Percy Bysshe Shelley: Notes on Queen Mab

Updated May 6, 2020 | Infoplease Staff
by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Notes on Queen Mab

Shelley's Notes

1. 242, 243:-

The sun's unclouded orb
Rolled through the black concave.

Beyond our atmosphere the sun would appear a rayless orb of fire in the midst of a black concave. The equal diffusion of its light on earth is owing to the refraction of the rays by the atmosphere, and their reflection from other bodies. Light consists either of vibrations propagated through a subtle medium, or of numerous minute particles repelled in all directions from the luminous body. Its velocity greatly exceeds that of any substance with which we are acquainted: observations on the eclipses of Jupiter's satellites have demonstrated that light takes up no more than 8 minutes 7 seconds in passing from the sun to the earth, a distance of 95,000,000 miles.-Some idea may be gained of the immense distance of the fixed stars when it is computed that many years would elapse before light could reach this earth from the nearest of them; yet in one year light travels 5,422,400,000,000 miles, which is a distance 5,707,600 times greater than that of the sun from the earth.

1. 252, 253:-

Whilst round the chariot's way
Innumerable systems rolled.

The plurality of worlds,-the indefinite immensity of the universe, is a most awful subject of contemplation. He who rightly feels its mystery and grandeur is in no danger of seduction from the falsehoods of religious systems, or of deifying the principle of the universe. It is impossible to believe that the Spirit that pervades this infinite machine begat a son upon the body of a Jewish woman; or is angered at the consequences of that necessity, which is a synonym of itself. All that miserable tale of the Devil, and Eve, and an Intercessor, with the childish mummeries of the God of the Jews, is irreconcilable with the knowledge of the stars. The works of His fingers have borne witness against Him.

The nearest of the fixed stars is inconceivably distant from the earth, and they are probably proportionably distant from each other. By a calculation of the velocity of light, Sirius is supposed to be at least 54,224,000,000,000 miles from the earth. (See Nicholson's "Encyclopedia", article Light.) That which appears only like a thin and silvery cloud streaking the heaven is in effect composed of innumerable clusters of suns, each shining with its own light, and illuminating numbers of planets that revolve around them. Millions and millions of suns are ranged around us, all attended by innumerable worlds, yet calm, regular, and harmonious, all keeping the paths of immutable necessity.

4. 178, 179:-

These are the hired bravos who defend
The tyrant's throne.

To employ murder as a means of justice is an idea which a man of an enlightened mind will not dwell upon with pleasure. To march forth in rank and file, and all the pomp of streamers and trumpets, for the purpose of shooting at our fellow-men as a mark; to inflict upon them all the variety of wound and anguish; to leave them weltering in their blood; to wander over the field of desolation, and count the number of the dying and the dead,-are employments which in thesis we may maintain to be necessary, but which no good man will contemplate with gratulation and delight. A battle we suppose is won:-thus truth is established, thus the cause of justice is confirmed! It surely requires no common sagacity to discern the connexion between this immense heap of calamities and the assertion of truth or the maintenance of justice.

'Kings, and ministers of state, the real authors of the calamity, sit unmolested in their cabinet, while those against whom the fury of the storm is directed are, for the most part, persons who have been trepanned into the service, or who are dragged unwillingly from their peaceful homes into the field of battle. A soldier is a man whose business it is to kill those who never offended him, and who are the innocent martyrs of other men's iniquities. Whatever may become of the abstract question of the justifiableness of war, it seems impossible that the soldier should not be a depraved and unnatural being.

To these more serious and momentous considerations it may be proper to add a recollection of the ridiculousness of the military character. Its first constituent is obedience: a soldier is, of all descriptions of men, the most completely a machine; yet his profession inevitably teaches him something of dogmatism, swaggering, and sell-consequence: he is like the puppet of a showman, who, at the very time he is made to strut and swell and display the most farcical airs, we perfectly know cannot assume the most insignificant gesture, advance either to the right or the left, but as he is moved by his exhibitor.'-Godwin's "Enquirer", Essay 5.

I will here subjoin a little poem, so strongly expressive of my abhorrence of despotism and falsehood, that I fear lest it never again may be depictured so vividly. This opportunity is perhaps the only one that ever will occur of rescuing it from oblivion.

Falsehood and Vice

A Dialogue

Whilst monarchs laughed upon their thrones
To hear a famished nation's groans,
And hugged the wealth wrung from the woe
That makes its eyes and veins o'erflow,—
Those thrones, high built upon the heaps
Of bones where frenzied Famine sleeps,
Where Slavery wields her scourge of iron,
Red with mankind's unheeded gore,
And War's mad fiends the scene environ,
Mingling with shrieks a drunken roar,
There Vice and Falsehood took their stand,
High raised above the unhappy land.
Brother! arise from the dainty fare,
Which thousands have toiled and bled to bestow;
A finer feast for thy hungry ear
Is the news that I bring of human woe.
And, secret one, what hast thou done,
To compare, in thy tumid pride, with me?
I, whose career, through the blasted year,
Has been tracked by despair and agony.
What have I done!—I have torn the robe
From baby Truth's unsheltered form,
And round the desolated globe
Borne safely the bewildering charm:
My tyrant-slaves to a dungeon-floor
Have bound the fearless innocent,
And streams of fertilizing gore
Flow from her bosom's hideous rent,
Which this unfailing dagger gave...
I dread that blood!—no more—this day
Is ours, though her eternal ray
Must shine upon our grave.
Yet know, proud Vice, had I not given
To thee the robe I stole from Heaven,
Thy shape of ugliness and fear
Had never gained admission here.
And know, that had I disdained to toil,
But sate in my loathsome cave the while,
And ne'er to these hateful sons of Heaven,
Hadst thou with all thine art essayed
One of thy games then to have played,
With all thine overweening boast,
Falsehood! I tell thee thou hadst lost!—
Yet wherefore this dispute?—we tend,
Fraternal, to one common end;
In this cold grave beneath my feet,
Will our hopes, our fears, and our labours, meet.
I brought my daughter, RELIGION, on earth:
She smothered Reason's babes in their birth;
But dreaded their mother's eye severe,—
So the crocodile slunk off slily in fear,
And loosed her bloodhounds from the den....
They started from dreams of slaughtered men,
And, by the light of her poison eye,
Did her work o'er the wide earth frightfully:
The dreadful stench of her torches' flare,
Fed with human fat, polluted the air:
The curses, the shrieks, the ceaseless cries
Of the many-mingling miseries,
As on she trod, ascended high
And trumpeted my victory!—
Brother, tell what thou hast done.
I have extinguished the noonday sun,
In the carnage-smoke of battles won:
Famine, Murder, Hell and Power
Were glutted in that glorious hour
Which searchless fate had stamped for me
With the seal of her security...
For the bloated wretch on yonder throne
Commanded the bloody fray to rise.
Like me he joyed at the stifled moan
Wrung from a nation's miseries;
While the snakes, whose slime even him DEFILED,
In ecstasies of malice smiled:
They thought 'twas theirs,—but mine the deed!
Theirs is the toil, but mine the meed—
Ten thousand victims madly bleed.
They dream that tyrants goad them there
With poisonous war to taint the air:
These tyrants, on their beds of thorn,
Swell with the thoughts of murderous fame,
And with their gains to lift my name
Restless they plan from night to morn:
I—I do all; without my aid
Thy daughter, that relentless maid,
Could never o'er a death-bed urge
The fury of her venomed scourge.
Brother, well:—the world is ours;
And whether thou or I have won,
The pestilence expectant lowers
On all beneath yon blasted sun.
Our joys, our toils, our honours meet
In the milk-white and wormy winding-sheet:
A short-lived hope, unceasing care,
Some heartless scraps of godly prayer,
A moody curse, and a frenzied sleep
Ere gapes the grave's unclosing deep,
A tyrant's dream, a coward's start,
The ice that clings to a priestly heart,
A judge's frown, a courtier's smile,
Make the great whole for which we toil;
And, brother, whether thou or I
Have done the work of misery,
It little boots: thy toil and pain,
Without my aid, were more than vain;
And but for thee I ne'er had sate
The guardian of Heaven's palace gate.

