Friday, July 30, 2010
Thursday, July 01, 2010
TREATISE OF THE THREE IMPOSTORS.
(This text taken from a 1904 translation.)
However important it may be for all men to know the Truth, very few, nevertheless, are acquainted with it, because the majority are incapable of searching it themselves, or perhaps, do not wish the trouble. Thus we must not be astonished if the world is filled with vain and ridiculous opinions, and nothing is more capable of making them current than ignorance, which is the sole source of the false ideas that exist regarding the Divinity, the soul, and the spirit, and all the errors depending thereon.
The custom of being satisfied with born prejudice has prevailed, and by following this custom, mankind agrees in all things with persons interested in supporting stubbornly the opinions thus received, and who would speak otherwise did they not fear to destroy themselves.
What renders the evil without remedy, is, that after having established these silly ideas of God, they teach the people to receive them without examination. They take great care to impress them with aversion for philosophers, fearing that the Truth which they teach will alienate them. The errors in which the partisans of these absurdities have been plunged, have thrived so well that it is dangerous to combat them. It is too important for these impostors that the people remain in this gross and culpable ignorance than to allow them to be disabused. Thus they are constrained to disuse the truth, or to be sacrificed to the rage of false prophets and selfish souls.
If the people could comprehend the abyss in which this ignorance casts them, they would doubtless throw off the yoke of these venal minds, since it is impossible for Reason to act without immediately discovering the Truth. It is to prevent the good effects that would certainly follow, that they depict it as a monster incapable of inspiring any good sentiment, and however we may censure in general those who are not reasonable, we must nevertheless be persuaded that Truth is quite perverted. These enemies of Truth fall also into such perpetual contradictions that it is difficult to perceive what their real pretensions are. In the meanwhile it is true that Common Sense is the only rule that men should follow, and the world should not be prevented from making use of it.
We may try to persuade, but those who are appointed to instruct, should endeavor to rectify false reasoning and efface prejudices, then will the people open their eyes gradually until they become susceptible of Truth, and learn that God is not all that they imagine.
To accomplish this, wild speculation is not necessary, neither is it required to deeply penetrate the secrets of Nature. Only a little good sense is needed to see that God is neither passionate nor jealous, that justice and mercy are false titles attributed to him, and that nothing of what the Prophets and Apostles have said constitutes his nature nor his essence. In effect, to speak without disguise and to state the case properly, it is certain that these doctors were neither more clever or better informed than the rest of mankind, but far from that, what they say is so gross that it must be the people only who would believe them.
The matter is self-evident, but to make it more clear, let us see if they are differently constituted than other men.
As to their birth and the ordinary functions of life, it is agreed that they possessed nothing above the human; that they were born of man and woman and lived the same as ourselves. But for mind, it must be that God favored them more than other men, for they claimed an understanding more brilliant than others. We must admit that mankind has a leaning toward blindness, because it is said that God loved the prophets more than the rest of mankind, that he frequently communicated with them, and he believed them also of good faith. Now if this condition was sensible, and without considering that all men resembled each other, and that they each had a principle equal in all, it was pretended that these prophets were of extraordinary attainments and were created expressly to utter the oracles of God. But further, if they had more wit than common, and more perfect understanding, what do we find in their writings to oblige us to have this opinion of them?
The greater part of their writings is so obscure that it is not understood, and put together in such a poor manner that we can hardly believe that they comprehended it themselves, and that they must have been very ignorant impostors. That which causes this belief of them is that they boasted of receiving directly from God all that they announced to the people -- an absurd and ridiculous belief -- and avowing that God only spoke to them in dreams. Dreams are quite natural, and a person must be quite vain or senseless to boast that God speaks to him at such a time, and when faith is added, he must be quite credulous since there is no evidence that dreams are oracles. Suppose even that God manifested himself by dreams, by visions, or in any other way, are we obliged to believe a man who may deceive himself, and which is worse, who is inclined to lie?
Now we see that under the ancient law they had for prophets none more esteemed than at the present day. Then when the people were tired of their sophistry, which often tended to turn them from obedience to their legitimate Ruler, they restrained them by various punishments, just as Jesus was overwhelmed because he had not, like Moses, [Moses killed at one time 24,000 men for opposing his law.] an army at his back to sustain his opinions. Added to that, the Prophets were so in the habit of contradicting each other that among four hundred not one reliable one was to be found. [It is written in the First Book of Kings, ch. 22, v. 6, that Ahab, King of Israel, consulted 400 prophets, and found them entirely false in the success of their predictions.]
It is even certain that the aim of their prophecies, as well as the laws of the celebrated legislators were to perpetuate their memories by causing mankind to believe that they had private conference with God. Most political objects have been projected in such manner. However, such tricks have not always been successful for those, who -- with the exception of Moses -- had not the means of providing for their safety.
This being determined, let us examine the ideas which the Prophets had of God, and we will smile at their grossness and contradictions. To believe them, God is a purely corporeal being. Micah sees him seated. Daniel clothed in white and in the form of an old man, and Ezekiel like a fire. So much for the Old Testament, now for the New. The disciples of J.C. imagined the Holy Spirit in the figure of a dove; the apostles, in the form of tongues of fire, and St. Paul, as a light which dazzled the sight unto blindness.
To show their contradictory opinions, Samuel, (I. ch. 15, v. 29), believed that God never repented of his own resolution. Again, Jeremiah, (ch. 18, v. 10), says that God repented of a resolve he had taken. Joel, (ch. 2, V. 13), says that he only repents of the evil he has done to mankind. Genesis (ch. 4, v. 7), informs us that man is prone to evil but that He has nothing for him but blessings. On the contrary, St. Paul, (Romans, ch. 9, v. 10), says that men have no command of concupiscence except by the grace and particular calling of God. These are the noble sentiments that these good people have of God, and what they would have us believe. Sentiments, however, entirely sensible, and quite material as we see, and yet they say that God has nothing in common with matter, is a sensible and material being, and that he is something incomprehensible to our understanding. I should like to be informed how these contradictions may be harmonized, and how, under such visible and palpable conditions it is proper to believe them. Again, how can we accept the testimony of a people so clownish that they, notwithstanding all the artifices of Moses, should imagine a calf to be their God! But not considering the dreams of a race raised in servitude, and among the superstitious, we can agree that ignorance has produced credulity, and credulity falsehood, from whence arises all the errors which exist today.
REASONS WHICH HAVE CAUSED MANKIND TO CREATE FOR THEMSELVES AN INVISIBLE BEING WHICH HAS BEEN COMMONLY CALLED GOD.
Those who ignore physical causes have a natural fear born of doubt. Where there exists a power which to them is dark or unseen, from thence comes a desire to pretend the existence of invisible Beings, that is to say their own phantoms which they invoke in adversity, whom they praise in prosperity, and of whom in the end they make Gods. And as the visions of men go to extremes, must we be astonished if there are created an innumerable quantity of Divinities? It is the same perceptible fear of invisible powers which has been the origin of Religions, that each forms to his fashion. Many individuals to whom it was important that mankind should possess such fancies, have not scrupled to encourage mankind in such beliefs, and they have made it their law until they have prevailed upon the people to blindly obey them by the fear of the future.
The Gods having thus been invented, it is easy to imagine that they resembled man, and who, like them, created everything for some purpose, for they unanimously agree that God has made nothing except for man, and reciprocally that man is made only for God. [Man is the noblest work of God -- but nobody ever said so but man. -- Fra Elbertus.] This conclusion being general, we can see why man has so thoroughly accepted it, and know for that reason that they have taken occasion to create false ideas of good and evil, merit and sin, praise and blame, order and confusion, beauty and deformity -- and similar qualities.
It should be agreed that all men are born in profound ignorance, and that the only thing natural to them is a desire to discover what may be useful and proper, and evade what may be inexpedient to them. Thence it follows first, that we believe that to be free it suffices to feel personally that one can wish and desire without being annoyed by the causes which dispose us to wish and desire, because we do not know them. Second, it consequently occurs that men are contented to do nothing but for one object, that is to say, for that object which is preferable above all, and that is why they have a desire only to know the final result of their action, imagining that after discovering this they have no reason to doubt anything. Now as they find in and about themselves many means of procuring what they desire: having, for example, ears to hear, eyes to see, animals to nourish, a sun to give light, they have formed this reasoning, that there is nothing in nature, which was not made for them, and of which they may dispose and enjoy. Then reflecting that they did not make this world, they believe it to be a well-founded proposition to imagine a Supreme Being who has made it for them such as it is, for after satisfying themselves that they could not have made it, they conclude that it was the work of one or several Gods who intended it for the use and pleasure of man alone. On the other hand, the nature of the Gods whom man has admitted, being unknown, they have concluded in their own minds that these Gods susceptible of the same passions as men, have made the earth only for them, and that man to them was extremely precious. But as each one has different inclinations it became proper to adore God according to the humor of each, to attract his blessings and to cause Him to make all Nature subject to his desires.
By this method this precedent becomes Superstition, and it is implanted so that the grossest natures are believed capable of penetrating the doctrine of final causes as if they had perfect knowledge. Thus in place of showing that nature has made nothing in vain, they show that God and Nature dream as well as men, and that they may not be accused of doubting things, let us see how they have put forth their false reasoning on this subject.
Experience causing them to see a myriad of inconveniences marring the pleasure of life, such as storms, earthquakes, sickness, famine and thirst, they draw the conclusion that nature has not been made for them alone. They attribute all these evils to the wrath of the Gods, who are vexed by the offences of man, and they cannot be disabused of these ideas by the daily instances which should prove to them that blessings and evils have been always common to the wicked and the good, and they will not agree to a proposition so plain and perceptible.
The reason for that is, it is more easy to remain in ignorance than to abolish a belief established for many centuries and introduce something more probable.
