ornament with respect to the general design, which we are not
able to consider with views sufficiently extended and simple to know
the perfection of the whole. Does not daily experience show that we
rashly censure certain parts of men's works for want of being
thoroughly acquainted with the whole extent of their designs and
schemes? This happens, in particular, every day with respect to the
works of painters and architects. If writing characters were of an
immense bigness, each character at close view would take up a man's
whole sight, so that it would not be possible for him to see above
one at once; and, therefore, he would not be able to read--that is,
put different letters together, and discover the sense of all those
characters put together. It is the same with the great strokes of
Providence in the conduct of the whole world during a long
succession of ages. There is nothing but the whole that is
intelligible; and the whole is too vast and immense to be seen at
close view. Every event is like a particular character that is too
large for our narrow organs, and which signifies nothing of itself
and separate from the rest. When, at the consummation of ages, we
shall see in God--that is, in the true point and centre of
perspective--the total of human events, from the first to the last
day of the universe, together with their proportions with regard to
the designs of God, we shall cry out, "Lord, Thou alone art just and
wise!" We cannot rightly judge of the works of men but by examining
the whole. Every part ought not to have every perfection, but only
such as becomes it according to the order and proportion of the
different parts that compose the whole. In a human body, for
instance, all the members must not be eyes, for there must be hands,
feet, &c. So in the universe, there must be a sun for the day, but
there must be also a moon for the night. Nec tibi occurrit perfecta
universitas, nisi ubi majora sic praesto sunt, ut minora non desint.
This is the judgment we ought to make of every part with respect to
the whole. Any other view is narrow and deceitful. But what are
the weak and puny designs of men, if compared to that of the
creation and government of the universe? "As much as the heavens
are above the earth, as much," says God in the Holy Writ, "are My
ways and My thoughts above yours." Let, therefore, man admire what
he understands, and be silent about what he does not comprehend.
But, after all, even the real defects of this work are only
imperfections which God was pleased to leave in it, to put us in
mind that He drew and made it from nothing. There is not anything
in the universe but what does and ought equally to bear these two
opposite characters: on the one side, the seal or stamp of the
artificer upon his work, and, on the other, the mark of its original
nothing, into which it may relapse and dwindle every moment. It is
an incomprehensible mixture of low and great; of frailty in the
matter, and of art in the maker? The hand of God is conspicuous in
everything, even in a worm that crawls on earth. Nothingness, on
the other hand, appears everywhere, even in the most vast and most
sublime genius. Whatever is not God, can have but a stinted
perfection; and what has but a stinted perfection, always remains
imperfect on the side where the boundary is sensible, and denotes
that it might be improved. If the creature wanted nothing, it would
be the Creator Himself; for it would have the fulness of perfection,
which is the Deity itself. Since it cannot be infinite, it must be
limited in perfection, that is, it must be imperfect on one side or
other. It may have more or less imperfection, but still it must be
imperfect. We must ever be able to point out the very place where
it is defective, and to say, upon a critical examination, "This is
what it might have had, what it has not."

SECT. LXXXIX. The Defects of the Universe compared with those of a

Do we conclude that a piece of painting is made by chance when we
see in it either shades, or even some careless touches? The
painter, we say, might have better finished those carnations, those
draperies, those prospects. It is true, this picture is not perfect
according to the nicest rules of art. But how extravagant would it
be to say, "This picture is not absolutely perfect; therefore it is
only a collection of colours formed by chance, nor did the hand of
any painter meddle with it!" Now, what a man would blush to say of
an indifferent and almost artless picture he is not ashamed to
affirm of the universe, in which a crowd of incomprehensible
wonders, with excellent order and proportion, are conspicuous. Let
a man study the world as much as he pleases; let him descend into
the minutest details; dissect the vilest of animals; narrowly
consider the least grain of corn sown in the ground, and the manner
in which it germinates and multiplies; attentively observe with what
precautions a rose-bud blows and opens in the sun, and closes again
at night; and he will find in all these more design, conduct, and
industry than in all the works of art. Nay, what is called the art
of men is but a faint imitation of the great art called the laws of
Nature, and which the impious did not blush to call blind chance.
Is it therefore a wonder that poets animated the whole universe,
bestowed wings upon the winds, and arrows on the sun, and described
great rivers impetuously running to precipitate themselves into the
sea, and trees shooting up to heaven to repel the rays of the sun by
their thick shades? These images and figures have also been
received in the language of the vulgar, so natural it is for men to
be sensible of the wonderful art that fills all nature. Poetry did
only ascribe to inanimate creatures the art and design of the
Creator, who does everything in them. From the figurative language
of the poets those notions passed into the theology of the heathens,
whose divines were the poets. They supposed an art, a power, or a
wisdom, which they called numen, in creatures the most destitute of
understanding. With them great rivers were gods; and springs,
naiads. Woods and mountains had their particular deities; flowers
had their Flora; and fruits, Pomona. After all, the more a man
contemplates Nature, the more he discovers in it an inexhaustible
stock of wisdom, which is, as it were, the soul of the universe.

SECT. XC. We must necessarily conclude that there is a First Being
that created the Universe.

What must we infer from thence? The consequence flows of itself.
"If so much wisdom and penetration," says Minutius Felix, "are
required to observe the wonderful order and design of the structure
of the world, how much more were necessary to form it!" If men so
much admire philosophers, because they discover a small part of the
wisdom that made all things, they must be stark blind not to admire
that wisdom itself.

SECT. XCI. Reasons why Men do not acknowledge God in the Universe,
wherein He shows Himself to them, as in a faithful glass.

This is the great object of the universe, wherein God, as it were in
a glass, shows Himself to mankind. But some (I mean, the
philosophers) were bewildered in their own thoughts. Everything
with them turned into vanity. By their subtle reasonings some of
them overshot and lost a truth which a man finds naturally and
simply in himself without the help of philosophy.