5. 1, 2:-

Thus do the generations of the earth
Go to the grave, and issue from the womb.
'One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh; but the
earth abideth for ever. The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down,
and hasteth to his place where he arose. The wind goeth toward the
south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually,
and the wind returneth again according to his circuits. All the rivers
run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence
the rivers come, thither they return again.'—Ecclesiastes, chapter 1
verses 4-7.
5. 4-6.
Even as the leaves
Which the keen frost-wind of the waning year
Has scattered on the forest soil.
Oin per phullon genee, toiede kai andron.
Phulla ta men t' anemos chamadis cheei, alla de th' ule
Telethoosa phuei, earos d' epigignetai ore.
Os andron genee, e men phuei, e d' apolegei.
Iliad Z, line 146.
5. 58:—
The mob of peasants, nobles, priests, and kings.
Suave mari magno turbantibus aequora ventis
E terra magnum alterius spectare laborem;
Non quia vexari quemquam est iucunda voluptas,
Sed quibus ipse malis careas quia cernere suave est.
Suave etiam belli certamina magna tueri
Per campos instructa, tua sine parte pericli;
Sed nil dulcius est bene quam munita tenere
Edita doctrina sapientum templa serena,
Despicere undo queas alios, passimque videre
Errare atque viam palantis quaerere vitae;
Certare ingenio; contendere nobilitate;
Noctes atque dies niti praestante labore
Ad summas emergere opes, rerumque potiri.
O miseras hominum mentes! O pectora caeca!
Lucret. lib. 2.
5. 93, 94.
And statesmen boast
Of wealth!
There is no real wealth but the labour of man. Were the mountains of
gold and the valleys of silver, the world would not be one grain of corn
the richer; no one comfort would be added to the human race. In
consequence of our consideration for the precious metals, one man is
enabled to heap to himself luxuries at the expense of the necessaries of
his neighbour; a system admirably fitted to produce all the varieties of
disease and crime, which never fail to characterize the two extremes of
opulence and penury. A speculator takes pride to himself as the promoter
of his country's prosperity, who employs a number of hands in the
manufacture of articles avowedly destitute of use, or subservient only
to the unhallowed cravings of luxury and ostentation. The nobleman, who
employs the peasants of his neighbourhood in building his palaces, until
'jam pauca aratro jugera regiae moles relinquunt,' flatters himself that
he has gained the title of a patriot by yielding to the impulses of
vanity. The show and pomp of courts adduce the same apology for its
continuance; and many a fete has been given, many a woman has eclipsed
her beauty by her dress, to benefit the labouring poor and to encourage
trade. Who does not see that this is a remedy which aggravates whilst it
palliates the countless diseases of society? The poor are set to
labour,—for what? Not the food for which they famish: not the blankets
for want of which their babes are frozen by the cold of their miserable
hovels: not those comforts of civilization without which civilized man
is far more miserable than the meanest savage; oppressed as he is by all
its insidious evils, within the daily and taunting prospect of its
innumerable benefits assiduously exhibited before him:—no; for the
pride of power, for the miserable isolation of pride, for the false
pleasures of the hundredth part of society. No greater evidence is
afforded of the wide extended and radical mistakes of civilized man than
this fact: those arts which are essential to his very being are held in
the greatest contempt; employments are lucrative in an inverse ratio to
their usefulness (See Rousseau, "De l'Inegalite parmi les Hommes", note
7.): the jeweller, the toyman, the actor gains fame and wealth by the
exercise of his useless and ridiculous art; whilst the cultivator of the
earth, he without whom society must cease to subsist, struggles through
contempt and penury, and perishes by that famine which but for his
unceasing exertions would annihilate the rest of mankind.
I will not insult common sense by insisting on the doctrine of the
natural equality of man. The question is not concerning its
desirableness, but its practicability: so far as it is practicable, it
is desirable. That state of human society which approaches nearer to an
equal partition of its benefits and evils should, caeteris paribus, be
preferred: but so long as we conceive that a wanton expenditure of human
labour, not for the necessities, not even for the luxuries of the mass
of society, but for the egotism and ostentation of a few of its members,
is defensible on the ground of public justice, so long we neglect to
approximate to the redemption of the human race.
Labour is required for physical, and leisure for moral improvement: from
the former of these advantages the rich, and from the latter the poor,
by the inevitable conditions of their respective situations, are
precluded. A state which should combine the advantages of both would be
subjected to the evils of neither. He that is deficient in firm health,
or vigorous intellect, is but half a man: hence it follows that to
subject the labouring classes to unnecessary labour is wantonly
depriving them of any opportunities of intellectual improvement; and
that the rich are heaping up for their own mischief the disease,
lassitude, and ennui by which their existence is rendered an intolerable
English reformers exclaim against sinecures,—but the true pension list
is the rent-roll of the landed proprietors: wealth is a power usurped by
the few, to compel the many to labour for their benefit. The laws which
support this system derive their force from the ignorance and credulity
of its victims: they are the result of a conspiracy of the few against
the many, who are themselves obliged to purchase this pre-eminence by
the loss of all real comfort.
'The commodities that substantially contribute to the subsistence of the
human species form a very short catalogue: they demand from us but a
slender portion of industry. If these only were produced, and
sufficiently produced, the species of man would be continued. If the
labour necessarily required to produce them were equitably divided among
the poor, and, still more, if it were equitably divided among all, each
man's share of labour would be light, and his portion of leisure would
be ample. There was a time when this leisure would have been of small
comparative value: it is to be hoped that the time will come when it
will be applied to the most important purposes. Those hours which are
not required for the production of the necessaries of life may be
devoted to the cultivation of the understanding, the enlarging our stock
of knowledge, the refining our taste, and thus opening to us new and
more exquisite sources of enjoyment.
'It was perhaps necessary that a period of monopoly and oppression
should subsist, before a period of cultivated equality could subsist.
Savages perhaps would never have been excited to the discovery of truth
and the invention of art but by the narrow motives which such a period
affords. But surely, after the savage state has ceased, and men have set
out in the glorious career of discovery and invention, monopoly and
oppression cannot be necessary to prevent them from returning to a state
of barbarism.'—Godwin's "Enquirer", Essay 2. See also "Pol. Jus.", book
8, chapter 2.
It is a calculation of this admirable author, that all the conveniences
of civilized life might be produced, if society would divide the labour
equally among its members, by each individual being employed in labour
two hours during the day.
5. 112, 113:—
or religion
Drives his wife raving mad.
I am acquainted with a lady of considerable accomplishments, and the
mother of a numerous family, whom the Christian religion has goaded to
incurable insanity. A parallel case is, I believe, within the experience
of every physician.
Nam iam saepe homines patriam, carosquo parentes
Prodiderunt, vitare Acherusia templa petentes.—Lucretius.
5. 189:—
Even love is sold.
Not even the intercourse of the sexes is exempt from the despotism of
positive institution. Law pretends even to govern the indisciplinable
wanderings of passion, to put fetters on the clearest deductions of
reason, and, by appeals to the will, to subdue the involuntary
affections of our nature. Love is inevitably consequent upon the
perception of loveliness. Love withers under constraint: its very
essence is liberty: it is compatible neither with obedience, jealousy,
nor fear: it is there most pure, perfect, and unlimited, where its
votaries live in confidence, equality, and unreserve.
How long then ought the sexual connection to last? what law ought to
specify the extent of the grievances which should limit its duration? A
husband and wife ought to continue so long united as they love each
other: any law which should bind them to cohabitation for one moment
after the decay of their affection would be a most intolerable tyranny,
and the most unworthy of toleration. How odious an usurpation of the
right of private judgement should that law be considered which should
make the ties of friendship indissoluble, in spite of the caprices, the
inconstancy, the fallibility, and capacity for improvement of the human
mind. And by so much would the fetters of love be heavier and more
unendurable than those of friendship, as love is more vehement and
capricious, more dependent on those delicate peculiarities of
imagination, and less capable of reduction to the ostensible merits of
the object.
The state of society in which we exist is a mixture of feudal savageness
and imperfect civilization. The narrow and unenlightened morality of the
Christian religion is an aggravation of these evils. It is not even
until lately that mankind have admitted that happiness is the sole end
of the science of ethics, as of all other sciences; and that the
fanatical idea of mortifying the flesh for the love of God has been
discarded. I have heard, indeed, an ignorant collegian adduce, in favour
of Christianity, its hostility to every worldly feeling! (The first
Christian emperor made a law by which seduction was punished with death;
if the female pleaded her own consent, she also was punished with death;
if the parents endeavoured to screen the criminals, they were banished
and their estates were confiscated; the slaves who might be accessory
were burned alive, or forced to swallow melted lead. The very offspring
of an illegal love were involved in the consequences of the
sentence.—Gibbon's "Decline and Fall", etc., volume 2, page 210. See
also, for the hatred of the primitive Christians to love and even
marriage, page 269.)
But if happiness be the object of morality, of all human unions and
disunions; if the worthiness of every action is to be estimated by the
quantity of pleasurable sensation it is calculated to produce, then the
connection of the sexes is so long sacred as it contributes to the
comfort of the parties, and is naturally dissolved when its evils are
greater than its benefits. There is nothing immoral in this separation.
Constancy has nothing virtuous in itself, independently of the pleasure
it confers, and partakes of the temporizing spirit of vice in proportion
as it endures tamely moral defects of magnitude in the object of its
indiscreet choice. Love is free: to promise for ever to love the same
woman is not less absurd than to promise to believe the same creed: such
a vow, in both cases, excludes us from all inquiry. The language of the
votarist is this: The woman I now love may be infinitely inferior to
many others; the creed I now profess may be a mass of errors and
absurdities; but I exclude myself from all future information as to the
amiability of the one and the truth of the other, resolving blindly, and
in spite of conviction, to adhere to them. Is this the language of
delicacy and reason? Is the love of such a frigid heart of more worth
than its belief?
The present system of constraint does no more, in the majority of
instances, than make hypocrites or open enemies. Persons of delicacy and
virtue, unhappily united to one whom they find it impossible to love,
spend the loveliest season of their life in unproductive efforts to
appear otherwise than they are, for the sake of the feelings of their
partner or the welfare of their mutual offspring: those of less
generosity and refinement openly avow their disappointment, and linger
out the remnant of that union, which only death can dissolve, in a state
of incurable bickering and hostility. The early education of their
children takes its colour from the squabbles of the parents; they are
nursed in a systematic school of ill-humour, violence, and falsehood.
Had they been suffered to part at the moment when indifference rendered
their union irksome, they would have been spared many years of misery:
they would have connected themselves more suitably, and would have found
that happiness in the society of more congenial partners which is for
ever denied them by the despotism of marriage. They would have been
separately useful and happy members of society, who, whilst united, were
miserable and rendered misanthropical by misery. The conviction that
wedlock is indissoluble holds out the strongest of all temptations to
the perverse: they indulge without restraint in acrimony, and all the
little tyrannies of domestic life, when they know that their victim is
without appeal. If this connection were put on a rational basis, each
would be assured that habitual ill-temper would terminate in separation,
and would check this vicious and dangerous propensity.
Prostitution is the legitimate offspring of marriage and its
accompanying errors. Women, for no other crime than having followed the
dictates of a natural appetite, are driven with fury from the comforts
and sympathies of society. It is less venial than murder; and the
punishment which is inflicted on her who destroys her child to escape
reproach is lighter than the life of agony and disease to which the
prostitute is irrecoverably doomed. Has a woman obeyed the impulse of
unerring nature;—society declares war against her, pitiless and eternal
war: she must be the tame slave, she must make no reprisals; theirs is
the right of persecution, hers the duty of endurance. She lives a life
of infamy: the loud and bitter laugh of scorn scares her from all
return. She dies of long and lingering disease: yet SHE is in fault, SHE
is the criminal, SHE the froward and untamable child,—and society,
forsooth, the pure and virtuous matron, who casts her as an abortion
from her undefiled bosom! Society avenges herself on the criminals of
her own creation; she is employed in anathematizing the vice to-day,
which yesterday she was the most zealous to teach. Thus is formed
one-tenth of the population of London: meanwhile the evil is twofold.
Young men, excluded by the fanatical idea of chastity from the society
of modest and accomplished women, associate with these vicious and
miserable beings, destroying thereby all those exquisite and delicate
sensibilities whose existence cold-hearted worldlings have denied;
annihilating all genuine passion, and debasing that to a selfish feeling
which is the excess of generosity and devotedness. Their body and mind
alike crumble into a hideous wreck of humanity; idiocy and disease
become perpetuated in their miserable offspring, and distant generations
suffer for the bigoted morality of their forefathers. Chastity is a
monkish and evangelical superstition, a greater foe to natural
temperance even than unintellectual sensuality; it strikes at the root
of all domestic happiness, and consigns more than half of the human race
to misery, that some few may monopolize according to law. A system could
not well have been devised more studiously hostile to human happiness
than marriage.
I conceive that from the abolition of marriage, the fit and natural
arrangement of sexual connection would result. I by no means assert that
