VOLTAIRE'S PHILOSOPHICAL DICTIONARY
Every sect, in whatever sphere, is the rallying-point of doubt and error. Scotist, Thomist, Realist, Nominalist, Papist, Calvinist, Molinist, Jansenist, are only pseudonyms.
There are no sects in geometry; one does not speak of a Euclidian, an Archimedean.
When the truth is evident, it is impossible for parties and factions to arise. Never has there been a dispute as to whether there is daylight at noon.
The branch of astronomy which determines the course of the stars and the return of eclipses being once known, there is no more dispute among astronomers.
In England one does not say—"I am a Newtonian, a Lockian, a Halleyan." Why? Those who have read cannot refuse their assent to the truths taught by these three great men. The more Newton is revered, the less do people style themselves Newtonians; this word supposes that there are anti-Newtonians in England. Maybe we still have a few Cartesians in France; that is solely because Descartes' system is a tissue of erroneous and ridiculous imaginings.
It is likewise with the small number of truths of fact which are well established. The records of the Tower of London having been authentically gathered by Rymer, there are no Rymerians, because it occurs to no one to combat this collection. In it one finds neither contradictions, absurdities nor prodigies; nothing which revolts the reason, nothing, consequently, which sectarians strive to maintain or upset by absurd arguments. Everyone agrees, therefore, that Rymer's records are worthy of belief.
You are Mohammedan, therefore there are people who are not, therefore you might well be wrong.
What would be the true religion if Christianity did not exist? the religion in which there were no sects; the religion in which all minds were necessarily in agreement.
Well, to what dogma do all minds agree? to the worship of a God and to integrity. All the philosophers of the world who have had a religion have said in all time—"There is a God, and one must be just." There, then, is the universal religion established in all time and throughout mankind.
The point in which they all agree is therefore true, and the systems through which they differ are therefore false.
"My sect is the best," says a Brahmin to me. But, my friend, if your sect is good, it is necessary; for if it were not absolutely necessary you would admit to me that it was useless: if it is absolutely necessary, it is for all men; how then can it be that all men have not what is absolutely necessary to them? How is it possible for the rest of the world to laugh at you and your Brahma?
When Zarathustra, Hermes, Orpheus, Minos and all the great men say—"Let us worship God, and let us be just," nobody laughs; but everyone hisses the man who claims that one cannot please God unless when one dies one is holding a cow's tail, and the man who wants one to have the end of one's prepuce cut off, and the man who consecrates crocodiles and onions, and the man who attaches eternal salvation to the dead men's bones one carries under one's shirt, or to a plenary indulgence which one buys at Rome for two and a half sous.
Whence comes this universal competition in hisses and derision from one end of the world to the other? It is clear that the things at which everyone sneers are not of a very evident truth. What shall we say of one of Sejan's secretaries who dedicated to Petronius a bombastic book entitled—"The Truths of the Sibylline Oracles, Proved by the Facts"?
This secretary proves to you first that it was necessary for God to send on earth several sibyls one after the other; for He had no other means of teaching mankind. It is demonstrated that God spoke to these sibyls, for the word sibyl signifies God's counsel. They had to live a long time, for it is the very least that persons to whom God speaks should have this privilege. They were twelve in number, for this number is sacred. They had certainly predicted all the events in the world, for Tarquinius Superbus bought three of their Books from an old woman for a hundred crowns. "What incredulous fellow," adds the secretary, "will dare deny all these evident facts which happened in a corner before the whole world? Who can deny the fulfilment of their prophecies? Has not Virgil himself quoted the predictions of the sibyls? If we have not the first examples of the Sibylline Books, written at a time when people did not know how to read or write, have we not authentic copies? Impiety must be silent before such proofs." Thus did Houttevillus speak to Sejan. He hoped to have a position as augur which would be worth an income of fifty thousand francs, and he had nothing. 
"What my sect teaches is obscure, I admit it," says a fanatic; "and it is because of this obscurity that it must be believed; for the sect itself says it is full of obscurities. My sect is extravagant, therefore it is divine; for how should what appears so mad have been embraced by so many peoples, if it were not divine?" It is precisely like the Alcoran which the Sonnites say has an angel's face and an animal's snout; be not scandalized by the animal's snout, and worship the angel's face. Thus speaks this insensate fellow. But a fanatic of another sect answers—"It is you who are the animal, and I who am the angel."
Well, who shall judge the suit? who shall decide between these two fanatics? The reasonable, impartial man learned in a knowledge that is not that of words; the man free from prejudice and lover of truth and justice; in short, the man who is not the foolish animal, and who does not think he is the angel.
Sect and error are synonymous. You are Peripatetic and I Platonician; we are therefore both wrong; for you combat Plato only because his fantasies have revolted you, and I am alienated from Aristotle only because it seems to me that he does not know what he is talking about. If one or the other had demonstrated the truth, there would be a sect no longer. To declare oneself for the opinion of the one or the other is to take sides in a civil war. There are no sects in mathematics, in experimental physics. A man who examines the relations between a cone and a sphere is not of the sect of Archimedes: he who sees that the square of the hypotenuse of a right-angled triangle is equal to the square of the two other sides is not of the sect of Pythagoras.
When you say that the blood circulates, that the air is heavy, that the sun's rays are pencils of seven refrangible rays, you are not either of the sect of Harvey, or the sect of Torricelli, or the sect of Newton; you agree merely with the truth demonstrated by them, and the entire universe will ever be of your opinion.
