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The System of Nature, Vol. 1 by Baron D'Holbach

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PRODUCTION NOTES: First published in French in 1770 under the
pseudonym of Mirabaud. This e-book based on a facsimile reprint
of an English translation originally published 1820-21.
This e-text covers the first of the original two volumes.

Volume I

Paul Henri Thiery,
Baron d'Holbach

Introduction by
Robert D. Richardson, Jr.


Paul Henri Thiery, Baron d'Holbach (1723-1789), was the center of the
radical wing of the _philosophes_. He was friend, host, and patron to a
wide circle that included Diderot, D'Alembert, Helvetius, and Hume.
Holbach wrote, translated, edited, and issued a stream of books and
pamphlets, often under other names, that has made him the despair of
bibliographers but has connected his name, by innuendo, gossip, and
association, with most of what was written in defense of atheistic
materialism in late eighteenth-century France.

Holbach is best known for _The System of Nature_ (1770) and deservedly,
since it is a clear and reasonably systematic exposition of his main
ideas. His initial position determines all the rest of his argument.
"There is not, there can be nothing out of that Nature which includes
all beings." Conceiving of nature as strictly limited to matter and
motion, both of which have always existed, he flatly denies that there
is any such thing as spirit or a supernatural. Mythology began, Holbach
claims, when men were still in a state of nature and at the point when
wise, strong, and for the most part benign men were arising as leaders
and lawgivers. These leaders "formed discourses by which they spoke to
the imaginations of their willing auditors," using the medium of poetry,
because it "seem[ed] best adapted to strike the mind." Through poetry,
then, and by means of "its images, its fictions, its numbers, its rhyme,
its harmony... the entire of nature, as well as all its parts, was
personified, by its beautiful allegories." Thus mythology is given an
essentially political origin. These early poets are literally
legislators of mankind. "The first institutors of nations, and their
immediate successors in authority, only spoke to the people by fables,
allegories, enigmas, of which they reserved to themselves the right of
giving an explanation." Holbach is rather condescending about the
process, but since mythology is a representation of nature itself, he is
far more tolerant of mythology than he is of the next step. "Natural
philosophers and poets were transformed by leisure into metaphysicians
and theologians," and at this point a fatal error was introduced: the
theologians made a distinction between the power of nature and nature
itself, separated the two, made the power of nature prior to nature, and
called it God. Thus man was left with an abstract and chimerical being
on one side and a despoiled inert nature, destitute of power, on the
other. In Holbach's critique the point at which theology split off from
mythology marks the moment of nature's alienation from itself and paves
the way for man's alienation from nature.

Holbach is thus significant for Romantic interest in myth in two ways.
First, he provides a clear statement of what can be loosely called the
antimythic position, that rationalist condescension and derogation of
all myth and all religion that was never far from the surface during the
Romantic era. Holbach was and is a reminder that the Romantic
affirmation of myth was never easy, uncritical, or unopposed. Any new
endorsement of myth had to be made in the teeth of Holbach and the other
skeptics. The very vigor of the Holbachian critique of myth impelled the
Romantics to think more deeply and defend more carefully any new claim
for myth. Secondly, although Holbach's argument generally drove against
myth and religion both, he did make an important, indeed a saving
distinction between mythology and theology. Mythology is the more or
less harmless personification of the power in and of nature; theology
concerns itself with what for Holbach was the nonexistent power beyond
or behind nature. By exploiting this distinction it would become
possible for a Shelley, for example, to take a strong antitheological--
even an anti-Christian--position without having to abandon myth.

Holbach was one of William Godwin's major sources for his ideas about
political justice, and Shelley, who discussed Holbach with Godwin,
quotes extensively from _The System of Nature_ in _Queen Mab_.
Furthermore, Volney's _Ruins_, another important book for Shelley, is
directly descended from _The System of Nature_. On the other side,
Holbach was a standing challenge to such writers as Coleridge and Goethe
and was reprinted and retranslated extensively in America, where his
work was well known to the rationalist circle around Jefferson and

Issued in 1770 as though by Jean Baptiste de Mirabaud (a former
perpetual secretary to the Academie francaise who had died ten years
before), _La Systeme de la nature_ was translated and reprinted
frequently. The Samuel Wilkinson translation we have chosen to reprint
was the most often reprinted or pirated version in English. A useful
starting point for Holbach's work is Jerome Vercruysse, _Bibliographie
descriptive des ecrits du baron d'Holbach_ (Paris, 1971). The difficult
subject of the essentially clandestine evolution of biblical criticism
as an anti-Christian and antimyth critique in the early part of the
eighteenth century, before the well-documented era of the biblical
critic Eichhorn in Germany, is illuminated in Ira Wade, _The Clandestine
Organization and Diffusion of Philosophic Ideas in France from 1700-
1750_ (Princeton Univ. Press, 1938).

Robert D. Richardson, Jr.
University of Denver

* * * * *

Parke sculp't






PART I--Laws of Nature.--Of man.--The faculties of the soul.
--Doctrine of immortality.--On happiness.

CHAP. I. Nature and her laws.

CHAP. II. Of motion and its origin.

CHAP. III. Of matter--of its various combinations--of its
diversified motion--or of the course of Nature.

CHAP. IV. Laws of motion common to every being of Nature--
attraction and repulsion--inert force-necessity.

CHAP. V. Order and confusion--intelligence--chance.

CHAP. VI. Moral and physical distinctions of man--his origin.

CHAP. VII. The soul and the spiritual system.

CHAP. VII. The soul and the spiritual system.

CHAP. VIII. The intellectual faculties derived from the faculty of

CHAP. IX. The diversity of the intellectual faculties; they depend
on physical causes, as do their moral qualities.--The natural
principles of society--morals--politics.

CHAP. X. The soul does not derive its ideas from itself--it has
no innate ideas.

CHAP. XI. Of the system of man's free-agency.

CHAP. XII. An examination of the opinion which pretends that the
system of fatalism is dangerous.

CHAP. XIII. Of the immortality of the soul--of the doctrine of a
future state--of the fear of death.

CHAP. XIV. Education, morals, and the laws suffice to restrain
man--of the desire of immortality--of suicide.

CHAP. XV. Of man's true interest, or of the ideas he forms to
himself of happiness.--Man cannot be happy without virtue.

CHAP. XVI. The errors of man.--Upon what constitutes happiness.--
The true source of his evils.--Remedies that may be applied.

CHAP. XVII. Those ideas which are true, or founded upon Nature,
are the only remedies for the evil of man.--Recapitulation.--
Conclusions of the First Part.


_The source of man's unhappiness is his ignorance of Nature. The
pertinacity with which he clings to blind opinions imbibed in his
infancy, which interweave themselves with his existence, the consequent
prejudice that warps his mind, that prevents its expansion, that renders
him the slave of fiction, appears to doom him to continual error. He
resembles a child destitute of experience, full of ideal notions: a
dangerous leaven mixes itself with all his knowledge: it is of necessity
obscure, it is vacillating and false:--He takes the tone of his ideas on
the authority of others, who are themselves in error, or else have an
interest in deceiving him. To remove this Cimmerian darkness, these
barriers to the improvement of his condition; to disentangle him from
the clouds of error that envelope him; to guide him out of this Cretan
labyrinth, requires the clue of Ariadne, with all the love she could
bestow on Theseus. It exacts more than common exertion; it needs a most
determined, a most undaunted courage--it is never effected but by a
persevering resolution to act, to think for himself; to examine with
rigour and impartiality the opinions he has adopted. He will find that
the most noxious weeds have sprung up beside beautiful flowers; entwined
themselves around their stems, overshadowed them with an exuberance of
foliage, choaked the ground, enfeebled their growth, diminished their
petals; dimmed the brilliancy of their colours; that deceived by their
apparent freshness of their verdure, by the rapidity of their
exfoliation, he has given them cultivation, watered them, nurtured them,
when he ought to have plucked out their very roots.

Man seeks to range out of his sphere: notwithstanding the reiterated
checks his ambitious folly experiences, he still attempts the
impossible; strives to carry his researches beyond the visible world;
and hunts out misery in imaginary regions. He would be a metaphysician
before he has become a practical philosopher. He quits the contemplation
of realities to meditate on chimeras. He neglects experience to feed on
conjecture, to indulge in hypothesis. He dares not cultivate his reason,
because from his earliest days he has been taught to consider it
criminal. He pretends to know his date in the indistinct abodes of
another life, before he has considered of the means by which he is to
render himself happy in the world he inhabits: in short, man disdains
the study of Nature, except it be partially: he pursues phantoms that
resemble an _ignis-fatuus_, which at once dazzle, bewilders, and
affright: like the benighted traveller led astray by these deceptive
exhalations of a swampy soil, he frequently quits the plain, the simple
road of truth, by pursuing of which, he can alone ever reasonably hope
to reach the goal of happiness.

The most important of our duties, then, is to seek means by which we may
destroy delusions that can never do more than mislead us. The remedies
for these evils must be sought for in Nature herself; it is only in the
abundance of her resources, that we can rationally expect to find
antidotes to the mischiefs brought upon us by an ill directed, by an
overpowering enthusiasm. It is time these remedies were sought; it is
time to look the evil boldly in the face, to examine its foundations, to
scrutinize its superstructure: reason, with its faithful guide
experience, must attack in their entrenchments those prejudices, to
which the human race has but too long been the victim. For this purpose
reason must be restored to its proper rank,--it must be rescued from the
evil company with which it is associated. It has been too long degraded
--too long neglected--cowardice has rendered it subservient to delirium,
the slave to falsehood. It must no longer be held down by the massive
claims of ignorant prejudice.

Truth is invariable--it is requisite to man--it can never harm him--his
very necessities, sooner or later, make him sensible of this; oblige him
to acknowledge it. Let us then discover it to mortals--let us exhibit
its charms--let us shed it effulgence over the darkened road; it is the
only mode by which man can become disgusted with that disgraceful
superstition which leads him into error, and which but too often usurps
his homage by treacherously covering itself with the mask of truth--its
lustre can wound none but those enemies to the human race whose power is
bottomed solely on the ignorance, on the darkness in which they have in
almost every claimed contrived to involve the mind of man.

Truth speaks not to those perverse beings:--her voice can only be heard
by generous souls accustomed to reflection, whose sensibilities make
them lament the numberless calamities showered on the earth by political
and religious tyranny--whose enlightened minds contemplate with horror
the immensity, the ponderosity of that series of misfortunes which error
has in all ages overwhelmed mankind.

To error must be attributed those insupportable chains which tyrants,
which priests have forged for most nations. To error must be equally
attributed that abject slavery into which the people of almost every
country have fallen. Nature designed they should pursue their happiness
by the most perfect freedom.--To error must be attributed those
religious terrors which, in almost every climate, have either petrified
man with fear, or caused him to destroy himself for coarse or fanciful
beings. To error must be attributed those inveterate hatreds, those
barbarous persecutions, those numerous massacres, those dreadful
tragedies, of which, under pretext of serving the interests of heaven,
the earth has been but too frequently made the theatre. It is error
consecrated by religious enthusiasm, which produces that ignorance, that
uncertainty in which man ever finds himself with regard to his most
evident duties, his clearest rights, the most demonstrable truths. In
short, man is almost everywhere a poor degraded captive, devoid of
greatness of soul, of reason, or of virtue, whom his inhuman gaolers
have never permitted to see the light of day.

