Blaise Pascal.

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greatness as a proof of it, and others have inferred his greatness with
all the more force, because they have inferred it from his very
wretchedness. All that the one party has been able to say in proof of
his greatness has only served as an argument of his wretchedness to the
others, because the greater our fall, the more wretched we are, and
_vice versa._ The one party is brought back to the other in an endless
circle, it being certain that in proportion as men possess light they
discover both the greatness and the wretchedness of man. In a word, man
knows that he is wretched. He is therefore wretched, because he is so;
but he is really great because he knows it.


This twofold nature of man is so evident that some have thought that we
had two souls. A single subject seemed to them incapable of such sudden
variations from unmeasured presumption to a dreadful dejection of


It is dangerous to make man see too clearly his equality with the brutes
without showing him his greatness. It is also dangerous to make him see
his greatness too clearly, apart from his vileness. It is still more
dangerous to leave him in ignorance of both. But it is very advantageous
to show him both. Man must not think that he is on a level either with
the brutes or with the angels, nor must he be ignorant of both sides of
his nature; but he must know both.


I will not allow man to depend upon himself, or upon another, to the end
that being without a resting-place and without repose ...


If he exalt himself, I humble him; if he humble himself, I exalt him;
and I always contradict him, till he understands that he is an
incomprehensible monster.


I blame equally those who choose to praise man, those who choose to
blame him, and those who choose to amuse themselves; and I can only
approve of those who seek with lamentation.


It is good to be tired and wearied by the vain search after the true
good, that we may stretch out our arms to the Redeemer.


_Contraries. After having shown the vileness and the greatness of
man._ - Let man now know his value. Let him love himself, for there is in
him a nature capable of good; but let him not for this reason love the
vileness which is in him. Let him despise himself, for this capacity is
barren; but let him not therefore despise this natural capacity. Let him
hate himself, let him love himself; he has within him the capacity of
knowing the truth and of being happy, but he possesses no truth, either
constant or satisfactory.

I would then lead man to the desire of finding truth; to be free from
passions, and ready to follow it where he may find it, knowing how much
his knowledge is obscured by the passions. I would indeed that he should
hate in himself the lust which determined his will by itself, so that it
may not blind him in making his choice, and may not hinder him when he
has chosen.


All these contradictions, which seem most to keep me from the knowledge
of religion, have led me most quickly to the true one.




_Second part. - That man without faith cannot know the true good, nor

All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different
means they employ, they all tend to this end.[159] The cause of some
going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both,
attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but
to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of
those who hang themselves.

And yet after such a great number of years, no one without faith has
reached the point to which all continually look. All complain, princes
and subjects, noblemen and commoners, old and young, strong and weak,
learned and ignorant, healthy and sick, of all countries, all times, all
ages, and all conditions.

A trial so long, so continuous, and so uniform, should certainly
convince us of our inability to reach the good by our own efforts. But
example teaches us little. No resemblance is ever so perfect that there
is not some slight difference; and hence we expect that our hope will
not be deceived on this occasion as before. And thus, while the present
never satisfies us, experience dupes us, and from misfortune to
misfortune leads us to death, their eternal crown.

What is it then that this desire and this inability proclaim to us, but
that there was once in man a true happiness of which there now remain to
him only the mark and empty trace, which he in vain tries to fill from
all his surroundings, seeking from things absent the help he does not
obtain in things present? But these are all inadequate, because the
infinite abyss can only be filled by an infinite and immutable object,
that is to say, only by God Himself.

He only is our true good, and since we have forsaken Him, it is a
strange thing that there is nothing in nature which has not been
serviceable in taking His place; the stars, the heavens, earth, the
elements, plants, cabbages, leeks, animals, insects, calves, serpents,
fever, pestilence, war, famine, vices, adultery, incest. And since man
has lost the true good, everything can appear equally good to him, even
his own destruction, though so opposed to God, to reason, and to the
whole course of nature.

Some seek good in authority, others in scientific research, others in
pleasure. Others, who are in fact nearer the truth, have considered it
necessary that the universal good, which all men desire, should not
consist in any of the particular things which can only be possessed by
one man, and which, when shared, afflict their possessor more by the
want of the part he has not, than they please him by the possession of
what he has. They have learned that the true good should be such as all
can possess at once, without diminution and without envy, and which no
one can lose against his will. And their reason is that this desire
being natural to man, since it is necessarily in all, and that it is
impossible not to have it, they infer from it ...


True nature being lost, everything becomes its own nature; as the true
good being lost, everything becomes its own true good.


Man does not know in what rank to place himself. He has plainly gone
astray, and fallen from his true place without being able to find it
again. He seeks it anxiously and unsuccessfully everywhere in
impenetrable darkness.


If it is a sign of weakness to prove God by nature, do not despise
Scripture; if it is a sign of strength to have known these
contradictions, esteem Scripture.


