Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Books, poems, drama…

Louis Lambert by Honore de Balzac

Part 3 out of 3

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.3 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

the Idea.


The realm of Ideas is divided into three spheres: that of
Instinct, that of Abstractions, that of Specialism.


The greater part, the weaker part of visible humanity, dwells in
the Sphere of Instinct. The /Instinctives/ are born, labor, and
die without rising to the second degree of human intelligence,
namely Abstraction.


Society begins in the sphere of Abstraction. If Abstraction, as
compared with Instinct, is an almost divine power, it is
nevertheless incredibly weak as compared with the gift of
Specialism, which is the formula of God. Abstraction comprises all
nature in a germ, more virtually than a seed contains the whole
system of a plant and its fruits. From Abstraction are derived
laws, arts, social ideas, and interests. It is the glory and the
scourge of the earth: its glory because it has created social
life; its scourge because it allows man to evade entering into
Specialism, which is one of the paths to the Infinite. Man
measures everything by Abstractions: Good and Evil, Virtue and
Crime. Its formula of equity is a pair of scales, its justice is
blind. God's justice sees: there is all the difference.

There must be intermediate Beings, then, dividing the sphere of
Instinct from the sphere of Abstractions, in whom the two elements
mingle in an infinite variety of proportions. Some have more of
one, some more of the other. And there are also some in which the
two powers neutralize each other by equality of effect.


Specialism consists in seeing the things of the material universe
and the things of the spiritual universe in all their
ramifications original and causative. The greatest human geniuses
are those who started from the darkness of Abstraction to attain
to the light of Specialism. (Specialism, /species/, sight;
speculation, or seeing everything, and all at once; /Speculum/, a
mirror or means of apprehending a thing by seeing the whole of
it.) Jesus had the gift of Specialism; He saw each fact in its
root and in its results, in the past where it had its rise, and in
the future where it would grow and spread; His sight pierced into
the understanding of others. The perfection of the inner eye gives
rise to the gift of Specialism. Specialism brings with it
Intuition. Intuition is one of the faculties of the Inner Man, of
which Specialism is an attribute. Intuition acts by an
imperceptible sensation of which he who obeys it is not conscious:
for instance, Napoleon instinctively moving from a spot struck
immediately afterwards by a cannon ball.


Between the sphere of Abstraction and that of Specialism, as
between those of Abstraction and Instinct, there are beings in
whom the attributes of both combine and produce a mixture; these
are men of genius.


Specialism is necessarily the most perfect expression of man, and
he is the link binding the visible world to the higher worlds; he
acts, sees, and feels by his inner powers. The man of Abstraction
thinks. The man of Instinct acts.


Hence man has three degrees. That of Instinct, below the average;
that of Abstraction, the general average; that of Specialism,
above the average. Specialism opens to man his true career; the
Infinite dawns on him; he sees what his destiny must be.


There are three worlds--the Natural, the Spiritual, and the
Divine. Humanity passes through the Natural world, which is not
fixed either in its essence and unfixed in its faculties. The
Spiritual world is fixed in its essence and unfixed in its
faculties. The Divine world is necessarily a Material worship, a
Spiritual worship, and a Divine worship: three forms expressed in
action, speech, and prayer, or, in other words, in deed,
apprehension, and love. Instinct demands deed; Abstraction is
concerned with Ideas; Specialism sees the end, it aspires to God
with presentiment or contemplation.


Hence, perhaps, some day the converse of /Et Verbum caro factum
est/ will become the epitome of a new Gospel, which will proclaim
that The Flesh shall be made the Word and become the Utterance of


The Resurrection is the work of the Wind of Heaven sweeping over
the worlds. The angel borne on the Wind does not say: "Arise, ye
dead"; he says, "Arise, ye who live!"

Such are the meditations which I have with great difficulty cast in a
form adapted to our understanding. There are some others which Pauline
remembered more exactly, wherefore I know not, and which I wrote from
her dictation; but they drive the mind to despair when, knowing in
what an intellect they originated, we strive to understand them. I
will quote a few of them to complete my study of this figure; partly,
too, perhaps, because, in these last aphorisms, Lambert's formulas
seem to include a larger universe than the former set, which would
apply only to zoological evolution. Still, there is a relation between
the two fragments, evident to those persons--though they be but few--
who love to dive into such intellectual deeps.


Everything on earth exists solely by motion and number.


Motion is, so to speak, number in action.


