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Title: The Ruins, or, Meditation on the Revolutions of Empires

Creators: Walt Whitman, C.F. Volney

Annotation Date: 1890 or later

Base Document Citation: C.F. Volney, The Ruins, or, Meditation on the Revolutions of Empires: and the Law of Nature (New York, 1890).

Source: Bryn Mawr College Library Holdings of Whitman Books, Canady Library, Bryn Mawr College. Transcribed from digital images of the original item.

Whitman Archive ID: bmr.00014

Contributors to digital file: Alejandro Omidsalar and Matt Cohen


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Walt Whitman 1890
This translation seems to have been either
made by Joel Barlow, or supervised by him, in
Paris, and favored by Volney.

THE RUINS, OR, MEDITATION ON THE REVOLUTIONS OF EMPIRES: AND THE LAW OF NATURE,

BY C.F. VOLNEY,
COMTE ET PAIR DE FRANCE, COMMANDEUR DE LA LÉGION D'HONNEUR, MEMBRE DE L'ACADÉMIE FRANÇAISE, ET DE PLUSIEURS AUTRES SOCIÉTÉS SAVANTES. DEPUTY TO THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY OF 1789, AND AUTHOR OF "TRAVELS IN EGYPT AND SYRIA," " NEW RESEARCHES ON ANCIENT HISTORY," ETC.

TO WHICH IS ADDED VOLNEY'S ANSWER TO DR. PRIESTLY, A BIOGRAPHICAL NOTICE BY COUNT DARU, AND THE ZODIACAL SIGNS AND CONSTELLATIONS BY THE EDITOR.

I will cherish in remembrance the love of man, I will employ myself on the means of effecting good for him, and build my own happiness on the promotion of his.—Volney.

NEW YORK:
PETER ECKLER, 35 FULTON STREET.
1890.

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26THE RUINS OF EMPIRES.

family against family, tribe against tribe; and the earth is become a theatre of blood, of discord, and of rapine. By ignorance and cupidity, a secret war, fermenting in the bosom of every state, has separated citizen from citizen; and the same society has divided itself into oppressors and oppressed, into masters and slaves; by these, the heads of a nation, sometimes insolent and audacious, have forged its chains within its own bowels; and mercenary avarice has founded political despotism. Sometimes, hypocritical and cunning, they have called from heaven a lying power, and a sacrilegious yoke; and credulous cupidity has founded religious despotism. By these have been perverted the ideas of good and evil, just and unjust, vice and virtue; and nations have wandered in a labyrinth of errors and calamities.

The cupidity of man and his ignorance,—these are the evil genii which have wasted the earth! These are the decrees of fate which have overthrown empires! These are the celestial anathemas which have smitten these walls once so glorious, and converted the splendor of a populous city into a solitude of mourning and of ruins! But as in the bosom of man have sprung all the evils which have afflicted his life, there he also is to seek and to find their remedies.

CHAPTER IX.
ORIGIN OF GOVERNMENT AND LAWS.

In fact, it soon happened that men, fatigued with the evils they reciprocally inflicted, began to sigh for peace; and reflecting on their misfortunes and the causes of them, they said:

"We are mutually injuring each other by our passions; and, aiming to grasp every thing, we hold nothing. What one seizes to-day, another takes to-morrow, and our cupidity reacts upon ourselves. Let us establish judges, who shall arbitrate our rights, and settle our differences. When the


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THE RUINS OF EMPIRES.35

name of aristocracy, the state was tormented by the passions of the wealthy and the great.

Sacred impostors, in other countries, tending by other means to the same object, abused the credulity of the ignorant. In the gloom of their temples, behind the curtain of the altar, they made their gods act and speak; gave forth oracles, worked miracles, ordered sacrifices, levied offerings, prescribed endowments; and, under the names of theocracy and of religion, the state became tormented by the passions of the priests.

Sometimes a nation, weary of its dissensions or of its tyrants, to lessen the sources of evil, submitted to a single master; but if it limited his powers, his sole aim was to enlarge them; if it left them indefinite, he abused the trust confided to him; and, under the name of monarchy, the state was tormented by the passions of kings and princes.