the intercourse would be promiscuous: on the contrary, it appears, from
the relation of parent to child, that this union is generally of long
duration, and marked above all others with generosity and self-devotion.
But this is a subject which it is perhaps premature to discuss. That
which will result from the abolition of marriage will be natural and
right; because choice and change will be exempted from restraint.
In fact, religion and morality, as they now stand, compose a practical
code of misery and servitude: the genius of human happiness must tear
every leaf from the accursed book of God ere man can read the
inscription on his heart. How would morality, dressed up in stiff stays
and finery, start from her own disgusting image should she look in the
mirror of nature!—
6. 45, 46:—
To the red and baleful sun
That faintly twinkles there.
The north polar star, to which the axis of the earth, in its present
state of obliquity, points. It is exceedingly probable, from many
considerations, that this obliquity will gradually diminish, until the
equator coincides with the ecliptic: the nights and days will then
become equal on the earth throughout the year, and probably the seasons
also. There is no great extravagance in presuming that the progress of
the perpendicularity of the poles may be as rapid as the progress of
intellect; or that there should be a perfect identity between the moral
and physical improvement of the human species. It is certain that wisdom
is not compatible with disease, and that, in the present state of the
climates of the earth, health, in the true and comprehensive sense of
the word, is out of the reach of civilized man. Astronomy teaches us
that the earth is now in its progress, and that the poles are every year
becoming more and more perpendicular to the ecliptic. The strong
evidence afforded by the history of mythology, and geological
researches, that some event of this nature has taken place already,
affords a strong presumption that this progress is not merely an
oscillation, as has been surmised by some late astronomers. (Laplace,
"Systeme du Monde".)
Bones of animals peculiar to the torrid zone have been found in the
north of Siberia, and on the banks of the river Ohio. Plants have been
found in the fossil state in the interior of Germany, which demand the
present climate of Hindostan for their production. (Cabanis, "Rapports
du Physique et du Moral de l'Homme", volume 2 page 406.) The researches
of M. Bailly establish the existence of a people who inhabited a tract
in Tartary 49 degrees north latitude, of greater antiquity than either
the Indians, the Chinese, or the Chaldeans, from whom these nations
derived their sciences and theology. (Bailly, "Lettres sur les Sciences,
a Voltaire".) We find, from the testimony of ancient writers, that
Britain, Germany, and France were much colder than at present, and that
their great rivers were annually frozen over. Astronomy teaches us also
that since this period the obliquity of the earth's position has been
considerably diminished.
6. 171-173:—
No atom of this turbulence fulfils
A vague and unnecessitated task,
Or acts but as it must and ought to act.
'Deux examples serviront a nous rendre plus sensible le principe qui
vient d'etre pose; nous emprunterons l'un du physique at l'autre du
moral. Dans un tourbillon de poussiere qu'eleve un vent impetueux,
quelque confus qu'il paraisse a nos yeux; dans la plus affreuse tempete
excitee par des vents opposes qui soulevent les flots,—il n'y a pas une
seule molecule de poussiere ou d'eau qui soit placee au HASARD, qui
n'ait sa cause suffisante pour occuper le lieu ou elle se trouve, et qui
n'agisse rigoureusement de la maniere dont ella doit agir. Un geometre
qui connaitrait exactement les differentes forces qui agissent dans ces
deux cas, at las proprietes des molecules qui sent mues, demontrerait
que d'apres des causes donnees, chaque molecule agit precisement comme
ella doit agir, et ne peut agir autrement qu'elle ne fait.
'Dans les convulsions terribles qui agitent quelquefois les societes
politiques, et qui produisent souvent le renversement d'un empire, il
n'y a pas une seule action, une seule parole, une seule pensee, une
seule volonte, une seule passion dans las agens qui concourent a la
revolution comme destructeurs ou comme victimes, qui ne soit necessaire,
qui n'agissa comme ella doit agir, qui n'opere infailliblemont les
effets qu'eile doit operer, suivant la place qu'occupent ces agens dana
ce tourbillon moral. Cela paraitrait evident pour une intelligence qui
sera en etat de saisir et d'apprecier toutes las actions at reactions
des esprits at des corps de ceux qui contribuent a cette
revolution.'—"Systeme de la Nature", volume 1, page 44.
6. 198:—
Necessity! thou mother of the world!
He who asserts the doctrine of Necessity means that, contemplating the
events which compose the moral and material universe, he beholds only an
immense and uninterrupted chain of causes and effects, no one of which
could occupy any other place than it does occupy, or act in any other
place than it does act. The idea of necessity is obtained by our
experience of the connection between objects, the uniformity of the
operations of nature, the constant conjunction of similar events, and
the consequent inference of one from the other. Mankind are therefore
agreed in the admission of necessity, if they admit that these two
circumstances take place in voluntary action. Motive is to voluntary
action in the human mind what cause is to effect in the material
universe. The word liberty, as applied to mind, is analogous to the word
chance as applied to matter: they spring from an ignorance of the
certainty of the conjunction of antecedents and consequents.
Every human being is irresistibly impelled to act precisely as he does
act: in the eternity which preceded his birth a chain of causes was
generated, which, operating under the name of motives, make it
impossible that any thought of his mind, or any action of his life,
should be otherwise than it is. Were the doctrine of Necessity false,
the human mind would no longer be a legitimate object of science; from
like causes it would be in vain that we should expect like effects; the
strongest motive would no longer be paramount over the conduct; all
knowledge would be vague and undeterminate; we could not predict with
any certainty that we might not meet as an enemy to-morrow him with whom
we have parted in friendship to-night; the most probable inducements and
the clearest reasonings would lose the invariable influence they
possess. The contrary of this is demonstrably the fact. Similar
circumstances produce the same unvariable effects. The precise character
and motives of any man on any occasion being given, the moral
philosopher could predict his actions with as much certainty as the
natural philosopher could predict the effects of the mixture of any
particular chemical substances. Why is the aged husbandman more
experienced than the young beginner? Because there is a uniform,
undeniable necessity in the operations of the material universe. Why is
the old statesman more skilful than the raw politician) Because, relying
on the necessary conjunction of motive and action, he proceeds to
produce moral effects, by the application of those moral causes which
experience has shown to be effectual. Some actions may be found to which
we can attach no motives, but these are the effects of causes with which
we are unacquainted. Hence the relation which motive bears to voluntary
action is that of cause to effect; nor, placed in this point of view, is
it, or ever has it been, the subject of popular or philosophical
dispute. None but the few fanatics who are engaged in the herculean task
of reconciling the justice of their God with the misery of man, will
longer outrage common sense by the supposition of an event without a
cause, a voluntary action without a motive. History, politics, morals,
criticism, all grounds of reasonings, all principles of science, alike
assume the truth of the doctrine of Necessity. No farmer carrying his
corn to market doubts the sale of it at the market price. The master of
a manufactory no more doubts that he can purchase the human labour
necessary for his purposes than that his machinery will act as they have
been accustomed to act.
But, whilst none have scrupled to admit necessity as influencing matter,
many have disputed its dominion over mind. Independently of its
militating with the received ideas of the justice of God, it is by no
means obvious to a superficial inquiry. When the mind observes its own
operations, it feels no connection of motive and action: but as we know
'nothing more of causation than the constant conjunction of objects and
the consequent inference of one from the other, as we find that these
two circumstances are universally allowed to have place in voluntary
action, we may be easily led to own that they are subjected to the
necessity common to all causes.' The actions of the will have a regular
conjunction with circumstances and characters; motive is to voluntary
action what cause is to effect. But the only idea we can form of
causation is a constant conjunction of similar objects, and the
consequent inference of one from the other: wherever this is the case
necessity is clearly established.
The idea of liberty, applied metaphorically to the will, has sprung from
a misconception of the meaning of the word power. What is power?—id
quod potest, that which can produce any given effect. To deny power is
to say that nothing can or has the power to be or act. In the only true
sense of the word power, it applies with equal force to the lodestone as
to the human will. Do you think these motives, which I shall present,
are powerful enough to rouse him? is a question just as common as, Do
you think this lever has the power of raising this weight? The advocates
of free-will assert that the will has the power of refusing to be
determined by the strongest motive; but the strongest motive is that
which, overcoming all others, ultimately prevails; this assertion
therefore amounts to a denial of the will being ultimately determined by
that motive which does determine it, which is absurd. But it is equally
certain that a man cannot resist the strongest motive as that he cannot
overcome a physical impossibility.
The doctrine of Necessity tends to introduce a great change into the
established notions of morality, and utterly to destroy religion. Reward
and punishment must be considered, by the Necessarian, merely as motives
which he would employ in order to procure the adoption or abandonment of
any given line of conduct. Desert, in the present sense of the word,
would no longer have any meaning; and he who should inflict pain upon
another for no better reason than that he deserved it, would only
gratify his revenge under pretence of satisfying justice? It is not
enough, says the advocate of free-will, that a criminal should be
prevented from a repetition of his crime: he should feel pain, and his
torments, when justly inflicted, ought precisely to be proportioned to
his fault. But utility is morality; that which is incapable of producing
happiness is useless; and though the crime of Damiens must be condemned,
yet the frightful torments which revenge, under the name of justice,
inflicted on this unhappy man cannot be supposed to have augmented, even
at the long run, the stock of pleasurable sensation in the world. At the
same time, the doctrine of Necessity does not in the least diminish our
disapprobation of vice. The conviction which all feel that a viper is a
poisonous animal, and that a tiger is constrained, by the inevitable
condition of his existence, to devour men, does not induce us to avoid
them lass sedulously, or, even more, to hesitate in destroying them: but
he would surely be of a hard heart who, meeting with a serpent on a
desert island, or in a situation where it was incapable of injury,
should wantonly deprive it of existence. A Necessarian is inconsequent
to his own principles if he indulges in hatred or contempt; the
compassion which he feels for the criminal is unmixed with a desire of
injuring him: he looks with an elevated and dreadless composure upon the
links of the universal chain as they pass before his eyes; whilst
cowardice, curiosity, and inconsistency only assail him in proportion to
the feebleness and indistinctness with which he has perceived and
rejected the delusions of free-will.
Religion is the perception of the relation in which we stand to the
principle of the universe. But if the principle of the universe be not
an organic being, the model and prototype of man, the relation between
it and human beings is absolutely none. Without some insight into its
will respecting our actions religion is nugatory and vain. But will is
only a mode of animal mind; moral qualities also are such as only a
human being can possess; to attribute them to the principle of the
universe is to annex to it properties incompatible with any possible
definition of its nature. It is probable that the word God was
originally only an expression denoting the unknown cause of the known
events which men perceived in the universe. By the vulgar mistake of a
metaphor for a real being, of a word for a thing, it became a man,
endowed with human qualities and governing the universe as an earthly
monarch governs his kingdom. Their addresses to this imaginary being,
indeed, are much in the same style as those of subjects to a king. They
acknowledge his benevolence, deprecate his anger, and supplicate his
But the doctrine of Necessity teaches us that in no case could any event
have happened otherwise than it did happen, and that, if God is the
author of good, He is also the author of evil; that, if He is entitled
to our gratitude for the one, He is entitled to our hatred for the
other; that, admitting the existence of this hypothetic being, He is
also subjected to the dominion of an immutable necessity. It is plain
that the same arguments which prove that God is the author of food,
light, and life, prove Him also to be the author of poison, darkness,
and death. The wide-wasting earthquake, the storm, the battle, and the
tyranny, are attributable to this hypothetic being in the same degree as
the fairest forms of nature, sunshine, liberty, and peace.
But we are taught, by the doctrine of Necessity, that there is neither
good nor evil in the universe, otherwise than as the events to which we
apply these epithets have relation to our own peculiar mode of being.
Still less than with the hypothesis of a God will the doctrine of
Necessity accord with the belief of a future state of punishment. God
made man such as he is, and than damned him for being so: for to say
that God was the author of all good, and man the author of all evil, is
to say that one man made a straight line and a crooked one, and another
man made the incongruity.
A Mahometan story, much to the present purpose, is recorded, wherein
Adam and Moses are introduced disputing before God in the following
manner. Thou, says Moses, art Adam, whom God created, and animated with
the breath of life, and caused to be worshipped by the angels, and
placed in Paradise, from whence mankind have been expelled for thy
fault. Whereto Adam answered, Thou art Moses, whom God chose for His
apostle, and entrusted with His word, by giving thee the tables of the
law, and whom He vouchsafed to admit to discourse with Himself. How many
years dost thou find the law was written before I was created? Says
Moses, Forty. And dost thou not find, replied Adam, these words therein,
And Adam rebelled against his Lord and transgressed? Which Moses
confessing, Dost thou therefore blame me, continued he, for doing that
which God wrote of me that I should do, forty years before I was
created, nay, for what was decreed concerning me fifty thousand years
before the creation of heaven and earth?—Sale's "Prelim. Disc. to the
Koran", page 164.
7. 13:—
There is no God.
This negation must be understood solely to affect a creative Deity. The
hypothesis of a pervading Spirit co-eternal with the universe remains