This precedent has caused another, which is the belief that the judgments of God were incomprehensible, and that for this reason, the knowledge of truth is beyond the human mind; and mankind would still dwell in error were it not that mathematics and several other sciences had destroyed these prejudices.
By this it may be seen that Nature or God does not propose any end, and that all final causes are but human fictions. A long lecture is not necessary since this doctrine takes away from God the perfection ascribed to him, and this is how it may be proved. If God acted for a result, either for himself or another, he desires what he has not, and we must allow that there are times when God has not the wherewith to act; he has merely desired it and that only creates an impotent God. To omit nothing that may be applied to this reasoning, let us oppose it with those of a contrary nature. If, for example, a stone falls on a person and kills him, it is well known they say, that the stone fell with the design of killing the man, and that could only happen by the will of God. If you reply that the wind caused the stone to drop at the moment the man passed, they will ask why the man should have passed precisely at the time when the wind moved the stone. If you say that the wind was so severe that the sea was also troubled since the day before while there appeared to be no agitation in the air, and the man having been invited to dine with a friend, went to keep his appointment. Again they ask, for the man never got there, why he should be the guest of his friend at this time more than another, adding questions after questions, finally avowing that it was but the will of God, (which is a true "asses bridge") and the cause of this misfortune.
Again when they note the symmetry of the human body, they stand in admiration and conclude how ignorant they are of the causes of a thing which to them appears so marvelous, that it is a supernatural work, in which the causes known to us could have no part.
Thence it comes that those who desire to know the real cause of supposed miracles and penetrate like true scholars into their natural causes without amusing themselves with the prejudice of the ignorant, it happens that the true scholar passes for impious and heretical by the malice of those whom the vulgar recognize as the expounders of Nature and of God. These mercenary individuals do not question the ignorance which holds the people in astonishment, upon whom they subsist and who preserve their credit.
Mankind being thus of the ridiculous opinion that all they see is made for themselves, have made it a religious duty to apply it to their interest, and of judging the price of things by the profit they gain. Thence proceed the ideas they have formed of good and evil, of order and confusion, of heat and cold, of beauty and ugliness, which serve to explain to them the nature of things, which in the end are not what they imagine. Because they pride themselves in having free will they judge themselves capable of deciding between Praise and blame, sin and merit, calling everything good which redounds to their profit and which concerns divine worship, and to the contrary denominate as evil that which agrees with neither. Because the ignorant are not capable of judging what may be a little abstruse, and having no idea of things only by the aid of imagination which they consider understanding, these folk who know not what represents order in the world believe all that they imagine. Man being inclined in such a manner that they think things well or ill ordered as they have the facility or trouble to conclude when good sense would teach differently. Some are more pleased to be weary of the means of investigation, being satisfied to remain as they are, preferring order to confusion, as if order was another thing than a pure effect of the imagination of man, so that when it is said that God has made everything in order, it is recognizing that he has that faculty of imagination as well as man. If it was not so, perhaps to favor human imagination they pretend that God created this world in the easiest manner imaginable, although there are an hundred things far above the force of imagination, and an infinity which may be thrown into disorder by reason of weakness.
For other ideas, they are purely the effect of the same imagination, which have nothing real, and which are but the different modes of which this power is capable. For example, if the movement which objects impress upon the nerves by the means of the eyes is agreeable to the senses, we say that these objects are beautiful, that odors are good or bad, that tastes are sweet or bitter, that which we touch hard or soft, sounds, harsh or agreeable. According as odors, tastes or sounds strike and penetrate the senses, just so we find a belief that God is capable of taking pleasure in melody, that the celestial movements are a harmonious concert, proof evident that each one believes that things are such as they are imagined, or that the world is purely imaginary. That is why we should not be surprised if we rarely found two men of the same opinion, and some who glorify themselves in doubting everything. For while men have bodies which resemble each other in many particulars, they differ in some others, and it should not astonish us that what seems good to one appears bad to another: what pleases this one displeases the other, from which we may infer that opinions only differ by fancy, that understanding passes for little, and to conclude, things which happen every day are purely the effects of imagination. If one should consult the lights of understanding of philosophers he would have faith that everybody would agree to the truth, and that judgments would be more uniform and reasonable than they are.
It is then evident that all the reasons of which men are accustomed to avail themselves when they endeavor to explain Nature, are only methods of imagination which prove nothing less than they pretend, and because they have given to these reasons names so real that if they existed otherwise than in imagination I would not call them reasonable beings, but purely chimerical, seeing nothing more easy than to respond to arguments founded on these vulgar notions and which we oppose as follows.
If it was true that the universe was a chance happening, and a necessary sequel of divine nature, whence come the imperfections and faults which we remark? For example, corruption which fills the air with bad odor, many disagreeable objects, so many disorders, so much evil, so many crimes and other like occurrences. Nothing is more easy than to refute these objections, for one cannot judge of the perfection of ancient existence only by knowing its essence and nature, and we deceive ourselves in thinking that a thing is more or less perfect, as it pleases or displeases, is useful or useless to human nature; and to close the mouths of those who ask why God has not created all men without exception that they might be guided by the light of reason, it is enough to say that it was because the material was not sufficient to give each being the degree of perfection that was most suitable for him, or to speak more proper, because the laws of nature were so ample and extensive that they could suffice for the production of all things of which an infinite understanding is capable.
WHAT GOD IS
Until now we have fought the popular idea concerning the Divinity, but we have not yet said what God is, and if we were asked, we should say that the word represents to us an Infinite Being, of whom one of his attributes is to be a substance of extent and consequently eternal and infinite. The extent or the quantity not being finite or divisible, it may be imagined that the matter was everywhere the same, our understanding not distinguishing parts. For example, water, as much as water is imagined, is divisible, and its parts separable from one another, though as much as a corporeal substance it is nether separable nor divisible. [So of water, however, it may be subject to generation and corruption, as long as it is substance it is not subject to separation and division.] Thus neither matter or quantity have anything unworthy of God, for if all is God, and all comes surely from his essence, it follows quite absolutely that He is all that he contains, since it is incomprehensible that Beings quite material should be contained in a Being who is not. That we may not think that this is a new opinion, Terlullian, one of the foremost men among the Christians, has pronounced against Apelles, that, "that which is not matter is nothing," and against Praxias, that "all substance is matter," without having this doctrine condemned in the four first Councils of the Christian Church, ecumenical and general. [The four first Councils were 1. That of Nice in the year 345, under the Emperor Constantine the Great, and under Pope Sylvester I.; 2. That of Constantinople in the year 381, under the Emperors Gratian, Valentinian and Theodore and the Pope Damase I.; 3. That of Ephesus in the year 431, under the Emperor Theodore, the younger, and Valentinian and under the Pope Celestin; 4. That of Chalcedon in the year 451, under Valentinian and Martian, and under Pope Leo I.]
These sentiments are plain and the only ones that good and sound judgment can form of God. However, there are but few who are satisfied with such simplicity. Boorish people, who are accustomed to adulation of opinion, demand a God who resembles earthly kings. The pomp and circumstance surrounding them so fascinates, that to take away all hope of going after death to increase the number of heavenly courtiers enjoying the same pleasure which attaches to the Court of Kings, is to take away the consolation and the only things which prevent them from going to despair over the miseries of life. They want a just and avenging God, who rewards and punishes after the manner of kings, a God susceptible of all human passions and weaknesses. They give him feet, hands, and ears, and yet they do not regard a God so constituted as material. They say that man is his masterpiece, and even his own image, but do not allow that the copy is like the original. In a word, the God of the people of today is subject to as many forms as Jupiter of the Pagans, and what is still more strange, these follies contradict each other and shock good sense. The vulgar reverence them because they firmly believe what the Prophets have said, although these visionaries among the Hebrews, were the same as the augurs and the diviners among the pagans. [These, among us, are the Astrologers and Fanatics.] They consult the Bible as if God or nature was therein expounded to them in a special manner, however this book is only a rhapsody of fragments, gathered at various times, selected by several persons, and given to the people according to the fancy of the Robbins, who did not publish them until after approving some, and rejecting others, and seeing if they were conformable or opposed to the Law of Moses. [the Talmud remarks that the Robbins deliberated whether they should omit the Book of Proverbs and that of Ecclesiastes from the number of canonicals, and would have done so had they not found in several places that they eulogized the Mosaic law. They would have done the same with the prophecies of Ezekiel had not a certain Chananias undertook to harmonize them with the same law.] Yes, such is the malice and stupidity of men that they prefer to pass their lives disputing with one another, and worshipping a book received from ignorant people; a book with little order or method, which everyone admits as confused and badly conceived, only serving to foment divisions.
Christians would rather adore this phantom than listen to the law of Nature which God -- that is to say, Nature, which is the active principle -- has written in the heart of man. All other laws are but human fictions, and pure illusions forged, not by Demons or evil spirits, which are fanciful ideas, but by the skill of Princes and Ecclesiastics to give the former more warrant for their authority, and to enrich the latter by the traffic in an infinity of chimeras which sell to the ignorant at a good price.
All other laws are not supported save on the authority of the Bible, in the original of which appear a thousand instances of extraordinary and impossible things, [The versions that we have differ greatly in a thousand places, one with another, until the end of the book.] and which speaks only of recompenses or punishments for good or bad actions, but which are wisely deferred for a future life, relying that the trick will not be discovered in this, no one having returned from the other to tell the news. Thus, men kept ever wavering between hope and fear, are held to their duty by the belief they aver that God has created man only to render him eternally happy or unhappy, and which has given rise to the infinity of religions which we are about to discuss.
WHAT THE WORD RELIGION SIGNIFIES, AND HOW AND WHY SUCH A GREAT NUMBER HAVE BEEN INTRODUCED IN THE WORLD.