This is the character of truth; it is of all time; it is for all men; it has only to show itself to be recognized; one cannot argue against it. A long dispute signifies—"Both parties are wrong."
Nicole in his "Essais de Morale," written after two or three thousand volumes of ethics ("Treatise on Charity," Chap. II), says that "by means of the wheels and gibbets which people establish in common are repressed the tyrannous thoughts and designs of each individual's self-esteem."
I shall not examine whether people have gibbets in common, as they have meadows and woods in common, and a common purse, and if one represses ideas with wheels; but it seems very strange to me that Nicole should take highway robbery and assassination for self-esteem. One should distinguish shades of difference a little better. The man who said that Nero had his mother assassinated through self-esteem, that Cartouche had much self-esteem, would not be expressing himself very correctly. Self-esteem is not wickedness, it is a sentiment that is natural to all men; it is much nearer vanity than crime.
A beggar in the suburbs of Madrid nobly begged charity; a passer-by says to him: "Are you not ashamed to practise this infamous calling when you are able to work?"
"Sir," answered the beggar, "I ask for money, not advice." And he turned on his heel with full Castillian dignity.
This gentleman was a proud beggar, his vanity was wounded by a trifle. He asked charity out of love for himself, and could not tolerate the reprimand out of further love for himself.
A missionary travelling in India met a fakir laden with chains, naked as a monkey, lying on his stomach, and having himself whipped for the sins of his compatriots, the Indians, who gave him a few farthings.
"What self-denial!" said one of the lookers-on.
"Self-denial!" answered the fakir. "Learn that I have myself flogged in this world in order to return it in another, when you will be horses and I horseman."
Those who have said that love of ourselves is the basis of all our opinions and all our actions, have therefore been quite right in India, Spain, and all the habitable world: and as one does not write to prove to men that they have faces, it is not necessary to prove to them that they have self-esteem. Self-esteem is the instrument of our conservation; it resembles the instrument of the perpetuity of the species: it is necessary, it is dear to us, it gives us pleasure, and it has to be hidden.
This is a vague, indeterminate term, which expresses an unknown principle of known effects that we feel in us. The word soul corresponds to the Latin anima, to the Greek πνεῦμα, to the term of which all nations have made use to express what they did not understand any better than we do.
In the proper and literal sense of the Latin and the languages derived from Latin, it signifies that which animates. Thus people have spoken of the soul of men, of animals, sometimes of plants, to signify their principal of vegetation and life. In pronouncing this word, people have never had other than a confused idea, as when it is said in Genesis—"And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul; and the soul of animals is in the blood; and kill not my soul, etc."
Thus the soul was generally taken for the origin and the cause of life, for life itself. That is why all known nations long imagined that everything died with the body. If one can disentangle anything in the chaos of ancient histories, it seems that the Egyptians at least were the first to distinguish between the intelligence and the soul: and the Greeks learned from them to distinguish their νοῦς, their πνεῦμα, their σκιὰ. The Latins, following their example, distinguish animus and anima; and we, finally, have also had our soul and our understanding. But is that which is the principle of our life different from that which is the principle of our thoughts? is it the same being? Does that which directs us and gives us sensation and memory resemble that which is in animals the cause of digestion and the cause of their sensations and of their memory?
There is the eternal object of the disputes of mankind; I say eternal object; for not having any first notion from which we can descend in this examination, we can only rest for ever in a labyrinth of doubt and feeble conjecture.
We have not the smallest step where we may place a foot in order to reach the most superficial knowledge of what makes us live and of what makes us think. How should we have? we should have had to see life and thought enter a body. Does a father know how he has produced his son? does a mother how she conceived him? Has anyone ever been able to divine how he acts, how he wakes, how he sleeps? Does anyone know how his limbs obey his will? has anyone discovered by what art ideas are marked out in his brain and issue from it at his command? Frail automatons moved by the invisible hand which directs us on this stage of the world, which of us has been able to detect the wire which guides us?
We dare question whether the soul is "spirit" or "matter"; if it is created before us, if it issues from non-existence at our birth, if after animating us for one day on earth, it lives after us into eternity. These questions appear sublime; what are they? questions of blind men saying to other blind men—"What is light?"
When we want to learn something roughly about a piece of metal, we put it in a crucible in the fire. But have we a crucible in which to put the soul? "The soul is spirit," says one. But what is spirit? Assuredly no one has any idea; it is a word that is so void of sense that one is obliged to say what spirit is not, not being able to say what it is. "The soul is matter," says another. But what is matter? We know merely some of its appearances and some of its properties; and not one of these properties, not one of these appearances, seems to have the slightest connection with thought.
"Thought is something distinct from matter," say you. But what proof of it have you? Is it because matter is divisible and figurable, and thought is not? But who has told you that the first principles of matter are divisible and figurable? It is very probable that they are not; entire sects of philosophers maintain that the elements of matter have neither form nor extension. With a triumphant air you cry—"Thought is neither wood, nor stone, nor sand, nor metal, therefore thought does not belong to matter." Weak, reckless reasoners! gravitation is neither wood, nor sand, nor metal, nor stone; movement, vegetation, life are not these things either, and yet life, vegetation, movement, gravitation, are given to matter. To say that God cannot make matter think is to say the most insolently absurd thing that anyone has ever dared utter in the privileged schools of lunacy. We are not certain that God has treated matter like this; we are only certain that He can. But what matters all that has been said and all that will be said about the soul? what does it matter that it has been called entelechy, quintessence, flame, ether? that it has been thought universal, uncreated, transmigrant, etc.?
