1. GOD AND INFINITY - 2. PROOFS OF THE EXISTENCE OF GOD - 3. ATTRIBUTES OF THE DIVINITY - 4. PANTHEISM
God and Infinity
1. What is God?
"God is the Supreme Intelligence--First Cause of all things."
2. What is to be understood by infinity?
"That which has neither beginning nor end; the unknown: all that is unknown is infinite."
3. Can it be said that God is infinity?
"An incomplete definition. Poverty of human speech incompetent to define what transcends human intelligence."
God is infinite in His perfections, but "infinity" is an abstraction. To say that God is infinity is to substitute the attribute of a thing for the thing itself, and to define something unknown by reference to some other thing equally unknown.
4. What proof have we of the existence of God?
"The axiom which you apply in all your scientific researches, 'There is no effect without a cause.' Search out the cause of whatever is not the work of man, and reason will furnish the answer to your question."
To assure ourselves of the existence of God, we have only to look abroad on the works of creation. The universe exists, therefore it has a cause. To doubt the existence of God is to doubt that every effect has a cause, and to assume that something can have been made by nothing.
5. What is to be inferred from the intuition of the existence of God which may be said to be the common property of the human mind?
"That God exists; for whence could the human mind derive this intuition if it had no real basis? The inference to be drawn from the fact of this intuition is a corollary of the axiom 'There is no effect without a cause.'"
6. May not our seemingly intuitive sense of the existence of God be the result of education and of acquired ideas?
"If such were the case, how should this intuitive sense be possessed by your savages?"
If the intuition of the existence of a Supreme Being were only the result of education, it would not be universal, and would only exist, like all other acquired knowledge, in the minds of those who had received the special education to which it would be due.
7. Is the first cause of the formation of things to be found in the essential properties of matter?
"If such were the case, what would be the cause of those properties? There must always be a first cause."
To attribute the first formation of things to the essential properties of matter, would be to take the effect for the cause, for those properties are themselves an effect, which must have a cause.
8. What is to be thought of the opinion that attributes the first formation of things to a fortuitous combination of matter, in other words, to chance?
"Another absurdity! Who that is possessed of common sense can regard chance as an intelligent agent? And, besides, what is chance? Nothing."
The harmony which regulates the mechanism of the universe can only result from combinations adopted in view of predetermined ends, and thus, by its very nature, reveals the existence of an Intelligent Power. To attribute the first formation of things to chance is nonsense for chance cannot produce the results of intelligence. If chance could be intelligent, it would cease to be chance.
9. What proof have we that the first cause of all things is a Supreme Intelligence, superior to all other intelligences?
"You have a proverb which says, 'The workman is known by his work.' Look around you, and, from the quality of the work, infer that of the workman."
We judge of the power of an intelligence by its works as no human being could create that which is produced by nature, it is evident that the first cause must be an Intelligence superior to man. Whatever may be the prodigies accomplished by human intelligence, that intelligence itself must have a cause and the greater the results achieved by it, the greater must be the cause of which it is the effect. It is this Supreme Intelligence that is the first cause of all things, whatever the name by which mankind may designate it.
10. Can man comprehend the essential nature of God?
"No; he lacks the sense required for comprehending it."
11. Will man ever become able to comprehend the mystery of the Divinity?
"When his mind shall no longer be obscured by matter, and when, by his perfection, he shall have brought himself nearer to God, be will see and comprehend Him."
The inferiority of the human faculties renders it impossible for man to comprehend the essential nature of God. In the infancy of the race, man often confounds the Creator with the creature, and attributes to the former the imperfections of the latter. But, in proportion as his moral sense becomes developed, man's thought penetrates more deeply into the nature of things, and he is able to form to himself a juster and more rational idea of the Divine Being, although his idea of that Being must always be imperfect and incomplete.
12. If we cannot comprehend the essential nature of God, can we have an idea of some of His perfections?
"Yes, of some of them. Man comprehends them better in proportion as he raises himself above matter; he obtains glimpses of them through the exercise of his intelligence."
13. When we say that God is eternal, infinite, unchangeable, immaterial, unique, all-powerful, sovereignty just and good, have we not a complete idea of His attributes?
"Yes, judging from your point of view, because you think that you sum up everything in those terms; but you must understand that there are things which transcend the intelligence of the most intelligent man, and for which your language, limited to your ideas and sensations, has no expressions. Your reason tells you that God must possess those perfections in the supreme degree; for, if one of them were lacking, or were not possessed by Him in an infinite degree, He would riot be superior to all, and consequently would not be God. In order to be above all things, God must undergo no vicissitudes, He must have none of the imperfections of which the imagination can conceive."
God is eternal. If He had had a beginning, He must either have sprung from nothing, or have been created by some being anterior to Himself. It is thus that, step by step, we arrive at the idea of infinity and eternity.
God is unchangeable. If He were subject to change, the laws which rule the universe would have no stability.
God is immaterial, that is to say, that His nature differs from everything that we call matter, or otherwise. He would not be unchangeable, for He would be subject to the transformations of matter.