A close examination of the validity of the proofs adduced to support any
proposition is the only secure way of attaining truth, on the advantages
of which it is unnecessary to descant: our knowledge of the existence of
a Deity is a subject of such importance that it cannot be too minutely
investigated; in consequence of this conviction we proceed briefly and
impartially to examine the proofs which have been adduced. It is
necessary first to consider the nature of belief.
When a proposition is offered to the mind, it perceives the agreement or
disagreement of the ideas of which it is composed. A perception of their
agreement is termed BELIEF. Many obstacles frequently prevent this
perception from being immediate; these the mind attempts to remove in
order that the perception may be distinct. The mind is active in the
investigation in order to perfect the state of perception of the
relation which the component ideas of the proposition bear to each,
which is passive: the investigation being confused with the perception
has induced many falsely to imagine that the mind is active in
belief,—that belief is an act of volition,—in consequence of which it
may be regulated by the mind. Pursuing, continuing this mistake, they
have attached a degree of criminality to disbelief; of which, in its
nature, it is incapable: it is equally incapable of merit.
Belief, then, is a passion, the strength of which, like every other
passion, is in precise proportion to the degrees of excitement.
The degrees of excitement are three.
The senses are the sources of all knowledge to the mind; consequently
their evidence claims the strongest assent.
The decision of the mind, founded upon our own experience, derived from
these sources, claims the next degree.
The experience of others, which addresses itself to the former one,
occupies the lowest degree.
(A graduated scale, on which should be marked the capabilities of
propositions to approach to the test of the senses, would be a just
barometer of the belief which ought to be attached to them.)
Consequently no testimony can be admitted which is contrary to reason;
reason is founded on the evidence of our senses.
Every proof may be referred to one of these three divisions: it is to be
considered what arguments we receive from each of them, which should
convince us of the existence of a Deity.
1st, The evidence of the senses. If the Deity should appear to us, if He
should convince our senses of His existence, this revelation would
necessarily command belief. Those to whom the Deity has thus appeared
have the strongest possible conviction of His existence. But the God of
Theologians is incapable of local visibility.
2d, Reason. It is urged that man knows that whatever is must either have
had a beginning, or have existed from all eternity: he also knows that
whatever is not eternal must have had a cause. When this reasoning is
applied to the universe, it is necessary to prove that it was created:
until that is clearly demonstrated we may reasonably suppose that it has
endured from all eternity. We must prove design before we can infer a
designer. The only idea which we can form of causation is derivable from
the constant conjunction of objects, and the consequent inference of one
from the other. In a case where two propositions are diametrically
opposite, the mind believes that which is least incomprehensible;—it is
easier to suppose that the universe has existed from all eternity than
to conceive a being beyond its limits capable of creating it: if the
mind sinks beneath the weight of one, is it an alleviation to increase
the intolerability of the burthen?
The other argument, which is founded on a man's knowledge of his own
existence, stands thus. A man knows not only that he now is, but that
once he was not; consequently there must have been a cause. But our idea
of causation is alone derivable from the constant conjunction of objects
and the consequent inference of one from the other; and, reasoning
experimentally, we can only infer from effects causes exactly adequate
to those effects. But there certainly is a generative power which is
effected by certain instruments: we cannot prove that it is inherent in
these instruments; nor is the contrary hypothesis capable of
demonstration: we admit that the generative power is incomprehensible;
but to suppose that the same effect is produced by an eternal,
omniscient, omnipotent being leaves the cause in the same obscurity, but
renders it more incomprehensible.
3d, Testimony. It is required that testimony should not be contrary to
reason. The testimony that the Deity convinces the senses of men of His
existence can only be admitted by us if our mind considers it less
probable that these men should have been deceived than that the Deity
should have appeared to them. Our reason can never admit the testimony
of men, who not only declare that they were eye-witnesses of miracles,
but that the Deity was irrational; for He commanded that He should be
believed, He proposed the highest rewards for faith, eternal punishments
for disbelief. We can only command voluntary actions; belief is not an
act of volition; the mind is even passive, or involuntarily active; from
this it is evident that we have no sufficient testimony, or rather that
testimony is insufficient to prove the being of a God. It has been
before shown that it cannot be deduced from reason. They alone, then,
who have been convinced by the evidence of the senses can believe it.
Hence it is evident that, having no proofs from either of the three
sources of conviction, the mind CANNOT believe the existence of a
creative God: it is also evident that, as belief is a passion of the
mind, no degree of criminality is attachable to disbelief; and that they
only are reprehensible who neglect to remove the false medium through
which their mind views any subject of discussion. Every reflecting mind
must acknowledge that there is no proof of the existence of a Deity.
God is an hypothesis, and, as such, stands in need of proof: the onus
probandi rests on the theist. Sir Isaac Newton says: Hypotheses non
fingo, quicquid enim ex phaenomenis non deducitur hypothesis vocanda
est, et hypothesis vel metaphysicae, vel physicae, vel qualitatum
occultarum, seu mechanicae, in philosophia locum non habent. To all
proofs of the existence of a creative God apply this valuable rule. We
see a variety of bodies possessing a variety of powers: we merely know
their effects; we are in a state of ignorance with respect to their
essences and causes. These Newton calls the phenomena of things; but the
pride of philosophy is unwilling to admit its ignorance of their causes.
From the phenomena, which are the objects of our senses, we attempt to
infer a cause, which we call God, and gratuitously endow it with all
negative and contradictory qualities. From this hypothesis we invent
this general name, to conceal our ignorance of causes and essences. The
being called God by no means answers with the conditions prescribed by
Newton; it bears every mark of a veil woven by philosophical conceit, to
hide the ignorance of philosophers even from themselves. They borrow the
threads of its texture from the anthropomorphism of the vulgar. Words
have been used by sophists for the same purposes, from the occult
qualities of the peripatetics to the effluvium of Boyle and the
crinities or nebulae of Herschel. God is represented as infinite,
eternal, incomprehensible; He is contained under every predicate in non
that the logic of ignorance could fabricate. Even His worshippers allow
that it is impossible to form any idea of Him: they exclaim with the
French poet,
Pour dire ce qu'il est, il faut etre lui-meme.
Lord Bacon says that atheism leaves to man reason, philosophy, natural
piety, laws, reputation, and everything that can serve to conduct him to
virtue; but superstition destroys all these, and erects itself into a
tyranny over the understandings of men: hence atheism never disturbs the
government, but renders man more clear-sighted, since he seas nothing
beyond the boundaries of the present life.—Bacon's "Moral Essays".
La premiere theologie de l'homme lui fit d'abord craindre at adorer les
elements meme, des objets materiels at grossiers; il randit ensuite ses
hommages a des agents presidant aux elements, a des genies inferieurs, a
des heros, ou a des hommes doues de grandes qualites. A force de
reflechir il crut simplifier les choses en soumettant la nature entiere
a un seul agent, a un esprit, a una ame universelle, qui mettait cette
nature et ses parties en mouvement. En remontant de causes en causes,
les mortels ont fini par ne rien voir; at c'est dans cette obscurite
qu'ils ont place leur Dieu; c'est dans cat abime tenebreux que leur
imagination inquiete travaille toujours a se fabriquer des chimeres, qui
les affligeront jusqu'a ce que la connaissance da la nature les detrompe
des fantomes qu'ils ont toujours si vainement adores.
Si nous voulons nous rendre compte de nos idees sur la Divinite, nous
serons obliges de convanir que, par le mot "Dieu", les hommes n'ont
jamais pu designer que la cause la plus cachee, la plus eloignee, la
plus inconnue des effets qu'ils voyaient: ils ne font usage de ce mot,
que lorsque le jeu des causes naturelles at connues cesse d'etre visible
pour eux; des qu'ils perdent le fil de ces causes, on des que leur
esprit ne peut plus en suivre la chaine, ils tranchent leur difficulte,
at terminent leurs recherches en appellant Dieu la derniere des causes,
c'est-a-dire celle qui est au-dela de toutes les causes qu'ils
connaissent; ainsi ils ne font qu'assigner une denomination vague a une
cause ignoree, a laquelle leur paresse ou les bornes de leurs
connaissances les forcent de s'arreter. Toutes les fois qu'on nous dit
que Dieu est l'auteur de quelque phenomene, cela signifie qu'on ignore
comment un tel phenomene a pu s'operer par le secours des forces ou des
causes que nous connaissons dans la nature. C'est ainsi que le commun
des hommes, dont l'ignorance est la partage, attribue a la Divinite non
seulement les effets inusites qui las frappent, mais encore les
evenemens les plus simples, dont les causes sont les plus faciles a
connaitre pour quiconque a pu les mediter. En un mot, l'homme a toujours
respecte les causes inconnues des effets surprenans, que son ignorance
l'empechait de demeler. Ce fut sur les debris de la nature que les
hommes eleverent le colosse imaginaire de la Divinite.
Si l'ignorance de la nature donna la naissance aux dieux, la
connaissance de la nature est faite pour les detruire. A mesure que
l'homme s'instruit, ses forces at ses ressources augmentent avec ses
lumieres; les sciences, les arts conservateurs, l'industrie, lui
fournissent des secours; l'experience le rassure ou lui procure des
moyens de resister aux efforts de bien des causes
qui cessent de l'alarmer des qu'il les a connues. En un mot, ses
terreurs se dissipent dans la meme proportion que son esprit s'eclaire.
L'homnme instruit cesse d'etre superstitieux.
Ce n'est jamais que sur parole que des peuples entiers adorent le Dieu
de leurs peres at de leurs pretres: l'autorite, la confiance, la
soumission, et l'habitude leur tiennent lieu de conviction et de
preuves; ils se prosternent et prient, parce que leurs peres leur out
appris a se prosterner at prier: mais pourquoi ceux-ci se sont-ils mis a
genoux? C'est que dans les temps eloignes leurs legislateurs et leurs
guides leur en ont fait un devoir. 'Adorez at croyez,' ont-ils dit, 'des
dieux que vous ne pouvez comprendre; rapportez-vous-en a notre sagesse
profonde; nous en savons plus que vous sur la divinite.' Mais pourquoi
m'en rapporterais-je a vous? C'est que Dieu le veut ainsi, c'est que
Dieu vous punira si vous osez resister. Mais ce Dieu n'est-il donc pas
la chose en question? Cependant las hommes se sont toujours payes de ce
cercle vicieux; la paresse de leur esprit leur fit trouver plus court de
s'en rapporter au jugament des autres. Toutes las notions religieuses
sent fondees uniquement sur l'autorite; toutes les religions du monde
defendent l'examen et ne veulent pas que l'on raisonne; c'est l'autorite
qui veut qu'on croie en Dieu; ce Dieu n'est lui-meme fonde que sur
l'autorite de quelques hommes qui pretendent le connaitre, et venir de
sa part pour l'annoncer a la terre. Un Dieu fait par les hommes a sans
doute bosom des hommes pour se faire connaitre aux hommes.
Ne serait-ce donc que pour des pretres, des inspires, des metaphysiciens
que serait reservee la conviction de l'existence d'un Dieu, que l'on dit
neanmoins si necessaire a tout le genre humain? Mais trouvons-nous de
l'harmonie entre les opinions theologiques des differens inspires, ou
des penseurs repandus sur la terre? Ceux meme qui font profession
d'adorer le meme Dieu, sent-ils d'accord sur son compte? Sont-ils
contents des preuves que leurs collegues apportent de son existence?
Souscrivent-ils unanimement aux idees qu'ils presentent sur sa nature,
sur sa conduite, sur la facon d'entendre ses pretandus oracles? Est-il
une centree sur la terre ou la science de Dieu se soit reellement
parfectionnee? A-t-elle pris quelqne part la consistance et l'uniformite
que nous voyons prendre aux connaissances humaines, aux arts les plus
futiles, aux metiers les plus meprises? Ces mots d'esprit,
d'immaterialite, de creation, de predestination, de grace; cette foule
de distinctions subtiles dont la theologie s'est parteut remplie dans
quelques pays, ces inventions si ingenieuses, imaginees par des penseurs
qui se sont succedes depuis taut de siecles, n'ont fait, helas!
qu'embrouiller les choses, et jamais la science la plus necassaire aux
hommes n'a jusqu'ici pu acquerir la moindre fixite. Depuis des milliers
d'annees ces reveurs oisifs se sont perpetuellement relayes pour mediter
la Divinite, pour deviner ses voies cachees, pour inventer des
hypotheses propres a developper cette enigme importante. Leur peu de
succes n'a point decourage la vanite theologique; toujours on a parle de
Dieu: on s'est egorge pour lui, et cet etre sublime demeure toujours le
plus ignore et le plus discute.
Les hommes auraient ete trop heureux, si, se bornant aux objets visibles
qui les interessent, ils eussent employe a perfectionner leurs sciences
reelles, leurs lois, leur morale, leur education, la moitie des efforts
qu'ils ont mis dans leurs recherches sur la Divinite. Ils auraiant ete
bien plus sages encore, et plus fortunes, s'ils eussent pu consentir a
laisser leurs guides desoeuvres se quereller entre eux, et sonder des
profondeurs capables de les etourdir, sans se meler de leurs disputes
insensees. Mais il est de l'essence de l'ignorance d'attacher de
l'importance a ce qu'elle ne comprend pas. La vanite humaine fait que
l'esprit se roidit contra des difficultes. Plus un objet se derobe a nos
yeux, plus nous faisons d'efforts pour le saisir, parce que des-lors il
aiguillonne notre orgueil, il excite notre curiosite, il nous parait
interessant. En combattant pour son Dieu chacun ne combattit en effet
que pour les interets de sa propra vanite, qui de toutes les passions
produites par la mal-organisation de la societe est la plus prompte a
s'alarmer, et la plus propre a produire de tres grandes folies.
Si ecartant pour un moment les idees facheuses que la theologie nous
donne d'un Dieu capriciaux, dont les decrets partiaux et despotiques
decident du sort des humains, nous ne voulons fixer nos yeux que sur la
bonte pretendue, que tous les hommes, meme en tramblant devant ce Dieu,
s'accordent a lui donner; si nous lui supposons le projet qu'on lui
prete de n'avoir travaille que pour sa propre gloire, d'exiger les
hommages des etres intelligens; de ne chercher dans ses oeuvres que le
bien-etre du genre humain: comment concilier ces vues et ces
dispositions avec l'ignorance vraiment invincible dans laquelle ce Dieu,
si glorieux et si bon, laisse la plupart des hommes sur son compte? Si
Dieu veut etre connu, cheri, remercie, que ne se montre-t-il sous des
traits favorables a tous ces etres intelligens dont il veut etre aime et
adore? Pourquoi ne point se manifester a toute la terre dune facon non
equivoque, bien plus capable de nous convaincre que ces revelations
particulieres qui semblent accuser la Divinite d'une partialite facheuse
pour quelques-unes de ses creatures? La tout-puissant n'auroit-il donc
pas des moyens plus convainquans de se montrer aux hommas que ces
metamorphoses ridicules, cas incarnations pretendues, qui nous sont
attestees par des ecrivains si peu d'accord entre eux dans les recits
qu'ils en font? Au lieu de tant de miracles, inventes pour prouver la
mission divine de tant de legislateurs reveres par les differens peuples
du monde, le souverain des esprits ne pouvait-il pas convaincre tout
d'un coup l'esprit humain des choses qu'il a voulu lui faire connaitre?
Au lieu de suspendre un soleil dans la voute du firmament; au lieu de
repandre sans ordre les etoiles et les constellations qui remplissent
l'espace, n'eut-il pas ete plus conforme aux vues d'un Dieu si jaloux de
sa gloire et si bien-intentionne pour l'homme d'ecrire, d'une facon non
sujette a dispute, son nom, ses attributs, ses volontes permanentes en
caracteres ineffacables, et lisibles egalement pour tous les habitants
de la terre? Personne alors n'aurait pu douter de l'existence d'un Dieu,
de ses volontes claires, de ses intentions visibles. Sous les yeux de ce
Dieu si terrible, personne n'aurait eu l'audace de violer ses
ordonnances; nul mortel n'eut ose se mettre dans le cas d'attirer sa
colere: enfin nul homme n'eut eu le front d'en imposer en son nom, ou
d'interpreter ses volontes suivant ses propres fantaisies.
En effet, quand meme on admettrait l'existence du Dieu theologique et la
realite des attributs si discordans qu'on lui donne, l'on n'en peut rien
conclure, pour autoriser la conduite ou les cultes qu'on prescrit de lui
rendre. La theologie est vraiment "le tonneau des Danaides". A force de
qualites contradictoires et d'assartions hasardees, ella a, pour ainsi
dire, tellement garrotte son Dieu qu'elle l'a mis dans l'impossibilite
d'agir. S'il est infiniment bon, quelle raison aurions-nous de le
craindre? S'il est infiniment sage, de quoi nous inquieter sur notre
sort? S'il sait tout, pourquoi l'avertir de nos besoins, et le fatiguer
de nos prieres? S'il est partout, pourquoi lui elever des temples? S'il
est maitre de tout, pourquoi lui faire des sacrifices et des offrandes?
S'il est juste, comment croire qu'il punisse des creatures qu'il a
rempli de faiblesses? Si la grace fait tout en elles, quelle raison
aurait-il de les recompenser? S'il est tout-puissant, comment
l'offenser, comment lui resister? S'il est raisonnable, comment se
mattrait-il en colere contre des aveugles, a qui il a laisse la liberte
de deraisonner? S'il est immuable, de quel droit pretendrions-nous faire
changer ses decrets? S'il est inconcevable, pourquoi nous en occuper?
connaissance d'un Dieu est la plus necessaire, pourquoi n'est-elle pas
la plus evidente et a plus claire?—"Systeme de la Nature", London,
The enlightened and benevolent Pliny thus publicly professes himself an
atheist:—Quapropter effigiem Dei formamque quaerere imbecillitatis
humanae reor. Quisquis est Deus (si modo est alius) et quacunque in
parte, totus est sensus, totus est visus, totus auditus, totus animae,
totus animi, totus sui...Imperfectae vero in homine naturae praecipua
solatia ne deum quidem posse omnia. Namque nec sibi potest mortem
consciscere, si velit, quad homini dedit optimum in tantis vitae poenis:
nec mortales aeternitata donare, aut revocare defunctos; nec facere ut
qui vixit non vixerit, qui honores gessit non gessarit, nullumque habere
in praeteritum ius, praeterquam oblivionis, atque (ut facetis quoque
argumentis societas haec cum deo copuletur) ut bis dena viginti non
sint, et multa similiter efficere non posse.—Per quae declaratur haud
dubie naturae potentiam id quoque esse quad Deum vocamus.—Plin. "Nat.
Hist." cap. de Deo.
The consistent Newtonian is necessarily an atheist. See Sir W.
Drummond's "Academical Questions", chapter 3.—Sir W. seems to consider
the atheism to which it leads as a sufficient presumption of the
falsehood of the system of gravitation; but surely it is more consistent
with the good faith of philosophy to admit a deduction from facts than
an hypothesis incapable of proof, although it might militate with the
obstinate preconceptions of the mob. Had this author, instead of
inveighing against the guilt and absurdity of atheism, demonstrated its
falsehood, his conduct would have been more suited to the modesty of the
sceptic and the toleration of the philosopher.
Omnia enim per Dei potentiam facta sunt: imo quia naturae potentia nulla
est nisi ipsa Dei potentia. Certum est nos eatenus Dei potentiam non
intelligere, quatenus causas naturales ignoramus; adeoque stulte ad
eandem Dei potentiam recurritur, quando rei alicuius causam naturalem,
sive est, ipsam Dei potantiam ignoramus.— Spinosa, "Tract.
Theologico-Pol." chapter 1, page 14.
7. 67:—
Ahasuerus, rise!
'Ahasuerus the Jew crept forth from the dark cave of Mount Carmel. Near
two thousand years have elapsed since he was first goaded by
never-ending restlessness to rove the globe from pole to pole. When our
Lord was wearied with the burthen of His ponderous cross, and wanted to
rest before the door of Ahasuerus, the unfeeling wretch drove Him away
with brutality. The Saviour of mankind staggered, sinking under the
heavy load, but uttered no complaint. An angel of death appeared before
Ahasuerus, and exclaimed indignantly, "Barbarian! thou hast denied rest
to the Son of man: be it denied thee also, until He comes to judge the
'A black demon, let loose from hell upon Ahasuerus, goads him now from
country to country; he is denied the consolation which death affords,
and precluded from the rest of the peaceful grave.
'Ahasuerus crept forth from the dark cave of Mount Carmel—he shook the
dust from his beard—and taking up one of the skulls heaped there,
hurled it down the eminence: it rebounded from the earth in shivered
atoms. "This was my father!" roared Ahasuerus. Seven more skulls rolled
down from rock to rock; while the infuriate Jew, following them with
ghastly looks, exclaimed—"And these were my wives!" He still continued
to hurl down skull after skull, roaring in dreadful accents—"And these,
and these, and these were my children! They COULD DIE; but I! reprobate
wretch! alas! I cannot die! Dreadful beyond conception is the judgement
that hangs over me. Jerusalem fell—I crushed the sucking babe, and
precipitated myself into the destructive flames. I cursed the
Romans—but, alas! alas! the restless curse held me by the hair,—and I
could not die!
'"Rome the giantess fell—I placed myself before the falling statue—she
fell and did not crush me. Nations sprang up and disappeared before
me;—but I remained and did not die. From cloud-encircled cliffs did I
precipitate myself into the ocean; but the foaming billows cast me upon
the shore, and the burning arrow of existence pierced my cold heart
again. I leaped into Etna's flaming abyss, and roared with the giants
for ten long months, polluting with my groans the Mount's sulphureous
mouth—ah! ten long months. The volcano fermented, and in a fiery stream
of lava cast me up. I lay torn by the torture-snakes of hell amid the
glowing cinders, and yet continued to exist.—A forest was on fire: I
darted on wings of fury and despair into the crackling wood. Fire
dropped upon me from the trees, but the flames only singed my limbs;
alas! it could not consume them.—I now mixed with the butchers of
mankind, and plunged in the tempest of the raging battle. I roared
defiance to the infuriate Gaul, defiance to the victorious German; but
arrows and spears rebounded in shivers from my body. The Saracen's
flaming sword broke upon my skull: balls in vain hissed upon me: the
lightnings of battle glared harmless around my loins: in vain did the
elephant trample on me, in vain the iron hoof of the wrathful steed! The
mine, big with destructive power, burst upon me, and hurled me high in
the air—I fell on heaps of smoking limbs, but was only singed. The
giant's steel club rebounded from my body; the executioner's hand could
not strangle me, the tiger's tooth could not pierce me, nor would the
hungry lion in the circus devour me. I cohabited with poisonous snakes,
and pinched the red crest of the dragon.—The serpent stung, but could
not destroy me. The dragon tormented, but dared not to devour me.—I now
provoked the fury of tyrants: I said to Nero, 'Thou art a bloodhound!' I
said to Christiern, 'Thou art a bloodhound!, I said to Muley Ismail,
'Thou art a bloodhound!'—The tyrants invented cruel torments, but did
not kill me. Ha! not to be able to die—not to be able to die—not to be
permitted to rest after the toils of life—to be doomed to be imprisoned
for ever in the clay-formed dungeon—to be for ever clogged with this
worthless body, its lead of diseases and infirmities—to be condemned to
[be]hold for millenniums that yawning monster Sameness, and Time, that
hungry hyaena, ever bearing children, and ever devouring again her
offspring!—Ha! not to be permitted to die! Awful Avenger in Heaven,
hast Thou in Thine armoury of wrath a punishment more dreadful? then let
it thunder upon me, command a hurricane to sweep me down to the foot of
Carmel, that I there may lie extended; may pant, and writhe, and die.!"'
This fragment is the translation of part of some German work, whose
title I have vainly endeavoured to discover. I picked it up, dirty and
torn, some years ago, in Lincoln's-Inn Fields.
7. 135, 136:—
I will beget a Son, and He shall bear
The sins of all the world.
A book is put into our hands when children, called the Bible, the
purport of whose history is briefly this: That God made the earth in six
days, and there planted a delightful garden, in which He placed the
first pair of human beings. In the midst of the garden He planted a
tree, whose fruit, although within their reach, they were forbidden to
touch. That the Devil, in the shape of a snake, persuaded them to eat of
this fruit; in consequence of which God condemned both them and their
posterity yet unborn to satisfy His justice by their eternal misery.
That, four thousand years after these events (the human race in the
meanwhile having gone unredeemed to perdition), God engendered with the
betrothed wife of a carpenter in Judea (whose virginity was nevertheless
uninjured), and begat a son, whose name was Jesus Christ; and who was
crucified and died, in order that no more men might be devoted to
hell-fire, He bearing the burthen of His Father's displeasure by proxy.
The book states, in addition, that the soul of whoever disbelieves this
sacrifice will be burned with everlasting fire.
During many ages of misery and darkness this story gained implicit
belief; but at length men arose who suspected that it was a fable and
imposture, and that Jesus Christ, so far from being a God, was only a
man like themselves. But a numerous set of men, who derived and still
derive immense emoluments from this opinion, in the shape of a popular
belief, told the vulgar that if they did not believe in the Bible they
would be damned to all eternity; and burned, imprisoned, and poisoned
all the unbiassed and unconnected inquirers who occasionally arose. They
still oppress them, so far as the people, now become more enlightened,
will allow.
The belief in all that the Bible contains is called Christianity. A
Roman governor of Judea, at the instance of a priest-led mob, crucified
a man called Jesus eighteen centuries ago. He was a man of pure life,
who desired to rescue his countrymen from the tyranny of their barbarous
and degrading superstitions. The common fate of all who desire to
benefit mankind awaited him. The rabble, at the instigation of the
priests, demanded his death, although his very judge made public
acknowledgement of his innocence. Jesus was sacrificed to the honour of
that God with whom he was afterwards confounded. It is of importance,
therefore, to distinguish between the pretended character of this being
as the Son of God and the Saviour of the world, and his real character
as a man, who, for a vain attempt to reform the world, paid the forfeit
of his life to that overbearing tyranny which has since so long
desolated the universe in his name. Whilst the one is a hypocritical
Daemon, who announces Himself as the God of compassion and peace, even
whilst He stretches forth His blood-red hand with the sword of discord
to waste the earth, having confessedly devised this scheme of desolation
from eternity; the other stands in the foremost list of those true
heroes who have died in the glorious martyrdom of liberty, and have
braved torture, contempt, and poverty in the cause of suffering
humanity. (Since writing this note I have some reason to suspect that
Jesus was an ambitious man, who aspired to the throne of Judea.
The vulgar, ever in extremes, became persuaded that the crucifixion of
Jesus was a supernatural event. Testimonies of miracles, so frequent in
unenlightened ages, were not wanting to prove that he was something
divine. This belief, rolling through the lapse of ages, met with the
reveries of Plato and the reasonings of Aristotle, and acquired force
and extent, until the divinity of Jesus became a dogma, which to dispute
was death, which to doubt was infamy.
CHRISTIANITY is now the established religion: he who attempts to impugn
it must be contented to behold murderers and traitors take precedence of
him in public opinion; though, if his genius be equal to his courage,
and assisted by a peculiar coalition of circumstances, future ages may
exalt him to a divinity, and persecute others in his name, as he was
persecuted in the name of his predecessor in the homage of the world.
The same means that have supported every other popular belief have
supported Christianity. War, imprisonment, assassination, and falsehood;
deeds of unexampled and incomparable atrocity have made it what it is.
The blood shed by the votaries of the God of mercy and peace, since the
establishment of His religion, would probably suffice to drown all other
sectaries now on the habitable globe. We derive from our ancestors a
faith thus fostered and supported: we quarrel, persecute, and hate for
its maintenance. Even under a government which, whilst it infringes the
very right of thought and speech, boasts of permitting the liberty of
the press, a man is pilloried and imprisoned because he is a deist, and
no one raises his voice in the indignation of outraged humanity. But it
is ever a proof that the falsehood of a proposition is felt by those who
use coercion, not reasoning, to procure its admission; and a
dispassionate observer would feel himself more powerfully interested in
favour of a man who, depending on the truth of his opinions, simply
stated his reasons for entertaining them, than in that of his aggressor
who, daringly avowing his unwillingness or incapacity to answer them by
argument, proceeded to repress the energies and break the spirit of
their promulgator by that torture and imprisonment whose infliction he
could command.
Analogy seems to favour the opinion that as, like other systems,
Christianity has arisen and augmented, so like them it will decay and
perish; that as violence, darkness, and deceit, not reasoning and
persuasion, have procured its admission among mankind, so, when
enthusiasm has subsided, and time, that infallible controverter of false
opinions, has involved its pretended evidences in the darkness of
antiquity, it will become obsolete; that Milton's poem alone will give
permanency to the remembrance of its absurdities; and that men will
laugh as heartily at grace, faith, redemption, and original sin, as they
now do at the metamorphoses of Jupiter, the miracles of Romish saints,
the efficacy of witchcraft, and the appearance of departed spirits.
Had the Christian religion commenced and continued by the mere force of
reasoning and persuasion, the preceding analogy would be inadmissible.
We should never speculate on the future obsoleteness of a system
perfectly conformable to nature and reason: it would endure so long as
they endured; it would be a truth as indisputable as the light of the
sun, the criminality of murder, and other facts, whose evidence,
depending on our organization and relative situations, must remain
acknowledged as satisfactory so long as man is man. It is an
incontrovertible fact, the consideration of which ought to repress the
hasty conclusions of credulity, or moderate its obstinacy in maintaining
them, that, had the Jews not been a fanatical race of men, had even the
resolution of Pontius Pilate been equal to his candour, the Christian
religion never could have prevailed, it could not even have existed: on
so feeble a thread hangs the most cherished opinion of a sixth of the
human race! When will the vulgar learn humility? When will the pride of
ignorance blush at having believed before it could comprehend?
Either the Christian religion is true, or it is false: if true, it comes
from God, and its authenticity can admit of doubt and dispute no further
than its omnipotent author is willing to allow. Either the power or the
goodness of God is called in question, if He leaves those doctrines most
essential to the well-being of man in doubt and dispute; the only ones
which, since their promulgation, have been the subject of unceasing
cavil, the cause of irreconcilable hatred. IF GOD HAS SPOKEN, WHY IS THE
There is this passage in the Christian Scriptures: 'Those who obey not
God, and believe not the Gospel of his Son, shall be punished with
everlasting destruction.' This is the pivot upon which all religions
turn:—they all assume that it is in our power to believe or not to
believe; whereas the mind can only believe that which it thinks true. A
human being can only be supposed accountable for those actions which are
influenced by his will. But belief is utterly distinct from and
unconnected with volition: it is the apprehension of the agreement or
disagreement of the ideas that compose any preposition. Belief is a
passion, or involuntary operation of the mind, and, like other passions,
its intensity is precisely proportionate to the degrees of excitement.
Volition is essential to merit or demerit. But the Christian religion
attaches the highest possible degrees of merit and demerit to that which
is worthy of neither, and which is totally unconnected with the peculiar
faculty of the mind, whose presence is essential to their being.
Christianity was intended to reform the world: had an all-wise Being
planned it, nothing is more improbable than that it should have failed:
omniscience would infallibly have foreseen the inutility of a scheme
which experience demonstrates, to this age, to have been utterly
Christianity inculcates the necessity of supplicating the Deity. Prayer
may be considered under two points of view;—as an endeavour to change
the intentions of God, or as a formal testimony of our obedience. But
the former case supposes that the caprices of a limited intelligence can
occasionally instruct the Creator of the world how to regulate the
universe; and the latter, a certain degree of servility analogous to the
loyalty demanded by earthly tyrants. Obedience indeed is only the
pitiful and cowardly egotism of him who thinks that he can do something
better than reason.
Christianity, like all other religions, rests upon miracles, prophecies,
and martyrdoms. No religion ever existed which had not its prophets, its
attested miracles, and, above all, crowds of devotees who would bear
patiently the most horrible tortures to prove its authenticity. It
should appear that in no case can a discriminating mind subscribe to the
genuineness of a miracle. A miracle is an infraction of nature's law, by
a supernatural cause; by a cause acting beyond that eternal circle
within which all things are included. God breaks through the law of
nature, that He may convince mankind of the truth of that revelation
which, in spite of His precautions, has been, since its introduction,
the subject of unceasing schism and cavil.
Miracles resolve themselves into the following question (See Hume's
Essay, volume 2 page 121.):—Whether it is more probable the laws of
nature, hitherto so immutably harmonious, should have undergone
violation, or that a man should have told a lie? Whether it is more
probable that we are ignorant of the natural cause of an event, or that
we know the supernatural one? That, in old times, when the powers of
nature were less known than at present, a certain set of men were
themselves deceived, or had some hidden motive for deceiving others; or
that God begat a Son, who, in His legislation, measuring merit by
belief, evidenced Himself to be totally ignorant of the powers of the
human mind—of what is voluntary, and what is the contrary?
We have many instances of men telling lies;—none of an infraction of
nature's laws, those laws of whose government alone we have any
knowledge or experience. The records of all nations afford innumerable
instances of men deceiving others either from vanity or interest, or
themselves being deceived by the limitedness of their views and their
ignorance of natural causes: but where is the accredited case of God
having come upon earth, to give the lie to His own creations? There
would be something truly wonderful in the appearance of a ghost; but the
assertion of a child that he saw one as he passed through the churchyard
is universally admitted to be less miraculous.
But even supposing that a man should raise a dead body to life before
our eyes, and on this fact rest his claim to being considered the son of
God;—the Humane Society restores drowned persons, and because it makes
no mystery of the method it employs, its members are not mistaken for
the sons of God. All that we have a right to infer from our ignorance of
the cause of any event is that we do not know it: had the Mexicans
attended to this simple rule when they heard the cannon of the
Spaniards, they would not have considered them as gods: the experiments
of modern chemistry would have defied the wisest philosophers of ancient
Greece and Rome to have accounted for them on natural principles. An
author of strong common sense has observed that 'a miracle is no miracle
at second-hand'; he might have added that a miracle is no miracle in any
case; for until we are acquainted with all natural causes, we have no
reason to imagine others.
There remains to be considered another proof of Christianity—Prophecy.
A book is written before a certain event, in which this event is
foretold; how could the prophet have foreknown it without inspiration?
how could he have been inspired without God? The greatest stress is laid
on the prophecies of Moses and Hosea on the dispersion of the Jews, and
that of Isaiah concerning the coming of the Messiah. The prophecy of
Moses is a collection of every possible cursing and blessing; and it is
so far from being marvellous that the one of dispersion should have been
fulfilled, that it would have been more surprising if, out of all these,
none should have taken effect. In Deuteronomy, chapter 28, verse 64,
where Moses explicitly foretells the dispersion, he states that they
shall there serve gods of wood and stone: 'And the Lord shall scatter
thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even to the other;
day remarkably tenacious of their religion. Moses also declares that
they shall be subjected to these curses for disobedience to his ritual:
'And it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of
the Lord thy God, to observe to do all the commandments and statutes
which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon
thee, and overtake thee.' Is this the real reason? The third, fourth,
and fifth chapters of Hosea are a piece of immodest confession. The
indelicate type might apply in a hundred senses to a hundred things. The
fifty-third chapter of Isaiah is more explicit, yet it does not exceed
in clearness the oracles of Delphos. The historical proof that Moses,
Isaiah, and Hosea did write when they are said to have written is far
from being clear and circumstantial.
But prophecy requires proof in its character as a miracle; we have no
right to suppose that a man foreknew future events from God, until it is
demonstrated that he neither could know them by his own exertions, nor
that the writings which contain the prediction could possibly have been
fabricated after the event pretended to be foretold. It is more probable
that writings, pretending to divine inspiration, should have been
fabricated after the fulfilment of their pretended prediction than that
they should have really been divinely inspired, when we consider that
the latter supposition makes God at once the creator of the human mind
and ignorant of its primary powers, particularly as we have numberless
instances of false religions, and forged prophecies of things long past,
and no accredited case of God having conversed with men directly or
indirectly. It is also possible that the description of an event might
have foregone its occurrence; but this is far from being a legitimate
proof of a divine revelation, as many men, not pretending to the
character of a prophet, have nevertheless, in this sense, prophesied.
Lord Chesterfield was never yet taken for a prophet, even by a bishop,
yet he uttered this remarkable prediction: 'The despotic government of
France is screwed up to the highest pitch; a revolution is fast
approaching; that revolution, I am convinced, will be radical and
sanguinary.' This appeared in the letters of the prophet long before the
accomplishment of this wonderful prediction. Now, have these particulars
come to pass, or have they not? If they have, how could the Earl have
foreknown them without inspiration? If we admit the truth of the
Christian religion on testimony such as this, we must admit, on the same
strength of evidence, that God has affixed the highest rewards to
belief, and the eternal tortures of the never-dying worm to disbelief,
both of which have been demonstrated to be involuntary.
The last proof of the Christian religion depends on the influence of the
Holy Ghost. Theologians divide the influence of the Holy Ghost into its
ordinary and extraordinary modes of operation. The latter is supposed to
be that which inspired the Prophets and Apostles; and the former to be
the grace of God, which summarily makes known the truth of His
revelation to those whose mind is fitted for its reception by a
submissive perusal of His word. Persons convinced in this manner can do
anything but account for their conviction, describe the time at which it
happened, or the manner in which it came upon them. It is supposed to
enter the mind by other channels than those of the senses, and therefore
professes to be superior to reason founded on their experience.
Admitting, however, the usefulness or possibility of a divine
revelation, unless we demolish the foundations of all human knowledge,
it is requisite that our reason should previously demonstrate its
genuineness; for, before we extinguish the steady ray of reason and
common sense, it is fit that we should discover whether we cannot do
without their assistance, whether or no there be any other which may
suffice to guide us through the labyrinth of life (See Locke's "Essay on
the Human Understanding", book 4 chapter 19, on Enthusiasm.): for, if a
man is to be inspired upon all occasions, if he is to be sure of a thing
because he is sure, if the ordinary operations of the Spirit are not to
be considered very extraordinary modes of demonstration, if enthusiasm
is to usurp the place of proof, and madness that of sanity, all
reasoning is superfluous. The Mahometan dies fighting for his prophet,
the Indian immolates himself at the chariot-wheels of Brahma, the
Hottentot worships an insect, the Negro a bunch of feathers, the Mexican
sacrifices human victims! Their degree of conviction must certainly be
very strong: it cannot arise from reasoning, it must from feelings, the
reward of their prayers. If each of these should affirm, in opposition
to the strongest possible arguments, that inspiration carried internal
evidence, I fear their inspired brethren, the orthodox missionaries,
would be so uncharitable as to pronounce them obstinate.
Miracles cannot be received as testimonies of a disputed fact, because
all human testimony has ever been insufficient to establish the
possibility of miracles. That which is incapable of proof itself is no
proof of anything else. Prophecy has also been rejected by the test of
reason. Those, then, who have been actually inspired are the only true
believers in the Christian religion.
Mox numine viso
Virgineei tumuere sinus, innuptaque mater
Arcano stupuit compleri viscera partu,
Auctorem paritura suum. Mortalia corda
Artificem texere poli, latuitque sub uno
Pectore, qui totum late complectitur orbem.—Claudian, "Carmen Paschale".
Does not so monstrous and disgusting an absurdity carry its own infamy
and refutation with itself?
8. 203-207:—
Him, still from hope to hope the bliss pursuing
Which from the exhaustless lore of human weal
Draws on the virtuous mind, the thoughts that rise
In time-destroying infiniteness, gift
With self-enshrined eternity, etc.
Time is our consciousness of the succession of ideas in our mind. Vivid
sensation, of either pain or pleasure, makes the time seem long, as the
common phrase is, because it renders us more acutely conscious of our
ideas. If a mind be conscious of an hundred ideas during one minute, by
the clock, and of two hundred during another, the latter of these spaces
would actually occupy so much greater extent in the mind as two exceed
one in quantity. If, therefore, the human mind, by any future
improvement of its sensibility, should become conscious of an infinite
number of ideas in a minute, that minute would be eternity. I do not
hence infer that the actual space between the birth and death of a man
will ever be prolonged; but that his sensibility is perfectible, and
that the number of ideas which his mind is capable of receiving is
indefinite. One man is stretched on the rack during twelve hours;
another sleeps soundly in his bed: the difference of time perceived by
these two persons is immense; one hardly will believe that half an hour
has elapsed, the other could credit that centuries had flown during his
agony. Thus, the life of a man of virtue and talent, who should die in
his thirtieth year, is, with regard to his own feelings, longer than
that of a miserable priest-ridden slave, who dreams out a century of
dulness. The one has perpetually cultivated his mental faculties, has
rendered himself master of his thoughts, can abstract and generalize
amid the lethargy of every-day business;—the other can slumber over the
brightest moments of his being, and is unable to remember the happiest
hour of his life. Perhaps the perishing ephemeron enjoys a longer life
than the tortoise.
Dark flood of time!
Roll as it listeth thee—I measure not
By months or moments thy ambiguous course.
Another may stand by me on the brink
And watch the bubble whirled beyond his ken
That pauses at my feet. The sense of love,
The thirst for action, and the impassioned thought
Prolong my being: if I wake no more,
My life more actual living will contain
Than some gray veteran's of the world's cold school,
Whose listless hours unprofitably roll,
By one enthusiast feeling unredeemed.—
See Godwin's "Pol. Jus." volume 1, page 411; and Condorcet, "Esquisse
d'un Tableau Historique des Progres de l'Esprit Humain", epoque 9.
8. 211, 212:—
No longer now
He slays the lamb that looks him in the face.
I hold that the depravity of the physical and moral nature of man
originated in his unnatural habits of life. The origin of man, like that
of the universe of which he is a part, is enveloped in impenetrable
mystery. His generations either had a beginning, or they had not. The
weight of evidence in favour of each of these suppositions seems
tolerably equal; and it is perfectly unimportant to the present argument
which is assumed. The language spoken, however, by the mythology of
nearly all religions seems to prove that at some distant period man
forsook the path of nature, and sacrificed the purity and happiness of
his being to unnatural appetites. The date of this event seems to have
also been that of some great change in the climates of the earth, with
which it has an obvious correspondence. The allegory of Adam and Eve
eating of the tree of evil, and entailing upon their posterity the wrath
of God and the loss of everlasting life, admits of no other explanation
than the disease and crime that have flowed from unnatural diet. Milton
was so well aware of this that he makes Raphael thus exhibit to Adam the
consequence of his disobedience:—
Immediately a place
Before his eyes appeared, sad, noisome, dark;
A lazar-house it seemed; wherein were laid
Numbers of all diseased—all maladies
Of ghastly spasm, or racking torture, qualms
Of heart-sick agony, all feverous kinds,
Convulsions, epilepsies, fierce catarrhs,
Intestine stone and ulcer, colic pangs,
Demoniac frenzy, moping melancholy,
And moon-struck madness, pining atrophy,
Marasmus, and wide-wasting pestilence,
Dropsies and asthmas, and joint-racking rheums.
And how many thousands more might not be added to this frightful catalogue!
The story of Prometheus is one likewise which, although universally
admitted to be allegorical, has never been satisfactorily explained.
Prometheus stole fire from heaven, and was chained for this crime to
Mount Caucasus, where a vulture continually devoured his liver, that
grew to meet its hunger. Hesiod says that, before the time of
Prometheus, mankind were exempt from suffering; that they enjoyed a
vigorous youth, and that death, when at length it came, approached like
sleep, and gently closed their eyes. Again, so general was this opinion
that Horace, a poet of the Augustan age, writes:—
Audax omnia perpeti,
Gens humana ruit per vetitum nefas;
Audax Iapeti genus
Ignem fraude mala gentibus intulit:
Post ignem aetheria domo
Subductum, macies et nova febrium
Terris incubuit cohors,
Semotique prius tarda necessitas
Lethi corripuit gradum.
How plain a language is spoken by all this! Prometheus (who represents
the human race) effected some great change in the condition of his
nature, and applied fire to culinary purposes; thus inventing an
expedient for screening from his disgust the horrors of the shambles.
From this moment his vitals were devoured by the vulture of disease. It
consumed his being in every shape of its loathsome and infinite variety,
inducing the soul-quelling sinkings of premature and violent death. All
vice rose from the ruin of healthful innocence. Tyranny, superstition,
commerce, and inequality were then first known, when reason vainly
attempted to guide the wanderings of exacerbated passion. I conclude
this part of the subject with an extract from Mr. Newton's "Defence of
Vegetable Regimen", from whom I have borrowed this interpretation of the
fable of Prometheus.
'Making allowance for such transposition of the events of the allegory
as time might produce after the important truths were forgotten, which
this portion of the ancient mythology was intended to transmit, the
drift of the fable seems to be this:—Man at his creation was endowed
with the gift of perpetual youth; that is, he was not formed to be a
sickly suffering creature as we now see him, but to enjoy health, and to
sink by slow degrees into the bosom of his parent earth without disease
or pain. Prometheus first taught the use of animal food (primus bovem
occidit Prometheus (Plin. "Nat. Hist". lib. 7 sect. 57.)) and of fire,
with which to render it more digestible and pleasing to the taste.
Jupiter, and the rest of the gods, foreseeing the consequences of these
inventions, were amused or irritated at the short-sighted devices of the
newly-formed creature, and left him to experience the sad effects of
them. Thirst, the necessary concomitant of a flesh diet' (perhaps of all
diet vitiated by culinary preparation), 'ensued; water was resorted to,
and man forfeited the inestimable gift of health which he had received
from heaven: he became diseased, the partaker of a precarious existence,
and no longer descended slowly to his grave. ("Return to Nature".
Cadell, 1811.)
But just disease to luxury succeeds,
And every death its own avenger breeds;
The fury passions from that blood began,
And turned on man a fiercer savage—man.
Man, and the animals whom he has infected with his society, or depraved
by his dominion, are alone diseased. The wild hog, the mouflon, the
bison, and the wolf; are perfectly exempt from malady, and invariably
die either from external violence or natural old age. But the domestic
hog, the sheep, the cow, and the dog, are subject to an incredible
variety of distempers; and, like the corruptors of their nature, have
physicians who thrive upon their miseries. The supereminence of man is
like Satan's, a supereminence of pain; and the majority of his species,
doomed to penury, disease, and crime, have reason to curse the untoward
event that, by enabling him to communicate his sensations, raised him
above the level of his fellow-animals. But the steps that have been
taken are irrevocable. The whole of human science is comprised in one
question:—How can the advantages of intellect and civilization be
reconciled with the liberty and pure pleasures of natural life? How can
we take the benefits and reject the evils of the system, which is now
interwoven with all the fibres of our being?—I believe that abstinence
from animal food and spirituous liquors would in a great measure
capacitate us for the solution of this important question.
It is true that mental and bodily derangement is attributable in part to
other deviations from rectitude and nature than those which concern
diet. The mistakes cherished by society respecting the connection of the
sexes, whence the misery and diseases of unsatisfied celibacy,
unenjoying prostitution, and the premature arrival of puberty,
necessarily spring; the putrid atmosphere of crowded cities; the
exhalations of chemical processes; the muffling of our bodies in
superfluous apparel; the absurd treatment of infants:—all these and
innumerable other causes contribute their mite to the mass of human
Comparative anatomy teaches us that man resembles frugivorous animals in
everything, and carnivorous in nothing; he has neither claws wherewith
to seize his prey, nor distinct and pointed teeth to tear the living
fibre. A Mandarin of the first class, with nails two inches long, would
probably find them alone inefficient to hold even a hare. After every
subterfuge of gluttony, the bull must be degraded into the ox, and the
ram into the wether, by an unnatural and inhuman operation, that the
flaccid fibre may offer a fainter resistance to rebellious nature. It is
only by softening and disguising dead flesh by culinary preparation that
it is rendered susceptible of mastication or digestion; and that the
sight of its bloody juices and raw horror does not excite intolerable
loathing and disgust. Let the advocate of animal food force himself to a
decisive experiment on its fitness, and, as Plutarch recommends, tear a
living lamb with his teeth, and plunging his head into its vitals slake
his thirst with the steaming blood; when fresh from the deed of horror,
let him revert to the irresistible instincts of nature that would rise
in judgement against it, and say, 'Nature formed me for such work as
this.' Then, and then only, would he be consistent.
Man resembles no carnivorous animal. There is no exception, unless man
be one, to the rule of herbivorous animals having cellulated colons.
The orang-outang perfectly resembles man both in the order and number of
his teeth. The orang-outang is the most anthropomorphous of the ape
tribe, all of which are strictly frugivorous. There is no other species
of animals, which live on different food, in which this analogy exists.
(Cuvier, "Lecons d'Anat. Comp". tom. 3, pages 169, 373, 448, 465, 480.
Rees's "Cyclopaedia", article Man.) In many frugivorous animals, the
canine teeth are more pointed and distinct than those of man. The
resemblance also of the human stomach to that of the orang-outang is
greater than to that of any other animal.
The intestines are also identical with those of herbivorous animals,
which present a larger surface for absorption and have ample and
cellulated colons. The caecum also, though short, is larger than that of
carnivorous animals; and even here the orang-outang retains its
accustomed similarity.
The structure of the human frame, then, is that of one fitted to a pure
vegetable diet, in every essential particular. It is true that the
reluctance to abstain from animal food, in those who have been long
accustomed to its stimulus, is so great in some persons of weak minds as
to be scarcely overcome; but this is far from bringing any argument in
its favour. A lamb, which was fed for some time on flesh by a ship's
crew, refused its natural diet at the end of the voyage. There are
numerous instances of horses, sheep, oxen, and even wood-pigeons, having
been taught to live upon flesh, until they have loathed their natural
aliment. Young children evidently prefer pastry, oranges, apples, and
other fruit, to the flesh of animals; until, by the gradual depravation
of the digestive organs, the free use of vegetables has for a time
produced serious inconveniences; FOR A TIME, I say, since there never
was an instance wherein a change from spirituous liquors and animal food
to vegetables and pure water has failed ultimately to invigorate the
body, by rendering its juices bland and consentaneous, and to restore to
the mind that cheerfulness and elasticity which not one in fifty
possesses on the present system. A love of strong liquors is also with
difficulty taught to infants. Almost every one remembers the wry faces
which the first glass of port produced. Unsophisticated instinct is
invariably unerring; but to decide on the fitness of animal food from
the perverted appetites which its constrained adoption produces; is to
make the criminal a judge in his own cause: it is even worse, it is
appealing to the infatuated drunkard in a question of the salubrity of
What is the cause of morbid action in the animal system? Not the air we
breathe, for our fellow-denizens of nature breathe the same uninjured;
not the water we drink (if remote from the pollutions of man and his
inventions (The necessity of resorting to some means of purifying water,
and the disease which arises from its adulteration in civilized
countries, is sufficiently apparent. See Dr. Lambe's "Reports on
Cancer". I do not assert that the use of water is in itself unnatural,
but that the unperverted palate would swallow no liquid capable of
occasioning disease.)), for the animals drink it too; not the earth we
tread upon; not the unobscured sight of glorious nature, in the wood,
the field, or the expanse of sky and ocean; nothing that we are or do in
common with the undiseased inhabitants of the forest. Something, then,
wherein we differ from them: our habit of altering our food by fire, so
that our appetite is no longer a just criterion for the fitness of its
gratification. Except in children, there remain no traces of that
instinct which determines, in all other animals, what aliment is natural
or otherwise; and so perfectly obliterated are they in the reasoning
adults of our species, that it has become necessary to urge
considerations drawn from comparative anatomy to prove that we are
naturally frugivorous.
Crime is madness. Madness is disease. Whenever the cause of disease
shall be discovered, the root, from which all vice and misery have so
long overshadowed the globe, will lie bare to the axe. All the exertions
of man, from that moment, may be considered as tending to the clear
profit of his species. No sane mind in a sane body resolves upon a real
crime. It is a man of violent passions, bloodshot eyes, and swollen
veins, that alone can grasp the knife of murder. The system of a simple
diet promises no Utopian advantages. It is no mere reform of
legislation, whilst the furious passions and evil propensities of the
human heart, in which it had its origin, are still unassuaged. It
strikes at the root of all evil, and is an experiment which may be tried
with success, not alone by nations, but by small societies, families,
and even individuals. In no cases has a return to vegetable diet
produced the slightest injury; in most it has been attended with changes
undeniably beneficial. Should ever a physician be born with the genius
of Locke, I am persuaded that he might trace all bodily and mental
derangements to our unnatural habits, as clearly as that philosopher has
traced all knowledge to sensation. What prolific sources of disease are
not those mineral and vegetable poisons that have been introduced for
its extirpation! How many thousands have become murderers and robbers,
bigots and domestic tyrants, dissolute and abandoned adventurers, from
the use of fermented liquors; who, had they slaked their thirst only
with pure water, would have lived but to diffuse the happiness of their
own unperverted feelings! How many groundless opinions and absurd
institutions have not received a general sanction from the sottishness
and intemperance of individuals! Who will assert that, had the populace
of Paris satisfied their hunger at the ever-furnished table of vegetable
nature, they would have lent their brutal suffrage to the
proscription-list of Robespierre? Could a set of men, whose passions
were not perverted by unnatural stimuli, look with coolness on an auto
da fe? Is it to be believed that a being of gentle feelings, rising from
his meal of roots, would take delight in sports of blood? Was Nero a man
of temperate life? could you read calm health in his cheek, flushed with
ungovernable propensities of hatred for the human race? Did Muley
Ismael's pulse beat evenly, was his skin transparent, did his eyes beam
with healthfulness, and its invariable concomitants, cheerfulness and
benignity? Though history has decided none of these questions, a child
could not hesitate to answer in the negative. Surely the bile-suffused
cheek of Buonaparte, his wrinkled brow, and yellow eye, the ceaseless
inquietude of his nervous system, speak no less plainly the character of
his unresting ambition than his murders and his victories. It is
impossible, had Buonaparte descended from a race of vegetable feeders,
that he could have had either the inclination or the power to ascend the
throne of the Bourbons. The desire of tyranny could scarcely be excited
in the individual, the power to tyrannize would certainly not be
delegated by a society neither frenzied by inebriation nor rendered
impotent and irrational by disease. Pregnant indeed with inexhaustible
calamity is the renunciation of instinct, as it concerns our physical
nature; arithmetic cannot enumerate, nor reason perhaps suspect, the
multitudinous sources of disease in civilized life. Even common water,
that apparently innoxious pabulum, when corrupted by the filth of
populous cities, is a deadly and insidious destroyer. (Lambe's "Reports
on Cancer".) Who can wonder that all the inducements held out by God
Himself in the Bible to virtue should have been vainer than a nurse's
tale; and that those dogmas, by which He has there excited and justified
the most ferocious propensities, should have alone been deemed
essential; whilst Christians are in the daily practice of all those
habits which have infected with disease and crime, not only the
reprobate sons, but those favoured children of the common Father's love?
Omnipotence itself could not save them from the consequences of this
original and universal sin.
There is no disease, bodily or mental, which adoption of vegetable diet
and pure water has not infallibly mitigated, wherever the experiment has
been fairly tried. Debility is gradually converted into strength;
disease into healthfulness; madness, in all its hideous variety, from
the ravings of the fettered maniac to the unaccountable irrationalities
of ill-temper, that make a hell of domestic life, into a calm and