Others, intoxicated by their passions, live in a perpetual avocation
of thought. To perceive God in His works a man must, at least,
consider them with attention. But passions cast such a mist before
the eyes, not only of wild savages, but even of nations that seem to
be most civilised and polite, that they do not so much as see the
light that lights them. In this respect the Egyptians, Grecians,
and Romans were no less blind or less brutish than the rudest and
most ignorant Americans. Like these, they lay, as it were, buried
within sensible things without going up higher; and they cultivated
their wit, only to tickle themselves with softer sensations, without
observing from what spring they proceeded. In this manner the
generality of men pass away their lives upon earth. Say nothing to
them, and they will think on nothing except what flatters either
their brutish passions or vanity. Their souls grow so heavy and
unwieldy that they cannot raise their thoughts to any incorporeal
object. Whatever is not palpable and cannot be seen, tasted, heard,
felt, or told, appears chimerical to them. This weakness of the
soul, turning into unbelief, appears strength of mind to them; and
their vanity glories in opposing what naturally strikes and affects
the rest of mankind, just as if a monster prided in not being formed
according to the common rules of Nature, or as if one born blind
boasted of his unbelief with respect to light and colours, which
other men perceive and discern.

SECT. XCII. A Prayer to God.

O my God, if so many men do not discover Thee in this great
spectacle Thou givest them of all Nature, it is not because Thou art
far from any of us. Every one of us feels Thee, as it were, with
his hand; but the senses, and the passions they raise, take up all
the attention of our minds. Thus, O Lord, Thy light shines in
darkness; but darkness is so thick and gloomy that it does not admit
the beams of Thy light. Thou appearest everywhere; and everywhere
unattentive mortals neglect to perceive Thee. All Nature speaks of
Thee and resounds with Thy holy name; but she speaks to deaf men,
whose deafness proceeds from the noise and clutter they make to stun
themselves. Thou art near and within them; but they are fugitive,
and wandering, as it were, out of themselves. They would find Thee,
O Sweet Light, O Eternal Beauty, ever old and ever young, O Fountain
of Chaste Delights, O Pure and Happy Life of all who live truly,
should they look for Thee within themselves. But the impious lose
Thee only by losing themselves. Alas! Thy very gifts, which should
show them the hand from whence they flow, amuse them to such a
degree as to hinder them from perceiving it. They live by Thee, and
yet they live without thinking on Thee; or, rather, they die by the
Fountain of Life for want of quenching their drought in that
vivifying stream; for what greater death can there be than not to
know Thee, O Lord? They fall asleep in Thy soft and paternal bosom,
and, full of the deceitful dreams by which they are tossed in their
sleep, they are insensible of the powerful hand that supports them.
If Thou wert a barren, impotent, and inanimate body, like a flower
that fades away, a river that runs, a house that decays and falls to
ruin, a picture that is but a collection of colours to strike the
imagination, or a useless metal that glisters--they would perceive
Thee, and fondly ascribe to Thee the power of giving them some
pleasure, although in reality pleasure cannot proceed from inanimate
beings, which are themselves void and incapable of it, but only from
Thee alone, the true spring of all joy. If therefore Thou wert but
a lumpish, frail, and inanimate being, a mass without any virtue or
power, a shadow of a being, Thy vain fantastic nature would busy
their vanity, and be a proper object to entertain their mean and
brutish thoughts. But because Thou art too intimately within them,
and they never at home, Thou art to them an unknown God; for while
they rove and wander abroad, the intimate part of themselves is most
remote from their sight. The order and beauty Thou scatterest over
the face of Thy creatures are like a glaring light that hides Thee
from and dazzles their sore eyes. Thus the very light that should
light them strikes them blind; and the rays of the sun themselves
hinder them to see it. In fine, because Thou art too elevated and
too pure a truth to affect gross senses, men who are become like
beasts cannot conceive Thee, though man has daily convincing
instances of wisdom and virtue without the testimony of any of his
senses; for those virtues have neither sound, colour, odour, taste,
figure, nor any sensible quality. Why then, O my God, do men call
Thy existence, wisdom, and power more in question than they do those
other things most real and manifest, the truth of which they suppose
as certain, in all the serious affairs of life, and which
nevertheless, as well as Thou, escape our feeble senses? O misery!
O dismal night that surrounds the children of Adam! O monstrous
stupidity! O confusion of the whole man! Man has eyes only to see
shadows, and truth appears a phantom to him. What is nothing, is
all; and what is all, is nothing to him. What do I behold in all
Nature? God. God everywhere, and still God alone. When I think, O
Lord, that all being is in Thee, Thou exhaustest and swallowest up,
O Abyss of Truth, all my thoughts. I know not what becomes of me.
Whatever is not Thou, disappears; and scarce so much of myself
remains wherewithal to find myself again. Who sees Thee not, never
saw anything; and who is not sensible of Thee, never was sensible of
anything. He is as if he were not. His whole life is but a dream.
Arise, O Lord, arise. Let Thy enemies melt like wax and vanish like
smoke before Thy face. How unhappy is the impious soul who, far
from Thee, is without God, without hope, without eternal comfort!
How happy he who searches, sighs, and thirsts after Thee! But fully
happy he on whom are reflected the beams of Thy countenance, whose
tears Thy hand has wiped off, and whose desires Thy love has already
completed. When will that time be, O Lord? O Fair Day, without
either cloud or end, of which Thyself shalt be the sun, and wherein
Thou shalt run through my soul like a torrent of delight? Upon this
pleasing hope my bones shiver, and cry out:--"Who is like Thee, O
Lord? My heart melts and my flesh faints, O God of my soul, and my
eternal wealth."


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