God is unique. If there were several Gods, there would be neither unity of plan nor unity of power in the ordaining of the universe.
God is all-powerful because He is unique. If He did not possess sovereign power, there would be something more powerful, or no less powerful, than Himself. He would not have created all things and those which He had not created would be the work of another God.
God is sovereignty just and good. The providential wisdom of the divine laws is revealed as clearly in the smallest things as in the greatest and this wisdom renders it impossible to doubt either His justice or His goodness.
14. Is God a being distinct from the universe, or is He, according to the opinion of some, the result of all the forces and intelligences of the universe?
"If the latter were the case, God would not be God, for He would be effect and not cause; He cannot be both cause and effect."
"God exists. You cannot doubt His existence, and that is one essential point. Do not seek to go beyond it; do not lose yourselves in a labyrinth which, for you, is without an issue. Such inquiries would not make you better; they would rather tend to add to your pride, by causing you to imagine that you knew something, while, in reality, you would know nothing. Put aside systems. You have things enough to think about that concern you much more nearly, beginning with yourselves. Study your own imperfections, that you may get rid of them; this will be far more useful to you than the vain attempt to penetrate the impenetrable."
15. What is to be thought of the opinion according to which all natural bodies, all the beings, all the globes of the universe are parts of the Divinity, and constitute in their totality the Divinity itself; in other words the Pantheistic theory?
"Man, not being able to make himself God, would fain make himself out to be, at least, a part of God."
16. Those who hold this theory profess to find in it the demonstration of some of the attributes of God. The worlds of the universe being infinitely numerous, God is thus seen to be infinite; vacuum, or nothingness, being nowhere, God is everywhere: God being everywhere, since everything is an integral part of God, He is thus seen to be the intelligent cause of all the phenomena of the universe. What can we oppose to this argument?
"The dictates of reason. Reflect on the assumption in question, and you will have no difficulty in detecting its absurdity."
The Pantheistic theory makes of God a material being, who, though endowed with a supreme intelligence, would only be on a larger scale what we are on a smaller one. But, as matter is incessantly undergoing transformation, God, if this theory were true, would have no stability. He would be subject to all the vicissitudes, and even to all the needs, of humanity He would lack one of the essential attributes of the Divinity, namely, unchangeableness. The properties of matter cannot be attributed to God without degrading our idea of the Divinity and all the subtleties of sophistry fail to solve the problem of His essential nature. We do not know what God is; but we know that it is impossible that He should not be and the theory just stated is in contradiction with His most essential attributes. It confounds the Creator with the creation, precisely as though we should consider an ingenious machine to be an integral portion of the mechanician who invented it.
The intelligence of God is revealed in His works, as is that of a painter in his picture; but the works of God are no more God Himself than the picture is the artist who conceived and painted it.
1. KNOWLEDGE OF THE FIRST PRINCIPLES OF THINGS
- 2. SPIRIT AND MATTER - 3. PROPERTIES OF MATTER
- 4. UNIVERSAL SPACE
Knowledge of the First Principles of Things
17. Is it given to mankind to know the first principle of things?
"No. There are things that cannot be understood by man in this world."
18. Will man ever be able to penetrate the mystery of things now hidden from him?
"The veil will be raised for him in proportion as he accomplishes his purification; but, in order to understand certain things, he would need faculties which he does not yet possess."
19. Cannot man, through scientific investigation, penetrate some of the secrets of nature?
"The faculty of scientific research has been given to him as a means by which he may advance in every direction; but he cannot overstep the limits of his present possibilities."
The farther man advances in the study of the mysteries around him, the greater should be his admiration of the power and wisdom of the Creator. But, partly through pride, partly through weakness, his intellect itself often renders him the sport of illusion. He heaps systems upon systems; and every day shows him how many errors he has mistaken for truths, how many truths he has repelled as errors. Ail this should be a lesson for his pride.
20. Is man permitted to receive communications of a higher order in regard to matters which, not being within the scope of his senses, are beyond the pale of scientific investigation?
"Yes. When God judges such revelations to be useful, He reveals to man what science is incompetent to teach him."
It is through communications of this higher order that man is enabled, within certain limits, to obtain a knowledge of his past and of his future destiny.
21. Has matter existed from all eternity, like God, or has it been created at some definite period of time?
"God only knows. There is, nevertheless, one point which your reason should suffice to show you, namely, that God, the prototype of love and beneficence, can never have been inactive. However far off in the past you may imagine the beginning of His action, can you suppose Him to have been for a single moment inactive?"
22. Matter is generally defined as being "that which has extension," "that which can make an impression upon our senses," "that which possesses impenetrability." Are these definitions correct?
"From your point of view they are correct, because you can only define in accordance with what you know. But matter exists in states which are unknown to you. It may be, for instance, so ethereal and subtle as to make no impression upon your senses; and yet it is still matter, although it would not be such for you."
-- What definition can you give of matter?
"Matter is the element which enchains spirit, the instrument which serves it, and upon which, at the same time, it exerts its action."
