Blaise Pascal.

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merit; and his whole duty is to think as he ought. Now, the order of
thought is to begin with self, and with its Author and its end.

Now, of what does the world think? Never of this, but of dancing,
playing the lute, singing, making verses, running at the ring, etc.,
fighting, making oneself king, without thinking what it is to be a king
and what to be a man.


We do not content ourselves with the life we have in ourselves and in
our own being; we desire to live an imaginary life in the mind of
others, and for this purpose we endeavour to shine. We labour
unceasingly to adorn and preserve this imaginary existence, and neglect
the real. And if we possess calmness, or generosity, or truthfulness, we
are eager to make it known, so as to attach these virtues to that
imaginary existence. We would rather separate them from ourselves to
join them to it; and we would willingly be cowards in order to acquire
the reputation of being brave. A great proof of the nothingness of our
being, not to be satisfied with the one without the other, and to
renounce the one for the other! For he would be infamous who would not
die to preserve his honour.


We are so presumptuous that we would wish to be known by all the world,
even by people who shall come after, when we shall be no more; and we
are so vain that the esteem of five or six neighbours delights and
contents us.


We do not trouble ourselves about being esteemed in the towns through
which we pass. But if we are to remain a little while there, we are so
concerned. How long is necessary? A time commensurate with our vain and
paltry life.


Vanity is so anchored in the heart of man that a soldier, a soldier's
servant, a cook, a porter brags, and wishes to have his admirers. Even
philosophers wish for them. Those who write against it want to have the
glory of having written well;[72] and those who read it desire the glory
of having read it. I who write this have perhaps this desire, and
perhaps those who will read it ...


_Glory._ - Admiration spoils all from infancy. Ah! How well said! Ah! How
well done! How well-behaved he is! etc.

The children of Port-Royal, who do not receive this stimulus of envy and
glory, fall into carelessness.


_Pride._ - Curiosity is only vanity. Most frequently we wish to know but
to talk. Otherwise we would not take a sea voyage in order never to talk
of it, and for the sole pleasure of seeing without hope of ever
communicating it.


_Of the desire of being esteemed by those with whom we are._ - Pride
takes such natural possession of us in the midst of our woes, errors,
etc. We even lose our life with joy, provided people talk of it.

Vanity: play, hunting, visiting, false shame, a lasting name.


[I have no friends] to your advantage].


A true friend is so great an advantage, even for the greatest lords, in
order that he may speak well of them, and back them in their absence,
that they should do all to have one. But they should choose well; for,
if they spend all their efforts in the interests of fools, it will be of
no use, however well these may speak of them; and these will not even
speak well of them if they find themselves on the weakest side, for
they have no influence; and thus they will speak ill of them in company.


_Ferox gens, nullam esse vitam sine armis rati._[73] - They prefer death
to peace; others prefer death to war.

Every opinion may be held preferable to life, the love of which is so
strong and so natural.[74]


Contradiction: contempt for our existence, to die for nothing, hatred of
our existence.


_Pursuits._ - The charm of fame is so great, that we like every object to
which it is attached, even death.


Noble deeds are most estimable when hidden. When I see some of these in
history (as p. 184)[75], they please me greatly. But after all they have
not been quite hidden, since they have been known; and though people
have done what they could to hide them, the little publication of them
spoils all, for what was best in them was the wish to hide them.


Sneezing absorbs all the functions of the soul, as well as work does;
but we do not draw therefrom the same conclusions against the greatness
of man, because it is against his will. And although we bring it on
ourselves, it is nevertheless against our will that we sneeze. It is not
in view of the act itself; it is for another end. And thus it is not a
proof of the weakness of man, and of his slavery under that action.

