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And Heine yet more coarsely expresses the same sentiment:
“Graves they say are warm'd by glory,
Foolish words and empty story!
At best the Elysium of the ancients was a paradise for the great men of earth. “If there be any place for the manes of the virtuous; if, as it pleases sages, great souls are not extinguished with the body, then rest in peace !"? Such is the address of Tacitus to the spirit of Agricola. The Norseman opened Valhalla only to the warrior who died in battle; the Indian chief who is the death of many foes alone triumphs in the happy hunting-fields — but to the simple, the feeble, and the poor heathenism offered no hope; nor can modern infidelity afford consolation.
A French materialist relates the following incident. He visited an almshouse for old women, in which was an aged relation whom he had not seen for many years. He found her bowed down with pain and the weight of age, and nearly stone deaf. As he walked with her in the little court, he perplexed his mind with the question how he should console her. He could not promise her youth and health, or a prospect of recovered hearing; and the old woman's tears flowed, as the sight of her relative recalled
i Latest Poems, 13, Epilogue.
9 Tacit. Agricol. xlvi.
to her memory years of activity and happiness for ever passed away. At that moment the chaplain traversed the quadrangle, and, seeing the troubled expression in her face, he caught her eye and pointed upwards. Instantly the clouds broke and fled, and a smile shone out on the withered countenance and dispersed her tears. She was comforted. The sign of the priest had told her that there was a hope to cheer her such as the materialist could not promise. " That man was young, his face beamed with goodness, and why shall I dissimulate my feelings? His action touched
He wished to console a suffering spirit; and he succeeded ; and he could not have failed to be understood, for the old nurse had ever been a zealous Christian. Afterwards, the remembrance of this little scene has often returned to my mind, and I have asked myself repeatedly how one might replace so efficacious a means of consolation, so simple in itself, in a society in which the light of faith shall be completely extinguished. . . . Let us admit that religion offers for the consolation of the afflicted means which will not be admissible when faith is no more ; for instance, the finger will no more be raised to heaven, to make people believe in eternal felicity; but these means are attributable to egoistical sentiments, and if they are otherwise attributable, they may easily be replaced.”ı
Descartes, wishing to reconstruct the edifice of philosophy, and seeking for a new point of departure for thought, found what he sought in the fact that thought is seized and clearly perceived by the interior sense; and he laid down the general law, which is the basis of method, that all those things which we conceive clearly and distinctly must be regarded as true.
1 Sière bois : La Morale, essai d'anthropodicée. Paris, 1867, pp. 116-7.
The dogmas of religion, as has been already shewn, belong to the sentiment. Christ, according to the hypothesis with which His religion starts, has erected the heart into the criterium of religious truth, has made objective all that was subjective. But the heart is not to act without the reason to regulate its action. The heart is the spring, and reason is the balance-wheel.
If then we are justified by the Christian hypothesis of the Incarnation, in applying the Cartesian maxim to the heart, we may conclude that what things we conceive clearly and distinctly as necessary to satisfy the desires of our hearts, do truly exist.
From which it follows:
1st. That we must regard as true all those dogmas which it is most necessary for us to admit; and these are verities which have no other limits than the needs of our souls, and the requisitions which we feel imperative for the obtainment of perfect happiness.
2d. That we must demand the utmost we can conceive, that is, whatever is most perfect.
If we open our souls and study their wants, we find that the first and most clearly expressed is this:- We desire the prolongation of our existence after the close of this mortal life.
This present life does not satisfy us, because it is not our ideal. Our desires transcend the power of satisfaction. We find delight in a thousand things, but are incapacitated by circumstances from pursuing them. Our spirits are partial, discursive, and exclusive, and to obtain and assimilate one thing necessitates the abandonment of others. We feel that there are an infinite number of channels of pleasure open to us, but we are obliged to make a selection of one or two among them. We want all, but can embrace only a part.
I will take my own case, and it is the counterpart of others. I have a passion for natural history; but I cannot follow that branch of science without deserting philosophy and theology, which interest me equally. I once studied ornithology, but I have been obliged to abandon that study, because of my imperfection of sight. But I know that the ways of the birds are wonderful, and full of beauty, and I cannot bear to think that when the grave closes upon me it shuts me off from all acquaintance with the marvels of the feathered tribes of the air. Perhaps I love the fine arts more than literature ; but though dreams of beauty pass before my mind, I cannot fix them on the canvas, because of the inaptitude of my fingers; if I take the brush, I must lay down the pen. I have a craving for mountain scenery, but years elapse without my being able to see the sun set the Jungfrau in a glow.
Here are a multitude of desires, to know and to feel, to acquire knowledge, and to express my ideas of the beautiful, larger than my powers, to develop which life is too short. I want another life to finish what is begun here.
The immortality of the soul,” said Pascal, “is of such paramount importance to us, and touches us so profoundly, that one must have lost all feeling to be indifferent as to whether it is or is not.” Since philosophy has existed, demonstration after demonstration has been made to prove what every wise man has felt must be, to make life endurable, that the terrestrial life is only an episode, and that after the tragedy of death, we then alone pass into the plenitude of our existence.
The Pantheist teaches that life continues, for it is indestructible, but that individuality disappears. But what is an eternity of life to me if I lose my personality, and live on as a portion of the universe only, as so much thistle for the ass to eat, or so much phosphorus on the ends of matches ? It is myself which is dear to me, which as a thinking, loving personality, must exist in eternity to think all thoughts, and to love all things, infinitely.
“Let him take confidence,” says Plato, “who during life has rejected pleasures and the advantage of the body, as strange to him and conducive to evil; who has adorned his soul, not with a foreign garb, but with that which becomes it, temperance, justice, strength, liberty, and truth; he may await in tranquillity the hour of his departure from this world, as being ready for the voyage, when called by destiny."
When a plant has flowered, it withers on its stalk; when an animal dies it returns to the dust; we do not conceive of any other destiny for plant and animal, for they have each reached the highest perfection of which their organs are capable. But it is not so with us. When we have lived, neither are our aspirations satisfied, nor our notions of justice realized, and alone among the creatures which surround us, dragging after us the long chain of disappointed hopes, we cry out for the infinite perspective of immortality beyond the narrow horizon of to-day. “We have a divine hunger,” says matchless Jean-Paul ; " and this earth offers us only the food of cattle. The eternal hunger of man, the insatiability of his desires, ask another sort of nutriment. How can a great soul be happy here? Those who have been among mountains and are condemned to live in plains die of an incurable nostalgia. It is because we have issued from above, that we sigh for it, and that all music is to us a reminiscence of our home, a ranz-des-vaches to the exiled Swiss. An infinite love supposes an infinite object. If all the