Then the factions, availing themselves of the general discontent, flattered the people with the hope of a better master; dealt out gifts and promises, deposed the despot to take his place; and their contests for the succession, or its partition, tormented the state with the disorders and devastations of civil war.

In fine, among these rivals, one more adroit, or more fortunate, gained the ascendency, and concentrated all power within himself. By a strange phenomenon, a single individual mastered millions of his equals, against their will and without their consent; and the art of tyranny sprung also from cupidity.

In fact, observing the spirit of egotism which incessantly divides mankind, the ambitious man fomented it with dexterity, flattered the vanity of one, excited the jealousy of another, favored the avarice of this, inflamed the resentment of that, and irritated the passions of all; then, placing in opposition their interests and prejudices, he sowed divisions and hatreds, promised to the poor the spoils of the rich, to the rich the subjection of the poor; threatened one man by another, this class by that; and insulating all by distrust, created his strength out of their weakness, and imposed the yoke of opinion, which they mutually riveted on each other. With the army he levied contributions, and with contributions he disposed


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THE RUINS OF EMPIRES.45

whimsical and capricious, is angered or appeased as a man: that he loves and hates alternately; that he punishes or favors; that, weak or wicked, he broods over his hatred; that, contradictory or perfidious, he lays snares to entrap; that he punishes the evils he permits; that he foresees but hinders not crimes; that, like a corrupt judge, he is bribed by offerings; like an ignorant despot, he makes laws and revokes them; that, like a savage tyrant, he grants or resumes favors without reason, and can only be appeased by servility. Ah! now I know the lying spirit of man! Contemplating the picture which he hath drawn of the Divinity: No, said I, it is not God who hath made man after the image of God; but man hath made God after the image of man; he hath given him his own mind, clothed him with his own propensities; ascribed to him his own judgments. And when in this medley he finds the contradiction of his own principles, with hypocritical humility, he imputes weakness to his reason, and names the absurdities of his own mind the mysteries of God.

He hath said, God is immutable, yet he offers prayers to change him; he hath pronounced him incomprehensible, yet he interprets him without ceasing.

Imposters have arisen on the earth who have called themselves the confidants of God; and, erecting themselves into teachers of the people, have opened the ways of falsehood and iniquity; they have ascribed merit to practices indifferent or ridiculous; they have supposed a virtue in certain postures, in pronouncing certain words, articulating certain names; they have transformed into a crime the eating of certain meats, the drinking of certain liquors, on one day rather than another. The Jew would rather die than labor on the sabbath; the Persian would endure suffocation, before he would blow the fire with his breath; the Indian places supreme perfection in besmearing himself with cow-dung, and pronouncing mysteriously the word Aûm; * the Mussulman

* This word is, in the religion of the Hindoos, a sacred emblem of the Divinity. It is only to be pronounced in secret, without being heard by any one. It is formed of three letters, of which the first, a, signifies the principal of all, the creator, Brama; the second, û, the conservator, Vichenou; and the last, m, the destroyer, who puts an end to all, Chiven. It is pronounced like the monosyllable ôm, and expresses the unity of those three Gods. The idea is precisely that of the Alpha and Omega mentioned in the New Testament.


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CHAPTER XIII.
WILL THE HUMAN RACE IMPROVE?

At these words, oppressed with the painful sentiment with which their severity overwhelmed me: Woe to the nations! cried I, melting in tears; woe to myself! Ah! now it is that I despair of the happiness of man! Since his miseries proceed from his heart; since the remedy is in his own power, woe for ever to his existence! Who, indeed will ever be able to restrain the lust of wealth in the strong and powerful? Who can enlighten the ignorance of the weak? Who can teach the multitude to know their rights, and force their chiefs to perform their duties? Thus the race of man is always doomed to suffer! Thus the individual will not cease to oppress the individual, a nation to attack a nation; and days of prosperity, of glory, for these regions, shall never return. Alas! conquerors will come; they will drive out the oppressors, and fix themselves in their place; but, inheriting their power, they will inherit their rapacity; and the earth will have changed tyrants, without changing the tyranny.

