"God: Conferences delivered at Notre Dame in Paris"
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If nature existed of itself, it would moreover possess the character of absolute liberty, or sovereignty; for, what can a being be said to depend upon which has no cause? But do we find this in the operations that manifest the life of nature to us? The universe is a serf; it revolves in a circle wherein nothing spontaneous appears; the stone remains where our hand places it, and the planet describes an orbit where we always find it. Those worlds, so prodigious by their mass and motion, have never revealed to the observer anything but a silent and blind mechanism, a slavish force, a helpless powerlessness to deviate from their law. And man himself – man in whom alone upon earth appears that liberty whose traces we vainly seek for in all the rest – is he a sovereign? Is he born at his own time? Does he die when it pleases him? Can he free himself from that which limits and embitters his existence? Like nature, of which he forms a part, he has his greatness, but it is a greatness which so much the more betrays his infirmity. He is like those kings who followed their victor to the Capitol, and whose abasement was but increased by the remnants of their majesty. The spectacle of the universe then awakens two sentiments, namely, wonder and pity. And these, strengthened by one another, together lead us to see the emptiness of nature, and to seek its author. Such is the language of worlds, their eternal eloquence, the cry of their conscience, if we may give such a name to the force that constrains them to speak for a greater than they, and to repeat to all the echoes of time and space the hymn of the creature to the Creator: NON NOBIS, DOMINE, NON NOBIS, SED NOMINI TUO GLORIAM – Not unto us, Lord, not unto us, but to thy name be the glory! Yes, sacred worlds that roll above us, brilliant and joyous stars that pursue your course under the hand of the Most High, happy islands whose shores are traced out in the ocean of heaven, yes, you have never lied to man!
It matters little whether pantheism does or does not endeavor to pervert the meaning of the spectacle of nature. It is of importance for us to know, however, that man, taken in general, the man of mankind, sees at a glance that the universe does not exist of itself. Metaphysics will never destroy that deep impression made upon mankind by the spectacle of things which forms the scene upon which we live. A child perceives the incapacity of the heavens and the earth; he sees, he feels, he touches it; he will always return to it as to an invincible sentiment forming a part of his being. In vain will you tell him that he is God, it is enough for him to have had but a fever to know that you are laughing at him.
God: Conferences - Notre-Dame in Paris (1871)
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