Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

is mortal? The schools loudly exclaim, that every compound being retains the nature of that of which it is compounded; that matter is perishable and divisible, and that accordingly the soul would be perishable and divisible like it. The whole of this is equally false.

It is false, that if God chose to make matter think, thought would be a compound of matter; for thought would be simply a gift of God, added to that unknown being which we call matter; just in the same manner as God has added to it the attraction of centripetal force and motion, attributes independent of divisibility.

It is false, that even in the system of the schools, matter is infinitely divisible. We assume, indeed, divisibility to infinity in geometry; but that science deals merely with our ideas, and while we assume lines without width, and points without extension, we also assume an infinity of circles passing between a tangent and a given circle.

But when we come to the examination of actual nature, then infinite divisibility vanishes. Matter, it is true, remains infinitely divisible ideally, but it is necessarily indivisible, and that same science of geometry which demonstrates to me that my thought may eternally divide matter, likewise demonstrates to me, that there are in matter parts indivisible and perfectly solid. The following is the demonstration.

Since we must necessarily suppose the existence of pores in every description of elements into which we imagine matter divisible to infinity, the quantity of solid matter that will remain will be expressed by the product of an infinite series of terms each smaller than the other; but such a product amounts necessarily to zero; and therefore, if matter were physically infinitely divisible, there would be no matter at all. This shows, by the way, that M. de Malezieux, in his Elements of Geometry, for the duke of Burgundy is perfectly incorrect in maintaining that there is an absolute incompatibility between units and parts indivisible to infinity. In this doctrine he is doubly mistaken; he is mistaken in not adverting to the circumstance that a unit is the object of our thought, and divisibility another object of our thought, which are by no means incompatible; for I can make a unit of a hundred and a hundred of a unit; and he is farther mistaken in not adverting to the difference that exists between matter divisible in thought, and' matter divisible in fact.

You enquire perhaps what all this proves ?

That there are parts of matter imperishable and indivisible; that the almighty God their creator may, whenever he pleases, unite thought to one of these parts, and preserve it for ever. I by no means assert, that my reason instructs me God has actually done this; I merely say, that it teaches me it may be done. I say, with the judicious Locke, that it belongs not to us, who are only of yesterday, to dare to set bounds to the power of the Creator, the infinite being, the only necessary and immutable existence.

Mr. Locke says, that it is impossible for reason to prove the spirituality of the soul ; I add, that there is not a man in the world who is not convinced of that truth.

It is unquestionable, that if a man were fully persuaded he should be more free and more happy in quitting his habitation, he would quit it instantly; but we cannot believe the soul to be spiritual, without conceiving it to be in prison in the body, in which it is in general, if not absolutely miserable, at least restless and melancholy; we ought therefore naturally to be delighted to leave our prison. But what man is delighted to die through such a motive?

Quod si immortalis nostra foret mens,
Non jam se moriens dissolvi conqueretur ;
Sed magis ire foras, vestemque relinquere ut anguis
Gauderet prælunga senex aut cornua cervus.

LUCRETIUS, iii. 611-614.
The soul immortal, why doth then the mind
Complain of death, why not rejoice to find
Herself let loose, and leave this clay behind ?
As snakes, whene'er the circling year returns,
Rejoice to cast their skins, or deer their horns.

CREECH. We should endeavour to ascertain, not what other men have said upon this matter, but what our own reason is able to discover to us, independently of the opinions of mankind.

LOVE.

meras.

THERE are so many kinds of love, that in order to define it, we scarcely know which to direct our attention to. Some boldly apply the name of love'to a caprice of a few days, a connection without attachment, a passion without affection, the affectations of cecisbeism, a cold usage, a romantic fancy, a taste speedily followed by distaste. They apply the name to a thousand chi

Should any philosophers be inclined profoundly to investigate a subject in itself so little philosophical, they may recur to the banquet of Plato, in which Socrates, the decent and honourable lover of Alcibiades and Agathon, converses with them on the metaphysics of love.

Lucretius speaks of it more as a natural philosopher; and Virgil follows the example of Lucretius. “Amor omnibus idem.”