considerate evenness of temper, that alone might offer a certain pledge
of the future moral reformation of society. On a natural system of diet,
old age would be our last and our only malady; the term of our existence
would be protracted; we should enjoy life, and no longer preclude others
from the enjoyment of it; all sensational delights would be infinitely
more exquisite and perfect; the very sense of being would then be a
continued pleasure, such as we now feel it in some few and favoured
moments of our youth. By all that is sacred in our hopes for the human
race, I conjure those who love happiness and truth to give a fair trial
to the vegetable system. Reasoning is surely superfluous on a subject
whose merits an experience of six months would set for ever at rest. But
it is only among the enlightened and benevolent that so great a
sacrifice of appetite and prejudice can be expected, even though its
ultimate excellence should not admit of dispute. It is found easier, by
the short-sighted victims of disease, to palliate their torments by
medicine than to prevent them by regimen. The vulgar of all ranks are
invariably sensual and indocile; yet I cannot but feel myself persuaded
that when the benefits of vegetable diet are mathematically proved, when
it is as clear that those who live naturally are exempt from premature
death as that nine is not one, the most sottish of mankind will feel a
preference towards a long and tranquil, contrasted with a short and
painful, life. On the average, out of sixty persons four die in three
years. Hopes are entertained that, in April, 1814, a statement will be
given that sixty persons, all having lived more than three years on
vegetables and pure water, are then IN PERFECT HEALTH. More than two
years have now elapsed; NOT ONE OF THEM HAS DIED; no such example will
be found in any sixty persons taken at random. Seventeen persons of all
ages (the families of Dr. Lambe and Mr. Newton) have lived for seven
years on this diet without a death, and almost without the slightest
illness. Surely, when we consider that some of those were infants, and
one a martyr to asthma now nearly subdued, we may challenge any
seventeen persons taken at random in this city to exhibit a parallel
case. Those who may have been excited to question the rectitude of
established habits of diet by these loose remarks, should consult Mr.
Newton's luminous and eloquent essay. ("Return to Nature, or Defence of
Vegetable Regimen". Cadell, 1811.)
When these proofs come fairly before the world, and are clearly seen by
all who understand arithmetic, it is scarcely possible that abstinence
from aliments demonstrably pernicious should not become universal. In
proportion to the number of proselytes, so will be the weight of
evidence; and when a thousand persons can be produced, living on
vegetables and distilled water, who have to dread no disease but old
age, the world will be compelled to regard animal flesh and fermented
liquors as slow but certain poisons. The change which would be produced
by simpler habits on political economy is sufficiently remarkable. The
monopolizing eater of animal flesh would no longer destroy his
constitution by devouring an acre at a meal, and many loaves of bread
would cease to contribute to gout, madness and apoplexy, in the shape of
a pint of porter, or a dram of gin, when appeasing the long-protracted
famine of the hardworking peasant's hungry babes. The quantity of
nutritious vegetable matter, consumed in fattening the carcase of an ox,
would afford ten times the sustenance, undepraving indeed, and incapable
of generating disease, if gathered immediately from the bosom of the
earth. The most fertile districts of the habitable globe are now
actually cultivated by men for animals, at a delay and waste of aliment
absolutely incapable of calculation. It is only the wealthy that can, to
any great degree, even now, indulge the unnatural craving for dead
flesh, and they pay for the greater licence of the privilege by
subjection to supernumerary diseases. Again, the spirit of the nation
that should take the lead in this great reform would insensibly become
agricultural; commerce, with all its vice, selfishness, and corruption,
would gradually decline; more natural habits would produce gentler
manners, and the excessive complication of political relations would be
so far simplified that every individual might feel and understand why he
loved his country, and took a personal interest in its welfare. How
would England, for example, depend on the caprices of foreign rulers if
she contained within herself all the necessaries, and despised whatever
they possessed of the luxuries, of life? How could they starve her into
compliance with their views? Of what consequence would it be that they
refused to take her woollen manufactures, when large and fertile tracts
of the island ceased to be allotted to the waste of pasturage? On a
natural system of diet we should require no spices from India; no wines
from Portugal, Spain, France, or Madeira; none of those multitudinous
articles of luxury, for which every corner of the globe is rifled, and
which are the causes of so much individual rivalship, such calamitous
and sanguinary national disputes. In the history of modern times, the
avarice of commercial monopoly, no less than the ambition of weak and
wicked chiefs, seems to have fomented the universal discord, to have
added stubbornness to the mistakes of cabinets, and indocility to the
infatuation of the people. Let it ever be remembered that it is the
direct influence of commerce to make the interval between the richest
and the poorest man wider and more unconquerable. Let it be remembered
that it is a foe to everything of real worth and excellence in the human
character. The odious and disgusting aristocracy of wealth is built upon
the ruins of all that is good in chivalry or republicanism; and luxury
is the forerunner of a barbarism scarce capable of cure. Is it
impossible to realize a state of society, where all the energies of man
shall be directed to the production of his solid happiness? Certainly,
if this advantage (the object of all political speculation) be in any
degree attainable, it is attainable only by a community which holds out
no factitious incentives to the avarice and ambition of the few, and
which is internally organized for the liberty, security, and comfort of
the many. None must be entrusted with power (and money is the completest
species of power) who do not stand pledged to use it exclusively for the
general benefit. But the use of animal flesh and fermented liquors
directly militates with this equality of the rights of man. The peasant
cannot gratify these fashionable cravings without leaving his family to
starve. Without disease and war, those sweeping curtailers of
population, pasturage would include a waste too great to be afforded.
The labour requisite to support a family is far lighter' than is usually
supposed. (It has come under the author's experience that some of the
workmen on an embankment in North Wales, who, in consequence of the
inability of the proprietor to pay them, seldom received their wages,
have supported large families by cultivating small spots of sterile
ground by moonlight. In the notes to Pratt's poem, "Bread, or the Poor",
is an account of an industrious labourer who, by working in a small
garden, before and after his day's task, attained to an enviable state
of independence.) The peasantry work, not only for themselves, but for
the aristocracy, the army, and the manufacturers.
The advantage of a reform in diet is obviously greater than that of any
other. It strikes at the root of the evil. To remedy the abuses of
legislation, before we annihilate the propensities by which they are
produced, is to suppose that by taking away the effect the cause will
cease to operate. But the efficacy of this system depends entirely on
the proselytism of individuals, and grounds its merits, as a benefit to
the community, upon the total change of the dietetic habits in its
members. It proceeds securely from a number of particular cases to one
that is universal, and has this advantage over the contrary mode, that
one error does not invalidate all that has gone before.
Let not too much, however, be expected from this system. The healthiest
among us is not exempt from hereditary disease. The most symmetrical,
athletic, and longlived is a being inexpressibly inferior to what he
would have been, had not the unnatural habits of his ancestors
accumulated for him a certain portion of malady and deformity. In the
most perfect specimen of civilized man, something is still found wanting
by the physiological critic. Can a return to nature, then,
instantaneously eradicate predispositions that have been slowly taking
root in the silence of innumerable ages?—Indubitably not. All that I
contend for is, that from the moment of the relinquishing all unnatural
habits no new disease is generated; and that the predisposition to
hereditary maladies gradually perishes, for want of its accustomed
supply. In cases of consumption, cancer, gout, asthma, and scrofula,
such is the invariable tendency of a diet of vegetables and pure water.
Those who may be induced by these remarks to give the vegetable system a
fair trial, should, in the first place, date the commencement of their
practice from the moment of their conviction. All depends upon breaking
through a pernicious habit resolutely and at once. Dr. Trotter asserts
that no drunkard was ever reformed by gradually relinquishing his dram.
(See Trotter on the Nervous Temperament.) Animal flesh, in its effects
on the human stomach, is analogous to a dram. It is similar in the kind,
though differing in the degree, of its operation. The proselyte to a
pure diet must be warned to expect a temporary diminution of muscular
strength. The subtraction of a powerful stimulus will suffice to account
for this event. But it is only temporary, and is succeeded by an equable
capability for exertion, far surpassing his former various and
fluctuating strength. Above all, he will acquire an easiness of
breathing, by which such exertion is performed, with a remarkable
exemption from that painful and difficult panting now felt by almost
every one after hastily climbing an ordinary mountain. He will be
equally capable of bodily exertion, or mental application, after as
before his simple meal. He will feel none of the narcotic effects of
ordinary diet. Irritability, the direct consequence of exhausting
stimuli, would yield to the power of natural and tranquil impulses. He
will no longer pine under the lethargy of ennui, that unconquerable
weariness of life, more to be dreaded than death itself. He will escape
the epidemic madness, which broods over its own injurious notions of the
Deity, and 'realizes the hell that priests and beldams feign.' Every man
forms, as it were, his god from his own character; to the divinity of
one of simple habits no offering would be more acceptable than the
happiness of his creatures. He would be incapable of hating or
persecuting others for the love of God. He will find, moreover, a system
of simple diet to be a system of perfect epicurism. He will no longer be
incessantly occupied in blunting and destroying those organs from which
he expects his gratification. The pleasures of taste to be derived from
a dinner of potatoes, beans, peas, turnips, lettuces, with a dessert of
apples, gooseberries, strawberries, currants, raspberries, and in
winter, oranges, apples and pears, is far greater than is supposed.
These who wait until they can eat this plain fare with the sauce of
appetite will scarcely join with the hypocritical sensualist at a
lord-mayor's feast, who declaims against the pleasures of the table.
Solomon kept a thousand concubines, and owned in despair that all was
vanity. The man whose happiness is constituted by the society of one
amiable woman would find some difficulty in sympathizing with the
disappointment of this venerable debauchee.
I address myself not only to the young enthusiast, the ardent devotee of
truth and virtue, the pure and passionate moralist, yet unvitiated by
the contagion of the world. He will embrace a pure system, from its
abstract truth, its beauty, its simplicity, and its promise of
wide-extended benefit; unless custom has turned poison into food, he
will hate the brutal pleasures of the chase by instinct; it will be a
contemplation full of horror, and disappointment to his mind, that
beings capable of the gentlest and most admirable sympathies should take
delight in the death-pangs and last convulsions of dying animals. The
elderly man, whose youth has been poisoned by intemperance, or who has
lived with apparent moderation, and is afflicted with a wide variety of
painful maladies, would find his account in a beneficial change produced
without the risk of poisonous medicines. The mother, to whom the
perpetual restlessness of disease and unaccountable deaths incident to
her children are the causes of incurable unhappiness, would on this diet
experience the satisfaction of beholding their perpetual healths and
natural playfulness. (See Mr. Newton's book. His children are the most
beautiful and healthy creatures it is possible to conceive; the girls
are perfect models for a sculptor; their dispositions are also the most
gentle and conciliating; the judicious treatment, which they experience
in other points, may be a correlative cause of this. In the first five
years of their life, of 18,000 children that are born, 7,500 die of
various diseases; and how many more of those that survive are not
rendered miserable by maladies not immediately mortal? The quality and
quantity of a woman's milk are materially injured by the use of dead
flesh. In an island near Iceland, where no vegetables are to be got, the
children invariably die of tetanus before they are three weeks old, and
the population is supplied from the mainland.—Sir G. Mackenzie's
"History of Iceland". See also "Emile", chapter 1, pages 53, 54, 56.)
The most valuable lives are daily destroyed by diseases that it is
dangerous to palliate and impossible to cure by medicine. How much
longer will man continue to pimp for the gluttony of Death, his most
insidious, implacable, and eternal foe?
Alla drakontas agrious kaleite kai pardaleis kai leontas, autoi de
miaiphoneite eis omoteta katalipontes ekeinois ouden ekeinois men gar o
phonos trophe, umin de opson estin..."Oti gar ouk estin anthropo kata
phusin to sarkophagein, proton men apo ton somaton deloutai tes
kataskeues. Oudeni gar eoike to anthropou soma ton epi sarkophagia
gegonoton, ou grupotes cheilous, ouk ozutes onuchos, ou traxutes odontos
prosestin, ou koilias eutonia kai pneumatos thermotes, trepsai kai
katergasasthai dunate to baru kai kreodes all autothen e phusis te
leioteti ton odonton kai te smikroteti tou stomatos kai te malakoteti
tes glosses kai te pros pepsin ambluteti tou pneumatos, exomnutai ten
sarkophagian. Ei de legeis pephukenai seauton epi toiauten edoden, o
boulei phagein proton autos apokteinon, all autos dia seauton, me
chesamenos kopidi mede tumpano tini mede pelekei alla, os lukoi kai
arktoi kai leontes autoi osa esthiousi phoneuousin, anele degmati boun e
stomati sun, e apna e lagoon diarrexon kai phage prospeson eti zontos,
os ekeina...Emeis d' outos en to miaiphono truphomen, ost ochon to kreas
prosagoreuomen, eit ochon pros auto to kreas deometha, anamignuntes
elaion oinon meli garon oxos edusmasi Suriakois Arabikois, oster ontos
nekron entaphiazontes. Kai gar outos auton dialuthenton kai
melachthenton kai tropon tina prosapenton ergon esti ten pechin
kratesai, kai diakratepheises de deinas barutetas empoiei kai nosodeis
apechias...Outo to proton agprion ti zoon ebrothe kai kakourgon, eit
ornis tis e ichthus eilkusto kai geusamenon outo kai promeletesan en
ekeinois to thonikon epi boun ergaten elthe kai to kosmion probaton kai
ton oikouron alektruona kai kata mikron outo ten aplestian stomosantes
epi sphagas anthropon kai polemous kai phonous proelthon.—Plout. peri
tes Sarkophagias.
Sources +