In these matters that are inaccessible to the reason, what do these romances of our uncertain imaginations matter? What does it matter that the Fathers of the first four centuries thought the soul corporeal? What does it matter that Tertullian, by a contradiction frequent in him, has decided that it is simultaneously corporeal, formed and simple? We have a thousand witnesses to ignorance, and not one that gives a glimmer of probability.
How then are we so bold as to assert what the soul is? We know certainly that we exist, that we feel, that we think. Do we want to take a step beyond? we fall into a shadowy abyss; and in this abyss we are still so madly reckless as to dispute whether this soul, of which we have not the least idea, was made before us or with us, and whether it perishes or is immortal.
The article SOUL, and all the articles of the nature of metaphysics, must start by a sincere submission to the incontrovertible dogmas of the Church. Revelation is worth more, without doubt, than the whole of philosophy. Systems exercise the mind, but faith illumines and guides it.
Do we not often pronounce words of which we have only a very confused idea, or even of which we have none at all? Is not the word soul an instance? When the clapper or valve of a bellows is out of order, and when air which is in the bellows leaves it by some unexpected opening in this valve, so that it is no longer compressed against the two blades, and is not thrust violently towards the hearth which it has to light, French servants say—"The soul of the bellows has burst." They know no more about it than that; and this question in no wise disturbs their peace of mind.
The gardener utters the phrase "the soul of the plants," and cultivates them very well without knowing what he means by this term.
The violin-maker poses, draws forward or back the "soul of a violin" beneath the bridge in the belly of the instrument; a puny piece of wood more or less gives the violin or takes away from it a harmonious soul.
We have many industries in which the workmen give the qualification of "soul" to their machines. Never does one hear them dispute about this word. Such is not the case with philosophers.
For us the word "soul" signifies generally that which animates. Our ancestors the Celts gave to their soul the name of seel, from which the English soul, and the German seel; and probably the ancient Teutons and the ancient Britons had no quarrels in their universities over this expression.
The Greeks distinguished three sorts of souls—ψυχὴ, which signified the sensitive soul, the soul of the senses; and that is why Love, child of Aphrodite, had so much passion for Psyche, and why Psyche loved him so tenderly: πνεῦμα, the breath which gives life and movement to the whole machine, and which we have translated by spiritus, spirit; vague word to which have been given a thousand different meanings: and finally νοῦς, the intelligence.
We possessed therefore three souls, without having the least notion of any of them. St. Thomas Aquinas (Summation of St. Thomas. Lyons edition, 1738) admits these three souls as a peripatetic, and distinguishes each of these three souls in three parts. ψυχὴ was in the breast, πνεῦμα was distributed throughout the body, and νοῦς was in the head. There has been no other philosophy in our schools up to our day, and woe betide any man who took one of these souls for the other.
In this chaos of ideas there was, nevertheless, a foundation. Men had noticed that in their passions of love, hate, anger, fear, their internal organs were stimulated to movement. The liver and the heart were the seat of the passions. If one thought deeply, one felt a strife in the organs of the head; therefore the intellectual soul was in the head. Without respiration no vegetation, no life; therefore the vegetative soul was in the breast which receives the breath of air.
When men saw in dreams their dead relatives or friends, they had to seek what had appeared to them. It was not the body which had been consumed on a funeral pyre, or swallowed up in the sea and eaten by the fishes. It was, however, something, so they maintained; for they had seen it; the dead man had spoken; the dreamer had questioned him. Was it ψυχὴ, was it πνεῦμα, was it νοῦς, with whom one had conversed in the dream? One imagined a phantom, an airy figure: it was σκιὰ, it was δαίμων, a ghost from the shades, a little soul of air and fire, very unrestricted, which wandered I know not where.
Eventually, when one wanted to sift the matter, it became a constant that this soul was corporeal; and the whole of antiquity never had any other idea. At last came Plato who so subtilized this soul that it was doubtful if he did not separate it entirely from matter; but that was a problem that was never solved until faith came to enlighten us.
In vain do the materialists quote some of the fathers of the Church who did not express themselves with precision. St. Irenæus says (liv. v. chaps. vi and vii) that the soul is only the breath of life, that it is incorporeal only by comparison with the mortal body, and that it preserves the form of man so that it may be recognized.
In vain does Tertullian express himself like this—"The corporeality of the soul shines bright in the Gospel." (Corporalitas animæ in ipso Evangelio relucescit, De Anima, cap. vii.) For if the soul did not have a body, the image of the soul would not have the image of the body.
In vain does he record the vision of a holy woman who had seen a very shining soul, of the colour of air.
In vain does Tatien say expressly (Oratio ad Græcos, c. xxiii.)—"The soul of man is composed of many parts."
In vain is St. Hilarius quoted as saying in later times (St. Hilarius on St. Matthew)—"There is nothing created which is not corporeal, either in heaven, or on earth, or among the visible, or among the invisible: everything is formed of elements; and souls, whether they inhabit a body, or issue from it, have always a corporeal substance."
In vain does St. Ambrose, in the sixth century, say (On Abraham, liv. ii., ch. viii.)—"We recognize nothing but the material, except the venerable Trinity alone."
The body of the entire Church has decided that the soul is immaterial. These saints fell into an error at that time universal; they were men; but they were not mistaken over immortality, because that is clearly announced in the Gospels.