From this point of view it may be said that matter is the agent, the intermediary, through which, and upon which, spirit acts.
23. What is spirit?
"The intelligent principle of the universe."
-- What is the essential nature of spirit?
"It is not possible to explain the nature of spirit in your language. For you it is not a thing, because it is not palpable; but for us it is a thing."
24. Is spirit synonymous with intelligence?
"Intelligence is an essential attribute of spirit, but both merge in a unitary principle, so that, for you, they may be said to be the same thing."
25. Is spirit independent of matter, or is it only one of the properties of matter, as colors are a property of light, and as sound is a property of the air?
"Spirit and matter are distinct from one another; but the union of spirit and matter is necessary to give intelligent activity to matter."
-- Is this union equally necessary to the manifestation of spirit? (We refer, in this question, to the principle of intelligence, abstractly considered, without reference to the individualities designated by that term.)
"It is necessary for you, because you are not organized for perceiving spirit apart from matter. Your senses are not formed for that order of perception."
26. Can spirit be conceived of without matter, and matter without spirit?
"Undoubtedly, as objects of thought."
27. There are, then, two general elements of the universe matter and spirit?
"Yes; and above them both is God, the Creator, Parent of all things. These three elements are the principle of all that exists-the universal trinity. But to the material element must be added the universal fluid which plays the part of intermediary between spirit and matter, the nature of the latter being too gross for spirit to be able to act directly upon it. Although, from another point of view, this fluid may be classed as forming part of the material element, it is, nevertheless, distinguished from that element by certain special properties of its own. If it could be classed simply and absolutely as matter, there would be no reason why spirit also should not be classed as matter. It is intermediary between spirit and matter. It is fluid, just as matter is matter, and is susceptible of being made, through its innumerable combinations with matter, under the directing action of spirit, to produce the infinite variety of things of which you know as yet but a very small portion. This universal, primitive, or elementary fluid, being the agent employed by spirit in acting upon matter is the principle without which matter would remain forever in a state of division, and would never acquire the properties given to it by the state of ponderability."
-- Is this fluid what we designate by the name of electricity?
"We have said that it is susceptible of innumerable combinations. What you call the electric fluid, the magnetic fluid, etc., are modifications of the universal fluid, which, properly speaking, is only matter of a more perfect and more subtle kind, and that may be considered as having an independent existence of its own."
28. Since spirit itself is something, would it not be more correct and clearer to designate these two general elements by the terms inert matter and intelligent matter?
"Questions of words are of little importance for us. It is for you to formulate your definitions in such a manner as to make yourselves intelligible to one another. Your disputes almost always arise from the want of a common agreement in the use of the words you employ, owing to the incompleteness of your language in regard to all that does not strike your senses."
One fact, patent to all observers, dominates all our hypotheses. We see matter which is not intelligent: we see the action of an intelligent principle independent of matter. The origin and connection of these two things are unknown to us. Whether they have, or have not, a common source, and points of contact preordained in the nature of things, whether intelligence has an independent existence of its own, or is only a property or an effect, or even whether it is (as some assume it to be) an emanation of the Divinity, are points about which we know nothing. Matter and intelligence appear to us to be distinct; and we therefore speak of them as being two constituent elements of the universe. We see, above these, a higher intelligence which governs all things, and is distinguished from them all by essential attributes peculiar to itself; It is this Supreme Intelligence that we call God.
29. Is density an essential attribute of matter?
"Yes, of matter as understood by you, but not of matter considered as the universal fluid. The ethereal and subtle matter which forms this fluid is imponderable for you, and yet it is none the less the principle of your ponderable matter."
Density is a relative property. Beyond the sphere of attraction of the various globes of the universe, there is no such thing as "weight," just as there is neither "up" nor "down."
30. Is matter formed of one element or of several elements?
"Of one primitive element. The bodies which you regard as simple are not really elementary; they are transformations of the primitive matter."
31. Whence come the different properties of matter?
"From the modifications undergone by the elementary molecules, as the result of their union and of the action of certain conditions."
32. According to this view of the subject, savors, odors, colors, sounds, the poisonous or salutary qualities of bodies, are only the result of modifications of one and the same primitive substance?
"Yes, undoubtedly; and that only exist in virtue of the disposition of the organs destined to perceive them."
This principle is proved by the fact that the qualities of bodies are not perceived by all persons in the same manner. The same thing appears agreeable to the taste of one person, and disagreeable to that of another, what appears blue to one person appears red to another. That which is a poison for some, is wholesome for others.
33. Is the same elementary matter susceptible of undergoing all possible modifications and of acquiring all possible qualities?
"Yes; and it is this fact which is implied in the saying that everything is in everything."
Oxygen, hydrogen, azote, carbon, and all the other bodies which we regard as simple, are only modifications of one primitive substance. But the impossibility, in which we have hitherto found ourselves, of arriving at this primitive matter otherwise than as an intellectual deduction, causes these bodies to appear to us to be really elementary and we may, therefore, without impropriety, continue for the present to regard them as such.