Before the word Religion was introduced in the world mankind was only obliged to follow natural laws and to conform to common sense. This instinct alone was the tie by which men were united, and so very simple was this bond of unity, that nothing among them was more rare than dissensions. But when fear created a suspicion that there were Gods, and invisible powers, they raised altars to these imaginary beings, so that in putting off the yoke of Nature and Reason, which are the sources of true life, they subjected themselves by vain ceremonies and superstitious worship to frivolous phantoms of the imagination, and that is whence arose this word Religion which makes so much noise in the world.
Men having admitted invisible forces which were all-powerful over them, they worshipped them to appease them, and further imagined that Nature was a being subordinate to this power, thence they had the idea that it was a great mace that threatened, or a slave that acted only by the order that such power gave him. Since this false idea had broken their will they had only scorn for Nature, and respect only for those pretended beings that they called their Gods. Thence came the ignorance in which mankind was plunged, and from which the well-informed, however deep the abyss, could have rescued them, if their zeal had not been extinguished by those who led them blindly, and who lived by imposture. But though there was but little appearance of success in the enterprise, it was not necessary to abandon the party of truth, and only in consideration of those who were afflicted with the symptoms of so great an evil, were generous souls available to represent matters as they were.
Fear which created Gods, made also Religion, and when men imbibed the notion that there were invisible agencies which were the cause of their good and bad fortune, they lost their good sense and reason substituting for their chimeras so many Divinities who had care of their conduct.
After having forged these Gods they were curious to know of what matter they consisted, and finally imagined that they should be of the same substance as the soul. Then being persuaded that the latter resembled the shadows which appear in a mirror, or during sleep, they believed that some Gods were real substances but so thin and subtle that to distinguish them from bodies they called them Spirits. So that bodies and spirits were in effect the same thing, and differed neither more nor less, and to be both corporeal and incorporeal is a most incomprehensible thing. The reason given is that each spirit has a proper form, and is included within some limit, that is to say that it has some boundaries, and consequently must be a body however thin and subtle it might be. [See Tertullian ante, also Hobbes' Leviathan, C. 12, p. 56.]
The ignorant, that is, the greater part of mankind having settled in this manner the substance of their Gods, tried also to determine by what methods these invisible powers produced their effects. Not being able to do this definitely by reason of their ignorance, they put faith in their conjectures, blindly judging the future by the past, while seeing neither cohesion nor dependence.
In all that they undertook they saw but the past, and foretold good or evil for the future according as the same enterprise had at another time turned out either good or bad. Phormion having defeated the Lacedemonians at the battle of Naupacte, the Athenians, after his death, chose another general of the same name: Hannibal having succumbed to the arms of Scipio Africanus, the Romans, remembering this great success, sent another Scipio to the same country against Caesar, which acts gained nothing for either the Athenians or the Romans. So after two or three experiences, good or bad fortune is made synonymous with certain names or places; others make use of certain words called enchantments, which they believe to be efficacious; some cause trees to speak, create man from a morsel of bread, and transform anything that may appear before them. (Hobbes' Leviatlian de homine. Cap. 12, p. 56-57.)
Invisible powers being established in this way, straightway men revere them only as they do their rulers, that is to say, by tokens of submission and respect, as witness offerings, prayers, and similar things, I say at first, for nature has not yet learned to use on such occasions sacrifices of blood, which have only been instituted for the benefit of the sacrificers and the ministers called to the service of these beautiful Gods.
These causes of Religion, that is, Hope and Fear, leaving out the passions, judgments and various resolutions of mankind, have produced the great number of extravagant beliefs which have caused so much evil, and the many revolutions which have convulsed the nations.
The honor and revenue which attaches to the priesthood, and which has since been accorded to the ministry of the Gods, and those having ecclesiastical charges, inflame the ambition and the avarice of cunning individuals who profit by the stupidity of the people, who readily submit in their weakness, and we know how insensibly is caused the easy habit of encouraging falsehood and hating truth.
The empire of falsehood being established, and the ambitious ones encouraged by the advantage of being above their fellows, the latter endeavor to gain repute by a pretense of being friendly with the invisible Gods whom the vulgar fear. For better success, each schemes in his own way, and multiplies deities so that they are met at every turn.
The formless matter of the world they term the god Chaos, and the same honor is accorded to heaven, earth, the sea, the wind, and the planets, and they are made both male and female. Further on we find birds, reptiles, the crocodile, the calf, the dog, the lamb, the serpent, the hog, and in fact all kinds of animals and plants constitute the better part. Each river and fountain bears the name of a God, each house had its own, each man his genius; in fact all space above and beneath the earth was occupied by spirits, shades and demons. It was not sufficient to maintain a Divinity in all imaginable places, but they feared to offend time, day, night, concord, love, peace, victory, contention, mildew, honor, virtue, fever, and health, or to insult these charming divinities whom they always imagined ready to discharge lightning on the heads of men, provided temples and altars were not erected to them.
As a sequel, man commenced to fear his own special genius, whom some invoked under the name of Muses, and others under the name of Fortune adored their own ignorance. The latter sanctified their debauches in the name of Cupid, their rage in the name of Furies, and their natural parts under the name of Priapus, in a word, there was nothing which did not bear the name of a God or a Demon. (Hobbes' de homine, Chap. 12, p. 58.)
The founders of Religion having based their impostures on the ignorance of the people, took great care to maintain them by the adoration of images which they pretended were inhabited by the Gods, and this caused a flood of gold and benefactions called holy things, to pour into the coffers of the priests. These gifts were regarded as sacred, and designed for the use of these holy ministers, and none were so audacious as to pretend to their office, or even to touch them. To allure the people more successfully, these priests made prophecies and pretended to penetrate the future by the commerce which they boasted of having with the Gods. There is nothing so natural as to know destiny. These impostors were too well informed to omit any circumstance so advantageous for their designs. Some were established at Delos, others at Delphos and elsewhere, where by ambiguous oracles they replied to the demands made of them. Women even were engaged in these impostures, and the Romans in their great Calamities had recourse to the Sibylline books; fools and lunatics passed for enthusiasts, and those who pretended to converse with the dead were called necromancers.
Others read the future by the flight of birds, or by the entrails of beasts. Indeed the eyes, the hands, the face, or an extraordinary object, all seemed to them to possess a good or bad omen, so it is true that the ignorant will receive any desired impression when the secret of their wish is found. (Hobbes' de homine, Chap. 12, pp. 58-59.)
The ambitious, who have always been grand masters of the art of trickery, have always followed this method in expounding their laws, and to oblige the people to submit to them they have persuaded them that they had received them either from a God or a Goddess.
Although there was a multitude of Divinities, those who worshipped them called Pagans had no general system of Religion. Each republic, each state and city, each particular place had its own rites and thought of the Divinity as fancy dictated. Following this came legislators more cunning than these first tricksters, and who employed methods more studied and more certain for the propagation and perpetuity of their laws, as well as the culture of such ceremonies and fanaticism as they deemed proper to establish.
Among the great number Arabia and its frontiers has given birth to three who have been distinguished as much by the kind of laws and worship which they established, as by the idea they have given of a Divinity to their followers, and the means they have taken to cause this idea to be received and their laws to be approved.
Moses is the most ancient; Jesus coming after labored after his manner in preserving the foundation of his laws while abolishing the remainder; and Mahomet appearing later on the scene has taken from one and the other religion to compose his own, and therefore he is declared the enemy of all the Gods.
Let us see the character of these three Legislators, examine their conduct, and then judge afterwards who are the best founded: those who revered them as Holy men and Gods, or those who treated them as schemers and impostors.
The celebrated Moses, grandson of a great magician, [This word must not be taken in the ordinary sense, for what is called a magician among learned people means an adroit man, a skillful charlatan, and a subtle juggler whose entire art consists in dexterity and skill, and not in any compact with the devil as the common people believe.] by the account of Justin Martyr, had all the advantages proper for what he afterwards became. It is well known that the Hebrews, of whom he became the Chief, were a nation of shepherds whom King Pharaoh Orus I. received in his country in consideration of services that he had received from one of them in the time of a great famine, He gave them some lands in the east of Egypt in a country fertile in pasturage, and consequently adapted for their flocks.
During 200 years they rapidly increased, because, being considered foreigners they were not required to serve in the armies of Pharaoh, and because of the natural advantages of the lands which Orus had granted them. Some bands of Arabs came to join them as brothers, for they were of a similar race, and they increased so astonishingly that the land of Goshen not being able to contain them they spread all over Egypt, giving Pharaoh Memnon II. good reason to fear that they might be capable of some dangerous attempt in case Egypt was attacked (as happened soon after) by their active enemies, the Ethiopians.
Thus a policy of state compelled this Prince to curtail their privileges, and to seek means to weaken and enslave them. Pharaoh Orus II. surnamed Busiris because of his cruelty, and who succeeded Memnon, followed his plan regarding the Jews. Wishing to perpetuate his memory by the erection of the Pyramids and building the city of Thebes, he condemned the Hebrews to labor at making bricks, the material in the earth of their country being adapted for this purpose. During this servitude the celebrated Moses was born, in the same year that the King issued an edict to cast all the male Hebrew children into the Nile, seeing that he had no surer means of exterminating this rabble of foreigners.
Moses was exposed to perish in the waters in a basket covered with pitch, which his mother placed in the rushes on the banks of the river. It chanced that Thermitis, daughter of Orus, was walking near the shore and hearing the cries of the child, the natural compassion of her sex inspired her to save it.
Orus having died, Thermitis succeeded him, and Moses having been presented to her, she caused him to be educated in a manner befitting the son of a Queen of the wisest and most polished nation of the universe. In a word he was tattered in all the science of the Egyptians, and it is admitted, and they have represented Moses to us as the greatest politician, the wisest philosopher and the most famous magician of his time. It followed that he was admitted to the order of Priesthood, which was in Egypt what the Druids were in Gaul, that is to say -- everything.