We have so evident a need of the decision of the infallible Church on these points of philosophy, that we have not indeed by ourselves any sufficient notion of what is called "pure spirit," and of what is named "matter." Pure spirit is an expression which gives us no idea; and we know matter only by a few phenomena. We know it so little that we call it "substance"; well, the word substance means "that which is under"; but what is under will be eternally hidden from us. What is under is the Creator's secret; and this secret of the Creator is everywhere. We do not know either how we receive life, or how we give it, or how we grow, or how we digest, or how we sleep, or how we think, or how we feel.
The great difficulty is to understand how a being, whoever he be, has thoughts.
The author of the article SOUL in the "Encyclopedia" (the Abbé Yvon) followed Jaquelot scrupulously; but Jaquelot teaches us nothing. He sets himself also against Locke, because the modest Locke said (liv. iv, ch. iii, para. vi.)—"We possibly shall never be able to know whether any mere material being thinks or no; it being impossible for us, by the contemplation of our own ideas without revelation, to discover whether Omnipotency has not given to some systems of matter, fitly disposed, a power to perceive and think, or else joined and fixed to matter, so disposed, a thinking immaterial substance: it being, in respect of our notions, not much more remote from our comprehension to conceive that God can, if he pleases, superadd to matter a faculty of thinking, than that he should superadd to it another substance with a faculty of thinking; since we know not wherein thinking consists, nor to what sort of substances the Almighty has been pleased to give that power which cannot be in any created being but merely by the good pleasure and bounty of the Creator, for I see no contradiction in it, that the first eternal thinking Being should, if he pleased, give to certain systems of created senseless matter, put together as he thinks fit, some degrees of sense, perception and thought."
Those are the words of a profound, religious and modest man.
We know what quarrels he had to undergo on account of this opinion which appeared bold, but which was in fact in him only a consequence of his conviction of the omnipotence of God and the weakness of man. He did not say that matter thought; but he said that we have not enough knowledge to demonstrate that it is impossible for God to add the gift of thought to the unknown being called "matter", after according it the gift of gravitation and the gift of movement, both of which are equally incomprehensible.
Locke was not assuredly the only one who had advanced this opinion; it was the opinion of all antiquity, who, regarding the soul as very unrestricted matter, affirmed consequently that matter could feel and think.
It was Gassendi's opinion, as may be seen in his objections to Descartes. "It is true," says Gassendi, "that you know what you think; but you are ignorant of what species of substance you are, you who think. Thus although the operation of thought is known to you, the principle of your essence is hidden from you; and you do not know what is the nature of this substance, one of the operations of which is to think. You are like a blind man who, feeling the heat of the sun and being informed that it is caused by the heat of the sun, thinks he has a clear and distinct idea of this luminary; because if he were asked what the sun was, he could reply that it is a thing which heats, etc."
The same Gassendi, in his "Epicurean Philosophy," repeats several times that there is no mathematical evidence of the pure spirituality of the soul.
Descartes, in one of his letters to the Palatine Princess Elisabeth, says to her—"I confess that by the natural reason alone we can make many conjectures on the soul, and have gratifying hopes, but no certainty." And in that sentence Descartes combats in his letters what he puts forward in his works; a too ordinary contradiction.
In fine we have seen that all the Fathers of the first centuries of the Church, while believing the soul immortal, believed it at the same time material; they thought that it is as easy for God to conserve as to create. They said—"God made the soul thinking, He will preserve it thinking."
Malebranche has proved very well that we have no idea by ourselves, and that objects are incapable of giving us ideas: from that he concludes that we see everything in God. That is at the bottom the same thing as making God the author of all our ideas; for with what should we see in Him, if we had not instruments for seeing? and these instruments, it is He alone who holds them and guides them. This system is a labyrinth, one lane of which would lead you to Spinozism, another to Stoicism, another to chaos.
When one has had a good argument about spirit and matter, one always finishes by not understanding each other. No philosopher has been able with his own strength to lift this veil stretched by nature over all the first principles of things. Men argue, nature acts.
Of the Soul of Animals, and of some Empty Ideas
Before the strange system which supposes animals to be pure machines without any sensation, men had never thought that the beasts possessed an immaterial soul; and nobody had pushed recklessness to the point of saying that an oyster has a spiritual soul. Everyone concurred peaceably in agreeing that the beasts had received from God feeling, memory, ideas, and no pure spirit. Nobody had abused the gift of reason to the point of saying that nature had given the beasts all the organs of feeling so that they might not feel anything. Nobody had said that they cry when they are wounded, and that they fly when pursued, without experiencing pain or fear.
At that time people did not deny the omnipotence of God; He had been able to communicate to the organized matter of animals pleasure, pain, remembrance, the combination of a few ideas; He had been able to give to several of them, such as the monkey, the elephant, the hunting-dog, the talent of perfecting themselves in the arts which were taught to them; not only had He been able to endow nearly all carnivorous animals with the talent of warring better in their experienced old age than in their too trustful youth; not only, I say, had He been able to do these things, but He had done them: the universe bore witness thereto.
Pereira and Descartes maintained that the universe was mistaken, that God was a juggler, that He had given animals all the instruments of life and sensation, so that they might have neither life nor sensation, properly speaking. But I do not know what so-called philosophers, in order to answer Descartes' chimera, leaped into the opposite chimera; they gave liberally of pure spirit to the toads and the insects.