Then, turning to the Genius, I exclaimed:

O Genius, despair hath settled on my soul. Knowing the

engaging in a war for them, and that at a time when revolution in their own country was just at its commencement. A man, who perceived the true nature of the situation, wrote a book to dissuade them from the war: it was immediately pretended that he was paid by the government, which in reality wished the war, and which was upon the point of shutting him up in a state prison. Another man wrote to recommend the war: he was applauded, and his word taken for the science, the politeness, and importance of the Turks. It is true that he believed in his own thesis, for he has found among them people who cast a nativity, and alchymists who ruined his fortune; as he found Martinists at Paris, who enabled him to sup with Sesostris, and Magnetizers who concluded with destroying his existence. Notwithstanding this, the Turks were beaten by the Russians, and the man who then predicted the fall of their empire, persists in the prediction. The result of this fall will be a complete change of the political system, as far as it relates to the coast of the Mediterranean. If, however, the French become important in proportion as they become free, and if they make use of the advantage they will obtain, their progress may easily prove of the most honorable sort; inasmuch as, by the wise decrees of fate, the true interest of mankind evermore accords with their true morality.


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64THE RUINS OF EMPIRES.

maintain and nourish mankind by useful labors gather round it; and you will discover the enemy that preys upon you.

The standard being raised, this nation divided itself at once into two bodies of unequal magnitude and contrasted appearance. The one, innumerable, and almost total, exhibited in the poverty of its clothing, in its emaciated appearance and sun-burnt faces, the marks of misery and labor; the other, a little group, an insignificant faction, presented in its rich attire embroidered with gold and silver, and in its sleek and ruddy faces, the signs of leisure and abundance.

Considering these men more attentively, I found that the great body was composed of farmers, artificers, merchants, all professions useful to society; and that the little group was made up of priests of every order, of financiers, of nobles, of men in livery, of commanders of armies; in a word, of the civil, military, and religious agents of government.

These two bodies being assembled face to face, and regarding each other with astonishment, I saw indignation and rage arising in one side, and a sort of panic in the other. And the large body said to the little one: Why are you separated from us? Are you not of our number?

No, replied the group; you are the people; we are a privileged class, who have our laws, customs, and rights, peculiar to ourselves.

PEOPLE.—And what labor do you perform in our society?

PRIVILEGED CLASS.—None; we are not made to work.

PEOPLE.—How, then, have you acquired these riches?

PRIVILEGED CLASS—By taking the pains to govern you.

PEOPLE.—What! is this what you call governing? We toil and you enjoy! we produce and you dissipate! Wealth proceeds from us, and you absorb it. Privileged men! class who are not the people; form a nation apart, and govern yourselves. *

* This dialogue between the people and the indolent classes, is applicable to every society; it contains the seeds of all the political vices and disorders that prevail, and which may thus be defined: Men who do nothing, and who devour the substance of others; and men who arrogate to themselves particular rights and exclusive privileges of wealth and indolence. Compare the Mamlouks of Egypt, the nobility of Europe, the Nairs of India, the Emirs of Arabia, the patricians of Rome, the Christian clergy, the Imans, the Bramins, the Bonzes, the Lamas, etc., etc., and you will find in all the same characteristic feature :—Men living in idleness at the expense of those who labor.


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66THE RUINS OF EMPIRES.

PEOPLE.—Kings are inseperable from their nations. Our king cannot be with you; you possess only his phantom.

And the military governors came forward. The people are timorous, said they; we must threaten them; they will submit only to force. Soldiers, chastise this insolent multitude.

PEOPLE.—Soldiers, you are of our blood! Will you strike your brothers, your relatives? If the people perish who will nourish the army?

And the soldiers, grounding their arms, said to the chiefs: We are likewise the people; show us the enemy!

Then the ecclesiastical governors said: There is but one resource left. The people are superstitious; we must frighten them with the names of God and religion.

Our dear brethren! our children! God has ordained us to govern you.

PEOPLE.—Show us your credentials from God!

PRIESTS—You must have faith; reason leads astray.

PEOPLE.—Do you govern without reason?

PRIESTS.—God commands peace! Religion prescribes obedience.

PEOPLE.—Show us the example.

PRIESTS.—Would you live without gods or kings?

PEOPLE.—We would live without oppressors.

PRIESTS.—You must have mediators, intercessors.

PEOPLE.—Mediators with God and with the king! courtiers and priests, your services are too expensive : we will henceforth manage our own affairs.