-- Does not this theory appear to bear out the opinion of those who admit only two essential properties in matter, namely, force and movement, and who regard all the other properties of matter as being merely secondary effects of these, varying according to the intensity of the force and the direction of the movement?
"That opinion is correct. But you must also add, according to the mode of molecular arrangement; as you see exemplified, for instance, in an opaque body, that may become transparent, and vice versa."
34. Have the molecules of matter a determinate form?
"Those molecules undoubtedly have a form, but one which is not appreciable by your organs."
-- Is that form constant or variable?
"Constant for the primitive elementary molecules, but variable for the secondary molecules, which are themselves only agglomerations of the primary ones; for what you term a molecule is still very far from being the elementary molecule."
35. Is universal space infinite or limited?
"Infinite. Suppose the existence of boundaries, what would there be beyond them? This consideration confounds human reason; and nevertheless your reason itself tells you that it cannot be otherwise. It is thus with the idea of infinity, under whatever aspect you consider it. The idea of infinity cannot be comprehended in your narrow sphere."
If we imagine a limit to space, no matter how far off our thought may place this limit, our reason tells us that there must still be something beyond it and so on, step by step, until we arrive at the idea of infinity; for the "something beyond," the existence of which is recognized by our thought as necessity, were it only an absolute void, would still be space.
36. Does an absolute void exist in any part of space?
"No there is no void. What appears like a void to you is occupied by matter in a state in which it escapes the action of your senses and of your instruments."
1. FORMATION OF WORLDS - 2. PRODUCTION OF LIVING BEING
- 3. PEOPLING OF THE EARTH ADAM - 4. DIVERSITY OF HUMAN RACE
- 5. PLURALITY OF WORLD - 6. THE BIBLICAL ACCOUNT OF THE CREATION
Formation of Worlds
The universe comprises the infinity of worlds, both of those we see and those we do not see all animate and inanimate beings all the stars that revolve in space, and all fluids with which space is filled.
37. Has the universe been created, or has it existed from all eternity, like God?
"Assuredly the universe cannot have made itself; and if it had existed from all eternity, like God, it could not be the work of God."
Reason tells us that the universe cannot have made itself, and that, as it could not be the work of chance, it must be the work of God.
38. How did God create the universe?
"To borrow a well-known expression, by His will. Nothing can give a better idea of the action of that all-powerful will than those grand words of Genesis, "God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light."
39. Can we know how worlds are formed?
"All that can be said on this subject, within the limits of your comprehension, is this: Worlds are formed by the condensation of the matter disseminated in space."
40. Are comets, as is now supposed, a commencement of condensation of the primitive matter-worlds in course of formation?
"Yes; but it is absurd to believe in the influence attributed to them. I mean, the influence which is commonly attributed to them; for all the heavenly bodies have their share of influence in the production of certain physical phenomena."
41. Is it possible for a completely formed world to disappear, and for the matter of which it is composed to be again disseminated in space?
"Yes. God renews worlds as He renews the living beings that inhabit them."
42. Can we know the length of time employed in the formation of worlds-of the earth, for instance?
"This is a matter in regard to which I can tell you nothing , for it is only known to the Creator; and foolish indeed would he be who should pretend to possess such knowledge, or to number the ages of such a formation."
43. When did the earth begin to be peopled?
"In the beginning all was chaos; the elements were mixed up in a state of confusion. Gradually those elements settled into their proper places, and then appeared the orders of living beings appropriate to the successive states of the globe."
44. Whence came the living beings that appeared upon the earth?
"The germs of these were contained in the earth itself, awaiting the favorable moment for their development. The organic principles came together on the cessation of the force which held them asunder, and those principles formed the germs of all the living beings that have peopled the earth. Those germs remained latent and inert, like the chrysalis and the seed of plants, until the arrival of the proper moment for the vivification of each species. The beings of each species then came together and multiplied."
45. Where were the organic elements before the formation of the earth?
"They existed, so to say in the fluidic state, in space, in the midst of the spirits, or in other planets, awaiting the creation of the earth in order to begin a new existence on a new globe."
Chemistry shows us the molecules of inorganic bodies uniting to produce crystals of regular forms that are invariable for each species, as soon as those molecules find themselves in the conditions necessary to their combination. The slightest disturbance of those conditions suffices to prevent the union of the material elements, or, at least, to prevent the regular arrangement of the latter which constitutes the crystal. Why should not the same action take place among the organic elements? we preserve for years the seeds of plants and of animals, which are only vivified at a certain temperature and under certain conditions: grains of wheat have been seen to germinate after the lapse of centuries. There is, then, in seeds a latent principle of vitality, which only awaits the concourse of favorable circumstances to develop itself. May not that which takes place under our eyes every day have also taken place at the origin of the globe? Does this view of the formation of living beings brought forth out of chaos by the action of the forces of nature itself detract in any way from the glory of God? So far from doing this, the view of creation thus presented to us is more consonant than any other with our sense of the vastness of His power exerting its sway over all the worlds of infinity through the action of universal laws. This theory, it is true, does not solve the problem of the origin of the vital elements, but nature has mysteries which it is as yet impossible for us to explain.