Let us then endeavour to disperse those clouds of ignorance, those mists
of darkness, which impede man on his journey, which obscure his
progress, which prevent his marching through life with a firm, with a
steady grip. Let us try to inspire him with courage--with respect for
his reason--with an inextinguishable love for truth--with a remembrance
of Gallileo--to the end that he may learn to know himself--to know his
legitimate rights--that he may learn to consult his experience, and no
longer be the dupe of an imagination led astray by authority--that he
may renounce the prejudices of his childhood--that he may learn to found
his morals on his nature, on his wants, on the real advantage of
society--that he may dare to love himself--that he may learn to pursue
his true happiness by promoting that of others--in short, that he may no
longer occupy himself with reveries either useless or dangerous--that he
may become a virtuous, a rational being, in which case he cannot fail to
become happy.

If he must have his chimeras, let him at least learn to permit others to
form theirs after their own fashion; since nothing can be more
immaterial than the manner of men's thinking on subjects not accessible
to reason, provided those thoughts be not suffered to embody themselves
into actions injurious to others: above all, let him be fully persuaded
that it is of the utmost importance to the inhabitants of this world to

Far from injuring the cause of virtue, an impartial examination of the
principles of this work will shew that its object is to restore truth to
its proper temple, to build up an altar whose foundations shall be
consolidated by morality, reason, and justice: from this sacred pane,
virtue guarded by truth, clothed with experience, shall shed forth her
radiance on delighted mortals; whose homage flowing consecutively shall
open to the world a new aera, by rendering general the belief that
happiness, the true end of man's existence, can never be attained but BY

In short, man should learn to know, that happiness is simply an
emanative quality formed by reflection; that each individual ought to be
the sun of his own system, continually shedding around him his genial
rays; that these, re-acting, will keep his own existence constantly
supplied with the requisite heat to enable him to put forth kindly



Translated from the Original,





_Nature and her Laws_.

Man has always deceived himself when he abandoned experience to follow
imaginary systems.--He is the work of nature.--He exists in Nature.--He
is submitted to the laws of Nature.--He cannot deliver himself from
them:--cannot step beyond them even in thought. It is in vain his mind
would spring forward beyond the visible world: direful and imperious
necessity ever compels his return--being formed by Nature, he is
circumscribed by her laws; there exists nothing beyond the great whole
of which he forms a part, of which he experiences the influence. The
beings his fancy pictures as above nature, or distinguished from her,
are always chimeras formed after that which he has already seen, but of
which it is utterly impossible he should ever form any finished idea,
either as to the place they occupy, or their manner of acting--for him
there is not, there can be nothing out of that Nature which includes all

Therefore, instead of seeking out of the world he inhabits for beings
who can procure him a happiness denied to him by Nature, let him study
this Nature, learn her laws, contemplate her energies, observe the
immutable rules by which she acts.--Let him apply these discoveries to
his own felicity, and submit in silence to her precepts, which nothing
can alter.--Let him cheerfully consent to be ignorant of causes hid from
him under the most impenetrable veil.--Let him yield to the decrees of a
universal power, which can never be brought within his comprehension,
nor ever emancipate him from those laws imposed on him by his essence.

The distinction which has been so often made between the _physical_ and
the _moral_ being, is evidently an abuse of terms. Man is a being purely
physical: the moral man is nothing more than this physical being
considered under a certain point of view; that is to say, with relation
to some of his modes of action, arising out of his individual
organization. But is not this organization itself the work of Nature?
The motion or impulse to action, of which he is susceptible, is that not
physical? His visible actions, as well as the invisible motion
interiorly excited by his will or his thoughts, are equally the natural
effects, the necessary consequences, of his peculiar construction, and
the impulse he receives from those beings by whom he is always
surrounded. All that the human mind has successively invented, with a
view to change or perfect his being, to render himself happy, was never
more than the necessary consequence of man's peculiar essence, and that
of the beings who act upon him. The object of all his institutions, all
his reflections, all his knowledge, is only to procure that happiness
toward which he is continually impelled by the peculiarity of his
nature. All that he does, all that he thinks, all that he is, all that
he will be, is nothing more than what Universal Nature has made him. His
ideas, his actions, his will, are the necessary effects of those
properties infused into him by Nature, and of those circumstances in
which she has placed him. In short, art is nothing but Nature acting
with the tools she has furnished.

Nature sends man naked and destitute into this world which is to be his
abode: he quickly learns to cover his nakedness--to shelter himself from
the inclemencies of the weather, first with artlessly constructed huts,
and the skins of the beasts of the forest; by degrees he mends their
appearance, renders them more convenient: he establishes manufactories
to supply his immediate wants; he digs clay, gold, and other fossils
from the bowels of the earth; converts them into bricks for his house,
into vessels for his use, gradually improves their shape, and augments
their beauty. To a being exalted above our terrestrial globe, man would
not appear less subjected to the laws of Nature when naked in the forest
painfully seeking his sustenance, than when living in civilized society
surrounded with ease, or enriched with greater experience, plunged in
luxury, where he every day invents a thousand new wants and discovers a
thousand new modes of supplying them. All the steps taken by man to
regulate his existence, ought only to be considered as a long succession
of causes and effects, which are nothing more than the development of
the first impulse given him by nature.

The same animal, by virtue of his organization, passes successively from
the most simple to the most complicated wants; it is nevertheless the
consequence of his nature. The butterfly whose beauty we admire, whose
colours are so rich, whose appearance is so brilliant, commences as an
inanimate unattractive egg; from this, heat produces a worm, this
becomes a chrysalis, then changes into that beautiful insect adorned
with the most vivid tints: arrived at this stage he reproduces, he
generates; at last despoiled of his ornaments, he is obliged to
disappear, having fulfilled the task imposed on him by Nature, having
performed the circle of transformation marked out for beings of his

The same course, the same change takes place in the vegetable world. It
is by a series of combinations originally interwoven with the energies
of the aloe, that this plant is insensibly regulated, gradually
expanded, and at the end of a number of years produces those flowers
which announce its dissolution.

It is equally so with man, who in all his motion, all the changes he
undergoes, never acts but according to the laws peculiar to his
organization, and to the matter of which he is composed.

The _physical man_, is he who acts by the causes our faculties make us

The _moral man_, is he who acts by physical causes, with which our
prejudices preclude us from becoming perfectly acquainted.

The _wild man_ is a child destitute of experience, incapable of
proceeding in his happiness, because he has not learnt how to oppose
resistance to the impulses he receives from those beings by whom he is

The _civilized man_, is he whom experience and sociality have enabled to
draw from nature the means of his own happiness, because he has learned
to oppose resistance to those impulses he receives from exterior beings,
when experience has taught him they would be destructive to his welfare.

The _enlightened man_ is man in his maturity, in his perfection; who is
capable of advancing his own felicity, because he has learned to
examine, to think for himself, and not to take that for truth upon the
authority of others, which experience has taught him a critical
disquisition will frequently prove erroneous.

The _happy man_ is he who knows how to enjoy the benefits bestowed upon
him by nature: in other words, he who thinks for himself; who is
thankful for the good he possesses; who does not envy the welfare of
others, nor sigh after imaginary benefits always beyond his grasp.

The _unhappy man_ is he who is incapacitated to enjoy the benefits of
nature; that is, he who suffers others to think for him; who neglects
the absolute good he possesses, in a fruitless search after ideal
benefits; who vainly sighs after that which ever eludes his pursuit.

It necessarily results, that man in his enquiry ought always to
contemplate experience, and natural philosophy: These are what he should
consult in his religion,--in his morals,--in his legislation,--in his
political government,--in the arts,--in the sciences,--in his
pleasures,--above all, in his misfortunes. Experience teaches that
Nature acts by simple, regular, and invariable laws. It is by his
senses, man is bound to this universal Nature; it is by his perception
he must penetrate her secrets; it is from his senses he must draw
experience of her laws. Therefore, whenever he neglects to acquire
experience or quits its path, he stumbles into an abyss; his imagination
leads him astray.

All the errors of man are physical: he never deceives himself but when
he neglects to return back to nature, to consult her laws, to call
practical knowledge to his aid. It is for want of practical knowledge he
forms such imperfect ideas of matter, of its properties, of its
combinations, of its power, of its mode of action, and of the energies
which spring from its essence. Wanting this experience, the whole
universe, to him, is but one vast scene of error. The most ordinary
results appear to him the most astonishing phenomena; he wonders at
every thing, understands nothing, and yields the guidance of his actions
to those interested in betraying his interests. He is ignorant of
Nature, and he has mistaken her laws; he has not contemplated the
necessary routine which she has marked out for every thing she holds.
Mistaken the laws of Nature, did I say? He has mistaken himself: the
consequence is, that all his systems, all his conjectures, all his
reasonings, from which he has banished experience, are nothing more than
a tissue of errors, a long chain of inconsistencies.

Error is always prejudicial to man: it is by deceiving himself, the
human race is plunged into misery. He neglected Nature; he did not
comprehend her laws; he formed gods of the most preposterous and
ridiculous kinds: these became the sole objects of his hope, and the
creatures of his fear: he was unhappy, he trembled under these visionary
deities; under the supposed influence of visionary beings created by
himself; under the terror inspired by blocks of stone; by logs of wood;
by flying fish; or the frowns of men, mortal as himself, whom his
disturbed fancy had elevated above that Nature of which alone he is
capable of forming any idea. His very posterity laughs at his folly,
because experience has convinced them of the absurdity of his groundless
fears--of his misplaced worship. Thus has passed away the ancient
mythology, with all the trifling and nonsensical attributes attached to
it by ignorance.

Not understanding that Nature, equal in her distributions, entirely
destitute of malice, follows only necessary and immutable laws, when she
either produces beings or destroys them, when she causes those to
suffer, whose construction creates sensibility; when she scatters among
them good and evil; when she subjects them to incessant change--he did
not perceive it was in the breast of Nature herself, that it was in her
exuberance he ought to seek to satisfy his deficiencies; for remedies
against his pains; for the means of rendering himself happy: he expected
to derive these benefits from fantastic beings, whom he supposed to be
above Nature; whom he mistakingly imagined to be the authors of his
pleasures, and the cause of his misfortunes. From hence it appears that
to his ignorance of Nature, man owes the creation of those illusive
powers; under which he has so long trembled with fear; that
superstitious worship, which has been the source of all his misery, and
the evils entailed upon posterity.

For want of clearly comprehending his own peculiar nature, his proper
course, his wants, and his rights, man has fallen in society, from
FREEDOM into SLAVERY. He had forgotten the purpose of his existence, or
else he believed himself obliged to suppress the natural desires of his
heart, to sacrifice his welfare to the caprice of chiefs, either elected
by himself, or submitted to without examination. He was ignorant of the
true policy of association--of the object of government; he disdained to
listen to the voice of Nature, which loudly proclaimed the price of all
submission to be protection and happiness: the end of all government is
the benefit of the governed, not the exclusive advantage of the
governors. He gave himself up without enquiry to men like himself, whom
his prejudices induced him to contemplate as beings of a superior order,
as Gods upon earth, they profited by his ignorance, took advantage of
his prejudices, corrupted him, rendered him vicious, enslaved him, and
made him miserable. Thus man, intended by Nature for the full enjoyment
of liberty, to patiently search out her laws, to investigate her
secrets, to cling to his experience; has, from a neglect of her salutary
admonitions, from an inexcusable ignorance of his own peculiar essence,
fallen into servility: has been wickedly governed.