Between these two madnesses, the one refusing feeling to the organs of feeling, the other lodging a pure spirit in a bug, somebody thought of a middle path. It was instinct. And what is instinct? Oh, oh, it is a substantial form; it is a plastic form; it is I do not know what! it is instinct. I shall be of your opinion so long as you will call the majority of things, "I do not know what"; so long as your philosophy begins and ends with "I do not know what", I shall quote Prior to you in his poem on the vanity of the world.
The author of the article SOUL in the "Encyclopedia" explains himself like this:—"I picture the animals' soul as an immaterial and intelligent substance, but of what species? It must, it seems to me, be an active principle which has sensations, and which has only that.... If we reflect on the nature of the soul of animals, it supplies us with groundwork which might lead us to think that its spirituality will save it from annihilation."
I do not know how one pictures an immaterial substance. To picture something is to make an image of it; and up till now nobody has been able to paint the spirit. For the word "picture", I want the author to understand "I conceive"; speaking for myself, I confess I do not conceive it. I confess still less that a spiritual soul may be annihilated, because I do not conceive either creation or non-existence; because I have never been present at God's council; because I know nothing at all about the principle of things.
If I wish to prove that the soul is a real being, someone stops me by telling me that it is a faculty. If I assert that it is a faculty, and that I have the faculty of thinking, I am told that I am mistaken; that God, the eternal master of all nature, does everything in me, and directs all my actions and all my thoughts; that if I produced my thoughts, I should know the thought I will have in a minute; that I never know it; that I am only an automaton with sensations and ideas, necessarily dependent, and in the hands of the Supreme Being, infinitely more compliant to Him than clay is to the potter.
I confess my ignorance, therefore; I avow that four thousand tomes of metaphysics will not teach us what our soul is.
An orthodox philosopher said to a heterodox philosopher—"How have you been able to come to the point of imagining that the soul is mortal by nature, and eternal only by the pure wish of God?"
"By my own experience," said the other.
"How! are you dead?"
"Yes, very often. I suffered from epilepsy in my youth, and I assure you that I was completely dead for several hours. No sensation, no remembrance even of the moment that I fell ill. The same thing happens to me now nearly every night. I never feel the precise moment that I go to sleep; my sleep is absolutely dreamless. I cannot imagine by conjecture how long I have slept. I am dead regularly six hours out of the twenty-four. That is a quarter of my life."
The orthodox then asserted that he always thought during his sleep without knowing anything about it. The heterodox answered him—"I believe through revelation that I shall always think in the other life; but I assure you I think rarely in this one."
The orthodox was not mistaken in asserting the immortality of the soul, for faith and reason demonstrate this truth; but he might be mistaken in asserting that a sleeping man always thinks.
Locke admitted frankly that he did not always think while he was asleep: another philosopher has said—"Thought is characteristic of man; but it is not his essence."
Let us leave to each man the liberty and consolation of seeking himself, and of losing himself in his ideas.
It is good, however, to know, that in 1730 a philosopher suffered a severe enough persecution for having confessed, with Locke, that his understanding was not exercised at every moment of the day and night, just as he did not use his arms and his legs at all moments. Not only did court ignorance persecute him, but the malignant influence of a few so-called men of letters was let loose against him. What in England had produced merely a few philosophical disputes, produced in France the most cowardly atrocities; a Frenchman suffered by Locke.
There have always been in the mud of our literature more than one of these miscreants who have sold their pens, and intrigued against their benefactors even. This remark is rather foreign to the article SOUL; but should one miss an opportunity of dismaying those who make themselves unworthy of the name of men of letters, who prostitute the little mind and conscience they have to a vile self-interest, to a fantastic policy, who betray their friends to flatter fools, who in secret powder the hemlock which the powerful and malicious ignoramus wants to make useful citizens drink?
In short, while we worship God with all our soul, let us confess always our profound ignorance of this soul, of this faculty of feeling and thinking which we possess from His infinite goodness. Let us avow that our feeble reasonings can take nothing away from, or add anything to revelation and faith. Let us conclude in fine that we should use this intelligence, the nature of which is unknown, for perfecting the sciences which are the object of the "Encyclopedia"; just as watchmakers use springs in their watches, without knowing what a spring is.
About the Soul, and About our Little Knowledge
On the testimony of our acquired knowledge, we have dared question whether the soul is created before us, whether it comes from non-existence into our body? at what age it came to settle between a bladder and the intestines cæcum and rectum? if it brought ideas with it or received them there, and what are these ideas? if after animating us for a few moments, its essence is to live after us into eternity without the intervention of God Himself? if being spirit, and God being spirit, they are both of like nature? These questions seem sublime; what are they? questions about light by men born blind.
What have all the philosophers, ancient and modern, taught us? a child is wiser than they are; he does not think about things of which he can form no conception.
You will say that it is sad for our insatiable curiosity, for our inexhaustible thirst for happiness, to be thus ignorant of ourselves! I agree, and there are still sadder things; but I shall answer you:
Once again, it seems that the nature of every principle of things is the Creator's secret. How does the air carry sound? how are animals formed? how do some of our limbs constantly obey our wills? what hand puts ideas in our memory, keeps them there as in a register, and pulls them out sometimes when we want them and sometimes in spite of ourselves? Our nature, the nature of the universe, the nature of the least plant, everything for us is sunk in a shadowy pit.