46. Do any living beings come into existence spontaneously at the present day?
"Yes; but the primal germs of these already existed in a latent state. You are constantly witnesses of this phenomenon. Do not the tissues of the human body and of animals contain the germs of a multitude of parasites, that only await for their development the occurrence of the putrid fermentation necessary to their life? Each of you contains a slumbering world of microscopic beings in process of creation."
47. Was the human species among the organic elements contained in the terrestrial globe?
"Yes; and it made its appearance at the time appointed by the Creator. Hence the statement that man was 'formed out of the dust of the ground.'"
48. Can we ascertain the epoch of the appearance of man and of the other living beings on the earth?
"No; all your calculations are chimerical."
49. If the germs of the human race were among the organic elements of the globe, why are human beings not produced spontaneously at the present day, as they were at the time of its origin?
"The first beginning of things is hidden from us, nevertheless, it may be asserted that the earliest progenitors of the human race, when once brought into existence, absorbed in themselves the elements necessary to their formation in order to transmit those elements according to the laws of reproduction. The same may be said in regard to all the different species of living beings."
50. Did the human race begin with one man only?
"No; he whom you call Adam was neither the first nor the only man who peopled the earth."
51. Is it possible to know at what period Adam lived?
"About the period which you assign to him, that is to say, about 4000 years before Christ."
The man of whom, under the name of Adam, tradition has preserved the memory, was one of those who, in some one of the countries of the globe, survived one of the great cataclysms which at various epochs have changed its surface, and who became the founder of one of the races that people the earth at the present day. The laws of nature render it impossible that the amount of progress which we know to have been accomplished by the human race of our planet long before the time of Christ could have been accomplished so rapidly as must have been the case if it had only been in existence upon the globe since the period assigned as the date of Adam. The opinion most consonant with reason is that which regards the story of Adam as a myth, or as an allegory personifying the earliest ages of the world Diversity of Human Races.
Diversity of human races
52. What is the cause of the physical and moral differences that distinguish the various races of men upon the earth?
"Climate, modes of life, and social habits. The same differences would be produced in the case of two children of the same mother, if brought up far from one another, and surrounded by different influences and conditions; for the children thus diversely brought up would present no moral resemblance to each other."
53. Did the human race come into existence on various points of the globe?
"Yes, and at various epochs; and this is one of the causes of the diversity of human races. The people of the primitive periods, being dispersed abroad in different climates, and forming alliances with those of other countries than their own, gave rise perpetually to new types of humanity."
-- Do these differences constitute distinct species?
"Certainly not. All of them constitute but a single family. Do the differences between the varieties of the same fruit prevent their all belonging to the same species."
54. If the human species do not all proceed from the same progenitor, should they, on that account, cease to regard one another as brothers?
"All men are brothers in virtue of their common relation to the Creator, because they are animated by the same spirit, and tend towards the same goal. The human mind is always prone to attach too literal a meaning to statements which are necessarily imperfect and incomplete."
55. Are all the globes that revolve in space inhabited?
"Yes; and the people of the earth are far from being, as you suppose, the first in intelligence, goodness, and general development. There are many men having a high opinion of themselves who even imagine that your little globe alone, of all the countless myriads of globes around you, has the privilege of being inhabited by reasoning beings. They fancy that God has created the universe only for them. Insensate vanity!"
God has peopled the globes of the universe with living beings, all of whom concur in working out the aims of His providence. To believe that the presence of living beings is confined to the one point of the universe inhabited by us is to cast a doubt on the wisdom of God, who has made nothing in vain, and who must therefore have assigned to all the other globes of the universe a destination more important than that of gratifying our eyes with the spectacle of a starry night. Moreover, there is nothing in the position, size, or physical constitution of the earth to warrant the supposition that it alone, of the countless myriads of globes disseminated throughout the infinity of space, has the privilege of being inhabited.
56. Is the physical constitution of all globes the same?
"No; they do not at all resemble one another."
57. The physical constitution of the various worlds not being the same for all does it follow that the beings who inhabit them have different organizations?
"Undoubtedly it does; just as, in your world, fishes are organized for living in the water, and birds for living in the air."
58. Are the planets furthest removed from the sun stinted in light and heat, the sun only appearing to them of the size of one of the fixed stars?
"Do you suppose that there are no other sources of light and heat than the sun? And do you count for nothing the action of electricity which, in certain worlds, plays a very much more important part than in your earth? Besides, how do you know that the beings of those worlds see in the same manner as you do, and with the aid of organs such as yours?"
The conditions of existence for the beings who inhabit the various worlds must be supposed to be appropriate to the sphere in which they are destined to live. If we had never seen fishes, we should be at a loss to understand how any living beings could exist in the sea. So in regard to all the other worlds, which doubtless contain elements that are unknown to us. In our own earth, are not the long polar nights illumined by the electrical displays of the aurora borealis? Is it impossible that. In certain worlds, electricity may be more abundant than in ours, and may subserve, in its general economy, various important uses not imaginable by us? And may not those worlds contain in themselves the sources of the heat and light required by their inhabitants?