It is not disgraceful for man to yield to pain, and it is disgraceful to
yield to pleasure. This is not because pain comes to us from without,
and we ourselves seek pleasure; for it is possible to seek pain, and
yield to it purposely, without this kind of baseness. Whence comes it,
then, that reason thinks it honourable to succumb under stress of pain,
and disgraceful to yield to the attack of pleasure? It is because pain
does not tempt and attract us. It is we ourselves who choose it
voluntarily, and will it to prevail over us. So that we are masters of
the situation; and in this man yields to himself. But in pleasure it is
man who yields to pleasure. Now only mastery and sovereignty bring
glory, and only slavery brings shame.


_Vanity._ - How wonderful it is that a thing so evident as the vanity of
the world is so little known, that it is a strange and surprising thing
to say that it is foolish to seek greatness!


He who will know fully the vanity of man has only to consider the causes
and effects of love. The cause is a _je ne sais quoi_ (Corneille),[76]
and the effects are dreadful. This _je ne sais quoi_, so small an object
that we cannot recognise it, agitates a whole country, princes, armies,
the entire world.

Cleopatra's nose: had it been shorter, the whole aspect of the world
would have been altered.


_Vanity._ - The cause and the effects of love: Cleopatra.


He who does not see the vanity of the world is himself very vain. Indeed
who do not see it but youths who are absorbed in fame, diversion, and
the thought of the future? But take away diversion, and you will see
them dried up with weariness. They feel then their nothingness without
knowing it; for it is indeed to be unhappy to be in insufferable sadness
as soon as we are reduced to thinking of self, and have no diversion.


_Thoughts._ - _In omnibus requiem quæsivi._[77] If our condition were
truly happy, we would not need diversion from thinking of it in order to
make ourselves happy.


_Diversion._ - Death is easier to bear without thinking of it, than is
the thought of death without peril.


The miseries of human life have established all this: as men have seen
this, they have taken up diversion.


_Diversion._ - As men are not able to fight against death, misery,
ignorance, they have taken it into their heads, in order to be happy,
not to think of them at all.


Despite these miseries, man wishes to be happy, and only wishes to be
happy, and cannot wish not to be so. But how will he set about it? To be
happy he would have to make himself immortal; but, not being able to do
so, it has occurred to him to prevent himself from thinking of death.


_Diversion._ - If man were happy, he would be the more so, the less he
was diverted, like the Saints and God. - Yes; but is it not to be happy
to have a faculty of being amused by diversion? - No; for that comes from
elsewhere and from without, and thus is dependent, and therefore subject
to be disturbed by a thousand accidents, which bring inevitable griefs.


_Misery._ - The only thing which consoles us for our miseries is
diversion, and yet this it the greatest of our miseries. For it is this
which principally hinders us from reflecting upon ourselves, and which
makes us insensibly ruin ourselves. Without this we should be in a state
of weariness, and this weariness would spur us to seek a more solid
means of escaping from it. But diversion amuses us, and leads us
unconsciously to death.


We do not rest satisfied with the present. We anticipate the future as
too slow in coming, as if in order to hasten its course; or we recall
the past, to stop its too rapid flight. So imprudent are we that we
wander in the times which are not ours, and do not think of the only one
which belongs to us; and so idle are we that we dream of those times
which are no more, and thoughtlessly overlook that which alone exists.
For the present is generally painful to us. We conceal it from our
sight, because it troubles us; and if it be delightful to us, we regret
to see it pass away. We try to sustain it by the future, and think of
arranging matters which are not in our power, for a time which we have
no certainty of reaching.

Let each one examine his thoughts, and he will find them all occupied
with the past and the future. We scarcely ever think of the present; and
if we think of it, it is only to take light from it to arrange the
future. The present is never our end. The past and the present are our
means; the future alone is our end.[78] So we never live, but we hope to
live; and, as we are always preparing to be happy, it is inevitable we
should never be so.


They say that eclipses foretoken misfortune, because misfortunes are
common, so that, as evil happens so often, they often foretell it;
whereas if they said that they predict good fortune, they would often be
wrong. They attribute good fortune only to rare conjunctions of the
heavens; so they seldom fail in prediction.