Those who are not familiar with what the government of Egypt was, will be pleased to know that the famous dynasties having come to an end, the entire country was dependent upon one Sovereign who divided it into several provinces of no great extent. The governors of these countries were called monarchs, and they were ordinarily of the powerful order of Priests, who possessed nearly one-third of Egypt. The king named these monarchs, and if we can believe the authors who have written of Moses and compare what they have said with what Moses himself has written, we may conclude that he was monarch of the land of Goshen, and that he owed his elevation to Thermitis, who had also saved his life.
We see what Moses was in Egypt, where he had both time and means to study the manners of the Egyptians, and those of his nation: their governing passions, their inclinations, and all that would be of service to him in his effort to excite the revolution of which he was the promoter.
Thermitis having died, her successor renewed the persecution against the Hebrews, and Moses having lost his previous favor, and fearing that he could not justify several homicides that he had committed, took the precaution to flee.
He retired to Arabia Petrea, on the confines of Egypt, and chance brought him to the home of a tribal chief of the country. His services, and the talents that his master remarked in him, merited his good graces and one of his daughters in marriage. It is here to be noted that Moses was such a bad Jew, and knew so little of the redoubtable God whom he invented later, that be wedded an idolatress, and did not even think of having his children circumcised.
It was in the Arabian deserts, while guarding the flocks of his father-in-law and brother-in-law, he conceived the design of avenging the injustice which had been done him by the King of Egypt, by bringing trouble and sedition in the court of his states; and he flattered himself that he could easily succeed in this by reason of his talents, as by the disposition which he knew he would find in his nation already incensed against the government by reason of the bad treatment that they had been caused to suffer.
It appears by the history which he has told of this revolution, or at least by the author of the books attributed to Moses, that Jethro, his brother-in-law, was in the conspiracy, as well as his brother Aaron and his sister Mary, who had remained in Egypt, and with whom he could arrange to hold correspondence. As may be seen by the sequel he had formed a vast plan in good politics, and he could put in service against Egypt all the science he had learned there, and the pretended Magic in which he was more subtle and skillful than all those at the Court of Pharaoh who possessed the same accomplishments. It was by these pretended miracles that he gained the confidence of those of his nation that he caused to rebel. He joined to them thousands of mutinous Egyptians, Ethiopians and Arabs. Boasting the power of his Divinity and the frequent interviews he held with Him, and causing Him to intervene in all the measures he took with the chiefs of the revolt, he persuaded them so well that they followed him to the number of 600,000 combatants -- besides the women and children -- across the deserts of Arabia, of which he knew all the windings.
After a six days march on a laborious retreat, he commanded his followers to consecrate the seventh to his God by a public rest, to make them believe that this God favored him, that he approved his sway, and that no one could have the audacity to contradict him.
There were never any people more ignorant than the Hebrews, and consequently none more credulous. To be convinced of this profound ignorance, it is only necessary to recall the condition of these people in Egypt when Moses made them revolt. They were hated by the Egyptians because of their pastoral life, persecuted by the Sovereign and employed in the vilest labor.
Among such a populace it was not very difficult for Moses to avail himself of his talents. He made them believe that his God (whom he sometimes simply called an angel) -- the God of their Fathers -- appeared to him, that it was by his order that he took care to lead them, that he had chosen him for Governor, and that they would be the favored people of this God, provided they believed what he said on his part.
He added to his exhortations on the part of his God, the adroit use of his prestige, and the knowledge that he had of nature. He confirmed what he said to them by what might be called miracles, always easy to perform, and which made a great impression on an imbecile populace.
It may be remarked above all, that he believed he had found a sure method for holding this people submissive to his orders, in making accessory of the statement that God himself was their leader: by night a column of fire and a cloud by day. But it can be proved that this was the grossest trick of this impostor, and that it might serve him for a long time. He had learned during his travels that he had made in Arabia, a country vast and uninhabited, that it was the custom of those who traveled in companies to take guides who conducted them in the night by means of a brazier, the flame of which they followed, and in the day time by the smoke of the same brazier which all the members of the caravan could see, and consequently not go astray. This custom prevailed among the Medes and Assyrians, and it is quite natural that Moses used it, and made it pass for a miracle, and a mark of the protection of his God. If I may not be believed when I say that this was a trick, let Moses himself be believed, who in Numbers, Chap. x. v. 29-33, asks his brother-in-law, Hobab, to come with the Israelites, that he may show them the roads, because he knew the country. This is demonstrative, for if it was God who marched before Israel night and day in the cloud and the column of fire could they have a better guide? Meanwhile here is Moses exhorting his brother-in-law by the most pressing motives of interest to serve him as Guide. Then the cloud and the column of fire was God only for the people, and not for Moses, who knew what it was.
These poor unfortunates thus seduced, charmed at being adopted by the Master of God, as they were told, emerging from a hard and cruel bondage, applauded Moses and swore to obey him. His authority was thus confirmed. He sought to perpetuate it, and under pretext of establishing divine worship, or of a supreme God of whom he said he was the lieutenant, he made his brother and his children chiefs of the Royal Palace, that is to say, of the place where miracles were performed out of the sight and presence of the people.
So he continued these pretended miracles, at which the simple were amazed and others stupefied, but which caused those who were wise and who saw through these impostures to pity them. However skillful Moses was, and how many clever tricks he knew how to do, he would have had much trouble to secure obedience if he had not a strong army. [He remained from time to time in a solitary place under pretext of privately conferring with God, and by this pretended intercourse with the Divinity he taught them a respect and obedience which was, in the meanwhile, unlimited.] Deceit without force has rarely succeeded.
It was in order to have assured means to maintain obedience against the discerning that he continued to place in his own faction those of his tribe, giving them all the important charges and exempting them from the greater part of the labors. He knew how to create jealousies among the other tribes, some of whom took his part against the others. Finally assuring adroitly to his interest those who appeared the most enlightened, by placing them in his confidence, he secured them by giving them employment of distinction.
After that he found some of these idiots had the courage to reproach his bad faith; that under his false pretense of justice and equity he was seizing everything. As the sovereign authority was vested in his blood in such manner that no one had a right to aspire to it, they considered finally that he was less their father than their tyrant.
On such occasions Moses by cunning policy confounded these 'free-thinkers' and spared none who censured his government.
With such precautions, and cloaking his punishments under the name of Divine vengeance, he continued absolute, and to finish in the same way he began, that is to say by deceit and imposture, he chose an extraordinary death. He cast himself in an abyss in a lonely place where he retired from time to time under pretext of conferring with God, and which he had long designed for his tomb. His body never having been found, it was believed that his God had taken him, and that he had become like Him.
He knew that the memories of the patriarchs who preceded him were held in great veneration when their sepulchers were found, but that was not sufficient for an ambition like his. He must be revered as a God for whom death had no terrors, and to this end all his efforts were directed since the beginning of his reign when he said that he was established of God -- to be the God of Pharaoh. Elijah [See Book of Kings, Chapter II.] gave his example, also Romulus, [Romulus drowned himself in the morass of Cherres, and his body, not being found, it was believed that he was raised to heaven and deified.
When Romulus was reviewing his forces in the plain of Caprae there suddenly arose a thunderstorm during which he was enveloped in so thick a cloud that he was lost to the view of his army: nor thereafter on this earth was Romulus seen. Livy 1. I, c. 16.] Empedocles [Empedocles, a celebrated philosopher, threw himself into the crater of Mount Etna, to cause the belief that, like Romulus, he was raised to heaven.] and all those who from a desire to immortalize their names, have concealed the time and place of their death so that they would be deemed immortal.
OF NUMA POMPILIUS
To return to the law-givers, there were none who, having attributed their laws to Divinity, did not endeavor to encourage the belief that they themselves were more than human.
Numa, having tasted the delights of solitude, did not wish to leave it for the throne of Rome, but being forced by public acclamation, he profited by the devotion of the Romans. He informed them that he had talked with God, and if they desired him for King they must observe the Divine laws and institutions which had been dictated to him by the nymph Egeria. [It is recorded by Livy (liber II., c. 21,) that there is a grove through which flowed a perennial stream, taking its origin in a dark cave, in which Numa was accustomed to meet the goddess, and to receive instructions as to his political and religious institutions.]
Alexander wished to be considered a son of Jupiter. Perseus pretended to be a son of the same God and the virgin Danae; Plato, of Apollo, and a virgin, which, perhaps, is the cause of the belief among the Egyptians that the Spirit of God "AvE'Dpa Tea-(" [Breath or inspiration of the Gods.] could get a woman with child as the wind did the Iberian mares. [The Tartars assert that Genghis Khan was born of a virgin, and that Foh, according to the Chinese belief, derived his origin from a virgin rendered pregnant by the rays of the sun.
Since the introduction of the umbrella or sun-shade into the Central Flowery Kingdom occurrences like the latter have been infrequent.]
OF JESUS CHRIST
Jesus Christ, who was not unacquainted with the maxima and science of the Egyptians, among whom he dwelt several years, availed himself of this knowledge, deeming it proper for the design which he meditated. Considering that Moses was renowned because he commanded an ignorant people, he undertook to build on a similar foundation, and his followers were only some idiots whom he persuaded that the Holy Spirit was his Father, and his Mother a Virgin. [NOTE: Celsus says, in Origen, that Jesus Christ was a native of a little hamlet in Judea, and that his mother was a poor villager who only existed by her labor. Having been convicted of adultery with a soldier named Pandira, she was induced to flee by her betrothed, who was a carpenter by trade, who condoned their offence, and they wandered miserably from place to place. She was secretly delivered of Jesus, and finding themselves in want, they were constrained to flee to Egypt. After several years, his services being of no value to the Egyptians, he returned to his own country, where, quite proud of the miracles he knew how to perform, he proclaimed himself God.
Human nature was at those times not fundamentally different from what it is now, and we need, therefore, not be surprised to hear that one of the stalwart Roman warriors, whose name was Pandira, fell in love with one of the dark-eyed daughters of Nazareth, and that the fruit of their "illegitimate" union was a son whom they called Jehoshua, and who inherited from his father the manly pride of the Roman, and from his Jewish mother his almost feminine beauty and modesty.
Of Jehoshua's mother, little is to be said. * * * Ignorant, innocent, and of modest manners, uneducated but kind, sympathetic and beautiful, Stada, like many others of her sex, was guided more by the decision of her heart than by the calculations of her intellect. Her heart yearned for love and she hoped to find in Pandira the realization of her ideal. -- Life of Jehoshua, The Prophet of Nazareth, an Occult Study and a Key to the Bible. Franz Hartmann, M.D., Boston, 1889.] These good people being accustomed to be satisfied with dreams and fancies, adopted this fable, believed all that he wished, and even more willingly that a birth out of the natural order was not so marvelous a circumstance for them to believe. To be born of a Virgin by the operation of the Holy Spirit, [A beautiful dove overshadowed a virgin; there is nothing surprising in that. It happened frequently in Lydia, and the swan of Leda is the counterpart of the dove of Mary.
When a pretty dove under her wing
Happens to conceal a Virgin,
There is nothing surprising in that.
The same thing is known in Lydia,
For the beautiful swan of Leda
Is just as good as Mary's pigeon.] was, in their estimation, as wonderful as what the Romans said of their founder, Romulus, who owed his birth to a Vestal and a God.
This happened at a time when the Jews were tired of their God, as they had been of their judges, [In the book of Samuel, chap. vii, it is related that the Israelites being discontented with the sons of Samuel who judged them, demanded a King, the same as other nations, with whom they wished to conform.] and wished to have a visible God like other nations. As the number of fools is infinite, he found followers everywhere, but his extreme poverty was an invincible obstacle to his elevation. The Pharisees, delighted with the boldness of a man of their sect, A while startled at his audacity, elevated or depressed him according to the fickle humor of the populace, so that when it became noised about concerning his Divinity, it was impossible -- he being possessed of no power -- that his design could succeed. No matter how many sick he cured, nor how many dead he raised, having no money and no army, he could not fail to perish, and with that outlook it appears that he had less chance of success than Moses, Mahomet, and all those who were ambitious to elevate themselves above others. If he was more unfortunate, he was no less adroit, and several places in his history give evidence that the greatest fault in his policy was not to have sufficiently provided for his own safety. So it may be seen that he did not manage his affairs any better than those two other legislators, of whose memory exists but the remains of the belief that they established among the different nations.
OF THE POLICY OF JESUS CHRIST.
Is there anything, for example, more dexterous than the manner in which he treated the subject of the woman taken in adultery? (St. John, c. viii.) The Jews having asked if they should stone this unfortunate, instead of replying definitely, yes or no, by which he would fall in the trap set by his enemies: the negative being directly against the law, and the affirmative proving him severe and cruel, which would have alienated the saints. Instead of replying as any ordinary person but him would have done, he said, "whoever is without sin, let him cast the first stone," a skillful response, which shows us his presence of mind.
Another time being asked if it was lawful to [By this Norman reply he eluded the question. A Norman never says yes, or no. Blason populaire de la Normandie.] Pay tribute to Caesar, and seeing the image of the Prince on the coin that they showed him, he evades the difficulty by replying that they should "render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and unto God what belongs to God." The difficulty consisted in that he would be guilty of lese majeste if he had said it was not permitted, and by saying that it was, he would reverse the law of Moses which he always protested he would not do, because he felt that he was either too weak, or that he would be worsted in the endeavor. So he made himself more popular, by acting with impunity after the manner of Princes, who allowed the privileges of their subjects to be confirmed while their power was not well established, but who scorned their promises when they were well enthroned.
He again skillfully avoided a trap that the Pharisees had set for him. They asked him -- having in their minds thoughts which would only tend to convict him of lying -- by what authority he pretended to instruct and catechize the people. Whether he replied that it was by human authority because he was not of the sacred body of Levites, or whether he boasted of preaching by the express command of God, his doctrine was contrary to the Mosaic law. To relieve this embarrassment, he availed himself of the questioners themselves by asking them in the name of whom they thought John baptized? The Pharisees, who for policy opposed the baptism by John, would be condemned themselves in avowing that it was of God. If they had not admitted it they would have been exposed to the rage of the populace, who believed the contrary. To get out of this dilemma, they replied that they knew nothing of it, to which Jesus answered that he was neither obliged to tell them why, nor in the name of whom he preached.
Such were the skillful and witty evasions of the destroyer of the ancient law and the founder of the new. Such were the origins of the new religion which as built on the ruins of the old or to speak disinterestedly, there was nothing more divine in this than in the other sects which preceded it. Its founder, who was not quite ignorant, seeing the extreme corruption of the Jewish republic, judged it as nearing its end, and believed that another should be revived from its ashes. The fear of being prevented by one more ambitious than himself, made him haste to establish it by methods quite opposed to those of Moses. The latter commenced by making himself formidable to other nations. Jesus, on the contrary, attracted them to him by the hope of the advantages of another life, which he said could be obtained by believing in him, while Moses only promised temporal benefits as a recompense for the observation of his law. Jesus Christ held out a hope which never was realized. The laws of one only regarded the exterior, while those of the other aimed at the inner man, influencing even the thoughts, and entirely the reverse of the law of Moses. Whence it follows that Jesus believed with Aristotle that it is with Religion and States, as with individuals who are begotten and die, and as nothing is made except subject to dissolution, there is no law which can follow which is entirely opposed to it. Now as it is difficult to decide to change from one law to another, and as the great majority is difficult to move in matters of Religion, Jesus, in imitation of the other innovators had recourse to miracles, which have always been the peril of the ignorant, and the sanctuary of the ambitious.
Christianity was founded by this method, and Jesus profiting by the faults of the Mosaic policy, never succeeded so happily anywhere, as in the measures which he took to render his law eternal. The Hebrew prophets thought to do honor to Moses by predicting a successor who resembled him. That is to say, a Messiah, grand in virtue, powerful in wealth, and terrible to his enemies; and while their prophecies have produced the contrary effect, many ambitious ones have taken occasion to proclaim themselves the promised Messiah, which has caused revolts that have endured until the entire destruction of their republic.
Jesus Christ, more adroit than the Mosaic prophets, to defeat the purpose of those who rose up against him predicted (Matthew xxiv. 4-5-24-25-26. II. Thessalonians ii. 3-10. John ii. 11-18) that such a man would be a great enemy of God, the delight of the Devil, the sink of all iniquity and the desolation of the world. After these fine declarations there was, to my mind, no person who would dare to call himself Anti-Christ, and I do not think he could have found a better way to perpetuate his law. There was nothing more fabulous than the rumors that were spread concerning this pretended Anti-Christ. St. Paul said (11. Thessalonians xi. 7) of his existence, that "he was already born," consequently was present on the eve of the coming of Jesus Christ while more than twelve hundred years have expired since the prediction of this prophet was uttered, and he has not yet appeared.
I admit that these words have been credited to Cherintus and Ebion, two great enemies of Jesus Christ, because they denied his pretended divinity, but it also may be said that if this interpretation conforms to the view of the apostle, which is not credible; these words for all time designate an infinity of Anti- Christ, there being no reputable scholar who would offend by saying that the [Vide Boniface VIII. (1294) and Leo X. (1513) Boniface said that men had the same souls as beasts, and that these human and bestial souls lived no longer than each other. The Gospel also says that all other laws teach several virtues and several lies; for example, a Trinity which is false, the child-birth of a Virgin which is impossible, and the incarnation and transubstantiation which are ridiculous. I do not believe, continued he, other than that the Virgin was a she-ass, and her son the issue of a she-ass.
Leo X. went one day to a room where his treasures were kept, and exclaimed "we must admit that this fable of Jesus Christ has been quite profitable to us.] history of Jesus Christ is a fable, and that his law is but a tissue of idle fancies that ignorance has put in vogue and that interest preserves.
Nevertheless it is pretended that a Religion which rests on such frail foundations is quite divine and supernatural, as if we did not know that there were never persons more convenient to give currency to the most absurd opinions than women and idiots.
It is not strange, then, that Jesus did not choose Philosophers and Scholars for his Apostles. He knew that his law and good sense were diametrically opposed. [The belief in the Christian doctrine is strange and wild to reason and human judgment. It is contrary to all Philosophy and discourse of Truth, as may be seen in all the articles of faith which can neither be comprehended nor understood by human intellect, for they appear impossible and quite strange. Mankind, in order to believe and receive them, must control and subject his reason, submitting his understanding to the obedience of the faith, St. Paul says that if man considers and hears philosophy and measures things by the compass of Truth, he will forsake all, and ridicule it as folly.
That is the avowal made by Charron in a book entitled "The Three Truths," page 180. Edition of Bordeaux, 1593, -- this inserted note is written on the back of a portion of a letter addressed to "Prince graaft by de Sepigel straat. A Amsterdam," postmarked Ce 4e. Aout. 1746] That is the reason why he declaims in so many places against the wise, and excludes them from his kingdom, where were to be admitted the poor in spirit, the silly and the crazy. Again, rational individuals did not think it unfortunate to have nothing in common with visionaries.
OF THE MORALS OF JESUS CHRIST.
As for his Morals, we see nothing more divine therein than in the writings of the ancients, or rather we find only what are only extracts or imitations. St. Augustine (ch. 9 and v. 20 of the Confessions, Book 7,) even admits that he has found in some of their works nearly all of the beginning of the Gospel according to St. John. As far as may be seen, that Apostle is believed, in many places, to have stolen from other authors, and that it was not difficult to rob the Prophets of their enigmas and visions to make his Apocalypse. Whence comes the conformity which we find between the doctrine of the Old Testament and that of Plato? to say nothing of what the Robbins have done, and those who have fabricated the Holy Writings from a mass of fragments stolen from this Grand Philosopher.