Having mistaken himself, he has remained ignorant of the indispensable
affinity that subsists between him, and the beings of his own species:
having mistaken his duty to himself, it consequently follows, he has
mistaken his duty to others. He made a calculation in error of what his
happiness required; he did not perceive, what he owed to himself, the
excesses he ought to avoid, the desires he ought to resist, the impulses
he ought to follow, in order to consolidate his felicity, to promote his
comfort, and to further his advantage. In short, he was ignorant of his
true interests; hence his irregularities, his excesses, his shameful
extravagance, with that long train of vices, to which he has abandoned
himself, at the expense of his preservation, at the hazard of his
permanent prosperity.

It is, therefore, ignorance of himself that has hindered man from
enlightening his morals. The corrupt authorities to which he had
submitted, felt an interest in obstructing the practice of his duties,
even when he knew them. Time, with the influence of ignorance, aided by
his corruption, gave them a strength not to be resisted by his enfeebled
voice. His duties continued unperformed, and he fell into contempt both
with himself and with others.

The ignorance of Man has endured so long, he has taken such slow, such
irresolute steps to ameliorate his condition, only because he has
neglected to study Nature, to scrutinize her laws, to search out her
expedients, to discover her properties, that his sluggishness finds its
account, in permitting himself to be guided by example, rather than to
follow experience, which demands activity; to be led by routine, rather
than by his reason, which enjoins reflection; to take that for truth
upon the authority of others, which would require a diligent and patient
investigation. From hence may be traced the hatred man betrays for every
thing that deviates from those rules to which he has been accustomed;
hence his stupid, his scrupulous respect for antiquity, for the most
silly, the most absurd and ridiculous institutions of his fathers: hence
those fears that seize him, when the most beneficial changes are
proposed to him, or the most likely attempts are made to better his
condition. He dreads to examine, because he has been taught to hold it
irreverent of something immediately connected with his welfare; his
credulity suffers him to believe the interested advice, and spurns at
those who wish to show him the danger of the road he is travelling.

This is the reason why nations linger on in the most shameful lethargy,
suffering under abuses handed down from century to century, trembling at
the very idea of that which alone can repair their calamities.

It is for want of energy, for want of consulting experience, that
medicine, natural philosophy, agriculture, painting, in fact, all the
useful sciences, have so long remained under the fetters of authority,
have progressed so little: those who profess these sciences, prefer
treading the beaten paths, however imperfect, rather than strike out new
ones,--they prefer the phrensy of their imagination, their voluntary
conjectures, to that laboured experience which alone can extract her
secrets from Nature.

Man, in short, whether from sloth or from terror, having abnegated the
evidence of his senses, has been guided in all his actions, in all his
enterprizes, by imagination, by enthusiasm, by habit, by preconceived
opinions, but above all, by the influence of authority, which knew well
how to deceive him, to turn his ignorance to esteem, his sloth to
advantage. Thus imaginary, unsubstantial systems, have supplied the
place of experience--of mature reflection--of reason. Man, petrified
with his fears, intoxicated with the marvellous, stupified with sloth,
surrendered his experience: guided by his credulity, he was unable to
fall back upon it; he became consequently inexperienced; from thence he
gave birth to the most ridiculous opinions, or else adopted all those
vague chimeras, all those idle notions offered to him by men whose
interest it was to continue him in that lamentable state of ignorance.

Thus the human race has continued so long in a state of infancy, because
man has been inattentive to Nature; has neglected her ways, because he
has disdained experience--because he has thrown by his reason--because
he has been enraptured with the marvellous and the supernatural,--
because he has unnecessarily TREMBLED. These are the reasons there is so
much trouble in conducting him from this state of childhood to that of
manhood. He has had nothing but the most trifling hypotheses, of which
he has never dared to examine either the principles or the proofs,
because he has been accustomed to hold them sacred, to consider them as
the most perfect truths, and which he is not permitted to doubt, even
for an instant. His ignorance made him credulous; his curiosity made him
swallow the wonderful: time confirmed him in his opinions, and he passed
his conjectures from race to race for realities; a tyrannical power
maintained him in his notions, because by those alone could society be
enslaved. It was in vain that some faint glimmerings of Nature
occasionally attempted the recall of his reason--that slight
corruscations of experience sometimes threw his darkness into light, the
interest of the few was founded on his enthusiasm; their pre-eminence
depended on his love of the marvellous; their very existence rested on
the firmness of his ignorance; they consequently suffered no opportunity
to escape, of smothering even the transient flame of intelligence. The
many were thus first deceived into credulity, then forced into
submission. At length the whole science of man became a confused mass of
darkness, falsehood, and contradictions, with here and there a feeble
ray of truth, furnished by that Nature, of which he can never entirely
divest himself; because, without his perception, his necessities are
continually bringing him back to her resources.

Let us then, if possible, raise ourselves above these clouds of
prepossession! Let us quit the heavy atmosphere in which we are
enucleated; let us in a more unsullied medium--in a more elastic
current, contemplate the opinions of men, and observe their various
systems. Let us learn to distrust a disordered conception; let us take
that faithful monitor, experience, for our guide; let us consult Nature,
examine her laws, dive into her stores; let us draw from herself, our
ideas of the beings she contains; let us recover our senses, which
interested error has taught us to suspect; let us consult that reason,
which, for the vilest purposes has been so infamously calumniated, so
cruelly dishonoured; let us examine with attention the visible world;
let us try, if it will not enable us to form a supportable judgment of
the invisible territory of the intellectual world: perhaps it may be
found there has been no sufficient reason for distinguishing them--that
it is not without motives, well worthy our enquiry, that two empires
have been separated, which are equally the inheritance of nature.

The universe, that vast assemblage of every thing that exists, presents
only matter and motion: the whole offers to our contemplation, nothing
but an immense, an uninterrupted succession of causes and effects; some
of these causes are known to us, because they either strike immediately
on our senses, or have been brought under their cognizance, by the
examination of long experience; others are unknown to us, because they
act upon us by effects, frequently very remote from their primary cause.
An immense variety of matter, combined under an infinity of forms,
incessantly communicates, unceasingly receives a diversity of impulses.
The different qualities of this matter, its innumerable combinations,
its various methods of action, which are the necessary consequence of
these associations, constitute for man what he calls the ESSENCE of
beings: it is from these varied essences that spring the orders, the
classes, or the systems, which these beings respectively possess, of
which the sum total makes up that which is known by the term _nature_.

Nature, therefore, in its most significant meaning, is the great whole
that results from the collection of matter, under its various
combinations, with that contrariety of motion, which the universe
presents to our view. Nature, in a less extended sense, or considered in
each individual, is the whole that results from its essence; that is to
say, the peculiar qualities, the combination, the impulse, and the
various modes of action, by which it is discriminated from other beings.
It is thus that MAN is, as a whole, or in his nature, the result of a
certain combination of matter, endowed with peculiar properties,
competent to give, capable of receiving, certain impulses, the
arrangement of which is called _organization_; of which the essence is,
to feel, to think, to act, to move, after a manner distinguished from
other beings, with which he can be compared. Man, therefore, ranks in an
order, in a system, in a class by himself, which differs from that of
other animals, in whom we do not perceive those properties of which he
is possessed. The different systems of beings, or if they will, their
_particular natures_, depend on the general system of the great whole,
or that Universal Nature, of which they form a part; to which every
thing that exists is necessarily submitted and attached.

Having described the proper definition that should be applied to the
word NATURE, I must advise the reader, once for all, that whenever in
the course of this work the expression occurs, that "Nature produces
such or such an effect," there is no intention of personifying that
nature which is purely an abstract being; it merely indicates that the
effect spoken of necessarily springs from the peculiar properties of
those beings which compose the mighty macrocosm. When, therefore, it is
said, _Nature demands that man should pursue his own happiness_, it is
to prevent circumlocution--to avoid tautology; it is to be understood,
that it is the property of a being that feels, that thinks, that acts,
to labour to its own happiness; in short, that is called _natural_,
which is conformable to the essence of things, or to the laws, which
Nature prescribes to the beings she contains, in the different orders
they occupy, under the various circumstances through which they are
obliged to pass. Thus health is _natural_ to man in a certain state;
disease is _natural_ to him under other circumstances; dissolution, or
if they will, death, is a _natural_ state for a body, deprived of some
of those things, necessary to maintain the existence of the animal, &c.
By ESSENCE is to be understood, that which constitutes a being, such as
it is; the whole of the properties or qualities by which it acts as it
does. Thus, when it is said, it is the _essence_ of a stone to fall, it
is the same as saying that its descent is the necessary effect of its
gravity--of its density--of the cohesion of its parts--of the elements
of which it is composed. In short, the _essence_ of a being is its
particular, its individual nature.


_Of Motion, and its Origin._

Motion is an effect by which a body either changes, or has a tendency to
change, its position: that is to say, by which it successively
corresponds with different parts of space, or changes its relative
distance to other bodies. It is motion alone that establishes the
relation between our senses and exterior or interior beings: it is only
by motion that these beings are impressed upon us--that we know their
existence--that we judge of their properties--that we distinguish the
one from the other--that we distribute them into classes.

The beings, the substances, or the various bodies of which Nature is the
assemblage, are themselves effects of certain combinations or causes
which become causes in their turn. A CAUSE is a being which puts another
in motion, or which produces some change in it. The EFFECT is the change
produced in one body, by the motion or presence of another.

Each being, by its essence, by its peculiar nature, has the faculty of
producing, is capable of receiving, has the power of communicating, a
variety of motion. Thus some beings are proper to strike our organs;
these organs are competent to receiving the impression, are adequate to
undergoing changes by their presence. Those which cannot act on any of
our organs, either immediately and by themselves, or immediately by the
intervention of other bodies, exist not for us; since they can neither
move us, nor consequently furnish us with ideas: they can neither be
known to us, nor of course be judged of by us. To know an object, is to
have felt it; to feel it, it is requisite to have been moved by it. To
see, is to have been moved, by something acting on the visual organs; to
hear, is to have been struck, by something on our auditory nerves. In
short, in whatever mode a body may act upon us, whatever impulse we may
receive from it, we can have no other knowledge of it than by the change
it produces in us.

Nature, as we have already said, is the assemblage of all the beings,
consequently of all the motion of which we have a knowledge, as well as
of many others of which we know nothing, because they have not yet
become accessible to our senses. From the continual action and re-action
of these beings, result a series of causes and effects; or a chain of
motion guided by the constant and invariable laws peculiar to each
being; which are necessary or inherent to its particular nature--which
make it always act or move after a determinate manner. The different
principles of this motion are unknown to us, because we are in many
instances, if not in all, ignorant of what constitutes the essence of
beings. The elements of bodies escape our senses; we know them only in
the mass: we are neither acquainted with their intimate combination, nor
the proportion of these combinations; from whence must necessarily
result their mode of action, their impulse, or their different effects.

Our senses bring us generally acquainted with two sorts of motion in the
beings that surround us: the one is the motion of the mass, by which an
entire body is transferred from one place to another. Of the motion of
this genus we are perfectly sensible.--Thus, we see a stone fall, a ball
roll, an arm move, or change its position. The other is an internal or
concealed motion, which always depends on the peculiar energies of a
body: that is to say, on its _essence_, or the combination, the action,
and re-action of the minute--of the insensible particles of matter, of
which that body is composed. This motion we do not see; we know it only
by the alteration or change, which after some time we discover in these
bodies or mixtures. Of this genus is that concealed motion which
fermentation produces in the particles that compose flour, which,
however scattered, however separated, unite, and form that mass which we
call BREAD. Such also is the imperceptible motion by which we see a
plant or animal enlarge, strengthen, undergo changes, and acquire new
qualities, without our eyes being competent to follow its progression,
or to perceive the causes which have produced these effects. Such also
is the internal motion that takes place in man, which is called his
we have no other mode of judging, than by their action; that is, by
those sensible effects which either accompany or follow them. Thus, when
we see a man run away, we judge him to be interiorly actuated by the
passion of fear.

