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Is it in virtue of my will that I think? No, for always during sleep, and often when I am awake, I have ideasagainst, or at least without, my will. These ideas, long forgotten, long put away, and banished in the lumber room of my brain, issue from it without any effort or volition of mine, and suddenly present themselves to my memory, which had, perhaps previously made various vain attempts to recal them.
External objects have not the power of forming ideas in me, for nothing can communicate what it does not possess; I am well assured that they are not given me by myself, for they are produced without my orders. Who then produces them in me? Whence do they come? Whither do they go? Fugitive phantoms! What invisible band produces and disperses you?
Why, of all the various tribes of animals, has man alone the mad ambition of domineering over his fellows?
Why and how could it happen, that out of a thousand millions of men, more than nine hundred and ninety-nine have been sacrificed to this mad ambition?
How is it that reason is a gift so precious that we would none of us lose it for all the pomp or wealth of the world, and yet at the same time that it has merely served to render us, in almost all cases, the most miserable of beings?
Whence comes it, that with a passionate attachment to truth, we are always yielding to the most palpable impostures?
Why do the vast tribes of India, deceived and enslaved by the bonzes, trampled upon by the descendant of a Tartar, bowed down by labour, groaning in misery, assailed by diseases, and a mark for all the scourges and plagues of life, still fondly cling to that life?
Whence comes evil, and why does it exist ?
O atoms of a day! O companions in infinite littleness, born like me to suffer everything, and be ignorant of everything !-are there in reality any among you so completely mad as to imagine you know all this, or that you can solve all these difficulties ? Certainly
there can be none. No; in the bottom of your heart you feel your own nothingness, as completely as I do justice to mine. But you are nevertheless arrogant and conceited enough to be eager for our embracing your vain systems; and not having the power to tyrannise over our bodies, you aim at becoming the tyrants of our souls.
SECTION I. IMAGINATION is the
power which every being, endowed with perception and reason, is conscious he
possesses of representing to himself sensible objects. This faculty is dependent upon memory.
We men, animals, gardens, which perceptions are introduced by the senses; the memory retains them, and the imagination compounds them. On this account the ancient Greeks called the muses, “ the daughters of memory."
It is of great importance to observe, that these faculties of receiving ideas, retaining them, and compounding them, are among the many things of which we can give no explanation. These invisible springs of oựr being are of nature's workmanship, and not of
Perhaps this gift of God, imagination, is the sole instrument with which we compound ideas, even those which are most abstract and metaphysical.
You pronounce the word ' triangle;' but you merely utter a sound, if you do not represent to yourself the : image of some particular triangle. You certainly have no idea of a triangle but in consequence ci having seen triangles, if you have the gift of sight, or of having felt them, if you are blind. You cannot think of: a triangle in general, unless your imagination figures to itself, at least in a confused way, some particular triangle. You calculate; but it is necessary that you should represent to yourself units added to each other, or your mind will be totally insensible to the operation of your
You utter the abstract terms-greatness, truth, justice, finite, infinite; but is the term "greatness,' thus uttered, anything more or less, than a mere sound, from the action of your tongue, producing vibrations in the air, unless you have the image of some greatness in your mind? What meaning is there in the words “truth' and ' falsehood, if you have not perceived, by means of your senses, that some particular thing which you were told existed, did exist in fact; and that another of which you were told the same, did not exist ? And, is it not from this experience, that you frame the general idea of truth and falsehood? And, when asked what you mean by these words, can you help figuring to yourself some sensible image, occasioning you to recollect, that you have sometimes been told, as a fact, what really and truly happened, and very often what. was not so ?
Have you any other notion of just and unjust, than what is derived from particular actions, which appeared to you respectively of these descriptions? You began in your childhood by learning to read under some master: you endeavoured to spell well, but you really spelt ill: your master chastised you : this appeared to you very unjust. You have observed a labourer refused his wages, and innumerable instances of the like nature. Is the abstract idea of just and unjust any thing more than facts of this character confusedly mixed up in your imagination?
İs finite' anything else in your conception than the image of some limited quantity or extent? Is 'infinite' anything but the image of the same extent or quantity enlarged indefinitely? Do not all these operations take place in your mind just in the same manner as you read a book? You read circumstances and events recorded in it, and never think at the time of the alphabetical characters, without which however you would have no notion of these events and circumstances. Attend to this point for a single moment, and then you will distinctly perceive the essential importance of those characters over which your eye previously glided without thinking of them. In the
same manner all your reasonings, all your
accumulations of knowledge, are founded on images traced in your brain. You have, in general, no distinct perception or recollection of them; but give the case only a moment's attention, and you will then clearly discern, that these images are the foundation of all the notions you possess. It may be worth the reader's while to dwell a little
upon this idea, to extend it, and to rectify it. The celebrated Addison, in the eleven essays upon the imagination with which he has enriched the volumes of the Spectator, begins with observing, that “the sense of sight is the only one which furnishes the imagination with ideas.” Yet certainly it must be allowed, that the other senses contribute some share. A man þorn blind still hears, in his imagination, the harmony which no longer vibrates upon his ear; he still continues listening as in a trance or dream; the objects which have resisted or yielded to his hands produce a similar effect in his head or mind. It is true that the sense of sight alone supplies images; and as it is a kind of touching or feeling which extends even to the distance of the stars, its immense diffusion enriches the imagination more than all the other senses put together.
There are two descriptions of imagination; one consists in retaining a simple impression of objects; the other arranges the images received, and combines them in endless diversity. The first has been called passive imagination, and the second active. The passive scarcely advances beyond memory and is common to man and to animals. From this power or faculty it arises, that the sportsman and his dog both follow the hunted game in their dreams, that they both hear the sound of the horn, and the one shouts and the other barks in their sleep. Both men and brutes do something more than recollect on these occasions, for dreams are never faithful and accurate images. This species of imagination compounds objects, but it is not the understanding which acts in it; it is the me ory labouring under error.
This passive imagination certainly requires no assistance from volition, whether we are asleep or awake; it paints, independently of ourselves, what our eyes have seen, it hears what our ears have heard, and touches what we have touched; it adds to it or takes from it. It is an internal sense, acting necessarily, and accordingly there is nothing more common, in speaking of any particular individual, than to say, “ he has no command over his imagination.”
In this respect we cannot but see, and be astonished at, the slight share of power we really possess. Whence comes it, that occasionally in dreams we compose the most coherent and eloquent discourses, and verses far superior to what we should write on the same subject if perfectly awake?—that we even solve complicated problems in mathematics? Here certainly there are very combined and complex ideas in no degree dependent on ourselves. But if it is incontestible that coherent ideas are formed within us independently of our will in sleep, who can safely assert that they are not produced in the same manner when we are awake? Is there a man living who foresees the idea which he will form in his mind the ensuing minute? Does it not seem as if ideas were given to us as much as the motions of our fibres; and had father Malebranche merely maintained the principle, that all ideas are given by God, could any one have successfully opposed him?
This passive faculty, independent of reflection, is the source of our passions and our errors ; far from being dependent on the will, the will is determined by it. It urges us towards the objects which it paints before us, or diverts us from them, just according to the nature of the exhibition thus made of them by it. The image of a danger inspires fear; that of a benefit excites desire. It is this faculty alone which produces the enthusiasm of glory, of party, of fanaticism; it is this which produces so many mental alienations and disorders, making weak brains, when powerfully impressed, conceive that their bodies are metamorphosed into various animals, that they are possessed by demons, that they are under the infernal dominion of witchcraft, and that they are in reality going to unite with sorcerers in the worship of the devil, because they have been