And the little group said : We are lost! the multitude are enlightened.

And the people answered : You are safe; since we are enlightened we will commit no violence; we only claim our rights. We feel resentments, but we will forget them. We were slaves, we might command; but we only wish to be free, and liberty is but justice.


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Mollas, and the Muftis; and near them are the Dervishes with pointed bonnets, and the Santons with dishevelled hair. Behold with what vehemence they recite their professions of faith! They are now beginning a dispute about the greater and lesser impurities,—about the matter and the manner of ablutions,—about the attributes of God and his perfections,— about the Chaitan, and the good and wicked angels,—about death, the resurrection, the interrogatory in the tomb, the judgment, the passage of the narrow bridge not broader than a hair, the balance of works, the pains of hell, and the joys of paradise.

Next to these, that second more numerous group, with white banners intersected with crosses, are the followers of Jesus. Acknowledging the same God with the Mussulmans, founding their belief on the same books, admitting, like them, a first man who lost the human race by eating an apple, they hold them, however, in a holy abhorrence; and, out of pure piety, they call each other impious blasphemers.

The great point of their dissension consists in this, that after admitting a God one and indivisible, the Christian divides him into three persons, each of which he believes to be a complete and entire God, without ceasing to constitute an identical whole, by the indivisibility of the three. And he adds, that this being, who fills the universe, has reduced himself to the body of a man; and has assumed material, perishable, and limited organs, without ceasing to be immaterial, infinite, and eternal. The Mussulman, who does not comprehend these mysteries, rejects them as follies, and the visions of a distempered brain; though he conceives perfectly well the eternity of the Koran, and the mission of the prophet: hence their implacable hatreds.

Again, the Christians, divided among themselves on many points, have formed parties not less violent than the Mussulmans ; and their quarrels are so much the more obstinate, as the objects of them are inaccessible to the senses, and incapable of demonstration: their opinions, therefore, have no other basis but the will and caprice of the parties. Thus, while they agree that God is a being incomprehensible and unknown, they dispute, nevertheless, about his essence, his


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compassionate morality, its affections altogether spiritual, attest its emanation from God! Many of its doctrines, it is true, soar above the reach of the understanding, and impose on reason a respectful silence; but this more fully demonstrates its revelation, since the human mind could never have imagined such mysteries."

Then, holding the Bible in one hand and the four Gospels in the other, the doctor began to relate that, in the beginning, God, after passing an eternity in idleness, took the resolution, without any known cause, of making the world out of nothing; that having created the whole universe in six days, he found himself fatigued on the seventh; that having placed the first human pair in a garden of delights, to make them completely happy, he forbade their tasting a particular fruit which he placed within their reach; that these first parents, having yielded to the temptation, all their race (which were not yet born) had been condemned to bear the penalty of a fault which they had not committed; that, after having left the human race to damn themselves for four or five thousand years, this God of mercy ordered a well beloved son, whom he had engendered without a mother, and who was as old as himself, to go and be put to death on the earth; and this for the salvation of mankind; of whom much the greater portion, nevertheless, have ever since continued in the way of perdition; that to remedy this new difficulty, this same God, born of a virgin, having died and risen from the dead, assumes a new existence every day, and in the form of a piece of bread, multiplies himself by millions at the voice of one of the basest of men. Then, passing on to the doctrine of the sacraments, he was going to treat at large on the power of absolution and reprobation, of the means of purging all sins by a little water and a few words, when, uttering the words indulgence, power of the pope, sufficient grace, and efficacious grace, he was interrupted by a thousand cries.

"It is a horrible abuse," cried the Lutherans, "to pretend to remit sins for money."

"The notion of the real presence," cried the Calvinists, "is contrary to the text of the Gospel."

"The pope has no right to decide anything of himself," cried the Jansenists; and thirty other sects rising up, and


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94THE RUINS OF EMPIRES.

accusing each other of heresies and errors, it was no longer possible to hear anything distinctly.

Silence being at last restored, the Mussulmans observed to the legislator :

"Since you have rejected our doctrine as containing things incredible, can you admit that of the Christians? Is not theirs still more contrary to common sense and justice? A God, immaterial and infinite, to become a man! to have a son as old as himself! This god-man to become bread, to be eaten and digested! Have we any thing equal to that? Have the Christians an exclusive right of setting up a blind faith? And will you grant them privileges of belief to our detriment?"