_Misery._ - Solomon[79] and Job have best known and best spoken of the
misery of man; the former the most fortunate, and the latter the most
unfortunate of men; the former knowing the vanity of pleasures from
experience, the latter the reality of evils.


We know ourselves so little, that many think they are about to die when
they are well, and many think they are well when they are near death,
unconscious of approaching fever,[80] or of the abscess ready to form


Cromwell[81] was about to ravage all Christendom; the royal family was
undone, and his own for ever established, save for a little grain of
sand which formed in his ureter. Rome herself was trembling under him;
but this small piece of gravel having formed there, he is dead, his
family cast down, all is peaceful, and the king is restored.


[Three hosts.[82]] Would he who had possessed the friendship of the King
of England, the King of Poland, and the Queen of Sweden, have believed
he would lack a refuge and shelter in the world?


Macrobius:[83] on the innocents slain by Herod.


When Augustus learnt that Herod's own son was amongst the infants under
two years of age, whom he had caused to be slain, he said that it was
better to be Herod's pig than his son. - Macrobius, _Sat._, book ii,
chap. 4.


The great and the humble have the same misfortunes, the same griefs, the
same passions;[84] but the one is at the top of the wheel, and the other
near the centre, and so less disturbed by the same revolutions.


We are so unfortunate that we can only take pleasure in a thing on
condition of being annoyed if it turn out ill, as a thousand things can
do, and do every hour. He who should find the secret of rejoicing in the
good, without troubling himself with its contrary evil, would have hit
the mark. It is perpetual motion.


Those who have always good hope in the midst of misfortunes, and who are
delighted with good luck, are suspected of being very pleased with the
ill success of the affair, if they are not equally distressed by bad
luck; and they are overjoyed to find these pretexts of hope, in order to
show that they are concerned and to conceal by the joy which they feign
to feel that which they have at seeing the failure of the matter.


We run carelessly to the precipice, after we have put something before
us to prevent us seeing it.




A letter to incite to the search after God.

And then to make people seek Him among the philosophers, sceptics, and
dogmatists, who disquiet him who inquires of them.


The conduct of God, who disposes all things kindly, is to put religion
into the mind by reason, and into the heart by grace. But to will to put
it into the mind and heart by force and threats is not to put religion
there, but terror, _terorrem potius quam religionem_.


_Nisi terrerentur et non docerentur, improba quasi dominatio videretur_
(Aug., Ep. 48 or 49), _Contra Mendacium ad Consentium_.


_Order._ - Men despise religion; they hate it, and fear it is true. To
remedy this, we must begin by showing that religion is not contrary to
reason; that it is venerable, to inspire respect for it; then we must
make it lovable, to make good men hope it is true; finally, we must
prove it is true.

Venerable, because it has perfect knowledge of man; lovable, because it
promises the true good.


In every dialogue and discourse, we must be able to say to those who
take offence, "Of what do you complain?"


To begin by pitying unbelievers; they are wretched enough by their
condition. We ought only to revile them where it is beneficial; but this
does them harm.


To pity atheists who seek, for are they not unhappy enough? To inveigh
against those who make a boast of it.


And will this one scoff at the other? Who ought to scoff? And yet, the
latter does not scoff at the other, but pities him.


To reproach Miton[85] with not being troubled, since God will reproach


_Quid fiet hominibus qui minima contemnunt, majora non credunt?_


... Let them at least learn what is the religion they attack, before
attacking it. If this religion boasted of having a clear view of God,
and of possessing it open and unveiled, it would be attacking it to say
that we see nothing in the world which shows it with this clearness. But
since, on the contrary, it says that men are in darkness and estranged
from God, that He has hidden Himself from their knowledge, that this is
in fact the name which He gives Himself in the Scriptures, _Deus
absconditus_;[86] and finally, if it endeavours equally to establish
these two things: that God has set up in the Church visible signs to
make Himself known to those who should seek Him sincerely, and that He
has nevertheless so disguised them that He will only be perceived by
those who seek Him with all their heart; what advantage can they obtain,
when, in the negligence with which they make profession of being in
search of the truth, they cry out that nothing reveals it to them; and
since that darkness in which they are, and with which they upbraid the
Church, establishes only one of the things which she affirms, without
touching the other, and, very far from destroying, proves her doctrine?