Certainly the birth of the world has a thousand times more probability in his Timaeus than in Genesis, and it cannot be said that that comes from what Plato had read in the books of the Jews during his travels in Egypt, for according to St. Augustine himself, (Confessions, Book 7, ch. 9, v. 20,) Ptolemy had not yet translated them. The description of the country of which Socrates speaks to Simias in the Phaedon (?) has infinitely more grace than the Terrestrial Paradise (of Eden) and the Androgynus [Hermaphrodites.] is without comparison, better conceived than what Genesis says of the extraction of Eve from one of the sides of Adam. Is there anything that more resembles the two accidents of Sodom and Gomorrah than that which happened to Phaeton? Is there anything more alike than the fall of Lucifer and that of Vulcan, or that of the giants cast down by the lightnings of Jupiter? Anything more similar than Samson and Hercules, Elijah and Phaeton, Joseph and Hippolitus, Nebuchadnezzar and Lycaon, Tantalus and the tormented rich man (Luke xvi, 24), the manna of the Israelites and the ambrosia of the Gods? St. Augustan -- quoted from God, Book 6, chap. 14, -- St. Cyrile and Theophylactus compare Jonah with Hercules, surnamed Trinsitium (?Trinoctius), because he had dwelt three days and three nights in the belly of a whale. The river of Daniel, spoken of in the Prophets, ch. vii, is a visible imitation of Periphlegeton, which is mentioned by Plato in the Dialogue on the "Immortality of the Soul."
Original, sin has been taken from Pandora's box, the sacrifice of Isaac and Jephthah from the story of Iphigenia, although in the latter a hind was substituted. What is said of Lot and his Wife is quite like the tale which is told of Baucis and Philemon. In short, it is unquestionable that the authors of the Scriptures have transcribed word for word the works of Hesiod and Homer.
But it seems that I have made quite a digression which, however, may not be unprofitable. Let us return then to Jesus, or rather, to his Morals.
Celsus proves, by the account of Origen (Book VI, against Celsus), that he had taken from Plato his finest sentiments, such as that which says (Luke, c. xviii, v. 25), that a camel might sooner pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man should enter the Kingdom of God. It was the sect of Pharisees of which he was, and who believed in him, which gave birth to this. What is said of the Immortality of the Soul? of the Resurrection, of Hell, and the greater part of his Morals, I see nothing more admirable than in the works of Epictetus, Epicurus and many others. In fact, the latter was cited by St. Jerome (Book VIII, against Jovian, ch. viii), as man whose virtue puts to the blush better Christians, observing that all his works were filled with but herbs, fruits and abstinence, and whose delights were so temperate that his finest repasts were but a little cheese, bread and water. With a life so frugal, this Philosopher, pagan as he was, said that it was better to be unlucky and rational, than rich and opulent without having good sense, adding, that it is rare that a fortune and wisdom are found in the same individual, and that one could have no knowledge of happiness nor live with pleasure unless felicity was accompanied by prudence, justice and honesty, which are qualifications of a true and lasting delight.
As for Epictetus I do not believe that any man, not excepting Jesus himself, was more austere, more firm, more equitable, or more moral. I say nothing but what is easy to prove, and not to pass my prescribed limit I will not mention all the exemplary acts of his life, but give one single example of constancy which puts to shame the weakness and cowardice of Jesus in the sight of death. Being a slave to a freeman named Epaphroditus, captain of the guards of Nero, it took the fancy of this brute to twist the leg of Epictetus. Epictetus perceiving that it gave him pleasure said to him, smiling, that he was well convinced that the game would not end until he had broken his leg; in fact, this crisis happened. "Well," said Epictetus with an even smiling face, "did I not say that you would break my leg?" Was there ever courage equal to that? and could it have been said of Jesus Christ had he been the victim? He who wept and trembled with fear at the least alarm, and who evinced at his death a lack of spirit that never was witnessed in the majority of his martyrs.
I doubt not but what it might be said of this action of Epicteus what the ignorant remark of the virtues of the Philosophers, that vanity was their principle, and that they were not what they seemed. But I say also that those who use such language are people who, in the pulpit, say all that comes into their heads -- either good or evil -- and they want the privilege of telling it all. I know also that when these babblers, sellers of air, wind and smoke, have vented all their strength against the champions of common sense they think they have well earned the revenues of their livings: that they have not merited a call to instruct the people unless they have declared against those who know what common sense and true virtue is.
So it is true that nothing in the world approaches so little to the manners of true scholars as the actions of the ignorant who decry them and who appear to have studied only to procure preferment which gives them bread; and which preferment they worship and magnify when this height is attained, as if they had reached a condition of perfection, which, to those who succeed, is a condition of self-love, ease, pride and pleasure, following nothing less than the maxims of the religion which they profess.
But let us leave these people who know not what virtue is, and examine the divinity of their Master.
OF THE DIVINITY OF JESUS CHRIST.
After having examined his policy and morals we have seen nothing more Divine than in the writings and conduct of the ancients. Let us see if the reputation which followed him after his death is an evidence that he was God. Mankind is so accustomed to false reasoning that I am astonished that any one can reach a sane conclusion from their conduct. Experience shows that there is nothing they followed that is in any wise true, and that nothing has been done or said by them which gives any evidence of stability. In the meanwhile it is certain that common opinions are continually surrounded with chimeras notwithstanding the efforts of the learned, which have always opposed them. Whatever care has been taken to extirpate follies the people have never abandoned them only after having been surfeited with them. Moses was proud to boast himself the Lieutenant of the Lord of Lords, and to prove his mission by extraordinary signs. If ever so little he absented himself (which he did from time to time to confer, as he said, with his God, as Numa and other lawgivers also did) he only found on his return traces of the worship of the Gods which the Israelites had seen in Egypt. He successfully held them forty years in the wilderness that they might lose the idea of those they had abandoned, and not being yet satisfied they obeyed him who led them, and bore firmly whatever hardship they were caused to suffer in this regard.
Only the hatred which they had conceived for other nations, by an arrogance of which most idiots are susceptible, made them insensibly forget the Gods of Egypt and attach themselves to those of Moses whom they adored, and sometimes with all the circumstance marked in the laws. But when they quitted these conditions little by little to follow those of Jesus Christ, I cannot see what inconstancy caused them to run after the novelty and change.
The most ignorant Hebrews having given the most vogue to the law of Moses were the first to run after Jesus, and as their number was infinite and they encouraged each other, it is not marvelous that these errors spread so easily. It is not that novelty does not always beget suffering, but it is the glory that is expected that one hopes will smooth the difficulties. Thus the Disciples of Jesus, miserable as they were, reduced at times to nourish themselves with grains of corn which they gathered from the fields (Luke vi., 1), and seeing themselves shamefully excluded from places where they thought to enter to ease their fatigue (Luke ix., 52-53) they began to be discouraged with living; their Master being without the pale of the law and unable to give them the benefits, glory and grandeur which he had promised them.
After his death his disciples, in despair at seeing their hopes frustrated, and pursued by the Jews who wished to treat them as they had treated their Master, made a virtue of necessity and scattered over the country, where by the report of some women (John xx, 18) they told of his resurrection, his divine affiliation and the rest of the fables with which the Gospels are filled. [Which determined the Emperor Julian to abandon the sect of Nazarenes whose faith he regarded as a vulgar fiction of the human mind, which he found based solely on a simple tale of Perdiccas.] The trouble which they had to make progress among the Jews made them resolve to pass among the Gentiles, and try to serve themselves better among them; but as it was necessary to have more learning for that than they possessed -- the Gentiles being philosophers and too much in love with truth to resort to trifles -- they gained over a young man (Saul or St. Paul) of an active and eager mind and a little better informed than the simple fishermen or than the greater babblers who associated with them. A stroke from Heaven made him blind, as is said (without this the trick would have been useless) and this incident for a time attracted some weak souls., By the fear of Hell, taken from some of the fables of the ancient poets, and by the hope of a glorious Resurrection and a Paradise which is hardly more supportable than that of Mahomet; all these procured for their Master the honor of passing for a God which he himself was unable to obtain while living. In which this kind of Jesus was no better than Homer: six cities which had driven the latter out with contempt and scorn during his life, disputed with each other after his death to determine with whom remained the honor of having been his birth-place.
By this it may be seen that Christianity depends, like all other things, on the caprice of men, in whose opinion all passes either for good or bad, according as the notion strikes them. Further, if Jesus was God, nothing could resist him, for St. Paul (Romans, v. 19), is witness that nothing could overcome his will. Yet this passage is directly opposed to another in Genesis (iv, 7), where it is said that as the desires and appetites of man belong to him, who is the Master, so it is agreed to accord free-will to the master of animals, that is to say, man, for whom it is said God has created the universe.
But without wandering in a maze of errors and positive contradictions, of which we have discoursed sufficiently, let us say something of Mahomet, who founded a law upon maxims totally opposed to those of Jesus Christ.