59. The different nations of the earth have formed to themselves widely divergent ideas of the creation; ideas always in harmony with their degree of scientific advancement. Reason and science concur in admitting the fantastic character of certain theories. The explanation of the subject now given through spirit communication is confirmatory of the opinion which has long been adopted by the most enlightened exponents of modern science.
This explanation will no doubt be objected to, on the ground that it is in contradiction with the statements of the Bible; but a careful examination of those statements shows us that this contradiction is more apparent than real, and that it results from the interpretation which has been given to expressions whose meaning is allegorical rather than historical.
The question of the personality of Adam, regarded as the first man, and sole progenitor of the human race, is not the only one in regard to which the religious convictions of the world have necessarily undergone modification. The hypothesis of the rotation of the earth round the sun appeared, at one time, to be in such utter opposition to the letter of the Bible, that every species of persecution was directed against it, and against those who advocated it. Yet the earth continued to move on in its orbit in defiance of anathemas; and no one, at the present day, could contest the fact of its movement without doing violence to his own powers of reasoning.
The Bible also tells us that the world was created in six days, and fixes the epoch of this creation at about 4000 years before the Christian era. Previously to that period the earth did not exist. At that period it was produced out of nothing. Such is the formal declaration of the sacred text, yet science, positive, inexorable steps in with proof to the contrary. The history of the formation of the globe is written in indestructible characters in the worlds of fossils, proving beyond the possibility of denial that the six days of the creation are successive periods, each of which may have been of millions of ages. This is not a mere matter of statement or of opinion. It is a fact as incontestably certain as is the motion of the earth, and one that theology itself can no longer refuse to admit, although this admission furnishes another example of the errors into which we are led by attributing literal truth to language which is often of a figurative nature. Are we therefore to conclude that the Bible is a mere tissue of errors? No; but we must admit that men have erred in their method of interpreting it.
Geology, in its study of the archives written in the structure of the globe itself, has ascertained the order of succession in which the different species of living beings have appeared on its surface, and this order is found to be in accordance with the sequence indicated in the book of Genesis, with this difference, namely, that the earth, instead of issuing miraculously from the hand of God in the course of a few days, accomplished its formation under the impulsion of the Divine will, but according to the laws and through the action of the forces of nature, in the course of periods incalculable by us. Does God appear less great and less powerful for having accomplished the work of creation through the action of forces, and according to laws, of His own ordaining? And is the result of the creative energy less sublime for not having been accomplished instantaneously? Evidently not; and puerile indeed must be the mind that does not recognize the grandeur of the Almighty Power implied in this evolution of the worlds of the universe through the action of eternal laws. Science, so far from diminishing the glory of the Divine action, displays that action under an aspect still more sublime, and more consonant with our intuitive sense of the power and majesty of God, by showing that it has been accomplished without derogation from the laws which are the expression of the Divine will in the realm of nature.
Modern science, in accordance with the Mosaic record, proves that man was the last in the order of creation of living beings. But Moses puts the universal deluge at the year of the world 1654, while geology seems to show that the great diluvian cataclysm occurred before the appearance of man, because, up to the present time, the primitive strata contain no traces of his presence, nor of that of the animals contemporaneous with him. But this point is far from being decided. Various recent discoveries suggest the possibility of our being destined to ascertain that the antiquity of the human race is much greater than has been hitherto supposed; and should this greater antiquity become a matter of certainty, it would prove that the letter of the Bible, in regard to the date assigned by it to the creation of man, as in regard to so many other matters, can only be understood in an allegorical sense. That the geological deluge is not that of Noah is evident from the lapse of time required for the formation of the fossiliferous strata; and, if traces should eventually be discovered of the existence of the human race before the geological deluge, it would be evident either that Adam was not the first man, or that his creation dates back from a period indefinitely remote. There is no arguing against fact; and the antiquity of the human race, if proved by geological discovery, would have to be admitted, just as has been done in regard to the movement of the earth and the six days of the creation.
The existence of the human race before the geological deluge, it may be objected, is still doubtful. But the same objection cannot be urged against the following considerations:- Admitting that man first appeared upon the earth 4000 years before Christ, if the whole of the human race, with the exception of a single family, were destroyed 1650 years afterwards, it follows that the peopling of the earth dates only from the time of Noah, that is to say, only 2500 years before Christ. But when the Hebrews emigrated to Egypt in the eighteenth century before Christ, they found that country densely populated, and already in possession of an advanced civilization. History also shows that, at the same period, India and various other countries were equally populous and flourishing, to say nothing of the chronological tables of other nations, which claim to go back to periods yet more remote. We must, therefore, suppose that, from the twenty-fourth to the eighteenth century before Christ, that is to say, in the space of 600 years-the posterity of a single individual was able to people all the immense countries which had then been discovered, not to speak of those which were then unknown, but which we have no reason to conclude were destitute of inhabitants; and we must suppose, still further, that the human race, during this brief period, was able to raise itself from the crass ignorance of the primitive savage state to the highest degree of intellectual development-suppositions utterly irreconcilable with anthropological laws.