The vileness of man in submitting himself to the brutes, and in even
worshipping them.


_For Port Royal. The beginning, after having explained the
incomprehensibility._ - The greatness and the wretchedness of man are so
evident that the true religion must necessarily teach us both that there
is in man some great source of greatness, and a great source of
wretchedness. It must then give us a reason for these astonishing

In order to make man happy, it must prove to him that there is a God;
that we ought to love Him; that our true happiness is to be in Him, and
our sole evil to be separated from Him; it must recognise that we are
full of darkness which hinders us from knowing and loving Him; and that
thus, as our duties compel us to love God, and our lusts turn us away
from Him, we are full of unrighteousness. It must give us an explanation
of our opposition to God and to our own good. It must teach us the
remedies for these infirmities, and the means of obtaining these
remedies. Let us therefore examine all the religions of the world, and
see if there be any other than the Christian which is sufficient for
this purpose.

Shall it be that of the philosophers, who put forward as the chief good,
the good which is in ourselves? Is this the true good? Have they found
the remedy for our ills? Is man's pride cured by placing him on an
equality with God? Have those who have made us equal to the brutes, or
the Mahommedans who have offered us earthly pleasures as the chief good
even in eternity, produced the remedy for our lusts? What religion,
then, will teach us to cure pride and lust? What religion will in fact
teach us our good, our duties, the weakness which turns us from them,
the cause of this weakness, the remedies which can cure it, and the
means of obtaining these remedies?

All other religions have not been able to do so. Let us see what the
wisdom of God will do.

"Expect neither truth," she says, "nor consolation from men. I am she
who formed you, and who alone can teach you what you are. But you are
now no longer in the state in which I formed you. I created man holy,
innocent, perfect. I filled him with light and intelligence. I
communicated to him my glory and my wonders. The eye of man saw then the
majesty of God. He was not then in the darkness which blinds him, nor
subject to mortality and the woes which afflict him. But he has not been
able to sustain so great glory without falling into pride. He wanted to
make himself his own centre, and independent of my help. He withdrew
himself from my rule; and, on his making himself equal to me by the
desire of finding his happiness in himself, I abandoned him to himself.
And setting in revolt the creatures that were subject to him, I made
them his enemies; so that man is now become like the brutes, and so
estranged from me that there scarce remains to him a dim vision of his
Author. So far has all his knowledge been extinguished or disturbed! The
senses, independent of reason, and often the masters of reason, have led
him into pursuit of pleasure. All creatures either torment or tempt him,
and domineer over him, either subduing him by their strength, or
fascinating him by their charms, a tyranny more awful and more

"Such is the state in which men now are. There remains to them some
feeble instinct of the happiness of their former state; and they are
plunged in the evils of their blindness and their lust, which have
become their second nature.

"From this principle which I disclose to you, you can recognise the
cause of those contradictions which have astonished all men, and have
divided them into parties holding so different views. Observe, now, all
the feelings of greatness and glory which the experience of so many woes
cannot stifle, and see if the cause of them must not be in another

_For Port-Royal to-morrow (Prosopopœa)._ - "It is in vain, O men, that
you seek within yourselves the remedy for your ills. All your light can
only reach the knowledge that not in yourselves will you find truth or
good. The philosophers have promised you that, and have been unable to
do it. They neither know what is your true good, nor what is your true
state. How could they have given remedies for your ills, when they did
not even know them? Your chief maladies are pride, which takes you away
from God, and lust, which binds you to earth; and they have done nothing
else but cherish one or other of these diseases. If they gave you God as
an end, it was only to administer to your pride; they made you think
that you are by nature like Him, and conformed to Him. And those who saw
the absurdity of this claim put you on another precipice, by making you
understand that your nature was like that of the brutes, and led you to
seek your good in the lusts which are shared by the animals. This is not
the way to cure you of your unrighteousness, which these wise men never
knew. I alone can make you understand who you are...."

Adam, Jesus Christ.

If you are united to God, it is by grace, not by nature. If you are
humbled, it is by penitence, not by nature.

Thus this double capacity ...

You are not in the state of your creation.

As these two states are open, it is impossible for you not to recognise
them. Follow your own feelings, observe yourselves, and see if you do
not find the lively characteristics of these two natures. Could so many
contradictions be found in a simple subject?

- Incomprehensible. - Not all that is incomprehensible ceases to exist.
Infinite number. An infinite space equal to a finite.

- Incredible that God should unite Himself to us. - This consideration is
drawn only from the sight of our vileness. But if you are quite sincere
over it, follow it as far as I have done, and recognise that we are
indeed so vile that we are incapable in ourselves of knowing if His
mercy cannot make us capable of Him. For I would know how this animal,
who knows himself to be so weak, has the right to measure the mercy of
God, and set limits to it, suggested by his own fancy. He has so little
knowledge of what God is, that he does not know what he himself is, and,
completely disturbed at the sight of his own state, dares to say that
God cannot make him capable of communion with Him.