Motion, whether visible or concealed, is styled ACQUIRED, when it is
impressed on one body by another; either by a cause to which we are a
stranger, or by an exterior agent which our senses enable us to
discover. Thus we call that _acquired motion_, which the wind gives to
the sails of a ship. That motion which is excited in a body, that
contains within itself the causes of those changes we see it undergo, is
called SPONTANEOUS. Then it is said, this body acts or moves by its own
peculiar energies. Of this kind is the motion of the man who walks, who
talks, who thinks. Nevertheless, if we examine the matter a little
closer, we shall be convinced, that, strictly speaking, there is no such
thing as spontaneous motion in any of the various bodies of Nature;
seeing they are perpetually acting one upon the other; that all their
changes are to be attributed to the causes, either visible or concealed,
by which they are moved. The will of man is secretly moved or determined
by some exterior cause that produces a change in him: we believe he
moves of himself, because we neither see the cause that determined him,
the mode in which it acted, nor the organ that it put in motion.

That is called SIMPLE MOTION, which is excited in a body by a single
cause. COMPOUND MOTION, that which is produced by two or more different
causes; whether these causes are equal or unequal, conspiring
differently, acting together or in succession, known or unknown.

Let the motion of beings be of whatsoever nature it may, it is always
the necessary consequence of their essence, or of the properties which
compose them, and of those causes of which they experience the action.
Each being can only move and act after a particular manner; that is to
say, conformably to those laws which result from its peculiar essence,
its particular combination, its individual nature: in short, from its
specific energies, and those of the bodies from which it receives an
impulse. It is this that constitutes the invariable laws of motion: I
say _invariable_, because they can never change, without producing
confusion in the essence of things. It is thus that a heavy body must
necessarily fall, if it meets with no obstacle sufficient to arrest its
descent; that a sensible body must naturally seek pleasure, and avoid
pain; that fire must necessarily burn, and diffuse light.

Each being, then, has laws of motion, that are adapted to itself, and
constantly acts or moves according to these laws; at least when no
superior cause interrupts its action. Thus, fire ceases to burn
combustible matter, as soon as sufficient water is thrown into it, to
arrest its progress. Thus, a sensible being ceases to seek pleasure, as
soon as he fears that pain will be the result.

The communication of motion, or the medium of action, from one body to
another, also follows certain and necessary laws; one being can only
communicate motion to another, by the affinity, by the resemblance, by
the conformity, by the analogy, or by the point of contact, which it has
with that other being. Fire can only propagate when it finds matter
analogous to itself: it extinguishes when it encounters bodies which it
cannot embrace; that is to say, that do not bear towards it a certain
degree of relation or affinity.

Every thing in the universe is in motion: the essence of matter is to
act: if we consider its parts, attentively, we shall discover there is
not a particle that enjoys absolute repose. Those which appear to us to
be without motion, are, in fact, only in relative or apparent rest; they
experience such an imperceptible motion, and expose it so little on
their surfaces, that we cannot perceive the changes they undergo. All
that appears to us to be at rest, does not, however, remain one instant
in the same state. All beings are continually breeding, increasing,
decreasing, or dispersing, with more or less dullness or rapidity. The
insect called EPHEMERON, is produced and perishes in the same day; of
consequence, it experiences the greatest changes of its being very
rapidly, in our eyes. Those combinations which form the most solid
bodies, which appear to enjoy the most perfect repose, are nevertheless
decomposed, and dissolved in the course of time. The hardest stones, by
degrees, give way to the contact of air. A mass of iron, which time, and
the action of the atmosphere, has gnawed into rust, must have been in
motion, from the moment of its formation, in the bowels of the earth,
until the instant we behold it in this state of dissolution.

Natural philosophers, for the most part, seem not to have sufficiently
reflected on what they call the _nisus_; that is to say, the incessant
efforts one body is making on another, but which, notwithstanding
appear, to our superficial observation, to enjoy the most perfect
repose. A stone of five hundred weight seems to rest quiet on the earth,
nevertheless, it never ceases for an instant, to press with force upon
the earth, which resists or repulses it in its turn. Will the assertion
be ventured, that the stone and earth do not act? Do they wish to be
undeceived? They have nothing to do but interpose their hand betwixt the
earth and the stone; it will then be discovered, that notwithstanding
its seeming repose, the stone has power adequate to bruise it; because
the hand has not energies sufficient, within itself, to resist
effectually both the stone and earth.--Action cannot exist in bodies
without re-action. A body that experiences an impulse, an attraction, or
a pressure of any kind, if it resists, clearly demonstrates by such
resistance that it re-acts; from whence it follows, there is a concealed
force, called by these philosophers _vis inertia_, that displays itself
against another force; and this clearly demonstrates, that this inert
force is capable of both acting and re-acting. In short, it will be
found, on close investigation, that those powers which are called
_dead_, and those which are termed _live_ or _moving_, are powers of the
same kind; which only display themselves after a different manner.
Permit us to go a greater distance yet. May we not say, that in those
bodies, or masses, of which their whole become evident from appearances
to us to be at rest, there is notwithstanding, a continual action, and
counter-action, constant efforts, uninterrupted or communicated force,
and continued opposition? In short, a _nisus_, by which the constituting
portions of these bodies press one upon another, mutually resisting each
other, acting and re-acting incessantly? that this reciprocity of
action, this simultaneous re-action, keeps them united, causes their
particles to form a mass, a body, and a combination, which, viewed in
its whole, has the appearance of complete rest, notwithstanding no one
of its particles really ceases to be in motion for a single instant?
These collective masses appear to be at rest, simply by the equality of
the motion--by the responsory impulse of the powers acting in them.

Thus it appears that bodies enjoying perfect repose, really receive,
whether upon their surface, or in their interior, a continual
communicated force, from those bodies by which they are either
surrounded or penetrated, dilated or contracted, rarified or condensed:
in fact, from those which compose them; whereby their particles are
incessantly acting and re-acting, or in continual motion, the effects of
which are displayed by extraordinary changes. Thus heat rarifies and
dilates metals, which is evidence deducible that a bar of iron, from the
change of the atmosphere alone, must be in continual motion; that there
is not a single particle in it that can be said to enjoy rest even for a
single moment. In those hard bodies, indeed, the particles of which are
in actual contact, and which are closely united, how is it possible to
conceive, that air, cold, or heat, can act upon one of these particles,
even exteriorly, without the motion being communicated to those which
are most intimate and minute in their union? Without motion, how should
we be able to comprehend the manner in which our sense of smelling is
affected, by emanations escaping from the most solid bodies, of which
all the particles appear to be at perfect rest? How could we, even by
the assistance of a telescope, see the most distant stars, if there was
not a progressive motion of light from these stars to the retina of our

Observation and reflection ought to convince us, that every thing in
Nature is in continual motion--that there is not a single part, however
small, that enjoys repose--that Nature acts in all--that she would cease
to be Nature if she did not act. Practical knowledge teaches us, that
without unceasing motion, nothing could be preserved--nothing could be
produced--nothing could act in this Nature. Thus the idea of Nature
necessarily includes that of motion. But it will be asked, and not a
little triumphantly, from whence did she derive her motion? Our reply
is, we know not, neither do they--that _we_ never shall, that _they_
never will. It is a secret hidden from us, concealed from them, by the
most impenetrable veil. We also reply, that it is fair to infer, unless
they can logically prove to the contrary, that it is in herself, since
she is the great whole, out of which nothing can exist. We say this
motion is a manner of existence, that flows, necessarily, out of the
nature of matter; that matter moves by its own peculiar energies; that
its motion is to be attributed to the force which is inherent in itself;
that the variety of motion, and the phenomena which result, proceed from
the diversity of the properties--of the qualities--of the combinations,
which are originally found in the primitive matter, of which Nature is
the assemblage.

Natural philosophers, for the most part, have regarded as inanimate, or
as deprived of the faculty of motion, those bodies which are only moved
by the intervention of some agent or exterior cause; they have
considered themselves justified in concluding, that the matter which
forms these bodies is perfectly inert in its nature. They have not
forsaken this error, although they must have observed, that whenever a
body is left to itself, or disengaged from those obstructions which
oppose themselves to its descent, it has a tendency to fall or to
approach the centre of the earth, by a motion uniformly accelerated;
they have rather chosen to suppose a visionary exterior cause, of which
they themselves had but an imperfect idea, than admit that these bodies
held their motion from their own peculiar nature.

These philosophers, also, notwithstanding they saw above them an
infinite number of globes that moved with great rapidity round a common
centre, still adhered to their favourite opinions; and never ceased to
suppose some whimsical causes for these movements, until the immortal
NEWTON clearly demonstrated that it was the effect of the gravitation of
these celestial bodies towards each other. Experimental philosophers,
however, and amongst them the great Newton himself, have held the cause
of gravitation as inexplicable. Notwithstanding the great weight of this
authority, it appears manifest that it may be deduced from the motion of
matter, by which bodies are diversely determined. Gravitation is nothing
more than a mode of moving--a tendency towards a centre: to speak
strictly, all motion is relative gravitation; since that which falls
relatively to us, rises, with relation to other bodies. From this it
follows, that every motion in our microcosm is the effect of
gravitation; seeing that there is not in the universe either top or
bottom, nor any absolute centre. It should appear, that the weight of
bodies depends on their configuration, as well external as internal,
which gives them that form of action which is called gravitation. Thus,
for instance, a piece of lead, spherically formed, falls quickly and
direct: reduce this ball into very thin plates, it will be sustained in
the air for a much longer time: apply to it the action of fire, this
lead will rise in the atmosphere: here, then, the same metal, variously
modified, has very different modes of action.

A very simple observation would have sufficed to make the philosophers,
antecedent to Newton, feel the inadequateness of the causes they
admitted to operate with such powerful effect. They had a sufficiency to
convince themselves, in the collision of two bodies, which they could
contemplate, and in the known laws of that motion, which these always
communicate by reason of their greater or less compactness; from whence
they ought to have inferred, that the density of _subtle_ or _ethereal_
matter, being considerably less than that of the planets, it could only
communicate to them a very feeble motion, quite insufficient to produce
that velocity of action, of which they could not possibly avoid being
the witnesses.

If Nature had been viewed uninfluenced by prejudice, they must have been
long since convinced that matter acts by its own peculiar activity; that
it needs no exterior communicative force to set it in motion. They might
have perceived that whenever mixed bodies were placed in a situation to
act on each other, motion was instantly excited; and that these mixtures
acted with a force capable of producing the most surprising results.

If particles of iron, sulphur, and water be mixed together, these bodies
thus capacitated to act on each other, are heated by degrees, and
ultimately produce a violent combustion. If flour be wetted with water,
and the mixture closed up, it will be found, after some lapse of time,
(by the aid of a microscope) to have produced organized beings that
enjoy life, of which the water and the flour were believed incapable: it
is thus that inanimate matter can pass into life, or animate matter,
which is in itself only an assemblage of motion.

Reasoning from analogy, which the philosophers of the present day do not
hold incompatible, the production of a man, independent of the ordinary
means, would not be more astonishing than that of an insect with flour
and water. Fermentation and putrid substances, evidently produce living
animals. We have here the principle; with proper materials, principles
can always be brought into action. That generation which is styled
_uncertain_ is only so for those who do not reflect, or who do not
permit themselves, attentively, to observe the operations of Nature.

The generative of motion, and its developement, as well as the energy of
matter, may be seen everywhere; more particularly in those unitions in
which fire, air, and water, find themselves combined. These elements, or
rather these mixed bodies, are the most volatile, the most fugitive of
beings; nevertheless in the hands of Nature, they are the essential
agents employed to produce the most striking phenomena. To these we must
ascribe the effects of thunder, the eruption of volcanoes, earthquakes,
&c. Science offers to our consideration an agent of astonishing force,
in gunpowder, the instant it comes in contact with fire. In short, the
most terrible effects result from the combination of matter, which is
generally believed to be dead and inert.

These facts prove, beyond a doubt, that motion is produced, is
augmented, is accelerated in matter, without the help of any exterior
agent: therefore it is reasonable to conclude that motion is the
necessary consequence of immutable laws, resulting from the essence,
from the properties existing in the different elements, and the various
combinations of these elements. Are we not justified, then, in
concluding, from these precedents, that there may be an infinity of
other combinations, with which we are unacquainted, competent to produce
a great variety of motion in matter, without being under the necessity
of having recourse, for the explanation, to agents who are more
difficult to comprehend than even the effects which are attributed to

Had man but paid proper attention to what passed under his review, he
would not have sought out of Nature, a power distinguished from herself,
to set her in action, and without which he believes she cannot move. If,
indeed, by Nature is meant a heap of dead matter, destitute of peculiar
qualities purely passive, we must unquestionably seek out of this Nature
the principle of her motion. But if by Nature be understood, what it
really is, a whole, of which the numerous parts are endowed with various
properties, which oblige them to act according to these properties;
which are in a perpetual ternateness of action and reaction; which
press, which gravitate towards a common center, whilst others depart
from and fly off towards the periphery, or circumference; which attract
and repel; which by continual approximation and constant collision,
produce and decompose all the bodies we behold; then, I say, there is no
necessity to have recourse to supernatural powers, to account for the
formation of things, and those extraordinary appearances which are the
result of motion.

Those who admit a cause exterior to matter, are obliged to believe that
this cause produced all the motion by which matter is agitated in giving
it existence. This belief rests on another, namely, that matter could
begin to exist; an hypothesis that, until this moment, has never been
satisfactorily demonstrated. To produce from nothing, or the CREATION,
is a term that cannot give us the least idea of the formation of the
universe; it presents no sense, upon which the mind can rely. In fact,
the human mind is not adequate to conceive a moment of non-existence, or
when all shall have passed away; even admitting this to be a truth, it
is no truth for us, because by the very nature of our organization, we
cannot admit positions as facts, of which no evidence can be adduced
that has relation to our senses; we may, indeed, consent to believe it,
because others say it; but will any rational being be satisfied with
such an admission? Can any moral good spring from such blind assurance?
Is it consistent with sound doctrine, with philosophy, or with reason?
Do we, in fact, pay any respect to the intellectual powers of another,
when we say to him, "I will believe this, because in all the attempts
you have ventured, for the purpose of proving what you say, you have
entirely failed; and have been at last obliged to acknowledge you know
nothing about the matter?" What moral reliance ought we to have on such
people? Hypothesis may succeed hypothesis; system may destroy system: a
new set of ideas may overturn the ideas of a former day. Other Gallileos
may be condemned to death--other Newtons may arise--we may reason--
argue--dispute--quarrel--punish and destroy: nay, we may even
exterminate those who differ from us in opinion; but when we have done
all this, we shall be obliged to fall back upon our original darkness--
to confess, that that which has no relation with our senses, that which
cannot manifest itself to us by some of the ordinary modes by which
other things are manifested, has no existence for us--is not
comprehensible by us--can never entirely remove our doubt--can never
seize on our stedfast belief; seeing it is that of which we cannot form
even a notion; in short, that it is that, which as long as we remain
what we are, must be hidden from us by a veil, which no power, no
faculty, no energy we possess, is able to remove. All who are not
enslaved by prejudice agree to the truth of the position, that _nothing
can be made of nothing_. Many theologians have acknowledged Nature to be
an active whole. Almost all the ancient philosophers were agreed to
regard the world as eternal. OCELLUS LUCANUS, speaking of the universe,
says, "_it has always been, and it always will be_." VATABLE and GROTIUS
assure us, that to render the Hebrew phrase in the first chapter of
GENESIS correctly, we must say, "_when God made heaven and earth, matter
was without form._" If this be true, and every Hebraist can judge for
himself, then the word which has been rendered _created_, means only to
fashion, form, arrange. We know that the Greek words _create_ and
_form_, have always indicated the same thing. According to ST. JEROME,
_creare_ has the same meaning as _condere_, to found, to build. The
Bible does not anywhere say in a clear manner, that the world was made
of nothing. TERTULLIAN and the father PETAU both admit, that "_this is a
truth established more by reason than by authority._" ST. JUSTIN seems
to have contemplated matter as eternal, since he commends PLATO for
having said, that "_God, in the creation of the world, only gave impulse
to matter, and fashioned it._" BURNET and PYTHAGORAS were entirely of
this opinion, and even our Church Service may be adduced in support; for
although it admits by implication a beginning, it expressly denies an
end: "_As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world
without end._" It is easy to perceive that that which cannot cease to
exist, must have always been.

Motion becomes still more obscure, when creation, or the formation of
matter, is attributed to a SPIRITUAL being; that is to say, to a being
which has no analogy, no point of contact, with it--to a being which has
neither extent or parts, and cannot, therefore, be susceptible of
motion, as we understand the term; this being only the change of one
body, relatively to another body, in which the body moved presents
successively different parts to different points of space. Moreover, as
all the world are nearly agreed that matter can never be totally
annihilated, or cease to exist; by what reasoning, I would ask, do they
comprehend--how understand--that that which cannot cease to be, could
ever have had a beginning?

If, therefore, it be asked, whence came matter? it is very reasonable to
say it has always existed. If it be inquired, whence proceeds the motion
that agitates matter? the same reasoning furnishes the answer; namely,
that as motion is coeval with matter, it must have existed from all
eternity, seeing that motion is the necessary consequence of its
existence--of its essence--of its primitive properties, such as its
extent, its gravity, its impenetrability, its figure, &c. By virtue of
these essential constituent properties, inherent in all matter, and
without which it is impossible to form an idea of it, the various matter
of which the universe is composed must from all eternity have pressed
against, each other--have gravitated towards a center--have clashed--
have come in contact--have been attracted--have been repelled--have been
combined--have been separated: in short, must have acted and moved
according to the essence and energy peculiar to each genus, and to each
of its combinations.

Existence supposes properties in the thing that exists: whenever it has
properties, its mode of action must necessarily flow from those
properties which constitute, its mode of being. Thus, when a body is
ponderous, it must fall; when it falls, it must come in collision with
the bodies it meets in its descent; when it is dense, when it is solid,
it must, by reason of this density, communicate motion to the bodies
with which it clashes; when it has analogy, when it has affinity with
these bodies, it must be attracted, must be united with them; when it
has no point of analogy with them, it must be repulsed.

From which it may be fairly inferred, that in supposing, as we are under
the necessity of doing, the existence of matter, we must suppose it to
have some kind of properties; from which its motion, or modes of action,
must necessarily flow. To form the universe, DESCARTES asked but matter
and motion: a diversity of matter sufficed for him; variety of motion
was the consequence of its existence, of its essence, of its properties:
its different modes of action would be the necessary consequence of its
different modes of being. Matter without properties would be a mere
nothing; therefore, as soon as matter exists, it must act; as soon as it
is various, it must act variously; if it cannot commence to exist, it
must have existed from all eternity; if it has always existed, it can
never cease to be: if it can never cease to be, it can never cease to
act by its own energy. Motion is a manner of being, which matter derives
from its peculiar existence.

The existence, then, of matter is a fact: the existence of motion is
another fact. Our visual organs point out to us matter with different
essences, forming a variety of combinations, endowed with various
properties that discriminate them. Indeed, it is a palpable error to
believe that matter is a homogeneous body, of which the parts differ
from each other only by their various modifications. Among the
individuals of the same species that come under our notice, no two
resemble exactly; and it is therefore evident that the difference of
situation alone will, necessarily, carry a diversity more or less
sensible, not only in the modifications, but also in the essence, in the
properties, in the entire system of beings. This truth was well
understood by the profound and subtle LEIBNITZ.

If this principle be properly digested, and experience seems always to
produce evidence of its truth, we must be convinced that the matter or
primitive elements which enter into the composition of bodies, are not
of the same nature, and consequently, can neither have the same
properties, nor the same modifications; and if so, they cannot have the
same mode of moving and acting. Their activity or motion, already
different, can be diversified to infinity, augmented or diminished,
accelerated or retarded, according to the combinations, the proportions,
the pressure, the density, the volume of the matter, that enters their
composition. The endless variety to be produced, will need no further
illustration than the commonest book of arithmetic furnishes us, where
it will be found, that to ring all the changes that can be produced on
twelve bells only, would occupy a space of more than ninety-one years.
The element of fire is visibly more active and more inconstant than that
of earth. This is more solid and ponderous than fire, air, or water.
According to the quantity of these elements, which enter the composition
of bodies, these must act diversely, and their motion must in some
measure partake the motion peculiar to each of their constituent parts.
Elementary fire appears to be in Nature the principle of activity; it
may be compared to a fruitful leaven, that puts the mass into
fermentation and gives it life. Earth appears to be the principle of
solidity in bodies, from its impenetrability, and by the firm coherence
of its parts. Water is a medium, to facilitate the combination of
bodies, into which it enters itself, as a constituent part. Air is a
fluid whose business it seems to be, to furnish the other elements with
the space requisite to expand, to exercise their motion, and which is,
moreover, found proper to combine with them. These elements, which our
senses never discover in a pure state--which are continually and
reciprocally set in motion by each other--which are always acting and
re-acting, combining and separating, attracting and repelling--are
sufficient to explain to us the formation of all the beings we behold.
Their motion is uninterruptedly and reciprocally produced from each
other; they are alternately causes and effects. Thus, they form a vast
circle of generation and destruction--of combination and decomposition,
which, it is quite reasonable to suppose, could never have had a
beginning, and which, consequently can never have an end. In short,
Nature is but an immense chain of causes and effects, which unceasingly
flow from each other. The motion of particular beings depends on the
general motion, which is itself maintained by individual motion. This is
strengthened or weakened, accelerated or retarded, simplified or
complicated, procreated or destroyed, by a variety of combinations and
circumstances, which every moment change the directions, the tendency,
the modes of existing, and of acting, of the different beings that
receive its impulse.

If it were true, as has been asserted by some philosophers, that every
thing has a tendency to form one unique or single mass, and in that
unique mass the instant should arrive when all was in _nisus_, all would
eternally remain in this state; to all eternity there would be no more
than one Being and one effort: this would be eternal and universal

If we desire to go beyond this, to find the principle of action in
matter, to trace the origin of things, it is for ever to fall back upon
difficulties; it is absolutely to abridge the evidence of our senses; by
which only we can understand, by which alone we can judge of the causes
acting upon them, or the impulse by which they are set in action.