The diversity of the various human races confirms this view of the subject. Climate and modes of life undoubtedly modify the physical characteristics of mankind, but we know the extent to which these modifications can be carried, and physiological examination conclusively proves that there are between the different races of men constitutional differences too profound to have been produced merely by differences of climate. The crossing of races produces intermediary types; it tends to efface the extremes of characteristic peculiarities; but it does not produce these peculiarities, and, therefore, creates only new varieties. But the crossing of races presupposes the existence of races distinct from each other; and how is the existence of these to be explained if we attribute their origin to a common stock especially if we restrict the production of these various races to so brief a period? How is it possible to suppose, for example, that the descendants of Noah could have been, in so short a time, transformed into Ethiopians? Such a metamorphosis would be as inadmissible as that of a wolf into a sheep, of a beetle into an elephant, of a bird into a fish. No preconceived opinion can withstand, in the long run, the evidence of opposing facts. But, on the contrary, all difficulty disappears if we assume that man existed at a period anterior to that which has hitherto been commonly assigned to his creation; that Adam commenced, some 6000 years ago, the peopling of a country until then uninhabited; that the deluge of Noah was a local catastrophe, erroneously confounded with the great geological cataclysm; and, finally, if we make due allowance for the allegorical form of expression characteristic of the Oriental style, and common to the sacred books of every people.
It is unwise to insist upon a literal interpretation of figurative statements of which the inaccuracy may, at any moment, be rendered evident by the progress of scientific discovery; but the fundamental propositions of religion, so far from having anything to fear from the discoveries of science, are strengthened and ennobled by being brought into harmony with those discoveries. And it is only when the religious sentiment shall have been enlightened by its union with scientific truth that religious belief, thus rendered invulnerable to the attacks of skepticism, will take the place of skepticism in the minds and hearts of men.
1. ORGANIC AND INORGANIC BEINGS - 2. LIFE AND DEATH
- 3. INTELLIGENCE AND INSTINCT
Organic and Inorganic Beings
Organic beings are those which have in themselves a source of activity that produces the phenomena of life. They are born, grow, reproduce their own species, and die. They are provided with organs specially adapted to the accomplishment of the different acts of their life, to the satisfaction of their needs, and to their preservation. They include men, animals, and plants.
Inorganic beings are those which possess neither vitality nor the power of spontaneous movement, and are formed by the mere aggregation of matter; as minerals, water, air etc.
60. Is the force which unites the elements of matter in organic and inorganic bodies the same?
"Yes; the law of attraction is the same for all."
61. Is there any difference between the matter of organic and inorganic bodies?
"The matter of both classes of bodies is the same, but in organic bodies it is animalized."
62. What is the cause of the cannibalization of matter?
"Its union with the vital principle."
63. Does the vital principle reside in a special agent, or is it only a property of organized matter; in other words, is it an effect or a cause?
"It is both. Life is an effect produced by the action of an agent upon matter; this agent, without matter, is not life, just as matter cannot become alive without this agent. It gives life to all beings that absorb and assimilate it."
64. We have seen that spirit and matter are two constituent elements of the universe. Does the vital principle constitute a third element?
"It is, undoubtedly, one of the elements necessary to the constitution of the universe; but it has its source in a special modification of the universal matter, modified to that end. For you, it is an elementary body, like oxygen or hydrogen, which, nevertheless, are not primitive elements; for all the bodies known to you, though appearing to you to be simple, are modifications of the primal fluid."
-- This statement seems to imply that vitality is not due to a distinct primitive agent, but is a special property of the universal matter resulting from certain modifications of the latter
"Your conclusion is the natural consequence of what we have stated."
65. Does the vital principle reside in any one of the bodies known to us?
"It has its source in the universal fluid; it is what you call the magnetic fluid, or the electric fluid, animalized. It is the intermediary, the link between spirit and matter."
66. Is the vital principle the same for all organic beings?
"Yes; but modified according to species. It is that principle which gives them the power of originating movement and activity, and distinguishes them from inert matter; for the movement of matter is not spontaneous. Matter is moved; it does not originate movement."
67. Is vitality a permanent attribute of the vital principle, or is vitality only developed by the play of the organs in which it is manifested?
"It is only developed in connection with a body. Have we not said that this agent, without matter, is not life? The union of the two is necessary to the production of life."
-- Would it be correct to say that vitality is latent when the vital agent is not united with a body?
"Yes; that is the case."
The totality of the organs of a body constitutes a sort of mechanism which receives its impulsion from the active or vital principle that resides in them. The vital principle is the motive power of organized bodies. And while the vital principle gives impulsion to the organs in which it resides, the play of those organs develops and keeps up the activity of the vital principle, somewhat as friction develops heat.
68. What is the cause of the death of organic beings?
"The exhaustion of their bodily organs."
-- Would it be correct to compare death to the cessation of movement in a machine that had got out of gear?
"Yes; when the machine gets out of order, its action ceases. When the body falls ill, life withdraws from it."