Hardly had the Disciples of Jesus abandoned the Mosaic law to introduce the Christian, than mankind, with their usual caprice and ordinary inconstancy, suddenly changed their sentiments, and all the East was seen embracing the sentiments of the celebrated Arius, who had the boldness to oppose the fable of Jesus, and prove that he was no more a God than any other man. Thus Christianity was almost abolished, and there appeared a new law-giver, who, in less than ten years time, formed a considerable sect. This was Mahomet. [A friend of the celebrated Golius having asked what the Mahometans said of their prophet, this wise professor sent him the following extract which contains an abridgement of the life of that Impostor taken from a manuscript in the Turkish language: "The Lord Mahomet Mustapha, of glorious memory, the greatest of the Prophets, was born in the fortieth year of the Empire of Anal Schirwan, the just. His holy nativity happened the twelfth day in the second third of the month Rabia. Now, after the fortieth year of his age had passed, he was divinely inspired, received the crown of prophecy and the robe of Legation, which were brought him from God by the faithful messenger Gabriel, with instructions to call mankind to Islamism. After this inspiration from God was received, he dwelt at Mecca for thirteen years. He left there aged fifty-three years the eighth day of the month Rabia, which was a Friday, and took refuge at Medina. Now, it was there, after his retreat the twentieth day of the eleventh month, and the sixty-third year of his blessed life, he succeeded to the enjoyment of the divine presence. Some say that he was born while Abelaka, (These names, Abdul-Motallab and, Abdallah, in Arabic, seem to be rendered Abdo-Imutalib and Abelaka in the Turkish language. -- A.N.) his father, was yet living, others say after his death. Lady Amina, a daughter of the Wahabees, gave him for nurse lady Halima, of the tribe of Beni- Saad. Abdo Imutalib, his grandfather, gave him the blessed name of Mahomet. He had four sons and four daughters. The sons were Kasim, Ibrahim, Thajib and Thahir, and the daughters, Fatima, Omokeltum, Rakia and Zeineb. The companions of this august envoy of God were Abulekir, Omar, Osman and Ati, all of sacred memory,]
To be well acquainted with him, it must be known that the part of Arabia where he was born, was commonly called "the Happy," by reason of its fertility, and being inhabited by people who formed several Republics, each Republic being a family called a "tribe," and having for its head the chief of the principal family, among those which composed the "tribe."
That in which Mahomet was born was named the Tribe of Koreish, of which the principal family was that of Hashem, of which the chief was then a certain Abdul Motallab, grandfather of Mahomet, whose father, eldest son of Abdul Motallab, was named Abdallah.
This tribe inhabited the shores of the Red sea, and Abdul Motallab was High Priest of the Temple of Mecca where were worshipped the Idols of the country. As Chief of his Tribe he was Prince of this country in which quality he had sustained the war against the King of Persia and the Emperor of Ethiopia, which shows that Mahomet was not of the riff-raff of the people.
His father dying before his grandfather, his tender years caused him to lose the rights he had to the Sovereignty, which one of his uncles usurped. It was for this reason, not being able to succeed to the title of Prince, that he was reduced to the humble condition of shop-boy in the employ of a wealthy widow for whom he became afterwards factor. Having found him to her liking she married him and made him one of the richest citizens of Mecca. He was then about 30 years of age, and seeing at hand the means to enforce his rights, his ambitions awakened, and he meditated in what manner he could reestablish himself in the dignity of his grandfather.
The correspondence that he had had with Christians in Egypt and Jews in Judea, where he had traded a long time for his wife while he was only her factor, gave him an opportunity of knowing who Moses was and also Jesus Christ. He also had remarked into how many different sects their Religion was divided, and which produced such diversity of opinions, and the zeal of each sect. By this he profited, and he believed he could better succeed in the interest of establishing a new Religion. The conditions of the time when he formed this design were very favorable to him, for nearly all of the Arabs, disgusted with the worship of their Idols, were fallen into a species of Atheism. Thus Mahomet began by leading a retired life, being exemplary, seeking solitude, and passing the greater part of the day in prayers and meditations. He caused himself to be admired for his modest demeanor, and commenced to speak of revelations and visions. By such action is gained the credence of the populace, and by such methods Moses and Jesus commenced. He called himself a prophet and an envoy of God, and having as much skill as his predecessors in working miracles, he soon gained attention, then admiration, and soon after the confidence of the people. A Jew and a Christian monk who were in his conspiracy aided him in his dexterous moves, and he soon became powerful enough to resist a vigorous man named Corais, a learned Arab, who endeavored to expose his imposture.
During this time his uncle, the governor of Mecca, died, and not being yet strong enough to assume the authority of sovereign, he was obliged to yield to one of his kinsmen who, penetrating his designs, obliged him to flee from Mecca and take refuge at Medina, where one party in the city who were Arian Christians joined him.
Then he ceased to support his authority by argument, and persuaded his disciples to plant the Mussulman faith at the point of the sword. Having strengthened his party by alliances, marrying his daughters to four of the principal citizens of Medina, he was in condition to place armies in the field who subjugated the various tribes, one after the other, and with whom he finally seized Mecca. He did not die until after he had accomplished his purpose by his hypocrisy and imposture, which elevated him to the dignity of sovereign, which he transmitted to his successors, and his faith so well established that there has been no evidence of its failure for six hundred years, and yet it may be upon the eve of its destruction.
Thus Mahomet was more fortunate than Jesus Christ. After having labored during twenty-three years in the establishment of his Law and Religion, he saw its progress before his death, and having an assurance which Jesus Christ had not, that it would exist a long time after his death, since he prudently accommodated the genius and passions of his followers.
Such was the last of these three impostors. Moses threw himself into an abyss by an excess of ambition to cause himself to be believed immortal. Jesus Christ was ignominiously hung up between two thieves, being covered with shame as a recompense for his imposture, and lastly, Mahomet died in reality in his own bed, and in the midst of grandeur, but with his bowels consumed by poison given him by a young Jewess, to determine if he really was a prophet.
This is all that can be said of these four [This includes Numa Pompilius. -- A.N.] celebrated impostors. They were just as we have painted them after nature, and without giving any false shading to their portraits, that it may be judged if they merited any confidence, and if it is excusable to be led by these guides, whom ambition and trickery have elevated, and whom ignorance has destroyed.
SENSIBLE AND OBVIOUS TRUTHS.
It is not sufficient to have discovered the disease if we do not apply a remedy. It would be better to leave the sick man in ignorance. Error can only be cured by Truth, and since Moses, Jesus and Mahomet were what we have represented them, we should not seek in their writings for the veritable idea of the Divinity. The apparitions and the divine conformation of the former and the latter, and the divine filiation of the second, are sufficient to convince us that all is but imposture.
God is either a natural being or one of infinite extent who resembles what he contains, that is to say, that he is material without being, nevertheless, neither just nor merciful, nor jealous, nor a God in any way as may be imagined, and as a consequence is neither a punisher nor a remunerator. This idea of punishment and recompense only exists in the minds of the ignorant who only conceive that simple being called God, under images which by no means represent him. Those who use their understanding without confounding its operations with those of the imagination, and who are powerful enough to abandon the prejudice of a limited education, are the only ones who have sound, clear and distinct ideas. They consider him as the source of all beings which are produced without distinction: one being no more than another in His regard, and man no more difficult to produce than a worm or a flower.
That is why it is not to be believed that this natural and infinite being which is commonly called God, esteems man more than an ant, or a lion more than a stone, or any other being more than a phantasy, or who has any regard for beauty or ugliness, for good or bad, for the perfect or imperfect. Or that he desires to be praised, prayed, sought for or caressed, or that he cares what men are, or say, whether susceptible of love or hate, or in a word that he thinks more of man than of any other creatures of whatever nature they be. All these distinctions are only the invention of a narrow mind, that is to say, ignorance has created them and interest keeps them alive.
Thus there is no good sensible man who can be convinced of hell, a soul, spirits or devils, in the manner of which they are commonly spoken. All these great senseless words have only been contrived to delude or intimidate the people. Let those then who wish to know the truth read what follows, with a liberal spirit and an intention to only give their judgment with deliberation.
The myriads of stars that we see above us are allowed to be so many solid bodies which move, and among which there is not one designed as the Court Divine where God is like a King in the midst of his courtiers; which is the abode of the blest, and where all good souls fly after leaving this body and world. But without burdening ourselves with such a rude and ill-conceived opinion, and that it may not be entertained by any man of good sense, it is certain that what is called Heaven is nothing but the continuation of our atmosphere, more subtitle and more refined, where the stars move without being sustained by any solid mass more than the Earth on which we live, and which like the stars is suspended in the midst of space.
As may be imagined, a Heaven intended for the eternal abode of the happy and of God, was the same among the Pagans. Gods and goddesses were also represented in the same way, also a Hell or a subterranean place where it was pretended that the wicked souls descended to be tormented. But this word "hell" taken in its proper and natural signification means nothing but a "lower place," which poets have invented to oppose the dwelling of the celestial inhabitants, who are said to be very sublime and exalted. That is what the Latin word Infernus or inferi signifies, and also the Greek word @#@% [Hades.] that is to say, an obscure place like the sepulchre, or any other low and hidden place. All the rest of what has been said is only pure fiction and the invention of poets whose symbolical discourses are taken literally by feeble, timid and melancholy minds, as well as by those who are interested in sustaining this opinion.
OF THE SOUL
The Soul is something more delicate and more difficult to treat of than either Heaven or Hell. That is why it is proper to satisfy Your Majesty's curiosity, to speak of it a little more at length. Before saying what I desire on this subject, I will recall in a few words what the most celebrated Philosophers have thought of it.
Some have said that the Soul is a spirit or an immaterial substance; others, a kind of divinity; some, a very subtle air, and others a harmony of all parts of the body. Again, others have remarked that it is the most subtle and fine part of the blood, which is separated from it in the brain and is distributed by the nerves: so that the source of the Soul is the heart where it is produced, and the place where it performs its noblest function is the Brain, because there it is well purified from the grosser parts of the blood. These are the principal opinions which have been held concerning the Soul, but to render them more perceptible let us divide them into material and spiritual, and name the supporters of each theory that we may not err.
Pythagoras and Plato have said that the soul is spiritual, that is to say, a being capable of existence without the aid of the body, and can move itself: that all the particular souls of animals are portions of the universal soul of the world: that these portions are spiritual and immortal, and of the same nature, as we may conceive that one hundred little fires are of the same nature as the great fire at which they have been kindled.