But I would ask him if God demands anything else from him than the
knowledge and love of Him, and why, since his nature is capable of love
and knowledge, he believes that God cannot make Himself known and loved
by him. Doubtless he knows at least that he exists, and that he loves
something. Therefore, if he sees anything in the darkness wherein he is,
and if he finds some object of his love among the things on earth, why,
if God impart to him some ray of His essence, will he not be capable of
knowing and of loving Him in the manner in which it shall please Him to
communicate Himself to us? There must then be certainly an intolerable
presumption in arguments of this sort, although they seem founded on an
apparent humility, which is neither sincere nor reasonable, if it does
not make us admit that, not knowing of ourselves what we are, we can
only learn it from God.

"I do not mean that you should submit your belief to me without reason,
and I do not aspire to overcome you by tyranny. In fact, I do not claim
to give you a reason for everything. And to reconcile these
contradictions, I intend to make you see clearly, by convincing proofs,
those divine signs in me, which may convince you of what I am, and may
gain authority for me by wonders and proofs which you cannot reject; so
that you may then believe without ... the things which I teach you,
since you will find no other ground for rejecting them, except that you
cannot know of yourselves if they are true or not.

"God has willed to redeem men, and to open salvation to those who seek
it. But men render themselves so unworthy of it, that it is right that
God should refuse to some, because of their obduracy, what He grants to
others from a compassion which is not due to them. If He had willed to
overcome the obstinacy of the most hardened, He could have done so by
revealing Himself so manifestly to them that they could not have doubted
of the truth of His essence; as it will appear at the last day, with
such thunders and such a convulsion of nature, that the dead will rise
again, and the blindest will see Him.

"It is not in this manner that He has willed to appear in His advent of
mercy, because, as so many make themselves unworthy of His mercy, He has
willed to leave them in the loss of the good which they do not want. It
was not then right that He should appear in a manner manifestly divine,
and completely capable of convincing all men; but it was also not right
that He should come in so hidden a manner that He could not be known by
those who should sincerely seek Him. He has willed to make Himself quite
recognisable by those; and thus, willing to appear openly to those who
seek Him with all their heart, and to be hidden from those who flee from
Him with all their heart, He so regulates the knowledge of Himself that
He has given signs of Himself, visible to those who seek Him, and not to
those who seek Him not. There is enough light for those who only desire
to see, and enough obscurity for those who have a contrary disposition."


No other religion has recognised that man is the most excellent
creature. Some, which have quite recognised the reality of his
excellence, have considered as mean and ungrateful the low opinions
which men naturally have of themselves; and others, which have
thoroughly recognised how real is this vileness, have treated with proud
ridicule those feelings of greatness, which are equally natural to man.

"Lift your eyes to God," say the first; "see Him whom you resemble, and
who has created you to worship Him. You can make yourselves like unto
Him; wisdom will make you equal to Him, if you will follow it." "Raise
your heads, free men," says Epictetus. And others say, "Bend your eyes
to the earth, wretched worm that you are, and consider the brutes whose
companion you are."

What, then, will man become? Will he be equal to God or the brutes? What
a frightful difference! What, then, shall we be? Who does not see from
all this that man has gone astray, that he has fallen from his place,
that he anxiously seeks it, that he cannot find it again? And who shall
then direct him to it? The greatest men have failed.


Scepticism is true; for, after all, men before Jesus Christ did not know
where they were, nor whether they were great or small. And those who
have said the one or the other, knew nothing about it, and guessed
without reason and by chance. They also erred always in excluding the
one or the other.

_Quod ergo ignorantes, quæritis, religio annuntiat vobis._[160]


_After having understood the whole nature of man._ - That a religion may
be true, it must have knowledge of our nature. It ought to know its
greatness and littleness, and the reason of both. What religion but the
Christian has known this?


The chief arguments of the sceptics - I pass over the lesser ones - are
that we have no certainty of the truth of these principles apart from
faith and revelation, except in so far as we naturally perceive them in
ourselves. Now this natural intuition is not a convincing proof of their
truth; since, having no certainty, apart from faith, whether man was
created by a good God, or by a wicked demon,[161] or by chance, it is
doubtful whether these principles given to us are true, or false, or
uncertain, according to our origin. Again, no person is certain, apart
from faith, whether he is awake or sleeps, seeing that during sleep we
believe that we are awake as firmly as we do when we _are_ awake; we
believe that we see space, figure, and motion; we are aware of the
passage of time, we measure it; and in fact we act as if we were awake.
So that half of our life being passed in sleep, we have on our own
admission no idea of truth, whatever we may imagine. As all our
intuitions are then illusions, who knows whether the other half of our
life, in which we think we are awake, is not another sleep a little
different from the former, from which we awake when we suppose ourselves

[And who doubts that, if we dreamt in company, and the dreams chanced to
agree, which is common enough, and if we were always alone when awake,
we should believe that matters were reversed? In short, as we often
dream that we dream, heaping dream upon dream, may it not be that this
half of our life, wherein we think ourselves awake, is itself only a
dream on which the others are grafted, from which we wake at death,
during which we have as few principles of truth and good as during
natural sleep, these different thoughts which disturb us being perhaps
only illusions like the flight of time and the vain fancies of our

These are the chief arguments on one side and the other.