69. Why is death caused more certainly by a lesion of the heart than by that of any other organ?
"The heart is a life-making machine. But the heart is not the only organ of which the lesion causes death; it is only one of the wheels essential to the working of the machine."
70. What becomes of the matter and the vital principle of organic beings after their death?
"The inert matter is decomposed, and serves to form other bodies; the vital principle returns to the general mass of the universal fluid."
On the death of an organic being, the elements of which its body was composed undergo new combinations that form new beings. These, in their turn, draw the principle of life and activity from the universal source they absorb and assimilate it, and restore it again to that source when they cease to exist.
The organs of organic beings are, so to say, impregnated with the vital fluid. This fluid gives to every part of an organized being the activity which brings its parts into union after certain lesions, and reestablishes functions that have been temporarily suspended. But when the elements essential to the play of the organism have been destroyed, or too deeply injured, the vital fluid is powerless to transmit to them the movement which constitutes life, and the being dies.
The organs of a body necessarily react, more or less powerfully upon one another their reciprocity of action results from their harmony among themselves. When from any cause this harmony is destroyed, their functions cease just as a piece of machinery comes to a standstill when the essential portions of its mechanism get out of order, or as a clock stops when its works are worn out by use, accidentally broken, so that the spring is no longer able to keep it going.
We have an image of life and death still more exact in the electric battery. The battery, like all natural bodies, contains electricity in a latent state; but the electrical phenomena are only manifested when the fluid is set in motion by a special cause. When this movement is superinduced, the battery may be said to become alive; but when the cause of the electrical activity ceases, the phenomena cease to occur, and the battery relapses into a state of inertia. Organic bodies may thus be said to be a sort of electric battery, in which the movement of the fluid produces the phenomena of life, and in which the cessation of that movement produces death.
The quantity of vital fluid present in organic beings is not the same in all; it varies in the various species of living beings, and is not constantly the same, either in the same individual or in the individuals of the same species. There are some which may be said to be saturated with it, and others in which it exists in very small proportions. Hence certain species are endowed with a more active and more tenacious life, resulting from the superabundance of the vital fluid present in their organism.
The amount of vital fluid contained in a given organism may be exhausted, and may thus become insufficient for the maintenance of life, unless it be renewed by the absorption and assimilation of the substances in which that fluid resides.
The vital fluid may be transmitted by one individual to another individual. An organization in which it exists more abundantly may impart it to another in which it is deficient; and may thus, in certain cases, rekindle the vital flame when on the point of being extinguished.
71. Is intelligence an attribute of the vital principle?
"No; for the plants live and do not think; they have only organic life. Intelligence and matter are independent of one another; for a body may live without intelligence; but intelligence can only manifest itself by means of material organs. Animalized matter can only be rendered intelligent by its union with spirit."
Intelligence is a faculty which is proper to certain classes of organic beings, and which gives to these the power to think, the will to act, the consciousness of their existence and individuality, and the means of establishing relations with the external world and providing for the needs of their special mode of existence.
We may therefore distinguish: 1st, Inanimate beings, formed of matter alone, without life or intelligence the bodies of the mineral world; 2nd, Animated non-thinking beings, formed of matter and endowed with vitality, but without intelligence; 3rd, Animated and thinking beings, formed of matter, endowed with vitality, and possessed of an intelligent principle which gives them the faculty of thought.
72. What is the source of intelligence?
"We have already told you: the universal intelligence."
-- Would it be correct to say that every intelligent being draws a portion of intelligence from the universal source, and assimilates it as it draws and assimilates the principle of material life?
"Such a comparison would be far from exact, for intelligence is a faculty that is proper to each being, and constitutes its moral individuality. Besides, we have told you that there are things which man is unable to fathom; and this, for the present, is one of them."
73. Is instinct independent of intelligence?
"No, not precisely so, for it is a species of intelligence. Instinct is an unreasoning intelligence, by means of which the lower orders of beings provide for their wants."
74. Is it possible to establish a line of demarcation between instinct and intelligence; that is, to say, to define precisely where the one ends and the other begins?
"No, for they often blend into one another. But the actions which belong to instinct and those which belong to intelligence are easily distinguished."
75. Is it correct to say that the instinctive faculties diminish in proportion with the growth of the intellectual faculties?
"No; instinct always continues to exist, but man neglects it. Instinct, as well as reason, may lead us in the right direction. Its guidance almost always makes itself felt, and sometimes more surely than that of reason. It never goes astray."
-- Why is it that reason is not always an infallible guide?
"It would be infallible if it were not perverted by a false education, by pride, and by selfishness. Instinct does not reason. Reason leaves freedom to choice, and gives man free-will."
Instinct is a rudimentary intelligence, differing from intelligence properly so called in this particular, namely, that its manifestations are almost always spontaneous, whereas those of intelligence are the result of combination and of deliberation.
The manifestations of instinct vary according to the differences of species and of their needs. In beings that possess self-consciousness and the perception of things external to themselves, it is allied to intelligence, that is to say, to freedom of will and of action.