Let us, therefore, content ourselves with saying WHAT is supported by
our experience, and by all the evidence we are capable of understanding;
against the truth of which not a shadow of proof, such as our reason can
admit, has ever been adduced--which has been maintained by philosophers
in every age--which theologians themselves have not denied, but which
many of them have upheld; namely, that _matter always existed; that it
moves by virtue of its essence; that all the phenomena of Nature is
ascribable to the diversified motion of the variety of matter she
contains; and which, like the phoenix, is continually regenerating out
of its own ashes._


_Of Matter.--Of its various Combinations.--Of its diversified Motion, or
of the Course of Nature._

We know nothing of the elements of bodies, but we know some of their
properties or qualities; and we distinguish their various matter by the
effect or change produced on our senses; that is to say, by the variety
of motion their presence excites in us. In consequence, we discover in
them, extent, mobility, divisibility, solidity, gravity, and inert
force. From these general and primitive properties flow a number of
others, such as density, figure, colour, ponderosity, &c. Thus,
relatively to us, matter is all that affects our senses in any manner
whatever; the various properties we attribute to matter, by which we
discriminate its diversity, are founded on the different impressions we
receive on the changes they produce in us.

A satisfactory definition of matter has not yet been given. Man,
deceived and led astray by his prejudices, formed but vague,
superficial, and imperfect notions concerning it. He looked upon it as
an unique being, gross and passive, incapable of either moving by
itself, of forming combinations, or of producing any thing by its own
energies. Instead of this unintelligible jargon, he ought to have
contemplated it as a _genus_ of beings, of which the individuals,
although they might possess some common properties, such as extent,
divisibility, figure, &c. should not, however, be all ranked in the same
class, nor comprised under the same general denomination.

An example will serve more fully to explain what we have asserted, throw
its correctness into light, and facilitate the application. The
properties common to all matter, are extent, divisibility,
impenetrability, figure, mobility, or the property of being moved in
mass. FIRE, beside these general properties, common to all matter,
enjoys also the peculiar property of being put into activity by a motion
that produces on our organs of feeling the sensation of heat; and by
another, that communicates to our visual organs the sensation of light.
Iron, in common with matter in general, has extent and figure; is
divisible, and moveable in mass: if fire be combined with it in a
certain proportion, the iron acquires two new properties; namely, those
of exciting in us similar sensations of heat and light, which were
excited by the element of fire, but which the iron had not, before its
combination with the igneous matter. These distinguishing properties are
inseparable from matter, and the phenomena that result, may, in the
strictest sense of the word, be said to result necessarily.

If we contemplate a little the paths of Nature--if, for a time, we trace
the beings in this Nature, under the different states through which, by
reason of their properties, they are compelled to pass; we shall
discover, that it is to motion, and motion only, that is to be ascribed
all the changes, all the combinations, all the forms, in short, all the
various modifications of matter. That it is by motion every thing that
exists is produced, experiences change, expands, and is destroyed. It is
motion that alters the aspect of beings; that adds to, or takes away
from their properties; which obliges each of them, by a consequence of
its nature, after having occupied a certain rank or order, to quit it,
to occupy another, and to contribute to the generation, maintenance, and
decomposition of other beings, totally different in their bulk, rank,
and essence.

In what experimental philosophers have styled the THREE ORDERS OF
NATURE, that is to say, the _mineral_, the _vegetable_, and _animal_
worlds, they have established, by the aid of motion, a transmigration,
an exchange, a continual circulation in the particles of matter. Nature
has occasion in one place, for those particles which, for a time, she
has placed in another. These particles, after having, by particular
combinations, constituted beings endued with peculiar essences, with
specific properties, with determinate modes of action, dissolve and
separate with more or less facility; and combining in a new manner, they
form new beings. The attentive observer sees this law execute itself, in
a manner more or less prominent, through all the beings by which he is
surrounded. He sees nature full of _erratic germe_, some of which expand
themselves, whilst others wait until motion has placed them in their
proper situation, in suitable wombs or matrices, in the necessary
circumstances, to unfold, to increase, to render them more perceptible
by the addition of other substances of matter analogous to their
primitive being. In all this we see nothing but the effect of motion,
necessarily guided, modified, accelerated or slackened, strengthened or
weakened, by reason of the various properties that beings successively
acquire and lose; which, every moment, infallibly produces alterations
in bodies more or less marked. Indeed, these bodies cannot be, strictly
speaking, the same in any two successive moments of their existence;
they must, every instant, either acquire or lose: in short, they are
obliged to undergo continual variations in their essences, in their
properties, in their energies, in their masses, in their qualities, in
their mode of existence.

Animals, after they have been expanded in, and brought out of, the wombs
that are suitable to the elements of their machine, enlarge, strengthen,
acquire new properties, new energies, new faculties; either by deriving
nourishment from plants analogous to their being, or by devouring other
animals whose substance is suitable to their preservation; that is to
say, to repair the continual deperdition or loss of some portion of
their own substance, that is disengaging itself every instant. These
same animals are nourished, preserved, strengthened, and enlarged, by
the aid of air, water, earth, and fire. Deprived of air, or of the fluid
that surrounds them, that presses on them, that penetrates them, that
gives them their elasticity, they presently cease to live. Water,
combined with this air, enters into their whole mechanism of which it
facilitates the motion. Earth serves them for a basis, by giving
solidity to their texture: it is conveyed by air and water, which carry
it to those parts of the body with which it can combine. Fire itself,
disguised and enveloped under an infinity of forms, continually received
into the animal, procures him heat, continues him in life, renders him
capable of exercising his functions. The aliments, charged with these
various principles, entering into the stomach, re-establish the nervous
system, and restore, by their activity, and the elements which compose
them, the machine which begins to languish, to be depressed, by the loss
it has sustained. Forthwith the animal experiences a change in his whole
system; he has more energy, more activity; he feels more courage;
displays more gaiety; he acts, he moves, he thinks, after a different
manner; all his faculties are exercised with more ease. This igneous
matter, so congenial to generation--so restorative in its effect--so
necessary to life, was the JUPITER of the ancients: from all that has
preceded, it is clear, that what are called the elements, or primitive
parts of matter, variously combined, are, by the agency of motion,
continually united to, and assimilated with, the substance of animals--
that they visibly modify their being--have an evident influence over
their actions, that is to say, upon the motion they undergo, whether
visible or concealed.

The same elements, which under certain circumstances serve to nourish,
to strengthen, to maintain the animal, become, under others, the
principles of his weakness, the instruments of his dissolution--of his
death: they work his destruction, whenever they are not in that just
proportion which renders them proper to maintain his existence: thus,
when water becomes too abundant in the body of the animal, it enervates
him, it relaxes the fibres, and impedes the necessary action of the
other elements: thus, fire admitted in excess, excites in him disorderly
motion destructive of his machine: thus, air, charged with principles
not analogous to his mechanism, brings upon him dangerous diseases and
contagion. In fine, the aliments modified after certain modes, in the
room of nourishing, destroy the animal, and conduce to his ruin: the
animal is preserved no longer than these substances are analogous to his
system. They ruin him when they want that just equilibrium that renders
them suitable to maintain his existence.

Plants that serve to nourish and restore animals are themselves
nourished by earth; they expand on its bosom, enlarge and strengthen at
its expense, continually receiving into their texture, by their roots
and their pores, water, air, and igneous matter: water visibly
reanimates them whenever their vegetation or genus of life languishes;
it conveys to them those analogous principles by which they are enabled
to reach perfection: air is requisite to their expansion, and furnishes
them with water, earth, and the igneous matter with which it is charged.
By these means they receive more or less of the inflammable matter; the
different proportions of these principles, their numerous combinations,
from whence result an infinity of properties, a variety of forms,
constitute the various families and classes into which botanists have
distributed plants: it is thus we see the cedar and the hyssop develop
their growth; the one rises to the clouds, the other creep humbly on the
earth. Thus, by degrees, from an acorn springs the majestic oak,
accumulating, with time, its numerous branches, and overshadowing us
with its foliage. Thus, a grain of corn, after having drawn its own
nourishment from the juices of the earth, serves, in its turn, for the
nourishment of man, into whose system it conveys the elements or
principles by which it has been itself expanded, combined, and modified
in such a manner, as to render this vegetable proper to assimilate and
unite with the human frame; that is to say, with the fluids and solids
of which it is composed.

The same elements, the same principles, are found in the formation of
minerals, as well as in their decomposition, whether natural or
artificial. We find that earth, diversely modified, wrought, and
combined, serves to increase their bulk, and give them more or less
density and gravity. Air and water contribute to make their particles
cohere; the igneous matter, or inflammable principle, tinges them with
colour, and sometimes plainly indicates its presence, by the brilliant
scintillation which motion elicits from them. These stones and metals,
these bodies, so compact and solid, are disunited, are destroyed, by the
agency of air, water, and fire; which the most ordinary analysis is
sufficient to prove, as well as a multitude of experience, to which our
eyes are the daily evidence.

Animals, plants, and minerals, after a lapse of time, give back to
Nature; that is to say, to the general mass of things, to the universal
magazine, the elements, or principles, which they have borrowed: The
earth retakes that portion of the body of which it formed the basis and
the solidity; the air charges itself with these parts, that are,
analogous to it, and with those particles which are light and subtle;
water carries off that which is suitable to liquescency; fire, bursting
its chains, disengages itself, and rushes into new combinations with
other bodies.

The elementary particles of the animal, being thus dissolved, disunited,
and dispersed; assume new activity, and form new combinations: thus,
they serve to nourish, to preserve, or destroy new beings; among others,
plants, which arrived at their maturity, nourish and preserve new
animals; these in their turn yielding to the same fate as the first.

Such is the constant, the invariable course, of Nature; such is the
eternal circle of mutation, which all that exists is obliged to
describe. It is thus motion generates, preserves for a time, and
successively, destroys, one part of the universe by the other; whilst
the sum of existence remains eternally the same. Nature, by its
combinations, produces suns, which place themselves in the centre of so
many systems: she forms planets, which, by their peculiar essence,
gravitate and describe their revolutions round these suns: by degrees
the motion is changed altogether, and becomes eccentric: perhaps the day
may arrive when these wondrous masses will disperse, of which man, in
the short space of his existence, can only have a faint and transient

It is clear, then, that the continual motion inherent in matter, changes
and destroys all beings; every instant depriving them of some of their
properties, to substitute others: it is motion, which, in thus changing
their actual essence, changes also their order, their direction, their
tendency, and the laws which regulate their mode of acting and being:
from the stone formed in the bowels of the earth, by the intimate
combination and close coherence of similar and analogous particles, to
the sun, that vast reservoir of igneous particles, which sheds torrents
of light over the firmament; from the benumbed oyster, to the thoughtful
and active man; we see an uninterrupted progression, a perpetual chain
of motion and combination; from which is produced, beings that only
differ from each other by the variety of their elementary matter--by the
numerous combinations of these elements, from whence springs modes of
action and existence, diversified to infinity. In generation, in
nutrition, in preservation, we see nothing more than matter, variously
combined, of which each has its peculiar motion, regulated by fixed and
determinate laws, which oblige them to submit to necessary changes. We
shall find, in the formation, in the growth, in the instantaneous life,
of animals, vegetables, and minerals, nothing but matter; which
combining, accumulating, aggregating, and expanding by degrees, forms
beings, who are either feeling, living, vegetating, or else destitute of
these faculties; which, having existed some time under one particular
form, are obliged to contribute by their ruin to the production of other