Man is an acting, feeling, thinking being: that is all we know of him: it is not given to us to know what makes us feel and think, or what makes us act, or what makes us exist. The acting faculty is as incomprehensible for us as the thinking faculty. The difficulty is less to conceive how a body of mud has feelings and ideas, than to conceive how a being, whatever it be, has ideas and feelings.
Here on one side the soul of Archimedes, on the other the soul of an idiot; are they of the same nature? If their essence is to think, they think always, and independently of the body which cannot act without them. If they think by their own nature, can the species of a soul which cannot do a sum in arithmetic be the same as that which measured the heavens? If it is the organs of the body which made Archimedes think, why is it that my idiot, who has a stronger constitution than Archimedes, who is more vigorous, digests better and performs all his functions better, does not think at all? It is, you say, because his brain is not so good. But you are making a supposition; you do not know at all. No difference has ever been found between healthy brains that have been dissected. It is even very probable that a fool's cerebellum will be in better condition than Archimedes', which has worked prodigiously, and which might be worn out and shrivelled.
Let us conclude therefore what we have already concluded, that we are ignoramuses about all first principles. As regards ignoramuses who pride themselves on their knowledge, they are far inferior to monkeys.
Now dispute, choleric arguers: present your petitions against each other; proffer your insults, pronounce your sentences, you who do not know one word about the matter.
Of Warburton's Paradox on the Immortality of the Soul
Warburton, editor and commentator of Shakespeare and Bishop of Gloucester, making use of English freedom, and abuse of the custom of hurling insults at one's adversaries, has composed four volumes to prove that the immortality of the soul was never announced in the Pentateuch, and to conclude from this same proof that Moses' mission is divine. Here is the précis of his book, which he himself gives, pages 7 and 8 of the first volume.
"1. The doctrine of a life to come, of rewards and punishments after death, is necessary to all civil society.
"2. The whole human race (and this is where he is mistaken), and especially the wisest and most learned nations of antiquity, concurred in believing and teaching this doctrine.
"3. It cannot be found in any passage of the law of Moses; therefore the law of Moses is of divine origin. Which I am going to prove by the two following syllogisms:
"All the ancient legislators have said that a religion which did not teach the immortality of the soul could not be maintained but by an extraordinary providence; Moses founded a religion which is not founded on the immortality of the soul; therefore Moses believed his religion maintained by an extraordinary providence."
What is much more extraordinary is this assertion of Warburton's, which he has put in big letters at the beginning of his book. He has often been reproached with the extreme rashness and bad faith with which he dares to say that all the ancient legislators believed that a religion which is not founded on pains and recompenses after death, can be maintained only by an extraordinary providence; not one of them ever said it. He does not undertake even to give any example in his huge book stuffed with a vast number of quotations, all of which are foreign to his subject. He has buried himself beneath a pile of Greek and Latin authors, ancient and modern, for fear one might see through him on the other side of a horrible multitude of envelopes. When criticism finally probed to the bottom, he was resurrected from among all these dead men in order to load all his adversaries with insults.
It is true that towards the end of his fourth volume, after having walked through a hundred labyrinths, and having fought with everybody he met on the road, he comes at last to his great question which he had left there. He lays all the blame on the Book of Job which passes among scholars for an Arab work, and he tries to prove that Job did not believe in the immortality of the soul. Later he explains in his own way all the texts of Holy Writ by which people have tried to combat this opinion.
All one can say about it is that, if he was right, it was not for a bishop to be right in such a way. He should have felt that one might draw dangerous inferences; but everything in this world is a mass of contradiction. This man, who became accuser and persecutor, was not made bishop by a minister of state's patronage until immediately after he had written his book.
At Salamanca, Coimbre or Rome, he would have been obliged to recant and to ask pardon. In England he became a peer of the realm with an income of a hundred thousand livres; it was enough to modify his methods.
Of the Need of Revelation
The greatest benefit we owe to the New Testament is that it has revealed to us the immortality of the soul. It is in vain, therefore, that this fellow Warburton tried to cloud over this important truth, by continually representing in his legation of Moses that "the ancient Jews knew nothing of this necessary dogma, and that the Sadducees did not admit it in the time of our Lord Jesus."
He interprets in his own way the very words that have been put into Jesus Christ's mouth: "... have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living" (St. Matt. xxii. 31, 32). He gives to the parable of the wicked rich man a sense contrary to that of all the Churches. Sherlock, Bishop of London, and twenty other scholars refuted him. English philosophers even reproached him with the scandal of an Anglican bishop manifesting an opinion so contrary to the Anglican Church; and after that, this man takes it into his head to treat these persons as impious: like the character of Arlequin in the comedy of the Dévaliseur de maisons, who, after throwing the furniture out of the window, sees a man carrying some of it off, and cries with all his might "Stop thief!"
One should bless the revelation of the immortality of the soul, and of rewards and punishments after death, all the more that mankind's vain philosophy has always been sceptical of it. The great Cæsar did not believe in it at all, he made himself quite clear in full senate when, in order to stop Catalina being put to death, he represented that death left man without sensation, that everything died with him; and nobody refuted this view.
The Roman Empire was divided between two principal sects: that of Epicurus which asserted that deity was useless to the world, and that the soul perished with the body: and that of the Stoics who regarded the soul as part of the Deity, which after death was joined again to its origin, to the great everything from which it emanated. Thus, whether one believed the soul mortal, or whether one believed it immortal, all the sects were agreed in laughing at pains and punishments after death.