In order to attack it, they should have protested that they had made
every effort to seek Him everywhere, and even in that which the Church
proposes for their instruction, but without satisfaction. If they talked
in this manner, they would in truth be attacking one of her pretensions.
But I hope here to show that no reasonable person can speak thus, and I
venture even to say that no one has ever done so. We know well enough
how those who are of this mind behave. They believe they have made great
efforts for their instruction, when they have spent a few hours in
reading some book of Scripture, and have questioned some priest on the
truths of the faith. After that, they boast of having made vain search
in books and among men. But, verily, I will tell them what I have often
said, that this negligence is insufferable. We are not here concerned
with the trifling interests of some stranger, that we should treat it in
this fashion; the matter concerns ourselves and our all.

The immortality of the soul is a matter which is of so great consequence
to us, and which touches us so profoundly, that we must have lost all
feeling to be indifferent as to knowing what it is. All our actions and
thoughts must take such different courses, according as there are or are
not eternal joys to hope for, that it is impossible to take one step
with sense and judgment, unless we regulate our course by our view of
this point which ought to be our ultimate end.

Thus our first interest and our first duty is to enlighten ourselves on
this subject, whereon depends all our conduct. Therefore among those who
do not believe, I make a vast difference between those who strive with
all their power to inform themselves, and those who live without
troubling or thinking about it.

I can have only compassion for those who sincerely bewail their doubt,
who regard it as the greatest of misfortunes, and who, sparing no effort
to escape it, make of this inquiry their principal and most serious

But as for those who pass their life without thinking of this ultimate
end of life, and who, for this sole reason that they do not find within
themselves the lights which convince them of it, neglect to seek them
elsewhere, and to examine thoroughly whether this opinion is one of
those which people receive with credulous simplicity, or one of those
which, although obscure in themselves, have nevertheless a solid and
immovable foundation, I look upon them in a manner quite different.

This carelessness in a matter which concerns themselves, their eternity,
their all, moves me more to anger than pity; it astonishes and shocks
me; it is to me monstrous. I do not say this out of the pious zeal of a
spiritual devotion. I expect, on the contrary, that we ought to have
this feeling from principles of human interest and self-love; for this
we need only see what the least enlightened persons see.

We do not require great education of the mind to understand that here is
no real and lasting satisfaction; that our pleasures are only vanity;
that our evils are infinite; and, lastly, that death, which threatens us
every moment, must infallibly place us within a few years under the
dreadful necessity of being for ever either annihilated or unhappy.

There is nothing more real than this, nothing more terrible. Be we as
heroic as we like, that is the end which awaits the noblest life in the
world. Let us reflect on this, and then say whether it is not beyond
doubt that there is no good in this life but in the hope of another;
that we are happy only in proportion as we draw near it; and that, as
there are no more woes for those who have complete assurance of
eternity, so there is no more happiness for those who have no insight
into it.

Surely then it is a great evil thus to be in doubt, but it is at least
an indispensable duty to seek when we are in such doubt; and thus the
doubter who does not seek is altogether completely unhappy and
completely wrong. And if besides this he is easy and content, professes
to be so, and indeed boasts of it; if it is this state itself which is
the subject of his joy and vanity, I have no words to describe so silly
a creature.

How can people hold these opinions? What joy can we find in the
expectation of nothing but hopeless misery? What reason for boasting
that we are in impenetrable darkness? And how can it happen that the
following argument occurs to a reasonable man?

"I know not who put me into the world, nor what the world is, nor what I
myself am. I am in terrible ignorance of everything. I know not what my
body is, nor my senses, nor my soul, not even that part of me which
thinks what I say, which reflects on all and on itself, and knows itself
no more than the rest. I see those frightful spaces of the universe
which surround me, and I find myself tied to one corner of this vast
expanse, without knowing why I am put in this place rather than in
another, nor why the short time which is given me to live is assigned to
me at this point rather than at another of the whole eternity which was
before me or which shall come after me. I see nothing but infinites on
all sides, which surround me as an atom, and as a shadow which endures
only for an instant and returns no more. All I know is that I must soon
die, but what I know least is this very death which I cannot escape.

"As I know not whence I come, so I know not whither I go. I know only
that, in leaving this world, I fall for ever either into annihilation or
into the hands of an angry God, without knowing to which of these two
states I shall be for ever assigned. Such is my state, full of weakness
and uncertainty. And from all this I conclude that I ought to spend all
the days of my life without caring to inquire into what must happen to
me. Perhaps I might find some solution to my doubts, but I will not take
the trouble, nor take a step to seek it; and after treating with scorn
those who are concerned with this care, I will go without foresight and
without fear to try the great event, and let myself be led carelessly to
death, uncertain of the eternity of my future state."

Who would desire to have for a friend a man who talks in this fashion?
Who would choose him out from others to tell him of his affairs? Who
would have recourse to him in affliction? And indeed to what use in life
could one put him?

In truth, it is the glory of religion to have for enemies men so
unreasonable: and their opposition to it is so little dangerous that it
serves on the contrary to establish its truths. For the Christian faith
goes mainly to establish these two facts, the corruption of nature, and
redemption by Jesus Christ. Now I contend that if these men do not serve
to prove the truth of the redemption by the holiness of their behaviour,
they at least serve admirably to show the corruption of nature by
sentiments so unnatural.

Nothing is so important to man as his own state, nothing is so
formidable to him as eternity; and thus it is not natural that there
should be men indifferent to the loss of their existence, and to the
perils of everlasting suffering. They are quite different with regard to
all other things. They are afraid of mere trifles; they foresee them;
they feel them. And this same man who spends so many days and nights in
rage and despair for the loss of office, or for some imaginary insult to
his honour, is the very one who knows without anxiety and without
emotion that he will lose all by death. It is a monstrous thing to see
in the same heart and at the same time this sensibility to trifles and
this strange insensibility to the greatest objects. It is an
incomprehensible enchantment, and a supernatural slumber, which
indicates as its cause an all-powerful force.

There must be a strange confusion in the nature of man, that he should
boast of being in that state in which it seems incredible that a single
individual should be. However, experience has shown me so great a
number of such persons that the fact would be surprising, if we did not
know that the greater part of those who trouble themselves about the
matter are disingenuous, and not in fact what they say. They are people
who have heard it said that it is the fashion to be thus daring. It is
what they call shaking off the yoke, and they try to imitate this. But
it would not be difficult to make them understand how greatly they
deceive themselves in thus seeking esteem. This is not the way to gain
it, even I say among those men of the world who take a healthy view of
things, and who know that the only way to succeed in this life is to
make ourselves appear honourable, faithful, judicious, and capable of
useful service to a friend; because naturally men love only what may be
useful to them. Now, what do we gain by hearing it said of a man that he
has now thrown off the yoke, that he does not believe there is a God who
watches our actions, that he considers himself the sole master of his
conduct, and that he thinks he is accountable for it only to himself?
Does he think that he has thus brought us to have henceforth complete
confidence in him, and to look to him for consolation, advice, and help
in every need of life? Do they profess to have delighted us by telling
us that they hold our soul to be only a little wind and smoke,
especially by telling us this in a haughty and self-satisfied tone of
voice? Is this a thing to say gaily? Is it not, on the contrary, a thing
to say sadly, as the saddest thing in the world?

If they thought of it seriously, they would see that this is so bad a
mistake, so contrary to good sense, so opposed to decency and so removed

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