I omit minor ones, such as the sceptical talk against the impressions of
custom, education, manners, country, and the like. Though these
influence the majority of common folk, who dogmatise only on shallow
foundations, they are upset by the least breath of the sceptics. We have
only to see their books if we are not sufficiently convinced of this,
and we shall very quickly become so, perhaps too much.

I notice the only strong point of the dogmatists, namely, that, speaking
in good faith and sincerely, we cannot doubt natural principles. Against
this the sceptics set up in one word the uncertainty of our origin,
which includes that of our nature. The dogmatists have been trying to
answer this objection ever since the world began.

So there is open war among men, in which each must take a part, and side
either with dogmatism or scepticism. For he who thinks to remain neutral
is above all a sceptic. This neutrality is the essence of the sect; he
who is not against them is essentially for them. [In this appears their
advantage.] They are not for themselves; they are neutral, indifferent,
in suspense as to all things, even themselves being no exception.

What then shall man do in this state? Shall he doubt everything? Shall
he doubt whether he is awake, whether he is being pinched, or whether he
is being burned? Shall he doubt whether he doubts? Shall he doubt
whether he exists? We cannot go so far as that; and I lay it down as a
fact that there never has been a real complete sceptic. Nature sustains
our feeble reason, and prevents it raving to this extent.

Shall he then say, on the contrary, that he certainly possesses
truth - he who, when pressed ever so little, can show no title to it, and
is forced to let go his hold?

What a chimera then is man! What a novelty! What a monster, what a
chaos, what a contradiction, what a prodigy! Judge of all things,
imbecile worm of the earth; depositary of truth, a sink of uncertainty
and error; the pride and refuse of the universe!

Who will unravel this tangle? Nature confutes the sceptics, and reason
confutes the dogmatists. What then will you become, O men! who try to
find out by your natural reason what is your true condition? You cannot
avoid one of these sects, nor adhere to one of them.

Know then, proud man, what a paradox you are to yourself. Humble
yourself, weak reason; be silent, foolish nature; learn that man
infinitely transcends man, and learn from your Master your true
condition, of which you are ignorant. Hear God.

For in fact, if man had never been corrupt, he would enjoy in his
innocence both truth and happiness with assurance; and if man had always
been corrupt, he would have no idea of truth or bliss. But, wretched as
we are, and more so than if there were no greatness in our condition, we
have an idea of happiness, and cannot reach it. We perceive an image of
truth, and possess only a lie. Incapable of absolute ignorance and of
certain knowledge, we have thus been manifestly in a degree of
perfection from which we have unhappily fallen.

It is, however, an astonishing thing that the mystery furthest removed
from our knowledge, namely, that of the transmission of sin, should be a
fact without which we can have no knowledge of ourselves. For it is
beyond doubt that there is nothing which more shocks our reason than to
say that the sin of the first man has rendered guilty those, who, being
so removed from this source, seem incapable of participation in it. This
transmission does not only seem to us impossible, it seems also very
unjust. For what is more contrary to the rules of our miserable justice
than to damn eternally an infant incapable of will, for a sin wherein he
seems to have so little a share, that it was committed six thousand
years before he was in existence? Certainly nothing offends us more
rudely than this doctrine; and yet, without this mystery, the most
incomprehensible of all, we are incomprehensible to ourselves. The knot
of our condition takes its twists and turns in this abyss, so that man
is more inconceivable without this mystery than this mystery is
inconceivable to man.

[Whence it seems that God, willing to render the difficulty of our
existence unintelligible to ourselves, has concealed the knot so high,
or, better speaking, so low, that we are quite incapable of reaching it;
so that it is not by the proud exertions of our reason, but by the
simple submissions of reason, that we can truly know ourselves.

These foundations, solidly established on the inviolable authority of
religion, make us know that there are two truths of faith equally
certain: the one, that man, in the state of creation, or in that of
grace, is raised above all nature, made like unto God and sharing in His
divinity; the other, that in the state of corruption and sin, he is
fallen from this state and made like unto the beasts.

These two propositions are equally sound and certain. Scripture
manifestly declares this to us, when it says in some places: _Deliciæ

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