These philosophers believed the animated universe a substance, spiritual, immortal and invisible, pursuing always that which attracts, which is the source of all movements, and of all Souls which are small particles of it. Now, as Souls are very pure, and infinitely superior to the body, they do not unite immediately, but by means of a subtle body, such as flame, or that subtle and extensive air which the vulgar take for heaven. Afterwards they take a body less subtle, then another a little more impure, and always thus by degrees, until they can unite with the sensible bodies of animals, whence (sic) they descend like into dungeons or sepulchers. The death of the body, they say, is the life of the soul wherein it was buried, and where it exercises but weakly its most beautiful functions.
Thus at the death of the body the soul comes out of its prison untrammelled by matter, and reunites with the soul of the universe, from whence it came. Thus, following this thought, all the Souls of animals are of the same nature, and the diversity of their functions comes only from the difference in the bodies that they enter.
Aristotle admits further, a universal understanding common to all beings, and which acts in regard to particular intelligences as light does in regard to the eyes; and as light makes objects visible, the universal understanding makes objects intelligible. This philosopher defines the Soul as that which makes us live, feel, think and move, but he does not say what the Being is that is the source and principle of these noble functions, and consequently we must not look to him to dispel the doubt which exists concerning the Nature of the Soul.
Dicearchus, Asclesiade (?Esculapius), and in some ways Galen, have also believed the soul to be incorporeal, but in another manner, for they have said that it is nothing more than the harmony of all parts of the body, that is to say, that which results in an exact blending and disposition of the humors and spirits. Thus, they say, health is not a part of him who is well, however it be his condition, so that, however, the soul be in the animal, it is not one of its parts, but a mutual accord of all of which it is composed. On which it is remarked that these authors believe the soul to be incorporeal, on a principle quite opposed to their intent, by saying that it is not a body, but only something inseparably attached to a body, that is to say, in good reasoning, that it is quite corporeal, since corporeality is not only that which is a body, but all which is form or accident that cannot be separated from matter.
These are the philosophers who have believed the soul incorporeal or immaterial, who, as you see, are not in accord with themselves, and consequently do not merit any belief. Let us now consider those who have avowed it to be a body.
Diogenes believed that it was formed of air, from which he has inferred the necessity of breathing, and defines it as an air which passes from the mouth through the lungs to the heart, where it is warmed, And from whence it is distributed through the entire body.
Leucippus and Democritus have claimed that it was Fire, as that element is composed of atoms which easily penetrate all parts of the body, and makes it move. Hippocrates has said that it is a composition of water and fire. Empedocles says that it includes the four elements. Epicurus believed like Democritus, that the soul is composed of fire, but he adds that in that composition there enters some air, a vapor, and another nameless substance of which is formed a very subtle spirit, which spreads through the body and which is called the soul.
Not to shuffle, as all these philosophers have done, and to have as perfect an idea as is possible of the souls of animals, let us admit that in all, without excepting man, it is of the same nature, and has no different functions, but by reason of the diversity of organs and humors; hence we must believe what follows.
It is certain that there is in the universe a very subtle spirit, or a very delicate matter, and always in motion, the source of which is in the Sun, and the remainder is spread in all the other bodies, more or less, according to Nature or their consistency. That is the Soul of the Universe which governs and vivifies it, and of which some portion is distributed among all the parts that compose it. This Soul, and the most pure Fire which is in the universe does not burn of itself, but by the different movements that it gives to the particles of other bodies where it enters, it burns and reflects its heat. The visible fire has more of this spirit than air, the latter more than water, and the earth much less than the latter. Among the mixed bodies, plants have more than minerals, and animals more than either. To conclude, this fire being enclosed in the body, it is rendered capable of thought, and that is what is called the soul, or what is called animal spirits, which are spread in all parts of the body. Now, it is certain that this soul being of the same nature in all animals, disperses at the death of man in the same manner as in other animals, from whence it follows that what Poets and Theologians sing or preach of the other world, is a chimera which they have invented, and which they narrate for reasons that are easy to guess.
OF SPIRITS WHICH ARE CALLED DEMONS.
We have fully commented on how the belief in Spirits was introduced among men, and how these Spirits were but phantoms which existed in their imagination. The ancient Philosophers were not sufficiently clear to explain to the people what these phantoms were, and did not allow themselves to say that they could raise them. Some seeing that these phantoms dissolved and had no consistence, called them immaterial, incorporeal, forms without matter, or colors and figures, without being, nevertheless, bodies either colored or defined, adding that they could cover themselves with air like a mantle when they wished to render themselves visible to the eyes of men. Others said that they were animated bodies, but were composed of air, or some other more subtle matter which condensed at their will when they wished to appear.
These two kinds of Philosophers being opposed in the opinion which they had of phantoms, agreed in the name which they gave them, for all called them Demons, in which they were but little more enlightened than those who believed they saw in their sleep the souls of the dead, and that it is their soul which they see when they look in a mirror, and who also believed that they saw (reflected) in the water the souls of the stars. After this foolish fancy they fell into an error which is hardly less supportable, that is, the current idea that these phantoms had infinite power. An absurd but ordinary belief with the ignorant who imagined that whatever they did not understand was an infinite power.
This ridiculous opinion was no sooner published than the Sovereigns began to use it to support their power. They established a belief concerning spirits which they called Religion, so that the fear which the people possessed for invisible powers would hold them to their obedience. To have it carry more influence they distinguished the demons as good and bad. The latter to encourage men to obey their laws, and the former to restrain and prevent them from infringing them. Now to learn what these demons were it is only necessary to read the Greek poets and their histories, and above all what Hesiod says in his Theogony where he fully treats of the origin and propagation of the Gods.
The Greeks were the first who invented them, and by them they were propagated through the medium of their colonies, and their conquests in Asia, Egypt and Italy. The Jews who were dispersed in Alexandria and elsewhere got their acquaintance with them from the Greeks. They used them as effectively as the other peoples but with this difference, they did not call them Demons like the Greeks, but good and bad spirits; reserving for the good Demons the name of Spirit of God, and calling those Prophets who were said to possess this good spirit called the Divine, which they held as responsible for great blessings, and cacodaemons or Evil spirits on the contrary those which were provocative of great Evil.
This distinction of good and evil made them name as Demoniacs those whom we call lunatics, visionaries, madmen and epileptics, and those who spoke to them in an unknown tongue. A man ill-shaped and of evil look was to their notion possessed of an unclean spirit, and a mute of a dumb spirit. Now, these words spirit and demon became so familiar to them that they spoke of them on all occasions, so that it is evident that the Jews believed like the Greeks, that these phantoms were not mere chimeras and visions, but real beings that existed independent of imagination.
So it happens that the Bible is quite filled with these words Spirits, Demons and Fiends, but nowhere is it said when they were first known, nor the time of their creation, which is hardly pardonable in Moses, who is earnest in depicting the Creation of Heaven, Earth and Man. No more then is Jesus Christ who had such close intimacy with them, who commanded them so absolutely according to the Gospel, and who spoke so often of angels and good and bad spirits, but without saying whether they were corporeal or spiritual; which makes it plain that he knew no more than the Greeks had taught other nations, in which he is not less culpable than for denying to all men the virtue of faith and piety which he professed to be able to give them.
But to return to the Spirits. It is certain that the words Demon, Satan and Devil, are not proper names which designated any individual, and which never have any credence but among the ignorant; as much among the Greeks who invented them, as among the Jews where they were tolerated. So the latter being overrun by them gave them names -- which signified enemy, accuser, inquisitor, -- as well to invisible powers as to their own adversaries, the Gentiles, whom they said inhabited the Kingdom of Satan; there being none but themselves, in their own opinion, who dwelt in that of God.
As Jesus Christ was a Jew, and consequently imbued with these silly opinions, we read everywhere in the Gospels, and in the writings of his Disciples, of the Devil, of Satan and Hell as if they were something real and effective. While it is true, as we have shown, that there is nothing more imaginary, and when what we have said is not sufficient to prove it, but two words will suffice to convince the most obstinate. All Christians agree unanimously that God is the first principle and the foundation of all things, that he has created and preserves them, and without his support they would fall into nothingness. Following this principle it is certain that God must have created what is called the Devil, and Satan, as well as the rest, and if he has created both good and evil, why not all the balance, and if by this principle all evil exists, it can only be by the intervention of God.
Now can one conceive that God would maintain a creature, not only who curses him unceasingly, and who mortally hates him, but even who endeavors to corrupt his friends, to have the pleasure of being cursed by a multitude of mouths. How can we comprehend that God should preserve the Devil to have him do his worst to dethrone him if he could, and to alienate from his service his elect and his favorites? What would be the object of God in such conduct? Now what can we say in speaking of the Devil and Hell. If God does all, and nothing can be done without him how does it happen that the Devil hates him, curses him, and takes away his friends? Now he is either agreeable, or he is not. If he is agreeable, it is certain that the Devil in cursing him only does what he should, since he can only do what God wills. Consequently, it is not the Devil, but God in person who curses himself; a situation to my idea more absurd than ever.
If it is not in accord with his will then it is not true that he is all powerful. Thus there are two principles, one of Good, the other of Evil, one which causes one thing and the other that does quite the contrary. To what does this reasoning lead us? To avow without contradiction that there is no God such as is conceived, nor Devil, nor Soul, nor Paradise, such as has been depicted, and that the Theologians, that is to say, those who relate fables for truth, are persons of bad faith who maliciously abuse the credulity of the ignorant by telling them what they please, as if the people were capable of nothing but chimera or who should be fed with insipid food in which is found only emptiness, nothingness and folly, and not a grain of the salt of truth and wisdom. Centuries have passed, one after the other, in which mankind has been infatuated by these absurd imaginations which have been combatted; but during all the period there have also been found sincere minds who have written against the injustice of the Doctors in Tiaras, Mitres and Gowns, who have kept mankind in such deplorable blindness which seems to increase every day.
By permission of the Lord Baron de Hohendorf I have compiled this epitome out of the manuscript Library of his Most August Highness, Duke Eugene of Sabaudio, in the year 1716.