It is the embroidery of imagination on the stuff of nature. If

you wish to form an idea of love, look at the sparrows in your garden; behold your doves; contemplate the bull when introduced to the heifer; look at that powerful and spirited horse which two of your grooms are conducting to the mare that quietly awaits him, and is evidently pleased at his approach; observe the flashing of his eyes, notice the strength and loudness of his neighings, the boundings, the curvettings, the ears erect, the mouth opening with convulsive gaspings, the distended nostrils, the breath of fire, the raised and waving mane, and the impetuous movement with which he rushes towards the object which nature has destined for him; do not, however, be jealous of his happiness; but reflect on the advantages of the human species; they afford ample compensation in love for all those which nature has conferred on mere animals-strength, beauty, lightness, and rapidity.

There are some classes, however, even of animals totally unacquainted with sexual association. Fishes are destitute of this enjoyment. The female deposits her millions of eggs on the slime of the waters, and the male that meets them passes over them and communicates the vital principle, neither consorting with, or perhaps even perceiving the female to whom they belong.

The greater part of those animals which copulate are sensible of the enjoyment only by a single sense; and when appetite is satisfied, the whole is over. No animal, besides man, is acquainted with embraces; his whole frame is susceptible; his lips particularly experience a delight which never wearies, and which is exclusively the portion of his species; finally, he can surrender himself at all seasons to the endearments of love, while mere animals possess only limited periods. If you reflect on these high pre-eminences, you will readily join in the earl of Rochester's remark, that love would impel a whole nation of atheists to worship the divinity. i As men have been endowed with the talent of perfecting whatever nature has bestowed upon them, they have accordingly perfected the gift of love. Cleanliness, personal attention, and regard to health, render the frame more sensitive, and consequently increase its capacity of gratification. All the other amiable and valuable sentiments enter afterwards into that of love, like the metals which amalgamate with gold; friendship and esteem readily fly to its support; and talents both of body and of mind are new and strengthening bonds.

Nam facit ipsa suis interdùm femina factis,
Morigerisque modis, et munde corpore culto
Ut facilè insuescat secum vir degere vitam.

LUCRETIUS, iv. 1275. Self-love, above all, draws closer all these various ties. Men pride themselves in the choice they have made; and the numberless illusions that crowd around constitute the ornament of the work, of which the foundation is so firmly laid by nature.

Such are the advantages possessed by man above the various tribes of animals. But, if he enjoys delights

excess.

of which they are ignorant, how many vexations and disgusts, on the other hand, is he exposed to, from which they are free! The most dreadful of these is occasioned by nature's having poisoned the pleasures of love and sources of life over three quarters of the world by a terrible disease, to which man alone is subject; nor is it with this pestilence as with various other maladies, which are the natural consequences of

It was not introduced into the world by debauchery. The Phrynes and Laïses, the Floras and Messalinas, were never attacked by it. It originated in islands where mankind dwelt together in innocence, and has thence been spread throughout the old world.

If nature could in any instance be accused of despising her own work, thwarting her own plan, and counteracting her own views, it would be in this detestable scourge which has polluted the earth with horror and shame. And can this then be the best of all possible worlds? What! if Cæsar and Antony and Octavius never had this disease, was it not possible to prevent Francis the first from dying of it? No, it is said; things were so ordered all for the best ; I am disposed to believe it; but it is unfortunate for those to whom Rabelais has dedicated his book.

Erotic philosophers have frequently discussed the question, whether Heloisa could truly love Abelard after he became a monk and mutilated? One of these states much wronged the other.

Be comforted however, Abelard, you were really beloved; imagination comes in aid of the heart. Men feel a pleasure in remaining at table although they can no longer eat? Is it love? is it simply recollection? is it friendship? It is a something compounded of all these. It is a confused feeling, resembling the fantastic passions which the dead retained in the Elysian fields. The heroes who while living had shone in the chariot races, guided imaginary chariots after death. Heloisa lived with you on illusions and supplements. She sometimes caressed you, and with so much the more pleasure as, after vowing at Paraclete that she would love you no more, her caresses were become more precious to

« AnteriorContinua »