We still have a hundred monuments of this belief of the Romans. It is by virtue of this opinion graved profoundly in their hearts, that so many simple Roman citizens killed themselves without the least scruple; they did not wait for a tyrant to hand them over to the executioners.
The most virtuous men even, and those most persuaded of the existence of a God, hoped for no reward, and feared no punishment. Clement, who later was Pope and saint, began by himself doubting what the early Christians said of another life, and consulted St. Peter at Cæsarea. We are far from believing that St. Clement wrote the history that is attributed to him; but this history makes evident the need the human race had of a precise revelation. All that can surprise us is that so repressive and salutary a doctrine has left a prey to so many horrible crimes men who have so little time to live, and who see themselves squeezed between two eternities.
Souls of Fools and Monsters
A deformed child is born absolutely imbecile, it has no ideas and lives without ideas; we have seen examples of this. How shall this animal be defined? doctors have said that it is something between man and beast; others have said that it had a sensitive soul, but not an intellectual soul. It eats, drinks, sleeps, wakes, has sensations; but it does not think.
Is there another life for this creature, or is there none? The question has been posed, and has not yet been completely answered.
Some say that this creature must have a soul, because its father and mother had one. But by this reasoning one would prove that if it came into the world without a nose it would be deemed to have one, because its father and its mother had noses.
A woman gives birth to child with no chin, its forehead is receding and rather black, its nose is slim and pointed, its eyes are round, it bears not a bad resemblance to a swallow; the rest of its body, nevertheless, is made like ours. The parents have it baptised; by a plurality of votes it is considered a man and possessor of an immortal soul. But if this ridiculous little figure has pointed nails and beak-like mouth, it is declared a monster, it has no soul, and is not baptised.
It is well known that in London in 1726 there was a woman who gave birth every week to a rabbit. No difficulty was made about refusing baptism to this child, despite the epidemic mania there was for three weeks in London for believing that this poor rogue was making wild rabbits. The surgeon who attended her, St. André by name, swore that nothing was more true, and people believed him. But what reason did the credulous have for refusing a soul to this woman's children? she had a soul, her children should be provided with souls also; whether they had hands, whether they had paws, whether they were born with a little snout or with a face; cannot the Supreme Being bestow the gift of thought and sensation on a little I know not what, born of a woman, shaped like a rabbit, as well as to a little I know not what, shaped like a man? Shall the soul that was ready to lodge in this woman's fœtus go back again into space?
Locke makes the sound observation, about monsters, that one must not attribute immortality to the exterior of a body; that the form has nothing to do with it. This immortality, he says, is no more attached to the form of his face or his chest, than to the way his beard is dressed or his coat cut.
He asks what is the exact measure of deformity by which you can recognize whether or no a child has a soul? What is the precise degree at which it must be declared a monster and deprived of a soul?
One asks still further what would be a soul which never has any but fantastic ideas? there are some which never escape from them. Are they worthy or unworthy? what is to be done with their pure spirit?
What is one to think of a child with two heads? without deformity apart from this? Some say that it has two souls because it is provided with two pineal glands, with two corpus callosum, with two sensorium commune. Others reply that one cannot have two souls when one has only one chest and one navel. 
In fine, so many questions have been asked about this poor human soul, that if it were necessary to answer them all, this examination of its own person would cause it the most intolerable boredom. There would happen to it what happened to Cardinal de Polignac at a conclave. His steward, tired of never being able to make him settle his accounts, made the journey from Rome, and came to the little window of his cell burdened with an immense bundle of papers. He read for nearly two hours. At last, seeing that no reply was forthcoming, he put his head forward. The cardinal had departed nearly two hours before. Our souls will depart before their stewards have acquainted them with the facts: but let us be exact before God, whatever sort of ignoramuses we are, we and our stewards.
The ins and outs of all governments have been closely examined recently. Tell me then, you who have travelled, in what state, under what sort of government you would choose to be born. I imagine that a great land-owning lord in France would not be vexed to be born in Germany; he would be sovereign instead of subject. A peer of France would be very glad to have the privileges of the English peerage; he would be legislator. The lawyer and the financier would be better off in France than elsewhere.
But what country would a wise, free man, a man with a moderate fortune, and without prejudices, choose?
A member of the government of Pondicherry, a learned man enough, returned to Europe by land with a Brahmin better educated than the ordinary Brahmin. "What do you think of the government of the Great Mogul?" asked the councillor.
"I think it abominable," answered the Brahmin. "How can you expect a state to be happily governed by the Tartars? Our rajahs, our omrahs, our nabobs, are very content, but the citizens are hardly so; and millions of citizens are something."
Reasoning, the councillor and the Brahmin traversed the whole of Upper Asia. "I make the observation," said the Brahmin, "that there is not one republic in all this vast part of the world."
"Formerly there was the republic of Tyre," said the councillor, "but it did not last long; there was still another one in the direction of Arabia Petrea, in a little corner called Palestine, if one can honour with the name of republic a horde of thieves and usurers sometimes governed by judges, sometimes by a species of kings, sometimes by grand-pontiffs, become slave seven or eight times, and finally driven out of the country which it had usurped."
"I imagine," said the Brahmin, "that one ought to find very few republics on the earth. Men are rarely worthy of governing themselves. This happiness should belong only to little peoples who hide themselves in islands, or among the mountains, like rabbits who shun carnivorous beasts; but in the long run they are discovered and devoured."