Motion is the product of a force generated by the Word and by
Resistance, which is Matter. But for Resistance, Motion would have
had no results; its action would have been infinite. Newton's
gravitation is not a law, but an effect of the general law of
universal motion.


Motion, acting in proportion to Resistance, produces a result
which is Life. As soon as one or the other is the stronger, Life


No portion of Motion is wasted; it always produces number; still,
it can be neutralized by disproportionate resistance, as in


Number, which produces variety of all kinds, also gives rise to
Harmony, which, in the highest meaning of the word, is the
relation of parts to the whole.


But for Motion, everything would be one and the same. Its
products, identical in their essence, differ only by Number, which
gives rise to faculties.


Man looks to faculties; angels look to the Essence.


By giving his body up to elemental action, man can achieve an
inner union with the Light.


Number is intellectual evidence belonging to man alone; by it he
acquires knowledge of the Word.


There is a Number beyond which the impure cannot pass: the Number
which is the limit of creation.


The Unit was the starting-point of every product: compounds are
derived from it, but the end must be identical with the beginning.
Hence this Spiritual formula: the compound Unit, the variable
Unit, the fixed Unit.


The Universe is the Unit in variety. Motion is the means; Number
is the result. The end is the return of all things to the Unit,
which is God.


Three and Seven are the two chief Spiritual numbers.


Three is the formula of created worlds. It is the Spiritual Sign
of the creation, as it is the Material Sign of dimension. In fact,
God has worked by curved lines only: the Straight Line is an
attribute of the Infinite; and man, who has the presentiment of
the Infinite, reproduces it in his works. Two is the number of
generation. Three is the number of Life which includes generation
and offspring. Add the sum of four, and you have seven, the
formula of Heaven. Above all is God; He is the Unit.

After going in to see Louis once more, I took leave of his wife and
went home, lost in ideas so adverse to social life that, in spite of a
promise to return to Villenoix, I did not go.

The sight of Louis had had some mysteriously sinister influence over
me. I was afraid to place myself again in that heavy atmosphere, where
ecstasy was contagious. Any man would have felt, as I did, a longing
to throw himself into the infinite, just as one soldier after another
killed himself in a certain sentry box where one had committed suicide
in the camp at Boulogne. It is a known fact that Napoleon was obliged
to have the hut burned which had harbored an idea that had become a
mortal infection.

Louis' room had perhaps the same fatal effect as that sentry box.

These two facts would then be additional evidence in favor of his
theory of the transfusion of Will. I was conscious of strange
disturbances, transcending the most fantastic results of taking tea,
coffee, or opium, of dreams or of fever--mysterious agents, whose
terrible action often sets our brains on fire.

I ought perhaps to have made a separate book of these fragments of
thought, intelligible only to certain spirits who have been accustomed
to lean over the edge of abysses in the hope of seeing to the bottom.
The life of that mighty brain, which split up on every side perhaps,
like a too vast empire, would have been set forth in the narrative of
this man's visions--a being incomplete for lack of force or of
weakness; but I preferred to give an account of my own impressions
rather than to compose a more or less poetical romance.

Louis Lambert died at the age of twenty-eight, September 25, 1824, in
his true love's arms. He was buried by her desire in an island in the
park at Villenoix. His tombstone is a plain stone cross, without name
or date. Like a flower that has blossomed on the margin of a
precipice, and drops into it, its colors and fragrance all unknown, it
was fitting that he too should fall. Like many another misprized soul,
he had often yearned to dive haughtily into the void, and abandon
there the secrets of his own life.

Mademoiselle de Villenoix would, however, have been quite justified in
recording his name on that cross with her own. Since her partner's
death, reunion has been her constant, hourly hope. But the vanities of
woe are foreign to faithful souls.

Villenoix is falling into ruin. She no longer resides there; to the
end, no doubt, that she may the better picture herself there as she
used to be. She had said long ago:

"His heart was mine; his genius is with God."

CHATEAU DE SACHE. June-July 1832.


The following personages appear in other stories of the Human Comedy.

Lambert, Louis
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
A Seaside Tragedy

A Seaside Tragedy

A Distinguished Provincial at Paris

Stael-Holstein (Anne-Louise-Germaine Necker, Baronne de)
The Chouans
Letters of Two Brides

Villenoix, Pauline Salomon de
A Seaside Tragedy
The Vicar of Tours

Book of the day: