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gence had some peculiar and marvellous influence on the lady's constitution?
There was a time when the inhabitants of every seaport were persuaded, that no one would die while the tide was rising, and that death always waited for its ebb.
Many physicians possessed a store of strong reasons to explain this constant phenomenon. The sea when rising communicates to human bodies the force or strength by which itself is raised. It brings with it vivifying particles which reanimate all patients. It is salt, and salt preserves from the putrefaction attendant on death. But when the sea sinks and retires, every thing sinks or retires with it; nature languishes; the patient is no longer vivified; he departs with the tide. The whole, it must be admitted, is most beautifully explained, but the presumed fact, unfortunately, is after all untrue.
The various elements, food, watching, sleep, and the passions, are constantly exerting on our frame their respective influences. While these influences are thus severally operating upon us, the planets traverse their appropriate orbits, and the stars shine with their usual brilliancy. But shall we really be so weak as to say that the progress and light of those heavenly bodies are the cause of our rheums and indigestion, and sleeplessness; of the ridiculous wrath we are in with some silly reasoner; or of the passion with which we are enamoured of some interesting woman?
But the gravitation of the sun and moon has made the earth in some degree flat at the pole, and raises the sea twice between the tropics in four-and-twenty hours. It may, therefore, regulate our fits of fever, and govern our whole machine. Before however we assert this to be the case, we should wait until we can prove it.*
*This single line contains everything reasonable that can be advanced upon the subject of these influences, and in general upon the subject of all the facts which appear out of the usual order of natural phenomena. If the existence of that order is certain
The sun acts upon us strongly by its rays, which touch us, and enter through our pores. Here is unquestionably a very decided and a very benignant influence. We ought not, I conceive, in physics, to admit of any action taking place without contact, until we have discovered some well recognised and ascertained power which acts at a distance, like that of gravitation, for example, or like that of your thoughts over mine, when you furnish me with ideas. Beyond these cases, I at present perceive no influences but from matter in contact with matter.
The fish of my pond and myself exist each of us in our natural element. The water which touches them from head to tail is continually acting upon them. The atmosphere which surrounds and closes upon me acts upon me. I ought not to attribute to the moon, which is ninety thousand miles distant, what I might naturally ascribe to something incessantly in contact with my skin. This would be more unphilosophical than my considering the court of China responsible for a law-suit that I was carrying on in France. We should never seek at a distance for what is absolutely within our immediate reach.
I perceive that the learned and ingenious M. Menuret is of a different opinion in the Encyclopedia, under the article" Influence." This certainly excites in my mind considerable diffidence with respect to what I have just advanced. The abbé de St. Pierre used to say, we sould never maintain that we are absolutely in the right, but should rather say, "such is my opinion for the present."
Influence of the Passions of Mothers upon their Fætus.
I think, for the present, that violent affections of pregnant women produce often a prodigious effect upon
to us, the reason is, that our experience of it has been uniform and invariable. Let us wait until we observe an equal uniformity aud constancy with respect to the presumed influences in question; we shall then equally believe them, and with equal reason. French Ed.
the embryo within them; and I think that I shall always think so: my reason is that I have actually seen this effect. If I had no voucher of my opinion but the testimony of historians who relate the instance of Mary Stuart and her son James I., I should suspend my judgment; because between that event and myself, a series of two hundred years has intervened, a circumstance naturally tending to weaken belief; and because I can ascribe the impression made upon the brain of James to other causes than the imagination of Mary. The royal assassins, headed by her husband, rush with drawn swords into the cabinet where she is supping in company with her favourite, and kill him before her eyes; the sudden convulsion experienced by her in the interior of her frame extends to her offspring; and James I. although not deficient in courage, felt during his whole life an involuntary shuddering at the sight of a sword drawn from its scabbard. It is however possible that this striking and peculiar agitation might be owing to a different
There was once introduced, in my presence, into the court of a woman with child, a show-man who exhibited a little dancing dog with a kind of red bonnet on its head: the woman called out to have the figure removed; she declared that her child would be marked like it; she wept; and nothing could restore her confidence and peace. "This is the second time," she said, "that such a misfortune has befallen me. My first child bears the impression of a similar terror that I was exposed to; I feel extremely weak. I know that some misfortune will reach me." She was but too correct in her prediction. She was delivered of a child similar to the figure which had so terrified her. The bonnet was particularly distinguishable. The little creature lived two days.
In the time of Malebranche no one entertained the slighest doubt of the adventure which he relates, of the woman who, after seeing a criminal racked, was delivered of a son, all whose limbs were broken in the same places in which the malefactor had received the
blows of the executioner. All the physicians at the time were agreed, that the imagination had produced this fatal effect upon her offspring.
Since that period, mankind are believed to have refined and improved; and the influence under consideration has been denied. It has been asked, in what way do you suppose that the affections of a mother should operate to derange the members of the fœtus? Of that I know nothing; but I have witnessed the fact. You new-fangled philosophers enquire and study in vain how an infant is formed, and yet require me to know how it becomes deformed.*
THE origin of the ancient mysteries may, with the greatest probability, be ascribed to the same weakness which forms associations of brotherhood among ourselves, and which established congregations under the direction of the jesuits. It was probably this want of society which raised so many secret assemblies of artizans, of which scarcely any now remain besides that of the free-masons. Even down to the very beggars themselves, all had their societies, their confraternities, their mysteries, and their particular jargon, of which I have met with a small dictionary, printed in the sixteenth century.
This natural inclination in men to associate, to secure themselves, to become distinguished above others, and to acquire confidence in themselves, may be considered as the generating cause of all those particular bonds or unions, of all those mysterious initiations which afterwards excited so much attention and produced such
* We must in this case apply the rule which M. Voltaire laid down in the preceding article. But he falls here into an error common to minds of a superior order, that of being more impressed by a positive fact which he had seen, or which he believed he had seen, than by a thousand negative evidences.-French Ed.
striking effects, and which at length sunk into that oblivion in which everything is involved by time."
Begging pardon, while I say it, of the gods Cabiri, of the hierophants of Samothrace, of Isis, Orpheus, and the Eleusinian Ceres, I must nevertheless acknowledge my suspicions that their sacred secrets were not in reality more deserving of curiosity than the interior of the convents of carmelites or capuchins.
These mysteries being sacred, the participators in them soon became so. And while the number of these was small, it was respected; but at length, having grown too numerous, they retained no more consequence and consideration than we perceive to attach to German barons, since the world became full of barons.
Initiation was paid for, as every candidate pays his admission fees or welcome, but no member was allowed to talk for his money. In all ages it was considered a great crime to reveal the secrets of these religious farces. This secret was undoubtedly not worth knowing, as the assembly was not a society of philosophers but of ignorant persons, directed by a hierophant. An oath of secrecy was administered, and an oath was always regarded as a sacred bond. Even at
the present day, our comparatively pitiful society of free-masons swear never to speak of their mysteries. These mysteries are stale and flat enough; but men scarcely ever perjure themselves.
Diagoras was proscribed by the Athenians for having made the secret hymn of Orpheus a subject for conversation.* Aristotle informs us, that Eschylus was in danger of being torn to pieces by the people, or at least of being severely beaten by them, for having in one of his dramas given some idea of those Orphean mysteries in which nearly every body was then initiated.
It appears that Alexander did not pay the highest respect possible to these reverend fooleries; they are indeed very apt to be despised by heroes. He revealed
* Suidas, Athenagoras, Eleus, Meursius.