When the two travellers reached Asia Minor, the councillor said to the Brahmin: "Would you believe that a republic was formed in a corner of Italy, which lasted more than five hundred years, and which owned Asia Minor, Asia, Africa, Greece, Gaul, Spain and the whole of Italy?"
"She soon became a monarchy, then," said the Brahmin.
"You have guessed right," said the other. "But this monarchy fell, and every day we compose beautiful dissertations in order to find the cause of its decadence and downfall."
"You take a deal of trouble," said the Indian. "This empire fell because it existed. Everything has to fall. I hope as much will happen to the Grand Mogul's empire."
"By the way," said the European, "do you consider that there should be more honour in a despotic state, and more virtue in a republic?"
The Indian, having had explained to him what we mean by honour, answered that honour was more necessary in a republic, and that one had more need of virtue in a monarchical state. "For," said he, "a man who claims to be elected by the people, will not be if he is dishonoured; whereas at the court he could easily obtain a place, in accordance with a great prince's maxim, that in order to succeed a courtier should have neither honour nor character. As regards virtue, one must be prodigiously virtuous to dare to say the truth. The virtuous man is much more at his ease in a republic; he has no one to flatter."
"Do you think," said the man from Europe, "that laws and religions are made for climates, just as one has to have furs in Moscow, and gauzy stuffs in Delhi?"
"Without a doubt," answered the Brahmin. "All the laws which concern material things are calculated for the meridian one lives in. A German needs only one wife, and a Persian three or four.
"The rites of religion are of the same nature. How, if I were Christian, should I say mass in my province where there is neither bread nor wine? As regards dogmas, that is another matter; the climate has nothing to do with them. Did not your religion begin in Asia, whence it was driven out? does it not exist near the Baltic Sea, where it was unknown?"
"In what state, under what domination, would you like best to live?" asked the councillor.
"Anywhere but where I do live," answered his companion. "And I have met many Siamese, Tonkinese, Persians and Turks who said as much."
"But, once again," persisted the European, "what state would you choose?"
The Brahmin answered: "The state where only the laws are obeyed."
"That is an old answer," said the councillor.
"It is none the worse for that," said the Brahmin.
"Where is that country?" asked the councillor.
"We must look for it," answered the Brahmin.
The superstitious man is to the rogue what the slave is to the tyrant. Further, the superstitious man is governed by the fanatic and becomes fanatic. Superstition born in Paganism, adopted by Judaism, infested the Christian Church from the earliest times. All the fathers of the Church, without exception, believed in the power of magic. The Church always condemned magic, but she always believed in it: she did not excommunicate sorcerers as madmen who were mistaken, but as men who were really in communication with the devil.
To-day one half of Europe thinks that the other half has long been and still is superstitious. The Protestants regard the relics, the indulgences, the mortifications, the prayers for the dead, the holy water, and almost all the rites of the Roman Church, as a superstitious dementia. Superstition, according to them, consists in taking useless practices for necessary practices. Among the Roman Catholics there are some more enlightened than their ancestors, who have renounced many of these usages formerly considered sacred; and they defend themselves against the others who have retained them, by saying: "They are indifferent, and what is merely indifferent cannot be an evil."
It is difficult to mark the limits of superstition. A Frenchman travelling in Italy finds almost everything superstitious, and is hardly mistaken. The Archbishop of Canterbury maintains that the Archbishop of Paris is superstitious; the Presbyterians make the same reproach against His Grace of Canterbury, and are in their turn treated as superstitious by the Quakers, who are the most superstitious of all in the eyes of other Christians.
In Christian societies, therefore, no one agrees as to what superstition is. The sect which seems to be the least attacked by this malady of the intelligence is that which has the fewest rites. But if with few ceremonies it is still strongly attached to an absurd belief, this absurd belief is equivalent alone to all the superstitious practices observed from the time of Simon the magician to that of Father Gauffridi.
It is therefore clear that it is the fundamentals of the religion of one sect which is considered as superstition by another sect.
The Moslems accuse all Christian societies of it, and are themselves accused. Who will judge this great matter? Will it be reason? But each sect claims to have reason on its side. It will therefore be force which will judge, while awaiting the time when reason will penetrate a sufficient number of heads to disarm force.
Up to what point does statecraft permit superstition to be destroyed? This is a very thorny question; it is like asking up to what point one should make an incision in a dropsical person, who may die under the operation. It is a matter for the doctor's discretion.
Can there exist a people free from all superstitious prejudices? That is to ask—Can there exist a nation of philosophers? It is said that there is no superstition in the magistrature of China. It is probable that none will remain in the magistrature of a few towns of Europe.
Then the magistrates will stop the superstition of the people from being dangerous. These magistrates' example will not enlighten the mob, but the principal persons of the middle-classes will hold the mob in check. There is not perhaps a single riot, a single religious outrage in which the middle-classes were not formerly imbrued, because these middle classes were then the mob; but reason and time will have changed them. Their softened manners will soften those of the lowest and most savage populace; it is a thing of which we have striking examples in more than one country. In a word, less superstition, less fanaticism; and less fanaticism, less misery.
 Reference to the Abbé Houtteville, author of a book entitled—"The Truth of the Christian Religion, Proved by the Facts."
 Voltaire himself.
 The Chevalier d'Angos, learned astronomer, has carefully observed a two-headed lizard for several days; and he has assured himself that the lizard had two independent wills, each of which had an almost equal power over the body. When the lizard was given a piece of bread, in such a way that it could see it with only one head, this head wanted to go after the bread, and the other wanted the body to remain at rest.