Thus, to speak strictly, nothing in Nature is either born, or dies,
according to the common acceptation of those terms. This truth was felt
by many of the ancient philosophers. PLATO says, that according to
tradition, "the living were born of the dead, the same as the dead did
come of the living; and that this is the constant routine of Nature." He
adds from himself, "who knows, if to live, be not to die; and if to die,
be not to live?" This was the doctrine of PYTHAGORAS, a man of great
talent and no less note. EMPEDOCLES asserts, "there is neither birth nor
death, for any mortal; but only a combination, and a separation of that
which was combined, and that this is what amongst men they call birth,
and death." Again he remarks, "those are infants, or short-sighted
persons, with very contracted understandings, who imagine any thing is
born, which did not exist before, or that any thing can die or perish


_Laws of Motion, common to every Being of Nature.--Attraction and
Repulsion.--Inert Force.--Necessity._

Man is never surprised at those effects, of which he thinks he knows the
cause; he believes he does know the cause, as soon as he sees them act
in an uniform and determinate manner, or when the motion excited is
simple: the descent of a stone, that falls by its own peculiar weight,
is an object of contemplation to the philosopher only; to whom the mode
by which the most immediate causes act, and the most simple motion, are
no less impenetrable mysteries than the most complex motion, and the
manner by which the most complicated causes give impulse. The uninformed
are seldom tempted either to examine the effects which are familiar to
them, or to recur to first principles. They think they see nothing in
the descent of a stone, which ought to elicit their surprise, or become
the object of their research: it requires a NEWTON to feel that the
descent of heavy bodies is a phenomenon, worthy his whole, his most
serious attention; it requires the sagacity of a profound experimental
philosopher, to discover the laws by which heavy bodies fall, by which
they communicate to others their peculiar motion. In short, the mind
that is most practised in philosophical observation, has frequently the
chagrin to find, that the most simple and most common effects escape all
his researches, and remain inexplicable to him.

When any extraordinary, any unusual, effect is produced, to which our
eyes have not been accustomed; or when we are ignorant of the energies
of the cause, the action of which so forcibly strikes our senses, we are
tempted to meditate upon it, and take it into our consideration. The
European, accustomed to the use of GUNPOWDER, passes it by, without
thinking much of its extraordinary energies; the workman, who labours to
manufacture it, finds nothing marvellous in its properties, because he
daily handles the matter that forms its composition. The American, to
whom this powder was a stranger, who had never beheld its operation,
looked upon it as a divine power, and its energies as supernatural. The
uninformed, who are ignorant of the true cause of THUNDER, contemplate
it as the instrument of divine vengeance. The experimental philosopher
considers it as the effect of the electric matter, which, nevertheless,
is itself a cause which he is very far from perfectly understanding.--It
required the keen, the penetrating mind of a FRANKLIN, to throw light on
the nature of this subtle fluid--to develop the means by which its
effects might be rendered harmless--to turn to useful purposes, a
phenomenon that made the ignorant tremble--that filled their minds with
terror, their hearts with dismay, as indicating the anger of the gods:
impressed with this idea, they prostrated themselves, they sacrificed to
JUPITER, to deprecate his wrath.

Be this as it may, whenever we see a cause act, we look upon its effect
as natural: when this cause becomes familiar to the sight, when we are
accustomed to it, we think we understand it, and its effects surprise us
no longer. Whenever any unusual effect is perceived, without our
discovering the cause, the mind sets to work, becomes uneasy; this
uneasiness increases in proportion to its extent: as soon as it is
believed to threaten our preservation, we become completely agitated; we
seek after the cause with an earnestness proportioned to our alarm; our
perplexity augments in a ratio equivalent to the persuasion we are
under: how essentially requisite it is, we should become acquainted with
the cause that has affected us in so lively a manner. As it frequently
happens that our senses can teach us nothing respecting this cause which
so deeply interests us--which we seek with so much ardour, we have
recourse to our imagination; this, disturbed with alarm, enervated by
fear, becomes a suspicious, a fallacious guide: we create chimeras,
fictitious causes, to whom we give the credit, to whom we ascribe the
honour of those phenomena by which we have been so much alarmed. It is
to this disposition of the human mind that must be attributed, as will
be seen in the sequel, the religious errors of man, who, despairing of
the capacity to trace the natural causes of those perplexing phenomena
to which he was the witness, and sometimes the victim, created in his
brain (heated with terror) imaginary causes, which have become to him a
source of the most extravagant folly.

In Nature, however, there can be only natural causes and effects; all
motion excited in this Nature, follows constant and necessary laws: the
natural operations, to the knowledge of which we are competent, of which
we are in a capacity to judge, are of themselves sufficient to enable us
to discover those which elude our sight; we can at least judge of them
by analogy. If we study Nature with attention, the modes of action which
she displays to our senses will teach us not to be disconcerted by those
which she refuses to discover. Those causes which are the most remote
from their effects, unquestionably act by intermediate causes; by the
aid of these, we can frequently trace out the first. If in the chain of
these causes we sometimes meet with obstacles that oppose themselves to
our research, we ought to endeavour by patience and diligence to
overcome them; when it so happens we cannot surmount the difficulties
that occur, we still are never justified in concluding the chain to be
broken, or that the cause which acts is SUPER-NATURAL. Let us, then, be
content with an honest avowal, that Nature contains resources of which
we are ignorant; but never let us substitute phantoms, fictions, or
imaginary causes, senseless terms, for those causes which escape our
research; because, by such means we only confirm ourselves in ignorance,
impede our enquiries, and obstinately remain in error.

In spite of our ignorance with respect to the meanderings of Nature,
(for of the essence of being, of their properties, their elements, their
combinations, their proportions, we yet know the simple and general
laws, according to which bodies move;) we see clearly, that some of
these laws, common to all beings, never contradict themselves; although,
on some occasions, they appear to vary, we are frequently competent to
discover that the cause becoming complex, from combination with other
causes, either impedes or prevents its mode of action being such as in
its primitive state we had a right to expect. We know that active,
igneous matter, applied to gunpowder, must necessarily cause it to
explode: whenever this effect does not follow the combination of the
igneous matter with the gunpowder--whenever our senses do not give us
evidence of the fact, we are justified in concluding, either that the
powder is damp, or that it is united with some other substance that
counteracts its explosion. We know that all the actions of man have a
tendency to render him happy: whenever, therefore, we see him labouring
to injure or destroy himself, it is just to infer that he is moved by
some cause opposed to his natural tendency; that he is deceived by some
prejudice; that, for want of experience, he is blind to consequences:
that he does not see whither his actions will lead him.

If the motion excited in beings was always simple; if their actions did
not blend and combine with each other, it would be easy to know, and we
should be assured, in the first instance, of the effect a cause would
produce. I know that a stone, when descending, ought to describe a
perpendicular: I also know, that if it encounters any other body which
changes its course, it is obliged to take an oblique direction, but if
its fall be interrupted by several contrary powers, which act upon it
alternately, I am no longer competent to determine what line it will
describe. It may be a parabola, an ellipsis, spiral, circular, &c. this
will depend on the impulse, it receives, and the powers by which it is

The most complex motion, however, is never more than the result of
simple motion combined: therefore as soon as we know the general laws of
beings and their action, we have only to decompose, to analyse them, in
order to discover those of which they are combined; experience teaches
us the effects we are to expect. Thus it is clear, the simplest motion
causes that necessary junction of different matter, of which all bodies
are composed: that matter, varied in its essence, in its properties, in
its combinations, has each its several modes of action or motion,
peculiar to itself; the whole motion of a body is consequently the sum
total of each particular motion that is combined.

Amongst the matter we behold, some is constantly disposed to unite,
whilst other is incapable of union; that which is suitable to unite,
forms combinations, more or less intimate, possessing more or less
durability: that is to say, with more or less capacity to preserve their
union, to resist dissolution. Those bodies which are called SOLIDS,
receive into their composition a great number of homogeneous, similar,
and analogous particles, disposed to unite themselves with energies
conspiring or tending to the same point. The primitive beings, or
elements of bodies, have need of supports, of props; that is to say, of
the presence of each other, for the purpose of preserving themselves; of
acquiring consistence or solidity: a truth, which applies with equal
uniformity to what is called _physical_, as to what is termed _moral_.

It is upon this disposition in matter and bodies, with relation to each
other, that is founded those modes of action which natural philosophers
designate by the terms _attraction, repulsion, sympathy, antipathy,
affinities, relations_; that moralists describe under the names of
_love, hatred, friendship, aversion_. Man, like all the beings in
nature, experiences the impulse of attraction and repulsion; the motion
excited in him differing from that of other beings, only, because it is
more concealed, and frequently so hidden, that neither the causes which
excite it, nor their mode of action are known. This system of attraction
and repulsion is very ancient, although it required a NEWTON to develop
it. That love, to which the ancients attributed the unfolding, or
disentanglement of chaos, appears to have been nothing more than a
personification of the principle of attraction. All their allegories and
fables upon chaos, evidently indicate nothing more than the accord or
union that exists between analogous and homogeneous substances; from
whence resulted the existence of the universe: whilst discord or
repulsion, which they called SOIS, was the cause of dissolution,
confusion, and disorder; there can scarcely remain a doubt, but this was
the origin of the doctrines of the TWO PRINCIPLES. According to DIOGENES
LAERTIUS, the philosopher, EMPEDOCLES, asserted, that "_there is a kind
of affection by which the elements unite themselves; and a sort of
discord, by which they separate or remove themselves._"

However it may be, it is sufficient for us to know that by an invariable
law, certain bodies are disposed to unite with more or less facility;
whilst others cannot combine or unite themselves: water combines itself
readily with salt, but will not blend with oil. Some combinations are
very strong, cohering with great force, as metals; others are extremely
feeble, their cohesion slight and easily decomposed, as in fugitive
colours. Some bodies, incapable of uniting by themselves, become
susceptible of union by the agency of other bodies, which serve for
common bonds or MEDIUMS. Thus, oil and water, naturally heterogeneous,
combine and make soap, by the intervention of alkaline salt. From matter
diversely combined, in proportions varied almost to infinity, result all
physical and moral bodies; the properties and qualities of which are
essentially different, with modes of action more or less complex: which
are either understood with facility, or difficult of comprehension,
according to the elements or matter that has entered into their
composition, and the various modifications this matter has undergone.

It is thus, from the reciprocity of their attraction, the primitive
imperceptible particles of matter, which constitute bodies, become
perceptible, form compound substances, aggregate masses; by the union of
similar and analogous matter, whose essences fit them to cohere. The
same bodies are dissolved, their union broken, whenever they undergo the
action of matter inimical to their junction. Thus by degrees are formed,
plants, metals, animals, men; each grows, expands, and increases in its
own system or order; sustaining itself in its respective existence, by
the continual attraction of analogous matter; to which it becomes
united, and by which it is preserved and strengthened. Thus, certain
aliments become fit for the sustenance of man, whilst others destroy his
existence: some are pleasant to him, strengthen his habit; others are
repugnant to him, weaken his system: in short, never to separate
physical from moral laws, it is thus that men, mutually attracted to
each other by their reciprocal wants, form those unions which we
CONNEXIONS: it is thus that virtue strengthens and consolidates them;
that vice relaxes or totally dissolves them.