Some savage tribes then advanced: "What!" said they, "because a man and woman ate an apple six thousand years ago, all the human race are damned? And you call God just? What tyrant ever rendered children responsible for the faults of their fathers? What man can answer for the actions of another? Does not this overturn every idea of justice and of reason?"

Others exclaimed: "Where are the proofs, the witnesses of these pretended facts? Can we receive them without examining the evidence? The least action in a court of justice requires two witnesses; and we are ordered to believe all this on mere tradition and hearsay!"

A Jewish Rabbin then addressing the assembly, said: "As to the fundamental facts, we are sureties; but with regard to their form and their application, the case is different, and the Christians are here condemned by their own arguments. For they cannot deny that we are the original source from which they are derived—the primitive stock on which they are grafted; and hence the reasoning is very short: Either our law is from God, and then theirs is a heresy, since it differs from ours, or our law is not from God, and then theirs falls at the same time."

"But you must make this distinction," replied the Christian: "Your law is from God as typical and preparative, but not as final and absolute: you are the image of which we are the substance."

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"Thus," continued the Mobed, turning to the Rabbins, "it was not till after that epoch, that is to say, in the time of your first kings, that these ideas began to appear in your writers; and then their appearance was obscure and gradual, according to the progress of the political relations between your ancestors and ours. It was especially when, having been conquered by the kings of Nineveh and Babylon and transported to the banks of the Tygris and the Euphrates, where they resided for three successive generations, that they imbibed manners and opinions which had been rejected as contrary to their law. When our king Cyrus had delivered them from slavery, their heart was won to us by gratitude; they became our disciples and imitators; and they admitted our dogmas in the revision of their books;* for your Genesis, in particular, was never the work of Moses, but a compilation drawn up after the return from the Babylonian captivity, in which are inserted the Chaldean opinions of the origin of the world.

"At first the pure followers of the law, opposing to the emigrants the letter of the text and the absolute silence of the prophet, endeavored to repel these innovations; but they ultimately prevailed, and our doctrine, modified by your ideas, gave rise to a new sect.

* In the first periods of the Christian church, not only the most learned of those who have since been denominated heretics, but many of the orthodox conceived Moses to have written neither the law nor the Pentateuch, but that the work was a compilation made by the elders of the people and the Seventy, who, after the death of Moses, collected his scattered ordinances, and mixed with them things that were extraneous: similar to what happened as to the Koran of Mahomet. See Les Clementines, Homel. 2. sect. 51. and Homel. 3. sect. 42.

Modern critics, more enlightened or more attentive than the ancients, have found in Genesis in particular, marks of its having been composed on the return from the captivity; but the principal proofs have escaped them. These I mean to exhibit in an analysis of the book of Genesis, in which I shall demonstrate that the tenth chapter, among others, which treats of the pretended generations of the man called Noah, is a real geographical picture of the world, as it was known to the Hebrews at the epoch of the captivity, which was bounded by Greece or Hellas at the West, mount Caucasus at the North, Persia at the East, and Arabia and Upper Egypt at the South. All the pretended personages from Adam to Abraham, or his father Terah, are mythological beings, stars, constellations, countries. Adam is Bootes: Noah is Osiris: Xisuthrus Janus, Saturn; that is to say Capricorn, or the celestial Genius that opened the year. The Alexandrian Chronicle says expressly, page 85, that Nimrod was supposed by the Persians to be their first king, as having invented the art of hunting, and that he was translated into heaven, where he appears under the name of Orion.


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106THE RUIFS OF EMPIRES.

Then, retorting the pretensions of the Christians against themselves: "Prove to us," said the Lama, "that you are not Samaneans degenerated, and that the man you make the author of your sect is not Fôt himself disguised. Prove to us by historical facts that he even existed at the epoch you pretend; for, it being destitute of authentic testimony,* we absolutely deny it; and we maintain that your very gospels are only the books of some Mithriacs of Persia, and the Essenians of Syria, who were a branch of reformed Samaneans."†

Chaman, still preserved in Tartary, China, and India. The interpretation given to it is, man of the woods, a hermit mortifying the flesh, such being the characteristic of this sect; but its literal meaning is, celestial (Samâoui) and explains the system of those who are called by it. — The system is the same as that of the sectaries of Orpheus, of the Essenians, of the ancient Anchorets of Persia, and the whole eastern country. See Porphyry, de Abstin. Animal.

These celestial and penitent men carried in India their insanity to such an extreme as to wish not to touch the earth, and they accordingly lived in cages suspended from the trees, where the people, whose admiration was not less absurd, brought them provisions. During the night there were frequent robberies, rapes and murders, and it was at length discovered that they were committed by those men, who, descending from their cages, thus indemnified themselves for their restraint during the day. The Bramins, their rivals, embraced the opportunity of exterminating them; and from that time their name in India has been synonymous with hypocrite. See Hist. de la Chine, in 5 vols, quarto, at the note page 30; Hist. de Huns, 2 vols, and preface to the Ezour-Vedam.

* There are absolutely no other monuments of the existence of Jesus Christ as a human being, than a passage in Josephus (Antiq. Jud. lib, 18, c.3,) a single phrase in Tacitus (Annal. lib. 15, c. 44,) and the Gospels. But the passage in Josephus is unanimously acknowledged to be apocryphal, and to have been interpolated towards the close of the third century, (See Trad. de Joseph, par M. Gillet); and that of Tacitus in so vague and so evidently taken from the deposition of the Christians before the tribunals, that it may be ranked in the class of evangelical records. It remains to enquire of what authority are these records. "All the world knows," says Faustus, who, though a Manichean, was one of the most learned men of the third century, "All the world knows that the gospels were neither written by Jesus Christ, nor his apostles, but by certain unknown persons, who rightly judging that they should not obtain belief respecting things which they had not seen, placed at the head of their recitals the names of contemporary apostles." See Beausob. vol. i. and Hist. des Apologistes de la Relig. Chret. par Burigni, a sagacious writer, who has demonstrated the absolute uncertainty of those foundations of the Christian religion; so that the existence of Jesus is no better proved than that of Osiris and Hercules, or that of Fôt or Beddou, with whom, says M. de Guignes, the Chinese continually confound him, for they never call Jesus by any other name than Fôt. Hist. de Huns.

† That is to say, from the pious romances formed out of the sacred legends of the mysteries of Mithra, Ceres, Isis, etc., from whence are equally derived the books of the Hindoos and the Bonzes. Our missionaries have long remarked a striking resemblance between those books and the gospels. M. Wilkins expressly


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At these words, the Christians set up a general cry, and a new dispute was about to begin; when a number of Chinese Chamans, and Talapoins of Siam, came forward and said that they would settle the whole controversy. And one of them speaking for the whole exclaimed: "It is time to put an end to these frivolous contests by drawing aside the veil from the interior doctrine that Fôt himself revealed to his disciples on his death bed.*

"All these theological opinions," continued he, "are but chimeras. All the stories of the nature of the gods, of their actions and their lives, are but allegories and mythological emblems, under which are enveloped ingenious ideas of morals, and the knowledge of the operations of nature in the action of the elements and the movement of the planets.

"The truth is, that all is reduced to nothing—that all is illusion, appearance, dream; that the moral metempsychosis is only the figurative sense of the physical metempsychosis, or the successive movement of the elements of bodies which perish not, but which, having composed one body, pass when that is dissolved, into other mediums and form other combinations. The soul is but the vital principle which results from the properties of matter, and from the action of the elements in those bodies where they create a spontaneous movement. To suppose that this product of the play of the organs, born with them, matured with them, and which sleeps with them, can subsist when they cease, is the romance of a wandering imagination, perhaps agreeable enough, but really chimerical.

God itself is nothing more than the moving principle, the occult force inherent in all beings—the sum of their laws and

mentions it in a note in the Bhagvat Geeta. All agree that Krisna, Fôt, and Jesus have the same characteristic features: but religious prejudice has stood in the way of drawing from this circumstance the proper and natural inference. To time and reason must it be left to display the truth.

