Imatges de pÓgina
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language to natural appearances, in the same manner as when we say, the sun revolves from east to west.

Hipparchus was the first among the Greeks who perceived any change in the constellations in reference to the equinoxes, or rather who learnt it from the Egyptians. The philosophers attributed this motion to the stars; for at that time no one suspected such a revolution in our earth. That was thought in every sense immoveable. They therefore created the heavens, to which they attached all the stars, and attributed to these heavens a particular motion which made them advance towards the east, while all the stars appeared to take their daily course from east to west. To this error they added another, of much more consequence. They imagined that the pretended heavens of fixed stars advanced one degree towards the east in a hundred years.

Thus they were mistaken in their astronomical calculation, as well as in their system of natural philosophy. For example: an astronomer of that period would have said, The vernal equinox, at the time of a certain observer, was in such a sign, and at such a particular star; it has moved two degrees from the time of that observer to our own; but two degrees are equivalent to two hundred years; that observer therefore lived two hundred years before me. It is certain, that an astronomer who had proceeded upon such calculations would have been mistaken by about fifty years. It was on this account that the ancients, thus doubly deceived, composed their great year of the world, that is to say, of the revolution of the whole heavens, of about thirty-six thousand years. But the moderns know that this imaginary revolution of the heaven of stars is nothing but the revolution of the poles of the earth, which is accomplished in twentyfive thousand nine hundred years. It is proper to remark as we proceed, that Sir Isaac Newton, in determining the figure of the earth, has very ingeniously and successfully explained the reason of this revolution.

These premises being admitted, it remains, in order to settle chronology, to ascertain through what star the equinoctial colure divides the ecliptic in spring, at present, and to try to discover whether some ancient writer or other does not inform us in what point the ecliptic was divided by that colure in his time. Clement of Alexandria relates, that Chiron, who belonged to the expedition of the Argonauts, observed the constellations at the period of that celebrated expedition, and fixed the vernal equinox in the middle of the ram, the autumnal equinox in the middle of the scales, and the solstice of our summer in the middle of Capricorn.

Long after the expedition of the Argonauts, and one year before the Peloponnesian war, Meton observed, that the point of the summer solstice passed through the sixth degree of Cancer. ;

But every sign of the zodiac consists of thirty degrees. In Chiron's time the solstice was half-way in the sign, that is, at the fifteenth degree; a year before the Peloponnesian war, it was at the eighth it had therefore retrograded seven degrees-(a degree is equivalent to seventy-two years); therefore, from the beginning of the Peloponnesian war' to the expedition of the Argonauts, there were no more than seven times seventy-two years, which the Greeks state to have been in fact the case. Thus, comparing the state of the heavens at present with the state in which they were at that time, we perceive that the Argonautic expedition ought to be placed nine hundred years before Jesus Christ, and not about fourteen hundred ; and that consequently the world is not so old

was imagined by about five hundred years. By this mode of computation all events are brought nearer to each other, and every historical fact took place at a later period than it was stated to do. This system appears to be correct; . I: am unable to state how far it will succeed, and whether men will be induced to reform the chronology of the world upon the principles here explained. Perhaps the learned might consider it too much to concede to one individual the glory of having perfected at once natural philosophy, geometry, and history; this would be admitting a species of universal monarchy, which self-love can scarcely allow without great reluctance. Accordingly, at the time that the partizans of vortices and tabular: matter attacked the demonstrated doctrine of gravitation, the reverend fathers Souciet and Freret wrote against the chronology of Newton, even before it appeared from the press.

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NUDITY. Why do we shut up a man or a woman whom we find naked in the streets ? and why is no one offended at entirely naked statues, and with certain paintings of Jesus and of Magdalen which are to be seen in some of the churchés ?

It is very likely that human beings existed for a considerable time without clothing.

In more than .one island and on the continent of America, people are still found who are ignorant of clothing.

The most civilized of them conceal the organs of generation by leaves, by interlaced rushes or mats, and by feathers.

Whence this latter modesty? Is it the instinct of nature to provoke desire by the concealment of that which we are inclined to discover?

Is it true that among nations somewhat more polished than the Jews and demi-Jews, there are entire sects who, when they worship God, deprive themselves of clothing. Such have been, it is said, the Adamites and the Abeliens. They assembled together, naked, to sing the praises of God. St. Epiphanius and St. Augustin say this, who, it is true, were not contemporaries, and who lived very distant from their country. But after all, this folly is possible, and is not more extraordinary or insane than a hundred other follies which have made the tour of the world, one after another.

We have seen, in the article Emblem, that the Mahometans still

possess saints who are mad, and who go about naked as apes. It is very possible that crazy people have existed, who thought that it was more proper to present ourselves before the deity in the state in which he has formed us, than under any disguise of our own invention. It is possible that these persons exposed themselves out of pure devotion. There are so few well-made people of either sex, that nudity may have inspired chastity, or rather disgust; instead of augmenting desire.

It is moreover asserted, that the Abeliens renounced marriage. If they abounded in youthful gallants and amorous maidens, they were the less comparable with St. Adhelm and the happy Robert D'Arbrisselle, who lay with the most beautiful women, only in order to prove the strength of their continence.

I confess however, that it must be pleasant to witness a hundred naked Helens and Parises singing anthems, giving one another the kiss of

peace,

and

per: forming the ceremonies of the agapæ.

All this proves, that there is nothing so singular, so extravagant, or so superstitious, which has not been conceived by the head of man.. Happy it is, when these follies do not trouble society, and make of it a scene of hate, of discord, and of fury. It is doubtless better to pray to God stark naked, than to soil his altars and the public places with human blood.

NUMBER. Was Euclid right in defining number to be a col. lection of unities of the same kind ?

When Newton says, that number is an abstract rela, tion of one quantity to another of the same kind, does he not understand by that the use of numbers in arithmetic and geometry?

Wolfe says, number is that which has the same relation with unity as one right line has with another. Is not this rather a property attributed to a number,' than a definition ?

If I dared, I would simply define numbers the idea of several unities.

I see white--I have a sensation, an idea of white. It signifies not whether these two things are or are not of the same species ; I can reckon two ideas. I see four men and four horses I have the idea of eight; in like

one.

manner, three stones and six trees will give me the idea of nine.

That I add, multiply, subtract, and divide these, are operations of the faculty of thought which I have received from the master of nature; but they are not properties inherent to number.

I can square three and cube it, but there is not certainly in nature any number which can be squared or cubed. I very

well conceive what an odd or even number is, but I can never conceive either a perfect or an imperfect

Numbers can have nothing by themselves. What properties, what virtue, can ten flints, ten trees, ten ideas, possess merely because they are ten? What superiority will one number divisible in three even parts have over another divisible in two?

Pythagoras was the first, it is said, who discovered divine virtues in numbers. I doubt whether he was the first; for he had travelled in Egypt, Babylon, and India, and must have related much of their arts and knowledge. The Indians particularly, the inventors of the combined and complicated game of chess, and of cyphers so convenient that the Arabs learned of them, through whom they have been communicated to us after so many ages, these same Indians, I say, joined strange chimeras to their sciences. The Chaldeans had still more, and the Egyptians more still. We know that selfdelusion is in our nature. Happy is he who can preserve himself from it! Happy is he who, after having some access of this fever of the mind can recover tolerable health.

Porphyrius, in the Life of Pythagoras, says that the number 2 is fatal. We might say, on the contrary, that it is the most favourable of all. Woe to him that is always single! Woe to nature, if the human species and that of animals were not often two and two! If 2-was of bad augury, 3, by way

of

recompense, was admirable, and 4 was divine; but the Pythagoreans and their imitators forgot that this mysterious 4, so divine, was composed of twice that diabolical number 2! Six had its merit, because the first statuaries

VOL. V.

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