Of whatever nature may be the combination of beings, their motion has
always one direction or tendency: without direction we could not have
any idea of motion: this direction is regulated by the properties of
each being; as soon as they have any given properties, they necessarily
act in obedience to them: that is to say, they follow the law invariably
determined by these same properties; which, of themselves, constitute
the being such as he is found, and settle his mode of action, which is
always the consequence of his manner of existence. But what is the
general direction, or common tendency, we see in all beings? What is the
visible and known end of all their motion? It is to conserve their
actual existence--to preserve themselves--to strengthen their several
bodies--to attract that which is favorable to them--to repel that which
is injurious them--to avoid that which can harm them--to resist
impulsions contrary to their manner of existence, and to their natural

To exist, is to experience the motion peculiar to a determinate essence:
to conserve this existence, is to give and receive that motion from
which results its maintenance:--it is to attract matter suitable to
corroborate its being--to avoid that by which it may be either
endangered or enfeebled. Thus, all beings of which we have any
knowledge, have a tendency to conserve themselves, each after its
peculiar manner: the stone, by the firm adhesion of its particles,
opposes resistance to its destruction. Organized beings conserve
themselves by more complicated means, but which are, nevertheless,
calculated to maintain their existence against that by which it may be
injured. Man, both in his physical and in his moral capacity, is a
living, feeling, thinking, active being; who, every instant of his
duration, strives equally to avoid that which may be injurious, and to
procure that which is pleasing to him, or that which is suitable to his
mode of existence; all his actions tending solely to conserve himself.
ST. AUGUSTINE admits this tendency in all whether organized or not.

Conservation, then, is the common point to which all the energies, all
the powers, all the faculties of beings, seem continually directed.
Natural philosophers call this direction or tendency, SELF-GRAVITATION:
NEWTON calls it INERT FORCE: moralists denominate it in man, SELF-LOVE
which is nothing more than the tendency he has to preserve himself--a
desire of happiness--a love of his own welfare--a wish for pleasure--a
promptitude in seizing on every thing that appears favourable to his
conservation--a marked aversion to all that either disturbs his
happiness, or menaces his existence--primitive sentiments, that are
common to all beings of the human species; which all their faculties are
continually striving to satisfy; which all their passions, their wills,
their actions, have eternally for their object and their end. This self-
gravitation, then, is clearly a necessary disposition in man, and in all
other beings; which, by a variety means, contribute to the preservation
of the existence they have received, as long as nothing deranges the
order of their machine, or its primitive tendency.

Cause always produces effect; there can be no effect without cause.
Impulse is always followed by some motion, more or less sensible; by
some change, more or less remarkable in the body which receives it. But
motion, and its various modes of displaying itself, is, as has been
already shewn, determined by the nature, the essence, the properties,
the combinations of the beings acting. It must, then, be concluded that
motion, or the modes by which beings act, arises from some cause; that
as this cause is not able to move or act, but in conformity with the
manner of its being or its essential properties, it must equally be
concluded, that all the phenomena we perceive are necessary; that every
being in Nature, under the circumstances in which it is placed, and with
the given properties it possesses, cannot act otherwise than it does.

Necessity is the constant and infallible relation of causes with their
effects. Fire consumes, of necessity, combustible matter plated within
its circuit of action: man, by fatality, desires either that which
really is, or appears to be serviceable to his welfare. Nature, in all
the extraordinary appearances she exhibits, necessarily acts after her
own peculiar essence: all the beings she contains, necessarily act each
after its own a individual nature: it is by motion that the whole has
relation with its parts; and these parts with the whole: it is thus that
in the general system every thing is connected: it is itself but an
immense chain of causes and effects, which flow without ceasing, one
from the other. If we reflect, we shall be obliged to acknowledge that
every thing we see is necessary; that it cannot be otherwise than it is;
that all the beings we behold, as well as those which escape our sight,
act by invariable laws. According to these laws, heavy bodies fall--
light bodies ascend--analogous substances attract each other--beings
tend to preserve themselves--man cherishes himself; loves that which he
thinks advantageous--detests that which he has an idea may prove
unfavourable to him.--In fine, we are obliged to admit, there can be no
perfectly independent energy--no separated cause--no detached action, in
a nature where all the beings are in a reciprocity of action--who,
without interruption, mutually impel and resist each other--who is
herself nothing more than an eternal circle of motion, given and
received according to necessary laws; which under the same given
incidents, invariably produce the same effect.

Two examples will serve to throw the principle here laid down, into
light--one shall be taken from physics, the other from morals.

In a whirlwind of dust, raised by elemental force, confused as it
appears to our eyes, in the most frightful tempest excited by contrary
winds, when the waves roll high as mountains, there is not a single
particle of dust, or drop of water, that has been placed by CHANCE, that
has not a cause for occupying the place where it is found; that does
not, in the most rigorous sense of the word, act after the manner in
which it ought to act; that is, according to its own peculiar essence,
and that of the beings from whom it receives this communicated force. A
geometrician exactly knew the different energies acting in each case,
with the properties of the particles moved, could demonstrate that after
the causes given, each particle acted precisely as it ought to act, and
that it could not have acted otherwise than it did.

In those terrible convulsions that sometimes agitate political
societies, shake their foundations, and frequently produce the overthrow
of an empire; there is not a single action, a single word, a single
thought, a single will, a single passion in the agents, whether they act
as destroyers, or as victims, that is not the necessary result of the
causes operating; that does not act, as, of necessity, it must act, from
the peculiar essence of the beings who give the impulse, and that of the
agents who receive it, according to the situation these agents fill in
the moral whirlwind. This could be evidently proved by an understanding
capacitated to rate all the action and re-action, of the minds and
bodies of those who contributed to the revolution.

In fact, if all be connected in Nature, if all motion be produced, the
one from the other, notwithstanding their secret communications
frequently elude our sight; we ought to feel convinced of this truth,
that there is no cause, however minute, however remote, that does not
sometimes produce the greatest and most immediate effects on man. It
may, perhaps, be in the parched plains of Lybia, that are amassed the
first elements of a storm or tempest, which, borne by the winds,
approach our climate, render our atmosphere dense, and thus operating on
the temperament, may influence the passions of a man, whose
circumstances shall have capacitated him to influence many others, who
shall decide after his will the fate of many nations.

Man, in fact, finds himself in Nature, and makes a part of it: he acts
according to laws, which are appropriate to him; he receives in a manner
more or less distinct, the action and impulse of the beings who surround
him; who themselves act after laws that are peculiar to their essence.
Thus he is variously modified; but his actions are always the result of
his own energy, and that of the beings who act upon him, and by whom he
is modified. This is what gives such variety to his determinations--what
generally produces such contradiction in his thoughts, his opinions, his
will, his actions; in short, in that motion, whether concealed or
visible, by which he is agitated. We shall have occasion, in the sequel,
to place this truth, at present so much contested, in a clearer light:
it will be sufficient for our purpose at present to prove, generally,
that every thing in Nature is necessary--that nothing to be found in it
can act otherwise than it does.

Motion, alternately communicated and received, establishes the
connection or relation between the different orders of beings: when they
are in the sphere of reciprocal action, attraction approximates them;
repulsion dissolves and separates them; the one strengthens and
preserves them; the other enfeebles and destroys them. Once combined,
they have a tendency to conserve themselves in that mode of existence,
by virtue of their _inert force_; in this they cannot succeed, because
they are exposed to the continual influence of all other beings, who
perpetually and successively act upon them; their change of form, their
dissolution, is requisite to the preservation of Nature herself: this is
the sole end we are able to assign her--to which we see her tend without
intermission--which she follows without interruption, by the destruction
and reproduction of all subordinate beings, who are obliged to submit to
her laws--to concur, by their mode of action, to the maintenance of her
active existence, so essentially requisite to the GREAT WHOLE.

It is thus each being is an individual, who, in the great family,
performs his necessary portion of the general labour--who executes the
unavoidable task assigned to him. All bodies act according to laws,
inherent in their peculiar essence, without the capability to swerve,
even for a single instant, from those according to which Nature herself
acts. This is the central power, to which all other powers, essences,
and energies, are submitted: she regulates the motions of beings, by the
necessity of her own peculiar essence: she makes them concur by various
modes to the general plan: this appears to be nothing more than the
life, action, and maintenance of the whole, by the continual change of
its parts. This object she obtains, in removing them, one by the other;
by that which establishes, and by that which destroys, the relation
subsisting between them; by that which gives them, and that which
deprives them of, their forms, combinations, proportions, and qualities,
according to which they act for a time, after a given mode; these are
afterwards taken from them, to make them act after a different manner.
It is thus that Nature makes them expand and change, grow and decline,
augment and diminish, approximate and remove, forms and destroys them,
according as she finds it requisite to maintain the whole; towards the
conservation which this Nature is herself essentially necessitated to
have a tendency.

This irresistible power, this universal necessity, this general energy,
then, is only a consequence of the nature of things; by virtue of which
every thing acts, without intermission, after constant and immutable
laws: these laws not varying more for the whole than for the beings of
which it is composed. Nature is an active living whole, to which all its
parts necessarily concur; of which, without their own knowledge, they
maintain the activity, the life, and the existence. Nature acts and
exists necessarily: all that she contains, necessarily conspires to
perpetuate her active existence. This is the decided opinion of PLATO,
when he says, "_matter and necessity are the same thing; this necessity
is the mother of the world._" In point of fact, we cannot go beyond this
enquired how, or for why, matter exists? We answer, we know not: but
reasoning by analogy, of what we do not know by that which we do, we
should be of opinion it exists necessarily, or because it contains
within itself a sufficient reason for its existence. In supposing it to
be created or produced by a being distinguished from it, or less known
than itself, (which it may be, for any thing we know to the contrary,)
we must still admit, that this being is necessary, and includes a
sufficient reason for his own existence. We have not then removed any of
the difficulty, we have not thrown a clearer light upon the subject, we
have not advanced a single step; we have simply laid aside a being, of
which we know some few of the properties, but of which we are still
extremely ignorant, to have recourse to a power, of which it is utterly
impossible we can, as long as we are men, form any distinct idea; of
which, notwithstanding it may be a truth, we cannot, by any means we
possess, demonstrate the existence. As, therefore, these must be at best
but speculative points of belief, which each individual, by reason of
its obscurity, may contemplate with different optics, under various
aspects, they surely ought to be left free for each to judge after his
own fashion: the Hindoo can have no just cause of enmity against the
Christian for his faith: this has no moral right to question the
Mussulman upon his; the numerous sects of each of the various
persuasions spread over the face of the earth, ought to make it a creed
to look with an eye of complacency on the deviation of the others; and
rest upon that great moral axiom, which is strictly conformable to
Nature, which contains the whole of man's happiness--"_Do not unto
another, that which do you not wish another should do unto you_;" for it
is evident, according to their own doctrines, out of all the variety of
systems, one only can be right.

We shall see in the sequel, how much man's imagination labours to form
an idea, of the energies of that Nature he has personified, and
distinguished from herself: in short, we shall examine some of the
ridiculous and pernicious inventions, which, for want of understanding
Nature, have been imagined to impede her course, to suspend her eternal
laws, to place obstacles to the necessity of things.


_Order and Confusion.--Intelligence.--Chance._

The observation of the necessary, regular, and periodical motion in the
universe, generated in the mind of man the idea of ORDER; this term, in
its original signification, represents nothing more than a mode of
considering, a facility of perceiving, together and separately, the
different relations of a whole; in which is discovered, by its manner of
existing and acting, a certain affinity or conformity with his own. Man,
in extending this idea to the universe, carried with him those methods
of considering things which are peculiar to himself: he has consequently

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