*The Budsoists have two doctrines, the one public and ostensible, the other interior and secret, precisely like the Egyptian priests. It may be asked, why this distinction? It is, that as the public doctrine recommends offerings, expiations, endowments, etc., the priests find their profit in preaching it to the people; whereas the other, teaching the vanity of worldly things, and attended with no lucre, it is thought proper to make it known only to adepts. Can the teachers and followers of this religion be better classed than under the heads of knavery and credulity?


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136THE RUINS OF EMPIRES.

You perceive the successive filiation of these ideas, and how, in proportion to their remoteness from their source, and as the minds of men became refined, their gross forms have been polished, and rendered less disgusting.

"But in the same manner as you have seen the system of two opposite principles or gods arise from that of symbols, interwoven into its texture, your attention shall now be called to a new system which has grown out of this, and to which this has served in its turn as the basis and support.

V. Moral and Mystical Worship, or System of a Future State.

"Indeed, when the vulgar heard speak of a new heaven and another world, they soon gave a body to these fictions; they erected therein a real theatre of action, and their notions of astronomy and geography served to strengthen, if not to originate, this illusion.

"On the one hand, the Phœnician navigators who passed the pillars of Hercules, to fetch the tin of Thule and the amber of the Baltic, related that at the extremity of the world, the end of the ocean (the Mediterranean), where the sun sets for the countries of Asia, were the Fortunate Islands, the abode of eternal spring; and beyond were the hyperborean regions, placed under the earth (relatively to the tropics) where reigned an eternal night.* From these stories, misunderstood, and no doubt confusedly related, the imagination of the people composed the Elysian fields,† regions of delight, placed in a world below, having their heaven, their sun, and their stars; and Tartarus, a place of darkness, humidity, mire, and frost. Now, as man, inquisitive of that which he knows not, and desirous of protracting his existence, had already interrogated himself concerning what was to become of him after his death, as he had early reasoned on the principle of life which animates his body, and which leaves it without deforming it, and as he had imagined airy substances, phantoms, and shades, he fondly believed that he should continue, in the subterranean world, that life which it was too painful for him to lose; and these lower regions seemed commodious for the

* Nights of six months duration.

Aliz, in the Phœnician or Hebrew language signifies dancing and joyous.


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166THE RUINS OF EMPIRES.

are constantly galling your neighbors. When you criminate so severely the great man whom we revere, we might fairly retort on the conduct of him whom you adore; but we scorn such advantages, and confining ourselves to the real object in question, we maintain that the morals of your gospel have by no means that perfection which you ascribe to them; it is not true that they have introduced into the world new and unknown virtues: for example, the equality of men in the sight of God,—that fraternity and that benevolence which follow from it, were formal doctrines of the sect of the Hermatics or Samaneans,* from whom you descend. As to the forgiveness of injuries, the Pagans themselves had taught it; but in the extent that you give it, far from being a virtue, it becomes an immorality, a vice. Your so much boasted precept of turning one cheek after the other, is not only contrary to every sentiment of man, but is opposed to all ideas of justice. It emboldens the wicked by impunity, debases the virtuous by servility, delivers up the world to despotism and tyranny, and dissolves all society. Such is the true spirit of your doctrines. Your gospels in their precepts and their parables, never represent God but as a despot without any rules of equity; a partial father treating a debauched and prodigal son with more favor than his respectful and virtuous children; a capricious master, who gives the same wages to workmen who had wrought but one hour, as to those who had labored through the whole day; one who prefers the last comers to the first. The moral is everywhere misanthropic and anti-social; it disgusts men with life and with society; and tends only to encourage hermitism and celibacy.

"As to the manner in which you have practised these morals, we appeal in our turn to the testimony of facts. We ask whether it is this evangelical meekness which has excited your interminable wars between your sects, your atrocious persecutions of pretended heretics, your crusades against Arianism, Manicheism, Protestantism, without speaking of your crusades against us, and of those sacrilegious associations, still subsisting, of men who take an oath to continue

* The equity of mankind in a state of nature and in the eyes of God was one of the principal tenets of the Samaneans, and they appear to be the only ancients that entertained this opinion.


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them? * We ask you whether it be gospel charity which has made you exterminate whole nations in America, to annihilate the empires of Mexico and Peru; which makes you continue to dispeople Africa and sell its inhabitants like cattle, notwithstanding your abolition of slavery; which makes you ravage India and usurp its dominions; and whether it be the same charity which, for three centuries past, has led you to harrass the habitations of the people of three continents, of whom the most prudent, the Chinese and Japanese, were constrained to drive you off, that they might escape your chains and recover their internal peace?"

Here the Bramins, the Rabbins, the Bonzes, the Chamans, the Priests of the Molucca islands, and the coasts of Guinea, loading the Christian doctors with reproaches: "Yes!" cried they, "these men are robbers and hypocrites, who preach simplicity, to surprise confidence; humility, to enslave with more ease; poverty, to appropriate all riches to themselves. They promise another world, the better to usurp the present; and while they speak to you of tolerance and charity, they burn, in the name of God, the men who do not worship him in their manner."

"Lying priests," retorted the missionaries," it is you who abuse the credulity of ignorant nations to subjugate them. It is you who have made of your ministry an art of cheating and imposture; you have converted religion into a traffic of cupidity and avarice. You pretend to hold communications with spirits, and they give for oracles nothing but your wills. You feign to read the stars, and destiny decrees only your desires. You cause idols to speak, and the gods are but the instruments of your passions. You have invented sacrifices and libations, to collect for your own profit the milk of flocks, and the flesh and fat of victims; and under the cloak of piety you devour the offerings of the gods, who cannot eat, and the substance of the people who are forced to labor."

"And you," replied the Bramins, the Bonzes, the Chamans, "you sell to the credulous living, your vain prayers for the souls of the dead. With your indulgences and your absolutions you have usurped the power of God himself; and

* The oath taken by the knights of the Order of Malta, is to kill, or make the Mahometans prisoners, for the glory of God.


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168THE RUINS OF EMPIRES.

making a traffic of his favors and pardons, you have put heaven at auction; and by your system of expiations you have formed a tariff of crimes, which has perverted all consciences." *

"Add to this," said the Imans, "that these men have invented the most insidious of all systems of wickedness,—the absurd and impious obligation of recounting to them the most intimate secrets of actions and of thoughts (confessions); so their insolent curiosity has carried their inquisition even into the sanctuary of the marriage bed,† and the inviolable recesses of the heart."

Thus by mutual reproaches the doctors of the different sects began to reveal all the crimes of their ministry—all the vices of their craft; and it was found that among all nations the spirit of the priesthood, their system of conduct, their actions, their morals, were absolutely the same :

That they had everywhere formed secret associations and corporations at enmity with the rest of society: ‡

* As long as it shall be possible to obtain purification from crimes and exemption from punishment by means of money or other frivolous practices; as long as kings and great men shall suppose that building temples or instituting foundations, will absolve them from the guilt of oppression and homicide; as long as individuals shall imagine that they may rob and cheat, provided they observe fast during Lent, go to confession, and receive extreme unction, it is impossible there should exist in society any morality or virtue; and it is from a deep conviction of truth, that a modern philosopher has called the doctrine of expiations la vérola des socíétés.

† Confession is a very ancient invention of the priests, who did not fail to avail themselves of that means of governing. It was practised in the Egyptian, Greek, Phrygian, Persian mysteries, etc. Plutarch has transmitted us the remarkable answer of a Spartan whom a priest wanted to confess. "Is it to you or to God I am to confess?" "To God," answered the priest: "In that case," replied the Spartan, "man, begone!" (Remarkable Sayings of the Lacedemonians.) The first Christians confessed their faults publicly, like the Essenians. Afterwards, priests began to be established, with power of absolution from the sin of idolatry. In the time of Theodosius, a woman having publicly confessed an intrigue with a deacon, bishop Necterius, and his successor Chrysostom, granted communion without confession. It was not until the seventh century that the abbots of convents exacted from monks and nuns confession twice a year; and it was at a still later period that bishops of Rome generalized it.

The Mussulmen, who suppose women to have no souls, are shocked at the idea of confession; and say; How can an honest man think of listening to the recital of the actions or the secret thoughts of a woman? May we not also ask, on the other hand, how can an honest woman consent to reveal them?

‡ That we may understand the general feelings of priests respecting the rest of mankind, whom they always call by the name of the people, let us hear one of the


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